Phony Driving Laws

Wifey and I are walking down the street enjoying crunchy snow and blue sky.  We feel so much better knowing that New York is snowed under for a change.  Why should it always be us?

As we approach the crosswalk we stop and look.  We’ve learned our lesson by watching other unsuspecting tourists get run over.

Yes!  Here comes a speedy car making the turn.  He doesn’t even see us.  No signal.  He’s going fast, and he’s even driving in the other lane for a while.  Are these all driving transgressions?

Under the old regime, back when people paid attention to reality, sure.  But what makes this all good is the fact that the young man is intently talking on his phone.

Yes, the black rectangle is glued to his head.  In the few seconds of sight I see him vocalizing loudly.  I see head wagging.  I see one hand on the wheel, and at least his eyes appear to be on the road.

Should I be angry?  No!  I realize the laws need to be changed.

If you’re on the phone, it’s the other cars and pedestrians that have to get out of the way.

Let’s say you’re at a 4 way stop and you pulled up first.  But a car pulls up to your left and you see they have a phone to their ear, who gets priority?  Why, he does of course!  He can’t see you, and he’s not going to wait.  Why should he?  He’s busy.

So it’s your job to wait and respect the call.  After all, communicating with our friends is one of the few pure joys left in our otherwise dull and boring lives.

Well, that and dodging those drivers who are out to kill us.

 

Yoga Deconstructed

I had the pleasure of meeting Alexandria Crow the other day and learning about her perspective on yoga.  It was fantastic.

She’s an ex-gymnast and a push-the-envelope kind of person.  She has intimate knowledge of what our bodies are capable of, and what they aren’t.

She knows better than most because she’s suffered.  She went too far.  You’d think that would be bad news.  But it isn’t.

For that’s how the best of the best learn, and we mere mortals must learn from their pain.

Ms. Crow is like a yoga test-pilot.  She took her body to places it shouldn’t go.

She’s learned about what’s out there, the demons who live beyond the envelope.  She lived through the experience, and she’s willing to teach us about it.  We should listen.

As soon as I figured that out, I was riveted.  She wasn’t just another bendy-body beauty, but someone who could give me a deeper insight into my yoga, and yoga in general.

I hadn’t planned on being so captivated.  I thought it would be a nice way to learn some sequencing tips from a seasoned professional.  The fact that she appeared to be twenty-something gave me doubts, but by the end of the session I realized she’d blown my mind.  And not just with respect to sequencing.

For some years I’ve been learning from many different experts, people who have taught, and thought, long and hard about yoga.  I’ve studied a bit of yoga history and about some of the great players in the field.

I’ve only passing interest in the current fads in today’s marketplace.  Mostly because they’re trendy and about establishing brand.  As a business person I can pick up and understand those aspects quickly.

No, the big insight came from combining what I learned from and about Ms Crow, with what I’ve learned from other great yogis I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

Ginny Nadler has taught me that the hips and deeper are the true center of any pose.  Some independent practitioners and a bit of anthropology agree with her.  Peter Starios taught me that even the innocence of balasana (child’s pose) could be the basis for a rock solid regime.  Yes, he taught me to sweat in child’s pose.  Reading Judith Lasater has taught me that deep and gentle and listening to your body is far more profitable than any standard set of pictures.

Yes there have been others, each of whom has their own particular “angle” on yoga.  But each and everyone had something else: they had broken free of the tyranny of perfect posture.

Ms. Crow calls them fancy poses.  BKS Iyengar made them famous in his book.  Only a professional contortionist can do all of them well.  But I don’t.  I can’t.  I own an old, stiff, anti-athletic body.

But what Sterios, Nadler, Crow and Lasater have done is deconstruct yoga down to its most essential elements – body positions.  And where those body parts should go is indicated by looking at your own body, inside your own body.  Not at someone else’s picture.  Not even the person next to you or at the front of the room.

We don’t have to strive for fancy pose number 9.  We do have to strive to put our hips, feet, and shoulders in the right place.

What makes any place right?  It’s all up to you.  Are you practicing for flexibility? Balance? Strength? Endurance? Coordination? Or something else?  Then that defines where your body goes, how you get there, how long you linger and how hard you push.

