yogis must stand against Capital Punishment.

Via on Feb 8, 2011

"D" is for Death

In the spirit of yogis against Capital Punishment, this post intentionally uses lower case letters and capital letters for emphasis.

a yog by
matthew remski

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:

love

oneness

spirit

nature

yoga

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:

Love

Oneness

Spirit

Nature

Yoga

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.”

“whose?”

“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.

"E" is for Ecstasy

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.

"T" is for "Truth"

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.

turn off the "I". power up the i.

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.

themedievalsandsanskritpoetsdidntevenusebreaksbetweenwordsbecausetheyunderstoodthatitisthebreaththat
connectsallthoughttogetherandwhenthelineissungitisthelungthatdecideswheretopauseandnottheideasoyoucansee
thattheypriviledgedthebodyanditsbreathingrealityovertheconceptsthatthemindstrivestoisolateanddissect.

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.

_______

yogis of the world unite! rise up to drag Capital down! you have nothing to lose but your self-importance! image by hirsute history

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.

“Duty.”

“Father.”

“Marriage.”

“Time.”

“Self.”

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.

photo by EK Park, author looking down and to the right

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.

About yoga 2.0 lab

Matthew Remski is an Ayurvedic practitioner and Yoga Teacher Trainer in Toronto. His latest book, Threads of Yoga, is gathering international acclaim. He's teaching this online course starting 1/7/14. It's currently full, but there is a reduced-tuition option for auditing. The 12 weekly lessons will be available online for six months following the course. Participants receive a 130-page manual of notes.

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18 Responses to “yogis must stand against Capital Punishment.”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Yoga 2.0, Red Fox. Red Fox said: yogis must stand against Capital Punishment http://bit.ly/hKzW3o [...]

  2. Carol Horton CarolHorton says:

    brilliant, matthew. seriously. u r in the Groove (hee hee – couldn't resist :)

    • matthew says:

      i can totally accept the Groove. thx. but mainly because it's an old technology and culture metaphor that is forthcoming about its irony. in fact, the capital G just widens the flare of my mind-trousers.

      • Carol Horton Carol Horton says:

        oooooh you are soo good, matthew, thanks for that; started my day off with a lift and a laugh.

        But more seriously, while I love your aesthetic and embrace what I think is your underlying ethos here, I'm not convinced by the analysis – basically because it makes casting off the Capitals sound way too easy. And also I think elides some of the important work that has to be done before that can happen in a healthy way.

        For starters, a healthy sense of self – getting there is not easy for most. And it's hard for me to believe that you don't have to be an "I" before you can really be an "i," if that makes sense. I forgot who it was, but one of those 1960s transpersonal psychologist types once said of the Buddhist embrace of no-self, "you have to be somebody before you can be nobody." And this seems particularly true in the post-modern West, where so many of the traditions that used to give people grounding (family, church, community, etc.) are so eroded and there are so many cold impersonal forces pressing down on one's sense of being. (Of course Canada is unusually benign -but travel through some small- low-rent backwater towns or isolated impoverished neighborhoods in the US and see how it feels – very difficult I think – and those are just magnifications of what those of us who are much more happily situated are experiencing).

        Intimately associated with this problem is the desire for something certain to believe in. Of course the Buddhists are brilliant on how learning to inhabit a space of radical openness like your post evokes (if playfully) is a life-long process (or more accurately, many lives long, which just underscores my point). We can't lightly set down our Baggage and be free, much as we might like . . .

        Finally there is the problem of the shallow solution to the challenge of being confronted by a culture in which Belief is so elusive (unless you camp with the fundamentalists). This encourages a mind-set that refuses to engage with anything deeply, skimming on the surface where everything seems as comfortably as possible (and the comfort is the key drive here) the same. This is probably more ubiquitous in the yoga community than the Capitals you describe – while different circles are of course different, as an empirical matter, my bet is that's the space that is more typically inhabited.

        I ran into a friend the other day who's an extremely smart and radically off-beat div student, and he said that really the best exchanges in his religious world are between people who really believe something, but also radically disagree, but still want to engage in dialog and exchange. This really resonated with me – it's not necessarily inspiring to be swimming in a post-modern soup where no one could even imagine Capitals – certain tensions are good – they generate energy and fuel growth.

        Sorry if that was a bit of a ramble – my Abstract Comment for the day.

  3. dan says:

    So true, so true…so True? Hey, I'm thinking my name should not be in caps

    dan

  4. Hi, Matthew.

    When people ask me why I don't like dogs, I tell them it's because I was probably bitten by a dog as an infant.

    Sounds like the same thing happened to you with capital letters.

    Very entertaining, and I mean that sincerely. And the yoga 2.0 lab results are fascinating.

    But what could be more authoritarian than telling me I can't capitalize "Yoga" (which I routinely do for good reasons that make sense to me, but would be anticlimactic and argumentative to list here) and to further tell me what my subconscious anti-democratic meaning is when I do so?

    When people send me e-mails without caps or punctuation, I try to just ignore it and read for meaning beyond capitalization and punctuation. Otherwise how am I to know if they are sophisticated rabel rousers like yourself or just lazy?

    Bob W. Yoga Editor
    (Join Elephant Yoga on Facebook)

  5. matthew says:

    i sense some jesuits in your past… yes, oscar is a card, but it is hard to know what those Victorians Really Meant.

  6. i Loved this post. clever and funny. thankYouforit.

    my Pinky will pause from this day forward

    i will share this on Facebook!

  7. [...] 235 views, 126777Comments 14http%3A%2F%2Fwww.elephantjournal.com%2F2011%2F02%2Fyogis-must-rise-up-against-capit… [...]

  8. [...] Roseanne Harvey (just back from retirement!). And if that’s not cool enough, YFT Co-Director and (small-r) renaissance man Matthew Remski will be moderating the [...]

  9. Sarah says:

    For your enjoyment. Stephen Fry's opinion on grammar correctness. http://youtu.be/J7E-aoXLZGY

  10. Great thoughts all, Matthew! I enjoyed your blog.

    It made me think. I enjoyed Carol's response. And my response. And your response.

    Can't tell you how great it is to have your iconoclastic voice here to joyfully fence with.

    Vive Matthew. Vive Carol. Vive Elephant. Vive La France.

    Bob W.
    Elephant Journal

  11. matthew says:

    yessir! there's also something about pluralizing potential(s). spreads them out like seed. thanks for the contribution, sri.

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