Wednesday, 6 March 2013

White


Source: Wikimedia Commons

White. White like you wouldn’t believe; whiter than white, as though I had just stuck my head in a pail of fresh, creamy cow’s milk and opened my eyes. The white shifts and moves listlessly (but how? How can I see the white moving, if I see nothing but white?) as though trying to go somewhere. A burst of colour explodes on my retina for a second, shifting opalescently; looking for all the world like a jellyfish floating in a turbulent sea. Just that quick burst of colour and all is back to white again. I can’t even be sure that I saw colour, because everything is white: even that explosion of colour was, now that I think of it, white. It might be better to describe what I saw as the white shifting and flaring for a second before resettling, like a sudden disturbance on a placid lake surface. I stare at the white all around me; even my body is white and, if I had a mirror, I would not be surprised to see that my eyes are white too. I am as white as the environment; there could be other people in this place (wherever I am) with me. But I cannot see them: they are white, too. I remember that brilliant flare from a moment ago, the white-indigos and white-scarlets and white-jades flickering on my brain long after the light itself has flickered out. The synapses of my brain tingle with pleasure as they remember that brilliant sparkle of white, feeling starved of illuminary stimulation in this blank space. I look around at my surroundings; white, white, white everywhere I look.


As I gaze, a flicker of movement catches my eye: is that patch of white over there dancing? I can’t tell if I can see the patch: after all, everything is white, so it would be impossible to see anything in the white moving. And yet, as I gaze, that stretch of white seems to move while the surroundings around it remain still (or perhaps the surroundings move while it remains still—little matter, it is hypnotic nonetheless); it flickers and shifts and dances, moving from left to right and up and down in what my sensory-deprived mind interprets as an expression of the highest of joys in the simplest of movements. As I gaze, I realise that I am witnessing an exquisitely beautiful ballerina dance on a stage in front of me. 

The stage she is dancing on becomes evident now: how had I not noticed it before? The gleaming white of the polished floorboards, all the same shade of white as I see everywhere around me; the planks of wood are perfectly aligned, straight as a die, polished to the highest gleam by a caring, loving craftsman. The white of the wood gleams and twinkles, and the cracks in between the planks are the darkest white imaginable; the fissures are small, and yet they seem like yawning chasms ready to swallow up the stage and replace it with the darkness that peeps from within. That darkness, of course, is the same colour as the white that I see everywhere around me. I can faintly see the planks of wood bend slightly under the delicately placed toes of the ballerina as she continues to caper so beautifully on the stage, performing her plié and glissades with seeming ease and the utmost of grace. The nails that hold the wood down to the floor are made of the whitest iron and glimmer with a whiteness of the purest quality; as the woman dances (is it even a person? Or merely my brain superimposing human qualities on this inhuman whiteness?), my eyes follow her to the left and she dances up quite closely to an elderly janitor as he stands in the wings and watches her, leaning on his mop and gazing in admiration at this beautiful figure tracing the lines of her art across the stage. The ballerina reaches out a hand as she pirouettes and lightly grazes the janitor’s cheek before moving back: the elderly man’s cheeks blush the deepest hue of white, and he returns his mop to its original use of wiping floors, too bashful to look again at this glorious goddess whose hand graced his cheek.

If I listen closely enough, I can fool myself into thinking that I can even hear the wet smack-smack of the mop against the wooden floor of the wings, and the faint whoosh of the ballerina’s tutu as it brushes against her delicately, but powerfully, sculpted thigh. A beautiful, subliminally haunting music seems to float ethereally to my mind, evoking memories of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. But that is an illusion: there is nothing but white here: no sound, no sight, no physical sensation whatever.

Here, white reigns supreme; it has been known by many different names over the aeons: the name “white” is, in fact, redundant—I use it merely as a result of the accident of my birth into an English-speaking world. I could equally call it “blanc” or “白い” or “белый” or “اضي بلأ”; none of those letters or words comes any closer to expressing the true nature of whiteness: nor, for that matter, are they any worse at describing it. All of these words merely attempt to describe the nature of the white that surrounds me. In so doing, they do a service to humanity in breaking down a complex concept into a manageable idea; in so doing, they also do a disservice to humanity, by fooling it into thinking that anything as complex as white can be broken down into a simpler concept which can be called a rough approximation of the whole. To break it down into anything less than this is to say that the white—which even now I can feel creeping up the nervous highways of my brain, towards the centre of my ‘I’—is less than what it is. And this is false.

