This week in Good Stories, we moved ahead into Nonsense Tales, a potentially tricky ground where powerful forces collide or hide, and, at times, war. Such stories offer material to dig into the impulses that dehumanize, that abuse, that label a person or event as meaningless, as trash. Terms, images, and stories can be used to justify domination or even killing. Strangely, nonsense tales provide material with resources to counteract such destruction. But because such stories can be troublesome, they’re often twisted into silliness and laughed away.
I think about the point that drives a person to exclaim “Nonsense!” and associate to when in riding someone yells out, “Stupid Horse!” Horses and sometimes humans absorb considerable abuse, and the untended damage goes underground. Looking into nonsense tales offers to crack open an advance in consciousness and to explore the emotional disturbance deep in the experience of living. We might rather turn aside and not consider our capacity to dehumanize; it’s hard to see our insensitivity to creatures. For example, the history as well as contemporary practice around horse/human relations can be seen as heartbreakingly cruel.
I wonder about our class as we encounter nonsense tales. How do we handle the consequences of “not having the sense you’re born with” or of appearing to be “born lazy.” What can we do to go further than to laugh or grumble? How do we engage so that “nonsense” turns to “not-yet-sense,” and then progress on toward significant meaning or better yet to a shift in consciousness?
I recall a most significant moment in my college years when I got an F on the philosophy midterm. Having always made As and a few Bs, I couldn’t make sense of it; yet within a few years after getting a B in that course, I had prioritized the experience at the top of my college learning: it served to jostle me from fundamentalist literalism toward relativistic thinking. Nonsense moved to not-yet-sense and on to an advance in consciousness.
On a lighter note, when considering experiences that involve turning nonsense to not-yet-sense I remember an important and difficult progression in my dressage lessons. About 17 years ago, I was riding Monday, the thoroughbred my coach nicknamed Truthteller because he revealed what my body was really saying. In my arrogant certainty that I was superior to the horse, I blamed the “stupid horse” for not following cues that I was giving.
In one memorable lesson, I insisted I was properly cueing a smooth trot to canter transition, but Truthteller kept on responding roughly. Coach Debbie shouted, “No! Go back to the collected trot and ask again.” Next attempt was no better for ten or more circles. Finally, I was too exhausted to give much of a cue at all, and Monday smoothly picked up the canter. I was so stunned with disbelief that I almost fell out of the saddle. Debbie sounded thrilled, “That’s it! Now remember what you did.”
My mind whirled: …but I hadn’t done anything except… And I heard the refrain she’d been saying over and over, “just think it.” Huh! I thought it and it happened. Wow! Is that all it takes! Could it be that the thought makes a slight shift in the weight on my seat, maybe a slide forward on the outside seat bone that’s so delicate my body doesn’t perceive it but the horse does! I hadn’t believed the cue could be so subtle. I’d heard the words and perhaps thought I was thinking it but my body wasn’t convinced.
I especially appreciate the immediate reflection and the way it allowed me to contact and move to memory a song playing in my soul, a vibration celebrating the subtle but very powerful connection across bodies. Inner resonance can be so ephemeral; it needs re-member-ing, respect, and yearning. That seems to be the way markers are given along the path of attraction, those signposts of destiny.
Lesson from Legacy: Yesterday’s ride seemed rather uneventful. Perhaps I over-expected based on the advance in quality in the previous ride. Although part of me knows not to expect to pick up just where we left off, another part wants to continue a progression and has trouble with the cyclical nature of growth.
So one gift from the ride reminds me that to be present includes dips and slow-downs. What feels like a regression can be an invitation to go deeper. Perhaps that’s happening.For example, my pre-dawn musings included reflection on an instant yesterday when we were in medium-quality rising trot.
My mind or imagination was just formulating a canter transition. Maybe I can try… and boom—Leg’cy picked it up. Her shifting gears shocked me because I was still rising in the trot. I hadn’t even initiated the seated position needed to cue the canter. I laughed and quickly readjusted to catch up with her. Then we worked together and managed a few nice transitions before ending on a good note. This last segment contrasted rather sharply with the opening period when she’d resisted my requests and hadn’t show much forward momentum at all.
In reflecting on those moments, I’ve been exploring the nature of preparation, the flow between image and action. Possibly my initial requests to Leg’cy were physically correct but not clean enough imaginally. To live and ride at a higher level might demand more pristine images than stick figures. Being present needs more than comatose stick-figure words; it requires embodiment and integrity and will not settle for book-talk-ish imitations. High-level communication, at least with a strong horse, pushes for power in the imagination, prior to action, and dedicated reflection afterwards. In quantum language, the timespacematter/ing presents itself so that previous and next movements dance in image-action with vibrancy of form, enough to manifest in body more spacious than one being separated from another.
Max van Manen in Researching Lived Experience says:
“The aim of phenomenology is to transform lived experience into a textual expression of its essence—in such a way that the effect of the text is at once a reflexive re-living and a reflective appropriation of something meaningful: a notion by which a reader is powerfully animated in his or her own lived experience” (p. 36, emphasis mine).