Right now, are you ready to die?

“A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.” – Montaigne

Yama, Tibetan Deity of Death
Yama, Tibetan Deity of Death

There are two feelings the title may provoke, and one may be of fear (e.g. I don’t want to think about that) and/or bitterness (e.g. finally, yes, now I can escape). On the other hand, there may also be a feeling of gratitude (e.g. yes, this moment is as good as any other moment to be on my way).

The former appears to be rooted in the preoccupation with control and the latter with the acceptance or harmony with one’s space-time. Endings do not always need to have negative connotations, though many last moments do seem to carry much suffering. Those last moments are one of the things I have personally been exposed to from working with terminally ill patients as an x-ray tech for years.

I always come back to thinking about one particular terminally ill patient. She was relatively young (in her 40s) and warmhearted despite all her pain. She would never miss a wave goodbye after every examination, and even did so on her last day alive, which would have likely taken the last dangling string of strength to do. Despite all her suffering, this woman managed to appear grateful instead of bitter. She may have physically been dying, but her heart remained lighter than a feather on Osiris’s golden scale.

How did she suffer so, yet not allow herself to get consumed by it? The inscription upon Hell’s gate in Dante’s Inferno comes to mind: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Though the immediate interpretation of the sign may denote doom’s inevitability, one scholar had a different view. Professor Ronald B. Herzman of Dante’s Divine Comedy lecture series (The Great Courses) noted that the inscription may not be solidly for damnation, but a key out of hell. The antidote may be to surrender so that one could finally free oneself from the suffering. Oftentimes it appears that pride in our ability to change what may be unchangeable keeps us in hell.

This idea of abandonment of hope (surrender) may have a striking resemblance then to the idea of repentance, but perhaps the deeper meaning is not always observed. The idea of God is not necessary if sins are taken to represent shadows/repressions (evidence of strays away from our own personal intent/will) that need to be reintegrated back into the psyche to approach closer our life’s intent/will.

So if the question of death right now frightens or provokes bitterness, perhaps there are some shadows to face that feed off the ironic limitation of an overabundance of pride (inflated ego) in being the controller. In Dante’s Inferno, the very flapping of the devil’s wings (from the desire to escape) caused the air to cool and keep the ice frozen, which kept him trapped. How long, how many vicious circles must go on till we can fold the cards? Knowing when to retreat is a warrior’s skill in Sun Tzu’s Art of War and the mark of a sage in the Tao Te Ching. What image, then, bares so much more inevitability than that of death? Might as well embrace and even think often, even, of death, for death may approach at any second. It can be a serendipitous thing, for death is letting us be, for now. Hmm.

butoh characters

These are some butoh dance characters I actually use and are in my body.

1. The Tyrant or The High-Chested King with Gold-plated Tin Crown or Icarus on Board the Titanic to Catch a Glimpse of the Tower of Babel

2. The Creature Disguised as a Pedestrian

3. The Perplexing Hyperdimensional Being Pushing Buttons that Directly Influence the Lower Dimensions

4. The Nun Who Worships and Caresses the Floor

5. Mother Mary Being Taken Down from the Crucifix

6. The Red Elegant Demon Dancer with an Enormous Ego

7. The Man Who is Being Pulled Nearly Apart from Hell Below and Heaven Above

8. The Shaman Summoning The Wind Spirit to Dance His Body as She Wishes

9. The Hermaphrodite Who is Slowly Spiraling into the Underworld like a Dying Rose or Mother Mary Dying a Thousand Gentle Deaths One After Another

10. The Old Star Woman or The Gentle Woman Entranced by the Beauty of Life, Death, Good, and Evil

11. The Charred Icarus Striving to Dive Deeper Down into the Earth

12. The Spider Thread Finger Hermaphrodite

13. The Dancing Sugar Skeleton or The Entranced Ghanian Witchdoctor Rattling Himself into a Reaper Who is Feared yet Embraced Simultaneously

