Saturday, March 05, 2011

Falling From Religion

I'm not sure why I spent so much time earlier in my life searching for a religion that was right for me. In my 20s I basically explored every aspect of Christianity before abandoning that altogether.

As I entered my 30s and got my first real job in the advertising industry 20 years ago in Los Angeles, I worked for a company whose founder and several employees were involved in the Hindu religion. They were great people and were passionate about their religion.

I attended a few events and ceremonies in an effort to give that a whirl. It seemed like the last best chance. The spiritual leader would swing through town two or three times a year and I looked forward to attending a service in his presence.

The first time I saw him I was rather surprised at his child-like qualities. At one point during the service he unexpectedly began throwing candy at the devotees. And I don't use the word "throwing" lightly. I mean he was hurling candy at us like there was a large cash prize for any injuries sustained!

After a few more weeks of careful consideration, I decided to opt out. There were too many rules, too much obsession, or devotion, if you want to call it that. Clearly, it was not right for me.

I like to attribute my departure to Ella Fitzgerald. One evening as I was driving to a satsang, I had the radio set to my favorite jazz station and heard Ella. It wasn't the first time I'd heard her sing, but the particular song resonated with me in a way that few songs do.

At that point I decided I'd rather do a U-turn, skip the satsang, swing into Tower Records, and buy that CD! And then I went home. I have never had a calling for any particular religion again since that night.

There is an Austin connection to all this. The owner of the ad agency was a major figure in this group, and was a key financial contributor as they acquired land outside of Austin and began construction of the temple. She also established a 2nd advertising agency in a building on the temple grounds. Devotees at the Los Angeles agency began their exodus to Austin in the mid-1990s.

As I was getting tired of the LA rat race, txrad and I made the decision in 1997 to take positions at the agency on the temple grounds and we moved here. We bought the house we live in today primarily because of the proximity to the temple. It was a short 9.5 mile commute to work.

That agency is no longer around and I've had 5 other jobs in advertising since I left there. I've also seen a number of my friends who were hardcore devotees drift away during that time which I thought was rather surprising considering their earlier intense feelings about it.

Maybe they had a hunch that something was amiss with the guru. I don't know for sure, because I've never discussed it with any of them. Let's just call it a "touchy" subject.

God Bless Ella!

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