There’s something about a “New Age Cultural Event” that asks you to put your brain on hold, a flavor of contrived holiness and assumed agreement that makes you twitch all over. To be sure, there’s also a great deal more spontaneity than most establishment events allow and, at their best, a gypsy-like exuberance that fosters a relationship between artists and audience seldom experienced in philharmonic halls. The little flaw between the ideal of the Renaissance Fair and what we actually have on the roster is the proclivity on the part of many New Age performers to say that they are channelling God . . . and their need to have us agree with them.
The concert I attended this weekend seems fairly typical. As we arrived we browsed at the travelling displays of crystals cut into every imaginable geometric fantasy, cassettes of cosmic music, astral paintings (with four-figure price tags) and books; a velvet-covered table glistening with two dozen crystals will beat a stuffy, guilded cuspidored lobby any day! As befits the sensitivity of the New Consciousness, many women wore floor-length, lacy, fairy-queen dresses with ringlets of flowers on their long straight hair. Our grandmother’s attic outfitted us just fine for the 60’s, thank you, and there’s no reason to get hasty about designer’s jeans now. Hippies will always be graceful and no one got ignited by the dozens of wobbly little candles placed every five feet on the wooden floor. We perched on undersized folding metal chairs facing the portable rear projection screen that had been set up in the center of the small stage. The crowd waited patiently, mellowed by the soft drugs statistically preferred by such crowds. Only twenty-five minutes overdue, the house lights suddenly went out (dramatically, too; none of this pussy-footin’ around with a gradual dimming) and a red spot lit the left edge of the stage. A woman who had renamed herself after an early blooming flower came out to read the notices. She looked a bit disembodied as she told us that this group needed money to do a film on the spirit powers of Mt. Shasta, that group needed art patrons (“she’s listed under ‘GLORY’ in the phone book”) and that one ambitious group is raising funds in order to painstakingly reconstruct the bridge of the Star Trek Enterprise so that people can actually walk around in it.
Finally she introduced our star, a small man dressed in silver with a name that almost rhymes with “Jesus” and a physical appearance that also bears a mild resemblance to the Jesus we know from those primitive colored pages in our childhood Bibles. As he sat down to play his incredibly complicated keyboard, the multi-media show began. Beautiful, etheric, visionary art filled the screen, one exquisite panorama dissolving into another as his music aligned our chakras and made the tops of our heads tingle with the awakened kundalini force. Sporadic snoring crept in here and there in the audience but certainly the first three rows of almost fanatical followers looked completely enraptured, blissed, stoned, each pair of eyes closed on each upturned face, hands turned palm upward on each knee.
The music was beautiful and the screen images were beautiful and this sheer beauty went on and on without ceasing. The musician was alternating playing his own tapes with his live performance; we unfortunately couldn’t figure out a way to leave a reproduction of ourselves there while we went outdoors to move our frozen legs and bottoms. After an hour and twenty minutes of uninterrupted show, the screen momentarily dimmed while a new tape was plopped on. The man in front of me leaned over to his girlfriend: “My god, I hope that wasn’t the intermission!” After another half hour we finally did have a bona fide break and the dazed, semi-hypnotized audience crawled to the front porch for air. The second half of the show was equally long.
Some people gave a small party for the musician afterward and there we discovered we had even more electronic magic in store for us. We watched a half-hour video tape made about the musician, by the musician. More majestic music and breathtaking visionary art spliced with computer graphics, the beloved techni-baby of New Age engineers. But this time we got the added “message” in more overt form; it seems that this musician channels his music from God in order to accelerate the occurrence of Paradise here on earth. He acknowledges that his music is supremely complicated and you can’t hear all of it unless your level of evolution is pretty snazzy. He hears the entire range of notes. He allowed as how it isn’t easy to channel such high-powered stuff into this mundane parking lot of a planet and that some people don’t appreciate the extent of his efforts. We listened dutifully, some of us suspiciously still-looking with our heads on pillows and eyes closed.
After the video message, the party got back into a more recognizable swing with people chatting and laughing, toking and eating and indulging in a little lightweight gossip. The musician looked thoughtful as he mingled in and out of the little clusters of giggling partyers; maybe these folks didn’t resonate at the divine octaves. He left early, after two glasses of pure orange juice (why weren’t they more impressed that he never touches alcohol?) and the party went on another three or four hours with music representing all levels of spiritual hierarchy blaring from the stereo.
Creativity seems to cultivate the act of process, of being and doing and all those active “ing” images; it can really dump on you if you ask it to support ego. And, in truth, life is a lot more fun when we outgrow that urge to take ourselves seriously. Those of us who, whether or not we like the term “New Age,” have to admit we fit under that umbrella, have a lot going for us and a lot to look forward to . . . and a lot to laugh about.