I had a week or two before Ray would show up in San Diego, so I mostly holed-up in my room upstairs and put together the fourth issue of Enquirer. The main features were interviews with Zack and Porcell. I see these as the first noticeable examples of what would become a rather nasty habit for me as the zine’s editor: bending words to obscure points I didn’t like and favor points I did like.
For example, I report Zack as saying: “I think leading a spiritual life means casting away and putting aside the physical nature in life, and the intellectual nature in life. But actually it’s using all three of them… And spirituality… like…”
What kind of editing is that?
Knowing Zack, and having the benefit of hearing his voice directly, it was pretty obvious to me what he wanted to say: that spiritual life isn’t something you have to throw away your material life for; that the two can and should be integrated, complimentary, and mutually nourishing. If I was actually editing to make the point Zack wanted to make, I would have written it like this: “I don’t think ‘leading a spiritual life’ means you have to cast aside the physical and intellectual aspects life. I think it means combining all three aspects of life: physical, intellectual, and spiritual.”
But I didn’t like that point, so I intentionally made it very vague and confusing. I didn’t like it because it seemed to go against my agenda for “dedicating myself completely” to Krishna consciousness.
The really strange part, though, is that Zack’s message of integrating the spiritual and material aspects of life is exactly the same message Krishna himself delivers in the third and fifth chapters of Bhagavad Gītā. I didn’t know that at the time, though. At the time, my knowledge of Krishna consciousness did not mainly come from direct statements in Sanskrit scripture, it mainly came from the way that the (mostly) western young men of ISKCON comprehended and practiced those statements. They definitely did think we should throw away everything – physical, intellectual, and otherwise – to join the temple and “devote ourselves completely to Krishna,” and they certainly weren’t shy about letting me know that I should do the same, asap. Why would I suspect that the devotees of the Krishna consciousness movement might not perfectly understand Krishna’s advice? Why would I suspect that they might see me almost as much as a resource as a “spirit-soul,” and that their very practical personal and institutional ambitions might seriously color their comprehension of Krishna’s actual advice?
In any case, coming back to the zine, I didn’t always rely on unethical editing. More often I took a softer tact and simply steered the interviews clear of controversy and straight into subjects I knew we had no disagreements about. For Zack this involved the role of spirituality as a vehicle for non-violent social change, and the shitiness of the modern television-culture society that pressures the youth to conform to their hollow norms. It was basically the same topic for Porcell. Yes, we spoke briefly about how happy he was that Ray found something he can really get into (Krishna), but mostly we focused on how useless modern materialistic society is.
Editorially, this is a lot like being a Martian and interviewing an Earthling who agrees that white is lighter than black, to promote an underlying message that Earthlings believe the same things Martians do, and love Martians. “See,” was my unspoken message, “Super cool dudes like Zack de la Rocha and John Porcelly believe so many of the same things we Hare Krishna’s do. So, basically, they pretty much love us. So you should love us, too.”