What Katie Did Next: In which I visit a hippie gathering
I'm a capitalist hippie. I'll spare you the belief systems that govern this political ideology and keep it simple: I'm about peace, love and cash, cash money baby.
I used to think I was in a minority but I'm beginning to realise that hippie capitalism is the economic trend of the future.
Social entrepreneurship has become a buzzword and if you ask any would-be dotcom billionaire to share their vision, they'll tell you it's to "make the world a better place".
Our generation are realising that they can make money without treating people like shit (and wily big businesses are realising that they can make even more money by professing to give a shit).
We'll come to think of ourselves as conscious capitalists, another new buzzword. I can't quite see capitalist hippie taking off because even if you're a marijuana-smoking, vegan environmentalist, the h-word still connotes questionable hygiene, hemp trousers and self-transforming machine elves.
Hence the only hippie gathering this new generation of conscious capitalists will ever attend is the queue for a green juice at their local food market.
That's where I differ. Every few months I turn on, tune in and drop out, if only to determine if I have a genuine affinity with the hippie spirit or if it's just another affectation.
And so I sometimes attend an event that is billed as a "gathering of open-minded individuals". While this might sound like an invitation to an orgy, it is in fact a forum for spiritual and philosophical discussion.
These weekly gatherings are generally headed up by someone who has burrowed to the bottom of the rabbit hole.( And turned left.) They start with a group meditation and conclude with the forming of a circle in which everybody holds hands.
The speakers tend to be energy healers, psychics and channellers, and the topics include everything from kinesiology to numerology. Bollixology sneer the naysayers, but I prefer to keep an open-mind when it comes to holistic modalities. Unless there's a panpipe involved. I don't quite know where to look when a panpipe is produced.
That was my first thought when I discovered the next talk was on Sacred Sound. I knew I wanted to attend but I was terrified that it would involve some sort of wind instrument, or worse, Dionysian trance dancing.
Mercifully there was no mention of panpipes on the blurb so I asked my pal to come along, thinking that as a man of science - specifically physics - he would enjoy a talk that acknowledged that we are all just vibrating atoms.
A talk that also, er, introduced us to our own sacred sound - "the power of your voice". No, I hadn't anticipated that part. I could tell my pal hadn't either.
He was as ashen-faced as I was when the woman leading the group asked us to start experimenting with all the different vowel sounds. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeh was easy enough, as was aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. Oooooooooooooooh, on the other hand, was near impossible. All I could hear was a pantomimic multiple orgasm - multiple because the note was simultaneously sounded by a motley crew of 12 strangers of varying ilk and age.
And then my friend emitted another sound entirely. A muffled peal of laughter. And like a tuning fork when struck, I responded with a similarly choked sound.
That was the end of us.
The tears were streaming down our faces by the time we were asked to send a healing frequency to our left hand. The room had become a symphony of sound but all we could offer to the orchestra was some staccato high notes interrupted by squeals of laughter.
"Shall we just leave?" I said to my friend when we were given the opportunity to discuss the process after each exercise. "They think we're laughing at them."
I wanted them to know that I wasn't laughing at them per se, rather the idea of anyone seeing my friend - a no-nonsense Artane man - singing a soul song to his hand. I wanted them to know that I wasn't a tourist, that I ate in Cornucopia and owned a Himalayan salt lamp.
I didn't have to elucidate, though. With the grace of God the laughter subsided and we applied ourselves to the exercises.
Well, just about… my friend emitted another sound when the speaker talked about each of us stepping into the circle on our own: A loud and emphatic "Ah jaysus!"
Like panpipes, stepping into the middle of a circle is a personal no-no. I'm glad this was also the case for my pal. I don't know how I would have dealt with him going into divine rapture with the rest of them. Sober sex would have been less intimate.
The evening concluded with us being drowned in the sound of singing crystal bowls and Tibetan gongs. "That was deadly!" my friend enthused afterwards. "How did you get on?" I spun him a theory about how our newly acquired knowledge could be used for public speaking. He just stared at me incredulously. "Get up the yard!" railed the man who had never been to a hippie gathering in his life. "People are here for healing. It's about self-soothing."
Proof, if any was needed, that I'm more about embracing capitalism than expanding my consciousness.