10 October 2009

Kali, Ganesha, Energy and Angels

One of my favorite characters in Tony Kushner's play Angels in America is Harper Pitt.  She's an agoraphobic, delusional, valium addict coming to grips with the realization that she has married a closeted gay man who also happens to be a devout Mormon.  Harper is also plenty worried about the hole in the ozone, and in one of her delusions, she actually visits Antarctica to try and get a look at it.  By the end of the play, though, it seems Harper has made some peace with her delusions and fears, and has come to terms with what it means to be alive in a broken but hopeful world.  In her final scene, Harper has left her husband behind in Brooklyn and is heading for San Francisco.  She turns to the audience and says:
Night flight to San Francisco.  Chase the moon across America.
God! It's been years since I was on a plane!
When we hit thirty-five thousand feet, we'll have reached the tropopause.  The great belt of calm air.  As close as I'll ever get to the ozone.
I dreamed we were there.  The plane leapt the tropopause, the safe air, and attained the outer rim, the ozone, which was ragged and torn, patches of it threadbare as old cheesecloth, and that was frightening.
But I saw something only I could see, because of my astonishing ability to see such things.
Souls were rising, from the earth far below, souls of the dead, of people who had perished, from famine, from war, from the plague, and they floated up, like sky divers in reverse, limbs all akimbo, wheeling and spinning.  And the souls of these departed joined hands, clasped ankles, and formed a web, a great net of souls, and the souls were three-atom oxygen molecules, of the stuff of ozone, and the outer rim absorbed them, and was repaired.
Nothing's lost forever.  In this world, there is a kind of painful progress.  Longing for what we've left behind, and dreaming ahead.
At least I think that's so.
Harper, it seems, has figured out a little something about reincarnation.  I suspect she also knows a little something about the First Law of Thermodynamics, which states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It only changes form.

 Considering Harper's speech also makes me think a bit about Kali, the goddess of eternal energy (and death) and about Ganesha, the god of transitions and remover of obstacles, and about how energy, a constant force shapes and changes us as we, in turn, seek to shape and change it.

In yoga, we learn to breath and to be one with the moment, with what is.  We embrace stillness, but our existence is not static.  The practice itself is transformative; as breath moves through us, it changes our bodies and minds; it changes our way of being here. As we move through our asana practice, we flow through the transitions, the space between each posture, as much as we move into the posture.  Transition compels mindfulness, as does stillness.  Being present in the moment can mean being present in a moment of change.