Don't Save Sacred for Sunday
If I were to have a “thesis statement” for blackhoodygrrl—if she were a doctoral dissertation, I would attempt to boil down all her complexities and subtleties into a single potion; a summation of her essence. I would sum her up in this phrase:
Ordinary gestures can lead to sacred existences.
I wanted to make her a sacred symbol—anonymous and mysterious. Her name is more like a phrase because I did not want the focus to be on a particular girl’s face (me, for instance). She is every girl. But she is also intensely personal. Isn’t that the most perfect metaphor for the Hindu’s version of the individual’s soul (Atman), struggling against the universal soul/Self (Brahman)? How could I make her into a symbol for sacred existence without totally personalizing her? Hoody sweatshirts are my favorite type of clothing. It is a characteristic of my personality (to wear them frequently), recognized by people who know me. My hooded sweatshirts symbolize practical wisdom in my life, something I consider very valuable. They keep my shaved head toasty warm. They are my constant friend when I trek into San Francisco because it is always cold and windy there. They fill me with lovely romantic notions and daydreams about why I chose to be a librarian. Maybe it IS because I was a scribe in a former life! Cowl over my head, hunched over a single candle flame, copying manuscripts. In many ways, it is very similar to the work I do in the library today. I have many black hoodys, all with many different decals/logos, etc, but they all have one thing in common—the hood.
Hooded sweatshirts hearken back to the monastic cowl, or special part of the monk’s robe that shrouded the head in an act of reverence. To put one’s hood up is an ordinary gesture; this gesture, in turn combined with other ordinary gestures like taking a deep breath or listening to music, can lead to a sacred existence.
(Dark Nights of the Soul)
Ever since I read that book, and particularly this paragraph, it laid a seed in my brain that began to germinate around the time I discovered tribal fusion bellydance. And I pondered why I have so many hooded sweatshirts and why I love them so much. And from these ponderings, musings, and meditations, she was born. The idea of her became very important to me. Through metamorphosis she became and is today a very powerful symbol in my life. She acts as a catalyst: a way to tie my life as a librarian/goth/punk weirdo and my life as a dancer all into one beautiful existence. Until she came along, until I breathed life into her fragile frame, I never thought my life in the library was connected to my life as a dancer. But a friend pointed out this epiphany to me over coffee one day. She screamed in my ear, “It’s all connected! It doesn’t have to be a dichotomy, it is all interconnected!” And that is when the realization hit me. I had discovered a KEY--a key to unlock the basement door, to the subterranean world where the river of collective unconscious flows.
Sooooo, where does the name come from, you might ask? She comes from me and she allows me to dance how I dance. I did not want her name to sound “tribal” because the sacred experience goes far beyond my flavor of dance. She is a part of my persona and yet remains universal, a muse for creativity. She allows me to get in touch with Goddess:
I am Nature, the universal Mother, mistress of all elements, primordial child of time, sovereign of all things spiritual, queen of the dead, queen also of the immortals, the single manifestation of all gods and goddesses that are. My nod governs the shining heights of Heaven, the wholesome sea breezes, the lamentable silences of the world below. Though I am worshipped in many aspects, known by countless names, and propitiated with all manner of different rites, yet the whole round earth venerates me.
~Robert Grave’s translation of The Golden Ass by Apuleius, as quoted in Merlin Stone’s When God was a Woman.
I really enjoy the idea of gathering knowledge; it always makes me think of Smaug sitting on his mound of gold. Sadly, I have noticed most people do not undertake the ardent task of “lifelong learning” as their personal mantra. The idea of "education" conjures up a specific time span (4 years) you spend at an institution after graduating from high school. But education only means acquiring more knowledge--and you can do that contemplating a rose or breathing into an asana. But if you stop learning new things, you will stagnate. Stay curious. Cultivate what the Zen masters call " beginner's mind", and think of everything you do as a practice. I want to be learning new skills and knowledge every day of my life.
I am that girl walking down the street in the black hoody and black jeans, eyes downcast and lost in thought. There are too many things to do in this life, too much to learn. And no time to waste. Everything is sacred. Every experience is sacred. I remind myself of this every single time I put my hood up.
Thanks for reading.