By Bruce Felknor
Baba repeatedly stresses the importance of learning detachment. It’s a central theme in his statements about the elimination of the selfish ego and the tremendous importance of non-binding action. Since that’s a rather advanced course of study for those of us here in nursery school, learning poise presents itself as a stepping-stone towards learning real detachment.
The School of Poise has a rich curricula of self-effacing experiences, not at all exclusive to Baba lovers, quite the opposite; but our connection to Baba transforms these occurrences and he uses them to draw us closer to him. He gives us the opportunity to actively remember him, rely upon him, feel his support and encouragement and thus strengthen the bond of love to him. He helps us to, as he said, try our best and leave the results to him. For example….
Over the years, I have had many opportunities to sing or act in Baba venues; and of all these, Meherazad is the crucible. Here especially, one wants to please the audience, to be diverting and add something positive to the moment. While the seasoned performer enters into this arena with the understanding that there may occasionally be “garlic in the ice cream,” the same person is buoyed by the generous nature of the audience and the loving atmosphere. By and large, things go fairly well.
There are, however, those performances that don’t go so well. Once, while playing guitar accompaniment for my lovely spouse — whose vocal prowess is formidable and who has the ability to “deliver the goods” — things didn’t go that well. The song was the deceptively treacherous “Unchained Melody,” which, while it has all the elements today’s Mandali Hall performer could want in terms of dramatic heft and musical range, it also has unassuming bits surrounding the big parts that can lure one into a false sense of security — a pitfall for any performer. Throw in the setting in which your tender heart is overflowing with earnest desire to give a lively and moving performance, and you’ve got a snare of Avataric proportions.
On this particular day, I did something grossly inept by beginning the song in the wrong meter — like trying to play a waltz in 4/4 time or reading aloud from an upside-down book — and one of those moments where “time stands still” occurred. Even as I was playing the song, I became simultaneously aware that: a) I wasn’t playing it correctly; b) my spouse was “concerned” about this; and c) even the gamest of the women mandali there bore looks of mild apprehension, while others in the room projected the aspect of sympathetic persons watching a train-wreck in progress.
My face (which is far too informative about my inner state for my liking) did nothing to counter-influence the audience’s reaction, since it resembled the flashing red light of a busy railroad crossing. Something had to be done to break the spell, so I stopped playing and, feeling that the moment called for an unambiguous statement behind which everyone in the room could unite, I said, “The accompanist is an oaf.” (That’s what I actually said. The dictionary informs me, however, that what I meant to say was “accompanist.” That’s a two-for-one bargain.)
We bravely began anew and all went well. The soaring parts were highly effective and the meditative interludes were well-rendered. People enjoyed it, but that did little to assuage my embarrassment, whose total effects are largely realized in the fleeting moment in which it arises.
On another occasion, I was giving a performance of Buz Connor’s “Surrender” in the Meherazad garden, in front of Mehera’s veranda. It was just after Baba’s Birthday and the last Meherazad day of the Pilgrim Year, so it was a crowded house. The way I play it, the song runs 5 ½ or 6 minutes — a bit long for that setting, and especially so since it came at the end of the already well-used entertainment time-slot.
Meheru had been enjoying the performances that morning, all the while perched upon a stone step with a very bad back that had been paining her for some time already. A circumstance like this underscores what must be an unwanted feature of being one of Baba’s Mandali at this time in Creation, i.e., “all eyes are upon you” and it’s virtually impossible to make a move unnoticed.
Somewhere around the 4 ½ minute mark, Meheru, who was by this time extremely uncomfortable, arose from her seat during a theatrical pause in the song, effectively concluding the performance ante eam finis (“before the end” — I think the Latin takes a bit of the sting out of it, don’t you ?) When she arose, there was a sort of lurching, uncoordinated rising of everyone else and its effect was not lost on Meheru, for she asked, “It’s over, isn’t it ?” Exercising my poise to the utmost, I assured her with smiling eyes, “Oh, yes. It’s over!”
In closing, I want to wish all of you reading this in a more or less timely fashion, “Happy New Year!” May all your embarrassing moments strengthen your determination to be his, and in your ear may you hear only Baba’s perfect tune.