Friday, August 27, 2021

Creeds of California

Last week we drove to Santa Barbara, current home of Oprah, Harry & Meghan, and the lady above who is often spotted laying on the State Street concrete bench in front of the Santa Barbara Art Museum.
We walked to the County Courthouse which looks like it was built by Spanish missionaries in the 17th century but was actually constructed in 1929 after a major 1925 earthquake flattened the town. The beautiful building was designed by William Mooser III and according to a 2014 article by Laurie Jervis, "the influential 20th century architect Charles W. Moore called the courthouse the grandest Spanish Colonial Revival structure ever built."
The entrance inside was restricted to those who had official business with the courts, which currently seem to be filled with lurid local murder cases and people seeking marriage licenses.
The outdoor sunken garden is open for picnicking, though, and this group of amateur wedding photographers yelling out posing suggestions to their friends and family was hilarious.
I was in Santa Barbara from the age of 10 to 17, and still have two friends living there, a nonageniarian Proust scholar who was our gracious host, and Heidi (above) from high school who I reconnected with three decades ago.
We took a walk on downtown East Beach where there were beautiful young people staging social media videos...
...and solitary characters looking ripe for recruitment into a religious cult.
Santa Barbara has always been thick with them, including the Calvary Chapel movement, which includes a Christian Surfing ministry. One of their flock, Matthew Taylor Coleman, a surf instructor in his early 40s, just made national news when he drove his 2-year-old and 10-month-old children to Rosarita Beach in Baja Mexico, and stabbed them to death with his fishing spear, convinced by QAnon internet sites that they somehow possessed "demon DNA sperm." The national news mentioned QAnon as the culprit for the horrific event, but neglected to mention the Santa Barbara Evangelical Christian Surf cult which was the breeding ground. This excellent Santa Barbara Independent article (click here) by Jean Yamamura begins with “It’s heavy. It’s so heavy,” said a surfing community insider who knew Matthew..."
Then we drove 100 miles northwest to stay at one of the most beautiful spots in the world, my sister Susan's hilltop home in Arroyo Grande, midway between Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo.
On an unusually humid, overcast morning, we went for a walk on Pismo Beach where San Joaquin Valley residents drive their oversized vehicles onto the strand and tear up the Oceano sand dunes with ATVs. (For a San Luis Obispo Tribune article on a proposed ban by the California Coastal Commission, click here.)
My relatives call them Bakos, short for Bakersfield rednecks, who overrun the Central Coast every summer to escape the 110-degree heat in the Valley.
Though they have always been obnoxious, they now feel sinister, driving through small Central Coast towns with TRUMP WON and Confederate flags flying from the backs of their vehicles.
On our way back to a paved parking lot, we passed a group of young people in a circle introducing themselves by throwing a beach ball to the next speaker, which set off all my evangelical religious cult sensors.
In the nearby hamlet of Halcyon, a small Theosophist commune founded in 1903, we stopped briefly at the Temple of The People.
I have always wanted to go inside and see what the philosopher Krishnamurti, the composer Henry Cowell, and the revolutionary astrologer Dane Rudhyar once experienced.

Coincidentally, I have been reading a scholarly biography of Bruce Lee by Matthew Polly, and stumbled across this paragraph: "One of Bruce Lee's most important influences was the renegade Indian mystic Jiddu Krishnamurti. Selected at age fourteen by the occultist Theosophical Society as the predestined 'World Teacher,' Krishnamurti was groomed to become its leader and 'direct the evolution of mankind towards perfection.' In 1929 at the age of thirty-four he shocked his adoptive cult by renouncing his role as the World Teacher, arguing that religious doctrines and organizations stood in the way of real truth. 'I maintain that truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any religion. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others."
I lived in Halcyon and Arroyo Grande from the ages of five to nine and my church was the Fair Oaks movie theater where I attended Saturday afternoon kiddie matinees with religious devotion.
By some holy miracle, the single-screen theater still exists and shows movies with no advertisements beforehand other than a vintage advisory to visit the lobby for a treat.
This dream palace introduced me to the power of images, music, and humanistic thought, all of which I worship to this day.

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