Thursday, July 21, 2011
HELK WEIGHS IN. I have seen full grown men hung from holes in their backs, dangling from a large Cottonwood tree in the scorching sun. I have seen men far older than IP drag up to sixteen Buffalo skulls around a large circle surrounding this tree, the skulls cutting deep grooves into the ground.
A story - once a very large (tall and strong) Indian Brave of about 20 years of age was dragging six or so of these very large Buffalo skulls around this circle, crying. He kept saying "I am doing this for my people." Well, the elders were not at all impressed with this sad display of anguish, especially considering that I was there, witnessing it.
So the oldest man I have ever seen at a Sundance, white hair, bony, tiny compared to this large Indian Brave, hooked up the twelve Buffalo skulls and began dragging them, smiling and laughing, around the circle.
Once, twice, over and over and over again, literally having to walk at a 35 or 40 degree incline (due to the weight of the skulls). As he kept going, I could see that he was straining. But he felt no *pain*, rather he was working his body to the maximum extent.
He has to drag these skulls until the wooden spikes that pierce his back are literally ripped out of his flesh. Finally one of the skulls catches the Earth just so, and the resistance rips out the spikes. He then runs, literally looking like a man possessed of nothing but ecstasy and unadulterated bliss.
I mention this because there is nothing, I repeat *Nothing* more metaphysically significant than pain. Christ endured the pain of Crucifixion in order to fulfill Psalm 22. And what was his reward for suffering?
Eternal life, eternal bliss, and the salvation of all Mankind.
Well, maybe not *all* men are saved... That is not for me to judge. But I will tell you that I would love to see you drag even one Buffalo skull around that circle. I think you might re-frame your feelings regarding pain as being metaphysically insignificant.
These people of whom I speak are Lakota, but the white haired man was, well, a white man. Few whites have ever seen their rituals. Frankly, almost everyone I have ever known is a total pussy compared to the men and women who forgo water and food and perform the Sundance. Why do they do it?
They do it as a form of prayer - they endure the pain and transform it into an offering. An offering to God. A sacrifice. What have you sacrificed of yourself so that others might receive the Glory of God? Anything?
I didn't think so.
And more to the point, I was honored to be allowed to participate in one of their sweat lodges. As fate would have it, I was placed inside the lodges with the Sundancers - the men who never leave the circle during the dance. Now I at this time had a membership at a very ritzy private spa, one with a steam room. So I fancied myself prepared for a sweat. I mean, I had been steaming nearly every single day for months.
It was the most intense heat I have ever experienced in my life. While I sat there, trying to sink into the Earth, trying not to die, the men around me were singing - singing! Full bodied sounds ringing out in the darkness of the lodge. I could barely breath, the act of inhalation scorching my tongue and these men were singing their native songs at full volume!
So there is something to be said about enduring pain as way to conquer perceived limits. There is no such thing as pain - but not until you are willing to go *beyond pain* will you ever have any idea what that means.