People describe themselves as frightened children. They want methods, gurus, partners, safe-havens, stipends, sabbaticals. They just want all these things to make it easier for themselves. But it doesn’t make it easier for you. If you have all that, you will be soft and mushy beyond all reclamation. You will contribute nothing to the human adventure.
By Chris Dwyer
Almost five months ago, Susie and I rented out our house and moved into the unfinished basement of her mom and step-dad’s. What was once an unthinkable idea–to commit ego suicide, let go of our attachments, tuck tail, ask for help, throw ourselves upon the generosity of others, sacrifice privacy and curtains, cohabit with spiders, has brought an infinitude of unforeseen blessings. We have an entirely new relationship to Basement.
To borrow from my Catholic roots–the Basement is much like a sacramental. A sacramental (not to be confused with a Sacrament) is very much like the St. Christopher medal I wore around my neck as a kid for its power of protection. Except the Basement sacramental isn’t afraid to get dirty or own its shadows. Legend has it that St. Christopher earned a reputation for carrying travelers across a river, including the child Jesus, as an act of service. He became known as the patron saint of travelers. To this day, you may see his effigy in taxi cabs. Then he became the Pluto of saints, and just like the demoted planetoid, he was removed from official registry of Church saints since there was wasn’t much evidence of his existence. Yet, like Sasquatch, the legend and power lives on!
Another example of sacramental is a baptismal candle–there is nothing really holy about it, but it is holy because what it represents is also what it does and its power comes from its wielders belief. It consumes itself in order to spread warmth and light and that’s pretty damn holy. It’s holiness comes from the degree to which what it symbolizes inspires us.
So, what I’m trying to say is that maybe in the same way that a VW bus was sacramental to the 1970s, Basements are sacramental to me – thoroughly inspiring and holy. They used to be scary. (They may be scarier now than when I was a kid). But they no longer intimidate me. They house the unsung heroes –mechanical systems that make the whole home warm, electrified, sewage-free. They also represent the sacrifice that Susie and I are making to dare to dream our goal to run ultra-marathons on every continent. I can’t tell you how inappropriate this trip is, but thanks to the Basement, we hope to do it. It’s already taken us to some of the most exotic places we have ever been (mentally and emotionally). To embrace the Basement represents bravery we knew we had–but only in a theoretical way. Now we embody a certain level of comfort and unashamedness in our own skin, our own situation–owning up to our choices, both good and bad.
These sorts of sacrifices don’t always manifest themselves literally as Basements per se, but ANYWHERE that we see someone sacrificing, hustling, owning their choices, conquering their fears, getting dirty, disentangling themselves from material clutter, asking for help, creating art, we can’t help but HOLLA!!! Similar to the Tibetan greeting “Namaste”, which translates into, The Spirit within me honors the Spirit within you, we too bow our heads in greeting, to honor that which is Basement to you, while we booty slap you for being so brave. So, to you and yours this Thanksgiving weekend, we say, “The Basement within us honors the Basement within you.”
A subterranean other-world.
It’s the place I never thought I’d go. The in-laws.
The extraordinary in-laws!
The gravitational well traps lost laundry, lint, and trinkets,
Inevitably kicked downward and out of the way.
Well, some good ideas got kicked down there too.
Some strong emotions, which are fierce.
The boxes – where decorations sleep and accumulate dust between holiday celebrations…
No, no! You only thought they were sleeping.
That’s where they gather strength and conspire, ready to burst like a trumpet-led cavalry!
Beneath the surface looms a carnival – larval stage.
But our eyes get stuck on the surface of things.
On the surface of things, pretty smiles and mascara.
Above the board, we play by the rules and what we call a full deck.
We await our day in the sun, on the dock of the bay,
Hammock stretched between two pillars of belief –
Onward and Upward.
The clever ones among us say,
“I want 20%, right off the top!”
And they make it rain from above.
Offering trickle down economics.
Up top, the band plays and the shoes stomp.
We welcome guests and fluff the pillows.
Piling them high like sacred mountains,
Kowtowing to king-of-the-hillism and top-of-the-heapism,
But those were never our isms, anyway.
We pay our dues, and stand in lines
To vote for the right lesser of two evils.
We are sure to let people know that we know about the two evils.
We are proud that we are “in the know” about the two evils up there.
Extraordinary dues get paid. So many dues!
While we wait and wait for the metaphorical sun to bottle-tan us with final approval.
We exhaust ourselves, parading around this strange party, wondering
Haven’t we seen all these selfies before?
What kind of wonders lurk below? And beyond? And within?
The floorboards creak while cracks drop dust into shadow.
Unexplored – our own shadows – the GREATER of our two evils.
Evils worth exploring. Worth loving.
Below the board, there is a joker up his sleeve
Laughing at our 15 minutes spent tabulating our 40-hour time sheets.
He says he has an idea “to cut our tabulations down to 14 minutes.”
Don’t you love his sense of humor?!
A hungry-toothed dragon sits atop a hoard of gold.
With a simple inversion, where up is down and down is up,
A slight rearrangement takes us
From “Show your worth” to “Shorth your wow.”
It’s not emigration or (God help us) refugee status.
Dear me, no!
We may only be going underground, but we’re going deep baby!
Where seeds are planted and we get dirty.
How we prefer to be.
What is Basement to me?
It has become Destination 1 – Ground Zero.
Sloughing off of non-essentials.
Let’s not sugar coat it – calling it a “means to an end.”
I called it “Destination 1” – an end in itself
Where now we’re finally getting somewhere!!!
So whimsical and liberating. Fantastic ventures lie ahead of y’all. Shoot doggie be good y’all are inspiration on this day of Thanks.