Self, Portrait

That is/was/is Betty Ford, as photographed by David Hume Kennerly in 1977 (on President Ford’s last full day in office), featured over the weekend at Iconic Photos (a great blog I’ve mentioned, and stolen from, before).  Her funeral is today.  What a dish, and RIP!

But there may be no good excuse for:



My idea was that the above act of auto-pornography might help Scott get over whatever’s keeping him from providing a current author photo with his dang book. I’m referring to draft author bios like the following:

It would make sense to provide a picture and information about this book’s author.  Credibility matters when it comes to sharing yogic knowledge.  On the other hand, information about the author would interfere with this book’s distribution as something unprejudiced by commerce and tradition.  Scott Smith Miller authored What Is(n’t) Hatha Yoga and that amount of information will have to suffice.

Scott admitted that he was really reaching with that stuff.

It would be needlessly cruel, especially after I’ve ranked him out with my “Me-Dusa” shot, to share his more recent try to escape the burden of self-exposure, but maybe I’m wrong to think that vanity has been playing a role somewhere.  Scott hasn’t quite copped to that. Maybe a new photo of his yogic loveliness is even now winging its way across the internet to me.

Anyway, I’m not pretending to be free of and beyond vanity.  If I were, I wouldn’t be trying to negate it, while imagining I had carved out a space to indulge it more freely.  Cuz that was my plan.  One way or another, I knew, through whatever filters or angles or lighting or cosmetics or right thinking real or virtual, I’d sooner or later end up trying to make myself look like a young Robert Mitchum instead of… that – and in the meantime get over my own “hump,” jump over my own blurry frizzy shadow.

actually much more like the real me

The complicating factor is that, though I picked (or thought I was picking) the Me-Dusa shot because it embarrassed me – same thing:  appealed to my anti-vanity – it’s kinda growing on me, as I must have known it would, exposing my anti-vanity as another vain sham even as I fall possessively in love with myself… all over again… and again… for the countlessth time…  So much so that it’s taken me a day or two to get this post done.

Yet, at the same time, I know it’s still shockingly awful.  Something about the way the lighting hits the visage unsettles me.  I really meant it when I said I was sorry about it, for your sakes.

Same stuff will probably happen with Scott when he finally gets over whatever he has to get over, but that doesn’t mean I think he should aim for “crazy” or “joke” or “him-dusa.”  Maybe he’s fully aware from his previous experiences how this all has to go – as with that great shot of himself, from ca. Y2K or so, that he linked us to before in a comment thread.  Here’s a quick-capture (had to be “snipped” since the web version is embedded media, not a directly steal-able file):

Maybe Scott really is completely unaware of how impressive the rest of us shlubs find the above… from here below. In the text of the book in which it’s featured, he makes fun of it, criticizing himself in relation to surrounding circumstances, and pointing out what to him suggests a puddle of urine underneath his (im)posing person (a spot I/we now share).  Yet the very discussion allowed him to show the photo, in fact to show it twice, and leaves us discussing it again today.

There’s just no punching your way out of the paper bag of narcissism once you’ve, narcissistically, put it at issue.

I therefore think he should just ignore it – or deal with it as something that he should easily re-negate before he’s even into his second set of whatever he does starting at 4:30 AM every day.

Or go with it:  The command to love your neighbor as yourself is a command to love yourself, or is absurd, or a command to do harm.  To hate yourself and love the other as yourself would require you to hate the other.

Or all of the above.  However he puts it or gets to it, I think he’ll end with a good portrait photo that respects his book, and respects his friends and loved ones and students and teachers and himself and the First Teacher, and that addresses and forgets with generosity the need or desire of future readers to identify (with) him.  Might even want to trust someone else – my candidate was the missus – to make a selection from a photo line-up…  That one, he’s the one, arrest him!

Or no photo… I guess that’s an option… but, since he uses photos of other yoga-people in the main text, I think he has even less of an excuse.  Why should he be relieved of the soul-stealing, unlike them, or me?  Furthermore, he’s already exposed himself before, many times, in different ways.  He’s no longer a virgin.  Soul sold.

As an old friend of mine used to say, regarding consumption of a certain herbal intoxicant, “If you don’t know whether you’ve already gone too far or haven’t gone far enough, there’s really no choice…”

Which is how it must be for starlets and models and First Ladies – at least for the ones who go through any hesitation at all before exposing and exhibiting themselves on command or simple request.  Deep down, once you’ve crossed the line, seen yourself crossing it, been your own voyeur, loved yourself as another, only more and worse shame and sin and self-obliteration can carry the load.



