Fall

curl_by_schnitzelyne-d6rz86y

Curling.

An autumn leaf

Turns from cooling sun

Embracing essence

Hopeful of survival

Against seasonal odds

Brace against the embraceable

Contain the essence of self

Protect against harsh influence

Survive beyond thirst

Beyond potential comfort

Cling to breath

And blessing

Survive.

 

Words errant

images stolen from the internet

dance_in_the_shutter_IX_by_mehmeturgut

Shine bright, like a diamond.

“Our image of perfection is the reason we reject ourselves – the way we are – and why we don’t accept others the way they are.” Don Miguel Ruiz

_shimmer__by_cichutko-d4dxzef

Attaining ‘perfection’ is a perpetual journey. Yet the word perfection is misleading and a potentially devastating trap. The quote; ‘Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without’ highlights that there is no perfection without flaw. It suggests reaching for the most magnificent version of our selves while knowing the flaws; the ‘negatives’ help to create a whole version of ourselves. The concept of perfection can be a falsehood that leads us to constantly feel lacking or not good enough. It potentially denies our core self by seeking to uphold an image of perfection. Whereas attaining holistic balance is a very real and honest process of being, or rather becoming. This describes an active process of growth and attainment where we accept ourselves as we truly are yet seek growth. Our flaws lead us to growth. I see no separation between light and dark, no duality only unity with moments of friction and dissonance providing room for change within our selves.

The first time I read the diamond with a flaw quote I was stumped by it. A humble yet perfect pebble seemed a greater achievement than something ‘grander’ but flawed. I soon found that maintaining perfection was dissatisfying and limiting, I ached for challenge and growth. I was exhausted by the constant effort to avoid my flaws in order to appear the humble perfect pebble; always happy never discontent or hurting. Yet when I embraced my flaws and moved through the discomfort of facing them I became something stronger, more durable, more beautiful and more real. Diamonds are formed through high temperature and massive pressure, this process creates the most durable and beautiful gem on the planet*. This process suggests discomfort. Humans tend to shy away from discomfort or suffer through it by rejecting ourselves because we are not perfect, but through accepting ourselves and gracefully working on our flaws we attain love for ourselves not self-inflicted suffering and rejection. Then we become open to the possibility of a greater version of ourselves that can live in the moment, without the devastating and painful voice of the inner critic shaming us, and we can shine bright like a diamond.

Words errant

Image courtesy of cichutko on DeviantArt

* India is the place where they were first thought to be mined perhaps 6000 years ago and they were revered as religious icons.

Intimacy

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To begin to describe another real human being, one would need to dive into the abyss, their abyss. It is so hard to find someone who may get who you are, even with the barest descriptors that can hardly reach the depth of the point. It is an almost unfathomable occurrence. When we do, it is so easy to compete, or misunderstand. Why is it so hard to hear and be heard? Is our ego as, or less, important as the comfort of being understood? Or is our need to be heard more important than our ego? What stands in the way of our ability to navigate the concept of what measure of risk of feeling the discomfort of vulnerabilty equals or outweights the potential reward of experiencing intimacy?

It might be, that those that raised us inadvertantly taught us some behaviours that are not conducive to productive relationships, be those intimate partners, or friendships or other relationships. It may well be that those that raised us inadvertantly provided us with some bad habits because we were vulnerable and impressionable children and our experiences coupled with the cultural expectations of our society became oddly mixed messages in our inner-most selves. It really, actually makes sense. As does knowing yourself as well as you can. Because being honest with your self, genuinely is the keystone to all relationships. Know thy self. Know, thy, self. We change, we outgrow ourselves faster than we have the chance to figure out who, we, are. And there is no other person on earth that you should know better. That is the ultimate failure in all relationships; not knowing oneself, yet expecting the other party to know who you are.

But how do we start an intimate conversation? Either with ourselves or others? I suggest we start with Arthur Aron’s list, lets use his list in an completely unintended way and answer the questions for ourselves… just for fun. I’ll go first:

  1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

Oh my, doesn’t this depend upon sooooo many things!? What music is playing? What I have I had to drink? Whose company am I in? What are the rules? Must they be living or are the dead ok? I will answer from the right here, right now…

I would invite Iesous, I could invite Persian or Eastern philosphers or later philosphers, but in all honesty I would like to speak directly to Iesous, better known as Yeshua or Jesus. I have a lot of questions for him. He seems to have genuinely existed as an historical person, he obviously exists as a person of the highest Christian regard. I’d like to ask him how he feels, comparatively, about being called a Judaic rebel and all manner of things under the post-crucifixion sun. Yes, I’d quite like to have a chat with the man himself.

errant.

