02 May 2009

You are a wave in the ocean

Today brought Yoko, Naomi, and I to some religious retreat near Willan Village for a concert that Yoko's Japanese choir group was doing. As most of these stories start, I had no idea what exactly was going on, except that Yoko said there was a picnic where we could buy food before they sang — I remember sausages being mentioned. We went out at around 3:30, well past the time the thing was supposed to start, but when we arrived, there were just a couple of people mulling around and no one from Yoko's group, so we went for a walk.

When we came back about 20 minutes later, I found the table where the food was being sold, but it turned out just to be instant coffee and biscuits, and the guy who sold them to me told me that the place we were was an ecumenical religious retreat where they have retreats and some people live. He pointed to a woman who apparently lived there, and she waved at me.

Yoko and I sat on a picnic table and I drank my instant coffee and watched the people who were there and slowly arriving and realized the people were mostly hippies and people with mental disabilities. Yoko and I chatted around a bit and people started sitting at our picnic table and finally another person from the Japanese choir came and Yoko went over to see them. A guy who had sat down at the picnic table and who I was trying to ignore said that he had heard me speaking Japanese and his daughter was in Japan and we started chatting.

He was from Central Africa it turned out and at the retreat centre to perform with his group, the Singing B'hais. If you aren't familiar with the Baha'i faith, that makes two of us, so I started asking all sorts of questions about being Bahai and it turned out that this picnic table I was sitting at was all Bahai people and they were all telling me their Bahai testimonies, the most interesting being an Iranian guy who was kicked out of Iran during the Islamic Revolution 30 years ago because he was Bahai. Apparently they took everything from him and his family, and he had to enter Britain as a refugee. They gave me a pamphlet about the Baha'i faith which, from what I could tell, was just a bunch of nonsense about all faiths being the same. They were nice enough.

By this time, there were like 50 hippies, mentally handicapped, Japanese, and Indian people, and about twelve B'hais all mulling around. Finally one of the hippies took the mic and said we were going to start and about five mentally handicapped people shuffled to the front to play the bells, which was nice to watch and reminded me of a News from Lake Wobegon story I'd heard a long time ago.

Then the Baha'is got up and there was like a wall of them, including a bald hippie wearing gray crocs and holding a guitar and apparently leading them. One of Baha'is was hanging back with his camera and I said, 'If you need someone to take pictures, I can do that for you' which made him quite happy and he got up. The bald hippie in the crocs started talking about the Baha'i faith, founded in the 19th century by another hippie it sounded like and how they were all about unity and they were really happy to be there because the retreat centre was all about ecumenical living, and they were ecumenical sorts of people.

So they started singing a song about how we are all living the life of a rainbow or some nonsense, but they were very sincere about it and I was trying desperately not to laugh. Then they sang a song that was 'well, a melody really' of American Indian music that included some dumb lyrics about being waves in the ocean and how love was the light in the darkness. The guy who gave me the camera kept looking at me nervously and I tried to take some good pictures.

Finally they finished up and the Japanese choir got on and sang. Then there were about four Indian girls about 10 or 11 and they did some dance to some Indian pop music that was quite awkward. Then the lead hippie (well, I thought he was the lead hippie because he had really bad dreads and was looking serious the whole time) got up with his band and after checking the mic way too much for playing outside in front of the crowd he was playing in front of, started playing 'No woman, no cry' and I decided it was time to go.

I was going to say something snide here about spiritualism and ecumenicism, but the Baha'is and everyone else seemed so sincere, I guess I can't really hold it against them. I suppose being a self-important hippie is no worse than being a self-important academic. At least I don't have bad dreads anymore. I can't think of any white person I have ever met with dreads that I feel like I could take seriously. Even that red-headed girl at camp that one summer.