Monday, October 3, 2011

in a packed theater

in a packed theater
we watch a spiritual man 
living in the material world

Sunday night, 3 October 2011, we are attending the world premier of Martin Scorcese's film "Living in the Material World," a documentary on the life of George Harrison. No, we weren't in Hollywood or New York or London. We were in the Sondheim Theater in Fairfield, Iowa, where every one of the 520 seats in the theater are sold out, including chairs along the wall. The event is a fund raiser for the David Lynch Foundation, which sponsors stress-relief programs for groups such as veterans with PTS, Native Americans, homeless men and women, and children in impoverished areas around the world.
          The film runs almost four hours, but we are riveted the entire time. I knew a fair amount about the Beatles and how they all became practitioners of Transcendental Meditation through the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. But I didn't know much about George's later life after he left the Beatles. I came away with the impression of the "Quiet Beatle" as a shy but complex man with great musical creativity, a wonderful sense of humor, a deep love for his friends and a passion for spirituality. Because of the Beatles' immense fame and fortune, George learned early how to live in the material world, and also that there was something beyond and more important than the surface level of life. 
          George stumbled onto the spiritual path in a way that was not uncommon in the 1960s. During his first experience with LSD, a thought came to him: "the yogis of the Himalayas." Not long after, he discovered Maharishi, "the giggling guru." George really took to meditation and it became a lifelong practice. However, he did not always stay away from drugs and at one time he became a "closet Hari Krishna" who didn't shave his head or wear ashes on his face.  
          George's greatest concern when John Lennon was murdered was that John did not have time to prepare for his death. And when George was in the midst of being attacked by a man trying to murder him, he thought, "If I'm going to die, what would hold me back? I have a 15-year-old son who needs his father, but other than that, not much." He had prepared spiritually for that moment for a long time. Ringo tells the story about visiting George in Switzerland, where he was bedridden in the final weeks of his bout with cancer. Ringo told his friend that he had to go back to New York because his daughter had a brain tumor, and George said, "Do you want me to go with you?" When George did die, his wife Olivia says, "He lit up the room."
          This part is not in the film. A friend told me that a few months before George died, he went to see Maharishi again to ask for forgiveness and Maharishi said, "There's nothing to forgive."

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