Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Get Your Hand Off My Asana

"Why do Baptists discourage sexual intercourse? Because it leads to dancing." (Methodist joke)

You may recall my old friend, Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican's chief exorcist. He's back in the news, having found the Devil lurking under a yoga mat somewhere: the Daily Mail reports last week that the good father warned a group of Catholic faithful about the dangers of yoga. "You think you are doing it for stretching,” said Father Gabriele, “but it leads to Hinduism.” Here is another instance of a well-meaning and otherwise intelligent person who, having settled on a theory he particularly likes, quickly finds that everything conforms nicely to it. Father Gabriele has mounted his hobby horse, and his hobby horse (which he will ride a-crupper into the weeds 'til Kingdom come) is Old Nick himself.

The hand on your asana

This cautionary pronouncement, like the joke about sex and dancing, is a case of the "slippery slope," a fallacy of informal logic unfailingly invoked by the limp-wristed, the vaporous, the timorous and the spinsterly to spare the gleefully incautious any untimely plunge into the twin Abysses of Pleasure and Enlightenment. Vote for Obama, they whisper, and "before you know it" (the trademark phrase and present sign of the fallacy) the Christmas tree in the White House will be replaced by a slaughtered goat, the menu in the Congressional cafeteria will secretly become halal, Sh'aria law will be enacted by legislative zombies in Oklahoma or Minnesota (both states apparently preferred hotbeds of Islamist conspiracy), the American dollar - instituted and backed by a benign God since the deliverance from Egypt - will be supplanted by the yen/yuan/reichsmark/ruble/rupee/rand, schoolchildren will be taught to spell 'Koran' as 'Quran,' and we, by the waters of Babylon, shall be taught to weep. Mark my words, they invariably conclude.

I'm not saying that a good stiff regimen of yoga, properly practiced, isn't hell, but that's just metaphorical, like saying that the Republican debates or a date with Herman Cain are hell. I'm guessing that most of the people who practice it (those of my acquaintance at any rate) really are "doing it for stretching." Among other things. Of course, this omits any consideration of naked yoga, which may well be a slippery slope for the weak-minded, the intractibly lonely, the very aged or the blind - for my money, watching a middle-aged acolyte with a trust fund and a rice cooker stretch, sweat and breath studiously while naked isn't much of an aphrodisiac.

"Could you check my breathing?"

"My advice to young people," Father Gabriele adds in yet another slide into illogic, "would be to watch out for nightclubs, because the path is always the same: alcohol, sex, drugs and Satanic sects." Before you know it. 

"First a couple of G&T's, now this . . . "

The good father is bested in his logic only by Jose Benitez, the mayor of Huarmey, Peru. Hizonner has apparently been, by mysterious methods, tabulating the homosexuals in his bailiwick. He concludes that their numbers are increasing because of the high strontium content in the town's drinking water. It's probably safe to assume that the young Huarmeyeros drink the local tap water, and (assuming the mayor is right and their numbers really are growing), the mayor has stumbled on yet another informal fallacy, the hoary and bearded post hoc, ergo propter hoc. Or in plain English, since the young men are drinking the water and then (in the mayor's astute judgment) becoming homosexual (if that phrase makes any sense whatsoever), the cause must lie in the drinking water since this only happens after the male residents imbibe. Since none of the otherwise-gendered residents are affected by the refreshing draughts of local strontium, one suspects it's the mayor's problem more than the town's problem. This effectively removes the chance that his error is excusable on the grounds that he's not a chemist.

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