Life itself is an ongoing transformation. The body rises and grows, matures, then begins the inevitable shrinkage of aging. As artists, (because we all are), we embellish these changes by wearing certain clothes, cutting and coloring our hair, lifting weights to sculpt our muscles, sitting in the sun or avoiding it carefully, wearing make-up of every variety. We tattoo ourselves, pierce, endure plastic surgeries. We identify with the embellishments very powerfully (i.e. I'm a blond rather than I have blond hair). I remember reading somewhere that Dale Messick, the cartoonist who authored the strip "Brenda Starr," kept her hair dyed bright red right up to the moment she died, late into her eighties. That hair color was important to her, a part of her identity. It was a mask she wore proudly. I loved that comic strip.
I'm thinking this morning that just like our great shamanic ancestors, when shit happens, we shape shift into different versions of ourselves, we put on masks and costumes literally and metaphorically in order to be able to face the situation at hand. We enact the sacred dramas.
We're not that different from the old ones who wore headdresses made of feathers or ornately decorated masks. The old ones became birds and other animals, they donned masks of the divine and spoke the holy words. They did it and we do it. The only difference in the behavior, as far as I can see, is that we don't claim the experience for what it is. We don't even really think twice about it. I would bet Dale Messick never thought of her flaming red hair as an act of shamanism, but it was, it really was.
Why do we do it? Sometimes to remember who we want to be, sometimes as an act of artful evolution, sometimes to meet the challenges that arise when the landscapes of our lives suddenly erupt or are swept away by fire, tsunami, wind or rain.
At our best, we can be endlessly creative and optimistic when confronted with a landscape forever changed by what my spirit guides call "collisions." The last few days I have seen people going through comprehensive transformations as the result of terrible, sudden and shocking events. These people are rising to the occasion, becoming as clear and beautiful as their essentially gifted, noble and wounded natures allow.
I'm against the current trend that encourages us to loathe our species. I see posts about it all the time on Facebook, cartoons that depict us as wasteful, greedy and thoughtless. I know, it happens, but it isn't our essential nature and it makes me very sad to see that narrow view of who we are reinforced over and over again. How does it help anything? Please explain.
I'm grateful to be surrounded in my community by people who tune into their shamanic capacities, pull out the right mask or headdress, then tilt into courage, openness and vulnerability as they move through incomprehensible situations. These are my people! Oh yeah.