Having just got back from Camp Bestival, I'm in the post-festie chillout state of mind.
And one of the things I thought about while I was there was this: Human beings have been gathering for feasting, music, entertainment and revelation for thousands of years. In fact, it may well be one of the things that glues our social behaviour together and so it is actually - an essential activity!!!
Camp Bestival is a family festie with plenty of kids' stuff including craft tents, baby chillout, woodland playpark and soft play. The adults get to see great bands, listen to performance poets and eat wonderful food. The children get to ride on the carousel. There's even a skate park rigged up for older children, complete with amazing BMX and skateboarders putting on a show a couple of times a day.
All good. Certainly better than Glastonbury which has become too money-grabbing, too hard-edged and too uncomfortable for all but the most dedicated binge drinker.
And however much I enjoy Camp Bestival, despite the hills (pushing a pushchair up and down them is mind-numbingly hard work), desptite the pricey, overblown, in-your-face commercialsim - I might never go again.
Why? Because, like Glastonbury and I suspect most other music, arts and entertainment festivals there's a vacant hole in the middle of it. I couldn't put my finger on what it was to begin with. And then it came to me.
The soul is missing.
For example; at Bestival, the healing field was right next to the loudspeakers blasting out hardcore skater music. Brilliant for the skate park. Rubbish when you're having a chilled out massage. And there was no - field of reflection. No quiet place. No wishing tree. Don't get me wrong - there was plenty of wonderful, amazing stuff. Dingly Dell was the closest you got to peace but.... it was about having more fun. A good thing. But soulful things can be fun too.
Thoughts like that made me realise that Glasto went downhill the year the Krishna's left. In the old days they'd set up a huge marquee giving out free food (dahl and chapatis - delicious) and chanting their wonderful harmonies. It was a great place to relax, eat and be still. Meditate. Reflect.
Now, I'm not a Hindu. But it doesn't matter. Because what the Krishna's gave us was the most important element of a human festival gathering.
Our ancestors knew this. Stonehenge heralded the rising of the sun on midsummer morning. Almost certainly the centre of some kind of sun worshipping pagan cult - the gatherings would be about music, dancing, poetry (I expect), storytelling, meeting, flirting and all the other things we get today. But it included a place for the soul to be nurtured too.
Without that, the whole atmosphere seems - unfinished. Okay, I can see that the people selling food on the site didn't want anyone giving out free food. But why not? People still bought food from the stalls. And free music? Sacred music is different. It's great to see Primal Scream or anyone else whose music you love - but spritual chants, songs, mantras and hymns tap into something else.
Something that needs filling.
Because nothing else fills up that particular human space in the heart.
Do you neglect or nurture your soul? I'm not talking about religion here. Just the human capacity for transcendence. Compassion. Acceptance. Courage. Clarity.
Doesn't matter if it's nuns signing Gregorian chants, Hare Krishnas, Buddhist mantras, Christian singing or any other form of spiritual expression... it just should be there for the whole thing to have meaning beyond consuming products and whirling children about.
It can be a part of entertainment. It can be a part of music and festivals and revelry. It can sing and dance and give you a plate of dahl and bread just because it wants to. Without soulful living, as our ancestors were well aware, we're nothing but a bunch of howling monkeys. Which is fine. But it won't fix the world.
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