Thursday, June 19, 2008
Bonnaroo and Beyond
Now that I've survived it, enjoyed it, and was in fact revived and transformed by it, I'll admit that I was approaching it with genuine trepidation. The version of myself that had evolved to deal with my "current" reality just wasn't geared up for it. My friend wanted to camp, and I didn't; I was thinking I wouldn't sleep for three nights, be tired, comatose and cranky. I was thinking that I'd need a Port-o-Potty every thirty minutes and have to stand in long lines for them. In short I was afraid that I was gonna have a really shitty time. But I'd committed, so I bought or borrowed all the necessary supplies, girded my loins, and charged in.
The other factor that was making me hesitate was that the thing is, after all, supposedly mostly a musical event, and my interest in music in these latter days waxes and wanes, and lately has been kind of at a lower point, so that seeing Metallica and Pearl Jam sounded OK, but the idea of listening to a lot of new bands, particularly the noodling jam kind, didn't appeal to me.
And actually that worked in my favor. Because my friend and I winded up having fairly different experiences. He threw himself into the music, watched it all day and into the night, and hated the camping. I, on the other hand, threw myself into the social experience (including the contents of our coolers and the beer booths in Centeroo) and missed a lot of the music. But in the process, I think I made a reconnection with a part of myself that's been either missing or scorned lately, and it's a big step forward for me, in terms of self-realization, if that term has any meaning, and also in terms of my practice of Zen.
Because I sure as hell violated a lot of precepts those four days, and I'm a better man for it. Neither the career world nor the zendo values a beer at dawn, but I can tell you it's one of the more mystical, meaningful and beautiful experiences I've had in a long time. I don't know if it's modern society or just a component of the general social makeup of mankind that I lack, but I find most people to be effete pussyfooters. They seem afraid to do much more than prance or cower, for fear of the judgments of others, or worse, of their own Freudian superegos. And I agree that you can't live too well in the modern world they way I lived those four days, and I'm back to playing my old roles with a bit more awareness of their arbitrariness, and intrinsic falsehood. But I've had a catharsis.
It's been a hard lesson for me as I've had to deal with the social aspects of helping establish genuine Zen practice in Nashville, that most Buddhists aren't really any better than most moderate, reasonable Christians (forgetting the more rabid species of the latter for the moment). They want to wring their hands and nod sagely at platitudes and ring little bells, assuring themselves that they've become more enlightened thereby (and also thereby conquering their basic, animal selves, and becoming better than their fellow humans who are non-Buddhists). I'm sure they have no comprehension of why Hunter S. Thompson will always be one of my foremost idols. And if I have to sit in any more meetings after this year of watching these people plan puppet shows to en-trance more people to be like them, I'll barf.
I don't particularly want or expect anyone to be like me. My mission is to become more fully myself, and now I can throw myself into my zazen with more dedication and more knowledge. I wouldn't want to live every day like I did at Bonnaroo, not anymore, but that experience will help me live each day more truly as myself, and that is indeed "a blessing."
Incidentally, I do want to commend the great people who attended, especially the kids in the hard-core camping all around me, and the people who kept order at the Festival without becoming cops. This is the social experiment that proves that the Bush Cabal are wrong; people are not ignorant savages to be kept in check by the Forces of Order (for Profit). They are just like me (and you); noble savages in greater or lesser degrees of denial. And joining the Order of the Spotted Palm or whatever won't change that.