In my 20s, all I wanted was to have fun and figure who I was (through the lenses of psychoactive substances, ethical sluttery, formal feminist education, and moody poetry). In my early 30s, it was all about building stability. Now, careening into my late 30s, all I really want is to get free; meaning, to liberate myself from the externals-obsessed ego and its evil minion, the demonic chattering monkey that lives in my head and won’t shut the fuck up, banging against my skull with his incessant stream-of-consciousness condemnations and judgments: you should, you could have, why don’t you, why didn’t you, how dare she, how could he, I bet there’s shoes on sale over there, man what a dumb idea, hmmmm perhaps a nice steak au poivre for dinner, your floors are filthy, why is that guy driving so slowly, your thighs are like sacks of German potatoes, wow you really blew it, this one time, at band camp…oh, look! A dragonfly! It never ends. I can’t stand that guy.
So in pursuit of hitching a ride on the Spiritual Underground Railroad to escape this form of self-inflicted slavery, I’ve been working hard being, ahem, Present. And for little moments at a time, and I mean nanoseconds, I can sometimes do it. Why, the other night I had a near religious experience stirring some pasta shells into a pot of boiling water. I Was One with the steam, the bubbles, the softening starch, all of it. Rad. this morning I was so blissed out about nothing at all that I actually managed to drive to work without cursing the descendants of my fellow motorists, and whilst I drove the following memory worked its way across my mental movie screen:
Summer 1998. I’m hanging out with this chick Michelle Saylor, bit of an odd duck, a tiny girl who was a master chef and yet borderline anorexic. She drove a huge Toyota 4Runner and had a penchant for picking up young thugs at the all-night pizza joint on Lower Haight. In any case, one night she invited me to go to reggae night at The Top, and as one might expect, it was a patchouli-and-Nag Champa-laden affair, punters slowly skanking on the tiny dance floor beneath a thick cloud of ganja smoke. I wasn’t in the best of moods, a little withdrawn in my Mills College overalls-and-workboots uniform, keeping to myself in an out-of-the-way niche. An older man with voluminous dreadlocks sauntered over and asked me pointedly if I’d like to dance. When I apologetically demurred, he said evenly, without even looking at me, “It is OK. Rasta has no ego,” and wandered away.
Ten years later, that’s become a new mantra: Rasta has no ego. Today is Good Friday, when we Catholics mourn Christ’s agony on the cross and death at the hands of worldliness for the sake of eternal salvation. Like any good California girl, I mix my religion of heritage with a heavy dose of metaphor and cafeteria spiritualism, and so today is a day when I welcome thinking about another sort of death, too: death of the ego, the release of self-definition through thought and that which can be named, and the rebirth of a joy that comes simply from being – no one, no thing, no place, no state of mind – just awake, receptive, aware. Irie.