Glad you asked. Here’s your chance for a sneak preview of Holy Facts, a unique and irreverent show on the new YouTube channel, The Chopra Well. The show explores spiritual phenomena from around the globe. The strange, the bizarre, the delightful, and the inspiring. It offers insight with a twist of humor, hosted by the dynamic Gotham Chopra. (“I’d also add ‘wise’ and ‘handsome,’” says Gotham with characteristic playfulness.)
There are few customs all cultures share in common. But can you guess one that pops up everywhere? You got it: spirituality. Or at least some faith, some questioning, some belief in…something. Faith often comes with all the trimmings: a concept of higher power, origin myths, beliefs surrounding death and ceremonies that reinforce these beliefs. One of my best friends practices her Catholic faith by singing at weekly masses and reenacting the Stations of the Cross during Lent. Sometimes faith is less organized, more fluid. My most recent spiritual adventure, an earth gathering in the Malibu hills, involved flowers, paint and chocolate-dipped strawberries. Go figure. There is no end to the styles and modes of spirituality practiced around the world and across time. And we wouldn’t expect anything less from our resourceful, imaginative species. (No matter how much we may want to laugh, cringe, gape or roll our eyes.)
If you thought Scientology was odd, you’re in for a treat. “The Church of Elvis”… “Mayan Apocalypse”… “Cat Worship”… These are just some of the Holy Facts episodes you can look forward to, and the titles alone are bound to have you smiling. Faith unites the subjects of every episode. They speak to the myriad experiences and expressions of human spirituality. It may seem strange to equate Elvis worship with, say, Hinduism as two examples of human spiritual practices. Here at The Chopra Well, however, we aren’t too quick to judge. Gotham’s irreverent playfulness offers skepticism alongside honest curiosity and interest. These spiritual practices – yes, even Ouija worship, even giant phallus festivals – deserve our attention. They may even help us understand fundamental aspects of our own faith and non-faith traditions. Divination? Fertility magic? You bet. They’re everywhere. Ever considered the holiness of dogs in the United States? Cats have surely been short shifted in the realm of domestic pet adoration.
Remember, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. And what seems a freak show to one culture may carry the weight of a highly significant tradition in another. Why would someone subject himself to the pain of sticking a sword through his face? To reframe the question, imagine the faith and trust that must have inspired this extreme act. Just look around. Such acts and beliefs pervade human culture. In the Baul tradition of Bengal, holy men ceremonially ingest blood from a girl’s first menstruation. The men believe the blood contains vital, invigorating energy that helps them stay young and healthy. Eew, right? But don’t we all dream of magical substances that will keep us youthful, fit and glowing? New York Magazine and Cosmopolitan both featured articles about a Norwegian company that produces anti-aging creams with key ingredient – wait for it – human sperm. Townhouse Spa in Manhattan supposedly offers up spermine-based skin treatments for $250, though they stop short of listing “Sperm Facial” on their website. Balk now, face a mass of wrinkles tomorrow.
This is not as simple as “us and them.” It’s fun to joke, as long as we maintain a sense of humor and skepticism for our own practices. As Gotham says, “There’s a fine line between sages, scientists, seers, spiritualists, and psychotics. But in this case we take all comers and look upon them with equal skepticism, wonder, and incredulousness. The world is a strange place and we’re just here to make sure people see it (and share it).” Look at your favorite cultural icons and holiday celebrations. Look at yourself, your beliefs, and your daily routine. Even if you don’t regularly impale yourself with giant knives, you may be stranger than you think.