Archive for March, 2009

Low-Swinging Venus

Posted in Intention on March 10, 2009 by lushangxinku

“…melancholy people have two reasons for being so: they don’t know or they hope.”

The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus, 1942

The planet Venus, yesterday evening from the bakery

The planet Venus, yesterday evening from the bakery

A few years ago, after walking home at dawn under the gaze of an especially bright Venus, I wrote a journal entry.  I spoke of the love and admiration I felt for the mysteries of the heavens, pulsars and planets, nebulae and vast dark unknowns.  I spoke of the absurdity, it seemed to me at the time, of loving a fellow human in such a way; to bow down to the beauty of a human, in my orientation, a female.  This feeling seemed absurd to me for years.  A cartoonish rush, an objectification where selfishness, vanity and egotistical pride seemed to be vaunted over kindness, sharing, co-creation.  A fleeting physical pleasure, commodified and fetishized into tradable human stock.  Traded for power, for submission to power, not for love.  Humans kept each other and themselves well-milked, and if they didn’t on a consistent basis, all allegiances, all loyalties, all loves, all bets were off.  In a culture of instant gratification and sensory over-stimulation, lying, betrayal, adultery and shadowy bedroom deals became commonplace, and as soon as better or different sex was made available, human beings became as disposable and forgettable as Styrofoam popcorn stuffed into a box.  For over a decade I steered clear of playing this game.

Last night I looked up at that same planet, now in a different part of the sky, at a different time.  What else has changed?  I have now glimpsed the promise, companionship, intimacy and magic of human love, and I accept that from my perspective, the paradigms of head games, objectification, power relations and sex quotas can all easily be smashed, evaporated by a blazing light that seemed to be much bigger than me, distant but close enough to be startling, able to burn me if I strayed too close, like a renegade Venus swinging down from the sky.

I did not know, did not feel the possibilities of my own emotions before.  I had known once, long ago, but eventually forgot.  Now that I do know that the silly game Western sexuality has become like some grand emperor without clothes, like some barking television clown without wisdom, I have no choice but to hope; that there is reciprocal, sensual, authentic love that can exist in this life, in this cultural reality.

The game at this point is complex and pressured, like steam pulsed through a spaghetti tangle of pipes, heat that will scorch but not warm, and, once redirected, rapidly cools into memory.  The gender roles once applicable through long millenia of hunter-gatherer society have come in forms of anxieties and syndromes, disorders and seething misunderstandings.  The females of this current society are faced with what has been called the triple-bind.  They must conform to a huge amount of trimming and preening, painting and glossing, to be appealing and acceptable not just to men, or to other women- but to themselves.  This occurs like a spectrum, the far end being chronic obsession about looks and outside opinions placed above all else- binging, purging, starving, compulsive exercise, laxatives, tanning beds, chemicals to be applied to faces, hands, legs, sprays to be misted, hairs to be plucked and shaved.  And underneath all of this she is still expected to be successful, brilliant and a good mother, or potential mother.  The pressures from my perspective seem to be extreme and irrational, self-defeating and draining, like the ancient Mayan concept of beauty, filing teeth into sharp points with no anesthetic.  Instead of the focus being how others are treated, these boxed-in souls spend hours reviewing perceived physical flaws in front of the mirror.  Instead of embracing notions of true companionship, lifelong partnership able to weather any and all coming storms, the man or men engaged are considered to be pets that must occasionally be walked, employers or generals, teachers or cops, to be pacified, cajoled, and marginalized into manageable corner shelves.  The tortuous, stressful, exhausting road to social value takes so much out of a person that their loved ones, their closest friends, enjoy nothing but the frayed shell of the person they know, irritable and defensive, finally buying in to the manic cruelty that has been served to them through these intricate webs of pressure and expectation.

What role have I played in such a system, or will continue to play?  I lack the Victorian hangups Foucault ridiculed, and I see a place for human sensual pleasure in the context of interpersonal dignity and open-minded acceptance, where no one is an object, pet, task or beast to pacify.  I hope that stability, honor and mutual growth can nurture interaction, heeding the glare of the renegade Venus and remaining accepting of its drifting shadows.

And so no longer happily, firmly contemptuous of this immense human game, I level my gaze to my surroundings, and wish every woman I pass, peace.  May the callous, self-serving hunger of the men not stand in the way of eventual true appreciation, careful listening, empathy and friendship; and may the tortured compulsive runners and dry-heavers resist against such arbitrary pressure and turn their massive courage and capacity for suffering into strengths and creativity that the world so desperately needs right now.  The players can co-create a new game, one respectful of the awe of the heavens, one that dares to be saddened by windows of hope, instead of mirrors and toilets of compulsion.

