What can I say about this song? I’ve always loved it, but it is only in the last few years that it has become dear to my heart. Every time I hear it, I crank up the volume and as the intro builds into the beginning lyrics, I am filled with a sense of personal power — the way standing in a superhero pose is supposed to do (and does).
I don’t work “in the fields”, but I have had to fight for my meals and always “get my back into my living”. In my youth, I felt I had something to prove and engaged in every fight. Now I have learned that I am not any less righteous if no one knows it. As I have come into my own, I have learned self-acceptance and I need not seek anyone else’s approval.
Therefore, “I don’t need to fight, to prove I’m right. I don’t need to be forgiven” has become my mantra, especially when I am feeling insecure or powerless. Although those days are fewer and farther between than they once were, they do occur, and these words serve to center me and return me to my calm state.
So, without further ado, I present The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”
Throughout history, so-called “civilized” peoples have viewed themselves and their societies as superior, to those that they considered to be savage or barbaric. This has been true, of exploratory peoples, even in cases of peoples who were merely civilized in a way different from theirs. Nowhere, at least in my knowledge of history, has this been truer than with the “discovery” of the New World. Despite the land being inhabited by a multitude of tribes, who were all arguably at least somewhat civilized, in that they each had their own customs, methods of procuring/cultivating food and construction of homes or shelters. Yet because they did not possess ships, or weapons of war, or structured governments and incredibly because they were hospitable and welcoming, conquering explorers treated them as just another resource to be exploited. Columbus and Cortes both greedily describe the New World as a vast and beautiful wonderland of resources, including plants, animals and people; all of which was theirs for the taking, as superior people and despite their clear and undeniable contribution, to the development of the Americas as they are today, I have little regard for either of these men.
In his letter, regarding the first voyage, Columbus gushes with self-importance about his glorious conquest of “many islands filled with people innumerable”, and boasts that none tried to stop him (Norton 35). He proceeds, with great flattery to the reader; to announce the names he has given the islands, despite acknowledging that those already living there also had names for them. He goes on to describe his extensive journey, along the coast and even sending scouts, expecting to find “a king or great cities” and finding “nothing of importance” (Norton 36). He downplays the inhabitants and their number, while extolling the virtues of the land; such as great fertility, “trees of a thousand kinds” that “never lose their foliage” and flowered or fruited, as in Spanish spring though it was nearly winter, vast lands, numerous varieties of birds, fruits and metals to be mined (Norton 36).
Similarly, while Cortes does not directly suggest that the peoples he encounters are of no consequence, his descriptions clearly indicate that he views them as inferior. This is primarily due to their lack of Christian faith, as in the first half of the letter, he describes in great detail, the depth and breadth of their civilization; including intricate networks of canals of fresh, clean water (Norton 55), markets and temples for idol worship (Norton 56, 57). His depiction of the latter, his destruction of them and subsequent admonition to the people, that there is only one true god, serves to cement his position of superiority over the land and the people. In closing his letter, he attests that their accomplishments are quite remarkable; given their barbarity, lack of God and disconnection from “civilized nations” (Norton 59).
I hesitate to use the word “values”, in acknowledgment of the attitudes shown by these men, in their letters, as they do not conform to any thing that I would perceive as a value. It is my feeling that these men, through relating their tales of the New World, demonstrated a poignant lack of values. Both letters display a blatant sense of both social and moral superiority, to these native “savages” who, in reality, were likely the better people. Both suggest that the latter is justification for exploiting the people, flora and fauna, as they saw fit. While Columbus regales his reader, with boastful descriptions of his conquest and acquisition of the islands, in the hopes of obtaining resources for further exploration and the like, Cortes does so, in defense of his disobedience, after his expedition was canceled, but he traveled to the New World anyway. In both cases, the letters exhibit immense greed, self-importance, self- righteousness and overwhelming nationalism.
