Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Mystical Beatle

Martin Scorsese's documentary on George Harrison opened a door, showing an aspect of Harrison not known by the general public, at least by myself. Although one is aware of his involvement with Hare Krishna and Ravi Shankar, the documentary presents a more detailed picture of his influence in spreading Indian culture. The portrayal that comes out is that Harrison played a larger role in the Beatles than normally thought. It’s intriguing to think that he nudged the Beatles towards a more spiritual side, whereas John Lennon leaned towards art and Paul McCarthy focused on music, Harrison was the soul or spiritual heart of the Beatles. There is an interesting moment in the film where the Beatles where considered more famous than God or Jesus Christ, where young people looked up to them for guidance, and their music started to reflect a more mystical or transcendental side, perhaps nudging the youth towards enlightenment by opening the door to Indian music, philosophy and spiritual growth. I can think of no other group who used their influence, although haphazardly, towards the greater good; at least no other well-known English bands like The Rolling Stones or The Who.


In their late age, the Beatles turned out as well-adjusted human beings, who could have spiraled into a more decadent and hedonistic lifestyle but managed to have normal families and children, notwithstanding the tragic murder of Lennon or attack on Harrison, though not a fault of their own. The Beatles were regular boys, raised in good families who tried, with their music, to make a better world during a turbulent time. Harrison was well-rounded; delving in movies (Monty Python), car racing, staging benefit concerts, promoting Indian music and spiritual transcendence, spreading good cheer with his music, collaborating with other musicians like Ray Orbison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Eric Clapton, something only done with a mature ego. His life is a surprising contrast to Cole Porter, comparing their lives after watching ‘De-Lovely’, a wonderful movie musical staring Kevin Kline. Porter was a musical genius, perhaps similar to Paul McCarthy in his facility with lyrics and tunes, but both seemed light weight when compared to Harrison who searched for a deeper truth. His spiritual growth encouraged him to share his journey to the wider public and to persuade the path is open to all.

In the weekend, I read the graphic novels ‘Cleveland’ by Harvey Pekar and ‘I See the Promised Land’ about the life of Martin Luther King. MLK and Harrison were both revolutionaries as both sought change, to try and make the world a better place. I had watched documentaries and movies about MLK, heard his speeches but the graphic novel gave more detailed insight than any previous work on MLK I encountered. The ‘comics’ provided the background of MLK’s struggle, the politics of the civil rights movement, the application of Gandhi’s non-violence tactics to fight segregation, the clear usage of techniques as against oratory which was my first impression of MLK, as a preacher not the wily strategist of a Mahatma. But the application of Gandhi’s principles of ‘satyagraha’ was key (plus the clever use of media), like a strategy applied by a guerilla leader, contrary to the violent methods employed by the Black Panthers and Malcolm X and culminated in riots in New York and California. The link in both Harrison and MLK was the influence of India; the political philosophy of Gandhi and the spiritual transcendentalism of Maharishi Yogi, applying the lessons from an ancient continent. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau would be proud.

Again I procrastinated during the weekend, rushing to read books, magazines and watching movies, despite the high quality of the shows, neglecting again to work on my book. I had determined my problem: lack of will and voice, lost in an identity crisis until I realized what’s to be done, resolving to save money by not attending the writing course and, instead, plunge right ahead in the work. But I ‘speed read’ the book ‘How to Build an Android,’ a silly but interesting non-fiction book, and will read another on writing and on Sherlock Holmes. I am like St. Francis, who knew about his path to saint hood but wanted a few more decadent moments before accepting his spiritual life. Lord, please allow me just a few more weeks to read silly magazines, books and movies before embarking into a writing life. But the goal is no longer being a ‘dilettante’ following the Western ideal but having criteria to assess best use of time. Future efforts must answer the following questions: will it help write a book? Will it validate identity? Will it create an authentic life true to the goal?

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