Monday, October 26, 2009
Like, Time Pottery
What they call body mutilation – the tribal modification of the flesh – of neck, and skin, and nose, and ear, and lip – traditional practices all, common across the globe – is really more like time pottery.
Can you dig that?
It is through the molding hands of the wheel-bound clay that these procedures of elongation, perforation and scarification are so performed – the flesh being the wet clay – the coils of constriction the hands, coaxing form as the days are forced into retreat – Bruce Banner cursing his limbs through the gamma ray corridor – the Hulk perpetually forced back into Banner’s limited frame.
It’s not too hard to understand why we cannot help but treat our very selves – the shells within which we slither through this life – as windows for dressing – each one of us having become the clothing industry’s blood and bone mannequin, caught in the ego-born headlights of fashion monsters as deceptively diverse as Michael Jackson and Kurt Cobain – shedding our adopted skins as they shed theirs.
We are wired for this acute self-awareness, this cultural hypersensitivity.
Whether telegraphed or not, it is what determines how we see the world, and how it, conversely, sees us – a state of being we will spend our lives trying to pin down, never coming any closer than the day we first realized we had its companionship, the moment we slid from the womb – bloody-faced child actors all, reaching for Kubrick’s primal bone, feeling the extent of our own.
It is this confining sense of self that perpetuates the clamor for change, the seasons helping us along, style reaping style, Pierre Cardin wielding a paper scythe.
But the dress of man is only a formal exercise, an excuse from our natural state.
It is the body that inhabits the monkey suit that put wind to the ragged sails of Darwin’s Beagle, spilling the ink across Charlie Brown’s haphazard face – our wounded psyches giving shape to our creations.
I yam what I yam, once said a one-eyed sailor, but even he morphed his forearms into tattooed balloons.
What better way to truly lose your self, to really change with the leaves, to offer a cutting-edge revision of yourself – a self so battered with shame and hate – than to sculpt a new reflection?
Imagine never having to see you again – imagine new eyes, new lips, new cheeks, a new chin – imagine the perfect nose, enviable ears, transparent eyelids, two-inch fangs, an embossed forehead, colored gums, retinal pinwheels, acoustically-modified ears – a head of cuticles, curling to the ceiling like ancient seaweed in a fathomless storm.
Imagine changing even your race – at least in its superficial variances – a mad professor’s vanity filled with dyes and needles and knives – the pigment surgeon, the identity coach – white boys rapping their knuckles on a Tupac’s hearse, oblivious to his ashes riding the wind – Al Jolson performing for the President of the United States.
The desire for this procedure would surely foster those willing to perform the necessary surgeries – no matter how morally repulsive they might seem at the present time.
In a world where generations of white men once enslaved black and brown men, where brown men have enslaved black, where a woman’s breast is subject to size qualification – now routinely carved and augmented with the same clear plastic protecting the face of your cellular phone – where men born short on shaft buy millions of useless pills to feel better, battering their extended hearts with psychoactive alkaloids – where phrenology and human sacrifice once stood civilization’s test – can we truly believe that morality itself isn’t subject to the whims of change?
We are, after all, not so firm in our convictions, as we are adaptable – and willing.
In a world that readily condones mental modification – the educational and social purging of the nodes of individuality – Mary Poppins dispensing sugar cubes to vinegary mouths – can we fairly call into question those who wish a new surface, when we all willingly spend so much time dwelling there, painting ourselves into the corner of a department store, transfixed by the mirror’s eye, surveillance cameras recording our every move?
With each new generation, with each expansion of ourselves almighty, are we not creating a whole new wing of the body-remodeling industry, putting our offspring genes into action, building a reflective, if not progressive, newer self?
Isn’t it obvious that the all-consuming marketplace that swells within the caged breast of civilization will take this beyond anything we can currently perceive?
Race, gender, size – they will all be included in the brochure, all artificial exteriors for sale, each blurring the foundry of hereditary fire in which our particular characteristics are formed, the mixing of what we are, of what we have dubbed society – that which pretends to separate Jekyll from Hyde – the great mass established one mad couple at a time.
This medical assignment of such bred traits – at any phase of one’s temporal endurance – will shatter the matrix of evolutionary texture, will turn upon the collective psyche, further damaging our brothers and sisters, ultimately crushing what we dub the human spirit, that for which progress is more bludgeon than measuring stick.
I therefore cannot help but sadly empathize with the fear of those who find abominable the “time pottery” – who flinch at the anchor-stenciled seaman pumping iron, the divas born John, the rubber girl leaving herself on the aluminum pole, the fading boy from Gary bleaching his skin – for they are the dying patricians of a sun-blemished age, turning their wrinkled faces from the folds of that which is new, so limited their capacity for love.