Ear parcel I: Alone Together, Chet Baker

Ear parcel II: Little Talks – of Monsters and Men

Image ‘intimacy vol.2’ courtesy of dorry on deviantart

 

 

The state of our soul

Soul II

There have been various perceptions within humanities experience in relation to the concept of the ‘soul’. There has been the belief that that a soul upon physical death becomes a part of the earth and within the genetics of the generations that remain; or that the soul enters another realm dependent upon the individuals souls worthiness, variously referenced as Nirvana, Heaven, Hell, Hades and other capitalised bifurcated nouns related to various beliefs; or that the soul was recycled/reincarnated into another animate form. Now, in the digital age there are other newer concepts of soul, that the soul can be potentially recorded, downloaded, replicated or at least stored, indefinitely.

Do some, or none, of these concepts give any consolation to the bereaved? What does it do to our psyche? Do we start to think we are invincible, irreplaceble, immortal? We are starting to live within a real and virtual world concurrently. The concept that we can correct any wrong, or that we can do no wrong because ‘it was virtual’ is starting to seep into our general concepts of the physical world we live in, at the same time as we potentially start to emotionally and intellectually vacate it. Vacating, this incredibly beautiful world that exists, that may not exist in ‘x’ number of years ahead of us. The more the gateway to escapism exists we will seek it. Currently that gateway is at its optimal high and growing exponentially.

Regardless of expectation of where ones ‘soul’ or consciousness might arrive at eventually, one’s own understanding of the self is the greatest power one can ever have. Some of us, can understand our souls within a virtual expression of the world, engaging with others of like mind, communicating with others of like mind. We may never find those connections in the ‘real world’. There is nothing wrong with this kind of companionship, nothing at all. Unless it is all one has. Then there is no measure between the real and the virtual or online engagement. Then, lines become blurred. Unless you are an entirely self-contained individual (and there many of those in the world), in which case you are likely just fine. Some souls require nourishment from physical interaction with other souls. I try to attain both elements. I am aware that I am more inclined to a particular way but know I should keep trying all manner of ways… particularly because I don’t believe that technology is in any way prepared to manage my soul as I would intend, therefore it is important that I behave with the integrity I desire, the intellect, the understanding, the subtlety, the beauty of my individualness that may never, ever be seen again.

errant

ear parcel: Max Richter ‘Written on the Sky’

Image stolen from SOUL-SENs

Flow

flow_of_life_by_aloof_i-d4gcell

It has a name, that sensation where you are on fire, whether with creativity or logic, that state where everything is firing at once and you feel you are making huge strides in what it is you are working on achieving. Where you are extending your skills, applying all you have to complete something, even where there is no apparent reward. It is called ‘flow’. A state of harmony between all parts of the self where the ultimate gain from all areas is being produced; total absorption involving challenging the self and pushing ourselves to the limit of our ability that results in enjoyment. Such a delight, to have flow at any point in your given life or work week, such a state is highly desirous, pulling the sense of ultimate joy that we all at least once experienced in childhood, into our waking adult lives. It is possible to be a grown up and still have that wonderful sensation we experienced as children, to still have ‘play’ in our adult world. And, indeed it is actually more productive than almost any other state of being.

Reference: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi / TED talk on Flow

Here are two illustrative examples from ballet, one is from before the curtain raises and two what it feels like once the audiences eyes are upon you… don’t get me wrong here, these are examples of experts in their field, but we ALL experience a sense of flow somewhere in our lives. It might be when we touch type without making mistakes, it might be playing our favourite social sport, online game, in our work, fixing something, when we solve puzzles… flow can be experienced anywhere. Reproducing a sense of flow everywhere we can in our adult world, like when we played freely as children, is the potential acheivement. Can you recall a time as a child, before any darkness touched you and even after, when you had that feeling within your the depth of the world of your play? That almost indescribable sense of belonging and wholeness? A place of knowing, something we all had at some point, regardless of the trauma we encountered. Later, play may have been an escape from pain so it is important to find a memory that was pleasurable but not escapist. If we can reclaim a sense of flow, even a tiny piece of it, then, we are whole, because we are real, because we are in comand of ourselves, even if only briefly. To smooth the edges of that sensation, to bring a sense of flow into all we do… would be to make heaven on earth.

