“Holy fuckin’ shit. I oughta get my phone out. Sage Pontiff doing actual…opposition research?”
With a flail of one of his redwood arms, his right hand gripping at his plain shirt, Cliff Pike does a serviceable enough impression of Redd Foxx. Sage, reclining on Cliff’s third hand couch and watching a video on his phone–shockingly, not a video of street protests or a zen master having a talk in a garden, but an actual bonafide wrestling match. He pauses the Crash Jackson match he’s watching, and he actually seems sheepish. Embarrassed, even! But it’s not just the fact that he’s taking his match seriously that gives the milieu an odd feeling.
Sage looks different.
No, he hasn’t shed his dreadlocks, nor will he likely ever, and he still looks like his standard breakfast is granola and pot. Buit notice the subtleties: the warmth in his look, even if he’s embarrassed, at his partner. The fact that he actually looks like he may have begun developing muscle that isn’t just his hyper-cut, lean, bodyweight exercises grade. Maybe that last part isn’t too crazy to consider, though. Cliff looks like a sleeper cab Peterbilt, and if he’s dragging The Bodhisattva to the gym, it’s not likely for sun salutations. No, he looks like his God is The Iron, and he’s a devout worshiper.
So Sage showing physical signs of becoming swole isn’t that out of the ordinary, all things considered. Sage giving this much of a shit about his match–actually running tape, or at least the digital equivalent of that idiom–is decidedly not like our Bodhisattva. He knows it, too.
“Shh, Pike, you lunk–you want people to hear? You’ll wreck my reputation.”
He’s grinning–Sage’s grin is notably infectious, and he has a mouth full of perfect teeth despite his chosen profession. But there is the barest hint of legitimate worry in those words, and when Cliff leans down for a kiss, he can feel it in Sage’s body language.
“You’re stiff. This really worry you that much?”
“I don’t think worry. But it isn’t my natural place. It feels uncomfortable. Itchy.”
“New things do that sometimes.”
“No, not always. Sometimes they’re exactly what y’need.”
There it is, now his worry is gone. They embrace, in many ways a yin and yang–lithe to blocky, hippie to blue collar hardcore punk, blonde to black, dreads to a cropped crewcut. Cliff settles on the couch with a stern grunt and Sage spins, laying back so his head rests in the broader man’s lap. For a quiet moment, they nestle. Connect. Then Cliff grabs one of Sage’s cone joints–notable for being rolled in organic rose petals, no joke–from the tray on the steamer trunk-cum-coffee table. He fires it up, taking a hit, before holding it to Sage’s lips. His words come out in a croak as he holds the smoke in.
“Who you got this time?”
“Two at once. Crash Jackson and Rich Patterson.”
“Crash Jackson…oh, shit! I think I saw a video of him doing a splash off a stair car in a parking lot a while back?”
“Ha, yeah, the same. He’s fast, but that’s not what makes him so dangerous. He’s agile, too, but agile guys get beat every day. His biggest advantage is that he’s creative. He’s got improvisational energy, he’s like Gillespe. A lot of folks you fight, it’s kind of predictable, right? They have their favored arm, or a combo they enjoy, something they always come back to. But Crash, man. He could do anything.”
“Sounds like you admire him.”
Sage takes a big hit, passing the rose joint back.
“I kind of do. I don;t think it’s unhealthy to recognize the virtuosity in your opponent. Why give into the kind of macho, toxically masculine posturing of ‘I’m tougher’ or ‘I’m stronger’? Let facts exist as they are in their truth. Crash Jackson is a creative powerhouse who has a real hunger. Rich Patterson is a legitimately dangerous fighter with an eye for exploitation.”
“So if you admire their good qualities, what good is this really doin’, y’know?”
Sage considers this, chewing his lip, as Crash Jackson on-screen makes a larger opponent damn-near backflip with a superkick.
“I’m seeing their strengths. But I’m also noticing what they are. And when you know what something is, you also learn what they aren’t. Crash is great, right? But this, what you’re seeing, that’s all there is to him. I watched a video earlier of Rich Patterson, right? Six and a half feet tall, you’d expect him to be a roughneck, just pushing people around with his size. But instead, he waits. He’s calculating. He’s seeing the angles and using economy. But that’s it.”
“I love how you talk about someone who could break your bones and say ‘eh, whatever’.”
“What’s he fight for, Cliff? What does Crash actually fight for? Just to win? Personal success, pride, bigger contracts, more cars, all the bullshit materialistic trappings. All the stupid, stupid pride of being able to say that you’re the best or the scariest or the meanest. That’s all they have. They’re spiritually devoid. They aren’t working towards a greater goal. They believe in nothing but the rule of blood and bone.”
Sage chuckles, stopping the video.
“I’ve found the thing to fight for. The motivations are similar, but miles apart. I’m earning because I can’t wait for oligarchs to grow back the souls they let wither in their pursuit of capital. Wish in one hand and shit in another. What’s my prayer if I’m not using the gifts I’ve been given to I’m just as improvisational. Just as calculating. I can be whatever I need to be in that ring. The difference is that I have belief.”