As I look about me (should I even be using verbs like ‘look’ or ‘see’ anymore? Surely I am on a higher plane than that. But words are not equipped to fully describe what is happening; banal verbs must, therefore, of necessity, be used), I am aware of a simultaneous process occurring in me as I stare around: the white that is everywhere around me is both infinitesimally close to me, and is at an infinite point in the distance.

As I realise this, I can feel my personality slipping away from me: I am becoming part of the white. Perhaps I was always part of the white, and this has only become evident to me now. This identity, this ‘me’, that seems to feel separate from the white is becoming, mayhaps always was, merely a convenient locus for the gathering of thoughts and ideas so that they can be expressed in a more human fashion. 

To return to my original point, the white all around is both infinitesimally close to me, and infinitely far away. The two properties exist simultaneously in a paradox of duality; you should not think that there are two different whites: one far and one close; nor should you think that my eyes perceive one white and then the other in rapid succession. To put it simply, the far-away white and the close white are the same thing. They exist at one and the same time. Simultaneously. The white, therefore, is one single thing that occupies all of existence; and yet, I am able to perceive certain parts of the white as being separate from other parts of the white. For that to be possible, it must be the case that the white is also divisible into finite parts that are separate from each other, even if seamlessly joined together. So, the white is separable into different parts, and it is also everything. I feel as if I have taken one step out of an infinite number towards understanding the nature of whatever it is that surrounds me. 

A further thought occurs to me: if I am—or, always was—part of the white, and the white is one single unit of ‘thing-ness’ occupying all of existence, then I must also occupy all of existence. And yet, I am also able to observe other areas of the white, so it would seem that I am made of a finite number of units of the white, occupying a small portion of the white within the borders of the whole. My consciousness is a single pulsating ‘thing’ occupying all of everything at once, and at the same time my consciousness is a finite number of pulsating ‘things’ occupying one part of the everything.

A quick flurry of motion to my right grabs my attention. I realise suddenly that the ballerina dancing, the janitor blushing, the stage, they have all disappeared. Or perhaps the white that those mirages occupied has merely stopped moving. Perhaps they never existed and all I was seeing was a projection of whatever is left of my consciousness, my identity, on the white. The quick flurry of motion is just like before: a sense of movement of white on white, as though one part of the white has become entirely separate from the rest. This movement is impossible to distinguish as the moving objects are identical in colour to the white that surrounds them; and yet I can see, perhaps only on the outer fringes of my psyche, some sort of activity within the white.

A beautiful woman is walking slowly and purposefully towards me, her eyes lowered and her hands joined together in front of her chest, her fingers lined up in front of each other and pointing up. Her slow deliberate steps seem for a second to echo down the hallways of my mind, creating a deafening din of sound that causes my mind to flinch away from the source of the sound; until I realise that that noise must be an illusion as there is no sensation here and, so, the sound must not exist. Or, at the very least, it must not be perceivable to my mind. The woman seems to glow with the whitest of white, like the centre of a burning star, such that it hurts my mind to look at her for even a small amount of time. Each deliberate step that the woman takes leads her both closer to me, and further away: the woman, like me, must be part of the white and so can exist in one single locus at the same time. And yet, being part of the white, she must also be everywhere at once, and so is approaching me from an infinite number of directions. The woman’s steps carry her towards me, away from me, to the left of me, to the right, up, down; all this happens concurrently with my perception of the woman in a single locus of being.

A beatific smile arcs momentarily across the woman’s lips, as though, for a second, she reached a revelation before slipping back into her normal self. The arc of the smile moves her ears slightly up her head, and illuminates her face in the most brilliant shade of white; for a moment, she resembles nothing less than the Virgin Mary of a Renaissance painting, smiling benignly at the naked baby Christ sitting in her lap. The smile disappears from her face, as though her sudden understanding of existence has slipped away from her; it is replaced by a frown as she tries to remember what it was that she had suddenly realised. The frown causes little wrinkles to appear on her forehead, and the skin in between the little wrinkles is the darkest shade of white imaginable; like the meeting of the joints of the ballerina’s stage, the dark-white of the skin in between the wrinkles seems to open up to swallow me: the gaping jaws of a terrible leviathan that stretches from the depths of the oceans to consume entire ships. 

