--I wrote this over the course of a dozen underslept moments throughout the week and it was too spastic and disjointed to salvage in a podcast, so I'm posting my notes here for anyone interested. Thanks for not judging me too harshly. -- (Jon)
So I'm reading a book called "Love Wins" followed by the sarcastically avantguard, "A Book About Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived."
Let me back up.
Kate and I spent some time at the ashram of Amma, the Mother Theresa of Hindus, a woman whose spiritual moniker, "Amma," litterally means "Mother." It is a big place, a pink place, and a new world of spiritual dichotomy for Kate and I.
It was interesting seeing faithfulness played out in a different cultural setting. We would read a short maxim about selflessness outside the juice bar, only to have an Indian nun, dressed in white, push to the front of the line and - quite literally - put her needs before the needs of others.
As a former religious zealot, I remember how one personality can drastically alter an outsider's perspective of the faith she represents, so I try to withhold judgment. But, when it happens again, and I find myself muttering what we always do when someone breaks the unwritten code of the 'Q' or cuts us off in traffic, "Don't worry, she's obviously very important."
And then, the voice of a top-hatted and monicled cricket whispered into my ear,
"You're damn right she is!"
That drunk and belligerent hexaped is right. I thought to myself, and I remembered something in my wedding vows about "seeing the spark of divinity in all people."
Fast forward to today, I'm at the freaking Great Escape for grown ups. If you weren't privy to the evangelical Jr. High summer camp that is the Great Escape, you really are missing out. PFR Youth Ministries rents out college campuses around the country and holds week long "camps" where 6th-7th and 8th graders live in dorms, have the run of the college and generally wreak havoc. For scale, I've been to the Great Escape 6 times and loved every minute of it, even on either end when I wasn't really a crazy evangelical.
What was I talking about?
Oh, right: The Sivananda ashram. All of that was to say, this place is a Hindi-Yoga summer camp complete with lessons from holy books, a lot of exercise, not much sleep, food you eat with your hands, and singing and chanting that no one understands. To be fair the food here is more along the lines of water-rice and curry - making it all the more impressive - and the songs are in Sanskrit.
Oh, and if your curious what "water-rice" is, just say it out loud once or twice; whatever picture starts sloshing around in your head is probably accurate.
Ok, what's the point?
(I pause for a moment to scroll back to the top of the page and see where I was going with all this. If you're wondering too, it starts, " So I'm reading a book called "Love Wins" followed by the sarcastically avantguard, "A Book About Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived."
Hmm, I also meant to look up the correct spelling of "avantguard," but as this is a podcast, "Good News!" (More on that later.)
Man, with no ritalin these days and alcohol and tobacco forbidden by ashram decree, I feel more distractible than usual.
And with all this background, I can't remember the point.
(I look back at the what I last saved this as before my last session of shoulder stands and chest expansion.)
Oh right, World Peace.
I entitled this world peace, because all this---- (The bell just rang for more chanting. Back in two hours -- almost done; promise!)
Oh. Dear. Gosh.
Oh. My. Shanti.
Had I known, had I even suspected what would happen just moments after I left, I would have brought a videocamera.
I've seen a lot o crazy shit since coming to India, but nothing compared to watching the lights slowly flash on, one bye one after about 30 minutes of meditation and chanting, only to realize the next half hour would be
wait for it
a fucking talent show!
We are at summer camp!!!
It was like every talent show you've ever seen, a lot of musical numbers, some not quite inspiring modern art and a group performance of what appeared to be Indias version of the macarena.
Mew let me give you two-bits of advice if you yourself are thinking about getting yourself into a multiethnic talent show.
1. Don't tell stories. You'll spend all your time giving background information. All-of-a-sudden that Great Escape turd of a story becomes 6 times as long and we still can't understand your accent.
2. Do not under any circumstances do comedy. Never. Nope. I've never seen a talent show commedian who didn't make everyone in the audience feel awkward - now imagine that x 15 countries, dozens more cultures, an age range just shy of half a decade and english was a second language for more than half the crowd tonight. Oh, and did I mention that English was both (can you believe two idiots tried this?!) performers' not second but 3rd languages?! Not understanding cultural cu---
Ok, time out. Summer camp.
You got that.
Agree to conjure that feeling of awkward embarrassment at your last date with amateur standup glory, squirm around in it for a while and I'll stop writing.
I'll have to get back to "Love Wins" and where it, Amma, and this week at summer camp are what my own spiritual journey seems to be doing with them. I tried to link them all in a short, trite and mildly auspicious bundle, but the universe would not have it.
For now, though, you can know there is hope in India.
There is the best yoga of my life.
And there is the Napoleon Dynamite Dance performed tonight by a mustachioed and windbreaker clad Indian student, dancing on the alter to Krishna.