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The Light’s Side (the very late “missing” post) December 17, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
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[“Happy Chanukah!” to anyone celebrating! May you shine bright!]

[This is the post for Wednesday, December 16th. You can request an audio recording of Wednesday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)]

“‘Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.’

‘But how shall we prove anything?’

‘We never shall. We never can expect to prove anything upon such a point. It is a difference of opinion which does not admit of proof. We each begin probably with a little bias towards our own sex, and upon that bias build every circumstance in favour of it which has occurred within our own circle….’”

– quoted from a conversation between Anne Elliot (27, unmarried) and Captain Harville (a married friend of Anne’s 31-year old suitor) in Persuasion by Jane Austen

“In my life I have found two things of priceless worth – learning and loving. Nothing else – not fame, not power, not achievement for its own sake – can possible have the same lasting value. For when your life is over, if you can say ‘I have learned’ and ‘I have loved,’ you will also be able to say ‘I have been happy.”

– quoted from Rama II: The Sequel to Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee

Given the details of their lives, it’s not surprising that Jane Austen and Arthur C. Clarke wrote in very different genres. In fact, most people wouldn’t automatically think of them in the same context – despite the fact that they were both British authors born on the same day (albeit 142 years and 124 miles hours apart). On the surface, they might seem to have little in common…. But what happens when you look beneath the surface?

Born today (Dec. 16th) in 1775 (in Steventon, Hampshire, England), Ms. Austen is one of the most well known (and most popular) 19th century authors. Her novels – like Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion (one of 2 finished novels published after her death), Emma, and the unfinished Sanditon focused on life and love – and how the two worked, or not, in time/place where both were dependent on finances. I think of her novels as the epitome of “parlour” books: full of manners, expectations, flirtations, innuendo, and social commentary. Even outside of her (appropriately titled) first novel, there is constantly internal and external conflict between “Sense” (defined as good judgment, wisdom, and prudence) and “Sensibility” (defined as sensitivity, sympathy, and emotionality). The conflict is internal and external, because not only do characters struggle with the expectations others have of them, they also struggle with their expectations of themselves.

“‘Mama, the more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!’”

– Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Arthur C. Clarke (CBE), born today in 1917 (in Minehead, Somerset, UK) was best known for science fiction and futurist novels, like 2001: A Space Odyssey. In fact, he was considered one of the “Big Three” (along with Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov). In addition to writing novels, Mr. Clarke wrote short stories; essays; and hosted the television series “Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World.” He was also an undersea explorer and inventor who was knighted as a Commander of the British Empire and received Sri Lanka’s highest civil honor, Sri Lankabhimanya. Again, on the surface Mr. Clarke’s novels seem to have very little income with Ms. Austen’s novels – except that his science fiction work also revolves around social interactions and expectations. His characters also struggle with the expectations of their inner and outer worlds. Strip away the futurist elements and aliens and you are still reading about people dealing with “pride” and “prejudice.”

My point is: You can take the same set of details and tell (what appears to be) very different stories. True, the location; time; gender, age, race – and even species – of the characters makes things different. Ultimately, however, the difference is in the perspective of the storyteller.

“A good sequence is like a good story. There is a beginning (an introduction), the middle (the heart of the story), and the end (the conclusion).

 

– Maty Ezraty

Just as you can take a single story and change it up by changing the perspective, you can change your engagement of a pose or a sequence by considering it from the “point of view” of different parts of your mind-body.

Virabhadrasana I (“Hero Friend” or Warrior I) is a great example of different parts of a story being told by different parts of the body. First, there is how we embody the pose based on what we call it and how we understand the name. Second, The pose looks and feels very different to the feet than to the hands – and yet, the hands depend on the feet to support the pose. Similarly, the pose feels free different to the Achilles of the back foot versus the front foot, and different still from the hip and thigh of the back leg versus the front. A slight change in the position of the arms reinforces the fact that there is some spinal extension (and heart opening) happening in the pose. Similarly, folding forward into “Humble Warrior” brings awareness back into the lower body – especially if you can maintain that sense of heart opening. Since different parts of your body experience the pose in different ways, and thus tell “a different story,” one part of the body may realize there is a problem with stability and/or flexibility before that problem registers in other parts of the body.

Notice that in the above example I stuck to “big,” obvious parts of the body. But, go deeper for a moment. Consider the perspective of those “attendant” or supporting body parts. How does Virabhadrasana feel to the abductor digiti minimi and abductor hallucis (not to mention the flexor digitorum brevis) when they spread the toes of your back foot versus the toes of the front foot? How do the two parts of the illiopsoas feel (on each side) as you rise up, bend forward, and then bend back again? How does the piriformis feel as you hold the pose versus when you transition – and how does it feel when the back foot is turned more out than in (especially when you transition)?

Plenty of writers have “retold” a story from the perspective of a different major character (than the original work). Consider for a minute, however, what happens when the story is told from the point of view of a significant – but “minor” character. For instance, what happens when the story of Chanukah, and the miracle of light/oil is told from the perspective of the light (or the oil). After all, the light is/was always there. There is no part of the story that does not involve light and/or the need for light to vanquish the darkness.

Light exists before (and after) the Maccabees, who are considered the heroes of the story. In the Hebrew Bible (and the Christian Old Testament) Light exists even before the sun and the moon. Very early on in the story of Exodus, G-d tells Moses to tell the people of Abraham to keep the candles lit…. And so they do, through all the dark and challenging times. It is a priority in the caves as it is when they rededicate the temple.

“Chanukah” means dedication and the dedication happens with the lighting of the candles. Furthermore, the only mitvah (“commandment” or “duty”) during Chanukah is to light the candles. When it is safe to do so, the lights should be placed so they can be seen by those passing on the street. Light is given a place of honor because it represents all of the best aspects of humankind and all of the best aspects of faith.

Of course, during Chanukah, the eight candles representing the miracle are lit by a single candle. It is a candle physically set apart from the others – a worker, an attendant, a caretaker: the Shamash. When you are the source of the miracle, how do you tell the story?

“When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

– “Clarke’s Three Laws,” quoted from “Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination” published in Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible by Arthur C. Clarke

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

### THAT’S MY STORY (and I’m sticking to it)! ###

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