The performer at the front of the stage is an individual, and in his dance, you see his individuality. The specific man that I am referring to is wearing a shirt that only says ‘FUCK’.
“Is he telling us to fuck each other, or is it like.. ‘fuck!’?” the drunk festival goer in front of me wonders to his friend. I wonder too, and settle on the former. The way the artist dances, it’s hard to not want to fuck him. As the crowd goes wild, he basks in the lusty intentions of one hundred or more people that grasp up at his suggestive coils and cocky grin. He’s dancing his individual dance and we like it. Most of the Ithacans at the Trumansburg Grassroots festival have never heard, nor sought after music from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where this band reigns, yet we know we’re attracted to it. It’s strange and different and alluring – and confusing as all hell, as it seems to be a combination of bongos, alt rock and mouth percussion with what sounds like a horror movie-tier out of tune calliope, signaling that the ferris wheel is about to be overrun by bats and undead clowns.
At first, I was annoyed at the audience present for this show, as mostly drunken couples were blocking my way, and it seemed as though the only reason they were present for this band was to show off their couple-ness and festival wear, while pretending to like this unusual world music, so as to seem cultured. Then I realized this was probably just a projection of why I was present for the performance, and instructed my ego to cool it for a minute. Beneath the future shock and wow-factor, however, there is a true sexual energy and relationship that knits the artist to the audience. It’s a one on one relationship for the audience member, and a one on two hundred for the performer, arrousing memories of the deadmau5 visuals I’d seen at Firefly the previous year, where the electronic mouse begins to dance, and electrically transmits this dance, like a wave of Simon Says, through the crowd in front of him. What’s actually happening – being transmitted – is the love of art. The artist is loving their own music, and dancing to it. This enchants us, the audience, and we begin to love this music as well, through all it’s differences to our mainstream culture, so we begin to love their art in our own way, and respond with our own dancing and movement.
Really, the common theme is creation. Both artist and audience are smaller cellular networks in the greater body of the festival; and like cells in the human body, we are mobile. We are taking in food and beer and oxygen and a good deal of pot smoke, interacting with information centers throughout the Trumansburg Fair Grounds, depositing our waste and building up a collect vibe of happiness and love by boogying throughout.
Just as our bodily functions are largely communicated by electric impulses from the brain, and carried out by the working class of microorganisms that make us up, the festival is arranged by those that organize & administer it every year, and carried out by the individuals that tend it. Should the brain cease its functioning or a sudden plague upon our body’s biome occur, the individual we call ourselves would also die, or at least become seriously crippled in comparison to who we were. If the festival organizers decided that next year they would still hold the festival, but would not advertise it or interact with the local community in any way to assist carrying out the festival, perhaps a hundred or so locals would show up the third weekend in July. But which artists would show up? How about the food services and crafts people, trash collectors or waste control services? Reversely, what if the festival were in full swing but not a single ticket holder showed up? Is it still a festival? Can it be considered dead or crippled?
Collectively the festival goers, artists and administrators convene to create a distinct ‘Grassroots’ individuality that anyone who’s been will describe to you as “magical,” through glazed eyes and a trippy grin. The individual human also has a distinct personality, or duration that can be expressed in whichever adjectives those that spend a lot of time around you choose. Is it insane to recognize that what can be tranferred to what is greater than the solitary human, can also be transferred internally, to what is much smaller and abundant in the solitary human?
Festivals, city centers, states, countries, planets. We’re in all of these places, some by agreement, and some because we were born here. Is my liver the Bonaroo of my chest cavity’s North America and my body’s planet earth? We can certainly attract a crowd of probiotics to our liver by gulping down a Kombucha or some sauerkraut. So when I circle Donna the Buffalo on my festival schedule, perhaps I’m drawn by the electrical impulse my brain picks up from her control center. Attraction & Agreement.
Any space cadet will tell you how well festivals and tripping go together. It’s a fascinating way to analyze the human experience. Children are conceived at festivals – some humans are born and some encounter death. We get shitfaced & take shits. We eat, intoxicate, fuck, dance. The common theme through all of this is creation.
Dancing becomes all the more interesting in this context. In the mini festivals and city centers within us, microorganisms are boogyin’ and shakin’ all about, doing most of the same things – living. They’re taking in gases and liquids and solids, breaking them down, channeling them into energy or usable materials. Some of this energy, they’re using to move and shake a replication of their own DNA into our bodies, to take over the family name when they finally bite the dust. The legacy of our cells becomes the aging we see in our faces. The global warming of our body’s demise. Cells die, People die, Worlds die. Festivals die too, and even celebrate birthdays. Grassroots turned 27 this year, because we all collectively gathered to create it. I turned 21 this year – not because a faction of microbiology gathered in my corpse to animate me, but because this is a metaphor. Please, people, follow the analogy. Okay?
