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But, What’s On the Inside? September 8, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

– Mother Teresa

I was watching an interesting video the other day (see link at end of post). Some parts were awkward and clumsy, and there were times when some of the participants felt bad about themselves (and, as an empathetic viewer I felt bad for them). The parts where people felt bad about themselves were some of the parts that were awkward and handled in a slightly clumsy way. However, the participants felt bad for themselves because the topic of the video is a sore spot for many people, especially women in America: weight and appearance. The video was interesting and good – in that it was meaningful – because it was yet another reminder that there is more going on with a person (and their health) than what we see on the outside.

“True beauty is knowing who you are and what you want and never apologizing for it.”

P!nk (born Alecia Beth Moore, today in 1979)

Michelangelo’s David was unveiled today in 1504 in Florence, Italy. At various times throughout history, the marble statue has represented the epitome of the male form. What captivates people, however, is not just the beauty of Michelangelo’s masterpiece. People love the story of David, because it is the story of the underdog. When faced with towering figure of Goliath, David used his inner resources. He drew from the experience he had (rather than being preoccupied by the experience he didn’t have) and he focused on what he could do (not on what he was “trying” to do). His inner strength, courage, and wisdom is what he takes into his reign as king. Yes, King David makes mistakes – he was human; but his legacy is represented by the statue, the story, and his son Solomon (who is considered the ruler with the wisest heart in the history of the world).

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

– Michelangelo

Consider the image of Michelangelo, the sculptor, staring at a chunk of marble. To the outside observer, it is nothing. But he sees inside. To someone who is not an artist, the process seems magical and impossible. If we were to undertake such a task, without knowing what to look for and what steps to take, the process would be frustrating and the final effort might even be embarrassing. But, even though it takes effort and sometimes it’s harder than others, the artist who is literate in their craft thinks nothing of the process: this is just what they do now.

What they do can be very similar to you reading this post (or even me writing this post). Yes, it takes effort and energy; however, if you are a literate adult (who learned how to read as a child) you don’t think back to the struggle of the learning process every time you read or write. Even though the yoga philosophy defines this exchange of words and meaning as one of the “powers unique to being human,” we don’t always think of it as being anything more than a tool. Or something that is part of our landscape… like the rocks on the ground before David picked them up. Or, like the hunk of marble before Michelangelo went to work.

But, what of the approximately 775 million people worldwide who are functionally illiterate? To those people who lack the basic reading and writing skills to manage daily living and employment tasks, my blog posts can be like Goliath. (I know, I know: Even when you are literate, these blog posts can be like Goliath – but then, you are David and you have what it takes to conquer!)

“David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart….”

– quoted from 1 Samuel – The Old Testament (17:32 NIV)  

There are huge financial costs to being illiterate (an estimated $1.19 trillion (USD) globally), but there are other extreme costs. Illiteracy limits possibilities. It decreases employment opportunities, increases chances for poor health and the inclination toward crime. There is an emotional toll, in that it can lead to depression, anger, frustration, and embarrassment. Illiteracy is often associated with poverty; however, there is also a gender component: 64% of the people who are illiterate are also women.

According to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), if all women completed primary education, there would be 66 percent fewer maternal deaths. This is one of the reasons UNESCO focuses on educating girls and women. This is also one of the reasons why, in 1965, the United Nations designated today, September 8th, as International Literacy Day. It is a day to promote awareness of illiteracy and cultivate compassion around this human rights struggle. It’s also an opportunity to buy a book for a public school or a library in a developing country, a rural area, or an impoverished area (even here in the United States). It’s also a great opportunity to buy a book for a friend or a loved one – maybe even a book that tells you not to judge “the book” by its cover.

Please join me today (Tuesday, September 8th) at 12 Noon or 7:15 PM for a virtual yoga practice on Zoom, where we will do what we do. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

Here’s that interesting video I mentioned above.

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

– Michelangelo



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