By Bruce Felknor
Recently, as happens with all things we like to think of as lasting, repairs were undertaken at the Lagoon Cabin, at the Meher Spiritual Center, in Myrtle Beach. While Baba’s familiar rococo chair is being re-caned by Tex Hightower (for the second time in twenty years), another chair Baba used (a blue, vinyl-clad chair, which is also pictured in Lagoon Cabin photographs with him) is in its place. The floor also needed refurbishing, so the furniture was removed while that work was being done.
Sometime after the work was completed, the furniture arrangement was changed from its familiar layout to one more closely approximating the way it had been, when Baba used the Lagoon Cabin for interviews in the 1950s. The altered appearance was strikingly different, and naturally gave rise to a wide range of reactions. It made me wonder about Baba’s directive that the Lagoon Cabin, Barn and Baba’s House be kept as they were when he was there physically: could the furniture and treasures be rearranged at all?
In reviewing the situation, I learned that the assortment and arrangement of furnishings and other paraphernalia in the Lagoon Cabin evolved, over time, to be what is now familiar to all of us. Elizabeth Patterson was given complete authority of the Center by Baba, and she made changes that seemed necessary. All those changes were, of course, in complete accord with Baba’s directive that the Lagoon Cabin, Barn and Baba’s House be kept as they were, when he was there physically, and in 100% repair.
I remember Charles Haynes once speculated, while speaking about Elizabeth, that if there were a terrible and all-consuming fire at the Center – something that would certainly rock almost everyone else back on their heels – that Elizabeth would simply set about doing the practical work that needed to be done, without pausing to lament. She was a very practical person. Regarding the Lagoon Cabin, as one person suggested, “Most likely, Elizabeth in her wisdom and pragmatism purposely rearranged the furniture from how it was in the 1960s (which is also not how it was when Baba was here) in order to create a more intimate setting, one which we have all grown accustomed to.”
It must be that Baba gave scope for such amendments as part of his directive, although that is not explicit. All the more reason for us – each one who visits and loves the Center and in whom its care now rests – to contemplate Elizabeth’s example of stewardship. We have to try to appreciate what our task is and to find out how to be ever more in harmony with Baba’s purpose for the Center – to understand the meaning, not just the words. When considered in light of Baba’s repeated emphasis on practicality – even as a means for finding one’s way through a problem which isn’t yet fully comprehended – one must examine how the Lagoon Cabin and other spaces are used, in order to find a useful approach to future tasks. It really is how the spaces are used that is at the crux of the matter, not merely reflexive adherence to the familiar.
The Lagoon Cabin has come to be one of the primary places for quietude, reflection and meditation on Beloved Baba. I can only imagine that the chairs, sofa, coffee table, etc. were added so that people would not have to stand or sit on the floor; to make it possible to remain there, in the company of their Beloved, comfortably, and in a way that would least distract us from Baba. This is in concert with other places that have a particularly cherished association with Baba. Mandali Hall and Baba’s Room at Meherazad come immediately to mind, as both have had long standing and similar changes made to them – in order to enhance communion and facilitate the give and take of the lover and the Beloved.
In one of Ann Conlon’s columns, she was contemplating how the Center had changed since her first visit there in 1958. I’m unsure of the original publication date, but it must 1998 or later:
There was one thing that hasn’t changed over more than forty years: Meher Baba’s presence. It is as strong and as sweet now as it was then. He has certainly kept the promise he made all those years ago, “I never come and I never go.” And there are times when the sense of his presence is so powerful that one expects him to come striding along a path at any moment.
Of course, I sometimes miss the Center the way it was. On the other hand I know Meher Baba didn’t create it for the less-than-a-handful of people who came in those early years. He made it for all “those who love and follow me and for those who know of me and want to know more.” The numbers of people have grown, the number of buildings has grown, and so have the staff and the cadre of volunteers. And I have every confidence in Baba’s promise that “the Center will be a place of pilgrimage for a thousand years,” So we all better take very good care of it, seeing to it that it continues to be his much-loved “home in the West.”
(Read the full article here: All (Baba) Things Considered: Meher Center – The Way it Was)
For the present, the arrangement of Lagoon Cabin furniture has been restored to its familiar state, which is not precisely how it was when Baba was here. When Baba was here, these places were “living” spaces – not static ones – and as living spaces were dynamically changed to suit Baba’s purpose of the moment and to best accommodate practical necessities; but these spaces and the Center as a whole can continue to be “as it was when Baba was here.” In the midst of this tamasha, Baba continues to be felt and is here, continually.