Being of some Native American descent and having learned, early on, that Columbus did not truly discover America, I have never had a high opinion of him. Although I also learned of Cortes in primary school, he was but briefly mentioned and I knew little more than that he came here. After learning the truth about Columbus, however, I found his (Cortes’) character dubious and questioned his importance, as well. Now that I have read the letters of these men, in their own words, I think even less of them. I understand that their attitudes were not uncommon for men of their position, in their time. While I acquiesce that we might not be here, as we are today, without the actions of these men, I am not one to excuse abhorrent attitudes or behavior because they are or were common to that time.
Throughout human history, it has been those who were able to rise above the prevailing mind-sets of their day, who have prompted great and true progress. Neither Columbus nor Cortes, in my opinion, are equal to this designation. They simply paved the way for white people to spread farther across the globe than before.
Our world is a vast wonderland of sights and experiences, but the majority of men will live, and die in it, while experiencing but a modicum of what it has to offer. Most spend their lives either struggling from day to day, or preparing for the future and old age in particular, but few truly venture outside of what they have been taught, and believe is the only way to live. Unfortunately for most, this way is limited to working and striving for financial and material security that is never achieved, leaving little opportunity for pleasure, simply because it is considered to be the “right” mode of living. As a result, the majority of men do “lead lives of quiet desperation” (Thoreau, ch 1 “Economy”) because excessive labor divests them of the ability to enjoy life, while leaving them not only still financially, but also socially, spiritually, and emotionally impoverished.
They have been taught, since the earliest of times, that one must have certain things in order to be fulfilled and happy. The most important of these is to own a home and/or parcel of land. They learn that without land ownership and roots, they have and are nothing, but Thoreau explains these “men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon ploughed into the soil for compost” (Thoreau). Men waste their youth, the time when their energy is high and their wonder great and new, for something that is ultimately unnecessary. There are many men that are “portionless” (Thoreau) who are nevertheless alive and potentially even more well than landowners. According to Thoreau “the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity day by day, he cannot afford to sustain the manliest relations to men, his labors would be depreciated in the market” (Thoreau, 983) because we scarcely have the time and energy to manage the square footage of ourselves, much less a huge tract of earth.
So much of their time and energies must be devoted solely to laboring and earning a living, that they are not even able to afford to take the time for peer companionship because if they did, the fruits of their labor would be lost or undermined by even the slightest amount of time taken for such leisure. A home and land are things that require constant attention or they easily fall into disrepair. The lack of human interaction deprives them of much of the joy and richness of life because by nature, man is a social and pleasure driven animal. It is for this reason that Thoreau states “most men . . . are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them” (Thoreau, 983). The best and most important things in life are free, but only if those living are free from unnecessary encumbrance, in order to experience them. These include companionship and love, nature, art, literature, and all other manner of wonder in the world. These are lost in the time a man spends over invalid concern for material wealth and the grueling work that is required to, but seldom, achieves it and “he has not time to be anything but a machine” (Thoreau, 983). What he means is that all of one’s life is ultimately consumed in the pursuit of land and wealth that rob him of a happy and fulfilling life.
Indeed, not only are most men’s lives consumed in this futile and extraneous material pursuit, but even the time required for the simple pleasure of sitting down to read a book must be pilfered from one’s duties and responsibilities. Thoreau exposes this rather bluntly, when he says he has “no doubt that some of you who read this book are unable to pay for all of the meals that you have actually eaten, or for the coats and shoes which are fast wearing or are already worn out, and have come to this page to spend borrowed or stolen time, robbing your creditors of an hour” (Thoreau). In other words, he sees that the mass of men work most every waking moment of their lives, only to drown in debt for such basics as food, clothing and shelter. They waste their youth and health, doing nothing more than earning money to pay the debts of yesterday, while the amounts owed are ever increasing. The only possible result of this can be desperation, because in order to override the needs of the mind, heart, and soul, in the service of material gain, one must resign oneself to not really living at all. Thoreau denounces this “resignation [as] confirmed desperation” (Thoreau) and goes on to say that “it is characteristic of wisdom not to desperate things” (Thoreau). He means that although most men are aware that their mode of living does not bring fulfillment, they have accepted it as their only option because convention says they ought, and having done so creates an inner longing so great, that it morphs into despondency and that is simply foolish.
