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FANA - Eduardo Colón
photographer & writer based in houston, texas and brooklyn, new york

Eduardo Colón

FANA

I wrote this while on a business trip in Germany for the summer of 2001.

Last night I had the television on the only channel I could understand and enjoy.

MTV.

I saw a music video that tapped direct into a longing that I’ve had in my heart for years but could never pin down.

I’m not going to describe the video in great detail because doing so would be stripping it of its magic.


In the video, the singer, Nelly Furtado, was in a state of ecstasy, as she was lifted, into the air by an unseen force, towards the top of trees, like a puppet, with her arms, head, and legs dangling back.

The sun shined through the corners of her body, casting her in silhouette.

It looked as if she was surrendering to the light.

Later in the video, she was standing on a tree branch with her eyes closed and a smile that became wide and bright. She extended her arms out and fell backwards. As she fell, her eyes remained closed and the smile remained bright and wide, as if she knew someone or something would be there to catch her fall.

Just as she was about to hit the ground, a crowd appeared and, with their outstretched arms, they caught her. Nelly Furtado began to float on top of the crowd as they passed her around - her eyes remained closed and her mouth remained wide and bright, as if in a state of bliss and ecstasy.

Throughout this scene, she sang:

I’m like a bird,I’ll only fly awayI don’t know where my soul isI don’t know where my home is.

This video, these lyrics, touched something in me so deep that I began to cry, hard. Not because I was sad but because I was happy.

Still am...

I now understand what drives me and where the feeling behind my drive comes from.

It was February 1987 and I was in my room with a girlfriend. She thought it would be funny to bring over a Ouija board and ask it goofy questions. We sat down on my bed and faced each other. My girlfriend placed the board on our laps. We placed the tip of our fingers on the dial and watched it glide across the board as we asked the spirit guiding the dial dumb questions.

My girlfriend kept asking, “Are you moving it?”

I kept replying, “No, I thought you’re moving it.”

After a few minutes of this, and answers to some questions about each other, we became believers.

I asked the dumbest question I could think of - “How old will I be when I die?”

The spirits’ response, 17.

My girlfriend asked for month and the spirit spelled out, April.

I asked for the day and the spirit guided the dial over to the number two. It kept pointing to two, over and over.

My girlfriend asked for cause of death and the spirit spelled out car then bomb then car again.

At the time, it all made sense.

At the time, I was a wanna-be graffiti artist, sneaking into train yards and spray painting graffiti murals on to the side of trains. It was a dangerous hobby where if I didn’t watch my step, I could slip and end up frying on the third rail or fall through a hole in the elevated train tracks. Worst, I could run into someone who wanted to beat me until I could no longer move, just because they could.

What does this have to do with anything? This hobby was known as 'bombing the cars,' as in train cars and graffiti artists were known as ‘bombers.’

My girlfriend didn’t know about my hobby. It was something that only a few people knew and I didn’t want to tell her because we had just started dating. I didn’t want her to think that she hooked up with a criminal. So, I was shocked and became convinced - April 2, 1987, I was going to die.

In the days leading up to that date, I prepared myself. Fate was going to catch me, whether I continued ‘bombing the cars,’ and deal with fate in a train yard, or I stay at home and when going outside, for the first time that day, I would meet it then. Perhaps from another graffiti bomber who for whatever reason wanted to kill me. Back then, it didn’t take much to get to that point - something as innocuous as writing your name too close to a graffiti mural was enough to get that graffiti artist to come after you, to want to beat you down until you die

I stopped graffiti bombing the cars. I stopped living. I lost my girlfriend and was on my own to deal with this.

I stopped caring for petty small things and savored every moment.

The night of April 1st, I remember going to bed thinking, this is it. Tomorrow, I’m going to die.

A few hours later, I woke up. I got out of bed and checked the time. It was 3:12 a.m. I turned to go back into bed and saw my body lying there. I didn’t know what to do. I poked my body and it felt like a clump of raw cold meat.

At first, I was horrified with this perception but then I felt relief. I was dead but I was conscious. Every fear of death disappeared. I sat on the floor of my room, looking at my body, and waited for whatever was next.

Nothing happened.

I remembered thinking I wanted to go outside and all of a sudden, I was outside. I walked the streets, looking at the world around me, and feeling tired and wanting to move on.

I remember thinking, I’m dead. I’m ready to go.

All of a sudden, an overwhelming presence came over me.

It lifted me, like a puppet, with my arms, head, and legs dangling back.

