A Yogi in Central Park

The man claimed to be a Yogi. We were in Central Park when he said this, and we were on our way to meditate beneath a crooked tree. The Yogi asked us questions, all of the “do you know…” form and told anecdotes largely of the folk wisdom variety. Are we yoga practitioners? Do we know what namaste really means? Not knowing is good, very important. I don’t know anything. We learn by experience, not by holding opinions or by holding forth. There are nine kinds of yoga. You do not like Bikram: thank God. Do you know what yoga means? There is the eastern answer and the western answer. Practice being non-judgmental. Do you know about Buddhism? Most people don’t listen; they are only concerned with satisfying their material needs. Everyone is a teacher and a student. You are a philosopher? Were we interested in attending the School of Practical Philosophy? Happiness, nine classes.

We thanked him for his time and continued walking along the dirt path. After we said goodbye, he returned to tell us that there was also laughing yoga. Then he left again.

A mean case of arthritis

A long day can be relieved by a rooftop breeze or even by its memory. The humidity created its own atmosphere over the City. The Park smelled of warm Fruit Loops and my hair was a puff pastry. I believe I am coming down with a mean case of arthritis. In the morning, one conversation partner told me she saw a dragon fly that was unable to lift off. Evidently, its wings were stuck together. She took her pinkie and slid it between the two wings. Releasing both, she released the being to air. Elizabeth, our longtime Hungarian housekeeper, was surprised when she saw me walking up the stairs. “You’re walking like a cat. Very quietly.” I had a book beside me all day. I read, “To know that one does not know is best. To not know that one does not know is worst.” You would think it was Socrates but, no, it is that old Daoist Laozi.

The mirthful canopies of spring

My friend was at the front door at half past 9. Joan yelled down, “Who is it?” I was already sitting near the door and admiring the spring morning when the doorbell sounded.

“Who is it?” she tries again.

“A friend, Joan, it’s a friend,” I yell up.

“Huh? Who is it?”

“Don’t worry, it’s for me. It’s my friend.”

I let my friend in, I run upstairs, and Joan goes back to bed.

*

My friend has brought oil of Arnica, a homemade pear and basil pastry, my copy of Seneca’s letters. I hand her my Marcus and my Hadot. We sit in the back garden, the patio cool to our bums, watching three feisty sparrows get into a row. They butt heads and she eats her orange. The pinks and violets, the oranges and yellows are ludic, mirthful, all redolent of a midsummer night’s dream.

Another friend brought me grapefruit marmalade made by hippies in New Jersey. The product tag is written in dippy cursive by a company called Eat This. Under the ingredients, a line reads “gotta love it!”

Another friend sent me dates, three, telling me that she was “assembling the Seder plate, thinking of symbolic foods, you, Catlin.”

*

I walked along the mountain path, in mind to see Wise Elder. I said to him, “Come now, Wise Elder, do not hold back but tell me what a good life is and how I might live it.”

Wise Elder simply pointed to my hand–for I was still carrying the pastry, the marmalade, the dates–and said nothing.

Hospitality in actu: A search term poem

First Digression

Last night I dreamed I was surfing idly on the internet. Pretty quickly things got dicey. When I entered search terms or a URL into Google Chrome, I was immediately re-directed to a page of ads. “No,” I thought. “This can’t be right.”

No, that’s not quite it. It was rather that “andrewjtaggart.com” did not lead me to my cozy little home, but the name had been thieved and I was held hostage by a wall of ads and text. That page, filled with noise and fuzz, was andrewjtaggart.com.

I thought, “So this is Hell 2.0.” I thought, “So, this is how people experience this site.”

 Second Digression

I glanced at my Dashboard this morning and noticed that someone had searched “resume cv professor andrew taggart.” If you’ve been reading my work long enough, then I hope you’ll laugh at the whole string of characters. (Well, perhaps, the Christian name “Andrew” is not that funny but I digress.)

Preface

The poem below is stitched together from search terms that brought some readers to my website over the past couple days. I fear they came away empty-handed. I hear they are demanding their money back.

The purpose of my modest literary experiment is to see whether, in this threadbare tapestry, this withered linen cloth, I can glimpse something of the diversity of human experience; whether I can enact compassion in the enmeshing; whether I can take the dangerous, the rather dangerous and lewd desires alluded to, and hold them up so tenderly; and, most of all, whether I can let in the vulgar, let in the guttural and raise it up too, allowing it to realize its essence in a higher form. Just as knuckles plead to be wrists, so lust sings to be love.

I do not say that the poem is good. I say only that the poem is right-spirited. Let us say: its heart is in the right place.

A.

 
1
 
knuckles feet wrists
arrogant steps
 
2
 
scenes:
touching breasts
touching lovers breasts
lovers touching breasts
 
3
 
scene:
breast touching
breasts touching
breasts touching before
marriage
lovers breasts touching
marriage
lovers breaths touching marriage
 
4
 
rumi
stillness
integrity, integritas
 

Further Reading

I take this to be one example of spiritual exercise (ascesis). The curious reader may learn more about ascesis over here. Scroll down about halfway and, while you’re at it, why don’t you be a good sport and grab the tissue on the floor at your feet.

