Often new and too edgy things reside underground.
Although, I'm tiring of hiding underground.
Perhaps it is the function of artists, shamans and culture-makers to be culturally dystonic: To be too edgy--not by force or contrivance but simply because you are going with the dynamic of life (go ahead and rock the boat, surf the edges).
Heck, it's a dragon year in the Chinese zodiac. It's a year of adventure. No time to be tentative and timid like Ms. Chihuro in Spirited Away. She was having none of it, sulking in the backseat as they drove to their new home. Her parents said a new school could be an adventure (ya right?). Little could she foresee her dread of the unknown would be tested by far more intimidating tests than any grade school.
Switching cartoons for a minute. I know it's been ages since you watched Avatar: The Last Airbender, if you've ever have.
There's a particular scene where one character does something so uncharacteristic, they faint immediately after, and in the next scene are bedridden with fever. A second character offers them support and wisdom in this dialogue (changed two words so I don't spoil the story for you):
You should know this is not a natural sickness. But that shouldn't stop you from enjoying tea.
Your critical decision. What you did beneath that lake, it was in such conflict with your image of yourself, that you are now at war within your own mind and body.
What's that mean?
You are going through a metamorphosis, my friend. It will not be a pleasant experience. But when you come out of it, you will be the beautiful person you were always meant to be.
Pretty much nails how I've been feeling. That sort of fever, but not quite a fever. An intense battle of my own self-images (self-mirages) clasping and collapsing.
I learned a new word last week in Shamans Through Time. "Among the Sedang Moi, a person may even drink his own urine, in the hope that this act will so depreciate him in the sight of his divine sponsors that they will take back the power they had been given." An individual who feels called to be a shaman may commit suicide as an act of refusal. It's so anathema to my self-concept, even if it is ultimately "positive" (well, maybe "whole") it wrecks how I have fixated myself.
ego-dystonic /ego-dys·ton·ic/ (e´go-dis-ton´ik) denoting aspects of a person's thoughts, impulses, and behavior that are felt to be repugnant, distressing, unacceptable, or inconsistent with the self-conception.
For a person who prides themselves on their cocky persona being compassionate might be repugnant, so ego dystonia looks unique to each. Ultimately no fixed image is going to do the river of you/us/I any justice.
Later, in the 1956 essay, George Devereux states, "shamanism is often also culture dystonic." The arts are dystonic. Who we really are is dystonic.
Recently, I read Tara Mohr contend that actually there are two flavors of fear, first is akin to worry about an imagined future fate. The second kind:
"This is the word used in the Old Testament whenever people encounter something sacred. When Moses meets the burning bush, he feels “yirah.” Yirah is described as a kind of trembling awe we feel when we are in the presence of the sacred. It is also described as “the fear that comes over us when we are inhabiting a larger space than we are used to.” - Tara Mohr
The fear that comes over us when we inhabit spaciousness, when we are the sacred.
The Evolution of Culture and The Evolution of Creativity chapters in British-Israeli physicist David Deutsch book, The Beginning of Infinity, asserts that shame and taboo are the primary tools used to keep individuals and society comfortable (or confined, depending on perception) in our conclusions and self-conceptions. In other words, tools to avoid the fever of dystonia, resist evolution, hem life.
"Therefore no society could remain static solely by suppressing new ideas once the have been created.
That is why the enforcement of the status quo is only ever a secondary method of preventing change -- a mopping-up operation. The primary method is always -- and can only be -- to disable the source of new ideas, namely human creativity. So static societies always have traditions of bringing up children in ways that disable their creativity and critical faculties. That ensures that most of the new ideas that would have been capable of changing the society are never thought of in the first place.
How is this done? The details are variable and not relevant here, but the sort of thing that happens is that people growing up in such a society acquire a set of values for judging themselves and everyone else which amounts to ridding themselves of distinctive attributes and seeking only conformity with the society's constitutive memes. They not only enact those memes: they see themselves as existing only in order to enact them. So, not only do such societies enforce qualities such as obedience, piety and devotion to duty, their members' sense of their own selves is invested in the same standards. People know no others. So they feel pride and shame, and form their aspirations and opinions, by the criterion of how thoroughly they subordinate themselves to the society's memes." - David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity
Culture is a funny thing. In the West, they view dragon as adversary to be slayed, and in the East, dragons are harbingers of fortune and magic.
The dragon? It has no way of knowing, really, which culture you hail from. It just rides life.
Your humble wood dragon,
Bonus: Self as a verb instead of self as an image is beautifully explained by Adyashanti in a January 18, 2012 webcast (available for sale) titled, "The Whole Notion of Self." (Scroll through titles on the right sidebar on the Radio Archives page.)
p.s. Yes, this is a very much an explaining post. Setting up context for what in near-future may look like up-ending memes and conceptions that have been handed down as gospel. In the end it's an experiential process of discovery that I really can't tell you about, and why I'm moving more toward exploring posts.
p.p.s. The young girl in the film was modeled after a real girl. If you've never seen Spirited Away it's a real treat for the imagination. It's been voice-overed in English by Pixar/Disney, and it is the top revenue film in Japan of all time.
Art credits: Built during Byzantine Emperor Justinian, this is a light art installation in the underground Basilica Cisterns in Istanbul (been collecting photos of Istanbul for a while, and lost the original source); illustration by Charles James Folkard via Dark Silence in Suburbia (great art blog that I follow); image of Chihiro riding a dragon from the movie, Spirited Away.