Sunday, December 10, 2017

Other Worlds or Is This the Only One

"The ragged sparks blew down the wind. The prairie about them lay silent. Beyond the fire it was cold and the night was clear and the stars were falling. The old hunter pulled his blanket about him. I wonder if there’s other worlds like this, he said. Or if this is the only one."
McCarthy, Cormac. Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West (Vintage International) (p. 334).

There is a social media field called Rajanaka Storm because I've always contended that my "spirituality" can't be separated from politics. But by that connection I have never meant any particular policies, party, or leadership. I have meant a process of thinking. It is not what we think that makes us “Rajanaka,” Appa said, it is instead how we go about learning and thinking. I am reasonably sure that he would not agree with all of my opinions about life but he would not dispute that I have learned to think and to adjust my actions in the ways that Rajanaka teaches. After all, the field of Dharma _is_ the field of the Family, and this means that all thinking, even the methods of thinking, have political implications. The basis of my bias is that where we do our law, our duty, our principles and values is in the practical world of relationships, both proximate and exotic.

We need a two step here, so think about the image of Dancer.
(1) Step One: We need to learn how to think. This is the most essential of essential Rajanaka teachings. Rajanaka is a method of learning. I will explain more below.
(2) Step Two: We need to know that when differences emerge, both in the ways we think and what we think (and feel and believe, etc.), that these difference are real. They may bring us closer together and they may take us further apart be that in friendship or in other kinds of human relationships. Dealing with those differences is, in truth, as important as pursuing our essential shared humanity. The paradox is real and our advice is to embrace it; the problems that emerge may not be solvable, so do decide what you are going to do if that is true. Some things we “fix,” some things we can’t, so how do we live with that? Rajanaka teaches we must somehow learn to live with ourselves and with others we must learn what we can and cannot do to live with them. We must try to learn what we will and will not tolerate from ourselves and from others. Now repeat Step One.

Relationships all appear on different fields, in fact, multiple fields with multiple selves that are both fractals and fragments of the self. These fields are the place of Dharma, which means that’s where we try to hold it together in the middle of the utterly unrelenting storm that is called life. The fields are complex in form internally but they can be measured in spatial terms as proximate and exotic. A proximate field is what you think of as “home,” whether or not you are comfortable or even safe there. It’s simply what’s more near by, more urgent to your urgent attentions, it’s wherever you are now at “home.” “Home” is not some nice thing you necessarily like, it’s what you know to be familiar, whatever that is. Exotic fields put you out there either physically or mentally outside the familiar. The exotic makes us feel and understand that we are in something unfamiliar, no matter our degrees of awareness.

Whether the field is proximate or exotic, we humans tend to respond in the same two ways that describe most feelings: we move either towards or away. We cannot just stand still, there is no still. There is no neutral. One way or another you are moving towards or away. You are involved in there being more or less space between yourself and your other, even if that other is yourself. You need that space. You don’t want to be unified or one because then you can’t move, you can’t change, you would already be dead. Rajanaka rejects monism and exalts in the beauty of difference because difference is a fact that we mean not to eliminate. To eliminate differences is the definition of monism. What you actually can’t do, you may want to understand you shouldn’t actually try to do. A world without differences is not one you live in or want to live in. Every living thing shares the very same DNA. You can from that sameness, use that sameness as a way of thinking, but the beauty of the world depends on there being something different, even if it is merely the arrangement of the same DNA. Even identical twins are different.

When we move towards we tend to romanticize and attempt some form of empathy. Our understandings get blurry because we do not share the exotic others' experiences. When we romanticize that other our empathies can confuse our more honest assessments--- or we are told not to judge or, worse, that we can't imagine, can't understand, and are reproved into silence. So much for empathy working both ways. Moving towards is never easy. I warmly recommend keeping your hands to yourself, even metaphorically. Caution in difference is a not only natural, it is part of the respect we need to have no matter how much we embrace another’s difference.

When the exotic other is turned into otherness then they become an object, a thing to vilify, some idea or behavior or value from which we dissociate. This can be very poorly informed and formulated without serious evidence and critical thinking (i.e., ignorantly) or it can be, with great wariness and efforts at self-awareness, be based on more critical evaluation. We are _going to judge_, no matter what we say about being "non-judgmental." "Non-judgmental" is more usually how we describe an emotional need than a process of thinking and coming to terms with our actions. All things are really different from ourselves by definition---- including ourselves within--- and so we have complex responses, both emotionally and intellectually. We can be an exotic other to ourselves and this too will create a towards and away response.

