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Feline Funeral Doom
The return of Basking in Gravity and some thoughts on cat funerals
Vøid Contemplation Tactics and Inter-Dimensional Music have been running behind schedule due to a number of mundane technical difficulties here in the
extra bedroom home studio. We’re just now looking at the calendar and seeing that our slowdown has turned into a full-blown brief pause due to developments both exciting and sad. In the exciting category, I’m preparing to bring my participatory art/yoga/meditation happening Basking in Gravity back online with a short tour in July.
Basking in Gravity is a project that combines elements of audiovisual art installation and participatory performance with yin yoga and sitting meditation. It’s a sort of celebratory psychedelic death yoga, informed as much by counterbalanced catharses of kosmische metal and heavy mellow ambient music as the physical realities of suffering and compassion that I experienced working as an emergency medical responder, and living in a Zen center. It’s an opportunity to explore our relationship with one of the fundamental forces of the universe in a slow-and-low non-self improvement practice. I discussed all of these things at length in this 2019 interview with Psychedelic Sangha.
Things were going great before the COVID-19 pandemic, but then … the pandemic. It’s been a challenge to find a way to start hosting live events again while keeping our families safe: As a Type 1 diabetic I’m at the low-risk end of the immunocompromised spectrum, and Spouse Rachel and I also have seriously at-risk family members in our orbit. This is a death-positive art project, but we’re fully opposed to the ruling capitalist death cult’s normalization of preventable suffering. But as the pandemic has receded – it’s still here, even if the government has stopped tracking the data – a few pieces have fallen into place. Stand by for updates on prospective happenings in July 2023 in Muncie, Indianapolis, Taos, Berkeley, and hopefully Memphis and Los Angeles too. Big gratitude to longtime friend and supporter Erik Davis for coaxing me out of seclusion.
If you enjoy what we’re doing here but you’re not already reading Erik’s newsletter – The Burning Shore – it comes with our highest recommendation. His recent “Zen, American Style” lecture series at The Alembic was also full of welcome revelations, as readers of his books – on such diverse subjects as “animist encounters with poison oak,” the cryptical architecture of Californiana, or the emergence of a distinctly American strain of psychedelic spirituality in the 1970s – already know.
There’s also been a bittersweet delay in our creative endeavors as we have been reeling from sending our beloved feline companion Otter Pops to the farther shore. My introduction to serious sitting meditation practice came over two decades ago, as I was preparing to mourn the death of another cat. On the advice of friends, I sought out the counsel of Kusala Bhikshu, an American born monk ordained in the Zen Tradition of Vietnam. I sat with the sangha he led at the International Buddhist Meditation Center in Los Angeles for awhile after that, but his advice at that first encounter has helped me through partings with many beloved creatures – human, feline, canine, and at least one long-lived hermit crab – in the years since.
“A cat doesn’t fear death,” he told me. “A cat fears pain. As a human, you fear death. Are you causing more suffering for your cat, forcing them to experience unnecessary pain, because of your fear?”
Our veterinarian makes a similar point with even more stark language: “Better a month early than a day too late.” As Rachel put it the night before we finished walking our weary 17-year-old friend home, “best case scenario we’re only a few days early.”
Parting ways with a cat can be a strange experience. Dogs go out in the world. They have friends. They host guests with you at your home. When a dog dies more people know what to say. When a cat dies, it’s like “Hey you know my super weird best friend that crawled out of a dumpster looking for help 17 years ago? The one you never met because they ran away to sulk whenever you came over because they hate you?”
And so we’ve mourned Otter Pops as we mourned the passage of his similarly long-lived best friend Eugene, and as we marked the passage of his even longer-lived nemesis, Spider Baby. That is to say, mostly privately, and with a lot of gratitude.
My Zen practice is just that: practice. It’s training in remaining present with the mild physical and mental discomforts that come with sitting still for a long time, so that I’m better equipped to remain present with the profound mental and physical suffering that we all share in a world where nothing lasts. This sort of thing is rarely easy, but why should it be? During our most recent New Year medicine journey, we sat and cried over Pops on a rug in the front room, talking about how this would be his last time joining us on one of these trips. And how he’s been such a helpful – if sometimes bewildered – companion on similar journeys over the years in Los Angeles and Marfa. By not avoiding these painful truths, I’m able to move through the bargaining phase of grieving and into acceptance a little more easily.
It feels greedy to ask God, Kwan Seum Bosal, Bastet, or our tired, worn-out feline buds for more time. As Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in one of the Earthsea books, “That selfhood which is our torment, and our treasure, and our humanity, does not endure. It changes, it is gone, a wave on the sea. Would you have the sea grow still and the tides cease, to save one wave, to save yourself?”
Vøid Contemplation Tactics and Inter-Dimensional Music should resume their semi-regular programming schedule next week. It’s fitting that the third installment in the “Rows of Endless Waves” series of programs focused on funeral doom was delayed by an actual funeral, but look for a download/stream in the next newsletter along with extended commentary on the many funerals and funeral doom shows that Rachel and I have experienced over the course of our relationship.
Inter-Dimensional Music will resume transmission on June 9, with broadcast previews of potential Basking in Gravity yoga and meditation soundtracks. Until then please enjoy a revisitation of our 2022 series on Dōgen’s “The Practice of Meditation.”
Speaking of classic shows, a brief note on the Mixcloud archive: When I started archiving ID Music on Mixcloud several years ago, they offered endless storage to all users. Last year they limited most accounts to 10 uploads. In order to preserve the existing archive, I divided the library between two accounts.
There are now 218 shows streaming in the ID Music 2017-2022 Archive. This page is now frozen – in order to add one new show I would have to delete 209 shows. I can still share uploads from other accounts though, so you’ll see the latest 10 episodes re-posted from the new Inter-Dimensional Music FM account.
The 10 most recent programs will live on the Inter-Dimensional Music FM page. You can follow either – or both! – as you like. When I’m paying closer attention to Mixcloud I also use the ID Music FM account to circulate things that we’ve been enjoying on the house soundsystem here at Cosmic Chambo Studio.
Newsletter subscribers also have access to a private library with scores of past broadcasts and subscriber exclusives, including instrumental versions and extended mixes. Some of these will start to disappear once my cloud drive storage is full, but please drop me a line if there’s something missing and I’ll hook you up.
As always, I am grateful for your interest, enthusiasm, patience, and for the dopamine hit that comes with each new subscription. We’re slowly approaching 400 subscribers, and I’m especially honored that 31 of you wonderful people have opted for a paid subscription, making this project a bit more sustainable. Also I totally understand if it’s time for the self-care of unsubscribing if this direct mail blog service no longer suits your fancy. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to know you are now or once were on the receiving end of these transmissions.
blessing up and blessing down,
If you know anyone who might find value or otherwise enjoy Void Contemplation Tactics or Inter-Dimensional Music, please pass it along. It means a lot to me!
Word of mouth is my primary form of promotion. My reach is limited on social media, which I’m increasingly convinced is a good thing. As Dōgen's teacher told him, “You don't have to collect many people like clouds. Having many fake practitioners is inferior to having a few genuine practitioners. Choose a small number of true persons of the way and become friends with them.”
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