On sports cliches

On Thursday night, I wrote an email to my older sister, congratulating her and my brother-in-law on their huge 20 point victory at home against an important conference rival. “Whoa,” I said. “Whoa is right,” she replied. “It was a big win!”

In the middle of my second reply, I offered some heady post-game analysis of the college basketball game:

You pinned them to the mat and made them eat straw. But that’s what did them in.

You see.

I say you take that 210.5% intensity into the rest of the season and no team (well no team apart from those that put in 211%) will stop you. No team. You’ll be invincible. A superhero.

She replied, “Thanks for a tired morning laugh!!! Sent from my iPhone.” After I read this, it became clear to me that one of the keys to the game had been playing both halves in full.

*

Man, you don’t want to play them at home. They’ll eat you alive with their full court press. They’ll take you to school, then they’ll eat you for breakfast in the cafeteria. (After they pay for it.) Take you to the school of hard knocks. Damn. They’ll be all over you, and you won’t know what to do with yourself. You’ll be lost, verily, amid the existential wasteland. Damn.

Under pressure. Pressure pushing down on you. Down on you. Under pressure. Trill.

*

I see you’re wearing a Celtics jersey. Nice. I grew up near French Lick. Not far from there. I’m dating myself, aren’t I?

*

Do you believe in Magic? I sure do. When I was a sophomore in high school, I entitled a group of poems I remember dreaming dot dot dot and elmer glued Chris Webber onto the cover. My poems were about some very dark things. I can’t remember any of those very dark things, no doubt because they were so very dark, as dark as an obsidian eyeball…

*

Look at me. Don’t get complacent out there tonight. Don’t forget what we talked about all week. Right, the intangibles. Make her go left. Force her to go to her non-right. Success is measured in instants. You hear me?

Give me your all. I mean Your All. All the instants you gave me this week you give them back to her and then some. Pass them out. Blood, sweat, and tears. But remember to keep your cool.

And remember that good teams meet expectations; great teams exceed them; the best teams smash their skulls right fucking through them.

*

You have to believe in yourselves, that’s what it all boils down to, because if you don’t no one else will. And if you don’t believe in yourselves and no else else does, then how do you know that you, they, or anyone exists? And that thought’ll leave you high and dry.

To begin with, we’d do well not to commit ourselves yet to Error Theory so long as there are reasonable alternatives to our believing ourselves to be nothing but Brains in Vats. It seems to me that we are epistemically warranted in grounding the belief in our own existence on Wittgenstein’s argument in favor of public language, which is canvassed in Philosophical Investigations, nos. 244-271.

Now, supposing that Wittgenstein’s argument against the idea of a private language can be shown to work (and I think that it can), it would then follow that we could, with good reason, be motivated by the first-order desire to kick the other team’s ass. Now let’s go out and make that happen! Are you with me?

Whoop / clap clap / stomp stomp / stomp clap whoop.

*

Tonight, she really rose to the occasion. Bob. She stepped up. Her game. Well, to be honest, first I looked down the bench. Then I called her by her name and nodded just as surely as I was calling her name. Then, she tore off her warm-ups rather carefully and walked by me, doe-eyed, with the sweetness of lilacs on her breath…

First, that is, I put her in, then she stepped onto the court, which is to say, stepped into the game proper, and after that she stepped it up. Stepped up her game. On the court. Because you got to. The game of others, i.e., was stepped up less than the steps of hers which for all that were higher than theirs and, just because of that, all the more awesome. And once she stepped up (her game), she managed to stay up. Staying up past her bedtime, she absolutely killed it. Out there. On the court. Left it all on the court. And killed it, just killed it.

*

The momentum, which had hitherto been another’s but certainly not ours until very recently, is now mostly ours and scarcely theirs, and, going forward, we’ve no plans of giving that momentum, the momentum we’d fought so long and hard for, back to our erstwhile and oft-wistful competitors or to the anti-derivatives with their heads up their asses. (Humpf. And this from the horse’s mouth.) From here on out, the tidal wave (whoosh) is being ridden by us and not by anyone else. It’s our wave, after all, ours to do with as we please. In this season of migration across the northern frozen tundra, the channel is treacherous and the sea lies aflame but the tide, like bathwater, is high. This season, we’re on the up and up and we’re not gonna stop till we break into the glass ceiling with a thunderclap.

*

We’ve got to take it one game at a time. That’s the key, when you think about it. We’ve just got to–to–to just stay focused on the game plan Coach gave us… I thank God for everything. I give Him all the credit in the world for our being where we are today. I give all the credit to my teammates; I couldn’t have done this without them. There’s no credit I wouldn’t give someone else for everything I’ve been given except for the credit I occasionally give myself for giving credit to God and to my teammates. I mean it’s just such a blessing to work with these guys out there every night, night in and night out. (Good night, moon.) They’re like my family. They keep me sane… Mom and Dad, I love you all, and honey Daddy will see you very very soon.

Tear kiss sky dome.

*

Hands down the greatest moment in sports history has to be Bobby Knight’s game face parody. I kid you not. Twelve seconds of pure unadulterated glory. Watch, my friends, and be humbled.