After all, how do we learn about what we are not when all we have is what we are? How do we get to anything unfamiliar if every thought and feeling is proximate? Our only resource is the familiar and the things nearest to us may not seem to help. This means that we have to go further out from our most familiar categories, from the circles of proximate understanding. Ironically, it is when we look for more shared categories that are further away from our proximate self that we learn about our humanity. (Irony is always a good sign that you are onto the Rajanaka’s yoga.) The basic Rajanaka principle at work here is that if it is human, then it is possible to have some kind of understanding, however incomplete and provisional. Sometimes we have to reach deeply into ourselves and, at the same time, away from the familiar to see what is not-us. The further we reach away from our familiar, the more likely we can find what is shared. See the irony? This is, as Appa would put it, a great yoga.

Dealing with the exotic other is threatening because it is perfectly natural to feel that that which is not-you is going to eat you, or at the very least change you. It’s perfectly ordinary to resist the unfamiliar; think about the first time your parents gave you beets if you never had them before (or can’t remember, or just don’t feel like). It takes time to learn for oneself what it is about the unfamiliar that we like.

Part of the virtue of the romantic self is to give things a chance. That is part of the peril too. Part of the unhappy fact of otherness is that when you do your homework you might have to say, oh, no, not that. Think about finding out that some people eat their enemies. Are you prepared to accept cannibalism just because it is someone else’s long cherished custom and belief? I thought not. How we learn about exotic otherness is indeed a great yoga that takes time, critical skills, and evidence-based understanding.

There’s another Rajanaka principle too here worth our moment regarding exotic otherness. It’s more or less: when in doubt pause--- create more field--- and err if you must accept the peril of error, then error on the side of an acceptance and non-intervention. As the deeply flawed Jefferson once said that if you are not picking my pocket or break my leg, I may need to leave you to your preferences and choices. Yup, live and let live. Seems trite until you have to do it. In fact, the more the other’s view is not yours, the more one consider the good neighbors, good fences approach. I said “consider,” not take. Rajanaka is about weighing considerations, not about having fixed or certain approaches.

Appa was keen on having a lot less to say about things he didn’t study or understand until he’d really applied himself. Then his instinct was first to err on the side of indulgence, generosity, and disinterest. Had he not done that, how would I have come to live in his ultra-orthodox Brahmin household? There were things about my American life that were disinteresting to him. Had he known about everything I’d done by the age of 20 he might not have let me anywhere near his family! I jest, but not really. So by “disinterest” I mean that when he didn’t need to have an opinion, he let things well enough alone. This is because we live in many fields at once. I had what he called my “American life” too. He insisted we all have many fields and on those fields we have many selves.

Let me offer another example. So having studied Levitical Law-based Judaism, I can have some understanding of belief and behavior and I can simply not view those beliefs and behaviors as having any bearing on my own life but insofar as I share a civic relationship with such people. That civic relationship may have enormous consequences on my life, such as war in the middle east. But how we tolerate our differences may mean that we have to be less interested in any thing but our civic field. We can have a political field that we share that is not personal field of belief. But how? At what point do we need civic laws, not religious ones to govern us? Think: baking wedding cakes in the town where everyone pays taxes for every public service. Think about the people of Alabama deciding who represents them. I’m actually okay with seating Roy Moore in the Senate. I’m just as okay with calling him a bigot and fighting every last view he takes with every fiber of my being. The alternative is expulsion. When do we resort to that? Last resort.

But let us not lose the point: people can be exotic and unless we have need to invest in them we are not obliged. You are free to be curious or incurious. Rajanaka merely says that it’s best to have as well informed an opinion as possible to decide how you may then want to respond. I can walk away from the advice given in the Sermon on the Mount and think to myself (as I do), “this is terrible advice” (for a host of reasons) and still manage to not make myself a burden to others in proximate relationships. That is, I can live with my Christian neighbors and have entirely different values so long as we abide by the same rules of civic behavior. We have methods for deciding those civic relationships and they require leadership and participation. Don’t expect any of this to be fair or reasonable. No one gives up one inch of their field when they believe it is only theirs to have, not yours to share. So my offer is classic pluralism, to give it a name, though I am sure it will fail in the realpolitick of otherness. There will be strife even on the most peaceful field of co-existence.  This is unavoidable and part of being human. Yudhisthira knows this too even as he wishes it were otherwise. If you need your own personal Rama, I think you can have that but be prepared for that savior to fail you in one way or another. Before we move on to more proximate otherness examples we need to make another important point.