14. The Restrained Reaper who is Only Standing by For Now with Numb Hands

15. The Choking Man

16. The Eager and Playful Bird-like Creature

17. The Man who Reaches Out So Hard, His Spirit Almost Leaves His Body or The Begging Dharamsala Lepper

18. The Timid Man Baby

19. The Man Who is Secretly Fascinated by His Twisting Leg in the Air that Has Taken on a Life of its Own

20. The Delicate & Ballet-like Happy Sick Creature

21. The Reaper Yogi or The Dead Aghori Baba

22. Handsy & Sensual Contact Improv Pervert

23. Man Who is Suddenly at the Amnesia Ward

24. The Man Who Eats Everything with the Top of His Head

25. The Sick Man Experiencing Crown Chakra Bliss

26. The Contracted Sick Woman Holding the Last String of Life In-between Her Tightly Twisting Ball of Hands

27. The Sick Dancer in Perpetual Near-fainting

28. The Woman with the Multiple Ultra-Tiny Shifting Sensations Virus

29. Amanita Muscaria Sleeping Dancer

30. The Sick Yet Show-Must-Go-On Diva Transexual

31. The Man Who is Possessed by Madre Ayahuasca’s Scrubbing and in Result is Danced Over All Four Elements

32. The Dominator Who Climbs Everything

33. Duke Valefar from Solomon’s Ars Goatia or The Suspicious Shadow Weasel

34. The Vigorous Princess of Death Showing Her Dying Beauty at Dia De Los Muertes

35. The Naked Mannequin Granted a Pinch of Life

36. The Elf Gently Shifting through Close Proximity Parallel Universes as if They Were Television Stations Smoothly Transitioning from One Channel’s Scene to the Next

37. The Master of Slime

38. The Man with Only Millimeter Nectar of Immortality Movement

39. The Senator From Ybor City’s The Castle or the 80 Year Old Posing David

40. The Castle’s Chicklet or The Sick Bodybuilder or Broseph Tapout

41. The Quiet Cobra-Striking Warrior

42. Butoh Zhuangzi or Butoh Buffoon

43. The Stiff Electricity Lady

44. The Perverted Old Woman

45. The Dancing Creature from Friday Nights at the Castle Goth Disco

46. Snoop Dogg post-lobotomy or Snoop Lion Who Changes His Name to Snoop Dyin’

47. Cthulhu Who Consumes with Gusto All That is Undesirable

48. God’s #1 Fan

49. Duke Sallos from Solomon’s Ars Goatia or The Gentle and Shy Self-Loving Man with Scorpion Venom Composed of Cupid’s Nectar

50. The Child in the Kindergarten Sandbox

51. The Ghanian Woman Giving Birth on all Fours

52. The 6-Year-Old Gleefully Dancing and Jumping Mentally Challenged Girl

53. The Lover Man Dancing His Shattered Heart

54. Count Vine from Solomon’s Ars Goatia or The Storm-Spawning Sorcerer

55. Godzilla Baby

56. The Man with Multiple Alien Entities Attempting to Get Out of His Body

57. The Machine Elf Shifting like a Lava Lamp or Mr. Trans-dimensional Jumping Wild

58. The Shaken Standing Child Whose Mother is Being Battered Before His Helpless Eyes

59. Mother Earth Forcefully Dominated by Industrial Progress

60. Solveig’s Walking Being

61. The Supreme Judging Imp With Stink Eye

62. The Grandpa Possessed By the Spoon

63. The Quicksand Dancer

64. Edward White Hospital Angry Debilitated Near-Centenarian Man

65. The Winning Fool

66. The Fast Forward Butoh Warrior

67. The Spinning Fiend Who Feeds Off Vertigo

68. The Puppet Master’s Puppet Master’s etc. or The Victim of the String Infestation or Psilocybin Causality String Dancer

69. The Hand Face Magritte Dancer

70. The Floating Ghost

71. The Warping Self-Embracing or Straight-Jacketed Man

72. The Imbecile Kung Fu Master Who Uses His Own Arms as Mu Ren Zhuang Posts

73. The Woman Fast Approaching the Screen and Absorbing a Sudden Terrifying Realization

74. The Evolutionary Cycle Being

75. The Disoriented Pedestrian Urging Escape from the Walls Caving In

76. The Kleptomaniacal Creature

77. The Graceful Kangaroo

78. The Former Kung Fu Warrior Now Master of Senile Style

79. The Erotic Buffoon

80. The Chicken Runner

81. Punk Swagger Jack Back From the Dead

82. The Man Who Ambulates by Falling and Rolling

83. Ash Jaguar

84. The Hermaphrodite Who Melts into the Void to the Sound of the Shepherd’s Tone or They Who Consumed the Void

85. The Confederation of Light Namaste Lightworker

86. The Escaping (or Ambushing) Scorpion

87. Sri Swami Solipsist, Grand Narcissist Yogi

88. Sir Randy Warfol, Artist Extraordiaire

89. Egomaniac Cardboard Cutout

90. Catwalk Master/Vangeline Fashion Butoh Master

91. Best Butoh Master Ever, Look at Me

92. Rhizome Lee Creature

93. OTO Pervert Tantra Warrior

94. Stunted High Striker or The Man Who Quits Right Before the Peak and Disappoints You Tremendously

93. OTO Pervert Tantra Warrior

95. Imre Thormann, The Man Who Falls Down The Stairs & Looks Peculiar

96. Choronzon Who Wants to Collapse the 2 Pillars

97. Kung Fu Painter

98. Fluid Contemporary Dance Quadrupedal Creature

99. Butoh Mantis

100. Baby Grandpa

101. Beggar King

102. The Sick Princess

103. Moon Gravity Dancer

104. Corpse that is Being Eaten By Vultures

105. Ouroboros Who Tries to Eat Own Tail