Vanity thought #258. Like a prayer.

This episode has greatly unsettled me and I wanted to blog about it right away but decided to calm myself first and look at it again with indifferent eyes. I must admit – that made a difference.

So yesterday the family was watching some TV show about discovering new talents, one of those with god-awful singers trying to cash in on great songs, I could never stand those just as I could never stand karaoke. So I heard somebody slaughtering that Madonna song, “Just like a prayer”, and I asked why they don’t listen to the original instead, it’s just one youtube away. Unexpectedly, everyone agreed to have a look at the real thing and we settled to watch the music video on a big screen TV, that’s when it hit me.

Some parts of the song gave me real goose bumps, all over my body. WTF??? I do not get those during kirtans or chanting, why would some fifteen year old video of a “material girl” have such a profound effect on me? I started thinking hard and fast about what had happened and here are the results.

The most embarrassing explanation is that I have absolutely, positively no trace or shade of any transcendental experiences whatsoever, not once in my life. I’m determined not to use “devotional life” here, or ever. The truth is that the strongest emotions I could ever attribute to my service, in my entire life, are dwarfed by some saucy music video. I mean – what have I been doing all this time?

Another explanation, and currently my preferred one, is that the song managed to tap into transcendental realm and unleash real, transcendental emotions, but how could that be? Luckily, the Supersoul is always pleased to fulfill the living entity’s desires and I conjured an explanation in no time.

You see, the song has strong religious undertones already, if you choose to interpret it that way. The video, btw, has elicited strong objections from the Catholic church when it came out and deservedly so – it has a black male statue instead of Jesus that comes to life and even if its first interaction with Madonna was rather spiritual, with a blessing and kiss on the forehead, in the end it still degenerated into an ordinary making out. There are also burning crosses and church choirs and a lot of sexually provocative dancing, all in all it was blasphemous.

Well, when I analyze what exactly made my heart skip a bit I think that the video was a distraction. I actually remember the same reaction to this very same song many many years ago when I heard it on the radio, I was equally embarrassed to admit it to myself and that time I just let it go. Today, however, I want to get to the bottom of this. One thing I’m pretty certain – the video was not it.

Then there are lyrics, I never really listened to them, much less tried to memorize, right now I need to look them up on the Internet because I can’t remember them well enough, even the chorus part that made the strongest impression on me. So lyrics can’t be it either.

Is it the music? I’ve heard this song plenty of times, it was even on Glee, and I think that the latest renditions are much better produced than the original, but they all kept me indifferent. So music is not it.

Is it Madonna’s voice? I think I’m getting close here, her voice is the only constant factor among the variety of the song versions I’ve heard over the years. I can’t say it gives me goose bumps without fail but now I’m half expecting them. Interestingly, though, none of her other songs has any effect on me, I’m even having trouble remembering their names now.

There’s also my own listening involved, my own attitude. If I am distracted with something else, like watching the images in the video or talking to someone else, the song fails to resonate, that is natural but shouldn’t be forgotten.

So, it’s a some kind of combination between Madonna’s putting her emotions in this particular song and my own perception. What do I hear? What do I want to hear? This is where it gets really interesting – while Madonna sings “when you call my name” I think of communicating with God instead. Technically she isn’t even singing about God as she has a man there representing Jesus but maybe that’s how she feels God manifests Himself for her, or it could be simply about comparing sexual attraction to a man with attraction to God. That would be a bummer for me, I am kinda hoping that she thinks about something higher than her lust.

I want to believe God is somehow involved but even if He is, I’m in two minds about His actual role here. Sometimes what I hear is “when I call Your name”, as in chanting, and it greatly impresses me, I even have to forcefully remind myself that it’s not me who is doing the calling, I get the lyrics wrong. Sometimes, however, I hear the actual “when You call my name” and it gives me even bigger goose bumps. I mean that is the awesomest thing I could ever imagine – God calling for my services. That’s all I exist for, isn’t it?

For now I’m just rotting away in this useless body, the living, or rather dying testament that God has absolutely no interest in our material affairs, they don’t impress Him in the slightest. He appreciates only devotion, like when Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji or Vamchidasa were feeding him uncooked food from their bare hands. For a long time I’ve been waiting to reach the level of purity where God would actually accept my service, the day He would call my name would be the greatest day in my life.

I like to hope that this is indeed the meaning that affects me so much when I hear this song. I might be deeply mistaken, however. What if all I feel is just peculiar reaction of my physical body to purely material vibrations? Something just gets into resonance and I assume that this has transcendental origins where there are none.

That would mean I have a long, long way to go in a direction I can’t see or feel. I am like a blind man following instructions but unable to estimate my position in time and space and all the clues I relied upon until now had been proven false. What effect would it have on my future movements? Do I even know what the progress is? What if losing interest in some material things, the fact that I can observe, is not due to my progress on devotional path but simply due to development of a taste for more subtle material enjoyment?

In this connection I must mention the other song that once had a similar impact on me – “Romeo and Juliet” by Taylor Swift. I heard it many many times, at some point it was really all pervasive, to the point that I considered it for an obligatory karaoke duet at an office Christmas party. It’s at that point, when I tried to imagine putting my heart into the song, that I had another case of goose bumps.

This one is a bit more difficult to explain away, it has no connection to God whatsoever. On the other hand, I can’t visualize and sexual meaning to it either. I can’t see the object of the attraction, I don’t even know what impressed me more – emotions of Romeo or Juliet, I would even dare to say it was entirely asexual to me.

