Monday, June 28, 2010

In Wing It! practice today, we moved to memories of large bodies of water. We told stories of large and small mistakes we had made. We recounted times of cleaning up messes. All in attempts to break through the isolating pall the Gulf oil spill has cast over us. I mean for the first, oh, month the thing was happening, I would check the papers every day waiting to hear that the leak was plugged. Slowly, it dawned on me: no one knows what they are freaking doing out there. How do we live with this knowledge? Some of us turn away, because the powerlessness is unbearable. There are thousands of ways to turn aside.

Phil, our director, led us on an incremental journey into being able to just touch some part of this huge elephant that has been sitting in the living room of our national consciousness for--how long has it been now? More than two months?

Meanwhile, I read in Sunday's Times about how intelligent whales and dolphins are. (The article is by Natalie Anger if anyone wants to google it.) Human brains are three pounds each; the brain of the sperm whale is 18 pounds. Dolphins can recognize themselves in a mirror and are interested in looking at the parts of themselves they can't normally see (apparently they check out their teeth and their "anal slits" according to Anger.)

It has been hard for me to really grapple with what is happening on the Gulf. I see the headlines like everyone else--I look at the pictures of marine life covered in black oil and tar, I feel sickened and I turn the page. Or click on something else, anything else, to distract myself. It felt good, finally, to be able to share that. And then to be asked to recall good memories of a large body of water.

I love to go boogie boarding on a tiny family beach in Bolinas. It costs hardly anything to rent a wet suit and a board and spend the day in the waves. I could easily recall the wonderful feeling of being tumbled in the surf--surrendering my body completely to the waves and the current, using my board as ballast and floating and kicking to a sandbar where I collapsed on my back and watched the sky. Heaven.

I also remember snorkeling (and one time, scuba diving) in Florida and once in Hawaii, and being completely immersed in that other floating world. I feel most truly myself in the water--it is impossible not to love my body completely there. in the water there is no such thing as too fat--you are floating, nothing is sagging or pinching or pounding. It is all softness and liquid grace, it's the back to the womb place, unbounded spiritual home, primordial bliss.

When I touch the tragedy in the Gulf from that place of remembering--maybe I am remembering my own origins, eons ago, as a sea-creature, before my first ancestress crawled up onto the land, then I can actually touch it, what is happening. It is no longer just a terrible news item, or an abstract political idea. It becomes my own salty blood and my breath, my own slick skin.

That is the politics I am interested in now. I know all the liberal-left positions; I hold them; I have opinions, I vote, I sometimes (rarely) write letters to politicians, or editors, and sometimes I even write essays. But fulminating on current events interests me less and less. My opinions, your opinions, assigning blame, prescribing pre-packaged solutions. We're living in an oil-based culture, I'm driving a car and buying consumer goods just like everyone else, and I know that we're all responsible. And it's an ongoing struggle to change and blah blah blah, and you know, we might make it--we might change in time--or we might not.

I think that what Interplay is searching for is a politics of embodiment. To reclaim feeling as a source of information, alongside the constant stream of news bits and bytes we are all swimming in. Feeling and movement versus overwhelm and talking heads. It's not in itself a solution, but for me it beats numbness and paralysis.

For example: in practice today, Phil had us tell each other the story of what happened with the BP disaster using gibberish, a made-up language. What a relief! I have already talked enough and heard too much in English about this thing. It was time to blow it all out with sounds--grunts, wails, whispers, mutterings. As Phil said, time for old-fashioned lamentation. Analysis has its place, but it also has its limits.

That's all I can say about it for now. Unfortunately, I won't be able to make our performance on August 3, because I'll be teaching. It should be great though.

The garden under the full moon smells like heaven. Jasmine and datura, and our tenant's little kitchen garden of lettuces, tomatoes, arugula and cilantro. Feral cats stalk our back yard like ghosts, coming and going, hoping every time the back door opens that it is someone (Christopher) bearing food. It isn't. It's me, come out to water the tomato plant.


Anonymous said...

hear hear...

6512 and growing said...

Your poem in The Sun (about God) was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. I have admired your writing through The Sun for years.
Thank you.