Enter Florence’s Bargello with Saadi’s opening lines in his Golestan brought to the city by Ferdinand de’ Medici’s advisor in the sixteenth century. A dozen–I have counted–of Saadi manuscripts lay dormant in Michaelangelo’s Library in San Lorenzo. Until now. From San Lorenzo’s Laurenziana with manuscripts to Bargello’s figures, a stop at Kunsthistorisches for Hegel’s Saadi, Goethe’s Hafiz, and Nietszche’s Zarathustra: Helmet, Sandals, and the shield.
هر نفسی که فرو میرود ممد حیات است وچون بر می اید مفرح ذات . پس در هر نفسی دو نعمت موجود ست و برهر نعمت شکری واجب.
“Every breath that goes down, extends life; And as it re-turns fulfills the spirit. Thus each breath contains two gifts; And gratitude is due to each.” Saadi, opening lines of Golestan, The Rose Garden
Asana: “Each Asana is an expression of a certain insight.” Dona Holleman, my yoga teacher.
- Savasana. The Corpse. Figura Sforzata
“Sotto a l’cadavro, e non di spirto privo.” Benvenuto Cellini, Rime by Diletta Gamberini
Medusa’s body. That twisted woman, under the feet of Perseo, raised on a pedestal under the Loggia overlooking Piazza Signoria. Her body barely visible. Only limbs hanging. Torso only for Perseo overlooking the piazza, holding up her severed head. Medusa always a head. And then, Cellini’s headless Medusa. In prison, accused of illicit sex with the boy who modeled Perseus, Cellini cited Medusa’s body in defense. ‘Look below and see how I like women.’ But we stand on tiptoe and strain to see her, from down below.
At the Bargello, we find her, twice, in Cellini’s wax models. The originals. here she is laying there before us. The figura sforzata —forced and emptied of force-– is the cadaver Cellini said, not deprived of spirit.
Medusa’s corpse, surrendered but not de-spirited. Savasana. She is the body that is animated in each asana. Each yoga asana retains its sforza–always surrendered and not forced. That is how it remains fully present.
2. Natarjasana. The Dancer. Giambologna’s Mercury.
Mercury, Hermes, Perseo. Flying men. Comets. But for Hermes, Aeneas might have even stayed. The wind in the wings, they ricochet…. And then, there is Nietzsche’s dancer.
“My heels reared aloft, my toes they hearkened– thee they would know: hath not the dancer his ear in his toe!” Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra
What is great in Man is that he is a bridge and not a goal: what is lovable in man is that he is an over-going and a down-going. Zarathustra
I love him who loves his virtue: for virtue is the wirll to down-going, and an arrow of Longing. Thus he walks as spirit over the bridge.
I love the great despisers, because they are the great adorers, and the arrows of longing for the other shore.
3. Garudasana. Eagle. Ganymede and Eagle.
The essence of eagle, wings defying gravity. Enemy of snake, the base, and the lowly, everywhere.
Zrathustra’s eagle. Friend of the snake. The most joyous asana. This eagle has a snake hung around his neck. Grace rising, only with gravity.
“And behold! An Eagle swept through the air in wide circles, and on it hung a serpent, not like a prey, but like a friend: for it kept itself coiled round the eagle’s neck.” Zarathustra
4. Baddha Konasana. Cobbler’s pose. Fisher boy
5. Vakrasana. Twist. Florence and Pisa.
6. Tadasana. Mountain. Perseus
“No — the reason that no naked Hillary Clinton statues have appeared in public — thankfully! — is simply that anyone who saw them would turn instantly to stone.
The decrepit frame, the wrinkles, the sagging flesh — it is best not to go into detail, for the sake of public health, but an anatomically correct depiction of Hillary Clinton would be more devastating than a deliberately distorted depiction of Donald Trump’s genitalia. Plus, not even ancient Perseus himself would be able to figure out a way to remove it.” from