|Mother orangutan clings to last tree in her forest before being rescued from palm-oil plantation bulldozers|
"Ekla Chalo Re" - Rabindranath Tagore, 1905
If they answer not to thy call walk alone
If they are afraid and cower mutely facing the wall,
O thou unlucky one,
open thy mind and speak out alone.
If they turn away, and desert you when crossing the
O thou unlucky one,
trample the thorns under thy tread,
and along the blood-lined track travel alone.
If they do not hold up the light when the night is troubled
O thou unlucky one,
with the thunder flame of pain ignite thy own heart,
and let it burn alone.
Having had only an hour's pre-gig sit-down with Smt. Kamalini Mukherji (to get the talas for the songs), I was as blown away as the audience by her consummate skill at deeply expressing the emotions of the extraordinary range of Tagore's poetry, which she first translated from the Bengali. The lyrics and the melodies (sung with awesome vocal chops) draw on both the classical Dhrupad tradition as well as the iconoclastic Baul folk style. Quite a rare mix, and worth checking out if she performs in your area.
Back at the home front, my beloved friend recently pulled a precious old volume from my bookshelf titled The Earth Spirit: its Ways, Shrines and Mysteries - by John Michell, 1975 - and read again to me the first few paragraphs.
I think it's worth reviewing, just for context here in this post-2012 time-warped, incomprehensibly crucial and spiritually demanding moment in the life of the planet and all sentient beings....
"The first men, by all traditional accounts, lived in perfect harmony with nature and the gods. Of their own accord, said Ovid, without the compulsion of law, they were honest and true. There was no punishment or fear, no judges or soldiers. 'The earth itself gave all things spontaneously, and men were content with its uncultivated produce.' Plato in his Laws refers to Hesiod's myth of the age of Chronus, when 'all that life requires was provided unasked and in abundance', the reason being that the men of that time were ruled not by other men but by spirits, these corresponding to the eternal element in human nature. The men of the age of Chronus were wanderers, living under the direct guidance and protection of the earth spirit, following the migratory paths of their ancestors, vitally concerned with the cycles of animal and plant life, the progress of the seasons, the movements of the heavenly bodies. Perambulating each year the wide range of their native territory, they traced the steps of the gods who first created it, thus living out a cosmogony in which every spot, every feature of the landscape had its mythical significance, reflected in the activities that took place there. Time was cyclical, not linear; creation was a continuous process, and the spirits that promoted it were ubiquitous and eternal.
Before civilization sets in, the earth is the one universal deity; not the material earth, but the spirit by virtue of which, according to the ancient philosophers, it is a living creature: a female, because it receives the power of the sun, is animated thereby and made fertile. The body of the earth, like the body of a man, is corruptible and subject to change, but its spirit is unchanging, and therefore the essential nature of this planetary being is spiritual; indeed, Porphyry states that the physical earth is merely a symbol of the earth as it really is. The orthodox view that survived into the middle ages from prehistoric times is expressed by the alchemist Basilius Valentinus: 'The earth is not a dead body, but is inhabited by a spirit that is its life and soul. All created things, minerals included, draw their strength from the earth spirit. This spirit is life, it is nourished by the stars, and it gives nourishment to all the living things it shelters in its womb. Through the spirit received from on high, the earth hatches the minerals in her womb as the mother her unborn child.' Man in his natural state, enjoying the abundance of the virgin earth, considers any proposal to violate it, or to modify in any way its superficial appearance, to be sacrilegious as well as superfluous….
The oldest and deepest element in any religion is the cult of the earth spirit in her many aspects. Especially to wandering men, nomads, pilgrims, itinerants, tramps and half-wits, she is the mother, and they, her children, partake of her sanctity. The pious duty of settled people is hospitality to travelers, for they are acolytes of Hermes [Hanuman?], the errant spirit of earth, who, as Mercurius, is also the Virgin…"
Earth Spirit is a unique and exceptional book, both for its text and the many photos and illustrations. John Michell is the notable author of View Over Atlantis, City of Revelation, The Dimensions of Paradise, The Lost Science of Measuring the Earth*****!, Confessions of a Radical Traditionalist, How the World is Made: The Story of Creation According to Sacred Geometry, and many many other important works. He has been a major influence on my life since the 70s, and was a wonderful chap to meet in this world.
I am personally making spiritual/mental choices each day and each moment. I do not avoid the dire developments and predictions regarding the earth's, and our own, apparent fate as it appears according to the scientific data. I do not keep myself from mourning the terrible suffering everywhere, from the children of Palestine and Syria to the dogs in China and Korea...It is immeasurable and the intense reality of our time. I do, however, and at the same time, celebrate every precious moment of the love and creativity that surrounds me, and will do so till my last breath.
Hell, I was absolutely certain that the entire world was going to cease to exist, either by nuke madness or Shiva's pralaya, on a particular date in 1969. I sat on the banks of the Ganga till the sun went down, then made a chai and food and drummed till the wee hours. That was one terrific meditation.
I recently played with an extraordinary group of musicians and drummers in Atlanta (from around the country and world), and it involved 10 solid full days of exquisite rehearsals, collaboration, gentle and fervent brotherhood and mutual admiration all around. (I was also the only non-Indian, heh, but that's the norm.) Among the group was my new bro, Amit, a mind-blowing sitar maestro and jazz guitarist, based in Prague. Looking through some of his YouTubes, I came across this interview about a musical collaboration based on the Bhagavad Gita. Now, that is a subject around which there is much confusion, both world-wide and in India. In this interview Amit gives the most excellent take I have come across on that which is called "Arjuna's Dilemma". See if what he is saying resonates: This whole thing has been, and continues to be, obfuscated by so many pontificators, it has driven me crazy, and I personally know this gentleman is both a wise traditionalist and a hip philosopher, and also funny as hell if you're lucky enough to hang with the dude. And I am just relieved at how someone finally talks some straight sense around this subject.
"Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child, cannot be true" - Thomas Paine
Hope all your lives are graced with love and creativity for the duration. Onelove, bholanath
ps - Hanuman Jayanti coming this full moon!