Her dress shimmers opalescently; she is wearing a full-length dress of the purest white that stretches down to hover just above the floor, covering her feet entirely. The dress seems to sway with her and the folds of the dress seem to waltz and swish about her feet, dancing hypnotically with the rhythm of her hips as she takes her slow, oh so slow, deliberate steps towards (and away) from me. Stopping directly in front of me (and also infinitely far away from me), the woman raises her eyes up from their downcast position and gazes straight through me. Slowly, but with deliberate movements, like those of a woman going through the same motions that she has gone through a thousand times, the woman gathers her dress in one hand and kneels down in front of me. Looking down in surprise, I realise that I can see a pew directly in front of me, with a kneeler in front of it that you can lower yourself down on; with her dress gathered around her, the woman’s knees make contact with the kneeler. She lowers her head so that only the crown of it is visible to me, and her lips move as she begins to pray to her god.

As I stand there looking directly down at the woman, I begin to see that the woman is not kneeling on a bench directly in front of me, but rather that she is kneeling on a bench that is directly me: I, being a part of the single unity of whiteness, am also the bench that the woman is kneeling on. I begin to realise that my earlier thoughts were wrong: I am not part of the white that is a single unit occupying all of everything. That, in any case, would be impossible: how can one be part of a single unit? A single unit cannot be made up of multiple parts; that, by its definition, is impossible. A single unit is made of just one single thing; I, being of one with the white, must therefore be that single unit of white that is everywhere. I am the white. And I am also just a single set of finite particles that make up the infinite set of white particles. I am everything, and I am something. I am the pew the woman is kneeling on, I am the dress she is wearing, I am the aisle she walked down to get to the pew; I am, in fact, that woman. While at the same time, I am a separate and unique being that is able to observe all of these objects in their separate existences, while concurrently being them.

As I adjust my mind to this vertiginous revelation, the woman finishes her prayers and begins to stand up. Once fully erect, she stands in front of me (I stand in front of me); her white eyes gaze into mine, and I feel a connection with her that is both separate and unified at once. I understand her completely because I am her; yet, at the same time, I find that I can’t fathom even the smallest of her intentions; I can gaze into the depths of her soul, but can’t even distinguish the smallest detail of her physical appearance. 

Slowly, her eyes still locked with mine, she moves her head in towards me. The woman, being part of the white, is both in one place and everywhere at once: infinite variations of her move in towards me, and away from me. Slowly, two lovers dancing, our lips move ever closer. Achingly slowly, her head moves closer and closer to mine until I can almost smell the sweetness of her orange-blossom perfume. Her lips, a deep shade of white, touch mine briefly, ever so softly; I turn my head to the side so as to avoid bumping her nose (my nose) and press my lips more firmly to hers. The softness of her lips stirs a deep longing somewhere in my loins; a smörgåsbord of primal chemicals race through my body, shifting and moving and prodding a long-dead physicality in my body until it starts to live again. I can feel every fold of the skin of her snow-white lips, every crinkle of flesh in her sumptuous lips pressing against mine and sending shocks of electricity shooting throughout my body like pleasurable wires that stretch from my lips to every synapse in my body. Something, deep inside my mind, protests at my perception of these sensations: these sensations don’t exist! screams my brain, agonised at having to both feel and not feel these sensations. But the sensations, so overpowering and delicious in their sheer physicality and eroticism, override my mind and I become totally absorbed in the experience of the moment, taking it in one instant at a time.

Her lips move slightly, massaging mine, exciting a heightened response from my lips that the rest of my body responds to with primitive, primal urgency. My hands, having forgotten that they existed for so long (perhaps, in fact, they had never existed and we re now only coming into being to satisfy a need that my mind could not fulfil by itself, needing something physical to fully express itself), moved slowly and caressed the dress of the woman standing in front of me, taking in the full soft texture of what was truly an extraordinary dress. 

