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Re-Introducing SOPHIE August 24, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in One Hoop.
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This is an expanded version of a post from August 24, 2020.

Take a moment to imagine an angel.

What’s the first image or idea that comes to mind? What gender do you imagine? What color is their skin and hair – if they even have hair? Does the picture that springs to mind fit the archetype as portrayed in movies or religious art? Do you think of an actual angel here on earth or a do you first think of a guardian angel (or, again, a religious angel)?

Is someone an angel because of what’s on the inside or is your idea of an angel based (largely or in part) on the outside?

If your first thought wasn’t a dark angel, what comes to mind when I bring your awareness to a dark angel? What are your feelings about someone described as a “dark angel” and are they a preconceived notion or based on someone specific?

 

220px-Photograph_of_Sophie_Lancaster

Meet Sophie Lancaster. She was a dark angel, a goth, a 20-year old who enjoyed heavy metal music and dressed in a way that reflected her love of the genre. She died today in 2007, after a brutal attack left her and her boyfriend, Robert Maltby in comas. They were brutally attacked by a mob on August 11th, in Stubbeylee Park in Bacup, Rossendale, Lancashire because of the way they were dressed. At some point during the attack, Sophie wrapped her body around Robert’s head to protect him. He would eventually wake up from the attack. She would not.

“When I was out on the streets with Sophie, I would hear people’s comments. I would hear them say ‘look at the state of that –’ or ‘what does she look like.’

I remember going into one shop and the look they gave her. After they had spoken to her for five minutes, that went as they realized she was actually quite a lovely little thing, but it was funny to see that. I would always think, how dare you judge somebody on the way they look.”

– Sylvia Lancaster, OBE

Sophie’s family and friends, including her mother, Sylvia, started the Sophie Lancaster Foundation and funds and tributes in Sophie’s name continue to this day. There are Sophie Lancaster stages at goth and heavy metal music festivals (many of which have been canceled this year, because of the pandemic) and theaters. There are songs, albums, films, documentaries, awards, and books that have been dedicated to her and, in 2010, Sophie’s boyfriend, Robert Maltby, held an exhibition of his own art, which included 15 original paintings inspired by Sophie. The money from the exhibition, like the money raised from other events and the proceeds from t-shirts and wrist bands featuring the S.O.P.H.I.E. stamp, went to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation.

S.O.P.H.I.E. stands for Stamp Out Prejudice, Hatred, and Intolerance Everywhere. The foundation and the fund started by her family and friends aims to “provide an appropriate memorial a lasting legacy to raise awareness of the injustice perpetrated against Sophie Lancaster and to work towards a more tolerant, less violent society.” One of the things the foundation funds is group sessions intended to cultivate respect and understanding by exposing young people to alternative cultures. Remember, as Imam Khalid Latif wrote in a 2013 “Ramadān Reflection,” “It’s harder to stereotype when you actually learn someone’s name.”

It’s also harder to stereotype when you find yourself enjoying and appreciating someone’s favorite food… or music.

“The importance to us is that the awareness is permanent. It still happens in our community. They face violence in the streets, and we hear about it from our fans. It is something we can never stop campaigning about and we will make sure Sophie is never forgotten.”

 

– Vicky Hungerford, one of the 2017 organizers of the annual Bloodstock Open Air festival  

Over the years, I have witnessed a variety of reactions to my observation of today, the “International Day Against Intolerance, Discrimination, & Violence Based on Musical Preference” – also known as Sophie Lancaster Day. In one case, several years ago, someone asked me why I would mention something that happened in England “over a decade ago” – especially since I wasn’t a goth. I explained as best as I could. Then, unfortunately, Elijah Al-Amin was killed in Peoria, Arizona in July 2019. Elijah was a 17-year old black man who enjoyed rap music and, according to the man who killed him, he was attacked because his music made his killer (a 27-year old white man) feel “unsafe.”

It’s hard to describe such tragic and horrific events as anything other than expressions of avidyā (“ignorance”).

In the beginning of the Yoga Sūtras (1.5-11), Patanjali breaks the activity of our minds down into five categories, which can fall under two umbrellas; klişțāklişțāh, which means “afflicted and not afflicted.” You can also think of these two umbrellas as dysfunctional and functional. He goes on to explain that afflicted/dysfunctional cause suffering, pain, and the other obstacles and related hindrances. These afflicted/dysfunctional mental activities sap the power of the mind-body and prevent us from exploring – let alone reaching – our full potential. In the second section of the sūtras (2.3-9), Patanjali describes five types of afflicted/dysfunctional thinking; explains how avidyā (“ignorance”) is the bedrock of (or fertile ground for) the other four patterns, which are a false sense of self-identity, attachment, aversion, and fear of loss/death. He further breaks down avidyā as follows:

  • Mistaking something temporary as eternal
  • Believing something is impure is pure
  • Believing that something that causes suffering causes happiness
  • Misunderstanding someone’s true nature and essence

You can think of that last one as judging a book by its cover and – as indicated by the second “affliction,” which is a false sense of our own identity/Self – it can be applied to how we see others as well as how we see ourselves.

