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The Story My Life Tells

When we go to a funeral or a memorial service, what do we mourn, besides those who have gone?

We cry at memorial services, even when we have not known the one who died very well, sometimes even if we have not known them at all.

Do we mourn the loss of this one beautiful life, even when we have not known the one who lived it?

Do we mourn for the emptiness left in the lives of others, though we may not know them intimately?

Is it possible, just a little bit, that we mourn something of ourselves that we have lost?

Faced with death, do we see our own mortality, and regret opportunities lost, the choice that was not made, the love that was not sought?

Faced with the mortality of others, do we grasp at our faithless moments, recalling times we could have done a good thing, but did nothing?

Hearing the story of the life of one who has died told by those who have known and loved that person best, we notice the times in their lives where they made good choices, took right turns, lived completely and utterly faithfully.

Yet even they must have taken a moment at a funeral somewhere along the line to think, “I should have done that. I should have been that kind of person.”

They were not perfect in this life, nor shall we be. Not yet.

I wonder, if the person we mourn were standing in the room with us, would they know how many caring hearts their life inspires?

I wonder, do they know that the best of them inspires the best in us?

Certainly, I know that one day, I want my life to inspire others.

I want them cry at my memorial, whether they know me or not; not because funerals are sad, or that my life is so pitiful.

I hope I can live my life from this day forward in such a way that only goodness is inspired by the story my loved ones tell.

The Ritual of the Bath

I think perhaps one of things I am most thankful for in this "First World" I live in is hot water. When I am feeling achy, when I feel sick, even when I feel down, in fact when I'm at all discomobulated, I find that there is no place so comforting as a hot bubble bath.

A bath is a spiritual experience for me. Light a candle, possibly an incense, whisper a prayer, and step into the hot suds. Slide down into the delicious warmth, rest my head on the back of the tub, close my eyes and sink deep into the water, a different kind of baptism.

We all have little home rituals that cleanse us, change us, shift us into a new perspectives. For me, it can be something as simple as lighting a candle, sitting in silence. The best, though, is the ritual of the bath.

Poetry, Art, and Sacred Space

I wrote the following in answer to a prompt for an Edx class I'm taking called Spirituality and Sensuality: Sacred Objects in Religious Life. The prompt was about what makes a place/space sacred.

{9} The Gallery: Poetry, Art, and Sacred Space

{9} The Gallery is a small open door along Phoenix's Grand Avenue - that's the busy inner-city adjunct to US Highway 60, which connects the East Coast of Virginia to Arizona-just-short-of-Quartzite half an hour east of California. Walking into {9} on the second Friday of the month, you'll find half the floor covered by white wooden chairs surrounded by paintings and other visual art by local artists.

In the back, past the bathroom, you'll find the counter. Purchase your coffee or tea, hot or cold, and peruse the shop. You might discover the perfect gift to buy - a chapbook, a greeting card, or perhaps a print created by locals. Take your time, but be ready to sit as the hosts for the evening's event arrive; the chairs will fill quickly. Settle in, sip your tea, be ready to listen. Maybe even be ready to witness. Will you share?

As I listened to Stephen Cramer's poem, "What We Do” for about the 4th time, I realized that indeed, {9} is a sacred space. It is sacred for a number of reasons, and the objects within reflect those reasons. The walls are adorned by interpretations of the world by artists who dare to apply their visions to canvas or other media. Aficionados of art both dark and light make this a sacred place. They come and they hold open their mouths at the wonder and the audacity of each new interpretation of a world that is both beautiful and ugly.

Fans of refreshment in this desert place find an oasis within which to rest weary bones and feast upon the artwork and the baked goods brought in from the restaurant down the street. {9} is a sacred space each hour that it is open for the interaction between human and human creation. Tonight, though - tonight it is made even more sacred for the sounds that will be aroused here.

On the second Friday of each month, the poetry series "Caffeine Corridor" meets at {9} The Gallery. Poets from across Arizona make the pilgrimage to hear the words of one or two featured writers and to share their own works at the open reading. This is a mixed reading; traditional poets and slam poets gather together; there is no contest, only open acceptance for the diverse nature of the spoken word.

While {9} The Gallery is made sacred by the presence of creativity, art, and the interaction of people with that art, these Friday night readings bring a great depth of holiness to the place. You see, the Caffeine Corridor series has had a number of homes over the years. It has met in coffeehouses and tea houses as well as in other galleries.

It isn't the presence of visual art that makes the place sacred, any more than the presence of a cross, statue, or other iconography makes a church building sacred. Even the poetry itself does not make the place particularly sacred, for to read a poem by oneself is different than to hear it read aloud. It is the community - the body of artists - that makes it sacred. These nights, when poets gather to partake of a communion of words, are more sacred than a gallery full of paintings but devoid of observers.

