Day 54 and I’m sitting on a jetty over a rippling lake. A hummingbird stutters and jumps through the air to my left. To my right a waterfall flows down from a statue of Christ, arms wide, blessing the lake. Not so far from Christ is another waterfall, this one flowing through shade from a statue of Baghavan Krishna, playing a pipe.
My companion on this jetty is putting his shoes on having completed a complicated Tai Chi sequence. He smiles beatifically at me. The sun is beating down. Terrapins are basking and flolloping in the water alongside Jonah proportioned Koi Carp. This place is known as the Lake Shrine. It’s the legacy of Paramahansa Yogananda, who spent many years meditating here. He was a friend of Mahatama Gandhi. This is built to his taste.
As you enter, you find shrines to five religions. Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism. There is no comment made about this unity. The iconography of all these five world religions is scattered across the garden, and quotes from the Baghavad Gita are mixed with excerpts from the bible. It doesn’t feel confused though. It feels measured and thought through. A place to contemplate the things that bind all of these stories together. In the Christ statue I see the direct line through Prometheus, Odin and Horus. In the Krishna I see Pan and even Kokopele.
I never had a football team as a kid. Tribalism pisses me off. It’s human nature though. It’s hard to break. I don’t like Trump much from what I’ve been able to observe. If I’m not careful that leads to me thinking that people who voted for him were wrong. But if we start to make value judgements based on our interpretation of things then we start to entrench. And there is nothing to be gained from standing on one side of an argument with plugged ears slinging shit over the wall. It is, of course, nothing more than profound human arrogance to claim that our version of the spaghetti monster is the only version and the right version. But it is equally arrogant, in my mind, to say that there is no spaghetti monster. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” It feels so much healthier to accept that there is something, whatever we want to call it, and to commune with it how we wish and let others do the same. I would perhaps draw the line at winding people’s guts out on burning altars during opium fuelled goat orgies. But within reason.
This garden, with a little bit of Gandhi’s ashes enshrined here, is simultaneously playing host to people from a gamut of world religions. Men with bathrobes and berets flounce past men in sombreros and shorts. There are people with ostentatious crucifix necklaces walking alongside people with bindis, and both are saying “Look at the ducks” to their kids. Wouldn’t it be amazing if around the world we could all just look at the fucking ducks.
Paramahansa says “Change yourself and you have done your part in changing the world. Every individual must change his own life if he wants to live in a peaceful world. The world cannot become peaceful unless and until you yourself begin to work toward peace.” We can get so entrenched in our interpretations of things that we can stop seeing the ground we share with those who think opposite things. And sometimes we and they received these ideas so early or so unconsciously that we and they had no part in forming them. We have to allow ourselves and those around us to change minds, or to change natures. But change has to come from within, not from prompting. Forcing change only builds resentment or causes entrenchment.
Meanwhile this beautiful world we live in can get destroyed by disputes over the interpretation of ideas that were prompted by the beauty of the world. Argh. I don’t know what to do about it. I’ll just look at the ducks. Quack.