Tabula Rasa

a call for written or visual work, an open-ended prompt, a platform for free-writing…is simply too good to pass up. i responded to asameena’s call for contributions like i would respond to sharing tea with a friend, in some less-trodden street of the city. the topic, tabula rasa, felt like home: there is nothing more satisfying and safe and sobering in this world than white paper, black ink, and your mind floating somewhere in between. and then, i suppose, i took it as a challenge…to share the result of the process, not to « steal by burying in my pockets ».

not to crumple it up and stuff it into a pocket or drawer, but actually to share it. sometimes, that is the idea behind writing. blank paper. how easy, a pastime filling up empty sheets of it, lined or otherwise, with words. although what is the point? i have never understood such a pointless urge, as if the blank page itself were hunger, waiting to be satisfied. words mostly, but sometimes lines, shapes and figures also wander on to people the pages. black ink, surtout and above all black ink before all other colors. for the paper, any color will do, blankness can present itself according to whatever is available on a given day: tea-stain brown or bleach white, bloc note or lined.

the best thing to do when you have a blank page is: fill it up line by line, narrow row by narrow row across the sheet, left to write or write to left, letters more or less even, small and stacked close to one another like bricks. building a wall made of letters, each letter a brick, or—even better—each word, as this pours a stronger brick. does it matter what the words mean, or their language? sometimes better for it to be any other than one’s own, because not understanding a language often makes it more beautiful. the way it is before you learn to decipher it, to break down its walls and reconstruct as needed, stack the words in different formations, string them along in patterns, rhymes, phrases, ways that express something felt, heard, remembered, seen, imagined, dreamed.

this is what a blank page is for, or plain wall, or blackboard, or stretch of shoreline, or sky heavy with water, or windblown hill, or crest-capped sea, or anything that is vast, silent and receptive. such wide open spaces do not exist to listen to our thoughts, are not waiting to be marked or claimed by what we might tell them. that is simply what we do. this is how we are made. to be alive is to have a need to pour yourself into something, to fill a space with yourself, sometimes to be filled with something outside yourself, like a child plays with water: one cup in each hand, pouring from one to the other and back again. writing is bringing the world onto paper, while reading is soaking the world into one’s mind, soaking in its richness and learning it, taking the outside world in.

the image is idealistic, an imaginary version of things, and indulgent. Because at the end of the day, not everyone has something interesting to say, much less something interesting enough to put down in ink, to leave behind in writing. those who do—eloquent, thoughtful, observant, often quiet indivuals with unquiet minds, can do somersaults on empty pages, skip from one word to another (like a water bug crosses the surface of his pond) and sometimes in more than one language, or two, or more… linguistic acrobats, who have something to tell and what’s more, a way of telling it.

tabula rasa