A friend of mine posted this YouTube link a while back on Facebook and I couldn’t stop watching it. I watched it ten times a day for about a week. It made me cry several times. It is such a stirring combination of contrasting elements — what is formally referred to in art as chiaroscuro, the juxtaposition of light and dark — the balletic grace of the young men, the grittiness of their surroundings, all the implications this has on the conditions of their lives, and their gorgeous attempt to transcend those conditions, or make art in the face of their hard circumstances, to express and immerse themselves in these circumstances and yet, escape them.
They seem to be talking with their souls, not their bodies — or showing us how that amounts to the same thing. How the soul can shine through the body. We need to be reminded of this in the post-enlightenment west, at the weary tail-end of an age of neo-reason.
We so often assume that the soul resides in the mind, that the intellect is the temple of the soul. We worship the mind, all of its neurosis, and try to access our souls through our thoughts, by making our thoughts pure, by organizing, reshuffling and analysing them. And yet what so many mystical traditions teach us is that the soul resides not in the mind, but within the body – that it is through the body the soul will find expression; through the body that our souls are liberated.
Here is the Lion of Puna. Whose actions speak for themselves.
How similar some of their poses are to the dance moves of those guys on the street, as if, by some trans-geographic osmosis, those young men, hanging out on the streets of Oakland, California, discovered the same physical correlative in their search for transcendence, or the divine, through anger and defiance and poetic creativity, in forging their own brand of mysticism.
I decided those young men were the new American transcendentalist poets of movement, the new Walt Whitmans and Emily Dickensons, but maybe they’re the new yogis — the new mystic yogis of the ghetto. They are visionaries, dancing in the narrow space between freedom and the cage.
Again, the sincerity of the effort, the emotional need of it, is moving. What is his soul trying to say? Maybe something very simple: listen to me. Be kind to me. Stop yelling at me. Whatever. I am a bird. I am a machine. I am a video game. I am. I am.
This woman, too, is shouting with her body.
And who will hear these souls? Or see, or listen? And where will the angels be? Where they have always been. Singing the soul up out of the body and into the trees.
“And the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse.” Revelations 22:2-3
- Christine Pountney