It is not a great day today. About four days ago I developed a sore throat and it is developing into bronchitis, an ailment that I get several times a year. Ordinarily this would not be a huge deal. I am accustomed to this after twenty-plus years of struggling with this specific ailment and I know that while I might feel like I am dying I, it will be better in a few days.
Unfortunately, I do not have a few days. I am scheduled to go up in a “superman” style hook suspension with Rites of Passage on this coming Sunday. Now it looks like I probably won’t be able to. There is a chance that I will be doing well enough tomorrow (Saturday) that I will be able to keep the appointment, but if I am not doing better by early afternoon I’ll have to call and cancel.
This situation has got me thinking though. The dominant thought is something along the lines of “what the fuck am I thinking?” It’s not that I don’t want to do the hook suspension, I do. It’s just that I imagine that the majority of the population would be delighted at coming down with an upper respiratory and sinus infection if it meant not having between eight and ten modified fish hooks driven through their flesh and used to hold them off the ground. Yet here I am, depressed by that very fact.
I suppose that the most logical conclusion is that I am just whacked in the head. Something in my make-up is skewed in a way that makes going up on hooks a good thing. Certainly there is an element of truth to that. My recreational use of sharp and/or unusual objects is a well established fact in my circle of friends. Pain is an integral part of my sexual experience of the world and I find the contents of an EMT’s supply bag far more erotic than scented massage oils.
It would seem that the pondering could stop there, but it can’t. There is more going on than just my brain being weird. For instance, I don’t find hook suspensions erotic. I have had hooks put in me, I have gone up in a suspension once before, and I have certainly seen many pictures of various people in various forms of suspensions. None of those things make the blood rush away from my head.
Nor it should be noted to I place any great weight in ones ability to withstand physical pain. I have been up on hooks once before. If being suspended was about proving something, then once would have been enough. People who do really crazy painful shit don’t impress me all that much. Admittedly, depending on what they are doing, I might find it hot. But that doesn’t mean that I think that they are better people for being able to withstand pain. This is the same as not being awed by someone who can play a sport well enough to be paid millions of dollars. Or can play an instrument well enough to pack Carnegie Hall. Impressive skill in one area, but do not make you a superior person overall.
I know why I want to do this suspension. The other hook suspension I did was a four hook, “suicide” style hang. It was an integral part of the last of the four ordeals from my shamanic death cycle. It also sucked. A lot. First off, it was chilly out. There was some very serious spooky shit involved in the whole thing. And it was a four hook suicide suspension, which while putting in the hooks is easier, is a much more intense hang than an eight or ten hook superman. Not to mention that a “suicide” is much harder on the back and neck, not areas where I am doing great to begin with. Based solely on that experience, I would be unlikely to do another suspension.
However, I had been interested in being suspended for a long time before the ordeal. I am planning on doing this next hang because I want to find out if suspending is something that I could enjoy/find meaningful. There is no way to separate the “ordeal” from the “suspension” in my previous experience. It is important that I go up in a way that will let me focus on experiencing the suspension itself. This is also the reason I wanted to do a superman since that style is a less painful hang than a suicide. Obviously the placement of the hooks is more intense, both because of the number of hooks and the locations they need to be placed, but I can handle getting the hooks.
This train of thought clearly leads nowhere. Why I want to do this suspension doesn’t really say anything about why I wanted to do one in the first place. I have some ideas though.
First off, and speaking only for myself, there is an undeniable connection between sexual ecstasy and spiritual ecstasy. I am not saying that I find sexual experiences spiritual or spiritual experiences sexual, but there is a similarity in the mental states and afterglows of both. It might make some sense then that if pain is can take me to places sexually that I couldn’t go otherwise, that it might have the same effect on a spiritual experience.
There is also something to be said for doing something that is powerfully other in the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment of some sort. In both ritual and magical practice we talk about “creating sacred space” and/or defining the protected boundaries of a working. “Going” someplace in one’s head is aided by literally “going” someplace in the mundane world designed for that purpose. That can obviously take many forms. Sacred space can be a sacred grove that has been used for worship for years and it also can be burning some incense and lighting some candles in your bathroom. One common thread in most forms of sacred space though is separation, usually physically. And again that can mean a place that you only go for this purpose or it can mean closing the door to the room you have made a sacred space.
The “separation” of being suspended is undeniable. The feeling of something on which we are supported is a constant in our existence. One of the only clear memories about the suspension itself from my fourth ordeal was looking down as I was lifted off the ground and seeing the earth beneath me but not touching it. You could look at a suspension as the power of the spiritual “lifting you up” and overcoming the power of the mundane in the form of the gravity holding you down.
Surely a bit of discomfort is worth that. You can’t have a powerful experience if you are unwilling to put out anything.
If I am not feeling better I won’t be able to hang on Sunday. Nor would it be as meaningful or enjoyable if I did try to suspend with a sinus infection and bronchitis. But I console myself with the fact that I will do it. If I have to cancel, I’ll try to reschedule at the same time. As strange as it may sound, this is something that I want to do. If other people find that hard to understand that is ok. I don’t entirely understand it either, and I don’t think that will change just because I do it again.
UPDATE 12/13/07- I called Emrys from Rites of Passage this afternoon and canceled my suspension for tomorrow. I now have a sinus infection and bronchitis. Aside from being a really bad idea, I don’t think I’d get much out of a hang in this condition. He said to call as soon as I felt better and we could reschedule. On the other hand, I think that my puppy is way more unhappy than me, she got back from the vet’s office this morning after having all her girly inside parts removed. I am guessing that sucks more.