Stripe and Daisy got off the bike in early January a mere week before I left for Africa. As the weather shifts into summer, I am reminded of last year’s odyssey on that crazy-ass tandem bike with the huge eyeball. I fail to fully understand what that journey was truly about, but I can say that I will always remember 2015 as the year of white facepaint, outrageous costumes, supreme physical exertion, and flow into the unknown right here in my own city. Amanda’s video, that I am only now making public, is a testament to the mystical potency of flowing outside of the conventional parameters of social and cultural constraints. First, Stripe and Daisy unabashedly interacted with the police on Amanda’s behalf. Second, we quite unexpectedly synched up enough to collaborate despite our improbable get-ups at 10 a.m. on a Saturday, and third—and most importantly—Amanda’s courageous honesty, openness, and trust is a testament to the fact that our uber-white personae give us all permission to push through not only political, social, and cultural barriers but also personal ones.
This video in particular is a clear indicator that Stripe, my alter ego, allows me to break out of a shell that limits my experience more than I am aware. For instance, I don’t talk to strangers often and fail to ask relevant and enticing questions if I do. Partnering up with Michelle Polak, an actor and activist, also boosts my verve because, let’s face it, Daisy is unstoppable. Her ability to crash right into whatever presents itself and pull from it the juicy teachings, truth, and joy is remarkable. If I engaged like Stripe and Daisy do, I would cease to function as a separate entity devoid of direct contact with the vast tapestry of human beings in Toronto whom I do not yet know. My relationships with friends, colleagues, students, and clients—though stimulating, beautiful, and complex—are nonetheless sequestered in a specific context and container. Unpredictability—even if it does occur in every session, workshop, and everydayness—still functions within a very specific framework and contract. To set out in the street (looking like Brynhildr on a bad trip) with the specific intention of discovering other people’s wealth, wisdom, and beauty is a lesson in radical respect, compassion, and daring forthrightness.
As I sit here on my deck, four months after my last outing on the Mighty Machine, I am keenly aware of my systemic loss. Beauty slips between my fingers every day. And for the sake of what? Civility? Courtesy? Politeness? Correctness? Tradition? All of this socializing mumbo-jumbo appears to have taught me respect and grace. But did it really? The code of ethics that governs my behaviour clearly creates walls rather than intimacy or discovery, containment rather than passion or expression, and suppression rather than sharing and community. I am reminded once again of the teachings of the Dagara people and in particular Malidoma Patrice Somé’s plea for us all to align with the element of water, thereby confronting our overwhelming grief and receiving water’s ability to heal, cleanse, and restore peace. “We all need water rituals to stay balanced, oriented, and reconciled. Water rituals help us shed the massive accumulation of negative emotion due to loss, failure, and powerlessness. We all need to keep the waters of reconciliation flowing within the self, in order to calm the inner fires and live in harmony with others.”
In other words, let’s embrace unpredictability and step into radical presence, a state in which we feel our emotions and witness other people’s emotions. Let’s lose our fear of feeling, expressing emotions, and losing control, especially in the presence of others. Feeling is a flow that aligns us with love, the most powerful healing energy that knits our inner being together again and creates a robust fabric that creates community as well. This is a very different recipe for respectful peace. The Dagara cosmology wisely suggests that we create water rituals for our community to express its feelings rather than create a code of ethics to suppress emotion and keep things under control.
I am honoured to witness Amanda’s palpable sadness and, together with Michelle, celebrate her courage and beauty.
Thank you, Amanda.