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The Dot and the Line: A Dramatic Lesson in Self-Actualization

Since my visions began, it's been fascinating to find art that I've always loved take on new meaning and resonance within the cognitive model I've been developing. Case in point: The Dot and the Line, a little book by Norton Juster that was later turned into a cartoon by the redoubtable Chuck Jones.

The story takes place in an abstract, two-dimensional world. A sentient straight Line is in love with equally sentient (but perhaps not quite so self-aware) Dot. Alas, the Dot only has eyes (so to speak) for a wild Squiggle.

Here, just watch the cartoon, it's only ten minutes long:


This short film (which won an Oscar in 1965) speaks to me on many levels. My personal history has seen me play the pining Line more times than I care to count...fine, I counted, it's been ten times, at least. Ten cases of soul-crushing unrequited love. I am the Line. But I identify with the Line not just because he knows the ecstatic heights and smothering depths of lonely yearning. The Line learns what may be life's most valuable lesson: how to self-transcend via discipline, rigor, and persistence. Life denies him what he wants; he takes that as a challenge. He rises to the occasion, or better, deepens into it. Through his exertions, he becomes something new under his world's 2D, cut-out sun: three-dimensional.

I think that's what's happening to me.

But let's step back for a second. A line is the distance between two points--it has location (unlike a vector) and length. A dot is just one point, a singularity--she has no qualities, beyond her location. She's not really on his level. So why does the Line love the Dot in the first place? There are apparently other Lines with whom he might make a better match. Well, we all know that little Eros can often act as an agent of Chaos, sometimes choosing the targets for his arrows of Desire with fiendish wit. Perhaps in this case, an unworthy object of love was chosen by the powers that be as the catalyst that would drive the Line to manifest his unrealized potential. And maybe those same powers are hoping that eventually the Dot will be inspired by his achievements, and seek her own. A line is two points; if Dot could just extend herself a bit, nothing radical, just stretch her current capacities only yea far, she could be a Line, too, with all the endless possibilities for creating beauty that kind of being affords.

Should we hope that's the destiny that awaits her? I say yes. Complex systems are inherently more interesting than simple ones. Yeah yeah yeah, that's a value judgment. But think about it. Simple systems--a game like tic tac toe, for instance--are easily mastered. Once you've grasped the mechanics and played a few times, it becomes easy to anticipate and/foil a competitor's strategy. It gets boring. But a complex system like chess never gets old--there are just too many possible permutations, and arising from them, the possibility of a new quality--elegance--arises. Elegance is complexity mastered until it appears simple again. Elegance is beauty. And Beauty is a cosmic value. To forge oneself into a complex, elegant being should be everyone's ultimate goal, because to do so we will have to utilize all the gifts we've been given. Doing so is an act of thanksgiving to our Creatrix for the simple fact of our existence. So yeah, I hope Dot grows up to be a Line. Maybe Line's love will inspire her. Please Goddess.

Anyway, during the rigorous training in singing, dancing, physical conditioning, meditation, and dramaturgy to which I've been subjecting myself as I attempt to become better at phonomancy, I've been thinking a lot about this cartoon.

Like anyone trying to effect a great change, occasionally I grow weary. Sometimes I can't see the point of all this effort. Sometimes I get discouraged, almost to the point of despair. To cope, I've been seeking a community where I might take refuge when I'm weary. To be among people doing similar work, expending similar energy, conducting themselves with similar discipline and rigor.

Tl,dr: I'm starting to think they don't exist.

Phonomancy is the magical art of putting oneself into visionary trance states by dancing and singing along to your favorite songs. The closest parallel seems to be what used to be called "ravers," folks who like to take hallucinogens and then dance all night long to house and other forms of electronic dance music. I don't think the term "raver" is in common use anymore, but between giant events like Burning Man and smaller festivals like the PNW's Beloved, there are still tons of people who like to get together, take psychedelics, and get off on the ecstasy of merging with a group.

