Tuesday, February 09, 2016
Rex-- Photograph I made in New Orleans in the 1970s
In New Orleans, if not also in Rio or Venice, Mardi Gras (or Carnival) has become more a celebration of Dionysus than of Christian excess. It is not just a matter of getting drunk and releasing stress. Mardi Gras is affirmative, a primal urge equal to anything rational or exalted. There is mysticism in a true Dionysian experience. One transcends the private, egoistic self to experience a bonding with others, a merger with the spirit of the time and the place. Getting high is no more than a way of letting go in order to be open to the higher awareness. Sex is essential to the experience-- the sine qua non of this fullness of being.
My first Mardi Gras in New Orleans exceeded my wildest expectations. I was dazzled by all the people in masks, the music day and night, the dance in the parades of torch bearers and in the street of everyone around me. We were out until the wee hours the days leading up to Tuesday. We rode the Streetcar packed with happy revelers. We drank wine and made merry. We wore masks and costumes. There is nothing quite like wearing a mask and actually becoming the channel for spirits, taking on an added identity, transforming oneself. We embraced others. I slept in the arms of two lovely souls, one male, one female, simultaneously. We slept after our embraces, our warm sexual exchanges and merging.
The experience is beyond some bit of material or carnal excess. It is not to be shed the next day in some sort of hungover repudiation. The return of the ordinary and the rational may be welcome. But Blake's insight that the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom is burnished by the full experience of Mardi Gras. There is an ineffable wisdom of which I can only share a hint or a glimpse. If you want to understand Carl Jung, to know what he meant by the Shadow and the Collective Unconscious, Dionysus will show you The Way.