Errant

Image courtesy of Allof-I 

Ear parcel

The King of Ganchos; Born free

In Buenos Aires, tango styles are both as varied to the palate and as plentiful as the various courses of the traditional asado (barbeque); for those accustomed to ‘nose to tail’ dining, the full palate may be gratifying yet for those unaccustomed to consuming offal, they are not. To say the least, it is an overwhelming prospect for the aspiring tango dancer to find a style and teacher to suit them in the time the dancer has to enjoy and immerse themselves in the dance form at its source and height of availability. Tango is a passionate dance and fast becomes a lifestyle for those who take it up, some will learn Castellano, take up an interest in Argentinian wines or history, others will engage in learning about tango music or choose world class dancers via the all-powerful YouTube to observe and approximate their own style from. My partner and I were the kind of avid tango dancers that took up all those options and more. We travelled to Buenos Aires for the sole purpose of immersing ourselves in the tango culture at its source. Luckily for us within the first few weeks of our six-month trip in 2012, we discovered a veritable chocolate sampler box of Argentine tango to help us on our way.

Pulpo asado

El Pulpo, third from left, at a personal asado

Having already been well schooled by the many tango dancers and teachers that had taken the pilgrimage before us, we knew that to discover which milongas (social dance gatherings) are running and gather the general timetable of the multitude of tango events available in the city, we should gather the newest copies of the free tango magazines that are published city wide. From there, social media networks needed to be established as the magazines printed timetables of milonga and practicá (guided practice) but not necessarily who would be teaching the classes traditionally run at the milonga prior to the milonga proper or which orquesta tÍpica will be playing where. Fortuitously for us, El Tanguata magazine was celebrating a significant publication birthday and was hosting a free two-day festival ‘inspiracion’ inclusive of short workshops with a plethora of famous and infamous tango dancers. Apart from the ridiculous difficulty of locating the venue and that we turned up on time to discover that time runs differently in Argentina, we waited literally hours before anything actually happened, this event set us up beautifully for engaging in a relaxed manner with many of our dance idols and discovering new ones. There were four significant highlights: Mariano ‘Chicho’ Frumboli and Juana Sepulvelda dancing live to Ruben Juarez’s Prologo Para Mi Argentina (which can be seen here), dancing with tango legend Juan Carlos Copes, the unbelievably talented tango comedians Eduardo Cappusse and Mariana Flores plus encountering the infamous Norberto ‘El Pulpo’ Esbrez (1966-2014).

 

El Pulpo, or Pulpo as he preferred, being quick to affirm that only his mother called him Norberto, was one of the most inimitable tango dancers in the history of tango. Even distinguishing between nuevo, or new tango, and the more traditional milonguero styles, Pulpo’s nuevo style was utterly unique. Here was a tango dancer who earned the nickname ‘The Octopus’ for his languid movements and specific leg entrapment style, renowned for dancing to non-traditional music with a glass of red wine or cigarette in one hand, see this link for an example of El Pulpo dancing to an orchestra playing a cover of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. My partner, had introduced me to El Pulpo’s style which he felt was impossible to imitate successfully without learning directly from the maestro himself, and there we were attending an event where we could have a lesson with El Pulpo face to face for free! It quickly became apparently that Pulpo was perhaps a little down on his luck, as we gathered for our lesson excited and more than a little intimidated we soon realised that there were only a few others joining the workshop. Optimists as we are this appeared very favourable for us but there was something in the way Pulpo reacted that demonstrated the disappointment known only by those that have previously known great success. Throughout the lesson Pulpo was patient, engaging, kind and enigmatic. His style, for me, was the equivalent of changing from aerobics to tai chi. My partner adapted better than I did but we both enjoyed the experience and decided to seek out Pulpo’s regular classes. I was not sure why we ended up connecting with Pulpo the way we did, there was something within both myself and my partner that Pulpo resonated with, but for whatever reason we had an incredible time getting to know the iconoclast of a man.

