09 January 2008

Becomming Preposterous

January 11, 2008

Dear Drummers,

I love the word preposterous. The words absurd and ridiculous always float through my head, especially in reference to myself. Ridiculous means to cause laughter. Absurd means to be out of tune, or to not be with those who are playing the prescribed chord structure or melody. Both imply moving into a place considered by the rule-setters as uncouth or ill mannered. Both words imply entrance into the non-rational.

But preposterous carries the day. Pre / posterior. To have what is behind come first, or to lead with your ass. I’m reminded of a story someone told me that may or may not be true, which does not really matter, I suppose: Sitting Bull, the great leader, sitting in a very important meeting of elders, gets up, leaves the tipi, comes back ass first with his pants down and parades around the circle, then leaves again, then re-enters again, the dignified leader we love to imagine. Imagine how the world would be different if the Pope or Billy Graham did that or even if there was merely a story floating around that they did.

These words absurd, ridiculous, preposterous float in my head every time I begin my prayers and meditations about what I am called to do in our next drumming gathering. I suspect these words float in your head too, as you enter into your own dreaming, drumming prayers. These are powerful words that feed powerful feelings that, as you move along this (or any) spiritual path, become your companions. When you take on a spiritual path, you invite the feelings of being ridiculous, absurd and preposterous to walk with you the whole way, singing bawdy songs and smacking their lips as they eat, making rude gestures to everyone that you pass by. I’m saying this because I assume that you too are accompanied by similar companions. Good God, I hope you are, or it’s only me, and I don’t want to think about that.

These companions get rowdier for me as Drum Friday approaches. Thankfully, over the years the voices of these companions have led me to another word: Sacred, which at its essence, means to be set apart. All sacred activity takes place in a setting that is set apart from the daily world, in other words, the absurd, the place out of tune with the dominant melody. All sacred work draws a circle around the worshipers – with a wand, a rattle, with words or chants, or with stone architecture like a cathedral – to separate the worshipers from the dominant melody for a time, to take them into a different melodic structure and then return them, refreshed, re-made, renewed, again to the world.

Humans need to go to this other world, this absurd place, this place with a different music, and we need to go there regularly, or we become the opposite of Holy, which means Whole. To be whole, to be in balance with the holy, is to enter into the absurd on a regular basis and to discover its alternative melody, and to walk with these uncouth companions on our way. These companions, these words, are your allies, not your enemies.

Well, this brings me around to what I wanted to say at the very beginning, that if there is one reason for our drumming, it is to re-balance. We go to the other world not to escape this world, and not even to find a more beautiful place to be than this world, but to learn more kinds of music that can change the way we play in this world, change how we play, how we compose our personal melody, and who we play with. We drum so that we may live in more wholeness in this world. Balance and Wholeness will be our theme for Friday.

I’m looking forward making absurd music with you. I leave you with one of my favorite poems form the Hindu-Muslim-mystic poets, the 13th Century Kabir:

Between the conscious and the unconscious,
Between waking and dreaming,
Between this world and the other world,
the mind has put up
a swing:all earth creatures, even the supernovas, sway between these two trees,and it never winds down.
Angels, animals, humans, insects by the million, also the wheeling sun and moon;ages go by, and it goes on
Everything is swinging: heaven, earth, water, fire,and the secret one slowly growing a body.If you see that for just fifteen seconds, it makes you a servant
for life.
-- Kaibr, India, 1398-1518.[1]

The two paintings posted are by Mark Rothko.

[1] Tr. Robert Bly, The Kabir Book, (Beacon Press 1993)
I have altered the poem in two ways. First, I added the lines “Between waking and dreaming,
Between this world and the other world.” I wanted to open the ideas from being purely psychological. Since I deliver this poem orally, and usually with a drum playing under, I like to establish a swinging feel and these slightly repetitious lines help to do that. Second, I altered the last line from “Kabir saw that for fifteen seconds, and it made him a servant for life.” I think Kabir would be okay with this, changing it from the descriptive (“I saw this and aren’t I amazing?) to prescriptive (“If you do this, you could be amazed.”)

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