Sock Puppets of the Gods!
Dreamed 1994/4/14 by Chris Wayan
I have a sore throat and a slight fever. I want to go to my dance class, but I'm not sure I should. I compromise--drive to class, instead of biking over.
I walk in to find our teacher's out sick too! And the substitute says "Go in the weight room, lie on the mats, and we'll watch a video on Haitian dance: Divine Horsemen."
So instead of dancing, here I am on a mat in the dark watching TV... in a heap of ballerinas! A surrealist slumber party.
A punkish girl with a sexy body but a smoky aura and subtly disturbing face lies down next to me and snuggles up, flirtatiously. We talk a bit. I get hot--and uneasy about it. She's simultaneously attractive and unattractive--a mixed reaction I've never felt before. Profoundly confusing!
The movie starts. I quietly stretch and breathe, trying to calm down. She leans on me and whispers, as warm and wet in my ear as a kiss, "Where's your girlfriend?" I get dizzy and nearly faint from shock. Or is it just my fever?
You see, I'm single, and lonely, and looking, so this seems like a question from a dream. It only occurred to me much later that she may have thought that our classmate Giselle, who's out sick today too, is my lover, not just my friend. No, I heard her whisper as a thundering, oracular dream-question--the voice of the UNIVERSE, demanding "Well, where is she? Your girlfriend's out there. Why haven't you found her?"
Flustered and confused, I blurt "I don't KNOW." This strange girl probably takes this to mean Giselle's absence, not an admission theres a big bloody gaping hole in my life.
I ought to like having my ear licked in a pile of half-naked girls, but that question shocked me so much I feel really on edge--like the only lesbian at the slumber party. Almost wish we were dancing instead.
Maybe it's the film making me nervous. Our substitute teacher warned "This film shows animal sacrifices. Be careful not to make judgments about that. Even you vegetarians kill plants." But as I watch, I feel sad for the animals killed, especially those who die in fear and pain. This doesn't seem like a good way to phone the gods! Maybe it's wrong for me to learn dances sacred to divinities I don't even want to summon, at least not in these forms. Why would I want to be ridden like a horse? I like talking with gods (and horses), but I can do that through dreamwork without hurting other creatures. Is that cultural bias?
Suddenly this class in Haitian dance seems like a patronizing middle-class mockery, like the court of Louis XIV playing at being shepherds and peasants.
Well, so be it. I won't stop dancing. But I won't cut any throats for God, either. Sorry.
After all, I'm still waiting for the rest of you to accept my refusal to kill as legitimate too. It gets tiring, these little lectures about tolerance from people who put down us vegetarians for OUR difference, OUR expression of spirit. Yeah, our bodies must kill to eat... but minimizing pain and death is a sensible goal, isn't it? Who lives their spiritual ideals perfectly, anyway--burger eaters?
I'm so tired of traditionalism! The news, movies, religions... maybe it's just because I'm sick, but these Haitian farmers seem to be saying the same old things humanity always does--eat and be eaten, ride and be ridden. I'm sick of hearing it.
I go home confused about... well, everything. And as darkness falls, and my fever rises, I write this rant, still haunted by a wet, sexy, creepy question: "Where's your girlfriend?"
DREAM 1: SUICIDAL!
I get sick again. No resistance. My immune system is going. The test was wrong, I have HIV! I'm infectious and no one can touch me. I lie in bed with shit all over me. I'm never going to feel happy, just increasing bouts of illness until I slowly die. All my affirmations for a long and happy life, to make up for my sickly childhood and life so far, have come to nothing.
So I decide to commit suicide! I'm standing by a pool or stream. Why not just let myself drown? I hesitate. Makes me furious to end my life at less than half the age I feel I have a right to expect. All those years... But those years aren't real. I have HIV. All I get is sickness--in the past, now, in the short future remaining. Or I can avoid the pain and die now. I hesitate again. Am I quite sure I have HIV?