Rajanaka has been shaped by a relationship that is by definition an exotic otherness What I learned from my teacher and his traditions came from his experience as an Indian of a certain time in history, a Tamil, a Brahmin, a yogin, a Tantric--- albeit for him as a true revolutionary and dissident within his own world of proximate otherness. Appa’s near-world, his proximate otherness is an important key to understanding him. More importantly, it is the key to understanding that Rajanaka is a method of learning and a method of thinking, not a body of doctrines as such. Our method is our doctrine, if you will.

Appa looked at all of those things I listed above about himself, along with a thousand other variables in his life and self-creativity, and offered criticism and dissociation as a means of working through his self-formulated persona. He was a ­critic, not a follower or believer. He was contrarian, not conforming, advocating, or inculcating. He looked at familiar and exotic ideas to create a field. On that field he created by the method of contrariety the space of identity and difference. You need both to see yourself. You need both at the same time. In practice, he didn’t merely react and respond to his culture and up-bringing, he formulated himself in nearness with it and put critical space between what he understood to have inherited and himself.

He brought me ---an exotic other--- into his home on little more than his own instincts to trust me to behave appropriately in a completely strange situation for everyone involved. We flourished because we adapted to one another and because we found room for our differences, though I confess they were indeed very few. He knew I would adapt and adopt faster than others around me would learn but I think they learned from me as I did from them. He just made a field where we could do our work and live together.

What I learned was that being contrarian ---a critic and a self-critic--- is how I might cope with being a human in which differences make all the difference. Such a strategy, which is about how to think rather than what to think, makes me more tolerant, more indulgent ---remember to err on the side of generosities. I am sometimes stronger for the powers of tolerance and sometimes weaker for the admission that I am not prepared to invest further or I am all too prepared to push back. Contrariety teaches us not to disdain the other except as a last resort but no matter what to take the other as seriously as we take ourselves. You will know people for what they do, for how they act, for their generosities especially but not solely.

Let me land this plane on some recent politics to make a case that Rajanaka is far more than my opinions or any one person’s opinion.

Rajanaka means how we decide using our contrarian skills of evaluation can tell us what we want and who we believe ourselves to be. I fancy myself a liberal and rarely the kind of progressive that insists that others follow my lead or move according to my views or values. I am far less interested in telling others what to do than I am in letting them, as far as possible, do what they want. This strategy has serious drawbacks and you might not be able to enlist me in your cause if I think it is more important to be liberal than to be progressive. I had to do this everyday living in India. In a situation in which I was an “other” (and always will be), I err on the side of it not being my business to tell folks what they can and cannot do with their lives. I am eager to help when asked. But I am deeply wary of imposing myself and always looking for that line I do not want to cross into someone else’s worldview or on their field. I fancy my view like the old hunter in that McCarthy quotation.

I have carried that same boundary-making with me home to America. If I am disinvited, for example, into a Hindu temple in India I may be deeply offended ---happy to explain why I am---but I think I can understand their needs. It’s just not that important to me to be excluded no matter how I may dislike their ideas and choices. I can be there or I can go to another field. Hopefully there is another field where someone can go, just to live. The situation of exclusion may hurt my feelings, it may offend me, but I need to know what the rules are to know how I will respond to those rules. I need to know how to stand on the field or I need to find another. Refuse me a wedding cake because I am having my version of a Hindu wedding when you are profiting on my taxes too, umm, no, for that I will go to court because we have to share this field. Leave me out of your church or club and I may not care. We are always deciding what is okay and what is not.

America is not a culture, it is not a language, it is not any ethnicity or religion, even though it is all of those things compounded and in complexities. To be “American” is to be here under the law and behind those laws are our propositions and behind those propositions is our dedication to them. Lincoln nailed it really at Gettysburg. Can we for a moment leave (for just a moment) how deeply flawed he was too? Or maybe not. Maybe that is the point too. Maybe the point is that all things, all ideals, all hopes and wishes and dreams are flawed and the people who have them are flawed too. Maybe we just decide what we can stand or where we can stand.