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The night that was particularly memorable followed on from a tango lesson wherein Pulpo had raged about the state of modern tango culture, about how the political past had eroded yet strengthened tango and how the current period was deeply saddening for him. He then pulled out an audio cassette, outdated technology then, and played us something incredibly precious to him; a song from his father’s orquestra tipica. Pulpo sharing this unique moment with the class led on to his inviting everyone in the class to share a meal and attend a milonga with him. The cassette we later found out, was the only copy he had which he played sparingly, given that cassettes stretch when played eventually distorting the music. Pulpo’s history was rich with tango, both his grandfather and father had played bandoneon. His father’s music was one of the many victims of the various forms of political oppression in Argentina, the masters of many famous tango orquestras were destroyed in an effort to quash tango as a cultural-political movement, Julio Esbrez was one of the musicians whose music had been erased. Public milongas had also been banned during that time with tangueros risking arrest by meeting privately to continue creating tango music with potentially political lyrics and to dance. Pulpo told us how he never wanted to follow what had become the family tradition, he recalled being dragged to milongas as early as three years old, falling asleep to the sound of tango music and the hum of crowds. Being rebellious in nature Pulpo wanted to be a ‘rock star’, more akin to Elvis Presley than to Carlos Gardel, his father disapproved yet Pulpo made the most of both worlds becoming the defiant rock star thorn-in-the-side of the traditional tango movement; although he was also a exceedingly accomplished traditional tango dancer as well.

Julio Norberto Esbrez

Julio Norberto Esberez, El Pulpo’s grandfather (front left)

In Argentina it is tarde or afternoon until around 8pm which is the time when dinner menus become available in all cafes and restaurants, when our class had finished it was still tarde so we agreed to meet later at Villa Malcolm, a hugely popular tango nuevo milonga venue. Milongas start late and run late, often the lessons at the beginning of the evening start at 10pm with the milonga beginning around 11.30pm and running until the small hours of the morning. Nuevo venues tend to have a broad spectrum of age groups present, though prominently younger to middle age dancers, etiquette is more relaxed in comparison to the traditional milonguero milongas where women and men sit separately with a special area set aside for couples who wish only to dance with one another. At a nuevo milonga women and men sit where ever they wish although the all-important cabeceo was still adhered to, albeit not as strictly, say if the room was too dark for eye contact to occur, or the layout of the room made eye contact difficult. It is a major breach of tango etiquette at a milonguero milonga to ask someone to dance in any other manner than the cabeceo – which is the art of seeking eye contact with those you are interested in dancing with, both women and men seek out eye contact but it is traditional, and still considered correct protocol, for the man to initiate the nod of the head to request the dance, the woman responds positive or negative and if it is positive usually the man will then approach her and guide her onto the milonga floor being careful to negotiate around the couples already engaged in dancing. This is a subtle art designed so that neither woman or man are humiliated if the dance is declined, although the bravado of the older men who are more common at the milonguero milongas did astound me. I was disinclined to dance with one man whom I dubbed ‘Argentine Magnum PI’, as his similarity to Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum was uncanny, at my subtle disinclination to dance with him he made a loud joke with the men around him that the women were ‘playing hard to get tonight’.

 

At Pulpo’s request a large table had been set up at Villa Malcolm where the group could order dinner from the attached kitchens and dine. Pulpo did not dance but ate and poured drinks from one of the large beer bottles that Argentinian’s so enjoy sharing. We wanted to purchase a drink for Pulpo, a gesture that is common in our home country, but he refused as he considered us his guests. Pulpo then, somewhat ironically, pointed out that despite his reputation for being a wild drinker he was consuming cerveza sin alcohol – zero alcohol beer. He then explained that he had diabetes, which is why he didn’t drink and why he had, as he described them, ‘bug eyes’. I danced a number of tandas, a set of four tango songs in the same style which it is customary to dance the entirety of with the same partner, through this first phase of the evening. Many of these were with Mario, who is a gentle bear of a man, a nuevo dancer and tango teacher in his own right who was also a long-time student of Pulpo’s and deferred to him as a maestro. When he first asked me to dance I was hesitant, he took this in his stride and patting his opulent stomach joked that perhaps I was afraid he was too big and heavy to dance and proceeded to prove that he was both light and dexterous on his feet. My partner danced a number of tandas with Pulpo’s current dance partner, this connection seemed more like an apprenticeship where the dancer received one-on-one tuition in exchange for assisting Pulpo in his classes, who was an accomplished tango dancer from Germany. My partner and I also danced together, enjoying one of the best tandas we had ever experienced on the milonga floor.

