Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentines Day

On a recent day, I had the privilege of attending a talk led by Malidoma Some, a ritual shaman of the Dagara people of western Africa, who happens to hold PHDs from the Sorbonne in Paris, and Brandeis here in the states. A powerful, articulate man speaking deep truths about healing. Our "five sensical" reality is not all there is, he says, and crisis is mainly the divide between ones gift and ones notion of self, socially prescribed. It is the beginning of initiation, which leads to struggle, which leads to a greater understanding of who one is. Crisis is calling us to a new type of attention. There's no manual for this type of healing. It can only be found by trusting ones own counsel. The craziest and most reckless are often the most evolved, the most orderly the least. There is no separation between you and the divine.

Afterward, I attended a pre-school fundraiser at the UofM football practice field-house, with my friend Chad and his family, and about 300 kids under the age of ten. Talk about mayhem. It was great. Total chaos, rubber bouncy balls and children of various sizes flying everywhere. After the race we all ran, that some punk kid won, I got cornered by a micro-economist with a crazy look in his eye. All I did was tell him economists have a bad rep, and asked if he had a more holistic view of things than his contemporaries. He said no, and took it as an invitation to talk about auctions and collusion and game theory, until I stopped him, telling him his (four-year-old) son stole the football Chad and I were playing with. Well trained, he said.

Drinks with Chad after. He's as good a friend as I have, though he's skeptical of me. I want him to approve, like my father. Both take a dim view of the writing of books, at least as it pertains to me. Both are eminently successful financially, both have families, I am by comparison a lunatic vagrant on the verge of homelessness. "So how's that plan to sail to Brazil... oh yeah, and learn Spanish and French and Brazilian Portuguese. You got a business plan for those books?" He thinks I'm on vacation.

"I figure if I keep writing outrageous things, and doing outrageous things with my life, the books will sell themselves." Right. You better get a job. "There is a method to my madness, you know," and I explain the 40 songs I've found, in all three languages, that I listen to daily. Training my mouth to form the words. Lip syncing. Uh uh.

Chad is brilliant in ways I am not. I took an IQ test once that revealed I have a relatively high spatial intelligence. Chad is like a demigod by comparison. His Revomazes make my head ache (fourth in the world, second in the states solving the silver, he's anticipating the gold). He solves eight sided Rubiks cubes. He makes me think, I may not be worthy of the knowledge that built the Great Pyramid, that I may only be a messenger.

I've found a certain affinity for Brazilian Portuguese. It fits my mouth better, like the African languages I've listened to. It's easier for my mouth than Spanish or French, and all that trilling. Especially the French. It's no wonder, speaking this language, the French gave us both Romanticism and Existentialism; equal parts sexy and verbal torture. There's definite progress with each language, though I also have considerable difficulty with the delivery of Spanish. Machine-gun like, as my Barrons cassette tapes tell me. Barrons designed the program for government foreign service agents, back in the eighties. I bought the thing new, which shows how long I've been putting off learning Spanish, though my niece is half Spanish, her language is suffering, and I might be a great help to her. For the first time, I made it past the first cassette, of twelve.

I'm at a coffee shop now, on my way to her house. I bought two sleds, her valentines gift. I've been telling her I'll bring her sledding, though I kept putting it off because it's been so cold. Now, we're going to get soaking wet. She won't care. I carried them one in each hand, a big pack on my back, eight blocks from the hardware store to the coffee shop, through the streets of my neighborhood, walking, dancing and lip syncing to Clara Nunes, Gal Costa, Marisa Monte, Beth Carvalho, etc. Cal Gosta's E'd Oxum is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. Whenever I hear it, I smile.

It's Chad's iPod I carry. He reaffirmed a long-term lease. I told him, dude, you're scoring huge karma points. "I know," he said. Happy Valentines Day.

As we show our love for others this Valentines Day, remember to love yourself. It hardly occurs to most of us, I think. Impossible though, really, to truly love another, if we do not love ourselves. Dancing, I have moments of sublime happiness, of love that I am alive. Immediately followed by a sense that I have no right to be happy. A curious dynamic. I recall Malidoma Some: find the space to open up to one's gift, look to the indigenous paradigm to shed light on the modern predicament. Everyone is here for a reason, everyone matters. True understanding is innate. Life is a series of initiations, ever evolving. Participate. Something in us is eager to awaken.


Kevin said...

Spent some time with the "friend of his enemy or stranger" and share your sentiment for the deep truths Some speaks of. Perhaps your desire to spend time alone on a river somewhere is an ancestor whispering to you, nudging you in that direction so that the next step in your adventure here will become apparent and made real for you. I recently watched the dvd "Into the Wild", written by Jon Krakauer and thought that perhaps Chris McCandless had listened to someone from the spirit world and headed off into the Alaskan wilderness while rejecting his western cultural environment. Plan the trip! Kevin

William Hunter Duncan said...


Perhaps many ancestors.

McCandless fell to much the same circumstance met by Aron Ralston, of the film 127 hours, who cut off part of his arm so he could live, because he told no one where he was going that day he went hiking and climbing in Canyonlands. Both looked to find something of themselves in the wilderness. In 2002, I spent six months in the BWCAW and Quetico wilderness, alone, paddling as many as eleven days consecutive without seeing another person.

This journey I'm contemplating rises out of a need I have to heal. The world is in desperate need of healing, as I'm sure you've noticed. I intend to go to the spirit world to bring back something that will benefit my people. I intend on making that journey as challenging as possible, so that when I go to that place I am found worthy. No easy thing to plan, though I'm old enough now not to be reckless for the sake of recklessness. I appreciate your concern.