It was a chilly and thoroughly wet day. Far more like Puget Sound than México City. I had brought some warm layers from down on the coast but was unprepared for cold pelting rain. For ten pesos I bought a piece of plastic the size of a small slice of toast that unfolded into a thin film which was supposed to be a parka. My cotton cap and clothes took little time to sop up the weather sitting on a narrow concrete bleacher seat high above the bullring. I understood that if the arena sand got too wet, they would cancel the corridas because the beautiful and no doubt expensive horses might fatally slip during the daring skillful work of the rejoneador.
I was primarily here as a writing exercise. An appropriately debatable setting for an immersion teaching on how we can choose to frame and react to what goes on around us. A canvas for a study in optics and the attempt to subdue the opinionated mind. My objective was to call out and shame my inner critic by confronting him with written testimony.
In an earlier story I commented on attending a bullfight in the past when traveling with the family. I further prepared for this lesson with some prerequisite study. It was not a thorough study of course. As you should know, I’m more inclined to just scuff by with feeble research and more content to just make stuff up. But I got through Hemingway’s “Death In The Afternoon” and recalled how taken I had been with Michener’s “México” years ago. I browsed TripAdvisor and Wikipedia, and discussed bullfighting with my friends on both sides of the border and both sides of the controversy. With level consideration I took in opinions as confusing, colorful and sharp as a Picasso painting.
There is a teaching that we see nothing through our own eyes without hastily inventing a story to explain it. And further, that the stories we perceive are likely untrue. Once compiled, those inventions become the projection of ourselves back onto the world to create the make-believe movie of what we think we know.
This is a lesson you can accept or not, but we veterans of so many completely useless past battles and meaningless incidents find such explanations to be the key to peace and clarity.
Every waking minute and every setting is an opportunity to choose peace instead of misperception. But being a drama hound, I just thought a location with its share of critics that also sported color and intrigue might be fun. I decided to carry out my on-the-job training where they had colorful pre-event music and dancing among the exotic and chaotic food and beverage stands in a tailgating sort of way. Kind of like a writers’ workshop and dinner theater all in one.
The Moment Of Truth
To share our personal narrative is simply to ask, “Where, What, Who, How.” This applies to all storytelling – written, spoken, sung, painted, mimed, or whatever. As follows: Where were you? What happened? Who was there? How did it make you feel? With this outline we can unpack, analyze, and then color events to suit our audience. Even so, what is real is only real for us. While we can take ownership of the circumstance, we don’t hold sole ownership of the truth. The real story is only how you felt because it’s all you own.
So we judge a lot. Based on fixed ideas, biases, customs and the habitual. With these judgments we video-edit the unique projection we throw at the screen. Our own precious unique movie. And we watch and we see our lives on stage. And our friends, lovers, admirers and critics see a projection as well. It’s their movie of us. And it is nothing like ours.
So here I sat high in the Plaza México. In several thousand different theatres watching what I knew were several thousand different movies. The horses danced, the bulls charged, the bandilleros flew. The raindrops fell. My feet felt numb, unfeeling. I strained to consciously transcend surroundings as much as I was able by meditating. (“Close your eyes tight and try NOT to think of a..…”)
The crowd roared as the images and descriptors of images taunted me, attempting to invite my praise or criticism. Thoughts and sensations neither necessarily good or bad, I told myself. Flags, fanfare, history, bravery, perspiration, precipitation, blood, hoof beats, pride, poverty, power, ignorance, bliss, and so on.
The Uber driver scowled in Spanish as my fully-flooded Sketchers sloshed into the passenger side. I sheepishly winced back in English, and he pulled too fast into traffic. I had ‘participated’ in three of the traditional six coursas of the afternoon and was eager to return to the airport hotel to dry off. The sight of the elegant buffet in the lobby dining area lured me immediately. I noticed the smell of fresh rare beef.
Back at the room for the final act of my literary assignment, I considered how to conclude the creative essay I would write. Maybe a bit of subtle irony would have my readers throwing their hats, wine skins, and seat cushions into the ring. Something contrary and poignant, I thought. But instead, finally warm and dry, I sat on the bed and watched my home country’s broadcast of the NFL playoff game. Flags, fanfare, history, bravery, perspiration, blood, pride, poverty, power, ignorance, bliss, and so on….Olé!