27 December, 2008

The First Shall be Last

So the last shall be first and the first shall be last.
Matthew 20:16

For many are called, but few are chosen.
Matthew 22:14

This image (from the LA Times) is of the easel near Bettie Page's funeral bier:

And this one the last in the series the Times did of the burial:

It seems my accidental first exposure to Ms. Page was of the image series thought by family and friends most befitting of her parting memory.

I'm either rational or cynical enough to find this symmetry completely meaningless, but sentimental enough (and fanboy enough, given my having followed these events so closely) to be touched somehow.

26 December, 2008

Tie Me to the Ends of Love, Part 4

We spend out lives forgetting perhaps because the apparent truth that the self that gets pumped out into this dimension is somehow inauthentic bumps up almost immediately against biological nature. Nature’s uncaring and fascistic intent for us is to make copies – authenticity be damned. Nature gives us the little incentive called sexual pleasure to make those copies, but, the deeper truth being what it is, just as nature would confound our reaching in the direction of authenticity it also gives us one of the best avenues back to unity that we have, sex, which religion fears because sex trumps orthodoxy (and, hence, power) as a means of ecstatic, transformative experience. Not that devotion doesn’t work at all – millions of mystics have renounced the world to commit their lives to attaining a view of the godhead. But that’s a slow, laborious process. Similar, if not identical, results can be achieved with sex in a fraction of the time. Mysticism is to sex as the abacus is to a Quad-core processor.

So, there you go, nature itself offers up to humanity the sine qua non of spiritual actualization, sexual ecstasy, by marking it specifically as difficult, by making it appear inauthentic, by prompting a forgetting of unity. Thus does the fast track of sex become boggy with cultural and religious ideas of separation and thought-based self-identity, crystallized in the emotion of… shame. In shame sex looses its efficacy, and we can all think of some manner in which we’re thoughtfully disabling our sex with some blockage or other – an entire industry and billions of dollars in chemicals have rallied to meet our shameful thoughts about our sex. We become useful idiots in nature’s plan for our chromosomal proliferation.

That is, unless we don’t.

In a grander sense nature provides the friction we need to get traction, to make our way back to what lies in front of all of us and use that truth now and, instead of hovering just above life, falling fully and intimately into it.

She’s still there, by the way. Still just as tightly tied, somehow managing all this while to have avoided being gagged. And look at that – she is a good girl after all! In all this time I’ve been talking nothing has changed about our Besu and her predicament, except maybe her thoughts. With time and patience, hers and mine, she begins to let thought go and allows her body to be – in pain, dislocated, displaced. She has allowed herself to become unknown to herself, her self has mysteriously abated and left in its stead an opening, a widening which will meet all possibility now, especially that of divine immediacy, of the immanence of love and the enfolding of time and space, the time and the space in which we firmly believed until we shook ourselves loose from it.

For my part, as the top, I stay on the path I started down with her, the one on which she consented to volunteer her freedom, her voice and her self to my designs, my intentions, which, as anyone knows, were always in some sense her own. Among those intentions would be to for me to remove from her senses the veil of familiarity and the known, and challenging bondage is the manner in which I apply myself to my intention, a manner in which she can at every moment of our engagement feel that intention and the collapse of space/time that, if we are able to press forward into true intimacy where things are fuzzy, scary and strange, reveals the authentic nature of self in its obliteration and merging into the other, and by extension, into all things, into unity. With bondage it is to this strong possibility I continually pledge myself and then my self’s subjugation, that I might feel her in and about me and in so doing forget about either one of us.

It’s very similar to exactly what is going on right this very moment between all of you and me. Right now you, this audience, is not an assembly of individuals to me – to me you’re all fused, you’re an audience. With any luck you’ve been having an experience roughly in common of me, the element at the front of the room, the one holding forth hopefully with more authority than pedantry, but hopefully… full of hope and, therefore, vulnerable, open and exposed, with many of my deeply felt and personal truths revealed to others, the audience, my partners, as it were, in this little talk, without whom nothing here would have taken place.

Well, perhaps Besu and I would found our way into a lovely little scene, but you get my meaning.

And that’s how it happens – you show up, you present yourself and you stay present and before you know it you’re in the throes of an intimate experience. Surprise!

In my experience of it, it’s in this way that BDSM can deliver the goods sought after for millennia by adepts, mystics, alchemists… aspirationalists of all kinds and colorations; that being to surrender self, and to gain power and strength in the surrender. Regardless of what two people may actually be doing, when energy is fearlessly offered and intense both top and bottom surrender to the present moment and die to their respective pasts. To relate is to be fully conscious without necessarily being happy. Let the first happen and the latter will follow, get the inside right and the outside falls into place. The B of BDSM, bondage, as fact and as agent, may be no more efficacious than any other sadomasochistic mode, but if it may be said to do nothing else it does stress interiority - the daunting pleasures of going within, for, after all, and perhaps paradoxically, bondage is all about containment. I don’t want to overstate my position here on bondage, for I have a great many other kinks, but I believe that to be in it and to look at it is to have ready and unique access to the primal and essential impulse of being human, to step lightly back into the deeper currents of being, and through the gateway of intimacy as partners welcome a pure intimacy with all things, in every dimension, and in no time.

