It seems that my penchant for this strange blend of parallelisms, which I tentatively define as “animistic anthropomorphisms”, has no boundaries whatsoever…
Some weeks ago, in my grateful reply to a very uplifting message from an AD friend and fellow author - who, after having read my previous blog on the difficult times I have been going through, due to serious health issues in my family, encouraged me to persist and have faith in a positive outcome – I have compared myself… to a camel. Yes, a camel (admittedly, a somewhat anthropomorphized one) crossing a desert, and carrying, in its two humps, perseverance and patience, while keeping its steady, unhurried camel pace, oriented towards the oasis ahead; yes, that oasis, which may be very, very distant… but that a camel just knows IS there! :0)
Well, it seems that my penchant for this strange blend of parallelisms, which I tentatively define as “animistic anthropomorphisms”, has no boundaries whatsoever…
And so, for a while - and in concurrence with the “camel concept” above - I have also been visualizing this time in my life as an open meadow; a variable and yet constant space, which I – in this mental picture, simply the woman – happen to be sharing with… a herd of wild bulls.
They are what they are, these bulls – or, in this case, my symbolic perception of… the various circumstances and issues that compose reality; they are pitch-black in colour, formidable in size and in strength, and wild (read untamed, but also, and yes, quite indomitable) in nature. And I, having been born and raised in a country where the wild bulls are an inherent part of our culture, have come to learn - also intrinsically, I suppose - a few things about them.
The most important thing to bear in mind, when in the presence of wild bulls, is that you simply cannot ignore them – or pretend that they are not there; they are THERE, alright, and, for some reason or other, so are you.
In this (for your own safety, inescapable) awareness, the next thing you would better realize, is that, do what you may, and whether you like it or not, you are in a position of disadvantage: even a single bull (let alone a herd) is, by nature, stronger than you are, and remember that, in this particular scenery I’m trying to illustrate here, you are, first and foremost, on your own (I’ll come to possible aids further on, though). Therefore, you must be prudent…
… But prudence, here, takes a peculiar twist – a twist you must absolutely adapt yourself to, paradoxical as it may seem; yes, prudence, which would normally shout for you to “just turn around and run, run, dammit!” – will, in this case, whisper very, very quietly, but also very, very persistently, in your ear, “don’t turn around, don’t turn your back on them, and do not, do not, do not run!”. And prudence is right, you know, because, if you turn around, if you turn your back on a wild bull, you won’t be able to see it charge… or the blow that will follow – which is what will inevitably happen if you “run, run, dammit”!
So, the next step – or piece of advice – as similarly contrary to normal caution as the former, but, in fact, the only conscious one, is… to face the bull, or the bulls, and wait; to wait, in full vigilance, in full respect of what you are actually facing, for what the bull, or the bulls, choose to do next. And what they may choose to do next will mostly depend on… whatever body language, whatever signs – some more evident, some so subtle you may hardly be aware of them yourself – you will adopt and send out to them.
This is the point I’m at, presently – the point I have been at for a while, now… and, come to think of it, the point I have been at many, many times before, in this variable, yet constant place – the open meadow – of life.
Yes, I have faced the bulls before; I have experienced the anxiety, sometimes the blatant fear, of the wait; with my heart thudding in my chest, deafeningly echoing in my ears and painfully throbbing in my fingertips, I have watched them watch me, and raise cautionary clouds of dust, as they scraped the ground with their hooves.
Sometimes, we have been so close, the bulls and I, that our breaths would blend; and, strangely enough, as our eyes met, there would be a sense of complicity, of understanding, of mutual compassion, even. Then, we would naturally drift away from one another, and the charge, the blow, would not happen… but then, in other occasions, they would, and they did…
… And let me tell you, no matter how many blows one may have actually taken, one never does get quite used to them – and they always, always hurt, even if you clearly saw them coming, and have prepared, and braced yourself for the impact; the impact which, coming from a wild bull, will always be a tremendous one.
So, I know it will hurt, this time; like other times before, it may actually hurt to a point so unbearable, that I may actually feel like it is going to kill me. But then… I know it won’t; even if each new blow is as bad as the first one, even if, as I admitted before, one never gets used to them, the fact is that… each one makes you stronger; until you actually become strong enough to face….
… But I’m running ahead of myself, now, and that is as bad as running from the bulls; in this meadow, each thing must happen in its own time, and right now is the time when the bulls and I are face to face, and there have been some of those moments of unfathomable closeness, but there have also been some ground-scraping, dust-raising warnings, as well.
