Thursday, July 08, 2010

Dionysus, Tequila, and Kung Fu don't mix.

I don't want to give the impression that the only modern expression of Dionysian energy is to be found in drum circles. Far from it. Nor, as we've said, is ecstasy the only human experience that brings us in touch with it.

I've had many experiences which I think fall into this other category. However, one comes immediately to mind. It has the added benefit of being comical at my expense.

When I was in my early twenties I become very interested in Kung Fu, both Shaolin and Bagua. I never got incredibly good at it, but I was certainly more expert at it than the average person. This is always a dangerous amount of knowledge.

I was at a party over the summer. It was a picnic kind of event, with alcohol and live bands. I decided to dress up in one of my Shaolin outfits, and was already pretty punchy by midday. A friend was bartending, and lit a shot of what looked like Windex and 151 on fire. Quickly blowing it out, I grabbed it and prepared to down the thing. However, an invisible flame was still burning off the fumes, and the glass was scorching hot. I twitched, and the alcohol poured across my hand, re-igniting in the process. I stared for a moment at my hand, as the skin bubbled. My friend grabbed a bucket of ice, and very much like a cartoon, I shoved my hand into it, expelling a little huff of steam.

I wrapped the hand up, and then proceeded to wander around with the obligatory bottle of Patron, as I was want to do in those days. Afterwards, I started doing my daily stretching exercises and forms - a little bit of alcohol and a burned hand wasn't about to stop me. I'd also worked up quite a bit of the mad kind of enthusiasm that can come from an energetic practice like Kung Fu, especially when mixed with alcohol.

Some people noticed me, and somehow a short demonstration of some exercises turned into a full out sparring match. Ten or twenty of us were fighting in the back yard- some with shinai, others (such as myself) bare-handed. A couple minutes in, two people approached me to attack simultaneously with their shinai. Without thinking I took two sprinting steps and lept into the air, connecting with each of them with my feet. What I hadn't counted on was connecting slightly below their center of gravity, and I also had no particular plan for how I was going to land after landing this attack. So they fell on me, and there was a loud crunch.

When I got to my feet, I was greeted by a flock of people staring at me in disgust. I still remember the look on one girl's face- it was a look of horror that you might expect, say, if a giant centipede had just burst out of my chest. I couldn't imagine what was causing this reaction. I felt a dull kind of pain, but it didn't match what I saw when I looked down. My arm was bent at a near ninety degree angle, about six inches below my wrist. Both bones in my forearm were clearly snapped, though thankfully they hadn't punched through the skin.

I felt oddly calm. I went inside, sat down, and asked for someone to get me to a hospital. They called an ambulance. On the ride to the hospital, I had a great time retelling the story for of my arm had snapped, and why my other hand was wrapped in bandages. The nurses seemed to get a kick out of it, and I continued to talk it up once I arrived at the hospital- a performance which, I think, got me a couple extra shots of morphine in the process. By the time I left I was feeling on top of the world, and I proceeded to party when I returned, eventually passing out under a tree in the back yard at around four in the morning. It wasn't until I awoke the next day with wrenching pain in my arm that I realized what had actually happened.

Now, you may wonder how this in any way related to Dionysus. What I'm getting at is the frenzy of excitement that can carry you to a point like this- and potentially far beyond. If the circumstances had been different, I very well could have pushed myself to the brink of destruction, with a big smile on my face. This side of me stands in pretty stark contrast to how I am most of the time, somewhat reserved, peaceful, calm, at least on the exterior. Internally, the opposite is the case, and sometimes that inner nature can bubble into the outside, with anything from comedic to heroic to utterly tragic results. I've felt the same kind of potentially dangerous exuberance when performing with bands onstage, or even more, after the show, when you feel the need to keep that burn going or else face a very hard crash into depression. This is another facet to "creative madness": we aren't the one at the helm, and the destination, or even the trip, may not be in our best interest, even if it is a lot of fun to retell later.

1 comment:

  1. recipe to summon Dionysus : 1)mix random doses of adrenalin, endorphins, and a healthy dose of distilled ripe fruit/cereal extract on top (your choice)
    2)absorb mixture



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