In Part 1 of “The Future is Yoga,” which was posted on the blog in June, I proposed that the surge in yoga’s popularity over the past twenty years has been fuelled by the western world’s disillusionment and disengagement with Church and State, and as a consequence of rapid technological change. My conclusion was that we are heading towards a future in which the individual is left to fend very much for herself. The once comforting cloak of religion is in tatters; we can no longer rely on the State to safeguard our future; information technology is ineluctably changing the future of work (and not in a good way for many).
If the goal of yoga is to unite the body, mind, and spirit, the successful outcome of which we at ISHTA call “the unified self,” then it is the fragmented, incoherent self that we are trying to repair. As the great poet W. B. Yeats put it in his poem, “The Second Coming”: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…” When the centre goes, everything else goes with it. The centre is, of course, the trinity of mind, body, and spirit.
There is, to me, nothing more indicative of the centre not holding than the current obsession with the body in popular culture. And I do not mean the body beautiful, which I can understand (if not condone), and which has its origins in ancient societies. No, this is a somewhat newer development. I refer to the obsession with bodily dismemberment, specifically in the welter of crime fiction that deals almost exclusively with serial killers. Everywhere you look for entertainment—in film, TV, prose fiction—you are confronted with the chronicle of some killing spree by some madman whose stock in trade is some baroque method of dispatching his victims. What can we assume from the endless array of body parts that are scattered across the screen in current film and TV shows, and which are lingered on so longingly by the camera? Why are we so in love with death and dismemberment? Why is there no backlash against this perpetual horror show? What was once most likely a footnote in a crime story (the state of the corpse) has now become its main attraction. Serial killing is the new opium of the people!
Does nobody imagine that constant admittance to the inner workings of the abattoir will not change us—has not already? I fully understand that crime fiction is the most lucrative area in publishing and TV today, and that money trumps every other consideration, but, given that there is no conscience in the media, it is up to us, the people, to show our collective outrage and disgust at being presented with the spectacle of ourselves being cut, sliced, torn, sawed, chewed, ripped, hacked, or otherwise dismembered. We should be crying out: No more!
But we don’t. Why not? Because it’s just entertainment, after all. There’s no harm in it, we say to ourselves. Our highly developed sense of irony has collaborated with our general apathy to permit us to be lazy about such stuff. But, you see, there is a connection between our indifference to the spectacle of our own species being sliced and diced, and our indifference to politics and social change. The lack of outrage and action in one area seeps into our collective will and makes us apathetic in the other. To quote again from “The Second Coming”:
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
I think those striking lines sum up our current condition rather well. Innocence has been drowned. The blood-dimmed tide is loosed. The worst are full of passionate intensity. (Choose your own examples.)
And that is why the Future is and must be yoga. If it is to be every woman for herself, very well, then. If we have lost the will to act collectively, then we must act alone, each one of us, to the best of our ability.
The more that society tries to fragment, dissolve, and taint our personal integrity through the corruption of mindless, soulless “entertainment,” the more we need to restore ourselves to unity through yoga. The unity of body, mind, and spirit. The trinity of asana, pranayama, and meditation.
When we cannot control what is outside our influence—the direction of the State, the future of Europe, the incorrigible greed of the Banks, for example—we can still influence what is within our sphere. In yoga we have a very personal ally against the vagaries of the outside world. Yoga is our bulwark, our talisman, our moral compass. It is our best hope for the cultivation of self-government, self-reliance, and self-belief.
We are not on our own, after all. We still have something to protect ourselves from “mere anarchy.”
We have our yoga.