Tiger paws

Telluride Daily Planet, Friday, June 7, 2019


Sinking down in a theater seat and waiting for the lights to fall, I turn to my neighbor to the right, a middle-aged woman — like me — wearing a cowboy hat and fuchsia sweater. Her vibe is open, the kind of open that might lead to one of those Lift-9-type conversations — an exchange with a limited lifespan, a haiku of conversation. An opportunity to rub up against somebody you don’t know at all, and, if lucky, break open something or other, we know not what.

It is her first Mountainfilm Festival, she says, and she is having an incredible time. Her mind is being stretched. The movies are so good — so moving! Her state of wonder thrums, the same state I have been in since half a dozen cowboys from Compton, California stood on stage the night before testifying to the merits of horseback riding in gang-run neighborhoods. And then one of them essentially giving a sermon, followed by an original song — with an incredible voice!

I don’t really know why I say to her, “As white people, sometimes I just feel like we’re too stuck in our brains all the time and this can open us up.” The comment feels wrong and weird to say to a total stranger. Not to mention racist. Bad haiku moment, for sure. But behind it is my own glimpse into other tribes, other versions of overcoming emotional and physical frontiers, and a feeling that, like the Grinch, my heart needs to grow a few sizes. She considers the comment and nods, and then the theater goes dark.

Some years ago I had an energetic body worker — someone who could read bodily electricity by holding her hands right outside the outline of my body — tell me that 95 percent of my energy was coming from above my eyebrows. (There’s no Emoji for that, by the way. Nothing that says, “There goes my mind again … sorry.”) That essentially means that however much I might have used by body or felt strong in it or enjoyed it, I was not in my body but stuck in the cramped confines of  he mind. You need grounding, she said. You need to feel the Earth under your feet, sink down, reconnect.

I had no reason to doubt her skill, she was quite well known for it; and honestly, my friends, the information wasn’t new. I just hadn’t heard the percentages, or pictured myself trapped inside 1,450 cubic centimeters (or about 6 cups) of nerve cell bodies and branching dendrites. Which got my attention. Of course, I’m aware of being mind-driven as a person, an apple fallen from my mind-driven-parent trees. All my sibs are mental apples, as are family members, past and present. As far as I can tell, all the apples in my clan are varieties of this ratiocinating species, and we find each other to create more and more apples that have 95 percent of their energy in the stems. Unless we break the pattern. Which is why when I, for one, watch movies about apples whose energy is more evenly distributed through the fruit, I start to feel a glimmer of busting into the juicy flesh of my own apple from my tough and tiny stem.

After the movie is over, and feeling momentarily wonderfully mute again, Cowboy Hat and I smile at each other and then go in the same direction to the next movie — a movie about really big brains driven by even bigger hearts (technically about the importance of keystone species in successful ecosystems). In apple-speak: big fruits supported by big stems.

I cringe rethinking my white-people comment that feels not only glib and wrong, but too mental! The mind may be a terrible thing to waste but it is also a terrible thing to inhabit with 95 percent of your being, mainly because of the utter follies it houses. If I start doing the math of 95 percent of my energy residing in my head plus this idea that the heart produces an electro-magnetic field far, far stronger than that of the brain, I have less than optimal operational fuel by about 99 percent of what is possible.

I cry at all the movies I see during the weekend. Whether it’s a grief-stricken Russian stroking a dead tiger’s paws or an iconic climber remembering friends lost in a raging storm at the top of the world. I cry for them and their beautiful stories — and I cry not for any race of people like me, because we’re all the same people — but for all us dry apple stems in the world trying to reconnect to our sweet and luscious hearts.

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