Err… eligious

2 01 2010

I have just returned from ConFest: an earthy festival in rural NSW. It was an interesting experience, camping in the bush with a large group of hippies, and there were certainly elements of it that grew on me. The festival was described as being “clothing optional”, although more people there exercised their right of choice to keep something on – at least at those times that they weren’t on the beach, covering themselves in mud or bathing. For my part, I enjoyed being around a group of people of all ages, all of whom were smiling and happy, and all of whom seemed utterly non-judgemental as regards the personal choices of others. If I were looking for an adjective to describe the general mood, I might choose “sweet”. Sure, there were several people there in desperate need of a non-ConFest education, and I also met more than one creep, but stupid and sleazy people exist in every demographic. The hippies are no worse than any other, are they?

I had an interesting experience at one of the workshops. Billed as a “Kirtan” call-and-response exercise, I expected a form of communal mantric meditation. I enjoy meditating and I tend to favour the mantric variety over the alternatives that I have experienced. I was mistaken, however, but remained in the circle for long enough that my departure should not seem rude. Lacking phone reception, I had been unable to Google “Kirtan” but, had I done so, I would have discovered that it is a devotional tradition: a form of prayer. The following are the lyrics to one of the chants, invented by a participant:

Hanuman, O Hanuma-an, Hari Hari Hari Hanuman
Hanuman, O Hanuma-an, Hari Hari Hari Hanuman
Hari Rama
Hari Rama
Hari Sit-ta
Hari Sit-ta
Hari Rama
Hari Rama
Hari Sit-ta
Hari Sit-ta
Hari Rama
Hari Rama
Hari Sit-ta
Hari Sit-ta
Hari Rama
Hari Rama
Hari Sit-ta
Hari Sit-ta
[repeat]

Rama is a Hindu deity, Sita is Rama’s wife, and his attendant Hanuman is the eleventh incarnation of Lord Shiva: another Hindu god. This makes the chant-leader’s assurance at the beginning especially odd. “Don’t worry,” she told us. “This isn’t religious.” Isn’t religious?? What on earth is it, if not religious? And then it hit me. What she had meant to say, was “Don’t worry: this isn’t Judaism, Christianity or Islam.”

I am sure that back in the 1960s, when hippies first began rejecting the major faiths of their upbringing and embracing Eastern alternatives, the choice was a vibrant and an exciting one. I am truly surprised that so many people are still within such a mindset. Perhaps I am mistaken, but I cannot help but feel that if somebody at ConFest had offered to run a workshop in which participants were encouraged to praise the Lord, the peaceful and tolerant veneer would have cracked for more than one attendant. ConFest is, after all, not a “religious” festival. It is not supposed to promote “religious” values. You want to wave a Bible around or get people singing about Jesus, you might have come to the wrong place. But Eastern religion? Nobody’s scared of that, right? It’s so fresh, and so clean. So all-embracing.

Bollocks.

I say, people should do as they please. I say, if somebody wants to run a religious workshop, they should run a religious workshop. I say that the whole point of festivals like ConFest is that members are empowered to do their own thing, absolutely irrespective of what that is. Furthermore, they should have the decency to admit it to their audiences, rather than weakly pretending that they’re offering an alternative. There’s a lesson in that, perhaps, for all of us.

I’d like to wish all of my readers a happy and a healthy 2010: a year in which you have the audacity to be yourselves, along with the integrity to admit it.

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5 responses

2 01 2010
Sean

Magnificent closing line. A sentiment worth repeating.

Happy new year, you stupid, sleazy Hindu.

4 01 2010
Daniel

** Isn’t religious?? What on earth is it, if not religious? **
And where’s the fetus going to gestate – are you going to keep it in a box??

I would totally be into a religion that was clothing optional.

4 01 2010
Daniel

Oh, I get it, “Kirtan” call.

7 04 2010
zenxi6

I was at this year’s ConFest too, hope you had an overall fantastic time!

On your note toward religion and ConFest, I believe there are groups of Christianesque hippies that do their thing over in the tranquil zone somewhere.

People of alternative societal discourse seem to embrace aspects of all kinds of things. I see what you mean by the tendency for that to be toward Eastern mythology and spirituality, but don’t doubt that there are plenty in this “scene” that embrace Western mythology and spirituality, albeit probably from a far less authoritarian stand point.

The main thing I notice about ConFesters is not necessarily these individual’s tendency to sway toward Eastern spiritual beliefs, but rather their tendency to hack away at the boundaries, especially those created by authoritarian systems, and to believe in more egalitarian things.

ConFest and festivals of this nature always have a fantastic vibe, I feel. But I also notice more and more the silly scene-politics, typical of any scene or sub culture (or, for that matter, culture in general!), and a LOT of airy-wank.

It’s nice though. Kinda reminds you that… there is no high-ground, we ARE all the same, somewhat, don’t judge someone by the clothes they wear or the way they look… because you might be unpleasantly surprised… or pleasantly surprised!

7 04 2010
zenxi6

On one other quick note, I just realised that you were probably refering to ConFest NYE 2009-2010, while I am referring to ConFest Easter 2010… But, those are irrelevant points really…

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