Do you have dreams beyond those of commerce and trade?
Or are you content to sleep with the cold embrace of social media and shopping to keep you fulfilled?
The Bodhisattva has been asking himself this as of late.
It’s not money. Money never meant anything to him, even if he can now with the benefit of hindsight realize that he grew up pretty well-off. You have to do something right to own a geodesic dome on acreage like his father did. Sometimes the Bodhisattva wonders if his parents sought out Joshua Tree or just ended up landing there, opting for stability to raise the child growing in his mother. There’s a part of him that feels a melancholy at this, as if his arrival heralded the end of their idealism for the gray cloud of propriety and stability. But that feeling of sadness has been happening less and less, and while he could try to credit his drug consumption( heroic ) and his commitment to transcendental meditation( unwavering ), the truth of the matter is a scary monster at the dark edges of his consciousness.
Propriety and Stability aren’t a gray cloud to him anymore.
If anything, they feel warm.
He considers this halfway through a raw cone. Considers that he could probably just call his parents, even if he’s likely not someone they want to hear from. His mom more than his Dad–Pops was always positively Christlike in his capacity to forgive sins. His Mom, though–that’s Kali and Shiva. Sage never got his absolute joyous destructive energy from his father, that was always his more contemplative side. But Mom, mom was a warrior with fire in her bones.
So he can’t just call. Besides, what does that conversation look like?
“Hey Mom, I know it’s been almost half a decade. Hope Dad is doing well since he got out of jail for a crime I committed–anyway, when did you know it was time to settle down and let yourself take root?”
Nah, can’t play. Dog won’t hunt.
The Bodhisattva has been so far outside of his comfort zone for so long that he’s starting to forget what that looked like. He remembers the ample partners and the free drugs and the frequent bloodletting and being worshiped as a holy man. The thing is, that’s a life that stopped fulfilling him. Maybe it will again, who can say? It would be easy enough to return to, which is a thought that frankly frightens him. Is this just his attempt at cosplaying the life of a regular man, has he become this disconnected? He knows he’s looking at things too closely, too granular. If he actually expands his view, he knows this fear is unfounded, but that doesn’t make it any less real. He’s slept in the same place–with the same person–for a few months now. The biodiesel camper gathers dust when he has no fighting engagement, he and his lover opting for the latter’s walloped Volvo to get around and ferry them between shows, drug trips, and legitimate community aid. You can see signs of the shared domesticity, Cliff adopting shirts that aren’t black tees and Sage electing to rock footwear more structured and supportive than his ancient Tevas.
But there are times when The Bodhisattva feels a disconnect from the man he has allowed himself to be this vulnerable with, from this man he loves. No one would accuse his partner of shying away from a scrap, far from it. When Cliff Pike descends into the fray it’s something from a primordial era, some great prehistoric simian scattering frightened villagers to the four corners in a pit or walloping his knuckles bloody against fascists with a fire in his eyes that could melt tempered steel. But Cliff would never say he enjoys it. In quieter moments, he wishes it weren’t all so necessary, that the greater good of the human populace could overcome the hatred and uncaring callousness that it seems so predisposed toward. That he wouldn’t have to live every day fighting a fresh battle in a war that doesn’t seem to end. He patches up his cuts and scrapes and withdraws into himself, lays his head on the chest of The Bodhisattva, and they say nothing, merely listening to breath and hearts and enjoying this calm moment in the sanctuary they have crafted for one another.
Sage smiles in the pit. Grins when his nose gets busted. Laughs when he’s driving his fist into the ribs of whatever right wing protest squad thought they could get an easy win over the hippies and homeless.
He may have walked away from doing it for religious purposes, but that doesn’t make the high any less powerful, the feeling any less seductive. He had to learn to curtail his amorous feelings after a good scrap.
He knows Cliff looks at him differently after these moments.
Face bleeding, skin alive, staring across the furnace of all creation, climbing into rarified ether. He doesn’t chase the dragon, but when the dragon presents itself? The Bodhisattva beats it to absolute hell. Arms to the side, messianic, naked to the waist, his battered ribs flexing and pulsing against his skin. His muscles contract and relax as he lets the pain and the blood and the burning sensations wash across his nerves. Cliff makes him feel many, many things.
But Cliff can’t hold a candle to how the fight makes him feel.
It’s a gulf between them. Some days it’s larger, some days imperceptible.
But when he’s got an actual fight on the horizon–and against someone with such a breathtaking capacity for real structural violence–those days, the gulf seems massive. Undeniable. Inescapable.
And that’s the part he loathes the most.
Deep down he knows.
This isn’t something he’ll ever ‘recover’ from.
Do you feel pain?
I don’t mean in a general sense or even as a broader spiritual question–I know you must be shocked.
But when your avatar bleeds, do you also?
Kennade Starr poses actual existential questions, but most of you aren’t willing to ask yourselves anything like that–you’d rather sneer. Because you are truly safe if you don’t ask yourself big questions. That’s a dirty secret that people don’t want to admit, but look at the evidence: millions of people ignorant to the world and their greater spiritual place within it live happy, blissful lives. Raise families. Die with zero regrets.
That’s something I’ve learned.
Just because I ask these questions, it doesn’t make me better than those of you who choose ignorance.
It makes me more curious, and more well-rounded, and more interesting to talk to, sure. But better? Better is a value judgment. I’m frankly exhausted of them. So if you aren’t willing to see the philosophical questions inherent in the existence of someone like Kennade Starr, then I bid you a good day. Turn this off. Have a wonderful evening, day, weekend, week, month, year, life. And I mean that with all sincerity in my heart, I hope you are happier every day more than the previous until you pass calmly and comfortably surrounded by people who love you unconditionally.