Each place brings a different kind of experience into that sacredness. Like the Orisha, who "rides" each dancer or each drum differently, the experience of poets is different in different surroundings. Some coffeehouses bring with them the sound of cappuccino machines, others are in alleyways beneath the flight path of the local airport. The experience differs depending upon the combination of poets - is the one who takes suggested word combinations in an attempt at humor present? Is the one who taps on the bongo while reciting her words in the mix? What about the one who speaks each piece from a different space on the floor or the poets whose words seem to be jumbles of unrelated syllables or the ones whose poems come in perfect iambic pentameter?

These are the variables that make the place where poets gather sacred. These, and respect and admiration shared through the snapping of fingers, the clapping of hands, or the loud, raucous laughter of listeners sharing the experience together.

(c) 29 March 2015

Journaling Old-School

Toward the end of 2014, I picked up my old-school journal and started writing. The last time I wrote in the book I picked up was mid-2010. It had been more than four years since I’d taken pen in hand to write my thoughts and dreams into a book!

I’m not sure why I did it. In fact, it seems like I was driven to it for a day or more before I finally did. When I did, what I discovered was amazing.

There’s something magickal about writing in cursive into books. The words flow from mind and heart through hand and pen and spill onto the pages like aqua vitae, water of life. The flow can open doors that have closed in our lives and allows our spirits to move out of stasis.

I had been shutting down, curling up, becoming stagnant, or even worse. The evening I picked up my pen and dug that journal out of a drawer was the beginning of a kind of rebirth. I blogged about it at my pastor’s blog at Practicing Perfection when I realized how much I need regular time in a liminal space and discovered that a journal can be that space, sometimes.

A journal is a place where the heart and mind meet the physical. It interprets dreams into potential realities. It is a diary…a day planner…a prayer book…a spell book. It is a place to ponder, and I have been pondering. I am ready to begin exploring new meanings out of old awareness.

I am ready to renew my relationship with some of my old gods and goddesses; the archetypes of my heritage and my psyche. Soon, I will be sharing some of the thoughts I have on the relationship between myself, the Christ, and the ancient ones.

When I started blogging at this site, I was a full-on practicing Pagan with an affinity for the god of my ancestors called Thor. Note my screen name: Thunarsdottir. Daughter of Thor. I have never been a polytheist, but rather a panentheist who considers what most people call “God” to be “All That Is.” Process Theology was the first theological understanding that explained what I believe about God in any way that made sense. I was thrilled to learn about it when I went to seminary.

I always thought of the “mythological” gods and goddesses as cultural expressions of a given culture’s understanding of “All That Is.” On a personal level, I interpret them in a rather Jungian way.

Now, I find myself considering what this can mean for me as an Inter-Spiritual Priest. How does Thor walk with Jesus? I have no doubt that he does.  How can that awareness help others in their spiritual walks?  I have no doubt that it can.

Seeking Time

Lately, I've been realizing how much time I've lost in being busy.  My children have grown up while I was busy.  My mother passed away while I was busy.  My friends and I have grown apart while I was busy.  My siblings and I have grown older while I was busy.

I seek to simplify my life.  Quite awhile back, I wrote about the idea of minimalism, and whether or not I could do it.  I decided I probably couldn't become a complete minimalist, but that I was working on cutting back on things.  I'm still cutting back on things.  I still have way more than I need.  I need to cut back on more than just things.

I need to whittle away at my busy-ness, too.

Now, I'm seeking time to work on that.  It seems ironic, I suppose, to need time to gain time...to be less busy.  Yet, that's exactly what I need.  I need to have time to know what I'm doing.  I need time to take steps to arrange my calendar better.  I just need a little time to make more time.

I'm seeking a few moment's silence every once in awhile so I can figure out where it is I'm careening forward towards.

I know at my age many are putting on the breaks, expecting a quiet retirement, but I'm simply not ready for that. I'm heading somewhere carrying my late-earned BA and even later-earned M.Div., grasping my Ordination papers along with those and hoping they somehow weave together into a magic carpet flying to somewhere that I can make a difference. I can't stop scheduling things like weddings and writing deadlines even though I'm busy trying to earn a living at a lovely stopping off point while I earn the first unit of my Clinical Pastoral Education.

Out of all of this, what will come?

When it comes, will it be too late?

This is Not a Book Review

A Wanna-Be Hippie Reasseses Her Stance

“This ain’t the Garden of Eden/There ain’t no angels above/Things ain’t what they used to be/And this ain’t the Summer of Love”
– Blue Oyster Cult, 1975

For my birthday this year, my daughter Betsy gave me a copy of Hippie by Barry Miles. This book is interesting and filled with information about the multitude of movements that happened in America and Britain from 1965 to 1971. It was a tumultuous, terrible, deadly, inspired, mystical, and hopeful time.

During it all, I was in my formative years, watching the war and the riots on television. I am of the first generation to grow up with television for my whole life, yet I had no idea what kind of Happenings were going on.

The Summer of Love and Woodstock are but idealistic dreams of my teen years, something I thought I would have wanted to be part of if only I’d known about them at the time. Of course, I learned over time that there were dark secrets hidden under the floorboards of these utopian dreams.

