Last week, the organizers of GLBL YOGA decided to do a little damage control in the form of an article on Elephant Journal after it turned out so many people were not “buying” the GLBL YOGA pitch for huge funds and celebrity yoga back patting. The article attempts to smooth out some perceived financial, motivational, and intentional wrinkles in the project by alluding to a return to “the tribe” and a growing “revolution” in community funded endeavors. We The Babarazzi thought we’d write a short and sweet rebuttal to some of what was said in the piece, which begins thusly:
“Since GLBL YOGA kicked off, we’ve been asked some great questions about corporate sponsorship, the involvement of celebrities, and why we’re producing this event in the first place. We get it—the crowd funding revolution is just getting off the ground and so the dialogue is not only expected, but welcome! Let us explain.”
Here, right out of the gate, is where the article takes a wrong turn.
First, “crowd funding” is not a “revolution.” It’s called “charity,” and has been alive and well since grandmothers had access to a check book. One need only look to Judaism’s concept of tzedakh, or Islam’s zakat, which mandates a certain percentage of one’s earnings to go to charity or the poor, to find historic examples of world-wide community support for causes beyond the directly immediate. What Rob Holzer, Founder of Matter Unlimited, is referring to is new-ish methods of giving money, like Kickstarter, which, rather than creating a new form of giving—a “crowd funding revolution,” if you will—redefines the means by which people give, magically tapping into a previously untapped cache of potential donors. (Namely, people who are not grandmothers and have possibly never even seen a check book).
So, no, we are not experiencing a “revolution,” but rather a rerouting of community funds through new digital channels.
Next, after falsely defining what community giving actually is, Holzer then goes on to attribute the dismissive nature of people’s comments to the GLBL YOGA project to a simple lack of understanding. Apparently, the reason people are so upset about a “free” yoga event in a park (that’s already open to the public) featuring over-hyped celebriyogi teachers, a bloated budget that could be used otherwise, and yet another mega-event that serves only to further commercialize an already super-saturated market is because these simple-minded out-of-the-loopers are just so darned unfamiliar with this new-fangled revolution taking place. Obviously, snubbing the event could have nothing to do with a general sense of boredom with yoga celebrities, a feeling of disinterest in “mega yoga events,” and a smart-mouthed and well-defined critique of consequentialism—the philosophy upon which events such as this rest—which basically posits that the ends must inevitably justify the means.
As Holzer states:
“[I]f by throwing an event like GLBL YOGA, we spark just a handful of newcomers to begin a serious journey towards spiritual awakening through yoga, we believe the project has done its job.”
First, there’s simply no way GLBL YOGA will go on if after raising over a half million little green slips of paper “just a handful of newcomers begin a serious journey towards spiritual awakening through yoga.” I can say with almost certainty, that if that were the outcome, this event would be in the trash faster than you can say, “Let’s invent a new yoga mat instead.”
This hyperbolic feel-goodery also demonstrates a rather poor business model. Why go through all this trouble to get only a handful of people to want to start practicing yoga? If you raise $675,000, fly in a bunch of mediocre yoga celebrities, set up a killer sound system, and 10,000 people show up, but only five decide to start taking regular yoga classes, that sounds like an epic failure in my book.
Not to mention, but what kind of yoga practitioner have you really “sparked?” Do we really need more Lady Gaga‘s of yoga floating around? Is this what we’re looking for? My experience is that if my intention is to try really hard to “get people to do yoga,”—a really weird huckster-ish intention—I have a better chance of sparking a long-lasting commitment in a person when I am able to have a one-to-one connection (or as close to it as possible) with the potential student in question. I don’t have much of a chance when I am so far removed from my potential “target” that it takes a nice pair of binoculars to catch a glimpse.
This normalized distance, however, is not only familiar to the GLBL YOGA team, but also embraced as a foundational and motivating factor:
“As a musician, I have experienced firsthand the power of large-scale concerts – both from the stage and from the audience. There is simply nothing like the energy of a crowd singing and dancing together. Its primal and fundamental to our DNA and most people who go to concerts know what I’m talking about.”
As someone who has participated in a seemingly infinite array of underground punk music and art scenes, I can attest to the utter disconnect that is felt when attending large-scale concert events. In my experience, and we’re talking decades of direct participation, it is not the experience of sitting one-hundred yards away from a rock concert stage that motivates young people to pick up a laptop, guitar, banjo, or trumpet and start making crazy insane music, but rather the realization that s/he can actually do what the performer is doing, if not better, by being directly in front of them and seeing as such! Nowhere else is this more apparent than at small-scale, DIY, events where bands (for example) directly interact with the audience in basements, VFW halls, living rooms, and even in parks.
Observe Providence, RI noise punk band, Lightning Bolt, manifest bhavic samadhi in audience participants by deconstructing the large-scale event (which I believe this concert was part of) by eliminating (as much as possible) the disconnect between performer and voyeur:
Small-scale tightly-knit underground communities have always been the vanguards of Western culture. People gathering around one another out of an un-commercially-mediated common interest. Events like GLBL YOGA, on the other hand, act as fabrications of culture. They are “media events.” They invent culture and community alongside already existing and flourishing culture’s and communities by standing on the foundations built by their visionary predecessors. In order to lighten the load, the swollen event is often referred to in terms intended to evoke intimacy, direct experience, and connection among people:
“I was just talking with a yoga teacher friend of mine this weekend about how our culture is shifting increasingly back to a sense of tribes. I think there’s something to that.”
Does “Entertainment Yoga,” which this event is a direct aspect of, really speak to a new form of tribe-centric communalism? In my opinion, Entertainment Yoga is, to borrow a term from the French critical theorists, a simulation of community. It is the marketed appearance of community reflected back to potential donors and buyers. It exists alongside communities that, because of common interest, naturally spring forth from seemingly disparate parts of the world. It is this natural wish to bond and connect that allows an utterly niche US punk band to show up to a packed rented hall in Belize almost entirely by word of mouth.
Make no mistake, all a community needs to grow is an experience that touches people in a profound and deep way, a piece of paper, a marker, some tape, and a space to gather to experience the Love. If it costs you close to a million dollars, *paid* celebrity endorsements, give-aways, and enticements of being in the front row to make such a thing happen, perhaps what you’re offering just ain’t that great.