I dare you, she said, looking him straight in the eye. I dare you to come closer and hit me again, like you did when I was small, and I didn't know that making eye-contact with you would send needles right into the part of your brain that is in charge of self-excusing stories. I dare you to pretend this is all for my own good, and not yours. Go ahead and see what it feels like, not to be believed, for one second. I dare you.
I dare you to tell me this plan is anything other than rabid fear, you taking and taking more, because you think you can, because when you were small, that's the way it went. I dare you to pretend you don't know anything about starting to cry at the dinner table, and people telling you it’s nothing. I dare you to tell me your whole reason-suit isn’t some roughly-tailored shield designed to pretend that child never existed, and doesn't push peas around your table, even now. I dare you to tell me these things, to do these things, and the trouble is, you do. There's so little earth in you, so little substance, that lies pass through without ever encountering anything solid enough to stop them.
I dare you to tell me one true thing for each block of this tower we are going to build together. Don't ask me why we are building towers. We are building towers on a dare. We are standing each on one side of this wobbly round table, and the deal is, one block, one truth.
Truth: Work-life balance is a truly turtle-nosed snake.
Truth: I believe hoarding wealth is the only available path to a safety I can never feel in my earthless bones.
Truth: Fairness will tear you apart.
Truth: Work is helpful, but if you get fixated on it, the savor of life leaches out.
Truth: I have not yet swum one once, this whole summer, unless you count that witches’ cauldron of a hot tub.
Truth: Thrushes are arpeggiating.
Truth: Linden flowers on the cusp.
Truth: Greed confirms its own predictions with such flimsiness that a new Thing is immediately required.
Truth: The opioid epidemic is pathologized poor-people greed; the current administration is legitimized rich-people greed. There are no clinics anywhere to treat the latter.
OK. We’ve built this tower. Now, how do we tear it down?
I could swat it with my hand.
Yeah. Or we could jump up and down till it falls over. I hope someone downstairs is having a truly boring session about work-life balance.
Hey! These blocks are Zen clappers. Can you meet me in sound? Can I meet you in sound? Can we work with the parts of our brains that send needles right into reason, and make eye-contact?
Yeah. That’s called creation-and-distraction balance, and it’s not at all a turtle-nosed snake.
Those thrushes are more throat-cascading than they are arpeggiating, you know?
I dare you to show up in a community where sexual scandal has erupted, and say: puritanism isn't the answer. Making heroes and demons isn't the answer. One person eating strawberries from a bowl at the front of the room only makes everyone else want to be closer to that bowl, and while that’s the case, sexual scandal can’t really be very far away. I dare you to say, what about if a Dharma teacher is sincerely polyamorous? What about if a Dharma teacher really needs to have an affair? What about if these inquisitorial procedures only make it less likely that someone will say, Oh, wait a minute! I was just yearning for those berries over there, while forgetting that I am primordially whole. Never mind.
I dare you to sit through procedural meetings where earnest people with straight faces tell you it’s for your own good, for the good of all beings, and you can watch their reason-suits grow shoulder pads and bulletproof cladding, in real time.
I dare you to learn not to confuse pith and trappings, while never giving up on the possibility that people do meet honestly, sometimes.
I dare you to be kind without using this as an excuse not to know what you know.
I dare you to take the crying child in your arms, and acknowledge pain when you see it.
I dare you to be messy, to be odd, and yet, not to get stuck on Team Odd, which has its own set of problems and allegiances.
Jesus said, I dare you to be passersby.
Hey! Some of those linden-flowers have already started dropping to the shady grass, and if there weren't 97% chance of pee, pretty much everywhere, it would be cool to gather some of them into your pockets, for Right Now Tea. I wonder if that helps with dodgy tick-bites?
I dare you not to distance yourself from any form of suffering whatsoever. You know all that New Agey shit about attracting the positive is basically a flowered utility skirt pretending it's not a reason-suit, so cut it out. Ticks search for blood. Your blood, my blood, lovingkindness-blood and murderous-blood. That’s just the way it goes, and making up some story about how it isn’t, is just foolishness. I dare you to know your strategies for what they are, and others’, too.
Whole lotta creaking, in that maple. Breathy, thrushy, trainy silence. Whew.
I dare you to consider exactly what it is that you are working towards. That round-faced lady looked pretty exasperated with you, when she said, Well, if you want to lead any kind of normal householder life, then these are pretty important tools. Do you want to do that? Do parts of your family freak out because they can sense the powerful parts of you who have no interest whatsoever in such a project?
I dare you to live a life where enjoying dinner at your kitchen table does not preclude needing to be away from it, sometimes for long stretches of time.
I dare you to resist a “normal” life. I dare you to be transformed into flame. I dare you to still have dodgy tick bites. I dare you to enjoy making garlic-scape pesto, and shell peas with delight.
I dare you, she said, shuffling out a rhythm with the toes and heels of her feet. I dare you to find solace on this cool, dusty floor, in these symptoms seen as medicine.
I dare you to stay within the bounds of the here-and-now. I dare you to eat your shadow at every meal, and to notice when others are leaving theirs scraped to the side of the plate, as though, who? me? I don’t eat crusts, or rinds.
I don’t dare to cross that way.
I don’t dare to talk to him, to her, to them.
I do, and I don’t, and the thrushes silver out all the notes the train can’t reach.
Julie Püttgen is an artist, expressive arts therapist, and meditation teacher.