Monday, February 9, 2009

Be here now.

It's something I can't quite get over yet. I attended a dance performance with Kristin. As we were leaving, she stopped to say hi to her friend Karen who was taking donations at the door. I was introduced to her, and after shaking three of her available fingers, I walked outside to wait for Kristin. When she came out, she commented, "so you weren't that interested in meeting Karen..." It caught me off guard, which she picked up on. So we talked about it, about unintentional messages, and then let the whole thing go as a harmless misunderstanding. But it stuck with me, I think because I could see where Kristin was coming from, partly because it was such an unexpected fault, but also because it was a fault nonetheless.

I remembered the first night I was in India. I was with the class I had traveled with (before I separated from them to study independently), our teacher, Ratna Roy, took us to a shop where she knew the owner. There were seven of us students and as we waited for Ratna, a man brought open coke bottles on a tray with straws plunged through the necks. Ratna's friend gestured to us with a wave of his hand to take the coke. Ratna turned to us and said "the coke is on the house." However, only a couple people accepted the free drink. The rest, including myself, declined. Ratna grabbed one off the tray thanking the man and as she sipped her coke, gave us an awkward look of displeasure, which one of us commented on saying, "looks like Ratna got bad coke." After we left the shop she told us, "I understand that many of you don't like coke. I don't care for it either. But those cokes were a way for my friend to show generosity and hospitality. If I had not taken one it would have gravely insulted him. I don't think he cares as much in regards to you, but it was sort of a snub of the nose as if you all were too good for his coke. It's just something to think about." Of course many of us objected and thought that sentiment was absurd. And yet it felt obvious. Everyone automatically rejected the free coke because no one liked coke, but who considered the act of the offering itself? No one.

I don't know Karen. I missed my opportunity to discover both who she is and how she knows Kristin. And because of that I don't know if I walked away from a good friend or casual aquiantence or whatever. It really doesn't matter. And looking back, I don't see why I went outside other than it being automatic to do so. But an automatic gesture is still affectatious. It's the considerate aspect of intuition. This past weekend I spent time with my friend Natalie. At first we were very cordial and slowly became more and more casual until I felt myself gushing out openly. And with Natalie I've been this way before. It causes her to step away from me precisely because I am coming on too strong. I don't mean to, but I can't always be told "you are coming on strong," or, "don't walk away, come meet my friend." I want to be able to pick up on these things for myself, but I don't always catch them when they are right in front of me.

It's fascinating how our perceived selves feel so inaccessible to us sometimes. We want to have full control of how we are read, at least I do, because it gives me a feeling of security. In regards to Kristin's friend Karen, I don't even know if she considered my walking away from her. She seemed incredibly nice even as she was occupied taking donations from other people leaving the building. And I don't think it would have bothered Kristin if perhaps I have not done this before and she hasn't said anything. That's a humbling thing to consider.

There is a lesson I learned long ago, a mantra actually, that I found powerfully illuminating, but one that I forget when it would be most useful. It's something Spalding Gray used to tell himself when he was so immensely depressed that he would crawl into his head regardless of who was around. He would say "be here now" over and over in his head snapping him back into the present enough to engage with others, to be intuitively considerate to his surroundings, and to keep himself from collapsing at any moment. I say it sometimes when I know I am way too into my head and a situation calls for me to be with the outside world. It's all a matter of fine tuning that threshold to trigger the mantra and practicing it dogmatically. That might require another mantra altogether. But it could also open me to new people and possibilities I might otherwise miss.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed your reflections.I'd like to post on the site under Fan Writings.
    You get full credit and Blog link.
    Please go to site and click 'Contact' - that's me...
    webmaster for the Estate of Spalding Gray