I think there’s a marvelous cultural metamorphosis brewing in the minds of people with dreadlocks. Maybe they don’t even realize that. And I’m not talking about salon dreads here, party-colored extensions made of synthetic garbage or wool, forcefully and violently, taken from an animal’s back so that a human can look fashionable. I’m talking about those of us who choose dreads for ourselves because we have something inside of us that is yearning to be released and come OUT.
This world loves to conform, man. I am astounded every day when I see how cultures mold human beings and how human beings (me in my younger days included…and in some respects today) don’t seem to be able to figure shit out without that guiding hand of our culture showing us what is expected, how it all should be done. Is this good? I think it depends on which thread of cultural influence we’re talking about at the moment, because there are many, and on how robotically or organically we, ourselves, interpret and apply or disregard those threads.
Terrence McKenna gave a kick-ass lecture when he still resided on earth regarding the fact that ‘culture is not your friend’. I agree with 90% of what he had to say. Take religions for example…
I thank my lucky stars every day that I was not raised in church. This was an anomaly where and when I grew up, in the late 60’s and 70’s in a horrible place in Georgia. I endured the daily playground damnation by all the Sunday school kids that I was going straight to hell in a hand basket when they found out we didn’t go to church. In that place, when you met someone, that’s the first thing anyone wanted to know…what church do you go to? Because obviously you had to go to some church somewhere.
Just because we didn’t go to church did not mean that there was a lack of belief in a creator in our home. My dad, when he was younger, had a vivid and unbridled imagination and a sense of wonderous awe with this world. He instilled this sense of mystery and a fascination with ‘what the hell is going on here?’, and a sense of the weirdness about what this ‘God’ really was in me, at a very early age. I remember my dad, who will be 80 years old in just a couple of years, holding his strong, dark, muscular but lanky arm out in front of me, opening his hand and slowly closing it, flexing his fingers apart…’Just look at that. The fact that we can even do THAT is a miracle in itself.’ We would have long, crazy discussions about things like the fact that our eyeballs are literally just balls of ‘meat’ but yet we could see with them. This is good for kids to think this way…aware of the box, able to move around easily inside it, yet also able to leave that box entirely behind at will.
Not everything about my childhood was good. It never is…for anyone. My mother was schizophrenic. She had frightening auditory, and sometimes visual, hallucinations and suffered from a plethora of delusions. I’m not going to go into the smorgasbord of lunacy that growing up with a schizophrenic parent presents to a child. Let your imagination run wild here. But even this aspect of my childhood eventually formed me into a person who takes nothing for granted, who can’t quite grasp the technique of conforming, who will always be outside looking in on the ‘herd’ who are given their beliefs by the man in pulpit, the news caster on the screen, the politician on the stump, the teacher in the classroom…and on and on and on.
All this seems far and away from the reasons someone might choose to wear dreadlocks, doesn’t it? Well, I pride myself on long, blathering explanations that take forever to reach a point of conclusion. I love the sound of tapping fingers and to see eyes rolling as I plod my way toward that point. Lol.
I certainly did not always embrace non-conformity. Hell,no. When I was young, I scrambled to fit in just like everyone else. The only difference was that it turned out to be much harder for me to fall into lock-step with what I was supposed to be, how I was supposed to act. I tried to make it work and failed repeatedly. I went through long periods of deep depression over my inability to even figure out fashion, for pete’s sake.
Roll forward 20 years and the best thing I ever did for myself is dare to BE myself. I didn’t know what that was then, actually. I had to find what ‘me’ really was. I had to shake off what my culture said was me. I had to shake off the GUILT of not being able to be that person.
We’re getting to the point here. I promise y’all.