What’s so interesting about our urges to dance and jump and expand and bump our bodies together in the presence of this strange music channels a deep tradition encoded into my DNA. My body is always moving, within the thin barrier of skin that separates myself from my not-self. The twist of my hips and springs in my calves that causes the boy two rows up to keep glancing back at me are a tribute to the constant life-creation-death cycle that continues my own existence. Our collective movin & shakin continues the existence of this festival. As it becomes less kept with the times, and more esoterically held by those that have been going since birth, eventually Grassroots will wither and die.
The artist’s “FUCK” shirt now takes on a whole new meaning. Yes. We should fuck each other, so that new generations of those holding the grassroots tradition are born and this Greater Body can live on in our descendants. Is it a coincidence that the body rush of LSD almost always gives me a spontaneous orgasm? Now, I’m looking around at all of these healthy and unhealthy bodies, wondering which ones want to wriggle with me as badly as them. In fact, I’m starting to sort the more healthily evolved bodies from the not. The people dancing in ecstasy from the ones looking around with mild desperation, continually sipping their bevvy. I feel the aerosolized hair follicles of the woman in front of me. Each sequestered strand follows the same, long loop-de-loop that makes her hair curly. I want badly to reach out and grasp her hips and sway with the wild beauty of her. I feel my own strictly laced braids. They roughly scrape the tan that used to be sunburn on my shoulders. Little stubs. I want to be free and flowing like she is, but I recognize that I don’t want to undo my braids only because she has. I feel the real heat and life emanating from her, and I am ready to embrace it in myself.
With my hair down, I feel the heat at the back of my neck, feel myself begin to sweat, feel my limp white hair tangle in masses and overlap where it wasn’t supposed to. I dance. My body beckons all those healthy enough to rival me, ubiquitous with a dominant sexuality that my forsaken tripping partner could never conquer, and so had to leave. My shoulders roll and the hair falls over my face, many times. I could feel people watching me and checking me out. Though I enjoyed the feeling, and felt myself twinge internally, responding to their nonverbal interest, I was now committed to expressing my own individuality through the same dance that transmitted the artists individuality to all of us. Recognizing the scent of my own sweat, I feel the network of intel my body is constantly relaying to the other humans around me – the pheromones that my movement macerates, the flicks of eye contact when my toggling gaze cinches to something I like, the fertility in my hips. With my senses so heightened to greet the world with passion, I wonder if I can even catch hints of my cunt in the thick air. Or someone else’s.
Festivals like this walk a very thin line. Yes, it’s nice to get a bunch of like minded individuals and pack them into a concert yard where they can exchange sweat, saliva and scents, bumping their young, prime bodies against one another, perhaps with a love, perhaps finding a new love. However, pack too many humans too closely together and a great time becomes dangerous. Diseases spread in splaying saliva. Port-a-potties are crawling with the viruses and germs that also want to maintain their existence by wriggling through the flesh barrier of your spread legs. With too many people, some start to go unaccounted for – I flash back to the three woman rape parade that Zach, my abandoned trip partner, and I witnessed when the acid was almost an hour into frying our brains. Three women in multiple stages of undressed – one entirely naked – walk through the dance tent with a bewitching light that flashes, one holds a candle, one tells us that her body is not an invitation. The one without any clothes on at all. The woman leading the group I recognize from yesterday, as the woman that operates the Red tent Women’s shelter (for all self-identifying women) in the Healing Arts section of the festival. She repeats “Raise awareness about sexual assault – NO RAPING”.
I begin to remember why I walked away from Zach. All the conversations we’d had throughout this trip about how I’m not ready for a relationship, and not ready to have sex with him, and the way that he explained how he could help me heal – could make me comfortable through sexual encounters between us. How I’d betrayed my own boundaries in order to maintain the connection with him, and how fucked it was. How, this morning, we’d made an agreement that I absolutely did not want to be physically intimate with him, and that he would respect this in me. Then we’d given massages to each other’s weary bodies. Full body massages. How his hand had cupped my breast and I’d pushed him away, frustrated at not being understood. And when we started tripping, how I’d had to stop him from touching me intimately – only on the hand and back – and he’d responded “It’s who I am”.
