Monday, June 25, 2012

Mechanics, Priests, and Hanuman

This morning, I got up quite a bit earlier than I usually do, and was done with my practice before 7 a.m. Why did I get up so early? Because I had to bring my car to the shop. The check engine light came on a couple of days ago, and the idling was really rough whenever the car came to a complete stop at a stop-light or stop sign: It's almost as if the car were rocking out to its own little tune while waiting for the light to change. Which may have been amusing and entertaining for the car (assuming, of course, that cars are the sort of thing that can get amused or entertained), but it scared the daylights out of me. But just a while ago, the mechanic called me, and told me that all that was needed was a spark plug change, which didn't cost nearly as much as I had imagined it would.

If you don't know what a spark plug is, you are not alone: I don't either... well, actually, let me look it up real quick on Wikipedia (what would I do without this all-knowing oracle of digital knowledge? Gosh, how did people even survive in the pre-wiki Dark Ages?!...). So according to Wikipedia, a spark plug is "a device for delivering electric current from an ignition system to the combustion chamber of a spark-ignition engine to ignite the compressed fuel/air mixture by an electric spark, while containing combustion pressure within the engine."

Wow. I just realized that I still don't have much of an idea what a spark plug really is after reading this description like, five times. Oh, well. But let's change the subject a little: Let me try to explain the origin of my ignorance about cars. I only started driving after I moved to this country (about 11 years ago), and virtually everything (which is not much at all) of what I know about the insides of cars comes from all the times when my car broke down, and my mechanic had to explain things to me using words that I never even knew existed: transaxial, spark plug, head gasket, fuel injector, starter, timing belt, serpentine belt, struts... none of this means much of anything to me. If I had to pop open a hood right now and identify these various parts to save my life, I would be so totally dead.

And maybe it's just because I'm not mechanically inclined, but I get the sense that I'm not alone: I get the sense that many people (especially--pardon the stereotype--women and men of, uh, foreign origin...) also share my ignorance of car anatomy. Isn't it funny, though, how the inner operations of something that so many of us rely so heavily upon in our daily lives should be such a mystery to so many of us? Sometimes I think that the power that mechanics have over us is almost frightening: For many of us, they are, for all intents and purposes, a veritable priesthood, a select group of semi-divine beings that are privy to the inner secrets of these things called cars; things that more-or-less miraculously get us from point A to point B most of the time. Except for the times when they break down. And then we bring them to the neighborhood priest--I mean, mechanic--who then fixes it and makes it (almost) as good as new. And when we ask them what was wrong with our cars, they mumble some incomprehensible technical mumbo-jumbo made up of a combination of some or all of the words I mentioned above. Then we meekly nod our heads in agreement (are we in a position to disagree?), and obediently hand over the money to get our precious cars back.

Your friendly neighborhood priest (say, is that a wand he's holding?)
[Image taken from here]

And really, is all this really so far from the truth? I mean, what exactly do mechanics do to "fix" our cars? How many of us actually stand around and watch every single thing that our mechanics do while they are working on our cars? For all we know, they may just go into some secret room in the shop while we are away, mumble a series of secret chants that are shared only between mechanics/priests; chants which have the magical ability of getting our cars running again. And then they come back out and spin a whole story in technical mumbo-jumbo to make the whole thing sound scientifically legit to our scientific-explanation-attuned ears and minds. But really, if you think about it, we have no way of knowing what really happened in the shop while we were away, if the mechanics really did the mechanical things they say they did to our supposedly-mechanical chariots...

Hmm... this is supposed to be a yoga blog. But so far, I have practically written an entire post without even mentioning the word "yoga"! Well, let me try to see if I can somehow relate all this to yoga... Aha! Let's try this. Many of you who are reading this are probably familiar with the story of Hanuman: You know, the part in the Ramayana where he flew from Sri Lanka to the Himalayas in a single leap to try to find some special Himalayan herbs to try to heal the wounded Lakshman. He couldn't identify the required herbs (too many things growing on the Himalayas, I imagine), so he lifted the entire mountain and leapt back to Sri Lanka with it. As you probably know, the pose Hanumanasana is named after this famous leap.

Lord Hanuman in action (don't try this at home...)
[Image taken from here]

Well, anyway, this story of Hanuman was one of the first stories I heard when I started practicing years ago. Although I know that this event (probably) never actually happened, I still can't help thinking how wonderful it would be if I were to one day acquire Hanuman's powerful ability to leap a thousand miles in a single leap: I would so totally get rid of my car if I acquire this power! Then again, how can we be sure that no yogi or yogini has ever acquired this power? I mean, think about this: Have any of us ever seen Kino driving in a car? 
Could this actually be how she gets around?
[Image taken from here]

Something to think about, no? Anyway, while you are thinking about this, I'm going to sign off for now. Got to go get my car back from the shop :-)


  1. Nice post, Nobel. I love Hanuman. Maybe Kino has the Hanuman superpower, but I hear she also has a new toyota prius! Could just be a cover though. Good luck with all your engines! ~Erica.

    1. Yes, the Prius is totally a cover... I mean, can you imagine what kind of a public alarm there would be if ordinary folk were to see this woman in a tube-top leaping in the sky?

  2. This really shocked me. I'm a lot older than you, I guess, and in my teen years cars really did not have a lot of electronics. "Everybody" seemed to know something about them. I even had a little work around for my mother's car when it wouldn't start, involving a putting a metal file between two points and banging on the wheel. I spent many pleasant teenage hormone filled hours watching the opposite gender (boys) fix cars, and wow did they look sexy doing it. What a delicious pleasure that was.

    I got my license at 15 1/2 (limited--full at 16), and never looked back.

    Yoga brings many of us together but we sure do come from different places.

    1. Interesting how our experiences differ.

      '"Everybody" seemed to know something about them.'

      Well, I must not be "Everybody", then. :-)

      And I guess I'll never look sexy fixing a car. Oh well.

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