Are you warming up for intense forward folds?  Then back off on the updogs!  Need some spinal twists?  Don’t force yourself with external pressures like your arms, legs or ropes.  Let your twist come from inside yourself.  You won’t twist as far, but it’s a better workout, and you’re far less likely to hurt yourself.

Don’t hurt yourself!  It’s fine to feel discomfort that goes away within a day.  But pain lingers and annoys and reduces your quality of life.

I’m a firm believer in this part of the Marine creed: “pain is weakness leaving the body.”  For us civilians, it should read that “discomfort is weakness leaving the body.”

What all these insightful teachers are creating is a new yoga.  Each has taken their bodies to beyond its normal limit, and come back using the power of yoga.

Now they’re teaching us a new way, a more rational, even scientific approach to yoga.  It’s not a trend, yet.  It will never be a fad because it’s too deep.  Right now its leaders are smart, courageous, and working hard.

The results are well worth the effort.  I’m convinced that I’ve avoided hip and knee surgeries that my friends have already had.  My busted shoulder healed faster and better because of yoga.  And I’m certainly a more relaxed person than I would be otherwise.

Yoga means many things.  For me, it’s about harmony.  For Ms. Crow it boiled down to attention.  For our proto-indo european ancestors, it meant “to join.”.

My conclusion from all of these maverick yogis deconstructing today’s yoga is this: they are all closer to the true spirit of yoga’s greatest founders, T. Krishnamacharya.

Krishnamacharya didn’t believe in fancy poses or perfect positions or their names.  His student BKS made many of those up for business purposes.  Krishnamacharya never taught the same way twice, for every student was different.  And he was always learning.

For me, that’s harmony, that paying attention.  And that’s having the ability to join all the different parts of our bodies and lives together in one big practice.

Namaste.

 

Disclaimer: I’m an amateur yogi and only study this as a hobby.  Any mistakes are my own.  Let me know and I’ll fix them as soon as I’m able!

 

 

Alphabet 2.0

It’s time for a serious rant.

Not about anything “see-ree-us” but about something nearby all the time.

This item is impossible to run from, for it’s always within arm’s length.

Yes, there’s a major problem in our nation and it has nothing to do with war, spying, drugs, budgets, or greed, lust, lies, power, or pollution.

No, none of those.  It’s about our alphabet.

Some years ago I realized that a good operating system improves our ability to work.  Those who used linux or apple rapidly got up to speed and stayed that way.  Good work, people!

Those who went the way of windows spent far more time learning how to use it and also had more problems.  In the long run, both groups are about equal.  But why make life harder than it has to be?

The alphabet is an operating system for our brain.  We think in it, talk in it, and write down all our important thoughts.

It takes years for kids to learn it.  And even as adults, many still don’t get the idea of spelling.  My favorites are many, but some are: thorough, philosophy, and agile.  What are some of yours?

The list is almost endless.  So many funny words, not spelled the way they sound.  No, they get spelled the way someone else did it by mistake years earlier.

Need proof?  Look at any old writing that is 200 years old.  See how differently the words are spelt.  Grammar nightmare for young and old alike.

Where should I start improving the alphabet?  I’m going to begin at the beginning, to make this short.

Sure, I have issues with the idea of “Q” always being followed by a “U” – how useless is that?  Or the fun we have with “G” being hard and soft.  Is there a word where both “G” sounds appear?

No, I’m going to ignore those fun problems and start at the top with the biggest offender of them all, letter number three, the “see.”

What are it’s offenses?  Let me sum the ways.  First, students of English never know if it’s sounds like an “ess” or a “kay.”

In Latin they only used it for the “K” sound.  So the Roman Emperor Julius?  He was a Kaiser, like a King.  He was not a “see-zur” like the salad!

Then at times our perpetrator teams up with unknowing partners.  Paired with the “H” or the more popular “S” our perp alters the entire sound, leaving hate and mayhem in its wake.

No, Fair Reader, the time is now for removing the old letter from our operating system and re-purposing it as an entirely new sound.

Perhaps it’s willing to take up the mantle of “TH” so we don’t have to merge those two letters in order to make one sound.

Or maybe, finally, we fulfill its destiny and free the poor partner “H.”  In this way a popular point of worship would be spelled “see-you-are-see.”  In a way, spelling it like this seems very zen-like.

There’s my rant.  Time to reinvent our alphabet and promote the third letter to a new position.  Are you with me?

