Occult, optics, oy • 24 May 2009

New moon. I thought I’d go do some vinyasa flow with a minor celebrity later today, then drink tea out on Montana avenue while the locals lilt by with their poodles and chihuahas. I do love poodles.

Yesterday after brunch with a suddenly right-wing friend who ranted for an hour about how it’s great that Cali’s bankrupt so we’ll stop—you know—educating our citizens, I saw Angels & Demons. It was bad, of course, but also thoroughly enjoyable. The parts filmed outside my office were barely featured; and I was miffed that Royce Hall was standing in not for St. Peter’s but Harvard. They always do that—try to pass my quad off as Harvard. There were three distinct test-marketed endings shown back to back in the final half hour—and that was horrible, especially because the plot concludes nicely after ending #1. And Tom Hanks is pasty and one-dimensional as ever—what would the film be with a hero who at least had a dark side and something going on behind his eyes (and better shoulders)? Wistful sigh for Johnny Depp in The Ninth Gate. I just hope this hasn’t killed off the important genre of the professor-templar thriller.

What else? The university health center's been on quasi-lockdown since influenza porchina, but I did finally get in for the contact lenses. Brilliant! They scheduled two hours for the appointment; and the assistant sighed deeply when she sat me down in front of the mirror to learn to use them. What would Johnny Depp do? Er… what would Rolf Naujokat do?

Inhaaaaale touch your eyeball; exhale blink.

So the assistant got a two hour break. Really not necessary to schedule that much training time for the yoga practitioners.

Anyway, the lenses are wonderful. There’s a little itch against the eyelid that reminds me I’m wearing a device and the head itself is a kind of body part that gets cramps of its own. And I suddenly have 20/20 peripheral vision! And I appreciate the removal of the metal barrier between my eyes and the world. It’s disconcerting and a little intimate, and in the context of mysore teaching just a relief not to have a pair of foggy blinders mashing up between me and every body I squash.

So this is it. Living as if I’m naturally 20/20. A couple of centuries ago, those with bad eyes just got to sit around having less of a world. It makes me imagine technologies that might make my body operate as if it were medium-sized. I’ve been a little down on myself about yoga teaching in this body—turning five feet in to a tool that can lift karandavas and balanace prasaritas is not easy. I always like steep learning curves, handicapping myself by playing a little out of my league. But this is different. In everyday life I am able to disguise myself as medium-sized by the way I move, but in this context I feel the truth.  

Anyway. I wrote something about how beautiful everything was in ashtangaland in the hours and days after SKPJ–after Guruji–passed. The 3 am phone calls, spontaneous ceremonies, the planetary letting go that I feel could set the tone for this whole global thing we're doing. The histories borne out in twitter tags and facebook feeds, the many kinds of gratitude, the realization of the life's work of the tricksy old guru who knew how to receive love as much as he knew how to holler. 

I was struck by the diversity in cosmologies: for those who wished he'd "rest in peace," to those who wished him well on "his next adventure," to those who fevervently prayed that his individual soul would snuff out once and  for all. Whatever forms the well-wishes took, the simple feeling of love seems to have grown very much during the week. I hear classes across the world have been packed like never before in recent days and wonder: Are we going to make it last?

For now, looking at the lingering of the mourning, I feel also that, well…. tributes also have a short shelf life. For me, the ritual mourning has begun to go brittle and dry by now. It's also just liable to become politics–a display of piety, an in-group signal. Riiiiight.

What's more lame than the political side of an inherently personal practice? It has to exist because we are human and have institutions to run, but there’s little reward in it. And in another sense, there are no insiders in this practice. We're all geeks anyway, all doing the exact same thing. Unless you think tokens and titles get you in to some weird heaven, there's no house banker who will cash out those piety chips at the end of the night.