Thursday, November 19, 2009

Echoes of a past life: She/The

On one of the gay blogs I follow, Joe.My.God, there is a lot of hostility to religion. A lot of this is justified in that certain religious organizations have been in the forefront of organizing attempts to deny rights to lesbians and gays. But such a negative experience with religion is really not my own experience. Granted, I grew up in a liberal, largely secular atmosphere, in northern urban centers. But it's clear to me that many people have ceded spirituality to the fundamentalists, accepting their limited and intolerant views as being the true representations of religion rather than something else altogether. Fundamentalists may think they're being "truer" to the spirit of their religion than people who view religion more progressively, but this is only true if you believe that burning witches at the stake, stoning "sinners," or waging genocidal war under the banner of God are fair expressions of religion. But it's not the time of the Old Testament, or the flight from Mecca, or the Spanish inquisition, and the sun will rise tomorrow without the mass sacrifices of humans on stone pyramids. Thankfully, human values have evolved, just as our own views as people evolve over the course of our own lives.

This piece is another from the Queer Pagans zine. It's an attempt to define what God is, from a time when I was trying to move from what could be called book-learned polytheism to experience-taught monotheism. I remember the day my friend Cayte and I had this amazingly profound discussion when we both realized that all our of NeoPagan friends thought we were all being polytheists when we had both come to a realization that that was, for us, a superficial understanding of the world and a kind of impossibility. I offer this up now as a reminder that God, that religion, are not what the forces of reaction and hatred say they are. Their cartoon vision of judgment and sin and hatred and punishment might brighten their own worlds, but it need not darken our own. Let us drown our own baby in their dirty bathwater at our own risk.

Anyway, it's difficult to describe things that can only be experienced. But I think I give it a pretty good try.

by Ian Scott Horst
from QP #14, Harvest 9994 [Late-summer 1994]

It is an obvious fact that the human heart beats to its rhythms whether our minds tell it to or not. If you look inward and try to still the beating, it will return. Some might believe that it is the awesome electrical hardware of human anatomy that keeps the heart beating; the miraculous machine of brain, blood, lungs and body. The conclusion of such a belief is that the heart beats because of what is inside us. Yet external stimulation is absolutely essential to its steady and continued rhythm. Without the beauty of things outside our bodies, and without the proximity of other beating hearts, our own hearts grow thick and dull; hardening until eventually ceasing. Gaze at an orange sunset over the Hudson river and you wil feel your heart come to life and renew itself. So we might also say that the heart beats because of what is outside us.

My heart beats to the same rhythm as yours, though we do not always listen together, nor are the beats aligned to precisely the same moments, nor does the beat move us each in the same way. My cats have hearts that beat faster than mine, and intenal and external realities vastly different than mine. But they lie close to me, occasionally gazing into my eyes with recognition, absorbing the warmth of my heartbeats and offering the warmth of theirs in return.

I own a smooth black stone that fits neatly in my palm. It is wonderfully cool and perfectly shaped. I do not think that inside this stone there is a beating heart; tough I will not crack it open to find out. But when the stone fits into my palm and my fingers close around it the sound and feel of my own heartbeat become clear from the din of life's sensation. The gift of the stone is the boundary that enables one small part of infinity to be found and named.

There are god/desses of stones. And of hearts. And of cats. And of rhythms. There are god/desses whose names ring in my ears and fall flat in yours.

We Queer Pagans seek to understand the god/desses. We seek to align our lives with their miraculous and rewarding presences. We invoke them, we pray to them, we find them becoming near to us and as present in our lives as our shadows.

But sometimes these god/desses are not enough. Sometimes their miraculous personalities are too limited; each mythos too restricted; each shape both inadequate and too complex.

It is at that moment then that I ask you to find the space between the palm and the stone. Find the rhythm with which all heartbeats mesh. Find the world in which all things exist: both the ones you can see and the ones you can't; the ones you know of and the parts unknown.

This God/dess I worship by a simple and common name, as ubiquitous as She is. I call Her The. And I call Her, The God/dess, to be here now. And my invocation cannot fail.

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