I like that moment central to danger when you become so thoroughly concerned with acting deftly, in order to be safe, that only reaction is possible, not analysis.
You shed the centuries, and feel creatural.
Of course you do have to scan, assess, and make constant minute decisions.
But there is nothing like thinking in the usual methodical way.
What takes place is more akin to informed instinct.
For a compulsively pensive person, to be fully alert but free of thought is a form of ecstasy.
Being ecstatic means being flung out of your usual self.
— Diane Ackerman, “On Extended Wings“
The best part about erotic stories is the power of identity shedding, the power of that moment when someone “shed(s) the centuries and becomes creatural.” It is this peeling back which allows us to engage ecstasy as a participant rather than just as an observer.
As participants in society, holding obligations and responsibilities, our identity encircles us in layers, wrapping our creatural senses in history, knowledge, tradition, defences, expectations and much more. We carry what we carry, and no matter how often we unpack and repack our baggage to toss out the trash, we always have a burden.
That moment when we feel safe enough, protected enough to drop those burdens for a moment and meet someone else in a naked and exposed way, we leave behind those layers of identity and are released to ecstasy.
It is hard to imagine dropping those layers without some external force, either a force that we trust, like a gracious and dominant master, or a force that coerces us into that shedding, like drugs or a captor. One or the other of these forces appear in most erotic tales. Other tales usually end up using the device of an alter ego, another identity we assume that is disconnected from family and other obligations and so can delve deeply into the erotic without the complications of holding onto propriety.
We want to get outside of ourselves in order to get inside of ourselves, get outside the corsets that shape our behaviour and defend us and get inside the passions of our blood.
Which part is more really us, the gifts of our experience, of our learning, or the heat of our desires, raw and uninhibited? Not being a binary person, I suspect that the answer is both. Construction and conflict is at the heart of the human experience, which is why being forced to leave it behind leaves Ms. Ackerman so ecstatic.
I see a need in my life to shed identity, to feel the energy of possibility again.
I also, however, feel the need to construct identity, to find new public figure who I can embody and express. Add to that a need to carry forward the results of the hard work I have done in creating understanding that at least some others find valuable when I share it, and to carry the obligations of my family, the process of shedding identity to become more vibrant ends up being a really challenge, especially to do alone.
The fantasy of shedding identity, to be seen, reflected and admired for my own ecstatic heart, is truly seductive. I understand why the go to dream in this society is to be unbound and unburdened in a way where we can become creatural, connecting with ecstasy and feeling the pounding of our own heart.
I just can’t imagine how that would work for me, though.