They will charge, and the blow, or the blows, will come – it is inevitable. Yet, I don’t know when, or how; the alpha may charge first and on its own, or the whole herd may actually follow the lead and turn on me at the same time, and I have to be prepared for either possibility. So, in this wait, I have been trying to think – but even more so to feel – like one of the most unique characters that are part of our ancient, wild-bull oriented culture and tradition: the bull-catcher.
A bull-catcher is… simply a person; a person, a human being, who, through years of training – and uncountable blows – has acquired not fearlessness, but courage, and not supernatural strength or powers, but natural hardiness and skills to deal with a bull or several bulls at charge, in a very unique manner that follows two different techniques:
If only one bull charges, the bull-catcher faces it and, while getting the blow head-on on the chest (yes, ouch…), simultaneously seizes the bull’s neck with both arms, and actually holds on, through all the wild tossing and turning, until the bull gets tired… and decides to take (and also give the guy) a break.
If, following the lead of the alpha, all bulls charge at the same time, then the bull-catcher resorts to speed, both of the mind and legs, and seizes the alpha sideways, by the neck, as it thunders past, actually “becoming” part of the bull, and thus “one with the herd”; of course, the alpha will do everything to shake that “appendix” off its neck, and so the jostling and bumping around will be terrible, and the other bulls’ horns will graze the bull-catcher’s body, and their own massive bodies will punch it painfully (yes, ouch, and ouch…), as the stampede goes on… until, eventually, and again, the alpha gets tired… and decides, immediately followed by the herd, to take (and once more, give the guy) a break!
So, in my wait of whatever form the charge may take, and thinking – and mostly, feeling – like this person, the bull-catcher, who has not lost her fear but has gained courage, and who holds no super-powers whatsoever but has indeed become stronger and better trained throughout the blows, I am aware of something crucial:
A bull-catcher illustrates, probably more perfectly than any other real character, this supreme relational ambiguity that occurs whenever we are sharing this variable and yet constant space – the open meadow of time and life – with any tough circumstances – or… wild bulls; this supreme relational ambiguity that makes of each one of us a being “first and foremost on his or her own” - but one who can also rely on help from other beings.
Yes, bull-catchers know that, within that inevitability of being on their own before the bull or the bulls, there is something called “the group” – formed by other elements, with different assignments, each one as important as the other, and all, as one, sharing the same purpose, or mission; the purpose, or mission, not of taking the bull-catcher’s place, but of coming to his or her aid, at diverse stages of the bull-catch, after the initial impact – the one the bull-catcher has no choice but to take on his or her own – has taken place.
And so I am standing before these bulls, in full awareness that I have no choice but to take the first impact by myself; but I am also fully and gratefully aware of my “aids”, waiting with me, waiting, as vigilantly as me, in the background, for their due moment to come into action and… make the blow, or its aftermath, more bearable.
And my confidence that they will, as well as my deep sense of blessing for that, come from yet something else I’ve learned, as have all of those who have found themselves sharing the open meadow with the bulls:
Each one and all of us get to be, at some point or other, the bull-catcher or one in the “group of aids” – and, here is yet one more of those unfathomable “twists” that things take in this scenery, each one of us can find him or herself in both positions simultaneously.
You see, wild and formidable as they may be, the bulls I’m now facing form the herd whose alpha, the most formidable of all, has already scraped the ground with its hooves, in that specially ominous warning of imminent charge; but the first bull-catcher facing it, and the one it is facing… is my mother – and… I’m one of those waiting, vigilant, in the background, for my due moment to jump into action and come to her aid.
I know, as she does, that the blow will hurt; and we know, because we have taken uncountable blows, some of them so unbearably painful, that we have actually felt they might have killed us. But then… they didn’t; and even if each new blow has been as bad as the first one, even if we never got quite used to them, the fact is that… we also know that each one has made us stronger.
And she knows, as I know, that we eventually become strong enough to face… the ultimate blow; yes, the one that every bull-catcher knows he or she has to take… from that special bull of a single charge – a single charge that brings the bull and the bull-catcher closer than ever.
So close, that they become ONE – consummated in the impact that, being the final, is also the initial one; the one which, more than any other, on the variable and yet constant meadow of time and life, a bull-catcher takes on his or her own… as one with the bull.
© 2008 – Alexandra* ~ OneLight*® - pictures in photo-collage courtesy of Final Photo (wild bull) and the Monsaraz Bull-Catchers’ Group Blog (frontal bull-catch)