Hopeless Diamond. No dangling above Elizabeth Taylor’s breasts for you. Also, no woo-woo curse for you. No Smithsonian magazine cover, no lockdown inch-thick Plexiglas display for you. Hopeless Diamond, you are something altogether more secret and more rare, more common and more obvious. Why deny you? You are here: patched-up Narcotic Anonymous plaid shirt, unboxed heart, improbable midwinter daffodil stalk.
The Zens talk about the True Person of No Rank. Maybe that person has the unofficial, off-budget rank of Hopeless Diamond. Toast-crumbs in the corners of her mouth, old Cheetos bags under the seats of her salt-rimed car, stains on her hoodie: these are the regalia of No Rank. Spit-bubbles and misspelled words. Inexplicable falls between slick parking-lot lines. Inability to remember what’s-her-face's name, to save your life. Clumsy invitations and misdirected emails. Slowly, over a lifetime, we sink through the ranks. We get better at relaxing into hopelessness. No better thing, elsewhere. No meeting to run off to.
What would it be like to become a? Already this is framed outside No Rank. What if I succeeded in? What if they finally noticed? What if we could just?
If Hopeless Diamond has any question, it begins, I wonder, and even so, from the low places, wondering gives way to noticing ripples in the field of What Is. Ah: this goes this way, and this stays blocked for now. Give up entirely here, and there lets go. Interesting… How can flowing straight to the low, loathsome places not be a dead end? Dante descends through the circles of Hell, and is shat out the other end, onto the still, starlit ground of Purgatory. He’s lost his teacher and guide, seen every possible form of suffering, and winds up alone someplace he could not have imagined. Out from the frozen reaches into something perfectly hopeless, and alive.
We’ve all ended up places we couldn’t have imagined, alive, looking around in the faint, but palpable light. No rank, no place. Just, here. Here in the dark forest, where there’s a new friend, after all, and the light drifts just enough to confirm that there are trees. We listen with our feet, with our whole bodies; we listen with the forest, and it lets us walk for hours, steadily, unknown path, unknown destination, hopelessly alive. A clearing: fireflies. A hilltop: the vault of Heaven opens on the shortest night of the year.
The original Hopeless Diamond is an awkward flying thing, a swindle engineered by people of rank so secret as to be nonexistent. Build a thing strange enough, and the searching eyes of enemies spin in their sockets without taking purchase, look elsewhere, lose connection. Seeking sleek missile-bristling eagles, reconnaissance misses a scrambled lump, its facets pointing so many directions as to bend space into nonsense. No rank is not universally without danger: both proto-Diamonds crashed. There’s a reason most of us like rank. There’s a reason most of us like hope.
Elliot and Chloe are for sure Hopeless Diamonds, beginning with the question, “What breed are they?” They are what happens when certain Southern dog-packs get together and fuck at will, over many generations. Biggish, black, thick-coated, long-toothed, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, irascible, and undeterred. But, breed? Hopeless somethings. Diamond monsters. Sometimes, very restrained, very respectful. Yes, we will sit on the side of the trail, and accede to your desire that we not have knife-fights with every passing Golden. And other times, impossible, unruleable, adamantine. Elliot takes off after my friend and her dog, and there is nothing I can do about it. Collar-zapping may tone him down, and my friend’s calm discipline works smoothly. Nothing terrible happens, but what unfolds is clearly outside the scope of my Rank ordering Elliot's. Now someone else’s beast is the one not to be deterred: he follows Chloe and Elliot and I off the trail, picks a fight, and gets a skirmish. Well, they sorted out THAT debate, says the dog’s unperturbed companion, walking off. No rank, no problem.
Yes, we are Hopeless Diamonds together. These humans, these animals, this cold forest at the close of day. I find a place to lay down in the sun, to gaze up at the wide blue sky as the dogs sit patiently at my side. Hopelessly wonderful feeling of my back cradled in crunchy new snow. Green hemlock needles illuminated from within. Our breaths are tiny diamonds suspended in the freezing, lambent air.
What Is does not like rank or mastery. What Is changes, and change destroys hierarchy, cozy agreements, and coercive ones. I stand much taller than the dogs; I lay down, and they tower over me. I dangle above Elizabeth Taylor’s breasts; I sink in mud under miles of dark ocean water. This is the truth. This is the way that cannot separate itself from any living being, because, how? No Rank means dancing from one state into the next without losing hope, because all there is worth hoping for is the grace already built into the matter of our bodies and souls.
I have work to do: we all do.
I am in training: we all are.
I am in love: we all love.
I vow not to let the wrestlings of false rank, the jinglings of tacky crystals, sideline me from what is really to be done. Sure, I love a blingy set of teeth, a bedazzled t-shirt, a chandelier dripping with rainbows. Hoorah for all that. But also, importantly, hoorah for the stillness of morning, receiving love into this body of No Rank. Hoorah for what refuses to be trained, ordered, licensed, prescribed. Hoorah for the tough ice-patches on northward slopes that won’t let go of their hardness till April. Hoorah for unseen, unknown dignity and endurance. Hoorah for diamonds so small they coat the blade of the saw that cuts the bone, freeing change, one stroke, one breath, one clean moment of hopelessness at a time.
The Hopeless Diamond is always right here, shining forth from the heart of this sometimes painful, always-whole body.
Julie Püttgen is an artist, expressive arts therapist, and meditation teacher.