Let me put this again in Rajanaka terms. We are not Americans for any reason but that we share fields of Dharma. The American Dharma is supposed to be those value propositions about life, liberty, and the happiness pursuit. We are bound to disagree about what those mean and we are not even going to agree about how deeply we have failed to meet those ideals, either in theory or practice. The whole set of propositions from the Rajanaka contrarian point of view is contradictory, likely impossible, in truth wrought from impossibility and contradiction itself, and let us not even consider too much further here how historically complicated and confused. We are not going to live up to these values or ideals because our historical shadow has created structures that can only change when we are serious about having even more uncomfortable conversations. No one likes those and, more pointedly, few are even capable of having them.

One of the lessons of the Mahabharata ----there is no source more Rajanaka in the sense of offering principles and insights regarding human nature--- is that the villains, who happen to be proximate others (they are cousins in the story!) are nihilists. They will burn down the entire kingdom with themselves in it just to stop their cousins from having any place in the same kingdom. Their villainy is in fact a pathology, it cannot be cured, it cannot be reasoned with, it is impervious to argument and even to compassion or indulgence. They just want their cousins morto, as Frankie Five Angels Pantangeli said emphatically to Michael about their sworn enemies. They are coming for us and we while we argue amongst ourselves, they are picking our pockets and breaking our legs or worse. What are we willing to do to ourselves to deal with them before we are morto.

Let me translate into Rajanaka-political-speak: they are going to kill us, and we may want to think about that seriously. Are we at this point with the current Republican Party? Do they want to destroy everything “we” value, and especially us? I think they do. I think they are doing a great job doing that. I think they are winning at that bigly. I think we are doing bullshit to stop them and are burning down our own house instead of listening a bit more closely to Five Angels. I think that we are also mostly powerless to stop them until we have more political power. Our efforts to gain political power seem to me deeply flawed and under current Democratic leadership and values, will fail. Call me grim. It’s just how I see it. Honest is hard.

But is this really “my” house that is being burnt down? Well that would mean I am also a part of the viable opposition, the resistance that is the Democratic Party. To believe there is another viable opposition fails to understand the structure of the political field, how it works right now in America. Two parties. Choose your evil, please. Democratic leadership is now nothing I find myself in agreement with, either ideologically or practically. I am now an other in what has been a lifetime of self-perceived self. I feel the same way about the word “Hindu.” I am a Hindu but one so unlike others that I don't much associate or identify and I won’t play in their sandbox anymore but in ways I can tolerate about myself. I expect there to be proximate otherness, I expect discord, dissent, and anger inside every family. I don’t expect we need to agree. I do think we share some notion that the other ---in this case the Republicans--- are a nihilist cult. Maybe we agree. I’m not sure.

So I conclude with two points.

First, as I have said so many times that my face is as blue as Krishna, there is no purity, there is no moral high ground. There is only the confrontation with self and other. That was the reason to write this piece, to make that clearer. What are you willing to tolerate?

Second, I find myself in disagreement about more than tactics but also this self and other problem. I am willing to see a difference between Franken and Moore such that I would not exile Franken from leadership but I would exclude Moore. Is that morally compromised? Of course it is. There is no one among us who is not, that is essential to the thesis. But you may differ in opinion deeply with me. I can live with that, no matter what you may think now about me.

Rajanaka hones your self-critical criticism so that you can live with yourself, cope with yourself, hold the strife of self in some kind of asymmetrical possibility of just carrying on, trying to do what you think is plausible in a difficult world of light and shadow.

YOUR contrarian self ---the one that contends and compares and makes calls and judgments based on your best self-assessment--- may deeply disagree with me. Please, go right ahead. In fact, the leadership of the Democratic Party has already made that choice for me. I see their choice falling right into the hands of the villains. I think they fail to appreciate the nihilism of those villains. I actually think the Republican Party are really villains. Working with them is some kind of necessity of the civic discourse unless and until there is revolution in the streets and that never works out well. I am as committed to non-violence as ever. I also think I don’t belong in that Democratic Party kula. Why? I am not going to be lead by these Democrats no matter how much I share in certain values and policies. I will likely vote with them because they are unfortunately in my opinion the last bulwark against Republican nihilism. My own sense of contrarian self cannot find room in what is clearly their room. I don’t share the field because that means going to battle with their leadership. Not any more. Emotionally, all I want to do is scream at them and tell them they are being had, fools for what they do and how they are doing it.

