“Sacateca is a man of knowledge, he is not the same class with you fellows.” Don Juan said sternly. “He dances because that’s the bent of his nature…”
Carlos Castaneda, ‘A Separate Reality’
You know how it is. Sometimes you read something and you spend the rest of the day trying to figure it out. Castaneda definitely got to my head with this one. I spend the rest of my afternoon in a whirlpool of thoughts.
“He dances because that’s the bent of his nature.”
What does that even mean?
In the book, don Juan, an old Native American was telling the story of Sacateca who came to ‘know’ the world through dancing. Not reading, not listening, not working. Dancing! This is how he experienced and discovered the world, like no one else could. And if you happened to be around while he danced, you would feel like he put a spell on you. You would see another reality, become part of it, learn from it yourself. He was a man of knowledge, one of the few who knew ‘the bent of his nature’. And followed it.
The listeners were making fun of old Don Juan and his stories. They were all young, but already their life was hard. And they believed it was supposed to be so. Wake up early, plow your land, get drunk, go to sleep. Start over. Don’t bother too much with non-practical stuff.
“He danced because that’s the bent of his nature”.
Think about it. What is the bent of your nature?
To me, it seemed like a question the answer to which I had lost along the way, together with the proof of the Pythagor theorem, the exact speed of light and the content of that book that shook my world in 7th grade.
When you were a kid, who were you? What was different about you? Where is it now?
As I lay in bed thinking about it, an endless stream of images came to my mind.
I saw myself as a kid, laughing. Little miss Sunshine, who got everything she wanted because she knew how to approach anyone, anytime, anywhere. I saw myself running with my friends on quests to fight monsters and find hidden treasures. I was always the first to jump from that high rock. My team always won.
I saw my 8-year-old self forgiving my parents for their faults. In a way so wise and profound I don’t believe I will ever understand it. I saw myself taking worms from beneath a rock to give it to the chicken in the countryside. And catching a huge pack of small fish, while others got nothing trying to get the bigger fish in the deep.
I saw a girl who knew she could rule any subject at school and always got straight A’s. Who suffered deeply the few low marks she ever got, her teachers’ and mother’s critical comments. Boy’s rejections and breakups.
A girl who always used the negative energy to excel even more, facing the pain and using it to her advantage.
I saw a girl who was so obssessed with Bon Jovi, she learned English just to understand their songs. Writing down every single lyric in a special notepad and spending her last money for albums, posters and magazines. Who went to sleep dreaming of the love that Jon Bon Jovi sang about. And promised herself she’d never settle for anything less!
I saw myself spending the summer with my grandparents. Reading all day with huge excited eyes about dinosaurs, animals, nature, astronomy, archeology, literature… and running to get ice-cream in the city centre every afternoon. Mmmm the ice-cream! They called me ‘ice-cream girl’. My relatives used to buy me a huge box, half my body size, every time I visited them. When I helped them in the field in the summer, they would pay me in ice-cream!
Don’t get me wrong. I was not gluttonous. I was always a good girl. My mother taught me to eat 1 small piece of chocolate per day — it would take me 24 days to eat a chocolate bar! I did that, no rebellion, no nothing.
Somehow, in time, all these little quirks sink somewhere deep inside us.
What once made you… you, is now all long forgotten. It’s still there in your core, but others can only see the outer layers of you that piled up over time. The danger is that in time, we tend to forget about our core. We learn to define ourselves as those external layers of experiences, scars, other’s opinions about who we are and who we should be.
We allow ourselves to be defined by our work, fears and peers instead of our love, the ‘bent of our nature’… Unless we choose otherwise.
Well, thanks to Castaneda and that thoughtful afternoon, I decided to choose otherwise. I realized that for the last 15 years, I’ve walked 2 hours every day because that’s ‘the bent of my nature’. And it is time that I follow through with it, instead of trying to confine it within the limits of what’s acceptable…
So this summer I am going to fulfill a childhood dream I’ve had since I was 10. I am going to do Kom-Emine, a 700km walking trip in the mountains, crossing the whole country of my homeland, Bulgaria.
After all, one should honor one’s obsessions. They are our greatest teachers.
Maybe I will find a small child on the way. A cute girl who laughs, likes bugs and ice-cream and knows how to rule at any subject.
If I do, I will take her back with me. Give her a big bucket of ice-cream and get her to stay with me for a little longer. 🙂
***Originally published on Medium, 26 June 2015.