Monday, February 17, 2014

R. Brand, P.S. Hoffman, anxiety, pain, female nudity, processing the cultural shit: Vulnerability Vigil Feb 23

It's time for another monthly Vulnerability Vigil. This will be my 27th vigil.

When: Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014
1-2 pm
Where: Dallas Rd. waterfront trail (around Linden St.)
Victoria, BC 

I choose to share vulnerability by showing up naked and unscripted in performance and in public. A Vulnerability Vigil is a monthly ritual, a practice, my way of "being the change," a form of non-violent direct action and more. This links to a past description of a vigil.

Lately, I've read some great articles that help me explain what I do. If interested, read on.

Six Reasons Female Nudity Can Be Powerful by Soraya Chemaly in Salon helps me cover some of the bases. 

My work is meant to be experienced. It's not a one-message thing.

I use the word vulnerability because it expresses something universally human. But, obviously, in making an artistic choice to be naked in order to more deeply convey vulnerability, I am aware--both intellectually and viscerally in the moment--of my culture's often brutal understandings around the female body.

I also found these articles very moving for their matter-of-fact bravery and insight:  Surviving Anxiety, by Scott Stossell in The Atlantic, and Russell Brand writing in The Guardian about Philip Seymour Hoffman and the constant vigilance required to stay substance-free

I want to expand on the anxiety and addiction discussion and talk about pain. 

Debilitating and humiliating emotional pain is what brought me to the work of the Human Body Project.

PROCESS. November 2013 Vulnerability Vigil. Lots of police that day, including a hovering paddy wagon.

Two key points:
  • NOTHING in my culture (by culture I mean white people, modern urban culture, Western culture, global industrialized culture, European culture, American culture, Canadian culture, patriarchal culture, etc... take your pick) helped me understand what I now know about myself through decades of self-work, especially as I took it forward into a more public realm in the Human Body Project: I am a person who feels the pain of the collective (and there is, if you can even begin to fathom the MILLENNIA of ungrieved grief, a fuck of a lot of it).
  • We are born into a culture that is not accepting or loving. We don't look after each other. We do't look after ourselves. It's as simple as that. We continue to perpetuate this ignorant way of being human for many unfortunate reasons, but I think the most fundamental reason is that we accept and absorb this sad state of affairs before we are verbal.
The only difference between me and me not being a full-on addict or suicide (so far) is that I have been a student of my pain. I call it sitting in the shit and, in this, I consider myself an expert. I have come to understand my pain as something that has awakened me to the ridiculousness of the current human trance and something that will never go away. Fuck, yes, it still hurts. And the SHAME of being such a big fucking baby is worse. Not to mention the EMBARRASSMENT of being so bold as to expose myself. But there's part of me that knows the pain is REAL--not just for me but for EVERYONE--and should be honoured.

Despite my culture, tribe and training, I have been able, through strength/orneriness, sensitivity and, most certainly, privilege, to continue to have a connection to my soul's yearning for universal love. I am a none-of-us-has-made-it-until-all-of-us-have-made-it kind of person.

There is NO cultural construct around sensitivity and feeling the grief and pain of the collective. (I associate these concepts with heart and feminine energy but to simplify I'll stick with the term sensitivity.) In fact we pathologize sensitivity and, so often, the supersensitive shut down or die. I feel sad that Hoffman (and David Foster Wallace, Amy Winehouse, Cory Montieth, River Phoenix, Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Frida Kahlo, Vincent van Gogh, my best friend S., my cousin D. and so many others) seems to have had no context for his sensitivity.

I wholly and sincerely appreciate the courage of Brand and Stossell for processing publicly. That's also what I'm doing. But I think they may also be missing the deeper context. To discuss their issues so publicly is to take a stand against the cultural script. 

I get really irritated by the term "the human condition" when I think most people who use the term mean "the human condition in this culture." I'm going to say that the true human condition is that we are all born none-of-us-has-made-it-until-all-of-us-have-made-it kind of people, even little baby Hitler. 

Immediately upon arrival, however, when we are at our most vulnerable and sensitive, we must make an accommodation with power. 

We continue to do so, of course, throughout the rest of our lives. But I want to emphasize that our first accommodations to power are pre-verbal and pre-conceptual, in our bodies.

I'm also going to say many of us lose our ability to be none-of-us-has-made-it-until-all-of-us-have-made-it kind of people as infants. Because such a way of being requires trust and openness and it's just not safe enough. Our baby bodies know this. We still have a connection to it but it just feels like pain or mental illness because we have been living like this, closed down and unable to trust, with NO WORDS or CONCEPT for what we have lost, for millennia.

(In case it's difficult to imagine the idea of different human cultures, anthropologists have studied more than 450 cultures and only 20 or so have no socially constructed and accepted trance state, ours being one of them. I believe this is another way of explaining our culture's addiction problems but that's for another discussion. For a quick understanding of the existence of different cultural contexts, you could watch one of Wade Davis's TED talks or read one of his books, like The Wayfinders.) 

When people talk about colonization they forget how "we" were "colonized."

Which brings me back to female nudity and, more particularly, my own public nudity. Nothing has taught me more about power, domination, lack of safety (and the implied threats of violence, judgment and ostracism), disconnection, lack of community, lack of self love, disrespect for feminine energy, and the way those dots connect to climate change, oil dependence, legally and socially sanctioned capitalist greed, compartmentalization of responsibility, poverty, violence, etc. than standing in front of people naked with the intention to be vulnerable. As I said, it is experiential, beyond words. It accesses that pre-verbal/non-verbal place in our beings.

So Vulnerability Vigils are a practice, a ritual, a form of non-violent direct action and a way you too could encounter and begin to process your own and your culture's deepest deepest deepest shit. You don't even have to be naked but I suggest the experience works better if you are.

Ya, I get that it's crazy and futile to try and turn this Titanic of human consciousness around. But I have two things going for me: I know, in my whole being, that it's necessary. And I have the privilege, i.e. I am fed, housed, supported by a kind husband, educated, employed (more or less), living in a country where, although I do risk arrest, it's highly unlikely I'd be beaten, tortured or killed by the state or my fellow citizens, etc.

Those of you who also know it's necessary, in your none-of-us-has-made-it-until-all-of-us-have-made-it selves, and who also enjoy privilege, you're my target audience. I invite you to join me.

Link to the Facebook event for the Feb. 23 Vulnerability Vigil

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