Once in a while I come across something that is just so stupid it really gets me pissed. Bear in mind my definition of stupid as opposed to ignorance. Ignorance is doing the wrong thing because you don’t know better and stupidity is doing the wrong thing in spite of knowing better.
Sometimes I can ignore it, understand it or excuse it. But other times I just wrestle with the anger until I can get it into some shape that is manageable and useful. So recently there was a situation in which I have had to do the latter and I just thought I’d blog it and maybe the experience can be of some use to someone else.
Some people who radically embrace this New Age mindset that is wafting around the zeitgeist presently drive me nuts. Some of these idiotically smiling New Agers can be a real self-righteous holier-than-thou pain. Their eyes half closed due to incense coma they proceed to pontificate upon the latest buzzwords, usually of Sanskrit or other ancient language origin. They wander into a place and proceed to pound out erratic and apparently random rhythms on their homemade drums and lecture about chakras every minute while people stand there with the feeling of a deer in the headlights hoping they won’t make their way over to one’s comfortable sitting place.
But no they gotta preach it to everyone. And most profess to being “closer to being a Buddhist” than any other religion. Give me a break. This dancing-on-lotuses airy ridiculousness is just too much to take.
The origins of the rant.
I was in downtown Vancouver one afternoon after recently returning from India. I had to go to the passport office to renew my passport and decided to wander around and take a little time to see what had changed in the 6 months since my last visit. I was feeling a little displaced, maybe jet lagged and perhaps even somewhat culture shocked. I was also hungry and a little tense after getting something of a runaround at that bureaucratic office.
Then I heard some music just down the street and knowing that Vancouver has some of the most talented buskers in the world it seemed a good idea to check it out. It happed to be a guy playing the bagpipes. He had taken the time to get the kilt and the whole kit on including a hat that looked like it was very warm. He was a young guy maybe 21 or so and actually seemed to be enjoying entertaining the mostly elderly crowd.
Then came the merry band of idiots to disrupt this pleasant scene. Generally I am about freedom of expression, live and let live, follow your own path etc etc. But in this instance the incredible insensitivity, to say the least, of this dreadlocked crew was appalling. They took up places around the guy who was playing there and began banging their shoddy drums in some kind of spastic rhythm that seemed to be an attempt to drown this guy out. The old people began to look scared and the crowd began to leave.
A couple of these guys then proceeded to do what can only be kindly called interpretive dance to this pathetic drum barrage. As people left, a few dropped a few coins into the container that the bagpipe guy had in front of him. Then one of the pseudo-Barishnikov’s doffed his hat and began sticking it in front of some of the old people who were leaving. And he did it in quite an aggressive, even menacing fashion. I thought the old couple were going to jump out into the traffic rather than tangle with this fuck head. I was wishing at this point that I had packed an Uzi in my purse I felt so pissed.
A lot of old people are pretty naive about a lot of things in life. Yes they have a lot of wisdom collected over a life time on a plethora of subjects but their experience of the current day marginalized sub-cultures, whether marginalized by choice (my thought considering their other choices) or by circumstance, is generally limited. They had no idea how to react except with fear.
These guys weren’t exactly kids either. Late twenties and early thirties and spouting “Peace man” after every utterance and wearing customized crystal jewelry and one had a t-shirt with some kind of Tibetan Buddhist symbols on it.
My objections weren’t about what they wore or said or did. It was not about anarchistic philosophy, much of which is currently badly misunderstood, or limiting freedom of choice of this group of fools. It was about the context they deliberately chose in which to express that freedom. It was about forcing others to endure their various choices. It was about lack of respect, violation and evocation of fear in others. The whole scene struck me as abusive. And elder abuse is as terrible as child abuse in my view.
The crowd mostly drifted away and this group collected their gear and headed off to the entrance of the Sky Train (like the metro or subway) to continue their routine. The bagpiper packed up his stuff and looked really unhappy with the day’s take. I went home and ranted a little on paper and in email to a friend and then on my rant blog (well mostly rants) to get myself steady again. Had quite a head of steam going on after this.
So this thing bothered me for a couple of days and I had to figure out how to let go of it. So I got into satire mode and came up with the following:
New Age Dysfunction and Related Disorders
There ought to be a new set of categories in the next revision of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association)
It would be called New Age Dysfunction and Related Disorders. Since some of these folks are highly resistant to the suggestion that maybe their views could do with some questioning rehab could be made available.
Rehab is conducted at the Common-Sense facilities. These are staffed by volunteer local grandparents who will dispense their wisdom for a 2 week period. For more intensive therapy mothers-in-law are on standby.
New Age Identity Disorder:Buddhist-Lite, Touch of Sufi, Wicca Wonderland. What’s it going to be? Every week a new religious or philosophical viewpoint is adopted without knowing too much about what any of them are really about.
Peace Bullyism:Thinking disorder wherein the sufferer forces others to partake in his/her method of expression of universal peace and love.
Crystal Fetishism: The shinier the better is the view here and tons of rock are mined throughout the world to be displayed throughout their home and on their persons. Some travel as far as India to have jewelry specially made according to their Vedic horoscopes. This is not to be confused with traditional Hindu practices of jewelry made according to horoscopes which are indigenous psychological healing methods and very culturally specific. The use of adornments of various kinds for healing purposes are often done in conjunction with a traditional healer, an Ayervedic physician or a professional in the field of Unani medicine. (Ethno-psychiatry was my specialty) And in India such adornments are not generally seen in the home nor in great quantities.
Incense-Induced Psychotic Disorder, With Hallucinations. Floating lotuses and auras around the Simpsons characters on television are the principal symptoms. Consequently sufferers shield their eyes from any sort of display screens.
Drummer’s Twitch- Disorganized Type:The above-mentioned type of drumming is the principal manifestation.
Terpsichorean Delusional Disorder: Interpretive dancers who believe they can really dance well especially when drums are involved.
Selective Mutism regarding common-sense: Generally manifesting as a form of catatonia, this can also conversely become violent argument when the subject is confronted with disbelief with regard to their cherished notions about Chrystalline Children, Phrenology, Astral Travel and the utility of dowsing rods.
Chi or Pranayama Substance Withdrawal. When the energy isn’t flowing the results can be extreme.
Coming up with all that stuff has just made me tired. So its time to be done with it and move on.
Taking a thing and sitting with it for a while tends to give the events different tones and characteristics. Things tend to evolve from momentary monumental importance into something that can actually be of some use, even if it is only as an example used in some tiny blog out in the vastness of the Internets. And from there to walk away is not so difficult.
Often the advice is given to just “drop” something. That is not always easy or even possible especially in complex contexts. Perhaps the better advice is to transform something (in this case anger) into something else (satire) and into something else again (reflection of practice) that at each step allows more and more of the original thing to be dropped. Its something like a refining process that removes those things that are an obstacle to seeing or acting or thinking in the manner that accords best with our chosen practice.