Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bikini Babes and Baba

If we suffer in the sufferings of others and feel happy in the happiness of others, we are loving God. If we understand and feel that the greatest act of devotion and worship to God is not to harm any of His beings, we are loving God. To love God in the most practical way is to love our fellow beings. If we feel for others in the same way as we feel for our own dear ones, we love God.
-Meher Baba

Thirty-five years ago, a high school buddy invited me for a trip to the beach.

“Sure, sounds like fun. Let’s go.”

We hit the road in his Corvette, bound for Myrtle Beach.


With a hot car like that, you’d figure that two young bucks would end up cruising Ocean Drive Boulevard to pick up some bikini babes.



I was a pallid little nerd…and “socially inept” puts it mildly. I had already endured enough humiliation from my charming classmates to last a lifetime, and I wasn’t about to do anything to invite additional ridicule and derision from anyone.

Adopting the swagger of a wild-and-crazy guy in an attempt to score on the Strand was about as appealing as skinny dipping in a pond full of hungry piranhas.

Needless to say, this would not be the prototypical beach bacchanal of my golden peers.

Not at all.

Somehow, I learned that the Meher Baba Spiritual Center was in North Myrtle Beach and that visitors were welcome. I had my friend drop me off and he agreed to return in a couple of hours.

Right away, I was favorably impressed by the contrast between the Meher Baba Spiritual Center and the tacky Myrtle Beachiness surrounding it. I’ve always admired the courage of those who step out of the wretched mainstream of American culture. On the other hand, I have misgivings about any community of believers. It’s a fine line, if a line at all, between spiritual devotion and codependent psychosis. When it comes to zealotry, I experience a bit of unease under the best of circumstances and prefer to get out of the way before full-blown Groupthink takes hold.

The folks at the Meher Baba Spiritual Center were nice enough, but I felt like a clueless outsider stumbling into the middle of a Star Trek convention.

As my host led me around the Spiritual Center, she pointed out a boxy old sedan sitting up on blocks.

“That,” she announced proudly, “is the car in which Meher Baba rode when he visited the center.”

“Well, isn’t that…special,”
I observed, silently.

I strolled the grounds and someone handed me a card bearing the smiling face of Meher Baba and those familiar words, “Don’t worry. Be happy.”

Pretty soon, my friend returned and we spent the afternoon eating seafood, playing Goofy Golf and ogling girls we would never meet.

It was a blast.

I had forgotten all about this episode until I came across a story the other day, mentioning that Meher Baba visited Jackson County in 1952. It is quite possible that he never actually set foot in Jackson County, as he was travelling on US 64 through Brevard, Cashiers and Franklin, en route to California. The trip was interrupted, though, by a terrible traffic mishap in Oklahoma that left him seriously injured.

I am certain this is accurate because I read it on a local website devoted to UFO sightings. Yes. UFOs flying right over our very homes...every night. But that's another story for another day.

Not long after my visit to the Meher Baba Spiritual Center, Pete Townsend and the Who came out with Baba O’Riley, written as a tribute to Meher Baba. And a few years later, Bobby McFerrin became a one-hit wonder scatting Don’t Worry Be Happy.

Meher Baba died before those were recorded but one popular song was a favorite of his. This might seem out of character from someone best known for a cheery admonition, but Meher Baba cherished the Jim Reeves record, There’s a Heartache Following Me. I'm not kidding.

Perhaps Meher Baba was listening to a sad country song on the AM radio when he crossed the continental divide here in Jackson County on that May day in 1952.

I don’t know.

But I hope he enjoyed his time here in the mountains just as much as I enjoyed my time at the Meher Baba Spiritual Center in North Myrtle Beach 35 years ago.

Man's inability to live God's words makes the Avatar's teaching a mockery. Instead of practising the compassion He taught, man has waged crusades in His name. Instead of living the humility, purity and truth of His words, man has given way to hatred, greed and violence. Because man has been deaf to the principles and precepts laid down by God in the past, in this present Avataric Form I observe Silence. You have asked for and been given enough words — it is now time to live them.
-Meher Baba

1 comment:

James Golden said...

Ah! Memories. I visited the Meher Baba Center for a few days in the early 70's. Not sure what to make of it all, but he was a good man. He warned against followers setting up a religion in his name, but we humans seem to just naturally do that.