I’m a terrible housekeeper…not a hoarder, mind you…not filthy…but every surface is usually covered in dust, there are cobwebs in my corners (mainly because I don’t want to kill the spiders and destroy their houses that they worked so hard to build…but that reason meshes nicely with the fact that I’m lazy) and I only do laundry when the alternative is buying new clothes. That’s me. I like to spend my time taking photos and reading and thinking and playing with my animal friends and laughing with my soulmate. I don’t care about fancy clothes or highlights in my hair or expensive jewelry or gucci purses (mine was $14 at Sam Moon) or a trendily decorated foyer or ANY of that bullshit. Because that’s what it is…bullshit. All of it. All these things that were supposed to care so much about, and funnel so much of our precious energy into, are to me worthless diversions.
In Sigyol Ronpoche’s interpretation of the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, he tells a story that has stuck to me like glue. It’s about Dudjom Rinpoche, a great master.
‘One day he was driving through France with his wife, admiring the countryside as they went along. They passed a long cemetery that had been freshly painted and decorated with flowers. Dudjom Rinpoche’s wife said, “Rinpoche, look how everything in the west is so neat and clean. Even the places where they keep corpses are spotless. In the east, not even the houses that people live in are anything like as clean as this.” “Ah, yes” he replied, “that’s true. This is such a civilized country. They have such marvelous houses for dead corpses. But haven’t you noticed? They have such wonderful houses for the living corpses, too.”
There is something profound in this contrast of two different ideologies. Namely, we here in the ‘west’, the land of the SETTING SUN, have no clue what is truly important…vital. We think we’re here to upgrade, apparently. Upgrade should be the name of our ‘civilization’. A nicer couch, matching pillows, Egyptian cotton sheets and lead crystal wine glasses. Tearing out the shrubbery to re-landscape the yard, wearing the latest fashionable things. It’s LUNACY. It’s complete craziness when there are people starving in this world, people being murdered like dogs in their own countries by our military, landfills taking over the body of the earth because, ultimately, we are a people who have lost our fucking minds. We think $500 shoes and purses and hand-cut travertine tile and 700 horse power and cell phones are why we’re here. Meanwhile, the real reason we’re here is avoided like the plague. We’re crazy people.
For me, my dreads (still baby dreads right now) are a spiritual outpouring of what is in my soul…and what I want to be in my soul that has not yet fully germinated. I don’t want to be part of the swirling masses anymore and haven’t for a long time. The dreads are challenging me in a way that pushes me to further disconnect myself from everyone’s stupid, pointless and misguided expectations of me. My old dad has not seen my hair but will in the next few months. There’s a very significant chance that he has never even seen dreadlocks, much less understand what they signify and even at 51 years of age, I still care what my dad thinks of me. He is no longer that bright-eyed, wonder-filled young man that taught me the meaning of awe. He’s lost 7 brothers and sisters, his mom and dad, and endured countless heartbreaks over the last few years. He has become entirely set in his ways and lives by his own interpretation of the Bible which can be pretty hardcore at times.
Can I be fully and wholly myself with my dad? Can I endure his judgement with love and understanding while continuing to be who I really am? This is what’s important to me. Caring about what kind, what quality, of person I am. And not just caring and hating myself quietly while I continue to be a shit bag. I am old enough now to understand that I can refine myself, change my thinking, elevate my ideals and focus on the ONE THING that I can control in this weird, inscrutable, momentary life. The quality of my own soul.
I would not characterize myself as a Christian. I’ve read the entire Bible a couple of times now but I’ve also read the Mahabharata, the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, the Dharma, the Sumerian scriptures, and on and on. But there are a couple of things that I keep coming back to. Yeshua says to know yourself. He says to make the outside like the inside, the inside like the outside and the two into one. He also says that many are called but few answer. Could this ‘few’ he refers to be the few who dare to step out of that box of culture and actually BE the person that they were created to be? Are the ‘two’ he refers to the real spirit inside as opposed to the person we pretend to be on the outside to conform…or the person we are on the outside because our culture, family, friends, tv, has conditioned us to think that’s who we should be?
I ain’t pretending to know. None of us know anything, it seems, when it comes to what the feck we’re doing here. But my dreadlocks say I’m trying to be that person inside and she really seems to like dreadlocks.
Super Bowl today, weirdos. Falcons gonna win. (I was born in Atlanta 😉)