Erasing The Face

Posted in Intention on March 2, 2009 by lushangxinku

“Students of the Way should be sure that the four elements composing the body do not constitute the ‘self,’ that the self is not an entity; and that it can be deduced from this that the body is neither ‘self’ nor entity.  Moreover, the five aggregates composing consciousness do not constitute a ‘self’ or an entity; hence, it can be deduced that the individual consciousness is neither ‘self’ nor entity.  The six sense organs which, together with their six types of perception and the six kinds of objects of perception, constitute the sensory world, must be understood in the same way.  Those eighteen aspects of sense are separately and together void.”

Huang Po, b. ?- d. 850 CE

"Hour of the Erased Face" by Salvador Dali, 1934

"Hour of the Erased Face" by Salvador Dali, 1934

There has been talk over the last few years of a Mayan prophecy concerning the end of this cycle of human existence in the year 2012.  The manic glee of a highly eccentric coworker comes to mind, her eyes gleaming with the notion that some earth-shattering cataclysmic event would descend on this corrupt world and smash governments, economic systems and jails in one fell swoop.  I thought of her today as I stumbled upon a CD she had left here at my apartment, many many months ago.  Missing her and smiling to myself at her red-headed sassiness and hallucinatory charm, I loaded the CD into my itunes library, thinking about the role of nihilism in some of the most magical lives I have known.  Taking it a step further from mere declaration of the transitory nature of things, they seemed to embrace a subtle conception of reality as a toy- and a deceitful one at that.  Not only will everything change and end, but the “everything” itself is something to be eyed with a certain degree of suspicion.

The idea that there is nothing whatsoever to hold onto could take individuals in startlingly different directions.  Ayn Rand, shortly before her death, announced that the world actually ends when the individual dies; and not just any individual.  Her and her alone.  Everyone and everything else was just her mind playing tricks.  No wonder she saw no worth in compassion.

Another extreme would be the one that strikes closer to home for me; rampant drug and alcohol abuse, hallucinogenic free-for-alls, where the only worth existence had was the ability to escape it while moving through it, creating thick and destructive cocoons which no calamity and no love could pierce.  Through our actions we expressed a glaring disdain of the illusions of self, ego, capitalism and empire, domination and servitude.  It all boiled down to a crafted inner escape, and the substances required to get there.  Not only were we convinced that governments, armies, wars, police, jails and the elite rich would eventually fall into the graves they had dug for themselves; in another sense, for us, the world had already ended, precisely because it never began in the first place.  It was a deception, an illusion, and from this standpoint those who embraced the world fully were the lost ones, putting stock in a cosmic house of cards that reeked of hypocrisy and lies.

Eventually though, this extreme of individual indulgence took its toll.  I saw too often the ugly hunger of the addict, realizing that instead of transcending all systems I was feeding a bloated black market of spoiled dealers and lying middlemen, and a darkness deep inside myself that was more than just self-abandonment- it went further, to the growing, feeding and freeing of the fierce dragons that craved these substances at any cost.  This was no dignified response.  Merely the crawling of beetles who don’t realize when to stop consuming mounds of feces.

I did take important lessons from those lost years, though.  I retained a healthy disdain for the notion of a separate self, a separate reality.  And in feeling the urge to get past my own hungers, I embraced fully the joys and pains of service and celebration with others, my ex-wife in particular.  That experience truly showed me that love and compassion are true ways to get past the illusions of self and daily life.  Engaging in the flow of diplomacy and giving, playfulness and loyalty, we both figured that even if the world never started, and so is already ended, even if some Mayan prophecy will wipe it all away, even if a nuclear attack, asteroid, gamma burst or government will trash everything familiar to us, we still had each other, a bond stronger than one person may have to themselves alone.  This, like all things, ended too- much more quickly than I had anticipated- but I took the lessons with me.

Love, not ego, not drugs, not mere sensory perception- love itself is the only dignified response.  Will the world end?  Of course, this assumes that there is a world, one world, in a fixed reality, entombed in chronological definition and limitation.  These are deceptive assumptions.  Will love end?  It does every day, especially in these times of quick fixes, instant gratification and runaway hyper-individuation.   But it comes back, for those who can work through the nonsense and get past themselves.  So if by “the world,” one means “love,”  there is no permanent end.  May I live to one day whisper this into the ear of a beloved- to assume that love ends forever is to put stock in a world that deceives us on a cosmic scale.  Don’t let it.