Eventually I waffle myself into sleep.
I wake (still in dream) feeling sick still but better, with a clearer head. This is just an illness, not a trend. I don't have HIV! But I was ready to commit suicide, it was pure luck my doubts delayed me till I slept. I'm scared I might do it the next time I'm sick. There's real danger in hypochondria, and I need to stop it while well so it doesn't recur when I'm sick. You fix the roof BEFORE it rains, not WHEN.
Now I'm at college, sitting in a class. I catch my mind imagining I'm a martyr, then a second fantasy of conflict and anger... I stop the tangents and return to the here and now. All that fear and anger relives my childhood abuse, and it drains me now and doesn't help a bit. Takes up time needed for imagining good things and how to get them.
Catching these tangents of gloom and stopping them feels like hard work--but a profound change, too. A spiritual stretch!
I omitted something from yesterday's journal entry : I confessed to my friend Lily "I feel like environmental illness blocks me from EVER being able to work or even market my work or travel or tolerate a lover or... anything."
Lily said "But you always forget how much progress you've made! You're healthier, but you seem blind to it."
I clung to the bitterness fiercely. When I denied I had environmental illness, I called myself lazy, perfectionist, neurotic, paranoid. I need to correct that picture: I was fighting EI for my life, working hard. But to acknowledge how devastating EI has been doesn't require me to believe it'll GO ON.
WARNING! My attitude about illness is toxic. "Only sickness talking?" This dream warns "Such thinking leaves an opening for suicidal despair to enter." And death's not the only suicide. There are little suicides: when I get sick I abandon my body instead of lavishing care on it! Treat my body as dead to me...
And it all grows from my assumption EI can't change... I can't change.
And I can.
DREAM 2a: VALUES FOR STABLE DEVELOPMENT
Now I'm looking at what I mistake for a timeline of civilizations, or an evolutionary tree, in rich complex colorcoding. But the vertical axis isn't time--it's maturity, complexity, spirituality. And these "higher" aspirations are down, not up. At the common top are bare survival needs. From that simple surface, long tongues extend, probing into the depths of maturity, each one a style of coping with violent impulses, social oppression, addictions, flavors of philosophical despair, ecological ignorance or irresponsibility, technological power AND constructive use of it, trade and incorporation of new ideas... on and on, every kind of issue that individuals and their civilizations face, laid out in rivers of development like Maslow's pyramid/hierarchy of needs, but far more complex, and organized downwards, like rivers, or genealogies.
The currents and curls and whirlpools remind me of something and finally I blurt "Laminar flow, turbulence!" Like the face of Jupiter or the edge of a wing... this isn't even a spatial flow, it's pure infospace, yet it obeys the same laws of currents and eddies and standing waves in regular harmonic patterns: deep dilemmas show up with different content but the same structure as ones faced earlier, in simpler circumstances, back nearer the surface.
Values that conflict may not manifest a problem for centuries, flowing along peacefully, latent until the society or person has the resources to IMPLEMENT what's been merely an ideal--empty words--and then a complex eddy traps you!
My civilization, America, now has such a problem. But the chart makes it clear it's not what we think of as our problems. It's that we think the universe owes us happiness. Other people owe us something! Not to America-bash: the American game, the pursuit of happiness, solved some ancient problems (freedom of speech and religion, the concept of human rights... these are real achievements!). But it also leads to anger when we slip from pursuit to entitlement; the world doesn't provide what it "owes" us. We look for a devil to kill. Owe leads to blame, and blame wastes energy!
The marginal notes give an example--a woman who expects a ride and gets mad when no one is going her way. A dangerous, quiet, righteous rage. American anger.
The roots of our flaws are in Euro civilization's biases. They downplayed epics like the Mideast's Inanna and Gilgamesh, like African humor violence and tricksters, and preferred the august patriarchal Greeks, with their abstractions, politics, sexism and war. Which basics a society ignores is the best diagnostic tool the chart-writer has discovered. (And I'm getting an uneasy suspicion that this Chartmaker, who looks casually at millennia, and sees the flow of civilizations so objectively--from outside mortality--is what most humans call God.)
