The Erotic artist knows the secret of how to be sober in intoxication, compassionate in aggression, aware in ignorance. She is vulnerable in power, still in motion, grounded in romance, pure in desire. She practices economy in indulgence, openness in disgust.
The Erotic artist knows how to not evaporate into spirituality, wallow in self-care, merely tend to herself while living in obligatory altruism. She knows not in theory but in white-hot engagement. She enters, entirely immersing into the fiery realms of hell, and flies into the sun of heaven. She burns. And what she burns is the debris, the karma, that would pollute the essence. She avoids nothing, not even avoidance. She is the sacrifice.
She knows not from books or teachers or institutions, although she studies and practices and attends. But these she also does with the artist’s eye, so that she will know life by drinking it. Art by making it. There is no comfortable distance between the Erotic life and life as art. She fears not the corporeal, the obsessive, the desperate, the unknown, because her utmost want, having recognized that she, and all others, are born free, is to know freedom intimately.
She declares, “We are freedom itself.”
“Of your own free will” is not a procedural statement made before government; it is a recognition of truth made before the totality. But to know this freedom as she knows the steam of her own breath, involuntary and from within, she must know equally well the consort to liberation—bondage, confinement, contraction. And yes, to lick and suck, to crawl for the consort with the unbridled passion she would deliver to her twin flame.
She knows freedom from the B-side as well as the smash hit—the ever-tightening throat constriction of anxiety, the tight leash of virtue, the militaristic voice of spiritual dogma, the charley-horse cramp that is ego. It is known from the prison cells of the world—from the captivity of marriage to the cages of punishment that would house those unable or unwilling to conform (or those who are all too eager). Uncuffed, without enforcement, the Erotic artist dances around these institutions not as an inhabitant—for the 31 realms of heaven and hell are equally her home—but as a performance artist. Audience, actor, and art merge as the great undifferentiated—delighting and recoiling in terror, rapt and bored, critiquing and critiqued—in the theater of the mind.
In other words, she doesn’t want to seek for, or find, freedom. She doesn’t even want to be free. That is a redundancy.
The question is, what is she going to do with this precious and prized, yet entirely amenable, freedom? Will she approach this freedom with eyes open or eyes closed? It is a choice, each option with its own consequence, its own trajectory. Lids open or closed, eyes clouded or clear, looking toward or away from, staring or with coy reception. Will she carve out her own aesthetic, her own signature, such that those with the most refined senses—those who can hear for miles, taste and reach the top and bottom notes—can feel every last corpuscle? Will she, even in her anonymity, be known as one knows a Banksy or the Beowulf poet?
Will she live on the vanguard that is perpetual rupture, disruption, and death? Will she ride the wheel of Samsara with only a faint back-pocket memory of volition, alternating between the mundane merry-go round and the roller-coaster of perceived powerlessness? Will she remember that she has come only for this and walk as one woman did, nakedly into the monastery, free of preconception? Will she wear all the garments in the green room, but wear them loosely and remove them quickly when the scene changes?
Or will she live the ho-hum, grumble-grumble life that one purchases like the pre-packaged and plastic Halloween costumes in Walmart? The costume of great insufferable bemoaning that comes with anti-depressants, a self-help manual (that concludes by suggesting another manual), and a pair of yoga pants. Will she respond to conviviality, the “how-are-you’s” of the day with “just getting by” or “doing my best” in the theater of “life is suffering?” And then watch a true-crime series or listen to podcasts. She can, you know. Freedom conforms to the vision of its keeper the way a crystal held over a daffodil remains always and ever clear, only now reflecting the flower.
Krishnamurti, one of the great exemplars of freedom, said it best when the masses—like monkeys who sense a female in heat and travel hundreds of miles to her—gathered around him, having sensed the pulsing alive heat of his freedom; he stood on the mountain top as a testament to WWFD (What Would Freedom Do), shooing them away with fevered hands: “Leave! Go! You are free!” The masses who aim to, yearn to, outsource their freedom from another, to hire a call center of tradition, to answer the flurry of impulses that come in each moment, play the role of the unfree crying, “Just tell me what to do!” And then, “You made me do it!” as the tearful rejoinder.
