In the spirit of yogis against Capital Punishment, this post intentionally uses lower case letters and capital letters for emphasis.
a yog by
yogis against Capital Punishment? well no kidding. ahimsa and all that.
but this morning i’m texting about typesetting. about Time and History and Power and the Attack of the Capital Letter. especially when it marks Holy Words. Words We Can Never Agree On. Words that Divide and Conquer our hearts. Words that disrupt our yoga.
i’ll explain. we played a game in a recent 2.0 lab in toronto. on the board we wrote:
we asked the gathering to jot down “first-thought-best-thought” notes of their impressions of these words. there was a happy scratching of pencils. everything good so far.
then, in a parallel column, we wrote the same words, with a key difference:
the pencils stopped. an eerie silence fell amongst the yogis. “what happened?” Scott asked.
“the cops just showed up.”
“it’s so official.”
“it’s like someone took my feelings from me and replaced them with someone else’s.”
“i don’t know, but i don’t trust them.”
“i feel inadequate.”
“none of those Words change, but i do.”
and thus we contemplated Transcendental Signifiers. Words we endow with abstract and unshareable meaning. Words that presume a coherence of interpretation where there is none, and through this presumption stop dialogue and growth in its tracks. when capitalized (or emphasized in any other way that sets them Above and Beyond) they become the prosthetics of Authority, and then Power, and eventually Cruelty. a simple Capital letter, and you turn a process into a thing, a reverie into a weapon.
the worst aspect of the TS is that it destroys relationship. (please pardon the following digression into grammar – i think it’s worth at least as much as nailing down the difference between internal and external femoral rotation.) the capitalized word, whether a verb or a noun, becomes intransitive: it does not take an object. you would never write “i Love you”, unless you were seven and writing in crayon to your mom. you would never write “i’m going for a walk through Nature.” what would that mean? playing an extra in some merchant-ivory film about emerson?
further: any Word that cannot take an object will also repel the subject. “Love” seems to sequester its meaning on a hill, but it’s not something that “i” can do. in fact, it seems to reject my advances. “Love” is too good for me. i come from the wrong family, it seems – the human family. but if i were to capitalize my I, would Love be more inviting? or would I and Love come a standoff, a tortured romance of two solitudes?
so here we have it. “Love” will stand between i and you. but “love” will connect you and i.
Love Oneness Spirit Nature Yoga
these words stand alone. they taste like the chalk on the blackboard of my adolescent despair.
love oneness spirit nature yoga
these words invite objects, subjects, flow and stickiness. i can taste tamarind, and smell palo santo.
(attempting to read this post out loud may cause Migraine.)
capital letters are like americans in europe: blowhards taking up too much bodily space. the global page is way too crowded these days.
anything that disrupts relationship is unyogic. to write Yoga with a capital Y seems the height of blind irony. god does not ruin relationship. but God sure can.
i would have hoped that in yoga our caps would have been dropped by now, and that our pinkies would be liberated for more adventurous uses. the pinkie is quite erotic, but not when it’s forced to clamp down on the cap key over and over again like a piston. but yet, even in common yogging, the caps persist! EJ is overrun with them! (but have you noticed that the logo is all lower-case?) Yoga seems to be carrying the longterm infection of Counter-Reformation typography and its Religious Pomp.
if you trip right into this stuff at about 3am, after a few tantric egg nogs (recipe coming in another yog), the capitals seem downright dangerous. not conceptually, but physically. see them in action: the Y of Yoga looks like a cattle-goad. but the y of yoga seems more like a divining rod, dipping below the surface of the conscious, quivering the water. the E of Enlightenment looks like a pitchfork ready to jab me in the ribs. the Ss of Samadhi and Spirit look like curling whips. the O of Oneness gives me vertigo and feels like a noose closing around my neck. and jesus hangs from the T of Truth. (see the serifs on the cross-bar? that’s his blood.)
the B of Bliss is not so bad, but only because it makes me want to draw nipples on the bumps, like we did when we were ten. but also, Bliss doesn’t seem to oppress me with same authoritarian demand as Oneness. this shows me that the word i can still feel despite its capital precociousness is less dangerous than the word that others need me to feel Something about. the latter is the hook of propaganda.
an interesting thing is happening as i write this. my Microsoft Word Autocorrect is automatically capitalizing my Is. i go to write i, and the software changes it to I. i had to correct the previous sentence four times. i could turn the Autocorrect (translation: “correction of the Self”) off, but i’m kind of enjoying looping back to delete my Autocorrected Is. i think it’s a vestige of my old buddhist cult days. oops – it just auto-capitalized buddhist, which is so not okay.
this capital problem wasn’t always with us. the old-time devanagri doesn’t have caps. nor do the scrolls of our medieval forebears. the first texts were musical scores – a denotation of sounds only.
in some ways we’re returning to just this cohesion of text and bodily relationship. typing is becoming very fast. the keyboards of the future will be liquid-warmed silicon nipples in keybeds of pleather. the speed of e-talk is breaking the bonds of syntax, punctuation, and formality. the elders may think that english is breaking down, but 2.0 yogis feel it’s just waking up. tweeters reject conventional spacing in their posts. e-bbreviations are creating a shorthand of embodiment. most refreshingly – even the capital is losing its preciousness! LMAO is starting to have the same juice as YHWH used to have.
and we can’t forget the role of Capitalism here. no I’m not kidding. Capital is the accumulation of surplus value,extracted from the labour of life and exclusivized into the iron hand of Power. Capital exists because we believe meanings can be owned.
Capital is also self-replicating. the authoritarian power of “Divine” increases every time “Divine” is written. as power increases with Self-Investment, however, heart is drained away.
Rich, Upper-Case, heartless bastards.
the Capital sucks the blood out of the lower cases. the gods have been dispossessed by God. but a new language of evolution, capital-free, will arise from a revolution of the droll literate!
near the end of our gathering, our 2.0 comrades were invited to discuss capitalized words from their own experience: words that specifically had disrupted a relationship in their lives. big stuff came up, of course.
and then everybody told such tender stories about themselves – how these words had disrupted a familial bond, intimacy, or capacity for positive self-regard. is it not unconscionable if the words of yoga do the same?
one yogi said: “my word is Prayer. i grew up strict roman catholic, and was told to do Prayer. and i never felt that i knew what it was. and then i saw that those asking me to Pray were corrupt and hypocritical. but lately i’ve gotten reacquainted with prayer. now, prayer is speaking to a tree, or listening to a wordless inner voice, or just being.”
“do you mean Heidegger’s Being, as in Being and Time?” i asked, popping an intellect-woody.
he shook his head no. “just being”, he repeated. clearly, i’ve been trained to hear Capitals. i’ll have to retrain my ear to perceive the feeling of all words. then, i can reclaim them, and break their hold over my heart.
2.0 is a lower-case movement. there’s no capitalization in binary code. (binary code is all about “i” and “you”.) there’s no Capitalism when we really share. our human meaning, democratized and grounded, shorn of its overreaching and jagged serifs, can slip under doorways and through window-cracks, straight to the heart.
so: what are your Words of Capital Punishment? please list them in the comments below. when we’ve run dry, we’ll ask waylon to print ‘em out, stack ‘em up, and burn ‘em all.
matthew remski is an author, yoga and ayurvedic therapist and educator, and co-founder of Yoga Community Toronto. With Scott Petrie he is co-creator of yoga 2.0, a project in writing (one book done, eight more in the sushumna-chute) and the embodiment of all things post-dogmatic.