DREAM 2b: IN THE SANDBOX
In a bare vegetable garden or sandbox near the dance pavilion, I tell my mother about this American flaw, this eddy trapping us from going deeper. I suffer from it myself: I blamed her for instilling radical guilt in me, making me feel I have to solve everyone's problems. I feel American anger toward her, as if she owed me justice, or happiness... and feel obliged to fix others' anger by giving them happiness.
I mean, if I felt obliged to give head to everyone I met, or hand them all my cash, I'd recognize it as pathological, but this American sacred cow, happiness... well, don't I owe it to them?
Explaining the chart to my mom, I contrast America to the fictional society of "Dune," though I could just as easily use any real desert society. People raised in harsh environments don't assume the universe owes them life or happiness. Yet they still hope and fight for better life. They have flaws--the book explores just that--but spoiled-brat anger is not one of them.
Of course a second flaw leading to the instability of Euro-American civilization is its very focus on flaws! Negative. Notice how white culture respects tragedy? The Greeks called it the highest art form. But what is it? The art of pathology--"the medical study of what went wrong." Tragedy is FAILURE ANALYSIS!
Comedy is less respected. Why? It's the art of unexpected developments, unexpected solutions. Innovation. And though laughter's as uniquely human as crying, and more healing, Euro-American cultures discount it--enjoy it, but treat it as shallow.
I stand on a little rock in an indoor stream running by the sandbox/garden, and rant at a group of friends & classmates picnicking by the stream: "Where are the Tragedy Clubs? You take a hot date out to see standup tragedy, you both cry your eyes sore, setting the mood for a night of love. Right? No? How come we don't do that? Because we know what makes us feel better!"
But Americans don't respect it. When did a funny book win the Pulitzer or the Nobel? Even hack actors can be President--as long as their roles were serious and manly. But a comedian can't get elected dogcatcher! Can't trust those clowns! Not respectable.
Americans do fight this Euro legacy of "fate" and "tragedy." We invented new literary forms: first, mysteries, full of human pain--but with logic and perseverance, the truth can be known, justice can be achieved, if not utopia. Then science fiction, where the core of the story is about finding solutions to problems, and not always personal ones: for the first time whole societies can be presented as problems to solve, not givens to endure. Worlds can be be shaped! Then fantasy: creating worlds and beings without even worrying about the means. If we're clear about our vision, we trust the means will come. All these forms reject the logos of tragedy, and postulate a different kind of human--more provisional, flexible, change-oriented. Less substantial perhaps--like a spirit. The cliche that we're acquiring godlike technological powers while staying the same old beast, is just not true. Our nature and culture IS changing, and fast; we're just slow to recognize it.
Then I wake--strangely elated for someone who was determined to commit suicide at the beginning of the night. Write the dreams out in full, though it takes hours.
NOTES IN THE MORNING
My friend Mark calls. We talk dreams. When he hears I dreamed of feeling suicidal, then falling asleep and having my most extreme "advisory" dream ever, he breaks in "Oh, that was probably telepathic! You were picking up Dee again!" She's another dreamworker we both know, a powerful, eccentric shaman. "The afternoon before your dream, Dee got horribly depressed, suicidal--but then this wave of fatigue knocked her out. She fell asleep on the couch before she could kill herself! While she slept, she had the most intense shamanic dream I've ever heard: a group of animal teachers gave her clear, explicit advice on how to live her life."
Suddenly my dream feels like being allowed backstage at the Voodoo Puppet Show--exposing the Loa, the Divine Rider, the hidden trickster-puppeteer: Coyote, whose paws (and the left paw knows what the right paw is doing!) fill and manipulate mortal sock-puppets.
Sock-puppets like us.
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