Big business is watching you, and it doesn’t like what it sees, not one bit. Big business looks at you and sees a fundamental unwillingness to be employed, a fundamental snarky mischief with regards to its products. Big business doesn’t like that when you look at Donald Trump smirk-signaling the end of a meeting, you see empty buffoon, and not, sparkling success. Big business, basically, thinks you suck.
And that's fine, because you, my friend, are cooking up big business of your own, on the Facebook page dedicated to Wild Mushrooms of Vermont, on the trails running behind the houses and the hospital, in the stubborn, always-redeemable dreams that visit you at night. Your big business doesn’t depend on bamboozling or enslaving others, and it has no value that will ever show up on any ledger designed by man. Your big business has a relationship to failure that would make any known Board of Directors loosen their ties with horror, swallow their fear, and broadcast rejection far and wide. Your love of failure, your willingness to be broken a million times on the way to wholeness, makes no sense to that other big business we hear so much about, these days.
Fail, fail, fail. Big business is going to fail, too, but it won't like it the way you do. It won't confess it the way you do. Big business can't admit to itself – Oh, wait! That was a totally ridiculous thing to do/say/want/insist on – and now it's all torn down – and order and change can shine through again.
This morning – change and more change, the big business of situations morphing and stretching into one another. Change. I am listening to Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower, wherein a hyper-empathic young Black woman invents Taoism-plus-space-travel, as the world falls apart all around her. God is change, she says. Shape God, change God. Big business is letting go of fatalism, letting go of control-freakiness, allowing change to change us, and allowing ourselves to shape change.
I don't know about tattoos – for me – but I am giving them a rehearsal in the form of a white silk wedding dress my husband bought me in a weird Portland flea market last December. Each day, I allow an image come to me, then I embroider it, tattoo it into the silk. The needle makes a popping, rushing sound, coming through the fabric. The image changes itself into shape, and then I put the dress on, and Timothy takes some photographs. So this big business looks like:
I change the dress.
The dress changes me.
My husband witnesses the changes.
I write that day’s work.
Have you ever tried putting on a wedding dress every day for three months? Have you ever thought of modifying its pristine white with whatever images and stories arise from your dreams and wanderings? I haven’t, but I'm pretty sure it's going to be a big business bringing that whole shebang with me weekly to the castle, the convent, the center for kids-who-might-go-to-jail. It’s going to be a big business bringing it to Hopi and Navajo land, to Switzerland, and wherever else. It’s not, by the standards of the form, a Big Dress, but my commitment to it is Big Business, for sure.
The biggest business of all, hands down, is the work that happens when we decide to stop hiding, to stop putting some overlay on top of What Is, and how it is showing up right now. Oh, you'd rather not be feeling this? Doing this? It's fine if you want to keep going the path of potato chips and core editing, but at some point that path runs out, and the relationship you’ve worked out with What Is becomes all there is. You’re evasive and demanding? Welcome to that, full-time. You’re chronically in need of affirmation and superiority, or denial and inferiority? Voilà! Your new home, unmediated by any of the throw pillows and snacks that once padded it out.
Am I sounding like some sandwich-board asshole on a street corner? That's not what I mean, but it IS hard to say, Your relationship with being itself is what drives all the acceptance or denial in the world, without sounding a bit apocalyptic. A bit vengeful.
What does mood matter, without a framework of meaning within which waking up is possible, and all our failures become gateways to wholeness? I struggle with this, as a baby therapist. A client comes in for their weekly 45 minute session, and their hair is on fire. We put out the fire. They come back the next week, and their hair is on fire again. We put it out. Why is their hair on fire? How could that pattern end? What are some choices that might open up a different set of possibilities?
The Zens still say, Practice like your hair’s on fire, but it strikes me that this may be a directive from a different time and place, where big business wasn't so well-versed in making sure that everyone's hair actually WAS on fire, all the time. People whenever “then” was could stop and ponder the water buffaloes. They could hunker down and be cold, with a little glimmer of coals somewhere in the darkened room. They could live without being immersed all the fucking time in one hurricane after another, till death do us part.
I like my hair long, and not in flames. Habitually, I wear it up in a messy bun (what reporters call a chignon, when they are describing the demi-deities of fashion), or in a braid, but it turns out that hair actually prefers just kind of hanging down, snaking around the shoulders, reaching for the waist one slow movement at a time. Practice like your hair is growing might be more apropos for our time, a needed a reminder that there are some things even big business can’t do a damn thing about. Like leaves falling, follicles slowly extruding a lion's or a woman's mane, lines deepening through tissues like river deltas to an ocean we can only guess at.
Today I am writing with my friend from high school, whom I haven't seen in 27 years. Big business is happening to all of us, and yet also, here we still are, alive, thinking, feeling, processing experience in the ways we know how. Big business can’t affect this – this meeting of women working intently around an improvised table, as the nimbus of a hurricane twists its way towards us on the ocean we can’t see, but know anyways. The no-value of this activity is the pearl of great price itself, the gallon of milk that keeps us going, the assurance that out beyond success and failure, right and wrong, being itself is thriving, changing, tearing itself down, and coming right back in shapes we could never imagine, till we find ourselves changing right through them, next and next, and here, now, ah.
When I dare to enter into the big business of this life, I know to a certainty that self-liberation is possible, calls me forth, dances in the marrow of each moment and situation, without end. Because – where else would it be? Exclusively in the lineages of great masters? Only at the finest tables? In the fists of those who claim power over nations? No. It’s here, in the crows’ scolding, the rumble of the garbage truck, the high squeal of some crazed driver turning corners faster than car wheels can support. The big business of freedom is always here, just waiting for us to claim our kinship with What Is.
Julie Püttgen is an artist and meditation teacher.
108 Names of now