The Headless Life


What thin rays of sun managed to slide between the bars and hit the gun store’s windows got thrown back towards the street in a hot glare. I rang the bell. A blond tank of a dude cracked the door, peered down at me. Hi, I said. I pointed to the camera hanging from my neck. Can I shoot in here?

This was last August.

They were such nice people, the gun store folks. They were a woman and a dark-eyed man, father to the tank. The tank was about to be a father too, and he was on the phone, ordering pizza for his wife.

God she eats so much, he said after he hung up. And her feet hurt. And I’m all working and stuff. Last night I get home all beat and I’m like You know what I did today? And she looks at me and goes Ok, know what I did today? Made a foot.

It felt good to walk in on a scene and not matter. I’d been sad for about half a year. One of the wisdom-pearls that had formed in the abrasive clamp of that sadness was: Talking was stupid. Blowing out air and prettying it up with sounds was not a worthwhile activity. Mouths were for eating and most of the time that turned out stupid, too. (Seriously–just give yourself a minute and take a hard look at how we United Statesians are doing with these mouth things, talking and eating. How’s that picture looking?)

…But then, of course, I talked. I always do. What I said was:

Hey. What are these heads for?

The older man looked up at the row of bald female mannequin heads I was pointing to. Target practice, he said. Beauty school next door throws em away when they’re done. Want a discount?

What I think about that, his son said, is it’s kinda misogynist.

Doe-eyed, in matte silence, the heads smiled on while I snapped some shots. The older man asked about my picture-taking, and promptly whipped out his phone to show me a virtual gallery of metalwork. Flowers, animals, sweet anniversary gifts for his wife: it was all beautiful. I looked. He chatted about his former life in homicide investigation. 

There were, there are, so many other truer languages–made of motion and shapes and metal and lenses and fire and tears and speed and distance and temperature–that had to be better than words. Words had never not failed me. Hell, I’d even have taken numbers and I hate numbers, the way I hate food packages, and lists of polysyllabic ingredients on food packages. Clearly, I’ve made some peace with words again–probably too much, too easily. But the hunt got started, and it’s still on. Into and deeper into and always around for calm unifications, for temporal and whatever forms of comm-unity. Ways of being that transcend the head.

This guru-type guy Osho wrote a little snippet I really, really like. He says:

With the ego the whole being is a wound. And you carry it around. Nobody is interested in hurting you, nobody is positively waiting to hurt you; everybody is engaged in safeguarding his own wound. Who has got the energy?… [The wound] will be healed only when you move to the roots. The less the head, the more the wound will heal; with no head there is no wound. Live a headless life. Move as a total being, and accept things. 

The head and the word, the word and the head: both excellent servants. But terrible, terrible masters.

I’d been sitting a lot with suffering, and with evil, which I took as kind of the biggest category under which deliberate infliction of suffering should probably fall. Details aren’t important; let’s just say there was some unfinished business between me and evil, a sort of backlog, and by early 2014 I guess I’d finally floated down the whole length of what my junior high health teacher liked to call The Longest River In Egypt, i.e. denial, and wound up at–guess where? its mouth. Opening, delta, change: where being isn’t spoken, just transmuted into: long current, dancing north through watery paradox to the Mediterranean, the sea in the middle of the land.

I’d always avoided evil. I think I tried to wish it out of existence. It’s just so beyond me, man. Not to say I haven’t done it, but surely never a “share” of it, not as a way of Being, a way of Life. That strikes me as unnatural. As problematic a word as that is, it’s the word. Evil isn’t chaos. But it is, at least partly, a deliberate, systematic cultivation of chaos, and language is so easy to do that with. It’s the easiest evil way. I still don’t know what evil is, except in the “know it when you see it” mode of knowing, and even when I do come across it–maybe especially then–I don’t always know that’s what I’m seeing. In retrospect, that’s what all that sadness was about: really, finally understanding that evil exists. Mourning the fantasy of its absence. And then seeing, too, how evil is really only ever fear, the kind that seems so insurmountable to someone that it gets released into the world in a desperate perverse kind of sharing, where destruction is the only abundance allowed.

Maybe that’s weird to say. Maybe it’s weird not to have understood that. Maybe, no definitely, there are a lot of people far more interested in tearing apart or sublimating or ignoring or eye-rolling-away the idea of evil than in asking what experience the word might refer to. Or how it refers. What that feels like. (To those people: So now ask the messy questions. Get your hearts and hands and souls dirty.)

But it’s deep, man. You wake up in the primal pearly dark. You have your tea and your practice, your shower, whatever your thing is. You do your little work dance and your friend dance and your fun dance. You fall into a trap in the woods, find some icky evil deep inside those you trust. You stumble into a little love nest inside the gun store, where they let you shoot your fill like a weird mute voyeur. Then you drift through another half year. And that fast, one blustery winter afternoon, you notice you aren’t so sad anymore. And where are you then? Who? And what’s left behind?

(Just another headless day.)



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