These days few things surprise me any longer, but even an old cynic like me was somewhat taken aback by the news that the Dalai Lama will visit Glastonbury Festival tomorrow.
Before you know it, the old boy will enter the GQ Best Dressed Contest – and will be the odds-on favourite to win.
For those of you who live on Mars or at any rate outside England, Glastonbury Festival is a five-day celebration of drug culture as expressed through rock and pop music (there must be a difference, though I don’t know what it is). To quote from Wikipedia, the idea “was inspired by the ethos of the hippie, counterculture, and free festival movements.”
If you like that sort of thing, Glastonbury is kind of cool. But if you are a hopeless retrograde like me, it’s the nearest thing to a Walpurgisnacht, or hell on earth, if you prefer a different idiom.
That’s why Glastonbury has so far been spared the presence of too many leaders of world religions. This is an injustice that His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, the leader of Tibetan Buddhism, has decided to redress.
The reports I’ve read say that His Holiness will only be at Glastonbury as an honoured guest, not a performer. That, however, leaves room for speculation that perhaps he has a surprise up the sleeve of his saffron robe.
Perhaps, and I’m guessing here, His Holiness will get into the swing of things and deliver a rousing performance of something or other, say a Tibetan Rap, composed in the style the genre requires.
Can’t you just hear it? “I’s Dalai Lama// I bin thrown in the slammer// By Communist China// It rhymes with vagina// Those Commie runts// Are a bunch of big…” Well, I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
One gets the impression that the Dalai Lama has already reincarnated and come back as a globe-trotting politician. As such, he knows how to command popular support, which these days is more or less equivalent to pop support.
Tony and Dave hobnob with drug-crazed pop stars without whom no 10 Downing Street party is imaginable these days. So why wouldn’t another global politician go to Glastonbury?
I don’t know enough about Tibetan Buddhism and how high the dignity of the Dalai Lama office is on its list of priorities. Judging by his decision to attend this affront to every religion one could think off, not very high.
One also wonders if His Holiness will stick around until Friday morning, when music actually kicks in to the delight of the projected audience of 177,000. After the first pre-music night, 10 people were already arrested for drug offences and theft. Just 10, mind you, but it’s early days yet.
Whether the Dalai Lama is there on Friday or not, and whether he’ll just listen or – as I maliciously suggested – also perform, the festival organiser Emily Eavis has already stated that she’s “honoured” by His Holiness’s visit, calling it “a special moment for the festival”.
No doubt it is. That’s precisely why the Dalai Lama should have shunned it. I don’t know what the Chinese is for vade retro, but whatever it is, he should have said it.
The only redeeming hope is that His Holiness doesn’t know enough about the Western ethos to realise exactly what place Glastonbury occupies in it.