So that’s enough to leave myself out of what is now their conversation, no matter how they may welcome me into the room. I prefer not to support their leadership. I do hope they win, they are the closest proximate other that I can tolerate and the villains, well, they are going to kill us and the planet sooner than later.

When we like one another, actually when we love each other, we are really just tolerating each other’s otherness. Sometimes we really like that otherness, other times not so much. That’s another way to look at love that isn’t much like the “love everyone” idea. Rajanaka doesn’t require that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Rather it requires that we love enough to find out what we can live with and what we come to understand we cannot or will not live with. Rajanaka is about figuring out how to live on your field knowing that you are never alone on any field, including the one inside yourself. Do you share the field? Do you find more room so you can live with some space? To know yourself in that kind of contrariety, that kind of strife that won’t dissolve into just love is what I learned keeps me alive. I love living, and I hope you love your life too. It’s not easy to do, no matter how grateful you are for the grace of having been born human. Step onto the field that lets you live and love your life, that was Appa’s hope for us.

Saturday, December 9, 2017


I was reading Milosz this morning before returning to three hymns to Rudra in Rg Veda. I take notes to myself. They may or may not make it into that book, or _those books_ I keep promising. Who would care? I ask myself this in single every word.
"Reader, be tolerant of me. And of your- self. And of the singular aspirations of our human race… I insist on the freedom, on my right to browse at will among the basic texts that are the inheritance of centuries . . . "
---Czeslew Milosz

IN the great mythos Rudra and Siva become RudraSiva. We are prepossessed of that compound. We cannot see both at once;that would reduce one to the other, to monism. There is not one of anything in nature and nothing worse than oneness if there is to be a “culture” that permits us our differences and insists on freedom. Rudra and Siva appear in fractals and fragments because that is what we can see. It is at once rage and beauty, terror and auspiciousness. We call that Nataraja.

To see Nataraja we learn to recognize his terms as our own. Symmetry would reduce RudraSiva to simplicity; oneness may not be wholly forsaken--- How would we know? Why would we pretend to know?--- but we will never see it again. That is not what is in store for human life. We are too terse, too pithy an expression of nature’s great engagement. Culture will never triumph over nature nor will human life advance into harmony with nature. That is precisely what can never happen. Nature demands nothing of us even if life insists from this source of being to persist, to survive, yearning to flourish when it enjoys the luxuries of freedom.

Rudra is indifferent to his own cataclysmic force, Siva emerges to organize freedom so that we might see the need to create culture’s raw possibilities. We study Rudra as the patterns of existence to penetrate these possibilities of our identity with Siva. Rudra is, as Milosz puts it, “nature’s reckless indifference” and Siva our irreconcilable desire to fulfill an essential human need: to situate all things on a field of dreams we do not control but must somehow claim as our own, just to live. 

For this we will need both Rudra’s myths and Siva’s rituals; Rudra without Siva leaves us like bare trees in winter, withdrawn into an icy slumber that rages inside without appearances. But Siva’s promise in return isn’t merely the lush fecundities of spring or summer’s prodigious indulgences. There can be tender sensibility only in the embrace of a beloved indulgent of every flaw. Rather Siva is met on his terms when we enter the chaos of forest’s trees and a complexity so rich that it cannot be counted, for he like the leaves on the forest’s trees, there are too many and each reaches for its own light without regard for the whole.

Little by little the simple becomes complexity, RudraSiva does not need our permission. We have been brought along for the brief, confounding journey of self. We are here to see him as Nataraja, possessed by a dance that he does not control anymore than we fathom what occurs as we are pulled inexorably by the whirlwinds of that dance.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Facts We Don't Like, Things We Explain for Reasons

Michele Moses, a professor at UC Boulder, wrote, "Agnosticism is an ideology of unknowability, the conviction that is it epistemologically impossible to determine whether or not there is a deity." I am likely taking this citation out of context so no criticism is meant, nor do I mean to reference the author but to make a point about what she says. My point is simple: we tell the stories we prefer to hear or need to tell when the facts are too tough to accept, either for ourselves or for others. Allow me to make the point with the example.

I regard this idea as an apologetic to those who don't want to look more carefully at the evidence we _already possess_. Most agnostic claims are not about epistemology of indeterminacy, as is asserted, but are substituting for saying a more disagreeable thing, something that would cause people you like and respect to feel uncomfortable. This is much like _many_ things we say, not just about God or agnosticism. We give ourselves reasons that aren't about evidence or arguments but instead about how our ideas make people feel.

