Monday, August 02, 2010

the circular nature of the spirit

I've been reading posts from Eileen, Leny and Jean on Eileen's mom's reading talking about the Dawac, healers she remembers from her childhood.

At the same time, there's a facebook email thread that someone included me on about the roots of the word Kali. (There are constant complaints my Filipino Martial Artists, usually non-kali folks, who believe that since the word was not documented, then it couldn't have ever existed.) I keep trying to delete the thread, but it just keeps coming back.

I also watch a stroke recovery progress through the memories of their life, rebuilding and reconnecting.

All this leads me to how does one search for a forgotten past.

Much of the memory of the Philippines faded quickly from my parent's memories as soon as they set foot here. A consequence really of needing to focus on building a new life in a different country, which rolled into the craziness of kids and work. There are few things that remind them.

I remember my mom tell us a story here and there of her grandfather, the abulario/local healer. He walked on fire and didn't get burned. When I met him, he was near 80, deaf and blind. Not sure if he remembered my mother, his eyes always in half trance.

When I took up Kali, the sticks I brought home triggered other memories not just from my mother but from her siblings. How he had sticks, but never taught his own sons. How he moved just like me. How when he slept he raised his arm to the sky and no amount of force would bring that arm down. Without knowing it, I had stumbled upon a memory and lineage I didn't know existed before. Was I genetically programmed to move in this way? Was there still a spiritual connection that brought me to this place, to pick up where 2 generations had left?

As I carried these stories with me and told them to others, they too had stories. A collection of anting-anting. The trance healing dances of their mother. The more I explored this Kali movement, the more I triggered memories that people wanted to share as if they wanted to keep the memories together, connect them to something living today.

I've come to terms with the lack of "proof" or written knowledge. I'm tired of people wanting "proof" that Kali ever existed. What does it matter if it existed before if it exists now? Why can't I rewrite my own history in the way colonizers have rewritten mine for centuries at a time? Why must history always be written to be proven? Why can't I carry my history in my body?

My teacher always felt that we were discovering new techniques, only uncovering ones we had forgotten. We have been exploring the movement of our basic human structure for thousands of years, surely someone somewhere in that time did this movement in this way.

I have no issues with wanting to document what is currently known. But this inverse that if it isn't written down then it does not exists, irks me like bible fundamentalists. And I know they copied me on that "thread" to "hear" what I have to say about this. And while they may honestly just want to know, I refuse to walk into a discussion based on prepositions that if I cannot show proof of my name, then I do not exist. So I refuse to respond. Just because the Spanish wrote about Escrima, does not make the existence of Escrima more legitimate than something that is not documented. There's something very colonized about that idea.

Close relations of the person in stroke recovery ask each other, how old do you think he is now? We watch as his body relearns movement, his mind relearns his life. He memories and stories bounce around a general age range and never in linear form, more like an interwoven tapestry. They hover. If you could relive your life, would you forgive yourself? What bits of your life are retained, who do you remember, what do you remember? What parts do you hang onto and should you? it's like his mind is repacking his bags: folding, reshaping. His personality may reflect this fragmented memories: the brash young man, the young boy on his own, encounters that changed his life, regrets. He must rebuild, bit by bit. Who can say what "normal" is anymore?

In searching for the forgotten past, I treat it like a treasure hunt. Stories here and there giving me clues to something larger. I note things I hear repeated and confirmed as possible truths. The clues are not "substantial" for academic standards, but they are big enough for me. If our history is shattered where do the dust particles go? Do they still exist. Or are they hidden in plain view, the way we traded pagan gods and gave them Christian saint names?

I know there are questions of the past I will never have answered. I also know there are answers I have that I cannot reveal. There are many things in this world where writing them into words kills the very spirit we wish to pass on. There are some things that have to be experienced.

I had to come to terms with what I could not have and have taken pleasure in what remains. I see them as points on a strand. They repeat and connect. There are confirmations if they strum the right way. It is possible to seed these stories. It is possible to create your own. These stories, these affirmations, remind me that if it existed before, it can exist again.

3 comments:

Okir said...

Thanks so much for this wise and wonderful commentary, Michelle.

Leny said...

Michelle, i hear you. and i refer to this situation as the problem of "textuality" which in the modern/western mode is always privileged over the oral. You are right to insist on your way of knowing that is not always inscribed but is in the body and when shared, resonates with others.
be well always.

Gura said...

I finally responded to one of the replies since they brought up teachers from my direct lineage. humph. But I brought up how what we use to describe what we do is a modern convenience. One way to hide the art from the Spanish would be to not give it a name. Without a name, there could me no proof of rebellion.