The question — or a question, as the case may be — is how to negotiate the endless affective flux, this relentless flow of moods and energies coming at us from everywhere all at once?
There was a time, many years ago, when I was practicing my very own kind of qigong, courtesy of my good friend. We'd spend hours moving energy up and down our bellies; then making these vast spheres of energy in our hands. We could make the flesh on our hands move by moving the other hand across it, no flesh touching: a palpation with qi. I shit you not.
But it also made us incredibly vulnerable to the grotesque qi that pervades the streets of any city, especially fetid San Francisco. I'd walk down the street and I'd be overwhelmed by the ill qi coming from this or that person.
I lacked the power — and the discipline — to negotiate this qi, to parry, absorb, defer, or placate it. And so I avoided exposure as best I could.
But that was weakness. I was fucking around with powerful forces and this made me poorly equipped to handle the world, to negotiate the affective universe — which is the universe. So, soon, I abandoned it, opting for the affective blindness of this American life.
What, then, is the way to negotiate this affective resonance? What happens when you find yourself confronted with ill formed qi, with an encounter that is foul, sour, sick, malformed?
No doubt, it is often best to avoid it, retreat, duck and cover. This is the safest way for the weak, and I am weak.
But, suddenly, I have a glimpse of what Christians mean by love — an infinite forgiveness of all the ill formed qi that comes your way: the cranky spouse, the acting out child, the cruel boss, the confused lover, the demented, neurotic, sick and plain old stupid and mean. We've all encountered these moments; we've all been these moments ourselves — cruel, stupid, anxious, cranky.
Love would be the posture that would never confront such ill qi on its terms but would at once parry and placate, absorb and return with positive qi, with beautiful energy, an infinite generosity.
But such love involves a fortitude that I cannot fathom. Like Kierkegaard's Johannes de Silentio in Fear and Trembling who cannot grasp the faith of Abraham, the faith of silently and without a hint of anxiety, sacrificing his only son, I am confounded by the demands of love. It exceeds me.
I've been rereading Castaneda. And I think don Juan knows such strength and the love it allows. Why else would he tolerate Carlos who's an imbecile? And Jesus, perhaps, knows such strength. But Carlos does not and nor do Jesus' followers. We slip into judgment so readily and love does not judge.
Now, I don't think love means never judging. Judgment is implicit in any gesture towards change, towards trying to shift someone else's state, someone else's qi. Love is not all smiles — Jesus could be a harsh bitch, as could don Juan. But it is infinitely generous. It has the strength not to need to tend to itself. Love has the unimaginable fortitude to indulge other people's profound sickness, their madness.
Me, when I'm confronted with angst and ill will and existential confusion, tend to lash out or retreat. Which is not necessarily wrong; one does what one must. But this glimpse I have of love, of what love is, is making me rethink how I approach the social and how I approach myself.
So where does this love leave us? Where does it leave me? Fuck if I know.
For now, I enjoy Old Potrero Rye and the temporary peace it affords, thank you very much.