Actually, you won’t have the slightest bit of trouble believing what’s on this mysterious video I found at Glastonbury.
The problem is, nothing gets read these days that doesn’t have a shameless click-baity title. I fully acknowledge that I’m part of the problem. By way of recompense, let me take this opportunity to make you aware of a wonderful Twitter account entitled Saved You A Click. Everyday, they work tirelessly in the war against clickbait, and they deserve every ounce of your love, your support, and your fear.
I found the above three hour TDK VHS at Glastonbury.
It was in a basket full of free stuff in the beatific depths of The Green Fields. Handwritten on the box, and repeated on the cassette itself, was the word “Babaji”. At the time, I was told that this was an affectionate Indian term for a grandfather.
I’ve finally had a chance to watch the video.
What was on it? The answer will SHOCK YOU.
Except it won’t. Why would it? You’re not so easily shocked.
The video opens with some German text over a bright blue background. In the background plays naive synth music.
Of course, my immediate thought is, “Oh god, no. I found second hand German porn on the floor at Glastonbury, and I took it home with me.”
But it’s not second hand German porn. It’s a German documentary about Haidakhan Babaji.
How about that?
Haidakhan Babaji “appeared” in June 1970, and would become a Sanatana dharma “guru of gurus”, teaching of the virtues of peace, karma, hard work, and all things nice.
“I am everywhere,” he said, “in your every breath.
“I have come to help you realize unity beyond division. I will show you a freedom you have not imagined. You must seek that unity from whence there is awareness that we are all one. Seek harmony in all that you do. I am harmony. If you are in peace, I am in peace. If you are troubled, I am troubled. If you are happy, I am happy. Be happy.”
Well, you can’t really argue with that.
The documentary features an almost constant Om Namaha Shivaya chant. At one point the German narrators join in, which makes me think that it’s perhaps not a documentary after all. Indeed, long stretches of the film consist of little more than Babaji’s benign face, filling the screen with his calm grace.
What’s the Hindu equivalent of hagiography? Because I think that this was less documentary, and more Sanatana dharma hagiography.
In any case, it’s a film I would never had seen had I not picked it up at Glastonbury, and it might well have been the perfect film to watch whilst enjoying a hearty lentil and spinach curry.
Yet it’s at this point that things might get pretentious, so I want you to promise me something:
If, at any point, you should find yourself sneering or rolling your eyes at anything that follows, please stop reading immediately. There’s no point in us both suffering.
Not that anybody with a vendetta against pretentiousness would have made it this far anyway.
Indeed, what would they be doing here in the first place? Looking for things to get angry about?
In any case, here we go. For what it’s worth…
…this video highlighted absolutely everything I love about videos.
I got a TOP OF THE LINE VCR for Christmas last year. It was a great present, but I am increasingly beginning to suspect that it may have been amongst the greatest presents I’ve ever received.
Here comes the insufferable part. Are you ready? There’s no turning back now.
I feel that videos, like all analogue technology, allow you to step into another world.
Still with me? Right.
Digital’s fine. It’s convenient, it’s clean, it doesn’t take up too much space and, my word! the fidelity.
Analogue, though – videos, cassettes, vinyl – it’s clunky, it’s dusty, it’s beautiful. But above all, it’s personal.
Yes, you can make mix CDs and MP3 playlists. These can even be revisited in future years, should you wish to experience the saddest kind of happiness.
Videos, though – and we shall focus on videos – videos are otherworldly.
The jackpot is something like this Babaji video. A true found object, filled with the purest example of surrealist dislocation I’ve ever encountered – a German documentary about Hinduism!
It provided a glimpse into another culture – another world – and for as long as the video played, this world became my world.
On equal footing with this found object is the home recording. I’m not talking about camcorder videos. Those I find almost impossible to watch, for numerous reasons. I’m talking about videos, bought blank, which someone thought to fill with stuff that appeared on TV.
These things are almost unbearably wonderful for two reasons:
1. They’re filled with shows, films and, if you’re lucky, adverts from years ago! Stuff that might not exist in any other recorded form, anywhere in the world!
2. When viewed years after the fact, the idea that someone looked through a TV guide and thought, “I like that. I’m going to tape it”, is almost too much to bear. Watching these decades later is touching; but if it was a recording made by you, or with you in mind, then my word. It can be devastating.
Not as wonderful, but still wonderful, are “official” videos. I have never been sold on the push for high fidelity in sound and vision. I’m not demanding that things be lo-fi at all costs, but I do take great comfort in graininess.
It’s beautifully warming to watch certain films on worn, grainy VHS. I’ve started collecting them again. I couldn’t quite put my finger on the sort of thing I’m looking for. It’s one of those things where I simply know it when I see it. So far I’ve got the original Star Wars (pre 1997!); the first Blade Runner director’s cut; The Princess Bride; Easy Rider; Mean Streets; American Graffiti; My Own Private Idaho, and some others.
Not just any film will do. I suppose I’m looking for analogue films to watch by analogue means. The clunkier the better.
And, of course, with “official” cassettes come all manner of added treats. Lurid box art! Antique copyright notices! Trailers! Trailers! Trailers!
I’m not turning my back on new technology. I’m simply insisting that there’s always room for what came before.
Nothing is ever obsolete. Discuss.