I remember opening my eyes and being blinded by light.

I remember this presence cradling me.

I remember becoming part of this presence.

I remember there was no more Eduardo Colón.

I remember there was no more world.

Nothing existed outside this presence.

I was one. Then I felt a pull, ripping me from this presence. I felt the world again and my sense of self again, and I was back in my bed, with a crippling headache that left me unable to sleep for the rest of the night. Did I die? Maybe. I was so focused on dying that maybe I willed myself? Who knows, but the rest of the day, nothing else happened. There were no bombers at my doorstep, waiting for me to come out. There was no hint of danger.

Nothing.

However, I was no longer the same.

I remembered the bliss of non-existence. I remembered the feeling of this presence and my total surrender to it. I remembered how it carried me into the sky, into the light.

Ever since then, I’ve been lost but didn’t know it, not even when I began to read about Sufism and what Sufi poets and philosophers described as Fana - the total annihilation of self.

It still didn’t make sense then. Seeing this video, the singer’s total surrender to the light, and coupling it with my experience from 1987, now, I have an idea. I’ve always looked for ways to “lose myself” in others - with the many women, in and out of my life in the years between then and now. When losing myself like that failed, I turned to prayer and meditation for this bliss. Even if this bliss was only temporary, I would be, for one second, in it, and this union would no longer be a memory but a reality.

However, prayer and meditation required too much work. To be in myself, without the sex, without the love of others would force me to confront the reality of me.

That’s what happened last night.

I learned I’m homeless to my heart. My heart is holding a vigil for this bliss, but my mind doesn’t know how to reconcile with my heart because my mind knows that no matter how much one fucks, loves, eats, sleeps for the purpose of escape, it’s not realistic to feel such a bliss forever, at least while alive.

I want to die before dying!

So, it remains, like a stone in my shoe, the memory of the bliss remains inside my heart.

As Plato once wrote:

 The soul of every lover longs for something else; his soul cannot say what it is, but like an oracle it has a sense of what it wants, and like an oracle it hides behind a riddle. 

It’s no longer a riddle to me. 

 That’s why this video made me cry.

I’ve solved the riddle: 

I’m like a bird,I’ll only fly awayI don’t know where my soul isI don’t know where my home is. 

I now know.

My home is with God.

I want to go home.

Berlin, GermanyJuly 16, 2001

I wrote this while on a business trip in Germany for the summer of 2001.

Last night I had the television on the only channel I could understand and enjoy.

MTV.

I saw a music video that tapped direct into a longing that I’ve had in my heart for years but could never pin down.

I’m not going to describe the video in great detail because doing so would be stripping it of its magic.

In the video, the singer, Nelly Furtado, was in a state of ecstasy, as she was lifted, into the air by an unseen force, towards the top of trees, like a puppet, with her arms, head, and legs dangling back.

The sun shined through the corners of her body, casting her in silhouette.

It looked as if she was surrendering to the light.

Later in the video, she was standing on a tree branch with her eyes closed and a smile that became wide and bright. She extended her arms out and fell backwards. As she fell, her eyes remained closed and the smile remained bright and wide, as if she knew someone or something would be there to catch her fall.

Just as she was about to hit the ground, a crowd appeared and, with their outstretched arms, they caught her. Nelly Furtado began to float on top of the crowd as they passed her around - her eyes remained closed and her mouth remained wide and bright, as if in a state of bliss and ecstasy.

Throughout this scene, she sang:

I’m like a bird,
I’ll only fly away
I don’t know where my soul is
I don’t know where my home is.

This video, these lyrics, touched something in me so deep that I began to cry, hard. Not because I was sad but because I was happy.

Still am...

I now understand what drives me and where the feeling behind my drive comes from.

It was February 1987 and I was in my room with a girlfriend. She thought it would be funny to bring over a Ouija board and ask it goofy questions. We sat down on my bed and faced each other. My girlfriend placed the board on our laps. We placed the tip of our fingers on the dial and watched it glide across the board as we asked the spirit guiding the dial dumb questions.

My girlfriend kept asking, “Are you moving it?”

I kept replying, “No, I thought you’re moving it.”

After a few minutes of this, and answers to some questions about each other, we became believers.

I asked the dumbest question I could think of - “How old will I be when I die?”

The spirits’ response, 17.

My girlfriend asked for month and the spirit spelled out, April.

I asked for the day and the spirit guided the dial over to the number two. It kept pointing to two, over and over.

My girlfriend asked for cause of death and the spirit spelled out car then bomb then car again.

