Twice recently while dancing the 5Rhythms I have had a peculiar vision come to me; tonight, the vision returned with a new wrinkle. Let me share it with you.
In a public art museum, a crowd of people are looking at sculptures. The main attraction is Rodin's The Thinker, but behind it tucked - in a corner drawing fewer spectators - is a white sculpture of a naked man. The features of the man are almost formless, as if his true nature is being hidden by the sculpted material with which he is made.
A small group is looking up at this rather unremarkable sculpture when one man hears a small thud coming from inside the sculpture. He hears another and another.
"There's something in the sculpture!" he shouts. A group of people begin banging at the sculpture with hammers and chisels. Sure enough, there is a naked man alive inside the sculpture.
The man in the sculpture is me.
I look around, and everyone has receded from view. I am no longer in an art museum but in an empty and formless place. I look down at my body, and what do I see? As if my skin were transparent, I can see all the tendons in my body. Yet, instead of actual tendons, I see small chain links where every tendon is supposed to be. My muscles are muscles, but my tendons are chain links. The only place where I do not see these chain links is around my heart. My heart I can also see through my skin has a pulsating illuminating glow. In the back of my right collarbone up close to my neck, I feel a very sharp pain. I perceive that there is a deep knife in my back.
I reach to pull the knife out, but another knife immediately takes its place. I get the knife out over and over, and each time it is replaced. Eventually, I get the message that the knife cannot be pulled out but will only come out gradually from within.
Tonight, I have the very same vision, only this time there are some slight differences. Where the knife is, the pain has greatly reduced, though the knife is clearly still there. The tissue around the knife feels softer. Where the chain link tendons are, on each tendon, there is one less chain. At the end of each tendon is actually living organic tissue. However, there was something else astonishing. When I picked up my hands, they were heavy and made of solid gold. I could not move them very easily at all, and I did not yet know whether there were living hands still stuck inside these now golden hands.
I got the message to come home and write this story out immediately and share it with you all.
What I think It Means
At the most significant level, these are messages about my body. For many years, though I hardly noticed it, I have had a very rigid and stiff body. I have lived life with terrible posture - so much so that from recent body work and a recent doctor's visit, I discovered that I was a half inch taller than I had ever been since I had stopped growing. My shoulders hunch over, my waste collapses, and I have trouble moving my neck. I discovered during one dance workshop that I can't lie on the ground and stretch my hands on the ground behind my head. I have never been terribly flexible, but I am further than ever from being able to touch the floor.
This has been how I have projected myself to the world, though I hardly realized the messages I was sending. I shyly moved from place to place, shoulders in, trying to stay out of the way. Even in moments where I found my voice - and there have been many in life - there is no doubt that my message got through in spite of my physicality, not because of it. I never realized that my hands are often held like a claw, that my arms have trouble swinging, that all the confidence I have as a writer is often lost in person because I have not been able to express myself in the same way.
It was as if the man I am was lost inside a sculpture of sorts, the facade I sculpted to the world. Yes, there were some bright spots. I was physically fit, for instance. However, ultimately, I looked as if I were made of stone. Only moments shed light to people that there was a man alive inside the sculpture.
This is about my body, but it's also about all of my being in this world. There have been times where I have obviously not been a sculpture, where I have raised my voice loudly for things I believe in, where I have put my body on the line for those very things. Yet, at other times, I have grown quiet for the wrong reasons, and it shows not just in my body but even in my writing voice. Sometimes, I am all too diplomatic and hoping to please people. Yet, geez. I am an anarchist who wants to smash the state and capitalist society and every hierarchy under the sun. There is no pleasing people when those are the things you want and believe in.
I mean, we live in a society with a lot of things that are simply unacceptable. Many women are afraid to walk the streets at night. If a woman is raped, how common is it to hear, "She should have known better"? Poor people are told its their fault if they can't make ends meet. People of color are looked on with suspicion simply for the color of their skin. If you are Arab or Black or Indian, you are made to feel aware of your differences in awful ways. People with mental illnesses are made to feel ashamed of their conditions. Children are regimented to conform to the most authoritarian instincts of our society at the youngest ages. This isn't even a start of what's wrong.
How can I stay silent and pretend that my place in this world isn't to rabble rouse, isn't with all my might to bash a hammer against the larger sculpture - which is the political and economic system that binds each one of us living beings?
You know, I can post pictures of my son River all day long - and I will - and they will get nice response. If I get a new job or happen on something uncontroversial, I'll get a good response. If I post something like this, what can I expect? It doesn't matter really; I am finding my legs moving again.
I projected a stiff and small hunched over man who seemed to have trouble connecting with people, but I am determined to live a life that is true to my nature, that isn't afraid to speak the truth as I am called to speak it, to move my body as it was fully intended to move, to be fully a man. And who is this man? I'm still a work in progress. I have so far to go; I probably need all the help I can get from all of you - represented by the people breaking through my sculpture. Yet, I will get there, and I will dance and write and move and speak and LIVE and LOVE.
And, in the process, I hope we all break through and be free.