 

Pulpo spent most of this period of the evening talking with both my partner and I divulging his life story. He discussed the pressures of growing up in a tango family and explained more in-depth about the politics of tango and how having forged a name for himself he now hid things, like how he no longer drank alcohol, because people then asked too many questions about his health. His health, he admitted to us was poor and he was about to embark on an American and European tour in the hopes of recovering some of his former glory and, importantly, to make some money. What Pulpo didn’t want the tango community to know was that he was suffering from complications with his diabetes and needed a liver transplant which he could not afford nor was he very high on the public waiting list because of his age. I think perhaps his state of introspection might have been why he opened up to us so much. We were somehow a safe pair of ears that he was able to divulge his truth and secrets too as we were not a part of the Buenos Aires tango social circuit nor had we come to him ignorant of the subtleties of tango culture. We, like Pulpo were aware of and lamented the central issue within tango politics; Argentine Tango having been recognized by the government as being a national cultural icon worth of heritage status was a ‘catch 22’. Because of this, tango has become a commodity, not just within Argentina but internationally, meaning every aspiring tango dancer/teacher we met was plying for trade or more importantly saw us a potential ticket into the overseas market. This made it difficult to establish the authenticity of each teacher and made it important to be discerning and cautious. The market was flooded with such teachers.

 

As the milonga wore on Pulpo and Mario decided to head to the iconic milonga Parakultural at Salon Canning. At this point we discovered that Mario’s day job was as a taxi driver. As Mario said working as a tango teacher he still had to make money to put food on the table. Pulpo, his dance partner, my partner and myself all piled into Mario’s taxi and made our way across the city. Mario crooning at the top of his lungs to the tango songs on his car stereo system. We had been to Salon Canning before but to arrive at a milonga with Pulpo was an entirely different experience, for one there was no charge at the door and everyone referred to him as ‘maestro’. The other elements were subtler, waiters were more attentive, and locals intrigued by who was at Pulpo’s table. When Pulpo eventually danced with his dance partner they were watched attentively. The following tanda she was immediately beset with dance requests and Pulpo lamented that people ‘always wanted what he had’, this outburst seemed to leave him disgruntled and subdued. Pulpo did not dance with me publicly which I was somewhat relieved by, as I simply was not proficient in his style, nor would I have welcomed any more attention than I already currently had. Even dancing with Mario, who was well known, meant that there were attentive eyes taking in our dances, although it was satisfying to hear the elusive compliment ‘¡eso!’ uttered by a native tango dancer at a highly reputable milonga.

 

Pulpo recovered from his darkened mood and he and my partner resumed conversing intently, being of a similar age they had many commonalities to discuss. Pulpo compared himself to the American rock singer Kid Rock saying that the song ‘Born Free’ surely must be written for him. He lamented the festival where we had met him, reminiscing of the time when there was an entire festival devoted to his style and the proponents of this style were called ‘Pulpitos’. We discovered, although we often attended milongas until the very early hours before hunting out one of the 24hour cafes dotted around the city to refuel before heading home, that Pulpo didn’t seem to need much sleep. We parted when the milonga ended near dawn but as soon as we arrived back at our apartment Pulpo was sending us messages both to check we had arrived home safely and inviting us to join him at his apartment for breakfast and more dancing. We needed sleep so did not take up the offer immediately laughing (ironically) as we were convinced we had adapted to the milonga lifestyle better than most. Shortly after this night Pulpo embarked upon the first leg of his international tour only to end up hospitalised. For the next two years he was in and out of hospital. When the Buenos Aires tango community finally learned of Pulpo’s condition they rallied to raise funds for a liver transplant, sadly before the operation could occur, on 16 July 2014, Pulpo succumbed to liver disease. In Pulpo’s last conversation with me he was in hospital and when I asked how he was he simply said he was like a motorbike with no reverse gear, only ever going forward, signing off by saying we were beautiful friends and always in his heart. We may not solely dance Pulpo’s iconic style, but we were both were deeply moved by our connection with this exceptional tanguero who will forever be an inspiration in our hearts.

Shodo

Traditional_Calligraphy_by_TattooTemple

My body your canvas

Living words of ecstasy

Passion between souls

words errant satiety image courtesy of TattooTemple on deviantART