But you can't take drugs all the time. (I mean, you can, but...) So in the cities across the country, from Boston to L.A., those seeking at least a little of that ecstasy and community vibe get together for "ecstatic dances." They take place in the daylight hours and the early evening; a few people might take the pot beforehand, but mostly, they are sober affairs. It's all about being with people like you, people who like to wear flowing clothes and say "Namaste" and dance to the oonce-oonce-oonce of EDM and the complicated drumming of Afro-Caribbean music, often spiced up with some trancey Middle Eastern-style vocals.

There is a definitely a religious vibe to these events. There are altars and incense and prayers and invocations of healing and calls to feel the spirit of the land and desultory yoga poses happening all over the place. Yet if you were to take a poll, I doubt you'd find few practitioners of any coherent belief system. A handful of Buddhists, a smattering of pagans, but no Christians at all. I'd put down lots of money to bet that the vast majority of ecstatic dancers would define themselves as "spiritual but not religious."

This "spiritual but not religious" crowd, I've come to realize, is made up almost entirely of Squiggles. If that sounds judgmental, well, yeah, it is.

That's because part of the prophet gig is being a gadfly. Of pointing out where people could do better. I have in my mind a vision of what a fully self-actualized human being could be: physically fit, mentally tough, emotionally resilient, creatively fecund, psychologically integrated, spiritually attuned.

These qualities are evident in the way people conduct themselves. And one simple way to tell if someone is actively trying to improve her/himself is to observe how they dance. Do they have a sense of time? Of rhythmic subdivisions against the beat? How's their coordination? Are they capable of nuance, or do they simply flail their limbs? Are they expressing ideas with their movements? Does the music they're playing with their bodies more resemble the drumming of a virtuoso tabla player, or a toddler whacking Tupperware bowls with a wooden spoon?

I'm not claiming to be a great dancer, not by any means, but I'm working on it. I've got bellydancing lessons I practice every day, and later I plan to branch out into studying modern dance a la La La La Human Steps. I'm trying. Which makes me like the Line, concentrating with all his might to achieve that first angle, and then from there developing his capabilities so he can express more and more complex ideas.

Contrast that with the Squiggle, who has no coherent ideas beyond "Yeah man, groovy, let it all hang out!". We know this to be true, because the Dot gives him every chance to show that he has something, anything of the depth the Line has attained. The Squiggle is all surface. Undisciplined and unwilling to work, he is the prisoner of the "freedom" he seemed to exemplify.

And that's what I'm seeing in the groups I've been exploring as I seek community. Their lack of coherent beliefs, and their failure to pursue the disciplined action that would support those beliefs, effectively locks them into two dimensional spiritual world. A Phantom Zone. A prison.

It's not that I need them to share the cognitive model I use to interpret my experiences of the Transcendent. (Although I am working hard to win some people over to my way of seeing things, if only because it's so fun, and effective, and sharing experiences amplify their intensity.) But "The Dot and the Line" reminds me that what I need, and what the world needs, are more Lines that Can Form an Angle. Any belief system can forge that kind of character, if it supplies exercises that can develop you across those aforementioned six dimensions (the physical, mental, emotional, creative, psychological, and spiritual).

Real, Patanjali-style yoga could do it. So could Sufism, if you also train dancing and qawwali. Beyond that, I'm not sure. Which is why phonomancy may represent such a great leap forward in spiritual pedagogy: it is a not-fucking-around method to create a fully self-actualized human being.

You know how you can tell phonomancy is not bullshit? It's hard. It's scary. It makes demands. It poses risks. But in these apocalyptic times, that's what's called for. Anybody who hopes to help save the world had better be striving to realize their potential in all six of those dimensions.

Because if you're not, well...By refusing to do the hard work that real transformation requires, the "spiritual but not religious" crowd are effectively aiding and abetting the forces of Resistance that threaten to destroy our society. The Squiggles are going to party and namaste us into oblivion.

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