Was that a splash of red on her dress? The merest hint of a colour seems to flicker on her dress, the deepest of blood reds, before flickering out of existence again.

My hands move down the woman’s back, caressing her slowly, tracing the slight curvature of her spine and delighting in the in the firmness of the skin that they find there. Slowly, my hands move towards the base of her spine, and my fingers interlock. Pulling my hands towards myself, I pull the woman in towards me, slightly crushing her into my body with the urgency of this physical desire which has so suddenly overcome the entirety of my body; I am no longer capable of thinking with any rational process, the neural routes of my brain and mind have become reduced to pleasure paths which source and direct the enormous level of pleasurable sensations and chemicals that are surging through my self. I am now entirely a creature of the flesh, and can feel my heartbeat and the woman’s surge under the heat of the moment. My blood rushes through my body, pounding through my ears and creating a cacophony of staccato beats that deafen me. I press my lips tighter to the woman, almost trying to swallow her whole; she responds in kind, pressing her whole being forward in a surge of passion that almost melds her now-physical self with my body.

I open my eyes and gently take my lips away from hers. I unlock my fingers from behind her back and, tracing them back up her arched spine, shift them to her elbow. Gently, my fingers tracing the pathways of the veins decorating her inner arm, I clasp her hands in mine and enjoy the warmth that seems to pour out of every pore of her being. I am not surprised to see that the woman in front of me is now a flesh-and-bone creature in full colour, and so am I. Her skin is a dark brown, with warm, earthy-brown eyes that glow with an inner light and seem to glimmer with mischievousness about the private eternity that we had shared for a split instant. Her dress, as I had glimpsed earlier, was a beautiful blood red that draped to the ground. We both smile and look into each other’s eyes, and I wonder what sort of being she is gazing at. I can barely remember the body that I used to inhabit, a vague memory of green eyes surfaces before submerging again: the closer I get to remembering what I used to look like, the more difficult it becomes to remember. For a second, I take my hands off hers to raise them to cup her face; instantly, I realise what a desperately stupid mistake I have made. A look of horror crosses her face, and she becomes absorbed back into the whiteness that had surrounded us all along. Instantly, she disappears, and becomes part of the infinity of the white; I am not able to see the locus of her being anymore, and she is lost to me forever.

“Jasmine!” I shout into the white, not even aware of where the name had come from. But it is too late, the white has already become me, and I have become it. Physical sensations are no longer possible, and I become but a finite scattering of particles in the infinity of the white; I become the white in its entirety again.

The memory of her has already started to fade, and I forget the colour of her dress. Even the concept of a colour is difficult to imagine now, and I try to grasp on to it to no avail: it is like trying to grab a fistful of water. I feel a heavy sense of disappointment settle across my psyche, as though a giant tree has just been felled and is sprawling itself across the forest floor. That familiar Gemini sensation of being at once a separate being and being the whole, settles across my mind.

Feeling a sudden flicker, I realise that something, some other, has brushed across my psyche; sudden sensations of joy and mischievousness dart across my memory: these sensations have the distinct feeling of other-ness, as though I were just the observer of the memories, as though someone had decided to play a reel of film from their own personal lives in my head. The memory of a passionate kiss runs through my mind, and I faintly see a smattering of blood red and earth brown run across my eyes before becoming nothingness again. Jasmine, out there, is touching my mind with hers and melding her memories with mine before moving towards other loci in the whiteness. My mind surges with joy at this intimate, heretofore unfelt sensation of one consciousness touching another. I remember that Jasmine, like me, is both a finite scattering of particles in the whiteness, and is also the whiteness in the entirety. We are both the white in its entirety, meaning that we are the same thing: we are both the white, and we are both distinct beings. Her mind touching mine is no miracle, merely the result of my mind touching itself; her mind touching mine is also a miracle, as our distinct entities cross the boundaries of their selves and become united for a split second in the memory of a stolen kiss in a pew; two lovers tied together by ropes fashioned of the greatest passion.

A thought about the implications of us being one and the same crosses my mind; I try to crush it with a brutal, desperate psychic blow from my consciousness but it is too late. It has already glimmered across my mind and settled itself in an uncomfortable position.

Did I just kiss myself?

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