There’s a sock in the middle of my bedroom floor. It’s clean, and there’s nothing ostensibly wrong with it, but it’s been there for about a week. I just keep walking around it–make the bed, dust, dress, undress. This feeling I brought with me out of unconsciousness reminds me of that sock. It’s been there, I’ve been moving around it, stepping over it, doing nothing about or with it. When I talk about being naked, I’m not necessarily referencing a physical state of being unclothed, although that may be a part of it.
I woke this morning with wisps of words hanging in my ears–the remains of a dream, a creation in that Universe of the eternally unmade and the already broken. I think it’s in most of us to be afraid of this place where the unconscious lives, because there is eternity, free of logic and chains of causality. It is this space that represents our contact with the naked cosmos, a state in which we are stripped of our protective bubble of reason, rules, and ultimate meaning.
“Let’s just set both of our colossal egos aside, shall we? I think that’s important, since elephants are rather scarce in these parts.”
Ganesha as the Guardian of Creative Privacy
Ganesha is the Hindu god with an elephant’s head. But he didn’t start out that way. Rather than reproducing his birth story here, I’ll simply provide you with a link, and you can go read it for yourself. http://www.amritapuri.org/3714/ganesha.aum
What I think is important to take away from this story is how it’s used to talk about Ego in the face of the Universe. Shiva takes Ganesha’s head in a fit of rage when the boy denies him entrance to his own home. But I think we also need to see how Ego, in the form of Ganesha, is attempting to protect the privacy of his mother, Parvati, who is also seen as an incarnation of the generative energy that created all things–called Devi. Setting her in a personal context, she is the energy that spurs creation, creativity, making, and becoming. She created Ganesha to guard her privacy while she was in a state of nakedness, performing the rituals of her bath.
Quite aside, I see parallels between this tradition and those of other cultures. There is always a cautionary tale about spying on divinity in a state of nakedness. Take the tale of Actaeon, for example. Artemis exacted her revenge on him for breaching her privacy by transforming him into a deer and setting his own dogs and friends upon him. In a way, our senses of self-importance and of self serve as sentinels, guarding us when we go down to bathe in the springs of creativity.
I’m tempted to draw a distinction between male and female creators, but perhaps at our most basic level, the differences of physical sex cease to be applicable. We are all drawing on the same generative energy. By the lights of eastern mystic tradition, we are all always both male and female, and at the same time, neither. Divinity has no true gender. And so, to say that men who create do so differently from me is to use the distinction of what clothing the soul has put on, and therefor, false. Rather, I want to explore how Creativity uses Ego to shield itself, and how, when we strip away Ego we are freeing up our narratives to progress to the next phase, or chapter.
A Matter of Timing and Role-play: Creation, Destruction, and Ego
When Parvati discovers what Shiva has done to her son, the sentinel of her bath and her creation, she threatens to destroy everything she’s made for him–so basically…Everything. How might this be seen as the way in which we individually respond when we are challenged, when our Egos are destroyed by another person? The flipside of Devi–the Universal Creative–is Kali, who destroys, burns out the impure elements of creation, and functions as the energizing force for Shiva to assume his role as Destroyer, without whom he remains passive. What we often fail to see in Kali is that she is also a wielder of Devi, and as such, remains Shiva’s opposite and compliment.
There’s a question I have about timing and the occurrence of things in this story. Why should Shiva quake at the idea that Parvati would do precisely what he was always intended to do? Because it would fuck up the story, essentially, to put things so out of order. So, Shiva makes amends and brings the Boychild back to life, but not as he was. There’s an element of transformation at work here. In the process of our Ego being destroyed, it is remade differently. The mystic tradition wields this as an instrument of instruction on the nature of experience and garnered wisdom. Our Self is not doomed to remain dead or forever vanquished once it has been “beheaded.” Rather, it is remade by the very thing that destroyed it, imbued with better wisdom, knowledge, and spiritual attributes it did not possess before.
How My Life Became About Stepping Over A Sock
So, let’s talk about Ego–both in the context of Self and Self-importance. I woke, hearing these words, the voice familiar, but I cannot say if it was my own or that of someone else. I rolled from my bed, made coffee, smoked a cigarette–those words were heavy in me, like round, smooth stones. I stood and stared out at the trees, blue in the early morning stormlight, not really seeing them. Instead, I was parting space within myself, trying to find the root, the rationale for those words.
There was a curious feeling of nakedness in those moments, for all I was still in my nightdress. I felt bare and without the protection of modesty. It’s such a fragile illusion–the concealing properties we wear like unnecessary clothing–one I woke stripped of. Something in me trembles at it, and yet, the deeper and indescribably weathered stone of myself simply acknowledges it. This was bound to happen, should always happen, is a needful understanding for further growth, progress, evolution. I have known that it was coming for some time. I saw it, recognized it for what it was, and simply avoided dealing with it. Much like that sock.
The Act of Fearless Nakedness
As I dressed this morning, I took time to look at myself. To some of you, this may sound like a silly, vain thing to do. Doesn’t everyone already know what they look like? But that’s the thing about protective modesty. I cannot speak for anyone else, but it’s something that has been in the making for many years–that avoidance of acknowledging my physical form in a state of undress. It is a part of hiding from the gaze of the Universal–a fruitless exercise, but I think one that may be more common than any of us suppose.
I looked on my nakedness without judgment or appraisal, ran my fingers over the valleys of shadow formed by muscles beneath my skin, the softnesses of my femininity, felt the texture of my flesh, and met my own eyes in the mirror. There is an aspect of discovery inherent in re-evaluating what is thought to be already known. I saw the evidence of experience written on my body in sinew and muscle, fat and bone. I saw the text of my existence etched into the physical world. I looked and met myself all over again.
It is an experience I have had too seldom.