Rope: A Confession

By August 1, 2012Note

March 30th. I looked it up. That was my first rope practice with Bodhi, the first time I tried to tie. Four months ago. And I’ve followed this rope–this shibari thing–this method of tying for something more than just restraint–to a whole new aspect of myself. Not that I’ve arrived anywhere, but I see where the rope is leading.

March 10th. I looked that up, too. That was the first time anyone put rope on me. It didn’t do anything for me. I don’t bend that way … and that’s a metaphor. I’m OK with it, as practice, but I still don’t connect that way. As bitten_kitten wisely observed: I had to find the right side of the rope.

And what I’ve found is what everyone finds when they’re learning something that, to them, becomes an art. It always defeats you in the beginning, but because art is what it is, you determine to learn to speak through it, knowing you will never sound the way you think you sound in your head, and you will never be fully understood even to yourself, but you might sometimes–if you’re lucky–hear an echo of yourself that feels true. Like Camus said: “a work of art is a confession,” and through this art, you confess your failures, and you do so imperfectly, and that drives you to confess again …

But logically, we learn to fail better, to speak more clearly, to confess more honestly, and the pattern is pretty similar from art to art, implement to implement: replace rope with flogger, or cane, or knife, or flame, or pencil, or paint brush, or guitar. There’s nothing that makes one superior to the other. But one of mine is rope … at least, on one side of it.

It starts with technique. This rope goes here. We tie the knot like so. We maintain tension by doing this. We should never do that. We become more practical, less clumsy, less timid. Our muscles memorize the movements. We no longer think about how the knot is tied. This can take years.

It moves on to style and aesthetic. I move my arms like this. I prefer this version of the tie. I like the look of this knot. This position is my favorite. We build this alongside of technique, but we aren’t usually aware of it until someone else points it out to us. It’s our first hint that we might, after all, be speaking out loud and not just in our heads. How long does it take to make that first sound?

It ends (it never ends) in connection. When we slide the rope around our partner–technique and aesthetic so absorbed into ourselves that they are forgotten–ourselves so absorbed into the rope that we are forgotten–the hiss of the rope the first faint whispers of our confession. The coarse fibers creaking out the only gifts we have to give at the feet of the Other, this partner, this priest waiting patiently to hear our confessions. And if we have studied well and practiced faithfully, and if our confession is true and pure, we might be heard–faintly, and only in part–but heard.

And in the hearing, our partner might accept our confession. And that acceptance is just another way of confessing, and no less significant. So we whisper to each other, from different sides of the rope (the canvas, the page, the cross, the stage) and we remember, in that moment of connection, the atonement of unity.

When do we attain this? Immediately in any moment of truth. And never. And only in those moments whose timing we cannot control.

I’m trying to learn some techniques, because I have something to confess. And someday, if I’m very lucky, I will say it out loud, and someone will be there to hear it.

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