A Bigger Picture Even?
January 11, 2021
This is a picture from today’s The Observer a broadsheet Sunday newspaper in the UK. The focus of the article written and attached to the photo is the topic that the image is of a view on a rooftop at what is claimed to be the only ‘girl’s ashram’ in India.
The picture is named by its taker as ‘Jumping Girl’. I will say a few thoughts which struck me about the image and its context here in The Observer.
I’d suspect that the image is one that has been ‘altered’. The perpendicularity of the girl being so very precise and almost geometrical suggests this to me. Also there appears to be a certain sharper definition to the jumping girl’s feet, than would allow a simple unadorned camera shot. Indeed the brick paved floor is somewhat geometrical also – note the girl is exactly at right-angles to the trending of the brick floor - she faces parallel with one plane of the brick s and at 90 degrees to their other plane.
A very much tailored picture I would think? To my eyes the bricks make it more difficult to see or know whether the girl really is ‘off the ground’ but it is certainly a good illusion if she isn’t.
The act of ‘jumping’ of course recalls the somewhat enigmatic art of levitation. The geometry of girl and bricks also invokes for me that aura of precision and order, of control and discipline inherent at least in the European eye, when it is looking at Eastern contemplatives seriously and with respect.
But perhaps that era has passed or at the least waned from its apex of mystic reverence which went through like Brighton Rock the late sixties and the nineteen-seventies. Bruce Lee, The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, even Marharaja Ji, and of course the great Ravi Shankar. People like Sun Ying Moon and something of John Lennon and Yoko Ono helped bring lower our esteem of such Teachers. Thereafter up to today the trend has been moreso, like nearly all religious or quasi-religious endeavours in The West, towards parody and then to outright satire and ridicule. Jim Carrey and Rowan Atkinson have mocked the Eastern arts of mind and body, along with countless other screen presences, so much so that now it is difficult to use the material as satire it is become so hackneyed.
And here in a new guise, in women’s clothing, is a presentation which offers us seriously an image and a community of dedicated females in India to our respect and regard.
I do not know whether the barrage of mockery fired of by us in the last 30 years has rubbed itself off on my thoughts here today. Hard to be sure either way.
Certainly I’m no fan of Women’s Movements, not because I’m misogynistic or even feeling threatened or am so old fashioned as to be dismissive outright; but simply because I see a certain class of woman, a certain class only, and by no means all women have opportunity or access to their ‘rights’, only the higher-flying professionals for the most part, on an elitist binge.
Further, I see women is such a class in the main wanting the things they believe that men have disallowed them for centuries – again certain classes of men including working men but not all men – but these women ‘want to be men’ but not in a sexual or a gender sense only in terms of what they see as due pay, respect, standing, fame, scope ,power, etc etc. It’s no sort of coup at all, no revolution of any kind – and what has changed that brings women into working and public life society I believe has been induced deliberately and not by women. I have dealt with my views in this elsewhere.
Women are the pigs of Animal Farm. The men are the Farmers. That’s all. Nothing new idealistic innovative whatsoever. And further, just as Wordsworth has it, ‘Child is Father to the Man’ and another equally fine saying is that which says ‘The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world’.
Shelley himself proclaimed his profession of poet to be ‘ the unacknowledged legislators of the world’ too; but I think he was very like that riding master of Spain whom Sir Philip Sidney mocks at because he was so eloquent on his high admiration for horses that Sidney says ‘if I had not been a piece of a logician before I cane to him I could have wished myself an horse.’
But women in public life, most particularly on TV and Radio, in shows, comics and commentators, and in written journalism also, almost to a woman deeply enjoy making uncritical derogations of traditional roles of women – motherhood, cooking, sewing, housekeeping, grocery shopping, ironing, just like the fathers of those menfolk they want to be had joked of their mothers learning to drive and going out to work.
For most individuals their mother is, has been, the most important person in their lives – and why? - because their mother was the closest person to them and was the person who spent lots of time and love on them and without limitation. The natural feeling of a mother is to see their children grow hale healthy and prosper, grow wise and ‘full of years’. What been teacher can a person have than another person whose heart is so inclined towards them?
Of course a father has his things to commit and to give and to guide with, though go look up Blind Willie Johnson’s song “Father will do the best he can, but nothing will do, when mother is dead’.
The marriage service speaks of ‘Matrimony is an honourable estate’, yet to so many eyes so much derision like muck has been thrown into them that such stations as wedded and mother are considered risible old fashioned dead and out of date, moribund.
The social engineering of personal and general value in society has been a coup and a disaster. Planned and orchestrated by our educators, condoned and furthered by the established powers, and of course aided and abetted by commercial monied manipulators – together they expect to be organising for us our futures.
And so to this photo image in the Ashram. Here is a woman a sit were levitating. She is poised I’d guess deliberately so, and the photo carefully also made-over I’d assume, so as to convey self-possession, strength, style, and a certain beauty of symmetry. This woman is clearly dressed not in working person’s clothes. Her clothes are finery and expensive. Her demeanour and presentation her face, hair feet hands all speak of privilege, not of that class in which women miss the glittering prizes in life disqualified by poor education and low income.
In the corner -* in a dress *- note you, a Western emblem, a native women sweeps. A native woman who seems clearly to me to be not a contemplative at the Ashram but rather a hired help – a person in to do – in olden terms, a skivvy. There’s no rigorous high discipline for this woman cleaner, no religious dignities and hinted aspiration. But I am wrong, there is dignity for her, there is dignity in work, there is honour and there ought always to be respect for work and those who do work. Especially manual, and by our twisted values, what we esteem, low calibre work.
“Work is prayer’ said the old Roman; ‘The labourer is worthy of her hire’ says Our Lord.
The carefully made laying out of the over-garment robes along the wall towards which the ‘jumping girl’ is facing is also deliberately done. The presence of those ‘others’ in the Ashram, other women, proclaimed unworldly by the presence in the building, but really I cannot say that unworldliness goes with wealth and privilege, how is one unworldly when one allows the employment of lesser others to sweep and to clean up after one. Cleanliness being next to Godliness is the blessing on the cleaner but is it also on the Ashram members?
A different world – not just India and Indian social mores and conventions, but that world of people with overmuch privilege, ambition, and thought for themselves.
“My people humble people who expect