Statistics from health class are scrounged up in the schema of my brain’s filing system:
Three out of four rapes are committed by somebody known to the victim.
1 in 5 women on college campuses experiencing sexual assault and rape.
I think about the “interesting” stories about other members of the animal kingdom that are rapists as well. The dolphins and chimps that kill porpoises or babies to force the female back into estrus. Perhaps rape occurs, on a subconscious level, when an organism desperately wants to pass on it’s genes – continue its life. The female duck’s main morphological evolution has occurred in its corkscrew genitalia; dead ends and false leads incorporated into its anatomy, to give them an extra advantage when it comes to choosing which genes it will pass on in its young. An edge of paranoia flickers in my thought process, as I begin to feel more and more violated by the persistence of men with sex, even when it’s been outrightly denied. I begin to see Zach as a set of damaged genetics, and the entity of Zach, a conveyer of said genes, attempting to pass them off, terrified at the possibility that his line may end one day.
The phrase “attacker” takes on a hilarious tone in this light. If 90% of rape cases know their ‘attacker’ beforehand, then the whole event really isn’t as sudden as the language makes it seem. Perhaps it’s little comments that could be taken as innuendo, or as harmless joking. Perhaps it’s suggestive touching or other things classified as sexual harassment.
Or perhaps it’s a relationship, where one body explicitly states their will against sex, and the other manipulates and prods and pushes as much as they can, until finally a breaking point is met, and a rape occurs. Perhaps the ‘attacker’ is even trusted preceding the attack. With Zach, I know I will never be raped or forced into sex, and yet I find my trust in him to make me just as vulnerable to betraying myself. His gentler prodding makes me feel as though my best interest is always in his mind. I see his sexual frustration as equally important to my own aversion, when I ought to be considering my own aversion as a testament by intuition. “Not gonna say yes when all I really mean is no. Not gonna say no unless you know I mean it.” And yet the boundary between yes and no has been so obscured throughout our trip. I’ve come to forget that I always have the right to say no, and that when that response is not respected, I have a right to be outraged.
Respect is abiding by what people tell you about themselves. I’ve learned to abide assholes by believing them when they tell me they re assholes. We like to think that human beings respect each others desire to not have sex, and yet statistics show just how often women’s will is not respected. Of course, a much smaller percent of these rapes will result in a pregnancy, and an even smaller amount of these pregnancies will be kept, but this doesn’t necessarily reflect on the hard wired ideology motivating the rape. Men feel rejection, yet continue to attempt initiating sex with us. It is disgusting and far from conducive to a healthy atmosphere. I flash back to a conversation with Matt, where he told me that women are tending to select, sexually, men that are less aggressive. We are choosing to pass on genes that will produce more feminine men, because they are less of a threat. This idea is only theoretical, and yet I believe it.
When knit together with the new paradigm, I begin to see my selections and sorting of the healthy organisms present from the unhealthy organisms present ,I see this selection process in myself. Zach’s pushiness and puberty-esque frustration appears as such a red flag to me, because it denotes properties of his genetics that no longer fit with the more harmonious consciousness. In this new law and ordering of the chaos, people respect the wishes of each other, because they know that an individual knows best for itself – not for separate individuals. We respect each other. Perhaps this is how paradigms come into existence. Survival of the fittest. I pay attention to my body and respect its needs. I give it healthy food, plenty of exercise and creative outlets and consciously work towards healing myself by listening to what I intuitively know I need. I am attracted to individuals that conduct themselves in the same way. Carnally speaking, I am also attracted to the opposite, if it’s got cute enough features. Yet in these cases, I meet a lot of resistance from the parts of my mind that know what is best for me. My intuitive self seeks out everything it needs and rejects what it doesn’t through subtle ~feelings~
This isn’t to say that the new paradigm is necessarily on a trajectory towards this healthier, more harmonious existence. It is simply following the trend of evolution. If sexiness is what we select for, chances are, the new paradigm will be one of less conscious individuals. However, if we select for healthful traits – as Grassroots and I seem to be doing – via being in tune with our layers of consciousness, then we will most likely find humanity to be characterized by harmony. Which is why it’s so important to keep Grassroots healthy – why it’s so important that Grassroots is recognizing and combatting the presence of sexual assault. Someday, festivals will be creating their own version of young in the fourth dimension – which will bone chart cauterized by the relationship. The network and all that it can create through participation. I raise my Rolling Rock to my lips and watch a young couple grope and swing and dance together, and smile back into my dizzy turning.