29 comments on “Self, Portrait

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  1. Having known this post was coming, I was still entertained. Smiled the whole time I was reading it, and couldn’t be happier with the teaching. CK is a born teacher. He connects easily with Ishvara (The Primordial Teacher), and I feel that connection coming through his every word, even when he’s trying to get in the way of it. Here, he’s letting it really flow. Of course, he was right. I was getting over the whole self-portrait thing even as he was writing this (before he told me he was writing it). As my teacher, I’m sure he’s still not sorry that he sacrificed himself. I particularly enjoyed how he appealed to his anti-vanity – it kinda growing on him, as he must have known it would, exposing his anti-vanity as another vain sham even as he fell possessively in love with himself… all over again… and again… for the countlessth time… So much so that it took him a day or two to get this post done. I understand. With dimples like that who wouldn’t be in love with himself? He could sell burro rides that go down the cracks of his dimples. Remember when I was copying all of CK’s writings and claiming them to be mine and claiming to be him or something. I don’t have dimples.

  2. Scott, that’s image is extremely lovely…. and so you.

    Burros going down MacLeod’s crack, deep into his dimple could have come from no one else.

    here’s a phone number should there be a problem going the other way

  3. Long ago and far away, when people were still young and full of self-regard, i had a friend so utterly without vanity that he would never ever ever gaze at flesmih in a mirror. shaved without using one.

  4. Situated in the foothills beneath picturesque Mount Baldy, the Upland area’s got all sortsa horsecrap goin on, so probly burros, too. However, am much more likely to get burrito in that inverse pimple, or old razor blades, or nests of vermin, than burro.

  5. I think it was Dostoevsky in Notes form the Underground that said a person better look like what they are. If you’re a writer and you don’t look like a writer, chances are you won’t get published. If you’re a baseball player and you want to be a catcher, you better look like one or the coach won’t let you play there. In the yoga world, sadly, I think this is particularly true. There are exceptions, but for the most part, the serious yoga teachers who do well look something like yogis and the sexy yoga teachers do well, not just because they look sexy, but because they look like sexy yoga teachers. Of course, there are some sexy yoga teachers who other serious yoga teachers never take seriously even though they’re smart just because of the way they look. And I know that the few teachers who do make it despite not looking the right way for the kind of yoga they teach are still negatively affected, and express that privately. They’ve told me how they wrestle with the pressure of having to overcome their appearance within a world where looks shouldn’t matter and how annoying the whole thing gets. The Dostoevskian insight works no matte what, then, because it’s just easier on a person if they look like what they are. In the painter world, again there are exceptions (that prove the rule), but you better look like Claus Kinsky or something. The boy next door look doesn’t work because the boy next door can’t be a genius and it’s especially annoying if you’re a painter because your self-portraits are so boring. I once painted a giant picture of myself wearing a diaper bag just to subvert this whole thing. Rembrandt never painted himself wearing a diaper bag. I think CK looks a bit like Rembrandt. Do you think we would still feel the same way about Tom Waits if he looked like the boy next door? The boy next door look is so conventionalizing. Nothing unconventional works for the boy next door looking guy. It just looks like you’re the boy next door trying to be unconventional. The horror is that the boy next door can be the person who understands the prison of conventionality more than anyone else, but if he’s sensitive to energy then he knows when something feels forced, so all he can do is do what everybody too scared to do anything outside of what’s socially enforced on a level of fashion do no matter what. And because it shouldn’t matter anyway, the whole thing is just one big annoyance. Where’s my diaper bag?

  6. but Scott’s comment – which coulda beena post – raises an interesting question all the same. Doesn’t yoga, as practiced today, to the extent it’s not a purely physical regimen, promise a positive alignment of physical and emotional states? The yoga teacher has to appear, and is likely to appear, physically and emotionally healthy, which, together, will necessarily overlap with attractiveness in a very basic evolutionary-biological way. If she starts out with the kind of equipment that happen to be in fashion, and has any youth left at all, then sure she’s going to seem date-worthy. Add some yogical serenity, and she’s going to seem relatively approachable, too.

    Or consider the Charlize Theron counterexample. Done up at all, she’s one of the beautifulest women in the world, and smart, too. But she put on 20 or so lbs and did some ACTING and came across as a bullish murderer that no one would want to meet in a dark yoga studio.

