Rope is like a hundred hands against your skin. It’s a hundred toys, a hundred sensations, a hundred opportunities to tie your brain into knots. I used to think it was a shoddy excuse for weak dominance. Now I think shoddy rope is a symptom of a lack of imagination. I support anything that makes it easier to find crafty dominants, and now I’ll be looking for a bag full of jute as a green flag.
I’ve always loved Japanese art, partly for the way it finds perfection in imperfection and impermanence. Rope arrives exquisitely, and passes far too quickly. An elegant tie must ultimately be untied, leaving no record of its existence. The transience of that moment is its own perfection, and your existence within it feels all the more precious for that.
While I was away, I watched a rigger create art out of bodies, one creation after another, showing no regret when it was time to bring all his beauty all down. The suspensions I managed to photograph have faded in my mind. It’s that one tie I failed to capture that lives the most vividly in my mind. To be human is to treasure scarcity, but rope insists on better.
The enso is the symbol of Zen Buddhism. It’s said that if you can create the perfect circle by hand in mere moments, you’re enlightened.
The enso represents a moment when the mind is free enough to let the body create without inhibition, and the rope I saw in that tiny dojo reminds me of that. The body wants to labour over its creations. It wants to be precious with every tie, but rope doesn’t allow such fussiness. It insists on an uninhibited top, and that, right there, is why I’ve fallen in love with it. You can’t draw a perfect circle in two strokes if you labour over it, and it seems to me that rope demands the same fearless discipline.
The rope I experienced was less aesthetic and more sensual than the shibari I saw. It forced me into the present, and then it disappeared. Shunryu Suzuki said, “When you do something, you should burn yourself up completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.” Here we were, and then we no longer existed. We branded our presence into one burning moment, and then we disappeared.
I’m still grasping for that moment.
Isn’t that the entire point?