Agency and volition march lockstep with freedom with the fidelity of Hanuman. But these seats are only for gold members; for those who are seated in themselves. And they are expensive. Authority is costly. To be the author of her own life, she must sign her name to the grievous errors, the displays of vanity, the humiliation of over-consumption, the weaselly justifications, the cry-wolf sonata of the dependent, and say, “I did that, I chose that, I wrote that terrible line.” This is the price for the right to say of her own life, “Because I say so. This calamity is good because I say so. This catastrophe will be the jewel in my crown because I say so.”
At its best, art serves to break up the heterogeneity of thought, calling up and calling on the disturbing and the discarded, the lusty and the buried, the trash and the jewels to craft from. The best art is capricious and demanding first and foremost of itself, then the artist, then the imagined audience. Politics, social or legislative, have no place in art. But art should have a place in both. We’ve attempted to co-opt the ungovernable forces of art for commerce and control and thereby lost out on artistic design as the umbrella that everything else falls under. The artist in control of her art is a conveyor belt, no force is coming through her. The artist out of control of her art is the drunk falling apart at the bar while talking about her art, destroyed by the force meant to power her creation. The true artist is the centerpoint of self that lives and breathes her unique aesthetic and is lived and breathed by it. She sculpts from the Philosopher’s Stone.
Today is the best day of my life. My cat rests on a chair so uncomfortable that I won’t sit on it. The man I love, a man who frequently inhabits my psyche playing a good game of chess, is in there not playing. I texted my ex a long-overdue apology for my disappearing act, to which he gently responded, “Welcome back.” My girlfriend is texting me about her excursions into the Pleiades and, while I don’t quite follow, I want to be supportive. Slings and arrows continue to come following an indictment and bad press (the reputation-repair companies send me letters daily offering assistance. Good luck!). A guardian angel of mine is having a bi-polar break. I’m on a juice cleanse, to be clear in my mind and light in my body, in preparation for being filmed for a documentary in a few days. I, a confirmed introvert, am being filmed because I drank the Kool-Aid of “being of benefit” in the world years ago, opened my big mouth, waved my hand high, and said to the Gods, “Choose me.” I got a new hair color that I quite like.
The best day of my life after a short, rare mania yesterday, what one might experience in the cognizant moments prior to death, texting a friend with an indecipherable, and therefore insoluble, question. I circled and circled. What I was circling, I did not yet know. My mind would not let me lie in the comfort of “I don’t care” that I can sometimes plop down into. An artist, with the force of creation coming through.
The cat, who is now resting quietly on the chair, had determined that 4:00 am was her new feeding time. She paced on my bed in her version of manic-communication, until I got up and fed her. Then, in a fog of forgetting, she came back for a repeat performance at 5:00 am. I lay there for a moment when she arrived again. In a time when it’s all falling apart, it all came together. Causes and conditions, as they say. Causes and conditions. I often have to say that I am not a martyr because I am not, but I could sure play one on TV with the script I’ve written for myself. I say this because the answer to the insoluble question comes simply, like a breeze. “It is done.” Yes, like Jesus on the cross, but nothing like that.
More like this invisible task at hand is finally complete. I let myself breath and be breathed by it and now the dragon has exhausted itself. I often declare that I am not a princess, because I am Sicilian and salt-of-the-earth. Also, because the lady doth protest a bit too much. I know, I knew, I was born of a noble class. And while I am not Gautama Buddha, like him I had to travel outside the castle, to Ehipassiko, to “see for yourself,” to know for myself. I am the prodigal daughter and, to some extent, we all are. Either slumming it in Samsara or the princess in the castle of subjugation.
I didn’t like my Tibetan name when I received it; Gyaltsen Tsenmo. It means “jewel in the victory crown.” But that is not a crown of anointment, that crown is hard-earned. For a woman, it is not a slaying of dragons, but loving, taming, and subduing them to discover, as Rilke once said, that perhaps our dragons are all princesses helplessly waiting for us to help them. I learned, not in distant theory but in the intimacy of the fight, wrestling my way through each step of the journey, that this is true.
As I lay there, I decided it was time to make the trek back home where I knew that I would be met with the warm “Welcome back” that is my birthright, our birthright. I could now be one who could help, a fleet of dragons by my side.