In reality, men need very little to survive and yet, the whole of their lives are devoted to little or nothing more than survival. Yet deep within themselves, they are painfully aware that their lives are devoid of that which is truly important to a good and happy life. So they will spend it locked in silent inner turmoil, always struggling against the edict to strive for wealth they will never attain, in only the smallest and most insignificant of ways, but always losing the fight and ultimately dying without ever having really lived.
Sun salutation into warrior 1 into warrior 2 then deepening to move into triangle pose (Trikonasana).
Come back to center then perform the same actions on the other side.
Come back to center and bend as far forward as possible, trying to touch the top of your head to the floor, and grab your ankles.
Move into a crouch with your right knee bent and your left leg extended. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
Bend the extended leg until the knee, calf, and foot are touching the floor. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
Turn your body so you are facing forward and your right knee is bent in front of you, with you arms supporting you in front and your left leg extended behind. Press your left quadricep downward, then straighten.
Reverse the position so your left leg is bent, with your shin flat on the floor, and your right leg is extended in front of you. Lower your upper body and head as far down as you can, using your arms for balance and support. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
Reverse the position and perform the same actions on the other side.
Move into position on your hands and knees. Arch your back, like a cat, then dip it low. Repeat as many times as you would like, to loosen your hips and lower back.
Now it’s time for leg lifts.
Extend your right leg backward and up in the air. Bring it in, bent, to the side, then extend it out again. Bring it in, bent, under your belly. Repeat 10 to 20 times.
Repeat the same actions on the left leg.
Lift the right leg up, holding it straight and raise and lower it without touching the ground. Repeat 10-20 times.
Repeat the same actions with the left leg.
Raise up into downward dog pose, then lower into upward facing dog pose.
Draw back into child’s pose.
Come forward into prone position.
Perform cobra pose.
Lower yourself down onto the floor and rise up into plank position. Hold for 15-20 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
Lower yourself into prone position and roll over onto your back. Using your breath, lightly arch your back as you inhale, keeping your stomach in, then flatten your back and slightly raise your pelvis as you exhale. Do this 5 times.
Place your right hand behind your head and your left hand on top of your stomach. Inhale. As you exhale, lower your back into the floor, bringing in your abs, and lift your head up as far as is comfortable for your neck. Repeat 5 times.
Switch your arms and perform 5 more repetitions. Really feel you abs working.
Place your right hand behind your head and your left ankle over your right knee, left leg bent. Inhale. As you exhale, bring your abs down into the floor and bring your right elbow toward your left knee. Repeat 5 times. Switch sides. Repeat 5 times.
With both knees bent, grasp your knees with your hands and slowly roll up until you are in a sitting position, then slowly roll back. Do this as many times as you would like, to loosen your back.
Raise your legs diagonally from the floor and perform 20 crunches. VOILA! You’re done!
Use this as a standalone workout or follow up with lunges, squats, and a run or bike session.
When I first heard the song I was immediately captivated and drawn in by both vocals and instrumental sounds. I could feel both the resolve and the harsh conditions surrounding the determined messengers as they soldiered on toward their destination. When I moved my hand in the air, it was almost as if I could feel the cold. It was the first time I was ever so completely immersed in music, though I have always loved listening to it. I was amazed by it and I couldn’t get enough. Had the people I was with let me, I would have played the song on a continuous loop that night. I never grow tired of it and it always makes me feel the same way as I listen to it. I feel strong and powerful, resolved and at peace with what I have to do.
I have included both the original version, by Led Zeppelin and the 11 minute cover by TOOL, because I feel both are equally good, for different reasons. Also, while No Quarter by Led Zeppelin is my favorite song, TOOL is my favorite band and I think it’s amazing that they just happen to cover my favorite song.