I recently experienced death again. No, not mine, fear not, but that of someone near me, at close quarters again. My life changed originally with the passing of my father, a wonderful sensuous large-hearted softness of a man, and a tremendously important presence in my life. I lost him almost two decades ago, and experienced the various stages of the detachment of his presence in the form of a series of dreams. His passing was of determining value for me, it formed me as I am today, fierce, independent and yet, fundamentally a creature of the blood and heart, essentially other-worldly and uncaring for the dust of materialism.
This time, it’s my uncle, my spiritual and artistic Guru in fundamental ways. He was a grand, lion-spirited musician, Dinkar Kaikini was his name, he lived in Mumbai, India, and no, he wasn’t as famous as he should have, might have been. It’s one of the things I’ve been thinking about since he left us last weekend. And he continues to impact me with the meanings of his life. In ways I didn’t realize although I was aware of what he meant to me even when he was alive.
Life limits you ironically, it binds you to the body and its errors. My fears or worries at not performing music as he taught it to me, the idea that art is a physical life-bound achievement, that fame must come to the artist, this is what has been released with his passing. It is as if I am seeing at last, what I have always sensed. That we are spirits first and foremost. That everything we do, feel and become is a long, joyful continuum of consciousness winding through life and what we call death. Death in this vision is not death at all, but in fact a form of spirit-being, unmediated and clear, without the limiting forces of the body. It is profoundest joy but without the delicious sensations of the throbbing, bleeding body. Art needs the body. Creation demands it. Being though, is constant.
So what is the use of the body? None. The body has no use. It is an act of joy, an undertaking of sensual pleasure. To believe it has ‘utility’ is to be as wrong as saying food exists so that toilets can exist. Art has no utility either in this vision. In fact, ironically, the only thing that does have utility is suffering. Sorrow has no real presence in the continuum of being, save as a technique of transcendence, of liberation. And by liberation I don’t mean ‘Nirvana’ which is abstract and inaccessible, I mean the sensation of profound freedom such as we all feel on a Friday evening, and that comes brutally to an end on Monday morning.
I have seen it before but now I see it clearly. Life is a continuity of the spirit-being in what we call death. One plays off the other, a bit like our moments of escape play into our moments of involvement. Friday evening feels fantastic because Monday morning is oppressive. And the Monday morning exists so we may begin to wonder what the hell is the point of all this oppression, am I really doing what feeds my soul? Or is this misery just an act of fearful, imprisoned habit? Can my entire life be a Friday evening?
I say it can. Mine is. No reason yours can’t be.
To believe art can change the world, that it can make you famous, that it can do anything at all, is to see the world as a place of idiotic outcomes and material equations. It is to do away with the sheer thrill of being, of the joy of freedom we all know we feel on that fleeting Friday evening. And until you seek out this freedom, oppression in some form or fashion will be your lot.
Politically too, the world is suffering profound and horrible oppressions. Right now, the US is ‘occupying’ Haiti under the guise of ‘bringing it aid.’ If only the US had left Haiti alone and free over the last 200 years, nobody there would need American help. We know what’s good for you: which is the philosophy of the Enlightenment, the Bourgeois, the West, the Church and the Paternalist Employer, is nothing but oppression. Pure, stinking simple. And the only way for us to rid the world of this oppressive state of affairs politically, is to rid ourselves of capitalist lies about utility personally. It is to fight individually and endlessly for our own freedom. There are no public solutions. The political is the spiritual. The freedom of each spirit is the freedom of all.
So how can you save the world? Can you be a hero? Sure. Simply demand that Friday evening be the prop and stuff of your every living moment. That simple. And that profound.
My uncle escaped into the freedom of his spirit. He understood that fame, recognition, none of it meant as much as freedom. As the engorged plenitude of the sensual living free moment. This was his first and final choice as an artist. To create for pleasure is the artist’s sole activity, to escape oppression his relentless need. There are no other goals beyond this freedom and this pleasure. Life has no use beyond this freedom and this pleasure. If you haven’t got that, start over. I have. Several times. Nothing to it.
The spirit IS being. And being is no philosophical dryness, it is the sheer thrill of a drink, a first love, the first few lines of your new book, it is the thrill of life itself. But only in freedom. You will never experience this thrill (except as a desperate unlived need) on your way to work. Or at the bank. Live only for your freedom, your joy, your own divine and unique self. Everything else is oppression.
The thrill of this, since my uncle died, has engulfed me. So much so, that I have trouble breathing.
See you soon.