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Hung For The Very First Time

For thousands of years mankind has sought control. Control over its mind, control over its body, and control over the world around it. For just as long as we've sought control, we've known that one aspect of control depends on the others. To control the world around you, you must control yourself; to control yourself you must control your mind and heart.

In India, Hindus celebrate festivals in which they pierce their bodies with skewers or hang themselves from hooks to show their devotion to a God. Several Native American tribes put hooks of one sort or another in their chests and pull against them till they rip, or hang from them, to prove themselves worthy of being called a man or, often times, a shaman. Many African tribes practice rites of passage that involve elaborate cuts or painful piercings to achieve status within the tribe. Each rite both achieves and displays one thing, control over one's mind, body, and heart.

I had always worked deeply on having control over my body and mind, having been meditating and participating in body ritual and manipulation for years. For as long as I had known about suspension I longed to partake of it, to hang from my flesh in defiance of the ground that held fast to my feet and the part of my mind that still thought such things impossible. The day I found out my friend and piercer, Jason, had himself suspended and been trained to suspend others was one of joy and disbelief. My adrenaline rushed and my heart pounded as I made plans with him to be the first person he would suspend on his own, and with the date set I bought bus tickets to make the long trip back to Oregon from Salt Lake City.

The following weeks leading up to that portentous day were spent immersed in my own head. In order to endure such an uncompromising physical experience I would have to prepare tenaciously for the mental experience. I fasted and meditated more and more frequently as the day I would fly drew ever closer. Fasting helped me learn to overcome my body's desires and control its yearnings and objections while the meditation helped me stay my demurring mind of apprehensions and doubts as to whether I could really do this.

Finally the day had come and I found myself walking what seemed an infinite distance from the car to the shop where I would swing free of the constraints my mind and the ground conspired together to form. With each step I trembled slightly in anticipation and under my clothes my skin glistened with nervous perspiration.

Stepping into the shop I was greeted by old friends and some people who were destined to be new ones. After exchanging overdue hellos with Jason and Timmy, my ex-roommate and the other piercer at the shop, I introduced myself to the strangers in my presence while Jason and Timmy started setting up the ominous rigging that would soon lift me from the rational grip of the ground.

The mass of climbing gear and metal hung from the ceiling swaying tauntingly in front of me now and the excited chatter that filled the room just moments ago was now replaced with a deafening silence as Jason marked the places on my back where the hooks would be placed. I steadied my breathing and focused my mind using techniques I picked up from yoga. Suddenly the still air was shattered as Jason asked me if I was ready, and I took my place on the table to get pierced.

Timmy and Jason pierced tandem, cutting the four piercings down to two pangs that radiated across my shoulders. As the rigid steel hooks slid in behind the salient needles my adrenaline raced leaving pain far behind the assertion of what was to come next.

Rising from the chair I stretched to touch the ground and twisted side to side in an effort to make the hooks feel at home in my flesh. For a moment the hooks found repose as parachute cord was laced like shoestring between the eyes of the hooks and those on the rack. As quickly as the hooks had made themselves at home, they grew weary of their surroundings as the first tensions of the rigging pulling itself up away from the ground shot through my very being. As the rope crawled through the pulley system, lifting me far away from the room as it lifted me farther from the ground, my thoughts drifted from self-doubt to self-assurance and then back to the hooks in my back.

Steady as the sand falling through an hourglass I rose from the ground until only my toes remained kissing it. The burden of lifting my remaining corpulent mass from the ground was mine alone to face; the obstacle existed only in my mind, though the intensity of sensation would have me believe otherwise. As suddenly as the sun has fully risen in the morning, the elephantine weight was lifted from my being as my feet lifted from the ground.  

For an eternity that lasted an hour I hovered a few gangling feet off of the ground, freed from so much more than the feel of something solid underneath my feet. I was higher with elation than the ceiling would allow me to be off of the ground, having overcome a once seemingly impossible impediment within myself that had kept me from flying. I found control. 

Following that eternal hour I was grounded, forced to touch base with the contemptuous object I had previously taken flight from, though somehow I remained soaring. As the weave between the hooks and the rigging were slashed forthwith, the ponderosity of the ground fell upon my shoulders with a near unbearable impingement. Though I had lost my wings I still held onto my flight, the residue of achievement resonated through my being. I was forever changed.

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 11 March 2006
in Ritual

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Artist: Jason+Odd
Studio: Modern+Epic
Location: Hood+River

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