Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Day 25 -- Company

My 18-year-old son, James, went with me to Bikram class today. He's home on Spring Break from UC Berkeley, and it's always great to have him around. He's had asthma for a long time; just last year he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, a challenge to which he has risen with grace and courage.

I've wondered for a long time whether yoga would help James's asthma, so I invited him along today. He's extremely flexible, and as difficult as it was for him to encounter Bikram for the first time, he enjoyed it. It was great to have his company, but I did have to force myself to focus on me and quell my impulses to correct his newbie form. I hope he'll consider continuing with Bikram once the semester is over.

James is studying John Donne in one of his classes at Berkeley right now, which makes me happy, because Donne is one of my favorite writers. He was a master of the poetic form known as the sonnet.

I was thinking about sonnets just the other day. My daughter Hope asked me whether I ever get bored in yoga class, since it's always the same. At first I laughed and said, "I'm working too hard to be bored." But then I answered her with my favorite passage from Madeleine L'Engle's great novel A Wrinkle in Time. In it, a character named Mrs. Whatsit says this:

In your language you have a form of poetry called the sonnet…There are fourteen lines, I believe, all in iambic pentameter. That’s a very strict rhythm or meter…And each line has to end with a rigid pattern. And if the poet does not do it exactly this way, it is not a sonnet…But within this strict form the poet has complete freedom to say whatever he wants…You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you. 
I find Bikram class to be like a sonnet. It's a strict form, and precision and exactness are encouraged. But within that form is a whole range of human expression; in fact, the very structure of it highlights individuality, in my opinion. No, I'm never bored in Bikram's yoga class, and I don't think I ever will be. I've been given the form, but I have to write the sonnet myself. What I do with it is completely up to me.

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