Thursday, August 23, 2012

A poem about Milarepa and the little goat


i am a little goat high up on a howling mountain side.
i can hear the demons in the howling,
and i can feel them snufflig and shuffling behind me,
but i am not afraid,
because when i turn around they will have vanished.

But i make my goat eyes into slits
as narrow as the track i walk on,
and i know they are still there.

Milerepa knows how to deal with demons.
i can see him, far below, in the valley,
his little cook fire ablaze, and the demons drinking his wine, and their laughter
making them holy.

Mine are too afraid to come near me.
i walk step by step, high up on the howling mountin side.
It's OK, little goat.
It's the wind.

It's the wind.

Explanatory note:
Milarepa was the great saint who brought Buddhism to Tibet. It is usual that the gods of the previous religion become the demons of its successor. Christianity has some good examples as any of this. Christian missionaries in Britain were advised to incorporate pagan themes into their new Christian worship. Churches were built on the old holy sites, for example. This was a kind of hegemony, for sure, but also an acknowledgment that change needed to happen incrementally and that the old ways still had some credibility. Milarepa went a step further and he is famous for inviting the demons from the warry old Tibetan religion of Bon to dinner, and negotiating through rational argument their submission to the new spiritual regime.
Nowadays we take a wholly psychological approach to demonology.
i wanted to combine the literal and psychological approaches, and to express something of the subline perils of the spiritual journey.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Manly Arts

i have been watching some of the Olympic Games on TV. At odd times, catching some unfashionable coverage.

 i liked the women's archery, which went all the way down to one arrow. It was between Mexico and South Korea. i rooted for the Mexican woman, because she was cute and because the Koreans were winning every damn thing. And as the saying goes: 'Poor Mexico: so close to the United States, so far from God'. The Korean won.

The Modern Pentathlon amused me. It was developed by Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, to show the skills of the ideal soldier, namely a cavalry officer caught behind enemy lines. Not an infantryman, mind, a cavalry officer. Coubertin may have had dreams of modernity and internationalism but this sort of classist and Eurocentric thinking places him nicely of his age. Thus, the skills of the Modern Pentathlon are those most manly European pursuits of
epee fencing,
pistol shooting,
equestrian show jumping,
swimming, and
Resident Evil: No Hope Left.*
Naturally at London 2012 there were no Eritreans or Peruvians competing, although there was an Egytpian, bravely challenging the class and race barrier as it manifested itself in some weird early twentieth century time warp.

The manliness bit reminded me of the Mongolian Festival of Naadaan. i went through a big Mongolian phase a while back and learned a lot about it. i even considered a very expensive expedition to the Gobi desert where i would be looking for the extremely rare Little Brown Gobi Bear. The brochure showed lots of pictures of rocks and deserty bits. The itinerary went something like this:

Day One: Ulaan Baatar

Day Two: Looking for the Little Brown Gobi Bear

Day Three: Looking for the Little Brown Gobi Bear

Day Four: Looking for the Little Brown Gobi Bear

Day Five: Looking for......etc

Day Fourteen: Ulaan Baatar

It is almost fortunate that the LBGB is so rare, because if you found one on Day Three what would you do then? You'd have to call the whole thing off.

Anyway the Festival of Naadaan is famous for its four Manly Arts, which are:
horse racing,
archery, and
Resident Evil: No Hope Left.*

i have sometimes thought about the heritage of these sporting festivals, and their genesis in the traditional male activities of war. This is why we throw javelins and hammers, and wrestle and run. These sports are so far away now from modern warfare. If we had sporting festivals based on modern warfare we we have - i dunno - Drone racing over 5,000 kms. Hardly Coubertinian. Hardly sporting.

Perhaps we could have sporting festivals based on the traditional female activites. We could have the 5 km Jog With Child On Hip. Of course we would no longer use real children, but we would have titanium plated aerodynamic child-shaped objects designed for carrying at speed, that cost thousands to design. We would have half forgotten the orginal race that required actual children.

We could also have the 10 km Walk With Pot On Head, the Firewood Collecting, and the Rice Planting Marathon. Not exactly riveting stuff for the viewers. Why are women's activities so unglamorous, repetitive, slow, small in scale, lacking in drama? Gosh, there's a thing.

So we could have an alternative girly Olympics with a programme like this:

5 km Jog With Child On Hip
10 km Walk with Pot on Head
Rice Planting Marathon
Sweatshop sewing  (a recent addition, to account for globalisation)
Synchronised Swimming
The Sims Livin' Large*

* Some of these are not real sports in any part of the multiverse. It's just that i am bad at lists.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Remind me again why i don't drink

Friday night, finishing work at eleven. i'd had a cold for the last few days and it was getting worse. Then the toothache started. i had never had toothache before but i have automatic sympathy for anyone who does, because i figure that our teeth are rather too close to our brains for tooth pain to be manageable.

Wracked with pain, i went to the local bottle store, because this is Linwood and you can, and i bought a bottle of Napoleon brandy. It had to be Napoleon brandy, for my husband the Archduke Piccolo, who is keen on his Napoleonic campaigns.The bottle store was empty of custom and the two Sikh guys there were pumping hip hop music out into the empty street, a splash of light and sound that tried to hint at Good Times but made me feel slightly bereft as i left with my obvious bottle shaped paper bag. At my age, at that time of night, good grief. i was planning on an old hitch hiking cure for toothache, which is to hold spirituous liquor in your mouth for as long as you can, thus numbing the mouth and dulling the pain, and after a while you stop caring anyway.

Back home i tried the old hitch hiking cure, and a quarter of a bottle of brandy later my mouth was indeed numb and the pain had abated. i then dealt to the cold. i took some day and night flu thingies and then a small amount of Phenergan, only a small amount, mind, 'cos i'm not stoopid.

i went about my late night chores, folding washing and cleaning the kitchen, managing rather well i thought despite the developing tremor. i let the animals in and out and in and out and in and so on almost without incident. It was the putting the clothes in the wardrobe that defeated me, as i faced some suprisingly aggressive and complicated coat hangers and, flailing in the wardrobe, discovered a whole new gift for physical comedy.

i went to bed, still sniggering to myself about the coat hangers and how they flew out of the wardrobe somehow in a wiry flock of flappping flappiness, and how i fought them off. i sort of slept and woke not hung over but still with a cold and still with the toothache making a late morning bid for supremacy.

Now, i don't drink alcohol for several reasons and those reasons have changed over the years. My reasons have become less ideological and more experiential.  Mostly, nowadays, i value what brain i have too much to compromise it. And while the use of substances has its place in shamanism, i have enough experience inside my own head to realise that consciousness is pretty malleable stuff, and you don't need to mess with it artificially to discover that. Moreover, i have always thought of alcohol as the least sophisticated of drugs. If drugs were music, alcohol would be Big Dumb Rock.

From a relatively drug-naive perspective, i am not sure i would recommend the old hitch hiking cure for toothache. Next time i hitch hike i will take paracetamol or something with me - it's less hassle to carry than brandy anyway. Today i saw the dentist and got my tooth filled. The dentist liked my brandy story, and he took due note of the fact that the pain was so great it drove a teetotaller to drink!