What I now want to believe is that I was moved by the idea of finding the object of one’s longing and escaping the depressing illusion of an ordinary life. The same hope that one day Krishna might actually need me and save me from my current predicament. That’s what I want to believe in but now, after few years have passed, I can’t vouch for my sincerity back when it happened.

Even so, why falling in love and getting married is one of the strongest feelings in humans’ lives? Is it just hormones talking? Not really, people feel sexual attraction all the time but there’s usually only one person that turns their lives upside down. I tend to think it’s because getting married and producing children is the closest thing to doing something that can satisfy God – giving chances to other living beings to utilize the human form of life, sort of sankirtana, so to speak.

Whatever the underlying reasons for my goose bumps are, I hope it won’t discourage me from pushing farther down the road to devotion. Or maybe pushing father up, I lost all sense of direction here.

Vanity thought #201. Louie wisdom again.

It’s that day of the week again when Louie unleashes his vignettes on unsuspecting public. Last time he was dying to know what love is, and failed. Today his misery continued.

He picked up a subject that touches everyone in this world – sex and ways to express it.

First there was a very nice, bright young Christian woman who was preaching virginity, no sex before marriage, and no masturbation, specifically no masturbation. Louie, self professed prolific masturbator, was chosen as her antagonist.

It is really a zero sum argument. The woman was annoying in her righteousness, telling everybody how to live a happy live by engaging in sexual relationships only for the purpose of procreation. Sounds familiar? Louie made her sound annoying, and there are two reasons for that, I believe.

First, the woman clearly hasn’t lived her life yet. When she was eulogizing on the glory of marriage Louie cut her short – she hasn’t been married yet while he had nine years, two children and a divorce. She wasn’t the one to talk to him about marital happiness.

I also notice it quite often – this lifestyle is advocated by people who have never experienced it themselves. When you try it yourself it’s not nearly as easy as they sound.

There’s undeniably a certain amount of bliss but it comes with so many strings attached that three our of four marriages break apart, and not for the lack of trying. I don’t believe for a second that people divorce because they take marriage easily, not at all. It’s just an incredibly difficult job keeping it together in this day and age.

Problems don’t begin on the wedding day, mind you, people are being set up for failure from the very young age. They are being taught wrong values, they know nothing about God, they are taught to put personal career and success ahead of everything else, and they are taught to ignore differences between the sexes.

No wonder that when they get together later in life they can’t lead a happy life. They come with wrong attitudes and low expectations and they are forced to behave unnaturally. Women want to work, not raise children, men can’t object to that because only one source income can’t support a family nowadays.

Anyway, one reason that woman was annoying is because she was blind to grim realities of the modern age. Another reason she was annoying is because she was right.

God indeed gave us our bodies for a reason, and it’s not masturbation. Men and women are really meant to join in communion of souls and bodies in an act of purification before God. Just like Krishna in Bhagavat Gita said that sex according to religious principles is one of His manifestations in this world. Even Christians feel it, that’s how it supposed to be.

Louie, at this point, asked if God really enjoys watching married couples have sex with each other. And then God jerks off…

It’s the self evident truth and beauty of “holy matrimony” is that very annoying to people who can’t live up to these lofty standards. They try, they want to, but they can’t find the strength and inspiration.

Louie went to Campaign Against Masturbation meeting once but it didn’t stick. Calls of nature were too hard to resist.

Haven’t we all been there – feeling totally inadequate for the standards of spiritual life we are aspiring to? Standards we avowed to maintain? Like it or not, but there’s no way out of it. Masturbation or sex for pleasure might be a lot easier on the senses and have many beneficial side effects on the society at large, but it doesn’t absolve any of us of responsibility for our promises.

Sexually suppressed people do not make a happy society, and sexually loose people do not make for spiritualists, and there’s really nothing in between. The only chance at successful family life is being well prepared for it.

If a couple consciously decides to limit the number of their children to two at most, they won’t have a chance to engage in sex for procreation in amounts needed to pacify their hormones. It’s simply not enough.

Unfortunately, the decision to limit the number of children is never about sex, it’s about abilities and resources and balancing lives. Unless they live in a more or less self contained community they won’t be able to procreate as much as they want.

If they live among the general population they are pressured to take two jobs and they have to work at least eight hours a day both, and the more children they have the more responsibilities they should take and there’s no escape.

That’s why poor Louie couldn’t do anything about his masturbation addiction, too In his form of life it was the only available option.

The woman was telling him to become a better man, free and eager to embrace God’s will in his heart but it was just too much to take seriously.

I’m also in a similar situation myself, caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand I know that my only salvation lies in continuous and devoted chanting of the Holy Names, on the other hand I’m a slave to my circumstances. I don’t have neither the power nor the will to change them. I don’t have enough devotion to appeal to the Lord for help either.

All I can do is keep on mumbling the mantra in vain hope that one day I will finally pay more attention to the Names. It might never come in this life, though.

Surely there are days when I feel I’m making progress but it’s on the days like today that I see my real lack of interest in chanting. So what if I spent fifteen hours on japa today? How may of them could have been considered adequate? None, I’m afraid.

I’m also afraid that I still have to press on regardless. I might not have a taste for chanting but I have fear of not doing it, too.

It hasn’t become my second nature but I’m developing a habit. A habit can sometimes save me from forgetfulness but for the rest of the day it develops familiarity and contempt.

Just like Louie, I’m truly doomed.