It's time to get apilado.
Nooooo! Not apilado! The one stylistic approach we all knew for sure was definitely wrong
in the world of tango! (Ok that and having no core integrity.) The one approach to life we could all smugly point to say and say, “I may not know much, but I know for sure that those guys have it all wrong.” Sharing an axis? Leaning on each other? No thank you!
How we love to sneer.
And from a dance perspective, yeah. It is a totally different dance, and not one I choose to pursue. However, there's something to learn from everyone, especially from the people whom you think have it all wrong. Or in the immortal words of the Thai, “same same, but different.”
“Those apilado guys, I don't know how they dance,” said one milonguero, voicing general consensus. And he's right: dancing does not work very well when everybody's leaning on everybody! It's hard to dance when you're leaning.
But here's what's surprisingly easy when everybody's leaning: holding still.
If you're just standing there, everybody leaning on everybody feels calming, quieting, grounding, and like enough of an activity to fill up an entire day. Don't bother us, we're leaning. Kinda obviates any need for hustling around.
Over the last few weeks I've been writing a progressively longer multipart essay about
what happened to me after I met the Witch. I edit out pages of words and it just ends up longer. By now I realize that even though they're important words, most of them are just for me. They're not for you guys. You guys get the boiled-down-to-one-word version, which is this: help. (Or for those of you who like to split spiritual hairs, “service.”) Mutual support. We all need each other. None of us can do it all on our own. None of us are meant to do it all on our own. We are not designed for isolation, but rather for synthesis.
Usually when something is “hard,” or raises a sticky red flag we don't want to admit to ourselves, it means we're missing something important.
Tango, for me, has until now boiled down to the beauty and the hardship of six perfect words uttered long ago by an old friend, who's on his own journey, from which I've learned a few things. “With me, but on your own.” That right there was, for a long time, everything I needed to know about dance technique and everything I needed to know about relationships and everything I needed to know about the universe.
But I'm changing.
And now I'm letting myself admit that while there's a lot of important lessons in those words, they also circumscribe a life that is ultimately built on loneliness and a belief of scarcity. When it comes down to it, I'm all I've got, no one is there for me, etc. At the end of the sentence, there's no help, there's no friends, and if you have needs, there's no one there to help. Scary. And the relationships I came to through that dance were like that. Full of fair weather romance and no real support. All whipped cream and no potatoes.
What if we reversed the sentence and changed the conjunction? “On your own, and with me.” Totally different, and totally comforting. Someone's got my back. I'm out there fighting my own dragons, and I've got someone by my side all the way.
The Siren told me that her message is that the Kingdom of God Is Inside Us. This was also, for a while, everything I needed to know about dance technique and everything I needed to know about relationships and everything I needed to know about the universe. It was brilliant and convenient and got rid of my pesky need for external love and external emotional support.
For a while.
But then I changed.
And I decided that, while true, the message was misleadingly worded. I preferred “the Kingdom of God Is.” Because there's not a spot where God is not! The High Priestess said that, and I find that more all-encompassingly true. One day I was doing yin asana and playing with the idea that everything is made of atoms and atoms are mostly empty space and energy, so that which differentiates me from the air around me and the tree beside me is highly minimal at
best. Distinct, but minor. The essence of life flows through everything equally. And after I thought that, I realized that meant that we were back to what I learned in Quaker school: God is
everywhere and in every living thing. That means he's on the inside, on the outside, at the boundaries, far away, in you, in me—everywhere.
We all approach life in ways that work for us, and I noticed over time that one way the Siren dealt with life was by cutting major pieces of it out, permanently and all at once, if they didn't work for her. In some ways that's great and I could stand a dose of that myself. But in other ways that could use a little tempering. Someone whose manifesto centers on the self as the central foundation of being could, logically, discard people, pastimes, and passions, because as nonself, they are of lower value priority in a universe where the good stuff is all inside you.
But I was looking at physics, and physics told me that from a scientific and empirical standpoint this was not true. And I always believe everything I read in physics textbooks.