“I’m not pointing any fingers here at anybody but myself, and I’m asking something very hard of myself. I’m challenging myself to listen without prejudice, to love without limits, and to reverse the hate. So that’s my challenge to me and hopefully you’ll accept this challenge too.”

 

– Orlando Jones, August 2014

Back in 2014, it seemed like everyone and the sister was doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. People were filming themselves as they dumped ice water over their heads and then challenging someone else to do the same. In a relatively short period of time, the challenge went viral, generated over $115 million in donations, and raised awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease). The actor and comedian Orlando Jones took note and co-opted the challenge – but rather than pouring ice water on his head, he dumped a bunch of bullets on his head.

Take note, that while I always describe Mr. Jones as an “actor and comedian,” he described himself as “lifetime member of the NRA” and “active member of the great state of Louisiana’s police force.” The difference in perception, as it relates to identity, makes a difference; because, for some, it changes the message. The so-called Bullet Bucket Challenge was intended to raise awareness about the escalating gun violence in the world and, in particular, to highlight what had just happened in Ferguson, Missouri: the shooting of Michael Brown – and, on a certain level, Orlando Jones represented every person (and every side) involved.

For the record, Orlando Jones wasn’t the only celebrity to co-opt the original challenge as a call to action about a crisis that was important to them. But, just like I don’t know anyone else who dumped bullets on their head, I don’t know anyone else – other than Matt Damon – who dumped toilet water on their head to raise awareness about safe drinking water and sanitation.

Still, I think the calls to action are important. Because, at the end of the day,

it doesn’t matter where, how, or why our ignorance exists – only that it does. If, however, we want peace and ease for ourselves and those we love, we have to “stamp out prejudice, hate, and intolerance everywhere.” To do that, we have to acknowledge where the ignorance begins – even when it begins inside of our own minds – and we have to cultivate the opposites. Replace ignorance with knowledge, with understanding, and with respect. We have to remember that Sophie’s name literally means wisdom.

Maybe we also take a page from the Sophie’s family and friends. As a result of the efforts of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, Greater Manchester Police became the first (but not the last) police department to track and record hate crimes against people from “Alternative Subcultures.” For her personal efforts to reduce hate crimes and promote a more tolerant world, Sylvia Lancaster was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 2014. And, today, if you’re practicing with the music, you’ll have the opportunity to “open [your] mind for a different view / And nothing else matters.”

“Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people….”

 

– quoted from King Solomon’s request in 2 Chronicles 1:10 (NIV)

Please join me today (Tuesday, August 24th) at 12:00 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. 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 or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, playlists, 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). If you don’t mind me knowing your donation amount you can also donate to me directly. Donations to Common Ground are tax deductible; class purchases and donations directly to me are not necessarily deductible.)

Dark Angel (there is a graphic depiction of violence in this video)

 

“Love is looking at the same mountains from different angles.”

 

– quoted from The Valkyries by Paulo Coelho (b. 8/24/1947)

 

If you are thinking about suicide, worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, you can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also call the TALK line if you are struggling with addiction or involved in an abusive relationship. The Lifeline network is free, confidential, and available to all 24/7. YOU CAN TALK ABOUT ANYTHING.

If you are a young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgement-free place to talk, call the TrevorLifeline (which is staffed 24/7 with trained counselors).

 

“Love is not to be found in someone else, but in ourselves; we simply awaken it. But, in order to do that, we need the other person.”

 

– quoted from 11 Minutes: A Novel by Paulo Coelho (b. 8/24/1947)

 

### “EVERYONE DESERVES MUSIC, SWEET MUSIC” ~MF ###

 

 

Comments»

1. Sandra Razieli - August 24, 2021

We are driving back from South Dakota where I definitely met a lot of people who look and dress and walk and talk differently than me and I had some lovely interactions with them. It was a good reminder to read your post today about how that opportunity is not easily available to so many. Sending Love from the Midwest!

Sandra Razieli yoga@raziyoga.com http://www.raziyoga.com

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2. Eileen O'Toole - August 24, 2021

Love this post.❤️


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