What can fair-going teach us about churchlessness? Glad I asked. I'll answer my own question...
Thursday I went to the Marion County Fair here in Salem to relieve my wife of crushing boredom -- a four hour shift on a slow day womaning a booth sponsored by an earth-friendly organization she belongs to.
I chatted with her for a while, then explored the fair. At the other end of the exhibit hall I came across some sort of senior citizen "athletic" event, the quotation marks being justified by this bean bag toss nature of the activity.
Chairs lined up in neat rows. Everyone sitting politely until their turn to toss came up. A youthful coordinator (staff member? volunteer?) keeping the game in order. I wanted to hear some trash talk.
Hey, granny, you got nothing! With those bony arms you'll going to throw that bag all the way to the end of your big toe. Forgot your Geritol?
The rest of the county fair had a similarly unnatural, sterile, unhealthy, overly organized feel to it. I kept thinking, "This is all-American." Along with, "America could use some improving."
A day later my wife and I drove an hour or so south of Salem to the Eugene'ish Oregon Country Fair. What a difference!
Here's a photo of one of the wonderfully chaotic parades that wend their way through the twisting, tree-lined, organic paths that fairgoers wander as they peruse the fair's cornucopia of counterculture artistry.
The contrasting atmosphere at the two fairs struck me as reflective of the difference between religiosity and churchlessness:
Uptight vs. hang loose
Rigid vs. flowing
Communal conformity vs. individual expression
Seriousness vs. smiles
Commandments vs. relaxed "whatever"
Now, I don't want to give the impression that the Oregon Country Fair is unorganized. It is anything but.
From buying tickets, to parking, to reasonable rules (no alcohol, for example), our fair-going experience was enhanced by the much-appreciated work of many volunteers and a few full-time staff.
However, I loved the looseness of the Fair -- how the organization (comparable to a loosely defined philosophy of life) contributed to the free expression of individuality, rather than limiting it.
Recently some commenters on this blog have suggested that all philosophies with even a hint of metaphysics to them, such as Taoism and Buddhism, can be equated with overtly dogmatic and authority-based religions, such as Christianity and Sant Mat.
Well, this is akin to saying that because the Marion County Fair and Oregon Country Fair share a last name, this makes them the same. Experience each of them, though, and the differences are evident and obvious.
Me, I prefer my philosophy of life to be churchless.
And my fair-going, heavier on the sex, drugs, and rock & roll (each much more present at the Oregon Country Fair than at the Marion County version) and lighter on tradition, conformity, and staidness.