Cliff strokes the cheek of the Bodhisattva, smiling, his thick mustache crawling across his heavy jaw. There’s tenderness in this moment
“Y’know, sometimes I think you actually believe all this stuff.”
“I really do, love. One day you’ll realize this isn’t just smoke.”
“Maybe. But keep talking. I like when you get going.”
Sage grins, exhaling a curling cloud of sacrament from his lungs. It’s true, thinking of strategy and advantage isn’t natural to him–and in that, he has been uncomfortable. But he was uncomfortable staying in one place, too. He was uncomfortable being vulnerable, too.
And now he’s not sure he wants a life without it.
What do you hold sacred?
I’ve been mulling on that word. ‘Sacred.’ A lot of people hear me talk about meditation and focusing on the greater philosophical questions of existence and I think they envision, like…complexity. Vastness. And what I spend my time on is complex and vast but the mechanism? The mechanism can be simple. As simple as a word.
There’s a sort of idea that the everyday man, the proletariat in a broad sense, either shouldn’t engage in these kinds of questions or doesn’t have a desire to. But I think that’s kind of insulting, right? ‘You can’t worry about your place in the world spiritually–you’ve got work to do!’
Trust me, most folks can support the machines of death and ask themselves if they’re holding true to dharma and sanatana. So democratizing that process is starting to become something I desire. I live in the space of holy men, gurus, questioners of the truth.
It’s my duty to make the curtain of mystery fall.
So all I did this week was sit in silence and consider the word ‘Sacred.’ Not for hours on end, not under a banyan tree while followers laid gifts and flowers and incense at my feet. Just five minutes a day. Total silence. On the ground or at least on the floor, so you can feel the hum of the earth under your root chakra.
Just five minutes a day. Try it! See if you feel more in tune. Think of a word. Think of what it means, think of what it represents to you. Think of its definition, of the word in its truest form and what the absence of that word means.
I’ve hemmed and hawed about the nature of the sacred in my work. You guys may not know that–oddly enough, now I’m sitting here fighting the urge to big time you just like everyone else here has big timed me. And I know that I may seem like a joke. Something to discount. Which is fine, and I mean that. Were I in your shoes, living the life you’ve lived, and I saw me?
I’d think I was a clown too, man. ‘He’s a fighter, but he’s a hippie who believes in the unity of all creation.’ It seems like a joke headline a white supremacist website would run next to transphobic drivel and calls for fascism. A bad joke.
Ask anyone who’s faced me in the forge of combat if they find me very funny afterwards.
See, ‘sacred’. I will always view the fight itself as a sacred act. For the longest time, I thought just doing that, just beating the shit out of you, just eating all your strikes in joyous orgiastic fervor…that was enough. Because I was full of myself and I was used to life in something of an echo chamber. Nothing but psilocybin and flesh. Everyone kissing the hem of my caftan. Is it fun? Sure. Did I actually achieve anything, in a real sense? I had to take a moment to look back and realize…no. I didn’t. For every life I improved I likely destroyed three. For every sacred, beautiful sharing of blood and sweat that I had, there was me beating some blue lives matter shitkicker half to death. Where does it all go, y’know? What am I squaring spiritually?
Am I actually engaging in something sacred?
Or am I profaning something that I believe in?
Five minutes a day.
Don’t consider this a crisis of faith. I still consider the act of fighting sacred….between opponents who respect and recognize one another’s souls. That doesn’t change. One day you’ll experience a transcendent moment and you’ll understand what I’m saying.
But what about a situation like this?
Now across from two men who I do not know. Do not hate. Do not love. You are…outlines, man. You’re paper dolls, you’re ghosts. You’re just a thing. Buddha does that sometimes–the path to enlightenment is chock full of things. Wrongs to right, ignorance to dispel, good deeds to be done, for we are all equal in the eyes of the universe. Buddha also wants me to be what is known as Ahiṃsā, a man of peace. But there is precedent for my existence–as I said, I’m not in crisis. I draw from the heritage of the ikko-ikki, the warrior priests who opposed governmental rule in Japan. They understood, better than most in that era, that sometimes injustice must be met with violence. That sometimes, when you have two things in your path that are merely obstacles, nothing more, you must push through them to enrich existence for many. They would march in robe and armor, with naginata and blunderbuss, directly into battle. Bearing a standard. Nothing fancy, not for these men that wanted for nothing but the embrace of the truth of enlightenment. A banner. And on it was a simple message.
“The mercy of Buddha should be recompensed even by pounding flesh to pieces. One’s obligation to the path should be recompensed even by smashing bones to bits.”
They understood something.
In a way you never will.
And I will not promise you more understanding. Crash, Rich…you have to want it. You don’t. I don’t weep for you. One day you will seek enlightenment, or one day you will not.
You are horses who have stubbornly refused the water in front of you despite the thirst that’s apparent in your existence.
And there’s just one way to deal with a sick horse.
So you will be dealt with.
I will return to the work that matters.
And you will wither to dust.
Do not mourn for your fates. You did this to yourselves.