stolen from deviant art: elrisha

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What Bothers Me About New-Age-ism

Or: Why I Hate Going to Yoga Classes, Besides That They Kick My Ass.

I have spent most of my time in cities that pride themselves on being “weird.” Consistently, my general impression is one of mistakenly walking in on a secret society orgy for hippie and New Age exhibitionists and voyeurs. Unfortunately, instead of taking place in the rightful location of a dark, mysterious underground compound of marble and gargoyle stonework amid the fragrant stench of money and shame, it instead is a public event, skipping down the street with the latest in bamboo fashion for themselves, their children and the family dog.

The “Keep __________ Weird” movement is patronized by those who partake in flagrant, unbridled acceptance of any counterculture movement or abstract Eastern religion in order to breathe life energy and universal oneness into each and every patchouli and mango chip exhalation of each day (you manifest awareness with every single one, right?) Like the occult societies, there still is money and shame, only in this case it’s just upper middle class (the poor rich people?), not all those soulless Wall Street bankers. And the shame? The masks in these sunlit, solar-paneled eco-friendly homes are to hide the cellulite on Mom’s thighs and the crows feet sprouting too early from her eyes, despite the several hundred dollar regiment of magic skin crèmes cultivated from natural plants found only in the Amazon and a three-times a week bikram yoga. And Dad? He hides from Mom’s ballooning (ahem) unhappiness and ultimately, from himself and all the hopes and dreams that were killed by an IT job, video games and internet porn.

Now before I pigeonhole myself as a closed-minded American (read: Republican) dismissing the value of any culture other than my own, I highly value the exploration of our rich history as a species and do feel like our culture would and does really benefit from other traditions and worldviews. I would probably have killed myself by now if I was not regularly reminded that things have not always been named what they are named and not always understood as we now understand them and I firmly believe this realization has a valuable, if not absolutely essential place in everyday life. The rise of yoga, as well as the greater Eastern theology movement into our culture as a whole has gone great lengths to retard the damage our highly individualist, imperialistic and destructive cultural mentality wreaks upon our environment and upon each other. Access to ancient traditions and practices such as meditation classes, acupuncture, chakra and energy healings can resurrect the perception of the human body from its cut and dried dissection, rendered in two-tone on flashcards. All natural products, whether they be food or goods, reintroduce us to the crazy idea that maybe we should care for our environment and possibly even preserve it. God knows the trifecta McDonald’s (convenience), Walmart (consumerism) and high fructose corn syrup (chemicals) have inflated our (ahem) egos to unprecedented proportions.

So why won’t going to yoga class three times a week even accidentally lead you to enlightenment (just well-toned thighs and a possible neck injury)? When did The Secret™ stop making people fabulously wealthy (oh wait, that was a marketing ploy)?
We (the people) are the bastard love child of Scientific Inquiry and Steve Jobs (which one was the catcher?) and are currently having one of many regularly scheduled identity crises. All over America, people are reaching inward to find their inner faerie/spiritual animal/shaman and professing to understand the great secrets of the Universe. TV Tourists are watching Discovery Channel presentations on Macchu Picchu and Stonehenge and, at the local, all natural Starbucks alternative, proclaiming to each other that they understand why it was built and how to manifest the special destiny that is just for them. And every middle-aged woman, rich or poor (read: middle class), attends a yoga class at the local strip mall gym and connect with an Easternized gym teacher in natural spandex to follow her spiritual instruction and ‘revelations’ while taking her 5 week yoga certification course in Costa Rica. Is that the sound of one hand clapping?

However, when I look up at the night sky, I can only see about 25% of the sky that was visible to my ancestors due to light and air pollution. When I go out and attune myself with nature, I hear, mingled with the songs of the birds, an engine idling and can’t help notice the cigarette butts and piles of dog shit- there always one somewhere. When I consider my astrology chart, I realize I can’t differentiate a planet from a star and can’t name more than three constellations despite three astronomy classes and the help of my Google Star Chart on my phone that actually names any constellation I point it at. And I know that my experience is not all that different than Upper Middle Class Jane Blow-Hard.

Let’s face it- this consumerism-counterculture hybrid is a gremlin bastard child. It’s kind of hard to bow to the god in you when we’re sweating in Old Navy yoga pants and that ill-fitted name brand yoga workout bra I found at a discount store. Although I love the principles and perspective of yoga, and wish that I could resurrect some old sage to tell me my purpose and how to reach enlightenment in this god-forsaken universe (hell, I’d settle for a warm-fuzzy feeling at least once a week), all I see is sad, lost children dressed up in Gap Body’s take on Indian work-out garb and pronouncing words they don’t understand for an hour and a half, three times a week in hopes that something magical will happen.

I feel lost too, horribly lost at that, but I think it may be time to give up Weekend at Guru Bernie’s and find my own way to sow magic and hope back into the ground we have turned to dust and trash. That is, if I’m still able to tell the difference between earth that can sustain life and the parts that can’t anymore.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.