Purple Purple. Purple Squared. P Squared.
The Purple One, Prince. Purple Rain. Purple Rainbow.
I’ve been thinking this week about what it means to be “you,” to be a self. The whole project of identity and expressing that identity. Musicians I admire like Prince and David Bowie I actually admire for their identities, more for their embodiment of their artistry than their individual compositions. The ways they channeled their beings into creation.
Purple Purple is your inner wisdom, your third eye, the center of your head, your mind, your consciousness, your you-ness. Your woo-ness. Woo Squared.
What does it mean to go deeper and deeper into your inner weirdo? Get crazy? Get nuts?
I am not ready to tell you all about P Squared or about the time I dressed as them for three days in the desert and wrote songs about the end of the world. But I’ll tell you that it happened.
I was afraid that motherhood would prevent me from being as weird and as selfish as I might need to be to truly realize my artistic vision. I have tried to claim more of that space with this project, but honestly, it is probably true.
And maybe that’s the source of some of my admiration for these gender-fluid male performers. I admire their freedom. Oh, I have no illusions about the toxic bounds of fame and even record labels. But in Prince and Bowie I admire their freedom to cultivate identity like a flower, shedding petals and then emerging as something new. Sometimes I feel like I am some kind of rose holding onto every petal I’ve ever grown. It’s beautiful in its way but it’s also a rainbow mess and it’s heavy and dismissable.
Sometimes I just want to strut with my shirt off.
(the gif above may take a minute to load ;-)
These past two weeks are the last of counting the Omer for this year, Weeks 6 and 7: Yesod and Malchut.
Yesod means foundation, activation, bonding, and identity. It also means Sexuality. Yesod is represented by Red. Last week I refound this clip of Prince performing “Darling Nikki” in 1985. I looked it up because, in clearing out our house to pack up and move all its contents, I discovered a box of no less than fifty porno mags. And yes, they were mine. I had used them to build a costume for my first burlesque performance to the song “Darling Nikki,” lining a red trench coat with pictures of naked women. If you know the first lines of the song (which is actually a slut-shaming diss in the movie Purple Rain, but that movie has a lot of problems), then the concept makes sense.
When I had the idea for this porn-lined coat, I knew I didn’t actually want to buy the magazines myself. I figured there must be many, many magazines lying around in the world. I looked on Craigslist, and sure enough, someone was giving away a box full: “PLAYBOY MAGAZINES 2002-2014 - PRICE REDUCED!” I was nervous about going to pick them up somehow, so I made Justin come with me and wait in the car. When I got to the door, it was another woman giving me the magazines. A mom even, though I wasn’t one myself at the time. We laughed with relief when we saw each other, since each of us had been nervous about an encounter with the other: me wondering who might be giving away all these magazines and her wondering who the hell might be picking them up.
Why am I telling you this story? The whole thing just feels like Yesod to me. Art project collaging porn, Prince twisting his hips, two people bonding over a transfer of goods and the specter of identity. Me dancing burlesque to Prince because I don’t want to be with him, I want to be him.
Prince is perhaps the perfect segue between the sixth week of the Omer to the seventh, from Yesod to Malchut, from Sexuality to Sovereignty. Malchut literally means Kingdom. It is about the divine presence in the physical world, or the concept of Shekinah. Malchut is represented by the color Brown.
When I think about the beauty of the physical world and its systems, I think about worms. Wriggling in the earth, the very Earth, living in and creating the soil. Worms are hermaphroditic, each with male and female reproductive organs. Any worm of its species can reproduce with any other worm. These beautiful creatures in the beautiful soil are so easy to dismiss as dirty. But they are the very stuff we are made from, the nutrients in our food, the substrate of our planet.
Purple to Red to Brown. This week we count the final days of the Omer, ending after 49 days with the holiday of Shavuot. Shavuot is the holiday about receiving the Torah, receiving divine wisdom. This week, may we all be vessels for the divine, channels for divine light traveling, traveling, traveling the path of the sephirot:
May we act from a place of lovingkindness (Chesed)
May we have boundaries around our own violent inclinations (Gevurah)
May we see the harmony in all things (Tiferet)
May we endure in the generations-long task of building a better world (Netzach)
May we surrender to the ever-complicated truth and not always being right (Hod)
May we nurture our sexuality and our bodies as the basis for our human connections (Yesod)
May we honor the Earth, the very living and divine system we are just a part of (Malchut)
May we remember that the ends do not justify the means, that if the means are horrific then the ends are a lie anyway. The worms in my worm bin eat our food waste and poop out brown gold, the very richest compost. But I can’t feed them just anything: onions, garlic, spicy peppers, citrus, these things would kill them and their environment. The Land of Flowing Milk and Honey, the land reclaimed to give refuge to a perpetually displaced and oppressed people, cannot be built by brutally displacing and subjugating another people.
This journey over the last seven weeks shows how we are each a channel for the divine, how divine light travels through our crown down to the soil. This model is fractal: the way the divine travels through each of us is the way it travels through the world. Right now in Israel and in Palestine the channels are clogged. I don’t have a solution, and it certainly doesn’t look like anyone else has one either. But maybe this is where Purple Purple circles back around: Purple Purple, P P, P Squared. Pray for Peace. Pray Pray Pray for Peace. Pray for Palestinians. Put down the weaPons. Please Pause the Perpetual Pursuit of Power, the world over.