Thursday, July 31, 2008
Love at Nite
Yesterday the splendid rain began. In the afternoon the thunder boys rolled their stone wheel out of the northwest and a bank of violet grey clouds came rushing over the hill, dumping gushets and ricochets of hail. Dusty paths became the origins of rivers, and the trees, plants and vines in dandyland took on the rainforest look.
In the night was the best. I woke up in the deep dark to hear the rumblings of thunder near and far in the darkness, the steady drumming of a downpour on the roof. No matter how dry August may be now, there's enough water in the earth to see us through. I rolled over, luxuriously, in bed, and let my lulled descent back into sleep sweeten with sound of renewal, thinking very pleasant thoughts of that Riverman I mentioned in my last post.
There's a story that I like about rain. It seems that in times past humans lost sight of the fact that they are small parts in a bigger picture and became not only selfish but proud of it. The Orisa, personified forces of nature, as imagined by humans, were by this same distortion at odds with each other, and the world became disharmonious and full of nothing but strife and cruelty. No single mind can encompass the vast distances or content of the universe, and yet it is possible to imagine wholeness without limit, and this also has a name in Yoruba stories - Oludumare. It is understood that the realm of Oludumare is rather distant from the compartively microscopic one of earthly affairs. There is a great gulf between here and there.
I think it is rather wrongheaded to say that Oludumare, imagined as sustaining all things, was so petty as to levee drought as a punishment for the ignorance and lack of respect displayed by these people of the past ~ to follow the story at this point, we need only understand that the drought was a result of their bad behavior. Actions have consequences - Oludumare IS.
In time the drought became severe and humankind, on the verge of perishing, neglected to even imagine the Orisa, much less give them sustanance, until the entire system was in danger of complete collapse.
So the Orisa gathered in council to save the world. Everyone thought of themselves as being powerful, but when it came right down to it, none of the boasters had the nearly infinite power required to reach the far-off realm of Oludumare, whose all-encompassing existence, forgotten in self-absorbtion, they remembered when they got in trouble.
It was then that a strange and colorful bird volunteered to make the journey to Oludumare and beg for help. This was greeted with scepticism, which quickly ripened into outright scorn. How absurd! A mere bird! The Orisa are the Obas and Queens of the natural world! But as no one had a better idea, the bird took off, upward, flying into the infinity of space.
As this bird neared the outlandish glory of Oludumare's realm, the fabulous fires of the cosmos scorched the feathers of the bird until they were blackened and ragged. And even worse, the feathers on her head were burnt off entirely and the skin itself was blistered and scarred into a visage only a mother could love, and that not without effort.
And so it was that this bird landed in Oludumare's yard and begged for help for her children, by which she meant all living things, and of course she was right, we're all in this together. Oludumare saw that she was in rough shape, in fact her head looked horrible, and her entire aspect was pathetic in the extreme. But knowing all things, Oludumare also recognized that this being, who had taken the form of a bird, was herself a great Orisa, Oshun, the personification of Love itself, and this message, delivered as it was by a pure heart, alone had the power to cross the great gulf and move the heart of mighty Oludumare. Oludumare let Oshun return to the earth in the form of sweet water, falling as rain to renew and refresh her children. The hardened hearts were softened and harmony was restored, albeit in an ever precarious balance dependent on the real respect born of love.
The form of the bird remains as a reminder. It is the vulture, despised and reviled by ignorance ~ because its part of the meal of life is an humble portion, and because its looks may not appeal to those whose ideals of beauty are standardized. Love may take the form of a beautiful woman, or a beautiful man, blessing our nights with luxury and sensual delight. And Love may be imagined as sweet pure water, pouring forth to sustain and renew us. But it may also be concealed in a creature who finds life and love where others see only ugliness, despair, death, and decay.
The vulture flying in negative space in The Keeper video (see earlier post) is intended to evoke this story.
Love at Nite: