Jordan came to visit me last week and brought me an unexpected and somewhat auspicious present for the holidays. The unforeseen surprise was presented in a small colorful box with images of characters from South Park, the animated television series that is controversial due to its adult themes. Evidently, if you choose a box from the South Park series, the character represented inside is a surprise. I’m not sure how many characters are represented, but there are quite a few to choose from. We opened it together and, lo and behold, the character was revealed to be Kenny, the orange hoodie-frocked fourth-grader from South Park, Colorado, who often presents himself with muffled speech due to constriction by the parka.

KennyMcCormickKenny is the product of an impoverished redneck family, yet he is wise beyond his years. A recurring theme in most of the episodes is that Kenny gets killed off in often gruesome ways, only to reappear in the next episode with no explanation for his disappearance or his gruesome exit. There is little if any reference to a philosophical explanation; he just reappears as if the dismemberment of the previous episode never happened. As if that wasn’t enough, rats would frequently gnaw on his carcass.

It is hard for me to watch Kenny and not be struck by the shamanic nature of his recurring death-rebirth cycles. In Crestone, Colorado, there is a strong Tibetan influence and rats gnawing on a carcass reminds me of the Sacred Tibetan teachings of the sky burial practice. Sky burial involves careful preparation of the deceased person’s body, which is then offered on a mountaintop to vultures, who are considered Dakinis or angels.  It is believed that Dakinis take the soul to the spirit world. People are encouraged to witness this ritual in order to confront death openly and to deeply integrate the impermanence of life. The impermanence of life has been a central teaching for me since Katrina, when much of my Beloved city was destroyed along with my way of life. My very closest male friend died within two years after we all had moved from Louisiana. My illness progressed steadily after Katrina, we sold the horse farm and moved to Colorado, divorced, and so on.  Never had I truly understood the concept of impermanence on an experiential level until then.

It is interesting to me that of all the characters on South Park, I was gifted with the presence of Kenny. Whether the writers consciously or unconsciously intended to impart a teaching about the impermanence of life while using satirical humor, the teaching to me is clearly out there, whether it is received or not.

In researching for this blog entry, I reviewed many episodes of Kenny and his cronies’ adventures. In one auspicious episode, the writers considered killing Kenny off permanently. The episode involved embryonic stem cells and Kenny contracting a terminal muscular disease. During the episode Kenny died once again, and then after many episodes he finally reappeared. Is it my imagination or is this not synchronistic?

Then again, sometimes a cartoon character is just a cartoon character.