Longing is the core of mystery. Longing itself brings the cure. The only rule is, suffer the pain. Your desires must be disciplined And what you want to happen in time, sacrificed." ~Rumi
Section One : “I left my country with one suitcase.”
I had heard this sentence many times that it became a cliché at some point, a form or an image on book covers and film posters, the silhouette figure of a man with one suitcase in hand. It became a shallow symbol of leaving, and nothing more. I never thought of its origin and of its real meaning, until that night; that very particular night in August 2012, that I started packing “my life”.
I had been a collector by nature all my life. Growing up I used to collect stamps, leaves, match boxes, shiny candy wrappers, postcards, maps of different cities and countries, colorful erasers in different shapes… And I would only get rid of them if there was no more space in my room. As an adult I continued the same manner with different objects. But that night it took me hours to really understand that I am not able to fit everything in one suitcase. That’s a very simply logical fact to understand, you only need to compare the size of a suitcase with everything else around you; with all the clothes in your wardrobe, with all the books on the bookshelf, with all the pictures on the wall, with all the plants by the window, with all the shoeboxes under your bed, with all the treasures here and there; you only need to compare the size of a suitcase with all your past… It sounded simple to understand but the fact is that it was maybe the most difficult thing that one could really deeply comprehend.
I sat there just in the middle of my room among all the objects I wanted to fit in one suitcase. The suitcase became easily full only with “essentials”. There was only a little space left for keepsakes. I had to choose, I had to prefer some objects over the others, I had to prefer some memories over the others, I had to choose part of my past and not all of it, and in order to do that I had to review all my past.
Was it possible? Could I go through all the objects in my room and recollect the memories which tied me to those objects? Did I really understand on that short night of August that what those objects represented in my life? Did I really “need” those objects? I do not know. But I know that I wanted to bring something from my past, something tangible to hold in my hands and feel the past in them; something that could retain the softest sounds of my memory, or the effaceable smell of our house.
“But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest, and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.” -Proust, Remembrance of Things Past
Among all those piles of objects, I strangely didn’t pay such attention to the photographs. At that point, they didn’t seem linked to my memories, or perhaps they were linked but too directly and immediate that I my mind couldn’t handle. I never truly find out the reason, but I left piles and piles of family albums behind. I didn’t even pick my art-photographs, though I scanned many of them and brought them with me in non-physical form. Now that I think, I feel among all those remained objects I miss the family albums the most.
I do not know how, but anyway I picked a few objects and placed them in my suitcase: One object as the memory of all the afternoon teas I had with friends.
One object as the memory of all the family meals.
One object as the memory of a friendship.
One object as the memory of the all those streets I experienced love for the first time in.
One object as the memory of all the nights I read Rumi with my father.
One object as a memory of my homeland.
On that night of August, I wished desperately that I could fit all my memories in one suitcase. I thought I was losing my past as I was losing the objects. When I zipped the suitcase that night and when I left that room with all the remained objects a few days later, I felt something pulling my heart from the outside. I was attached, and my attachment to the past was being embodied in an attachment to the objects. A few days later I was in my new home, 7000 miles away from my homeland, and I could feel the strings between my heart and something in outer world being stretched more than anytime. 3
Section Two: “Let’s build us a home, brick by brick.”
The concept of home can easily evolves when one moves to another place with completely different background and history. Everything is new; people’s faces look different, the smell in the air is different, the sun feels different on your skin, the sounds from the street is different. For the first few days you only feel the advancement and novelty of your new life but gradually you come out of your “tourist role” and realize that you need to search for your home. You first start referring to your previous neighborhood as home, then to your previous city and finally, to your motherland as your ultimate home. When people ask you: “Are you going home?” you cannot think about anything but your country. Days pass you by and you still feel the strings pulling out your heart.
You ask yourself if the objects from the past may help. You bring them out of your “suitcase” and place them all over the house. One in the bedroom, one on the shelf, one in the kitchen...They become remnants of a “home” you cannot let go of. They become the home itself.
After a while you realize that you are not a collector anymore. You realize that there is no pictures on the walls. You realize you have become disable of finding new things. You realize you have made a home with no opening toward the new world outside. When you walk in the street and happen upon a beautiful feather, you don’t pick it up; you take a deep look at it and tell yourself: that’s not yours.
Migration can make you a minimalist, or at least it was true in my case. My mind was so 4 cluttered by memories that I didn’t feel there was more space in my surroundings for more objects. I hold on to a few items to hold back the past.
“As humans we crave beauty and we attempt to hold on to this experience through physical evidence.” -Stephanie LaCava, An Extraordinary Theory of objects
Section Three: “I pretend I let go.”
In the book Ruling Your World, Mipham Sakyong talks about attachment and explains this Buddhistic belief that “clinging will never lead to lasting happiness.”
“What do we discover when we let go? Space. Sometimes it is known as openness, selflessness, or emptiness. Is it empty because we lost something? No it is empty of our concept of what we thought it was. Emptiness is empty of our assumptions, and it is full of compassion. This is basic goodness. Discovering it is freedom. We realize that assumptions are the basis of most of our experiences. We discover that when the mind and the world are empty of those assumptions, we can live in space like the garuda because we’re running on equanimity instead of attachment.” -Mipham Sakyong, Ruling Your World
After reading this book I decided to challenge this idea and reexamine my relationship to the objects through my artwork by pretending that I am letting the objects, and therefore my attachment to the past, go.
I decided to take photographs of the objects not to get attached again to a new object(the photograph), but to create a new memory: Memory of a very cold winter day when I took all my objects to the outerworld, walked for a long time on white white snow listening to its empty sound under my feet, and pretendingly made new little homes for each of the objects and pretended to abandon them there in the world; then carefully gathered them all back, brought them home and placed them where they truly belong to. And by this, besides creating new memory for myself, I have added a new memory of space to the landscape. I have added something from my past to my new environment, I have added a piece of myself to my new home, I have made an impression to this space like footprints on the snow. i have made this space mine.
The object can hold an unexplored world, containing within it memory, emotion and untapped creativity. -Susan Pollak, The Rolling Pin
I pretended I let go of possession of the objects but instead developed a different kind of attachment to their memories. Now I am asking myself: Isn’t memory a possession? Doesn’t it again make me emotionally attached to a new place, to my new home? Or as the concept of Prajna explains, am I not just attached to being attached?
As an artist dealing with the issues of home and attachment, I believe I’ve managed to let go of the strings in the daily life, but when I step into my studio/my art world, I allow myself to be the most attached person on the earth, the most nostalgic one; I allow myself to keep longing, to go deep in melancholia as “longing is the core of mystery”.