Why do I single out this case for the "careful people's tender sensibilities as underlying subtext"? Because, as Darwin himself understood long before he grasped the relationship between physical, geological, and biological time, long before Crick, Watson, and Franklin worked out the unit of life, and for the _first_ time, every argument for a deity is simply incommensurate with the way life itself evolves and selects. Nothing that lives comes from _any_ form of reality that is more complex than itself. Things become complex from simpler things. So the existence of a God that is somehow knowing, conscious, and superior does not follow from the _evidence that we know explains life_. There are dozens of other good reasons but the facts are in and they are overwhelming. On the order of the earth is round, in a not round way, but round, not flat.

The argument here works two ways. First, "as far as we know" is a lot of knowing. There are facts that we are not likely going to reverse. In this case the contrasting claims are also incommensurate, you can't have one if you have the other, that's how the facts work here. Second, sooner or later, like when Andromeda crashes into the Milky Way, the facts may change, or we find better facts. But the facts of Darwinism have not only not been refuted they have withstood the amazing facts of Neo-Darwinism and contemporary science--- and those folks, well, they know a thing or two. People tell themselves the stories they can live with. No one need object to that unless we are talking about the facts that we understand to be true.

Let's go back to this point for a moment: people tell themselves the stories they can live with. What I mean is that either the teller prefers to tell the story so that she or he can feel better about what they are saying, or they telling it to someone who will be better off for the way it is being told. I think agnosticism arguments are a good example of this. People want there to be God even if they say they can't know--- agnosticism. They would rather not deal with fact that their agnosticism is "way around," a bypass on the highway of facts, and they would rather not think about the implications of the facts that are so, well, difficult to grasp and unpleasant in some way to feel.  People want to think they don't know or can't know because human facts are provisional that we don't know things for sure, because there is no "for sure." But just because there is no "for sure" doesn't mean we don't rally know things. We need to tell the stories we tell for reasons that are not irrational but instead appeal to emotion needs.  Truth is not only hard to grasp, it is hard.

All knowledge is revisable, all is provisional, all is human and so fallible, because there is also no proof of there being any other sort of knowledge. All we have is the best we know and that's not the same as saying we can't know or that we don't know. Instead, Professor Moses makes an easier path emotionally because, after all, it's easier and safer and more satisfying to say that we can't know when, well, the facts speak to our discomfort. This idea of agnosticism isn't irrational, it really can make people feel better. It's just not true.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Once Upon A Time Spinoza Knew Everything, or Maybe Not

You Know One When You See Or Maybe You Don't

There is no argument about what is “real” yoga that is not agenda bound to religion or politics. A word’s meaning is found in its usages. In the 21st century West the meaning of yoga in popular usage is beyond dispute. “Yoga” refers to modern postural practices (do we even need to call that “asana” anymore?) and to the related wellness and fashion industries (“Do you like my new yoga clothes?”) I’m writing here to consider what more and what else the study or practice of yoga might mean, not by reverting to definitions and sources in Sanskrit (and other related languages) but more generally, if that is possible. Let us assume that “yoga” can also mean “deep and serious engagement,” and please leave it at that for now. I’ve written quite a bit about definitions of yoga, this is more about the future.

Yoga historically has always been captive of issues involving class, race, gender, all of which suggest correlative matters of privilege and opportunity. Once that is recognized within this conversation we can move forward with other issues that would be of concern, if only we took them as seriously. What yoga has never been and could be is more my concern.

Yoga’s Requisites: Privilege, Aptitude, Commitment, Time and Teachers, and why PACTT is hard.
Let's start with the idea that there are a lot of people who aren't that smart and try not to confuse that with opportunity or privilege. Thank you, Mr President. Some people don’t want to engage life either seriously or deeply because they just can’t. Such persons can be elected President of the United States, so far be from me to suggest that all persons “should” be yogins . Other folks want other things from life and we need not judge further. Let everyone be happy with whatever they want to spend their time doing. If that’s their “yoga” we still haven’t come to my starting line.

Some people never had a chance, and never will have a chance to create a deep engagement with learning.  That's just plain tragic and we need a world revolution to fix that. I await goodness to prevail. I don't think we should wait to help people who might want a better deal, we need to help them. Don't get me wrong here, it may sound patronizing or condescending but a lot of people can't or won't help themselves, and they need help. Some, just to live.

