Monday, September 1, 2008

"i'll put it in simple words: working men are pissed"

Ah, Labor Day. 126 years of celebratin' the workin' man (and lady, natch). And how do I contribute to that celebration? By workin'. I can only cop to the fact that teaching a yoga class falls into a different category of "work." No more delivering packages for multinational corporations and Ivy League universities. No more turning wrenches for commuting lawyers and professors. No more teaching kids in the inner cities how to turn those wrenches and eventually pick up my slack. No more building bicycle frames for celebrities, world champion athletes and wealthy doctors. No, now I build human frames.

And yet... I miss all that. Folks might assume a move away from the blue collar uniform would be an improvement. For some folks, maybe. For me... I am not so sure. There is something to be said for physical labor, for work that results in tangible outcome and contributes to the happiness and success of others.

As a society we are moving away from human production work. Unless, of course, one lives in China. There some folks labor endlessly on some useless trinkets or machines to steal our leisure time. We make our money in service these days. Service or on the web. In the intangible ether of the internet. What exists for those of us who don't want to serve cheap chemical food and drink, for those of us who don't want to manufacture dollar-store junk or computers?

I am no Luddite. Clearly, or else I would be etching these words into stone. I do, however, live a limited-digital life. I believe in human power for more than just transportation. I believe in rescuing old goods and restoring them to proper use. I believe in losing myself in labor as meditation, with a beautiful end result.

But the world doesn't operate like that anymore. So where do I find my happiness, my fulfillment?

I sometimes sense that usefulness as I teach a yoga class. As much as I value physical labor, I also value work that creates positive change. Work with a cumulative domino effect. Hence the years teaching kids to repair bicycles. I hope that as I teach I create change, on an individual level and across each entire class. I know to avoid attaching my own intention to everyone's practice. At the same time I reckon if each student can find his/her own peace, perhaps s/he brings that out into the world and helps it along in that direction.

How does one of working-class means free oneself from attachment? The two aims seem almost contradictory. Working with other laborers for justice means having a goal. Practicing yoga means letting go of a goal. How do I reconcile these two worlds?

Today, I do not have the answer.

21 students this morning. Autumn is coming. One fellow took his first class yesterday, and did very well. He definitely likes the yoga. I also had two travelers; latecomers whom I welcomed with open arms. One might think that since the room was already busy I'd take a pass on them. Instead I figured why the fuck not? and I added them to the mass. One was a former studio owner, which was a pleasant surprise.

As it's been a while since I'd taught such a large class I felt a bit clunky, out of my rhythm. No one seemed to mind. It did dawn on me yesterday that one's perception of a teacher really stems from one's perception of one's class. If you feel good and strong, then you love the teacher. If you're distracted, tired, achy, then the teacher sucks. So I'm slowly learning to let go of the need to please or entertain the class. Folks seemed happy, regardless.

Post title courtesy of the Minutemen.

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