For the rest of us?
It’s wild, right?
Are you the zeitgeist given flesh? A commentary, a warning, a ghost from the machine? You almost don’t feel real, not in the sense that most literalists mean it. Here sits before you a social media Lawnmower Man, ordering her muscle to lay into and tear nonbelievers to bits. To break us, right?
Our options are subscribers or the dead.
An influencer house made of bones.
I saw it on the horizon after I heard the bookings, the ley lines of existence holding my heels to the earth in a way that prevented my movement. I was stuck, feeling a quintessence course through me, right? And then the clouds parted like theater curtains and I saw her, I saw you, Kennade. And the throne you sat upon was filled with circuitry and the YouTube thumbnail of your soul said “conclusion”. Because that’s what you are. You are not incipient or in a chrysalis form, you are the omega moment. People often accuse influencers of living a fake existence–why not add ‘fake fight career’ to that list? It’s breathtaking how brazenly you mock the very foundations of combat. How you profane and take in vain the thing that all of us do to feed ourselves, but that a rare few of us view as something religious.
You are a mockery of my church, and I can’t bring myself to hate you.
Because you aren’t a being of malice.
You are merely a product.
You’re something birthed from an ooze that we all neglected. Participated in. Ignored the warning signs.
So if you’re not something I can hate, I must instead feel pity for you. Pity for the arms and legs and skull you pilot, pity for the fact that you’ve drawn the short straw.
I stay away from self-aggrandizement.
But I am not an easy fight.
Anyone who has faced me can easily admit that.
And you’ve decided to mock my church.
I am violent. I enjoy it. I can admit that.
And you’ve decided to mock my church.
Blood and pain are the currency I trade in to keep my soul full and my third eye spotless. I hope you hurt me. I’m ready for it. These pigs and fascists I’ve been scrapping with are far too soft.
And you’ve decided to mock my church.
But since you are not evil, not full of malice, not an interloper who actually intends to destroy the very concept of combat that I hold so close to my chest, then you’re basically…vermin, right? You’re a plague. You’re a sickness, but like a lot of sickness, if we’re just now noticing the symptoms, we’re pretty fucked.
But all of that is your path. I’m not here to be some avenging angel and I’ll not offer you a baptism to wash your sins away–there will be no balm in Gilead on this night. I judge you, but not as a person, more for what you represent, the construct you are the scion of. But there is no forgiveness in my assessment, for that path is one that has to be squared by you as an individual to the universe and its furies. You have to choose that. You have the power. Only you.
All I’m going to do is violence.
Cliff’s voice, his distinct baritone rasp, feels…restrained. He watches Sage loading his duffel into the biodiesel camper, his massive redwood arms crossed. Sage smiles softly, closing and then leaning against the back hatch. He flashes Cliff his bright, beautiful smile, his heterochromatic eyes regarding his partner with warmth.
But Cliff’s eyes don’t return it. He’s being guarded.
“Have to. Have a fight.”
“What is it about it that you don’t like? I have talent and acumen. I can turn that talent into funds and praxis. Where’s the issue?”
Cliff chews on his lip, slowly walking toward Sage. His guardedness can’t hold out in the face of Sage’s light–the warmth and draw that Pontiff used to mesmerize crowds has only one outlet right now, and Cliff is only human. Only a man. Getting into his sphere, Cliff leans against the hatch, joining him.
“I don;t hate the fight. I hate what it does to you. Hate how far off you feel.”
“You hate how much I like it.”
“…yeah, if I’m being honest. It raises some ethical question in me, but I also get t’thinkin’, like…is there gonna come a day when fighting ain’t enough?”
Now it’s Sage’s turn to cross his arms. It’s his turn to put his guard up.
“…I can’t help how I’m wired, Cliff. Before I met you I was, well…”
“Going out at night and baiting shitkickers to beat you bloody?”
Cliff chuckles softly.
Sage doesn’t crack a smile.
Pike is nonplussed.
“Before I got on with PRIME? All the time. After I landed that, less often, but…still. If my pay fight wasn’t what I wanted it to be, if I didn’t reach the place I wanted to reach, I’d find someone who would take me there. And now I don’t. I am trying, trying really hard actually, to lead…a life that I consider one of esteem.”
He reached out, placing a hand softly on his partner’s lantern jaw.
“One that you hold in esteem.”
There’s a painful moment here. Cliff Pike is trying to hold himself resolute in the face of a man with more personal magnetism to spare than most have to use. If he was transparent, anyone could see how much he cares for Sage. How close they have become. But while he’s far more content fighting wars against things like poverty, capitalism, and the police state…he knows that Sage isn’t there yet. He does participate and has made affecting real material change his ethos, but Cliff knows he’d always rather be wading into the field of battle.
Fists, knuckles, blood, and adrenaline.
In the olden days, Cliff figures, Sage would have been a fearsome warrior. Shirtless, hair braided, spearing centurions and showing them a glimpse of something primordial that they could never contend with.
As is, he fights for money.
Cliff embraces him. There is no distance in this act, no gulf between them whatsoever. Tearing their lips from one another, their heads touch. Pike is the first to break the silence.
“I’m not…used to this. So I’m fuckin’…I’m inarticulate.”
“I’m not used to it either. But I know that I don’t want to see it go.”
It’s a fucking fight.