    There may be no perfect correspondence between outward “physical attractiveness” and intrinsic or spiritual worth, but if there is no general tendency toward convergence, then what’s yoga for?

  7. @ CK MacLeod:
    Well put. There’s a line in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (authored around 1500ce) that tells practitioners to find an older teacher without wrinkles or gray hair. It goes to your point I think. It’s a troubling point, but one worth noting. Is there a difference between spiritualists who see authenticity in physical neglect, as opposed to physical care? What’s the difference from an energetic standpoint (since there’s concern either way) other than the fact that someone who cares for their physicality might be more comfortable during meditation?

  8. @ Scott Miller:
    Several ancient civilizations – and perhaps all – went through movement and counter-movement in this general topic area, which eventually falls under the heading of eudaimonism – or, from the messianic/monotheistic perspective, the eudaimonic/pagan fallacy – in short that spiritual and material “worth” (in quotes because “worth” itself is at issue) will tend to coincide. It gets revived again in the critical divides within Christianity, and therefore the fundamental antinomies of modern civilization, or, alternatively, between modern and ancient moralities.

    I think because the antinomies cannot be resolved, we end up having to define life, ourselves, as the simultaneous suspension and operation of that non-resolution, [correction here] not in time because productive of (the same as) time. Because the antinomy re-states opposition between free will and determinism, we cannot even claim it as either the condition of freedom or something about which we have no choice without contradicting ourselves.

  9. @ Scott Miller:

    It was a different frog that pointed out that most of mankind’s troubles are caused by an inability to sit quietly.

    if people ever learned. they would find that many a tasty snack would come to buzzing right over to them.

  10. Back t the post…Good pic, expressive in a slightly deranged way that comports better with the goings on here than your former glowering visage.

    Scott, grow up, it’s only a photo (I mean this in the kindest, best possible way).

    And then this, can the good life be selfish? Followed by an infinite regression analysis where we recognize that all the variables are dependent (including) (especially) the self which we are putatively trying to make happy.

  11. @ bob:

    Aw, c’mon Bob…..If Scott isn’t ready for his close-up quite yet, what’s the harm? DeMille will just hafta wait.

  12. @ fuster:

    Of course you’re right. Just displacing frustration from other things onto Scott. Bad karma and all, it kinda felt good, but I know I’ll regret it in anther life.

    @ CK MacLeod:

    I did, but even if I didn’t, why?

    @ fuster:

    Years ago I visited my brothers camp in Maine. We took a drive to to Five Islands Lobster Co, and bad karma and all…., eating lobster literally just off the boat on the pier, for a moment, yes.

  13. bob wrote:

    Just displacing frustration from other things onto Scott.

    just cause it’s displaced don’t mean it’s misplaced.

    perhaps your display of interest might indicate a willingness on your part to craft a mask for Scott in place of what the Tsar says he’s reluctant to face

  14. bob wrote:

    I did, but even if I didn’t, why?

    To obtain either an answer or at least a framework that wasn’t tautological or circular.

    Good life = good
    selfish = bad
    Good life minus selfish = good enough
    or unless
    good – (selfish * x) = good enough
    good – (selfish * y) = bad
    or unless (Ayn Rand or even JS Mill in a different way)
    selfish = good

    but the issue might be less how you define the terms and whatever theoretical position you take then what you’re trying to accomplish or are insisting on or forcing.

    You get into a number of interesting paradoxes and contradictions sooner or later, and the manner in which you evade or move beyond them might be more important, might be the only important thing, the only conceivably important thing.

  15. @ CK MacLeod:

    Which was the point of the regression analysis crack.

    @ fuster:

    A mask for/of Scott… Theoretically, an interesting project. But I couldn’t do it without getting to know Scott in person, I mean really getting to know him, not the 0’s and 1’s that appear on our screens. He might like the result a lot less than any dorky photog. For example, one of the 5 Karen masks illustrates an aspect of her that she and just about everybody else finds disturbing. The others illustrate aspects that people are more familiar with. But I can’t control what Scott would show up in any mask.

    But I’m open to the project. Care to fly out for a while Scott?

  16. bob wrote:

    But I can’t control what Scott would show up in any mask.

    Hell, you can’t control what Scott might show up anywhere.
    For all you know, legions of winged Scott’s are now flapping their leathery way to Vestal looking to snatch the first pair of ruby slippers in sight.

    (have a care that one of them passing o’erhead doesn’t drip a yoga puddle on you)

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