Click play above to listen to the audio version of “BAD DOG: Of Battlescars and Moonbeams” read by Ryan Heller or check out the entry below!
Toward or away from, to darkness into light, the feminine and masculine, hard versus soft. We seek labels, assign words to each other, to ourselves, yet yearn for freedom. We seek independence but construct a mold for what independence looks like – what it sounds like, how it feels. Usually something like: These are good times, these are bad times, he is happy, she is sad, red means stop, green means go.
We inherently desire structure and limitation, the finite of language and human understanding to establish our purpose. To find meaning. We need the roadmap to remind us of the road, but always followed by the unavoidable questions: Where am I going? Why am I here? Who am I?
It’s what keeps us moving. Keeps the feet peddling, the mind questioning.
A curious itch for the unknown.
So why the need for constraint? Why a nagging desire for the infinite when we unconsciously crave the comfort of a finite existence? Within limitation there is struggle, there is opportunity for solution, for creative exploration. Within our box of human experience we must work with the tools given – the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of our being in order to live.
As a culture we are enmeshed with identification and compartmentalizing. Sexual identification, mental diagnosis, class structure, spiritual or religious denomination. Words like: depressed, bipolar, gay, straight, pansexual, good, bad, liberal, left wing, conservative, he, she, orthodox, Jewish, Buddhist, American, European, right, wrong, blah, blah, blah – and one more blah for good measure. Words are used to label each other, to identify a person or self based on – what? Expectation? Assumption? Genetic makeup? Belief?
The other night I walked through my neighborhood, passed a bold red and black sign that read: BAD DOG. I found myself mildly obsessing over that stupid sign, way more than I care to admit. I’m sure the homeowner had a perfectly understandable reason for adorning their gate with BAD DOG – for protection, warning, whatever. But what bothered me, what I began to obsess over, was how it dictated what I should feel. BAD DOG communicates fear, a label that plants caution. I unconsciously accepted BAD DOG as truth and believed this mystery dog is indeed a bad, horrible monster of which I must steer clear. If I encounter BAD DOG on the street, I’d more than likely meet it with fear. And unless thoroughly proven otherwise, would continue believing BAD DOG for the remainder of my days. This pup could be the sweetest dog in our neighborhood, it may roll over for tummy rubs at the sight of a stranger. But a given label has qualified this animal as bad. A label that has shaped a fragment of my reality by proclaiming BAD DOG, and who knows the potential ripple effect it could have.
We do it everyday. Not only do we label those around us, but we label ourselves. We carve an identity of words and judgment, tightening a metaphoric, self-imposed straight-jacket around our spirit.
We’re born with all the openness of the universe – with stardust in our eyes, galaxies in our veins, wisdom beyond monkey brain comprehension from many lifetimes of battle scars and moonbeams. Born with an infinite spirit bound within a physical world.
We are born to skin and bone.
And from there we’re taught to forget. Our magic dulls as we learn to become human, and while still there it is buried beneath ABC’s and 123’s – the rubble of childhood imprints and best intentions. We learn the word BLUE represents a color, that NUMBERS are used to count things; we learn to exist within 24 hours, that a CLOCK has NUMBERS that tell TIME. We learn MOM means female parent and FATHER means male parent, that a CHILD is a blank slate educated by much older people called ADULTS.
Those little stars become a distant glow as we learn to be human. A quiet melody in a symphony of calamity, a whisper amidst the William Telle Overture. You remember that song? It’s in pretty any Looney Tunes cartoon where one character chases another.
I don’t know if it’s the right word. Maybe acceptance. John Lennon might just say “let it be”. Or maybe there’s no word – maybe it’s a breath. A sigh. An exhale. A silent release of the bullshit we bind ourselves with.
What if we let it all go?
Imagine what it would look like to live without constraint. Without the shackles of limitation, of a three-dimensional existence. Shred the physical form and just–
Connect with one another beyond what we perceive as fact or reality. To love without condition, to love without awareness because it’s a fluent, universal expression. The only language we need.
And what if we lived above labels and category, human restriction and judgment? Above small things like gender or race, sex or religion – insignificant dividers that dwell beneath us. What if we lived above the clouds? Above the atmosphere? Above flesh and physical? We belong to the stars, to the infinite, to death and birth, light and dark, the ebb and flow. An untampered cycle of energy, of blossoming spirit. We belong to the blinding light we search so desperately for.
What if we empowered our children to teach what it means to be infinite?
Because maybe they’re the balance.
The wide-eyed innocence of pure magic.
Those milliseconds during exhale when everything disintegrates, the body releases. When you’re neither going or coming, when you lack the word, the constraint, when you illuminate the sky with a boundless flame – that’s where the magic is found.