How funky is your chicken? How loose is your goose? This cute little ditty made famous by Buffy the Vampire Slayer is bound to make you shake your pom poms, but that’s not why we’re here. Or is it? Can we be funky and loose? Or are we staid and as the kids say, “tight”?
“Hold on loosely, but don’t let go…” sang .38 Special in the early 80s. This Muzak song that’s played at the supermarket still rings true, all these years later. Even though this’ technically almost before my time, I am now, and will forever be, a child of the 80s. My cassettes, including my MIXED TAPES, still live in my closet, ‘natch. Moving on…
In yoga we talk about the Yamas and the Niyamas, which are a pretty well-laid-out path to live by. These are moral codes: some do’s and don’ts, if you will. Granted, you probably still need your scythe to cut through the thicket of modern life, but it’s a good place to start. The Yamas are moral disciplines; your “don’ts”, so to speak. They are as follows: Ahimsa (don’t cause harm), Satya (don’t lie), Asteya (don’t steal), Brahmacharya (don’t waste your energy), and Aparygraha (don’t grasp or cling to any ole thing). The Niyamas are your “do’s,” but those’ll keep for another time.* (see the endnote)
To reiterate, Aparygraha is to not be possessive, to not be grasping, to not be greedy. A tough sell in modern times. The 80s were the Me Decade, after all. And g-d bless capitalism! And still some of the best music ever recorded. Fight me!
The lyric and song are quite catchy, but there’s more there than meets the eye. Whatever you believe – be it the Golden Rule, that only YOU can prevent forest fires, or in putting your supermarket shopping cart aaaaaall the way back inside the store, or at least returning it to the corral in an orderly fashion, it is important to not be tethered so tightly to whatever it is that you live by that you cannot entertain other options. He goes on to sing: “If you cling too tightly/You’re gonna lose control.”
While it may seem the suggestion is to demagnetize one’s moral compass, it’s far more nuanced than that. Who here has complained that their partner does XYZ (ha! or doesn’t,) but also absolutely loses it when someone says that they themselves do XYZ (or don’t)?! What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, huh? Who here is not a hypocrite? Show of hands? I’ll wait…Either way, perhaps some Svadhyaya (self-study) is in order.
The backstory of the song actually underscores the fact that holding on too tightly will surely make one lose control. The writer/s were talking about their own relationships. I’m going to interpret it yogically, but it’s still neat to have my theory verified-ish.
“You see it all around you/Good lovin’ gone bad
And usually it’s too late when you/Realize what you had”
What may start out as a following of said road map (the Yamas & Niyamas, for those of you who have lost the thread) can quickly become indoctrination, or dogma, or edicts: the company line. One must be a good disciple! What if we hold on loosely to our principals, but don’t let them go? If we grasp too tightly, we may lose control.
When newbies come to Yoga (not yoga class where we make shapes and do some breathing here in the West, but the 8-limbed path), they may get punch drunk on the philosophy and contemplate renunciation, craving more, more, more. (Or really less, less, less…) This is understandable, and common, but perhaps not so good. How can we hold on loosely to our beliefs, and keep them, but not BE them? “Your baby needs someone to believe in/And a whole lot of space to breathe in”. We all need SOMEthing to believe in, but room to maneuver, and a roadmap to navigate the whole messy shebang.
Incidentally, there are a lot of repeated themes here: geese, supermarket Muzak, and cheekiness. While I was never a cheerleader (it’s just not me, but they’re so cool!) it sure is fun to play with their incantations. And who doesn’t need some encouragement once in a while?
*This is a gross oversimplification, and I take any and all responsibility for perhaps bastardizing these amazing teachings. However, this is so that more of us can understand the philosophy, and dooooo something with it. I do not purport myself to be a scholar in anywayshapeorform. Whew! Thanks for reading.
If this resonated with you, please feel free to comment below or drop me an email. Until our mats unfurl again, be well.