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¡Vamanos! May 5, 2020

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(“Ramadan Mubarak, Blessed Ramadan!” to anyone who is observing Ramadan. I typically talk about Ramadan at the end of the season, so keep your eyes open.)

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

 

– Søren Kierkegaard

 

“The yardstick for a human being is: how long and to what degree he can bear to be alone, devoid of understanding with others.

A man who can bear being alone during a whole life-time, and alone in decisions of eternal significance, is farthest removed from the infant and the society-person who represent the animal-definition of being human.

 

– Søren Kierkegaard (1854)

 

Even though he shares a birth date (today!) with some great people I know, I hardly ever mention the existential philosopher Søren Kierkegaard on May 5th, his actual birthday. Born in 1813, I mention him today because his philosophical struggles and internal debates over the importance of being an individual versus being part of a crowd seem particularly fitting at this time.

Kierkegaard was a Christian existentialist and yet his thoughts on love, living a life with purpose, honoring community while also knowing your own mind, and connecting with the Divine may be very meaningful to people of different faiths and belief systems. I don’t agree with all of his conclusions. Yet, some of his words definitely resonate with me – especially right now, as we find ourselves alone together and not only having the time to really get to know ourselves, but also having the need to know our own minds. Kierkegaard’s deliberations warn about the ease in which we may be swept away by the crowd, and not only the danger of that, but also the importance of that.

“Truth always rests with the minority, and the minority is always stronger than the majority, because the minority is generally formed by those who really have an opinion, while the strength of a majority is illusory, formed by the gangs who have no opinion — and who, therefore, in the next instant (when it is evident that the minority is the stronger) assume its opinion, which then becomes that of the majority, i.e., becomes nonsense by having the whole [mass] on its side, while Truth again reverts to a new minority.

 

In regard to Truth, this troublesome monster, the majority, the public, etc., fares in the same way as we say of someone who is traveling to regain his health: he is always one station behind.”

– Søren Kierkegaard (1850)

Yes, Kierkegaard is most definitely talking to us. Remember, however, that he speaks to us from a time before the internet and cable news. So, his “in the next instant” was not nearly as instantaneous as ours. The speed at which power is assumed (nowadays) makes the need to truly understand one’s self and one’s purpose even more critical. We must know where we stand, because we stand on shifting sand.

“What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede act. What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die.”

 

– Søren Kierkegaard (August 1, 1835)

 

“One must first learn to know himself before knowing anything else. Not until a man has inwardly understood himself and then sees the course he has to take does his life gain peace and meaning; only then is he free….”

 

Søren Kierkegaard (August 1, 1835)

 

Kierkegaard, on a certain level, acknowledged that the level of introspection in which he engaged and recommended was not accessible to everyone. He criticized “aristocrats” who ignore the less fortunate, and maintained their own comfort at the expense of others, as “ungodly.” To him, introspection wasn’t a waste of time; it was the first step in being a mature and spiritually evolved human-being. It was a step closer to God.

“Once you label me you negate me.”

 

– Søren Kierkegaard

The main reason I don’t normally mention Kierkegaard on his birthday – even though the timing fits with the other philosophical and psychological themes at the beginning of the month – is because it’s May 5th… better known as Cinco de Mayo (and I come from a part of the country where the celebration is big). However, the fact that it is time for one of the biggest public celebrations in certain parts of the country means something very different now than it meant this time last year.

I often mention the fact that when rituals lose some of their meaning they become traditions and when traditions lose some of their meaning they just become things that people say or do. The United States is one of those places, for better or for worse, where the desire to party sometimes overcomes the meaning – and therefore a ritual or tradition changes its meaning. Think about what Saint Patrick’s Day means to you – especially if you’re not Catholic and/or of Irish descent. Now, think about what Cinco de Mayo means to you – especially if you’ve never heard of the Battle of Puebla.

All around the world, the pandemic has forced people to change the way they practice their rituals and traditions. It’s tough, especially since so much of what we observe, and even celebrate, is practiced in community. There is the possibility that we lose more meaning as things change. However, there is also the possibility that we regain some meaning. We just have to go deeper.

“Don’t forget to love yourself.”

– Søren Kierkegaard

Despite what some people think, Cinco de Mayo has absolutely nothing to do with Mexican Independence Day and everything to do with the spirit, the will, and the determination of the people in Puebla, Mexico in 1862. It is a celebration of the ability to overcome “insurmountable” odds and to throw off oppression. It has also become a celebration of heritage – primarily the Mexican-American heritage which reflects the spirit and resilience of a small group of people.

 

If you want to learn more, while also celebrating (virtually), please join me for a yoga practice on Zoom today (Tuesday, May 5th) at 12 Noon or 7:15 PM.  Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

Kiss My Asana, the yogathon that benefits Mind Body Solutions and their adaptive yoga program is officially over. But, I still owe you two posts and you can still do yoga, share yoga, help others by donating to my KMA campaign.

You can also check out the all-humanity, Kick-Off gathering featuring insights from MBS founder Matthew Sanford, conversation with MBS students, and a mind-body practice for all. If you’re not familiar with MBS, this will give you a glimpse into the work, the people, and the humanity of the adaptive yoga program which I am helping to raise $50K of essential support.

 

### ¡Vamanos! ###