At the time, it all made sense.

At the time, I was a wanna-be graffiti artist, sneaking into train yards and spray painting graffiti murals on to the side of trains. It was a dangerous hobby where if I didn’t watch my step, I could slip and end up frying on the third rail or fall through a hole in the elevated train tracks. Worst, I could run into someone who wanted to beat me until I could no longer move, just because they could.

What does this have to do with anything? This hobby was known as 'bombing the cars,' as in train cars and graffiti artists were known as ‘bombers.’

My girlfriend didn’t know about my hobby. It was something that only a few people knew and I didn’t want to tell her because we had just started dating. I didn’t want her to think that she hooked up with a criminal. So, I was shocked and became convinced - April 2, 1987, I was going to die.

In the days leading up to that date, I prepared myself. Fate was going to catch me, whether I continued ‘bombing the cars,’ and deal with fate in a train yard, or I stay at home and when going outside, for the first time that day, I would meet it then. Perhaps from another graffiti bomber who for whatever reason wanted to kill me. Back then, it didn’t take much to get to that point - something as innocuous as writing your name too close to a graffiti mural was enough to get that graffiti artist to come after you, to want to beat you down until you die

I stopped graffiti bombing the cars. I stopped living. I lost my girlfriend and was on my own to deal with this.

I stopped caring for petty small things and savored every moment.

The night of April 1st, I remember going to bed thinking, this is it. Tomorrow, I’m going to die.

A few hours later, I woke up. I got out of bed and checked the time. It was 3:12 a.m. I turned to go back into bed and saw my body lying there. I didn’t know what to do. I poked my body and it felt like a clump of raw cold meat.

At first, I was horrified with this perception but then I felt relief. I was dead but I was conscious. Every fear of death disappeared. I sat on the floor of my room, looking at my body, and waited for whatever was next.

Nothing happened.

I remembered thinking I wanted to go outside and all of a sudden, I was outside. I walked the streets, looking at the world around me, and feeling tired and wanting to move on.

I remember thinking, I’m dead. I’m ready to go.

All of a sudden, an overwhelming presence came over me.

It lifted me, like a puppet, with my arms, head, and legs dangling back.

I remember opening my eyes and being blinded by light.

I remember this presence cradling me.

I remember becoming part of this presence.

I remember there was no more Eduardo Colón.

I remember there was no more world.

Nothing existed outside this presence.

I was one. Then I felt a pull, ripping me from this presence. I felt the world again and my sense of self again, and I was back in my bed, with a crippling headache that left me unable to sleep for the rest of the night. Did I die? Maybe. I was so focused on dying that maybe I willed myself? Who knows, but the rest of the day, nothing else happened. There were no bombers at my doorstep, waiting for me to come out. There was no hint of danger.

Nothing.

However, I was no longer the same.

I remembered the bliss of non-existence. I remembered the feeling of this presence and my total surrender to it. I remembered how it carried me into the sky, into the light.

Ever since then, I’ve been lost but didn’t know it, not even when I began to read about Sufism and what Sufi poets and philosophers described as Fana - the total annihilation of self.

It still didn’t make sense then. Seeing this video, the singer’s total surrender to the light, and coupling it with my experience from 1987, now, I have an idea. I’ve always looked for ways to “lose myself” in others - with the many women, in and out of my life in the years between then and now. When losing myself like that failed, I turned to prayer and meditation for this bliss. Even if this bliss was only temporary, I would be, for one second, in it, and this union would no longer be a memory but a reality.

However, prayer and meditation required too much work. To be in myself, without the sex, without the love of others would force me to confront the reality of me.

That’s what happened last night.

I learned I’m homeless to my heart. My heart is holding a vigil for this bliss, but my mind doesn’t know how to reconcile with my heart because my mind knows that no matter how much one fucks, loves, eats, sleeps for the purpose of escape, it’s not realistic to feel such a bliss forever, at least while alive.

I want to die before dying!

So, it remains, like a stone in my shoe, the memory of the bliss remains inside my heart. 

As Plato once wrote: 

 The soul of every lover longs for something else; his soul cannot say what it is, but like an oracle it has a sense of what it wants, and like an oracle it hides behind a riddle. 

It’s no longer a riddle to me. 

 That’s why this video made me cry.

I’ve solved the riddle: 

I’m like a bird,
I’ll only fly away
I don’t know where my soul is
I don’t know where my home is. 

I now know.

My home is with God.

I want to go home.

Berlin, Germany
July 16, 2001