25 May, 2008

Risk Everything All the Time, Part 2

Partners very reasonably expect that I have at least a modicum of skill in the dance I would lead, and while I have never dropped anyone in the (literally) hundreds of suspensions I’ve rigged (nor in dancing, come to think of it), I have crushed nerves, left unintentional marks, had to cut rope and generally made acquaintance with the many crises common to bondage play. Still, I’ve no interest in mitigating any of the risks to which I expose myself or my partner.

By risk I don’t mean of incompetence or negligence (I, after all, derive a significant measure of my satisfaction in tying by successfully getting and keeping my partner in the form or pose I fancy), but rather of surprise interludes or endings within the scene. Those sometimes include quick arrests of erotic energy and emotion (which, once they’re flowing, understandably want to remain so), but that they too are at risk of unforeseeable detours adds immeasurably to the charm and intimacy of BDSM.

I would risk saying that in BDSM the only risk worthy of the common conception of the word is that of incompetence, and even then two people may consent to venture into experiences with which neither is familiar - both are incompetent, ipso facto, until they’re not. Yes, we should be aware of the risks of tying and being tied, of wine enemas, of an involuntary twitch with a knife in hand, of the local laws, of hot, of cold, full, empty, up, down, open, closed, in, out, right, wrong, rough, soft, loud, silent, on, off, loaded, slack, tight, loose, happy, sad… we should be aware of all of it… and therefore none of it.

Stepping full into possibility is what, in the end, will have given life its sweetness. In this sense being a pervert is a gift par excellence. What gets me off is not binary possibility, but quantum possibility – vagueness, indeterminacy, gray areas, the interdigitation of one and zero. I’m more a student of Buddhism than a practitioner (because I believe the teaching has gotten the matter of suffering wrong), but I am totally on board with the idea of unknowing. Knowledge is static (a common starting point in any epistemology) – it does not flow. It’s on or off. Not knowing is flowing… and risky.

Embracing risk takes a certain amount of being out of one’s head, and by that I mean absenting oneself to thought and calculation and analysis (and knowing), and admitting full feeling and presence. I am continually delighted by what ensues from the simple fact of my having been fully present and aware. Were I feeling really bombastic I’d suggest that nothing ever goes wrong when I’m present, but what does go wrong turns quickly right when I’m aware and full in feeling. Going wrong is in the flow to right. When I’m in my head I miss things, mostly the flow.

I’ve taken thousands of trips on New York’s subways and never felt in danger of loosing my life, but obviously that does not mean that risk is not present. Doubtless many of you reading this will have driven somewhere today, which is a far riskier venture than gliding under rivers in giant aluminum sarcophagi. Still, risk is what gives living in New York its complex flavors and frisson, and we all share in it, on subways and elsewhere. It’s why the world tilts constantly in our direction. Shared risk is more prosperous and more fun. It’s why money and art are here in such profusion. It’s one of the more obvious yields of kink.

I don’t believe I’ve mentioned it, but my bread-and-butter is risk analysis and mitigation. People hire me to ride herd on their investments and they pay me only when I do better than the markets. Their risk is my risk. That said, I trade very aggressively and take only those clients who can stomach volatility (for which I am the poster child). My competence is in limiting the downside, a discipline for which I have to show up daily. I control what I can, which is a very small percentage of the whole. The making of the money, the main event, is something I just get out of the way of and let happen. I get out of my head. In effect, everything is at risk because it’s in play and working – if it’s not in the ring it’s safe, but no good comes of it.

With rope what I control is ultimately a very small part of a whole scene. My best gambit is to get out of the way and let the main event happen, what ever that might end up being. I’m a firm believer in non-zero sum outcomes - win-wins are possible and even probable if everyone is willing to put something on the table. There can be no winners when everyone is safe.


M.Yu said...

Very well put!
This is a radical idea. One of personal responsibility and self determination in life, including forays into erotically charged psychological space and beautifully volatile bound qi

Mac K. said...

Thanks, Bambuddhist.

It seems quite a long while ago that you acquainted me with this idea of binding qi, or that what I do as a rope top can have an effect on qi flow. The having of the effect now seems so intuitively correct that the time before I realized I was effective seems to me another world, and in a way I suppose it was.