Notes on Blocks
On Engulfment and Escapism
This piece came out of a new event series called “Are.na Walkthroughs” in which we ask people to take us through a particular channel, the blocks and ideas held within, and the ways those ideas may have evolved as the channel has grown and accumulated. Our first one was on February 12 over Zoom, and it featured Kai Jenrette, Taulant Sulko, Ritu Ghiya, and Emily Nabnian. Here, Emily shares some of what she talked about while walking us through her channel “I Want to Live: The Love Gospel.
I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the life that I want to live and then trying to live it. “I Want to Live: The Love Gospel” is one of my earliest Are.na channels, which I created before my style of using the platform had fully developed, and it’s since spawned a series of adjacent channels.
In contrast with some of my other channels, which might appear more methodical or meticulous, I remember only one requirement for this channel: if a text or image conjured a visceral feeling that made me want to live, it would end up here. In that sense, this is one of my most impulsive and intuitive channels.
I find this channel to be revelatory of my unconscious understanding of the world, which has been crystallizing as this channel gradually expands. If you asked me outright what it means to me to live, I might give you a specific answer. When I analyze this channel however, the recurring patterns indicate that my sense of living is tied to many themes: desperation, sonder, desire, attentiveness, and escapism. It’s about saturation and engulfment and the sense that yes, these can be viable and even sustainable ways of living.
The opposing nature of the images (cinematic) and the text (understated) also help weave together the micro/macro ideas that are embedded in the channel. I began to ask myself: why the same image? Why the same image over and over again? Why the text? What are they saying to each other? What do they say when placed together?
It has been noted that this channel conveys a somewhat narrative quality. I think that this narrative quality has emerged naturally as a result of an inherent desire to live, seek, perceive and experience this life through a poetic lens. Above all, it explores the distinction between a life of occurrences versus an active life both lived and savored.
This block represents the idea of escapism as running towards something rather than away from it, about seeking and seizing our moments not out of fear, but curiosity. It’s concerned with movement, not only as a means of survival but also as a vehicle for pleasure, the value of the fleeting. It reminds me of experiences in my life that are so thrilling that they feel like stolen moments, existing almost outside of time.
I’ve always been interested in the ways that private relationships function within public environments and the languages we cultivate that are specific to those we are close to. These can be silent understandings, from a simple look to a nuance in body language to a particular vernacular, inhabiting an intimate world that simultaneously exists within the shared world.
This is one of my all time favorite passages, and it evokes a sense of hope and awe at the arbitrariness of our lives—that we never know what accident will strike us or when our lives are about to be changed. This is part of the excitement as well as the fear that ultimately life is short and therefore demands urgency. As Baldwin puts it: “Love will simply have no choice but to go into battle with space and time and, furthermore, to win.” It is a reminder, I suppose, that the battle is always worth it—worth the attempt at least.
“The Kiss” is a recurring motif in the channel, signifying the climactic moments in life, the cinematic pinnacle. These are the moments where life feels dreamlike, igniting a kind of ecstasy that incentivizes risk-taking in order to simulate it again. “The Kiss” is also important because it roots us in tangibility and in dialogue with others, that through physical touch we are reminded of our own mortality, humanity and connectedness.
Many blocks in this channel guide me through experiencing life thematically and romantically, collecting the ideas and feelings that give life flavor. While this is a lens I wouldn’t give up, life is also laced with practicalities and impracticalities that require resilience. I think about this phrase a lot, especially when it gets hard because if not this, then what? It’s what we’ve got, and I have to make the most of it.
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