So let’s just go to people smart and lucky enough to help themselves who have the requisite privilege, no matter how they use their time, assess their aptitude, or go about learning. We’ve established that “yoga” now is mostly just in hot rooms stretching because that's what most people mean when they say the word "yoga."  No need to get too upset or excited about that.  I know many of you like that kind of yoga too. I'm glad you do. I don't personally want to do any of it, I like to exercise in other ways. What's left to do?

What's left to do with life if you have the privilege, time, commitment, aptitude, and teachers? That has always been the honest question in the history of yoga. The Buddha was first a prince, not a person struggling to make a living. Privilege of some sort has always been a prerequisite. Let's take care of the struggling and the needy, and let's ask ourselves what we could do more.

You likely have an A(ptitude) even if you don't have as much of the PTCandT. I want to start there because I actually think that is true. No one likes to talk about aptitude because it’s difficult to measure and immediately becomes politically charged. After all, someone is measuring someone else. Let us assume most people are smart enough to learn more deeply about nature, culture, and their own personal experience. For a lot of complex reasons, some get a pretty raw deal and others just need a chance, and most don't get that chance. We’re back to Marxist Yoga 101 and this is no small issue but it’s still not my point.

Curiosities and Commitments
So you should assume aptitude and privileged opportunity, because would that be you? You can also leave out the excuse that what I’m talking about is for the very few really, really smarty pants. The supersmart often don't get the issue because they are devoted to one thing, like science or piano or something, or because they have other personal issues that come with having a strange gift. I am not one of those great souls, not in any way, and I am happy to admit it. Some people look really smart because they have been lucky enough to be well educated and they continue to educate themselves seriously despite the pressures of capitalism and family. This is pretty rare. Most people do not read serious books after college. (This is a fact we can unfortunately prove.) They give up, don't have the time, or don't have the teachers they need.  They likely never learned to read difficult books, even if they did go to college.  Ouch.  But that is true.  Further, curiosity seems to dwindle and where’s the commitment? Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? The yoga I’m talking about asks a lot of us. It’s not easy and not going to get easier.  What do you want to do?

Most people are smart enough to be educated even if they think they can't do math (humanists) or think they can't write (scientists). I hear both excuses all the time and they are both bullshit because people are not dumb. What they more likely don't have is the socio-historical privilege, the commitment, the time, or the teachers they need if they wanted to learn. Add to this some distinctively American issues that include (but aren't limited to) (1) we are doers and not thinkers and (2) we love money more than anything else (*it’s hard to eat without it), and (3) we are "free" as adults, which means we usually terrible learners because no one likes to be told what to do unless they think they are doing the telling. We wouldn't have issue #3 if we could fix issues #1 & #2, but we can't.

There is a lot to know in life and I try to stack up curiosities the way I do obsessions. I want more and more of them. If every obsession deserves its own room then I’m gonna need a mansion, no, more palaces than the British monarchy. But if only this were the problem. The problem I’m focusing on centers on time, commitment, and teachers. We don't have enough, but we have to make more.

I don't blame people for not knowing enough about everything or knowing a lot less then they really need to take the serious facts of nature, culture, and individual conscience to heart. We need a lot of resources to be an informed 21st century person. That is what I am calling "yoga," the "informed 21st century person," and as all yoga of yore proposed, you have to have the whole package: privilege, aptitude, commitment, time, and teachers. Such beings are rarer than crow's teeth and, honestly, always have been. It’s a tough alchemy. But if you can decide for yourself what you want to do with your life, then life’s about making the choices you need to make and want to make. Learning is hard, it takes time, and there is so much to learn that it's pretty much impossible to get good at both science and humanities nowadays. I think there is no serious yoga without difficult learning. The commitment part is this: we must try. Spinoza, it is said, once knew everything there was to know but that was 1660, and it's, you know, 2017. Times have changed.  The world is a bigger place, outside and in, than Baruch Spinoza living in Holland.

We've all got more than we can handle and most of us know very little.  We want to reduce complexity to simplicity and want things to be easy, but they aren't. Add to that what life brings, like the roof needs fixing, the kids are sick, the dog needs a walk, keep going, there's always something to stop you from learning. We need the equivalent of at least two complete BA degrees devoted to both humanities and sciences, if we want to stand a chance in the 21st century and that’s just the beginning of yoga. You are going to need more than that and the proverbial PACTT to just keep going.