The challenge I was having with the idea that the Kingdom of God Is Inside You is that it
made me feel like I was “doing it wrong” for wanting an oosmosis of good stuff on the outside and on the inside. But if we go with physics, which shows us that mostly what we've got everywhere is a lot of electrically charged empty space with a few tiny nibbles of
stuff here and there but not really, then it makes perfect sense that we should wish for a life with love and support coming from the outside just as much as coming from the inside. If the good stuff is just flowing indiscriminately through the universe, then love should be everywhere.
We live in a time and a culture in which Relationship with Self is paramount. And
while I agree that this is ideally an active lifelong relationship, I also think that words can get in the way (as they often do). Many people recommend to many people that they work on their relationships with themselves. I've been on both ends of the equation many times
and have heard it dispensed to others many times and it's always great advice. But I see that when we create a solipsistic worldview we risk denying ourselves a real Relationship with
Self. Because if we buy too much into the either misphrased or misguided idea that we are totally complete and perfect unto ourselves all alone and if this state of affairs ever causes us a
sense of not-rightness then we're just not sufficiently enlightened, we're actually denying our Selves our true identities and our true needs.
You see, there's not a spot where God is not. We are particles, or waves, in a big universe.
We are part of something. By viewing ourselves as complete alone, we risk viewing ourselves as separate and apart. And while we are distinct entities with beginnings and endings, we are also, as that tribe in Africa believes, above-ground shoots of one big plant with a giant underground root-ball.
In other words, by focussing too much on the world within, we risk losing balance with the world without. A real Relationship with Self involves balancing this Self with Other, and finding oosmosis between the Inner and the Outer realms.
A real Relationship with Self is the root end and Relationship with Others is the flower end, but they're all the same plant. It all goes together. It's all essential.
We've all known people who imbalance into the Relationship with Others end of the spectrum so much they're like cut flowers withering away in jars of water, no roots.
But, perhaps because of where I live and because of the company I keep, I also know people who imbalance in the other direction and put so much nutritious attention into their roots, they too do not have a whole plant. The flowers, the leaves, they too are essential parts of the plant. The plant needs its whole self.
In tango some people teach that the bottom half is for you and the top half is for
your partner. Simplistic, not quite true, and again, words get in the way. But even though this is wrong, this is right. The rightness is that from a body-mechanics standpoint and also from a
chakra standpoint, our root half is the bottom and our flower half is the top. Our pelvises are the motors of our movement and the roots of our awareness, from which everything above blossoms, and our arms come straight out from our heart chakras. Arms really are for hugging. We are a herd species. Our babies die if they're not cuddled.
I see a lot of exhaustion here in the US that stems from a misinterpretation of the idea that it is a Good Thing to work on the Relationship with the Self. I see people thinking that if they just work harder at being spiritually evolved and introspective, they will achieve a
state of blissful (not to mention chic) fulfillment that is totally independent of any external conditions. The rest of the world won't matter, because they'll be so enlightened unto themselves. And if we feel we still have needs and desires regarding the rest of the world,
we're just not doing it right yet, and we have to work harder.
I used to be one of these people.
But now I think differently. I believe that by taking this approach we're hurting ourselves, by denying our Selves' most basic and inalienable rights, needs, and truths. We are of the people, by the people, and for the people. Selves need the whole rest of the world!
A real Relationship with Self is less about working hard to achieve spiritual enlightement and more about all the chakras. It's less about floating off a lotus custom-built for one and more about living in the world. Yes, do the introspection, do the meditation, do the patting of the self on the back.
But You are only one of the many entities out there who are here for You. And detachment is not the Way, not as we misinterpret the word. Equilibrium, please.
A real Relationship with Self knows that some needs and wants are to be fulfilled by Self
and some are to be fulfilled by Other, because that's the way the world works.
So go do all those things you think you're never ever supposed to do. All those things that raise the hairy eyebrows. Dance apilado. Lean on someone and let them lean on you, because it feels great and that way you can both stand up all day long. Ask for things. Let a friend loan you money when you're broke. Let people carry your groceries and take out your trash and babysit your kid. Fall in love. Count on each other.
Lean on me.
With loving gratitude to all the angels who helped me while my foot was broken.
Lean on Me. Bill Withers. Club Nouveau.