PS. I’d love to hear some of the alphabet problems you’ve seen.  “See” you later!

 

Foretelling Stories

My friend appeared in a local production of the play Vanya and Sonia, playing the part of Cassandra.

Cassandra is a fortune-telling housekeeper.  And my friend was brilliant.  Easily the most interesting person on the stage, playing her part with gusto.  Multi-colored headbands, crazy eye shadow, striped socks and funny sneakers, wild skirts with funky shirts.  Throw in some interesting jewelry and hairpieces and you get the idea.  And those are only the trappings.

What she portrayed was a half-crazed, half-possessed, but wholly compassionate dervish who transitioned from quiet domestic servant into a tornado of words and action.  In some scenes she danced about, flailing her sticks and feathers and other voodoo goodies to exact revenge.  And throughout the play she warns everyone of the nefarious “hooty pie.”

Fortune telling, soothsaying, and astrological prediction have been around as long as we’ve had questions about the future.  Many of us pay good money to know what our horoscope says today.  It doesn’t matter if it’s almost always wrong, because, sometimes, it’s right.  Right?

Oh, so many fancy shmancy people think that gypsy palm readers and tea leaf readers are absolute charlatans.  These fancy people are so full of themselves because they read the business news and understand advanced mathematics.

I thought of these things as I watched my friend scream and chant across the stage and into our hearts, and then I realized something crazy.  What if I was an alien watching this play as my first exposure to humanity?  How would I know that my friend was not truly a clairvoyant?

I wouldn’t!  Unless of course you provided me with absolute proof.

Being an alien, I wouldn’t trust your words, or the words of your friends.  I’d prefer hard data.  In fact, I’d probably really want to see it for myself.

As I smiled to my alien self, I realized that there was another type of human I wouldn’t believe.

Economists.  Yes, modern economists.  If I was an alien, and you told me that economists were the only people on Earth who could foretell the future, I simply would not believe you.

Yes, you can find me millions of people who watch their newscasts, who pass laws based on their words, or even set policy based on their massive calculations.  But can you show me and my alien friends true results of their predictions?  Better yet, can I see those for myself?

Is there even a scorecard that shows, unequivocally, that what an economist predicts today comes true tomorrow?  Or next week?  Next month?  Even next year?

Somehow, I doubt it.  Somehow, I feel that there is a vastly overpaid economist predicting the future, and doing it in a way that is boring and tiresome.

Meanwhile, on the stage stands my friend.  She is vastly underpaid, far more entertaining, yet her predictions are equally as valid.

As an alien, I smile.  As a human, I sigh and shake my head.  Then I sit back and enjoy the rest of the play.  By the way, if you go see this play, I predict that you will like it, too!

 

 

Question Authority

I’m on a good sized airplane.  I’m comfortable, in my proper seat, and ready to fly.

So is the aircraft.  The pilots are almost through with their checklists, and the flight attendant is finishing up her required briefing to the passengers.

I look about, and the aircraft is only half full.  I have work to do, and it would be nice to spread out.

Since the attendant is still busy, I unbuckle and quickly switch seats.  In no time flat another attendant comes to hover above me.

We can’t have you changing seats sir.

Why?

I’m sorry, but I’ve been instructed by my superiors that no one can change their seats.  I’m sorry.

Alright.  I move back to my seat, and ponder.

Can’t move?  It’s not hard on the seats – they are designed for many butt touches.

It can’t be the airplane.  This one is large enough so that even an elephant could move around without bothering the pilots.

No, it can only be for the flight attendant’s convenience.  It makes it easier on them.  It’s for making their lives easier, not ours.  The more they can treat us like cattle, the better.

I realize that if the airline could figure out a way to put us to sleep and stack us up like firewood, they would.  No need for food, toilets, and more people on the plane.  Fewer attendants even.  Heck, they’re probably working on the idea even as I write.

More importantly, you and I live in this world, in this society, and are customers of that airline.  To the degree that we don’t question their authority in order that we can have better lives is our fault.  To the degree that we don’t insist on questioning their authority so that our children can have better lives is a sin.

I looked in that attendant’s eyes and said “sorry to have upset you.”

But in my heart, if it had been something important that I was fighting for, I wouldn’t have stopped.  The future is worth it.