Mythos & Marginalia

life notes; flaws and all

j.g. lewis

original content and images ©j.g. lewis

a daily breath...

A thought du jour, my daily breath includes collected and conceived observations, questions of life, fortune cookie philosophies, reminders, messages of peace and simplicity, unsolicited advice, inspirations, quotes and words that got me thinking. They may get you thinking too . . .

I'm like a pencil;
sometimes sharp,
most days
other times
dull or
Still I write.

j.g. lewis
is a writer/photographer in Toronto.

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Yoga: A Quest Of Questions
Posted on February 22, 2017 by j.g.lewis // 1 Comment


I’m back on the mat. It’s been too long.
After a few years of dedication, my practice became sporadic, or inconsistent, then somehow inconsequential. I’d sweated out hundreds of classes, then became shamefully absent from the hot room. There was no particular reason, or no real good excuse, but last week I felt it was time to get back. Again.
I wrote this piece in 2013, eight months into my yoga experience. I didn’t even call it a practice then,
I just kept showing up day after day after day. I had questions, and I needed answers.
Today I’m in a different place. The past week has reminded me where I’ve been and much work is required to get even close to where I was. I’m still curious, and I have more questions, but that will surely keep me coming back to where I need to be . . .

Can you find salvation on a yoga mat?
  Can you strengthen the body while loosening the mind and arrive at this place of freedom everyone talks about? Well not everyone, not the doubtful or the disbelievers (as I was, and perhaps still am) but someone, somewhere (in fact, a lot of someones) said it was an option.
  An option was all I could afford. There was little left of me, and even less of what I could believe in. I had placed my faith in the unknown before, and every time I had come back raw.
  I was searching for salvation, or redemption. I was looking for a path, any path, away from the deceit and self-deprecation I had settled into. I wanted to believe in something. I wanted to, again, believe in myself; if that basic tenet is not there, is there anything at all?
  Could yoga be that one thing that could lead me away, or take me further, from just existing to a place of existence? Could I be enlightened?
  Could yoga heal the heart, can it take away the shackles, could it make me complete? Would it better prepare me for this race we call human? Could I even qualify for the race if I didn’t feel I fit into the category?
  I was scarred, I was scared, and, more than that, I was skeptical. How could a discipline that required no ego deal with one as tarnished as mine? How could I commit to daily practice when it was a fear of commitment that led to my unraveling? (Did I just say that?)
  So I didn’t commit, I just went. I didn’t ask. I didn’t question my undetermined ulterior motives and I ignored my emotional consolidation. I just went; it was better that way. If you fill your head with expectations, it leaves room for little else.
  I went and I kept going. Repetition, the same 26 postures every class. The aches and pains outside began to equal those I held within. How could I say I liked it when it changed daily, as did I? Sometimes the dialogue sounded like nagging, other days it was poetry. It spoke to me. I heard more, and listened more. I could feel something (a lot of things), I could breathe, I could bend, and I could suddenly find stillness. A wandering mind is not easy to tame.
  Or had I been fooled? Now eight months in, have I been trapped? Was I beginning to believe in something I could not believe in? How could I so easily be convinced this was the hardest thing I had ever done? Were these even changes, or was I just delusional? Yoga could do that. Yoga could make you dizzy. Yoga could play with your emotions (whether you wanted it to or not) as endorphins engaged and oxygen began to reach memories and mayhem in unused corners of the mind.
  Coming out of Camel, was that sweat in my eyes, or were those tears? Had my sweat become blood? Had my blood turned from rust, as my heart, as my soul, as my entire being, drained its toxins and spewed out the negative thoughts? Yoga indeed removed your ego, silenced your id and seduced your entire ethos as if to remind you how powerless you were. In so many ways Yoga was like life itself; it comes at you hard, it devours your mind, body, and spirit until there’s nothing left. Then it truly begins.
  Yoga uncovered my faults. What else could spill from this body?
  I was beginning to feel my body was now what I owned. Before it only seemed leased. It was a place that took in anything: bad food, good wine, misused words and misplaced love. I soaked it up. I held onto anything, clung to the anger, the unrest and torrential anguish until it made me a person even I didn’t want to be with.
  All I had left were years of words and emotions I could not deal with, and decades of strife, and hurt, and confusion. It covered up anything worthwhile and would continue to eat away at all I had become until I could let it go. All I wanted was to be a better person.
  Some find alcohol, or religion, or any other pay-as-you-go vice. I chose hot yoga or rather it chose me. I still don’t know why. Nor could I label it a calling, for you have to be weak to be called, and I (not then, not now) could ever admit to being weak.
  I could never admit the truth, but I could seek it. I could search for some sort of salvation, even absolution. Yoga seemed easier than religion. It was cheaper than therapy. It seemed available, in the now.
  Yoga was a match, for me. It made no promises and there were no guarantees.
  I could give even less.
  Still yoga for all it is worth became a solution to most of what I had been dealing with, a cure for issues I didn’t even know I had, and protection against future troubles certain to slip under my door.
  So did I need salvation and did I find it, if that’s what this is? Could I render myself powerless to something where only you have the power to transform? Was giving in to yourself, the same thing as giving up completely? Is it truly spiritual when your spirit was not always there?
  If yoga is salvation then it is also a contradiction. To be saved you must have beliefs, and to believe in yoga is to believe in oneself. Can you find salvation on a yoga mat? If you can come to find yourself when nothing was there, how could you reply to that question honestly?
  As much as yoga may be the answer, it remains very much a question.
© 2013 j.g. lewis

