Thursday, September 07, 2006

"Don't be a fool"     [Cage story / religion]

John Cage's story about his teenage flirtation with the Liberal Catholic Church strikes me from three angles. The first involves the familiar setting in Los Angeles; it reminds me of my teenage sojourns to the Vedanta Society temple, nestled on a hillside just above Sunset Boulevard, in Hollywood (near Beverly Hills). It's a location that remains strong in memory. Sometimes I would pay a visit en route to or from my weekly piano lessons with the late Hilda Füchs; sometimes on other occasions. They sing vespers every evening.

Once or twice, I listened to Sunday lectures by the late Swami Prabhavanda (noted for his good translation of the Gita, and for being Christopher Isherwood's guru). I recall an impression of his reminiscence about Sarada Devi (whom he knew as a young man) -- she who was the spiritual consort of Sri Ramakrishna. There's something interesting about hearing tales that reach back beyond the perimiter of the 20th century into the 19th. The reach of tales of Ramakrishna and and his companions goes still further. On a few occasions, we also heard Indian classical music at that temple. (This now conjures for me the name of Jan Stewart -- and leads to Kelucharan Mohapatra, L. Subramaniam, Omiya Dasgupta, Occidental College concerts, the Ravi Shankar Music Circle, and other recollections. But with hat-tips, I'll leave aside these further tangents.)

The second angle naturally concerns the general wow of a priest broad enough in his thinking to make the psychologically saavy remark. One grows accustomed to the conceit of every religious person on behalf of his chosen sect. (I recall now the words of the Roshi in San Francisco: "Soto Zen is best.") One is less used to insightful words that would place the father and mother at the center of consideration.

Last but not least, a third angle from which Cage's tale strikes home, concerns my own parents. "Don't be a fool" the priest allowed. "You have only one father and mother."

Perhaps I'll write more about this later.


This is my Cage story rumination no. 4


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