I had a busy day yesterday (about which more later), but even before I arrived home to turn on the telly to watch the World Cup Final (yes, I watched it alone :=( remember, I am the owner of the world’s most neurotic dog) it had occured to me, whilst driving, that I had had an odd day in terms of spiritual experiences.
In the morning, Colleen and I went to take a look at the Día de las Tradicciones fiesta in Chirche. With an orange alert out for extreme temperatures, and having seen most of the demonstrations and exhibits, we ducked into the church, partly because it looked cool, and partly because I missed seeing it last time I went to this fiesta. Colleen disappeared for a few minutes, so I entered alone, and sat for a while, silently, lost in the kind of thoughts someone brought up as a Christian, but who has abandoned the religion, has in a church. I let the anger go, and absorbed the undeniable sense of peace, as I listened to an elderly granma explain to her grandaughter what the different statues represented. Of course, she wasn’t talking about them as representations so much as if they were the actual dieties and saints of which she spoke, and even with the strong feelings I have about the manipulation of their congregations which many churches practice, I admired her conviction. Of course, the church IS its people, and not its buildings or its management, Jesus taught that, but it is so often forgotten, especially in these days when the Catholic Church has to deal with the fact that so many of its priests have been living lives totally in contradiction to everything Jesus represented. I wish the hierachies of all churches would realize that they are there to serve and help their people, and not exploit them. This was my first experience of the day, but not my last – that feeling of peace in the church which came from the simple faith of its people.
In the afternoon, we went to watch a traditional Indian ceremony, about which I understood very little. I did check it out online first, but there wasn’t very much opportunity to ask more on the day. The festival is Ratha Yatra, and what I understand is this: Once a year the deities Jagannath (which, if I understand correctly is another name for Krishna), Balarama and Subhadra are taken through the streets to greet the people. They are taken on richly decorated carts (which happen to be colored red and yellow – very apt on this day!) which are pulled by long, thick ropes. As the cart (in our case the gods had to share) began to move, people began to sing and sway in that way many of us remember from following the Beatles’ flirtation with Eastern religion in the 60s. What was really nice was the warmth and welcome of the Indian people, even though we were just spectating, it was easy to feel included in the event. I followed the cart as it wound its way along one of the main tourist streets, the children on the cart throwing bags of sweets and nuts to everyone watching, and was struck again by that same feeling of togetherness which had occured to me in the church earlier in the day. It’s the unity of the people which is the foundation of any religion, in fact IS the religion.
Celebrations began as ways of bringing the people together to honor this unity. Yesterday it went a step further with the inclusion of the local, Canarian community in this festival.
Being owner of the world’s most neurotic dog I had to leave before the cart had returned to base, but not before someone had passed up a Spanish flag to the people on the cart, which they proudly fixed in a prominent position near the front, which takes me to my next musing.
It was around a half hour drive home, and it was about 50 minutes before the World Cup Final was scheduled to begin. The excitment in the air was palpable, everyone seemed to be dressed in red or yellow and red (apart from a few, brave tourists sporting orange!), and every other car was flying the flag. I’ve never seen so many national flags anywhere outside of the US. No matter who’d won, it was a reason for a national pride which is emotional and passionate. There are regional jealousies and disputes which often seem to get out of proportion, but yesterday (and today, and many days to come) the sense of togetherness and unity was fantastic. This is why soccer is sometimes refered to as a religion – it serves the same purpose it would seem.