“Where something becomes extremely difficult and unbearable,
there we also stand already quite near its transformation.”
                                                                   – Rainer Maria Rilke

Yoga: A Quest Of Questions originally appeared in Rebelle Society

All In The Delivery
Posted on February 15, 2017 by j.g.lewis // 1 Comment

Dear Canada Post,

I am a stamp collector. No, I don’t keep albums of stamps sorted by date, or tuck away mint issues in crisp little envelopes by tweezers or gloved hands, and I certainly don’t keep up with all the literature. I’m not what you’d label a philatelist.

I’m more of a casual collector: I simply tear used stamps off an envelope and glue them (lightly) into my journal. The stamps, like the notations, are a record of where I am or what is happening in this country.

I’ve always enjoyed the art and the imagery of the postage stamp. I get excited about new issues, but only, really, when I’m in need of stamps. Yes, I am amongst the dwindling number of people who still send letters and, when selecting stamps, I make sure I use the latest offerings.

There have been some great stamps issued over the years. The recent Canadian Opera series pays tribute to the art form in such a fitting dramatic fashion. I’m still raving about the Jean-Paul Riopelle series from 2003 (possibly the largest postage stamps ever issued), and I was fond of the icons of Canadian music immortalized on a postage stamp (a personal favourite was Rush). Who can deny the universal (or intergalactic) appeal of the 50th Anniversary Star Trek Series, complete with Dr. Spock!

I also like old stamps and will occasionally pop into Toronto’s first Post Office (still serviceable, but also a museum, at 260 Adelaide St E.) to pick up some of the vintage stamps it sells.

It’s nice to use nice stamps, often for letters or cards to my daughter who also collects in pretty much the same manner. It’s something we do, and have done since she was a kid away at ballet camp. Decades later we still write letters back and forth. It is something we share even though we are separated by all those miles. I’m certain you can say Canada Post keeps us closer.

However I was upset recently when, in January, a letter arrived with the beautiful Year of the Rooster issue. Don’t get me wrong, the deep red stamp with stylized rooster is beautiful, but someone had taken a ballpoint pen and scratched three lines across the image. It was much like a vandal marring a bus shelter or bridge with useless and senseless markings (I hesitate in calling it graffiti because I have witnessed some wonderful street art).

It has been explained to me that this is the way “someone” in the postal system will cancel a stamp which has made it thorough the journey from there to here undetected, escaping the expensive sorting automation or Canada Post employees along the way. I’m told that “someone” noticed this letter had not been stamped with an destination or postmark — cancelled out, as they say — so they have taken a pen and deliberately marked it up so it cannot be used again.

