Monday, September 3, 2012
Misconception is such a funny thing. Having someone's best interests at heart is an oxymoron, because in the end, we all see what is best for our own selves via someone else, and we view others through the goggles of our own perception. Some people's Rose is a little more blood red, other's, a vintage dusty pink, and the shade of our glasses cannot but tint every reaction we have to the world around us with self serving emotions. Not suggesting that is necessarily a bad thing, merely something to be considered as we encounter mentors and spiritual guides as we navigate the channels of our lives.
One of the most profound subtleties I've started to become aware of, is the legends in which we associate with, and how we drape these associations around ourselves, almost unaware of the stereotypes that cling to us in our views of the 'self'. The Jamaican Man who drives the company truck, has revealed to me recently a hint of the VooDoo Man, and as I have increasingly learned to unwind our discussions for the half truths and leading statements designed to tease out secrets... I am stunned by the intensity of spells he weaves with conversation, the cloak and dagger of familiarity and pretended disinterest so artful, so natural to a human being who may or may not even care about the messages and truths he tricks from his victims, but apparently plays the game out of force of habit and to combat boredom in his own life. Him being a Sagittarius, half horse and half human, I find it fitting that his speech is a half breed of truth and lies, that as the driver he is part of a much larger symbiotic being, literally a vehicle for transporting heavy equipment from the waist down, and that he bets heavily on horse racing, with a past he vaguely refers to as related to training horses in Jamaica. He often shares his lunch with me, with oxtail and whole snapper, and the most seductive jerk pork this side of heaven. But sometimes, as adventurous a soul as I am, even I have qualms with chicken feet and cow hooves as a main source of protein. As another layer into the hoodoo in him, he is quick to offer up bizarre remedies, a common one being to save a horse (and recently babies, to mine and my partner's horror) from colic, is to urinate into a bottle and force it down the affected creature's throat and force it to walk. Aside from medicinal wisdom, he often has very sharp, earthy comments about the interaction between men and women, and always relates it to strong sexual imagery that could just as easily be applied to any type of animal, so rooted in the animal world of male and female dynamics, is this man's perception of the world.
Yesterday I became aware of it for the first time, when listening to him describe how he tricked information out of someone, and watching his eyes rove along my collarbone and shoulder, down the the line of my snake tattoo and the blooming definition of my bicep, in the rhythm of casting a spell, a glance so strong it was practically a caress. There is something unsettling about his eyes, not in a negative way, but a lack of commitment to color maybe, and a jellied quality, like sunlight must travel deep through its clear surface to interact with the milky brownish color. When he smiles a true, wicked smile, you can see a good couple of inches of pink gums above his teeth, like a horse, in fact. In the sunlight, his glance as strong as touch on my skin, he told me some of the secrets to the spells he casts, with a variation on his favorite tales from the Ghetto, and his own personal legend was laid bare before me, illuminated like the brassy greenish color of his eyes in the powerful afternoon light.
The time of the traveling salesman seems like something from wizard of oz, from the great depression, but I met one this past week. I'd encountered the owner of this global company before, have wandered empty Louisiana streets in the dead of night and drunk absinthe in the sulfuric aftermath of flaming sugar cubes on top of our glasses, and stripped off my boots to crawl around under aluminum structures to lubricate joints with airplane wax alongside him, this quiet, gentle giant of a man. Like the Jamaican Man, he too is a spinner of tales, but with very different tactics. While there is a gossipy Grandmother feel to Jamaican Man, the Traveling Salesman resonates with a Grandfather to the World persona, is like Oz himself, and in direct opposition to the control of others sought through petty human jealousy and guilt of the Jamaican Man in his VooDoo incarnation, the Traveling Salesman must inherently believe his tales, to convince others of the truth of his product as a direct validation of the truth of himself. He lives out of a suitcase, in a constant attempt to outrun responsibilities he has created, delving into emotional dramas and nuances of human relationships, protected by the image of the Grandfather, packing up and leaving before his vulnerabilities threaten to rise to the surface and expose him for what he really is. His whispering voice and sage like stories cannot veil his carpenter's hands or the strength of his sudden bursts of laughter, and in my recent conversations with him, I could distinguish the bias in his tone, an imperialism in some of his references, and with a blinding flash, I saw the death of the Grandfather he tried to depict, as it flickered out of existence leaving only the Traveling Salesman in its ashes, I felt myself become a matter of profits and not individuality, felt myself being played to distract me from my own visions of the future, in a desperate attempt to fortify his Emerald City with an offer of smoked green glasses. He does not see the world like the Jamaican man, as a separation between male and female, and ultimately as an earthy animal existence - but rather as a separation between animal and intellectual forces, and I felt it rather sharply when he tried to artfully, disdainfully suggest that I should be involved in work that was less animal, brutal, 'hairy' than what I am proudly involved in. Comments I barely noticed before, but struck me so fiercely in their destructive nature, I realized the underlying cords of much of this man's projection of self.
