Overwhelmed By Unknowing

I chew food, fluffy delicious bread, how did the air get in there? Who planted the wheat? How did it grow into a plant? What knew how to grow? The olive oil drips off down my fingers. I don’t know where these olives came from, I don’t even know which country. Who picked them, or pressed them, or took them to the pressing machines? Were they locals, or heavy truck drivers disconnected from the grove?

I chew.

I taste the oregano. How did they chop up the pieces, where was it grown, how did it feel taking it from the earth into a factory, or was it grown in a factory ‘garden’?

I chew with salvia breaking down things. What is it that is breaking down food in my mouth? Where did the salvia come from? I drank water, I felt it go down my throat and then? Then what?

Beauty • Artwork • Studio Olafur Eliasson
Olafur Eliasson. Beauty.

I chew.

The water system of the planet earth is closed. No water escapes. Maybe I drank the same water as Jesus Christ, or William Shakespear or Lao-Tzu? Am I drinking water that was drunk 10,000 years ago by someone? Has all the water on the planet been drunk at some point by a human? Where has this water been? What has it experienced, what is entering into me when I sip?

I pick up the Riga tap water, take a sip. Suddenly engulfed with marvel and unease.

I take another bite and chew as I have chewed hundreds of times every day of my life, apart from when I suckled. How did I know to suckle? How did the cells in my mouth know to form a tooth? How did I know to chew? How did I change into this now from being a baby?

How did the stem cells, jumping into the foetus that I feel strange calling myself, the collection of cells that began in my mother’s womb, how did the stem cells know, when they could have become anything, to be an eye cell? How is it that we recognise eyes, that we all have such a similar collection of cells in the same pattern that an eye is an eye? How is that even possible? Is it a map? Are we carrying maps?

I remember the lecture from the atomic scientist who after studying atoms on his retirement, sat on a park bench with his collegue of 50 years and said, ‘I never thought I’d say, ‘I don’t know what an atom is’. Is there anything that if we look at it long enough, and deep enough, is able to be understood by a human?

Visitors in the Materials and Objects display at Tate Modern

I swallow. I know the bread will give me energy. How? How does this grain in some far-off field, out of my world, convert in my stomach on its own path through life into giving energy, to something it never knew, me? Total sacrifice. Did it already know its fate? I don’t know. This so intimate connection I take for granted. Sex seems to pale in its intimacy compared to giving one’s entire life, dying for me to have energy. I eat every few hours, taking energy from food stuffs, mindlessly.

And sex? What is that? I know that sperm connects to egg. It never did in me. Why not? Why do some women want babies and some not? A baby! A person impossible to predict will come out of a body. Our bodies! Are they ours? How does that happen – a creation of life? How do all babies come out looking like humans? How does rice know to grow and become rice?

I take another slice of bread.

Nairy Baghramian, ‘Scruff of the Neck (LL 23/24b & LR 26/27/28)  ’ 2016
Nairy Baghramian, Scruff of the Neck  2016 . Tate .

And sex itself? What is it? Why do we yearn it? Beyond procreation why is it such an important element of our lives? I remember having sex with a stranger who I wasn’t interested in. Years afterwards I began to track my lunar cycles. That was it. Premenstrual. How does the moon affect me? What even is a psyche? I mean we know scientifically about hormones but am I only hormones? I am a different person, or so it feels, when I’m not hormonally balanced. Am I? Am I creating those thoughts? Am I creating these feelings? ? In the morning I wept that the stranger who I hadn’t been interested was leaving. Are feelings real if they are hormonally created? Is anything not hormonally created? Are thoughts and feelings real? Am I real? Who am I? When I’m in a good mood, why do I presume that is who I am? Am I that? Am I anything

Do we have a choice about anything? I didn’t choose my hormones, or my eye colour, or that my eyes look like eyes. I have very nice eyes. No one has said that for a long time. I would bask in the glory, but feeling awkward, for I didn’t make my eyes, they are just there. Are they ‘mine’?

I chew.

Rodin sculpture
Auguste Rodin Main droite de Pierre et Jacques de Wissant 1885–86 Musée Rodin

I look with ‘my’ eyes at ‘my’ hands, they are wrinkling, like my mother’s did. I remember the shock of returning from university and realising, ‘My mum is getting old’. Old. What does that mean? Knowing not to say anything.

What will happen to ‘my’ body? I saw so many grey hairs last week in that dodgy public toilet. It had a blue light to hinder drug addicts from finding their veins, conversely I found all the grey hairs on my head. I too. I too am aging. I see myself every day, I cannot comprehend that it is not the same person I see in the mirror. My eyes…seem to be the same, are they? Cells changing all the time. Like a river is never the same.

Last week, lying in a forest by the sea, I seriously considered my death. Strange relief. No need to keep this body alive. No need to worry about food, or shelter, or work. My shoulders turned to feathers. Weight disappearing. It was bliss. Dying can be blissful, something to look forward to. And those people who refuse treatment, they are not all depressives living in the damp dark who have given up on life. There are others who so love life that they are ready to go further in.

What is death?

And this food, I am amazed, it becomes excrement that I carry around inside of me. And then: the relief and joy of letting it drop. Where does it go? The sewers, and then? What happens to it?

What am I part of in this huge cycle of life?

One of my crossed legs goes to sleep. I don’t know how that happened.

Overwhelmed by unknowing, I make myself become conscious of my breath. I close my eyes. I see the familiar dark. My system relaxes. Peace. Mini-death of this outside now. Inside, I go to ‘that place’. It never changes. Eternal. This is where I am not me, and I feel who I am. I feel I Am. Formless. I don’t know why I cannot stay here.

I feel another pang of hunger.

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