The Joy of Non-Attachment

Neal Crosbie tries not to take himself too seriously. I am an irritation, then, in that I see things revealed in his work that reflect the struggle to bring love into the world.

Which I take very seriously.

The challenge is to moderate our natural instincts, with the cerebral cortex being the tool that brings discipline. It’s a struggle because our bodies are designed to enjoy animalistic behavior. It’s a war because the spirits that preceded us don’t want to cede the stage of evolution to us.

And why should they? Evolution is about competition, and they serve a purpose is resisting our rise to dominance.

In the Native American tradition, the coyote is the most pitiful of the animal gods, getting his way only by tricking his betters. Trickery is a way of transforming situations, and so through his weakness, eventually coyote becomes the most influential of the gods.

As climate change withers the ecosystem that supported them, how is this supposed to happen? Animal gods have fewer bodies to manipulate, and so less means for reorganizing spirit.

A possible answer was proposed in some of Neal’s recent work. Compelled by a dream, I bought this one two weeks ago (sorry for this drab image; the color is vivid in the original):

CoyoteTransform

What struck me is the shadowing of Coyoteman’s color fields in the abstract construct on the right. I read this as a soul shadow. In this image, the color sprays emanate most obviously from the soul shadow. It’s not clear whether they are being assimilated, projected or expelled. That a transformation is being undertaken is suggested more strongly by the two elements on the right: the Buddhist circle of completion and the “greater vehicle” of Mahayana practice.

In conversation on Sunday, Neal explained that he is completely worn out upon returning home from the Art Walk. He has many deep conversations, his booth and eclectic art serving as a magnet. His joy is infectious. When I tried to suggest that he was engaged in spiritual service, he became hostile – and more so when I illustrated my point with Christian scripture.

But trickery is amusing. It provides us a release from tragedy. Contrast this with Siddhartha, who sought to conquer pain through asceticism. What’s the attraction in self renunciation? Joy has qualities that make it the more potent tool to achieve non-attachment

.I see this, then, as coyote’s essential contribution: through absurdity to guide us away from suffering into the harbor of joy. While the construction of that harbor is a weighty matter, I wouldn’t denigrate the guide. In fact, I wouldn’t want more to serve for any purpose than to shelter the spirits he inspires – not least because they inspire by their creativity.

Is Neal’s art then a method for implementing coyote’s transformation? I believe so.

Too Much Fun

We had an “intimate” gathering at Santa Barbara Dance Tribe yesterday. Most of the crew was holding down a dance space at Lucidity in Carpenteria.

That was probably the best for me. As I get older, the damage I do to my joints doesn’t recover overnight. Everyone has a stronger side, but after decades of tennis and basketball, my right tends to overwhelm my left. This has been showing up in my left ankle, which has borne the brunt of leaps and spins that should be stabilized in my hips and knees. It was beginning to fall apart.

I’ve been trying to activate the weak muscles in my left hip and calf. That’s allowed my ankle to recover, but it’s still sensitive, so yesterday I spent a good portion of the dance just trying to walk with my left foot pointed in the same direction as my right foot, or doing dips standing on one foot at a time. Frustration set in more than once – I just couldn’t find the muscles on the left side that the right wide was using.

I mean, is learning to walk really that complicated? I guess I forget.

The music was all vinyl, offered by Mark Metz who had come down from Berkeley. Up until the last fifteen minutes, I had only gotten wound up once, and then he put on Phil Collin’s “Sledgehammer.” I had a good time interpreting the lyrics, but found myself wondering why I was getting into this patently licentious song. Then the music shifted into the last bridge, and my kinesthetic memory activated:

I kicked the habit (I kicked the habit)
Shed my skin (Shed my skin)
This is the new stuff (This is the new stuff)
I go dancing in, (We could go dancing in)
Oh won’t you show for me (Show for me)
I will show for you (Show for you)
Show for me (Show for me), I will show for you

Yea, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I do mean you
Only you, you’ve been coming through
Going to build that power
Build, build up that power, hey
I’ve been feeding the rhythm
I’ve been feeding the rhythm
Going to feel that power, build in you

Tender ankle forgotten, I sang along; pinwheeling and spinning; reaching up into the sky and throwing down; crouching and spreading the love across the ground.

It was light, that new stuff I dance in, just all over my body. It felt so wonderful!

And I’m not paying for it today – at least, not too much.

Magnificence

She came to me this morning with a passionate, healing warmth. Our dreams tumbled through postures of intimacy, until it occurred to me that pleasure was nature’s trick on women, the bait used to tempt them into surrender to masculine wildness. It is time for that trick to be redeemed in trust, so as she rode on me I washed her with waves of healing energy, waves rising and falling as she rose and fell, until she was overcome and lay vibrating in my arms.

In that surrender she passed away from herself into an emptiness that forbade my entry. As I crept around its borders I discovered women, women arrayed in a shell, a shell annealed of the pride that resisted true sisterhood.

She returned to me enlarged, cocooning me in her soul as I imagined her in my arms. This certainty of security swept through me, and I found myself in contemplation of her.

The strong legs that carry her across the world, and the delicate toes that tenderly root in the biomes that attend her arrival. The hands and fingers that vibrate with awareness on all sides, gliding through water and air to signal caring and joy. The ovaries that offer new possibilities, and the womb in which they attain realization. The mouth that receives sustenance, the lungs and digestive system that process it, and the outward return of waste that enriches the soil and air for plants. The eyes, ears and nose that receive adoration, the voice that sings in praise. The hair that protects the vault of her mind by entangling contrary personalities. The skin that wards danger yet thrills to tenderness.

And myself, the humble tool of her self-creation, looking down the trail of time that stretched behind her, realizing that I had never been in control of this process. By all the common measures I have achieved and experienced nothing, but this was worth living for.