Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Book Review: Lucy Plays Panpipes for Peace

Book review by guest blogger, Tantra Bensko
Lynette Yetter’s novel draws from her own life when she went to the Andes, pulled by the sound of the panpipes as a tool for transformation. Yet it is fiction, in the way called for in David Shields’ Reality Hunger. It means more knowing she really did something truly audacious and death defying. Here, we get a glimpse of how close to reality it is, and how the fiction made it into the powerful book it is.

“Hurtling through space and time, the blue orb was rapidly self-destructing. Vital fluids pumped out of its innards burned in orgies of greed. The vapors ate away its luminous ozone skin.

Indigenous Elders, you might call them brain cells of wisdom, were ignored.

New synapses of fiber optic cable and satellite rays rationalized the destruction as ‘progress.’

Chaos surged like a flooding river.”

Thus begins the story in which Lucy goes to participate in the ancient culture of the Andes.

Coca Vendor (oil painting by Lynette Yetter)

Her words continue to swell when she extends her viewpoint outward, such as “Each person, a black-clad spark of soul, pulled by the inexorable gravity of survival. Together the seething mass of humanity ran. In their black mourning clothes, they were like primordial darkness churning. The light of humanity in their hearts bound each to the other as if to birth a new galaxy of life, in Warrior Town.”

It’s obvious Lynette knows how to write powerfully. I also appreciate how real and down-to-earth the language is, how honest and wholesome this book. It’s hip in a DIY kind of way, with Lynette doing a tour on bike for this book as activism inspiring others to follow their dreams and stand up for peace, and play. It also is a great example of what David Shields call for in his manifesto
Reality Hunger, which is taking the world by storm now. Lynette Yetter’s Lucy feels real, and the events occurred in the way that anything occurs in our memories—as fiction–stories we’ve told ourselves repeatedly and bundled into plot packages.

One of the things I like best is that she includes the vantage point of manifesting and finding our future—and doesn’t just include the times her intentions worked. Her idealism, naïve ideas of the simplicity of finding her heart’s desire are sweet, and ironic when faced with reality. She manages to keep her humor about the ups and downs that causes, though she feels such things very passionately, and they can shake her. Her naïve idealistic determination makes her follow the sound of pan pipes to Peru, where she plays in various venues, joining in with indigenous musicians, as she believes the sound can help create visions of harmony for others as it did for her. She believes she can make a difference to bring more peace to this world through them. But it’s just that quality, and her passionate empathy and love, that create the inspiring events of this book.

On location in Bolivia filming "Panpipes for Peace"

Lucy takes on oppression and segregation, pointing out the false flag of 911, the cultural imperialism of missionaries, the modern tendency to block people out of simply going out and camping under the stars, and she wonders at anomalies of government/military connections. In South America, she plays indigenous peasant music only recently made legal, and has no trouble associating with citizens  in the Andes who disrespect unfair political authority, and encourages harmony in dangerous situations. Even in competitive traditions she fosters a sense of oneness.

She acknowledges how magical the world is through synchroncities such as running into the man who wrote a song she was playing. Yet, this isn’t a treatise on creative visualization. The irony that can undercut such magic becomes obvious when she gets to know the song’s author. I love that combination. She’s not living out some formula, pretending it always works. So, when her intentions do manifest, her visions do come true, they are far more believable and powerful.

We learn about Andean folklore, such as the respectful relationship of miners to the Tios, earth spirits who live underground. We also learn that kusillos are androgynous entities who bridge the known and unknown.  And we follow closely: shocking international business practices, the role of civil disobedience in social progress, and the involvement of the U.S. in civil war. This book made me cry for a long time, tremble, and even shout out loud.

David Shields would like her book. In his, Reality Hunger, which also came out in 2010, he claims “Most, perhaps even all, good work (or, okay, work that excited me) eludes easy generic classification: once we know it’s coloring entirely within the lines called 'novel' or 'memoir' or 'Hollywood movie,' I honestly don’t see how anything emotionally or intellectually interesting can happen for the reader. . . . Just as out-and-out fiction no longer compels my attention, neither does straight-ahead memoir.”

I asked Lynette about the fiction/memoir interface: “My book and reality. It is heavily based on my own personal experience in Peru and Bolivia.

In order to better tell the Truth, to express Reality, I chose to fictionalize my experiences. As an old hiking buddy and PhD in English once told me — fiction is where we express the deeper truths of life. In short, she said, ‘Fiction rocks!’ Lucy Plays Panpipes for Peace started out as pure memoir — emails sent to friends and first person stories I told at performance spaces in Los Angeles.

But, it was too limiting to stick to chronological events and specific people.

By fictionalizing reality I can lump many people into a single character who then becomes an archetype. And in that process, new characters – 100% fictitious – are sometimes born. My favorite is Aunt Bert.

Aunt Bert came to me in a vision, you might say. I was riding in a bus along the shores of Lake Titicaca, when suddenly Aunt Bert appeared in my mind. She told me her life story. As I looked out the bus window at the scenery passing by, I was so moved by her life that I even cried at the sad parts. And when I got to where I was going, I wrote down what she had told me. That is how Aunt Bert came to be in the book.

Speaking of reality – to me, Aunt Bert is one of the most real characters in the novel – yet she is 100% fictitious.

Reality is so multi-dimensional. On one hand, it is the material world we can document with calendars and cameras and weights and measures. Yet it is also the invisible realm of the mysterious that animates all of life – is life. By fictionalizing the material world, I strive to reveal the deeper truths of what is invisible yet is the most powerful truth of all – our own lives.”

David Shields asks “A character is either ‘real’ or 'imaginary’?. . . . To be alive is to travel ceaselessly between the real and the imaginary, and mongrel form is about as exact an emblem as I can conceive for the unresolvable mystery at the center of identity.”

Headshot, Lynette Yetter

I can feel this book in my heart. I know Lynette bravely accomplished the amazing feats in this story, yet it isn’t a heavy handed recitation of her travels, or an SGI tract, but a call to go into our deepest selves, to cry, because there is a reality there that the fictionalization allows to live in a moving way, inside of us. There is no boundary between story and life, Lucy and Lynette, or our hands, wet with tears, and the pages they turn, which catch the light of the sun, that is not separable from the light of consciousness.

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