12 December, 2008

Bettie Page, In Pace

In 1988 a tiny ad in the back of my wife's Premiere magazine introduced me to Bettie (then Betty) Page. There was no bondage evident - even if there had been the image was so small I might only have been able to infer it. Sandwiched between other bits of cheesecake in this sidebar placement for Movie Star News was a woman in a tight white sweater, skirt and heels. There was nothing I registered but the look - the posture, the natural command, the curve - it was heavily encoded and ineluctably erotic. Her hair was the black from which all other parts of the image keyed. It was labeled with her name.

Page led to Musafar, who led to Willie, who led to Japan... all of which began the toppling that is still my life. Musafar spoke to me of worship within the bodily temple and I modified myself accordingly, becoming one of Bear's first clients (his second actual PA) at Forbidden Fruit in Austin, Texas, at the old North Lamar location, next to the Hole. Bear knew about Bettie. He said I was on the right track, a good one. He gave me leads. I began to get an idea.

For the past many months I had removed and parked the substantial ring I had sported for so long. No reason. Yesterday, the 11th, I put it back in upon the completion of my morning ablutions, again, for no reason. The whole was tight, but still open. I took note of the doing of it.

Twelve hours later the mother of all perverts had passed her legacy to us. Like all the most effective avatars for world-ending change she scarcely understood her own importance, she simply stayed open and let the world show her what was missing that she could fill. She suffered mightily for it, but one has the impression that she was not unhappy until abuses of the law and the spirit blandly wore her into the madness from which she eventually rallied to part from us gracefully, and, I'd like to think, happy again.

That the world was missing much she sought to do nothing about, and in seeking nothing did much, fulfilled much, gave everything.

The New York Times appreciation is here.

09 December, 2008

Tsk, tsk...

Ladies and Gentlemen, you may trust me on this: when it comes to remembering scenes accurately and completely, bottoms have it all over tops.

My dear byrdafyre reminded me (however inadvertently, or perhaps very, very subtly) of a scene we did several years ago during which she orchestrated some serious overcoming in a Barca Lounger thus enabling her 2+ hour endurance of the various depredations upon her person. Once summoned again from memory I recalled that I was challenged too, and not unpleasantly: rigging to a soft, somewhat amorphous block of yield-y upholstery takes a little extra doing.

So, I bow to and thank the formidable woman reclining to your left for keeping the record straight. Clearly higher selves are somewhat more ecumenical in their choice of landing place than I would credit them, even in my own (somewhat faulty) memories.

03 December, 2008

Tie Me to the Ends of Love, Part 3

But what has an ontology of duality brought to human relations? I see an ever deepening, almost therapeutic search for self as distinct from all else that is believed to exist as the final measure of earthly attainment, the ultimate good.

And I’m referring now to the quest itself, for as you’ve noticed the notion of concretely individuated self is (kind of) slippery, and that’s good. What would it mean to actually “tie down” who I really am? Well, if I tie anything down so it stops moving, stops becoming, is, in other words, static, then I can tell myself I know something for knowledge can only be of the immutable and unchanging.

But I would not appear to be those things. I’m always changing. I am, for example, aging. I’m compressing the gap between this very moment and my ultimate non-existence even as I simultaneously open up time and space between having become conscious and this very moment. I understand that I live constantly in relation to my end, my death, what Martin Heidegger called his “proximity theory” of being. Eckhardt Tolle would have me understand my relationship to my end as a brand of intimacy which most people are conditioned to avoid, as it is unmanifested and cannot, therefore, be weighed in thought.

Being, to Heidegger, is a misapprehension of authentic self (as opposed to individuated self); as I noted before we tend to settle for a concept of who we are relative to what we think we know about the world around us. Heidegger, while saying that the ultimate knowable truth is death, elaborates by observing that we do this prejudicially, meaning we construct a self from what we think we know best, what is most familiar, even comfortable, and this leads to a misbegotten notion of self. Our most authentic selves come not from what we know best, but from what is
most mysterious to us, what is darkest, strangest and most inscrutable. We know our authentic selves when we’re on the trickiest ground. Our highest and best selves are unlikely to show up in a Barca Lounger; we do, however, recall proudly the last time we pulled through when the chips were really down.

I would like to extend Heidegger and propose that in life we are processing toward unity, which is the truest course of being, and unimpeachable because we all face the same end, which, despite the most thoughtful efforts of organized religion, is a vast, aching mystery. Thus do we come into the world with an inborn ability to process back to a unified state, for all that is born dies. Being born itself gives us a strong impetus to aim for unity, for the world of the womb is expressive to earliest consciousness of a principle of unity and birth is all about separation, so in a sense the Abrahamic or Judeo-Christian problem of struggling for reunification with God is apt, but only as metaphor. As a way of understanding one’s humanity and of actually getting to God it’s historically of somewhat dubious utility.

So, how to go from unity to separation and back to unity? Well, we all get to unify in the ashes-to-ashes, dust-to-dust episode, the curtain call, as it were, and maybe even then we get to understand the nature of God and being without time, but what about before then, in life? Is it possible?

Through intimacy. Through breaking down what we think we know about self and its separation from other, from our partner. Through abrogation of self and merging, fusing and even joyously confusing the frontier where you end and your partner begins. It is what the Buddhists call compassion... compassion – feeling with. In Heidegger’s native language, mitgef├╝hl. It is in the realization of authentic self, the self that is the other and acknowledges no distinction, no separation. It is being as one, unmediated, undifferentiated, which is available to us in this life, before it ends. No where is it written that we have to wait to know, in fact we’re born knowing and we spend our lives forgetting. That, to me, is what intimacy is all about, forgetting to forget.