I’m writing to ask if this is so?

If a letter is to make it through the postal system and the stamp does not receive a postmark, is it company practice to take a pen and scratch a few lines across said stamp? Is this official policy?

Canada Post, being a long-time government corporation (arm’s length or otherwise), is a unionized shop. I’m most sure that every step of a letter’s travel is covered under some sort of procedure or policy that ensures both privacy and security in the duties it is charged with. I’d like to know how it is written that a stamp, having avoided the postmark machine or post master’s stamp, should be marked up correctly to show it has officially been delivered through the mail service.

I’ve attached a photo of the stamp in question; is this the correct corporate code, or cancellation mark prescribed when manually rendering a stamp unusable? It appears to be two diagonal stripes and sort of a squiggly hook leading off the envelope’s right edge. Is this the correct manual cancellation mark that should appear on a stamp that has travelled though the system?

It seems a bit too, I don’t know, random to me. In fact, it looks careless. Actually I would think an employee manually cancelling stamps would have been provided with one of the many rubber stamps you often see at post offices or contracted service outlets.

Or am I wrong?

Does the Canada Post act allow for this sort of vandalism to exist within its process? Is this right and proper? Would this suffice on a tax return, or contest entry, or rebate offer that must be postmarked by a certain date?

As you can see from the supplied photograph, I was fortunate to receive another Year of the Rooster stamps a few days following receipt of the disfigured one. It has been stamped plainly and deliberately with a postmark, and it is the one I shall include in my casual collection. I consider myself fortunate to receive the second stamp, for in the day of declining letters, I wasn’t sure if I would ever receive a stamp of this particular issue.

A stamp has a purpose, and a value, even after it has gone through the system. There are people like me, and plenty far more serious, who enjoy the practice of philately as a pastime. Your corporation already knows this and spends a lot of money trying to attract people into collecting. You even have a seasonal magazine, Details, advancing upcoming issues (and trying to sell us something else).

And yes, a stamp is only a dollar (85 cents+ applicable taxes), but it is a collectable and a piece of our evolving history. In my case, it has been defaced, essentially rendered useless in this form. Again I ask if the use of a ball point pen to scratch diagonal lines and a bent squiggly is the official practice of your corporation, and if it is, I would ask you to continue.

Not only are there seasoned collectors out there, but somewhere there is also a kid who, once like me, became fascinated by the handwritten letter and the stamp which brought communication to the door. Can you imagine the disappointment when a letter arrives with a stamp that has been treated less than fairly? I should hope you’ll do you best to keep that sort of magic alive and start ensuring stamps are cancelled properly.

You will notice I’m not sending this through the postal service. I will admit being a person who uses, or relies, on email a great deal. I do embrace electronic communication, and will also post this on my website and on your FaceBook page (and mine). It is direct and effective, as we all seem to know.

I also know this could also have been done by regular mail but, in this case, I’m not just sending a letter, I’m sending a message.

It Won’t Relent
Posted on February 8, 2017 by j.g.lewisLeave a comment

There is always something else. Another page you are
required to read, more instructions to supersede
the way that it has always been done, the obvious choice
for anyone. Signature required, but who decides when
there is enough? Another paper adds to the file, then
another insert in a little while. Sign here, and here.

Duplicate, triplicate, it matters not. The time it wastes is
all you’ve got. A further procedure needs more consent,
you question, now, the true intent. Sign this, then that, it
won’t relent, but you wonder where your permission went.
Fill out the paper, what a chore, your name remains just
like before, but still they want a little more. Sign right there.

Yet another                                          in which to fill, details
have not changed; but still, a NAME is required on every form,
and the DATE upon which you were born, with the ADDRESS
of where you woke up this morn. And yet another
SIGNATURE on the dotted line, the acknowledgement
you have completed all the paperwork on time.
© 2017 j.g. lewis