Discussing the disdainful tone towards my work with my shadow brother, us both possessing a little of what the other needs, just as often as I get locked into the image of the intellectual, he gets placed in the role of the brute and brawn, and people in life divorce him from the potential to develop a role that is in the region of possessing brains, we are the cowardly lion and the scarecrow, me searching for the courage to understand my own strength as I have always existed so easily in an intellectual plane, but never tested my body's limits and him, respectively, scared of admitting he has the ability to comprehend and synthesize, crippled by his own powerful fear of failure and a lifetime of being classified as the workhorse by society. Rising up from the working class as we both have, carrying our families on our backs from childhood, we are self made men, respect self made men, and agree when approached by the homeless, the junkies, we know every man can choose to make it , to build something, I so strongly believe we are all possessed of the power to define our reality, that I respect humanity enough to never give in to the feeling of pity, to never place myself so far above another man to look down on him and pity his poor existence, or to denounce where I am in life, like I haven't fought and earned every piece of what I have become, like it was a gift someone else bestowed on me, rather than something that I have built with the sweat and blood and tears of my own being and am wholly deserving of. A christian man, the Traveling Salesman, who often gets involved in reaching out to the homeless, will smile and joke with the beggar and junkie alike, he feels pity for their station in life, and shame tainted gratitude for his own in comparison, a successful businessman who, instead of taking pride in his accomplishments or relationships can only talk about his stained suits and empty wallet, broken love affairs and the time he cannot spend with his grandchildren in his constant running away from his own reality, as it dogs him around the world. His happiness then can only come in sharp, momentary, bittersweet bursts, before it is consumed by the shame of experiencing so animal a reaction to the world around him. So sharply looking down upon his own earthy nature, separating himself from eating animal flesh, as well as his own animal needs gives him a basis to look down upon the working man who lives within the context of his animality, a prison is created in the Traveling Salesman's mind, crucified by needs he so desperately fights to rise above as weakness, an intellectual inconsistency. He feels shame for the very things that make us human.
But the Traveling Salesman believes he is better than the brute, and wraps himself in Jesus to hide from his body's own animal tendencies, just as once, a long time ago, he made the choice to severe himself from the workbench, from the wood and tools, from the brutality of the shop, and lose himself in the cerebral world of building empires with numbers and contracts and clever tales... that when the animal in him does lash out, thrashing in his blood and his memory, it shows itself in a negative light, because he feels such disrespect for it. The ego is there, the coercive undertones, without any true respect for what I want from life or the direction I am heading, and with a Judas Kiss in the searing afternoon light, I could see through his pretended ambivalent tone to the sneaky, imperial root of his words and his essence. He is the very thing he pretends not to be.
There is another, shifty eyed creature whom I haven't been able to shed light on yet, but he is somehow spawned from the Traveling Salesman, and the more I understand the Traveling Salesman, the more I begin to see the foundations of some of the other tricky beings playing larger roles in my life. My rosy goggles of perception have sustained similar scuffs as my literal glasses, wearing away at the subtle shades of poisonous cadmium, singed from the flame of the welder and darkened around the edges by my interactions with the many shades of human, from the brute force of animal instinct, to the snide superiority of intelligentsia.
Deep in my secret heart, I start to see a pattern in my broken sexual history, that maybe my own fear of that animal nature has found a way to decimate every interaction I have fumbled through and shut down in the midst of. Maybe watching with a child's eyes, I learned an intense disrespect for that part of my biology. Equally terrified and mesmerized by pregnancy, creating and raising children being equal parts intuitive impulses and cognitive responsibility, I dashed away tears and shortness of breath as I rode the train the other day, on my way to a baby shower for my shadow brother. The shower took place on the rooftop of where we work together, symbols overlapping and colliding like atoms, giving rise to new elements, and as the afternoon sun shifted into twilight I saw whispers of another powerful disparity between the personas we choose to associate with and their manifestation in reality. Young and fertile and feminine as a living Venus of Willendorf, in flowing coral against warm brown, gold dusted skin, this young wife and soon to be mother was herself the shadow side of the warehouse we work in, in glaring contrast to the intellectual child born of the woman who runs it, a labor of love for a shifty eyed creature living at odds with his intellectual and brutal selves, trapped painfully and disdainfully within the same body as he attempts to achieve the power of creation. I wonder if this kind of struggle can dry up the womb, by undervaluing our base nature, we further separate ourselves from the very things that brought us into existence. The young mother to be lost her first child, and her body was slammed with another pregnancy in the tide of grief following, she has existed in a suspended state of pregnancy, a year and a half of nurturing life inside of her, and the birth of this child will be such a profound and welcome gift in a family dense and dark skinned as flourless chocolate cake. The woman who's business we danced and celebrated life on top of has too, draped herself with the mother principle, has claimed some of her workers as 'mother', stemming from the imperial 'motherland' from which our country was loosely born from hundreds of years ago.
As she surveyed the baby shower preparations the day prior, from cameras that link directly to her phone, she issued a clipped and sneaky 'big mother is always watching' comment as we drank beer and watched each other across a table surrounded by fairy lights and trellis with Adam and Eve without the hope of conception, and the Snakeoil Salesman convincing us all to taste, the garden closing us in and winding up around us towards a full, ironic harvest moon.