It has taken me almost a decade to catch up on _some_ of the elementary science education that was either done poorly or that I skipped to do other things. I have a long way to go but I can read and will. I have plenty of privilege, the commitment, and while I am running out of time, I like the work. I can even access some teachers for free. Yeah, that's real privilege in the 21st century, I know. But it all depends on where you are in your life and what you want. There’s no point trying to do Hawking’s physics if you can't do the basics of the math. We need teachers.  More teachers who will help us do difficult things.

Any 21st century version of life in the privileged world that does not take science seriously is seriously stupid. Scientists have not spent much time, nor seem to care must about the implications of their findings. Or they are too busy doing sciences and don’t spend any time with humanist issues. There are exceptions, Dawkins has dealt with what natural selection means to our old ideas, especially religion. Most philosophers and psychologists ignore the relationship between humanist concerns and science too because they are too busy imagining that they are scientists. Humanist concerns start with feelings, ideas that are metaphorical rather than factual, the arts, especially things creative, social relationships and individual experiences of success, failure, abuse, wounds, recognition, and human relationships.

To be Humanist and Scientist Is No Small Potatoes
Humanists generally don't take their _own_ implications seriously enough--- capable as they are with fiction, myth, art, etc.---they rarely consider more than their creations, they don't do the more speculative, harder social and psychological analysis in light of the science, they just move on. Usually they don't know the science ---especially cognitive science, psychology, biology, evolutionary bio, etc. There are exceptions but folks like Robert Bly who have tried to see the poetry, myth, and ritual in depth psychology and basically through the Jungian legacy are few, far between. And those that do are usually deficient in science learning, so there's that too.

And there’s another piece of this that is so bad for business I shouldn’t even mention it. So instead of evincing curiosity in real science we find plenty of modern yoga interested in pseudo-science and charlatanism, like astrology, about 99% of Ayurveda, healing stones, you name it, it's just more magical bullshit. Don’t mistake me, astrology on the comics page as amusement or read mythically would be fine but people take this stuff seriously, even when they say they don’t. Some people really think that Mercury’s retrograde is changing their lives. We can study that as a sociological fact or as a feature of someone's psychology.  We cannot take the subject seriously as a subject.  

No one is calling out “yoga” for advocating superstition and nonsense rather than being interested in serious science and humanism. This problem is not just modern. About 99% of “Tantra” is just more nonsense and a furtherance of the well-oiled con game known as religion. Again, I like magic crystals as much as the next guy. I just know it’s for the same reason I like my lava lamp and other stuff that just amuses me. No excuses, but those tarot cards are bullshit and while I’m mostly okay with saying it’s fun I am more honestly concerned you take it for more than it is. I’m not trying to suck the fun out of life, not at all, I too like to be entertained, but that is not the same as educated.

Sometimes talking about nonsense is a ploy to talk about serious stuff, though likely there’s just more nonsense than we’d like to admit. My Indian uncle was an astrologer and he knew two things about it: first, that it was bad for business to admit it was bullshit and second, that his job was to get people to talk about serious things using astrology as a ploy. If buying magic stones gets you thinking, fine. Can we also think about more serious things, please?

To be a 21st century yogi we need a full throttle science education and we need to be humanists, deeply read and widely read, capable of comparison, and above all else skilled in critical thinking. Critical thinking is what links the humanities and sciences. It's simple enough (and it is truly nothing more than Rajanaka Yoga 101): (1) ask every question, the more disturbing or confounding the better; (2) follow the evidence, the processes of evidence, wherever they lead and be prepared to re-evaluate, revise, and change your mind; (3) look for the subversive fact, the black swan, understand that all knowledge is provisional because it is both incomplete (always) and may be subject to revision (anytime). The rest is data. The data is the world: it is our natural world, our social reality, and our individual experience.

Rajanaka loves myth, analysis, poetry, storytelling and artistry. But it's just as committed to facts, to science. The yoga we call “Rajanaka” is too quixotic and impossible: it is to be a well-informed 21st century person. That is not going to be easy.  That may not even be possible.  I don't care.  We should try. And what we must be committed to is getting serious about the humanist and science concerns we want to have in conversation. That is going to be our 21st century conversation and it is yet to be had seriously enough.