UNIVERSAL LIGHT EXPO 2012, COLUMBUS, OH:
I just got back from the Universal Light Expo in Columbus. It took place this weekend. And there were Buddhist monks in the building making a mandala from sand grains and then they would later destroy it. They also did some chanting later on that evening, and dances that go back 4000 years, I believe the translator said. After seeing the Tibetan monks, I bought a pocketbook of writings by the Dalai Lama. Even though I am Agnostic, I’m still fascinated by Buddhism. You could see in the monks’ eyes a real commitment to non-violence that comes from real pain and exile from Tibet to India. I was honored to see those real traditions: Dances, chants, debates, and pantomimes.
There were booths there all dedicated to alternative healing methods. Being an ethnographer, and knowing that every culture has different systems of logic, I take all those power crystals, psychics, etc. with a grain of salt. They offer support to people who need traditions and rituals. I was able to talk about most of it artistically. One woman in particular I liked to see was a photographer who took pictures of light orbs with little quotes. I talked to her about some of the quotes she used from Goethe, Einstein and Max Planck. Also, Kurt Vonnegut. Every booth was decorated, it seems, with blue and white curtains. Mystical music played throughout the place.
I was enjoying the art and cultural analysis. So, some friends of my mom’s opened me up to this audiopathic therapy that supposedly “reprograms” muscle tissue or the brain, etc. So they stuck a vibrating box under my legs and put on some headphones and all I heard was this calm reverberating “mmmmmmmm….” mechanical sound. But after a while I got spaced out and really relaxed. Then, I talked Star Trek and quantum theory with the owner. I was honestly pretty spaced out. At the time, I think I thought it worked, but it wore off when I went home.
I think because I’d spent time watching the Buddhist traditions, the audiopathic effect lasted a little longer; I was more relaxed. The throat-singing is particularly mesmerizing. I suppose all these alternative healing processes (except the ones like massage and the more artistic endeavors like healing photography.) work on the same level as mesmerism. You tell someone what they want to believe and they buy into it: confirmation bias.
But, on some level I couldn’t contain my skepticism. I especially didn’t like the psychics or people that claim to be selling more than they are. I can suspend my disbelief for New Age sound machines that relieve stress or light orb photography, but not communication with the dead. They seemed to me to take advantage of people needing faith. So, I avoided all the booths about Tarot or communing with the dead. The rest of the time I tried to keep an open mind. But, then I had an empty stomach!
The food there was good! I had my first (and second, the next day) taste of Indian food: rice, naan, curry chicken, and some good ol’ lemonade. The second day, I had vegan mock tuna which was excellent. I like it better than regular tuna. Apparently, it’s just beans with some spices! It was dynamite! And I love regular tuna, too!
The next day, I spent more time with my mom’s friends who convinced me to try this crystal power belt thing across my chest that works by “infrared energy” to eliminate “negative ions”. I figured, “What could it hurt?” and did it. I felt heat coming from the belt, but also a deep relaxation. Belief is often the only thing that holds this culture together (i.e faith seekers, along with some kind of medical professionals.) I humored them and told them I felt heat and a “glow”. Maybe it was just heat, or maybe I just wanted them to be happy. In either case, it was good to explore new patterns of thought, look at some creative art, and interpretations of reality. One man (running the idiopathic booth the day before.) said that he wasn’t raised New Age, so all this crystal power was new to him, and the options were overwhelming.
That’s kind of how I felt, except I’m more familiar with New Age thought, and more than often humor it, because the end goal is to be happy and have faith for New Agers. After the crystal power belt booth, I went back to the audiopathy. I just thought of it as listening to music, and not as re-programming the brain. This time, he instructed me to get on a table. I laid down for about an hour listening to the rhythmic drone. Last night, it had given me vivid and intense dreams of the Buddhist Snow Lion Dance and talking to Captain Kirk in the Enterprise when I went to sleep. Toward the end, he asked me if I could walk ever and I said: “Only in my dreams.” I have no desire to walk, and I certainly don’t think there’s a sound you can play to make it work.
I passed by the orb light photographer again. Saw the Buddhists working on a mandala which they would again destroy at the end of the night. I have respect for the artists, those monks, and for the faith seekers. But I began to wonder how much was based on an able-bodied narrative that the body needs to be “healed” from conditions that make able-bodied people uncomfortable. Hence, the talking about “Could I ever walk?” and non-existent norms of mind and body, achieved through communication with special beings. In my view, it’s all just storytelling, and I enjoy that artistic aspect. But, I couldn’t help but think that some were just taking advantage of people’s desire to be special. My mom’s friend’s were probably upset that I didn’t go to the drum show, and left early, but there was a storm coming, and I had German homework to do
Lastly, we perused the bookstore and convinced my mom not to buy anything. I was anxious to get home. But, for that time, I was enjoying being open to those new experiences. The form didn’t matter: They searched for faith. I searched for culture. For meaning! This music is a good idea of how I felt in there, like in the bazaar from Blade Runner. Over all, I liked observing: Until someone wanted to make me walk. Then, I stuck to my guns!
(Book I bought from monks!)