In fact, there were so many things happening during those years, there is no way to extricate them from one another. The flower children of San Francisco, the poets and musicians of New York, the rock bands of Los Angeles, and the London Underground emerged separately yet are undeniably connected. Woven through these growing pains of youth were the horrors of war, near and far.

The Vietnam War, the confrontations between police and protestors and hippies, the race riots, rape…all of these were violently wrapped around visions of hope represented by flowers and bright colors of youth at a Be-In.

In this book, Miles brings all these aspects of the times together, giving the reader an overview of a decade, illustrated with photographs, newspaper clips, advertisements, album covers, and posters. It seems to have everything…almost. One Amazon reviewer laments the lack of any mention of the Jesus Freaks. Now, the Jesus Freaks are one group I recall from my own experience. It does seem a shame that they are missing from mention, at least by name. Peter Max doesn’t even get a sentence. I, however, notice something more important missing.

Throughout the book, we read of the great poets and artists who influenced the various movements or who became a part of them. Of all the poets, artists, and musicians who are mentioned, only a handful of them are women. Two female singers stand out – Grace Slick and Janis Joplin. Singer Marianne Faithful gets a nod, but only as a girlfriend. One female visual artist is mentioned by name – Yoko Ono. Perhaps she was more than just the “girl who broke up the Beatles” after all! Finally, there is not one mention of a female poet in the book. Not one.

I’ve been pondering the reason behind this. Does it mean that there were no excellent female poets of the time? Of course it doesn’t. Denise Levertov, who attended a 1963 conference with Ginsberg, was writing during these times. Anne Waldman broke out in the 1960’s, and is considered an integral part of the latter Beat movement. Lenore Kandel’s book of erotic poetry, entitled The Love Book, was deemed pornographic and was censored in 1966. Adrienne Rich was an anti-war activist and feminist, and is one of the most highly read poets of the 20th century. Susan Polis Schutz was a peace activist and poet.

These are hardly the only female poets who were actively writing and involved in the movements of the 1960’s. Besides poets, of course, there were many amazing writers of all ilk including singer/songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. This book mentions these two in passing. Of course, Miles would be remiss if he didn’t discuss William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and their influence on what was to become the Hippie generation. However, mention of other writers who emerged from the scene, like Maya Angelou and Beatrice Sparks would have been welcome.

Of course, I do understand that it would be impossible to include everyone who created or was created by this volatile era. It became more explosive as the decade wore on. Hippies made way for Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies. Violence on campuses and in the streets, Charles Manson’s “Family” sneaking into homes and killing people in hopes of starting a race war…the sixties started with violence and ended with violence. Of all the female writers and activists of the era, Miles chose to dedicate a full page to only one – Valerie Solaris, the founder and sole member of S.C.U.M. (sometimes said to stand for “Society for Cutting Up Men,” though Solaris denied it). Solaris was a radical lesbian feminist whose manifesto was published in The Berkeley Barb in 1968. What made her – and her manifesto – important was an act of violence. In 1968, she shot and wounded artist Andy Warhol, who had agreed to produce a play she wrote and promptly lost it. She demanded payment, so he hired her to act in a film for which he paid her $25, according to information I found on the internet. When another publisher, Maurice Girodias, promised to publish her work, but retain all rights, she felt that they were all conspiring to steal her work. Solaris also shot art critic Mario Amaya, who happened to be with Warhol at the time. She would have taken a shot at Girodias as well, but he was out of town.

Interestingly, I had never heard of Valerie Solanas until reading this book. Yet her angry anti-male manifesto reflects the darkest frustrations of women emerging from a June-and-Ward Clever, Ozzie-and-Harriet fantasy. It is fodder for conversation – what did she say of value? Was anything she wrote intrinsic to the women’s liberation movement? While Solanas’ attempted murder of Warhol (some call it an assassination attempt) may not be as “important” an event as the Manson murders, it seems that it has some value in find a real understanding of the times…and a true understanding of those times is something I need.

I have lived most of my life imagining the Hippie life as a utopian, perpetually cool, idealistic commune of sunshine and flowers. I wished I’d been there, that I had not been only 11 the year of Woodstock. It’s been a wistful fantasy, wishing I’d been to anti-war protests and Be-Ins, instead of the Happenings of my own life, which seemed to pale in comparison. The view that I’ve had has been skewed, in spite of having met many who not only lived it, but were willing to admit it. Some of them, very young, had romanticized the Haight-Ashbury scene and went there, flowers in their hair. Yet, by the Summer of Love, the coolest street corner in America had begun to degenerate into a seamy district of junkies and teenage prostitutes.

I met a lot of once-upon-a-time Hippies later, when I lived my own Happening at Venice Beach in 1987, twenty years after the Summer of Love. Many of them were disillusioned, flowers wilted, innocence lost. One was an eternal space cadet, insisting he was Jesus, and not like “Jesus is all of us,” but the man himself. One had blown his mind so far that he sat, nodding knowingly, as another young woman told him she was not ready to go live “at Jerry’s place up north,” because she and her friend were so busy creating a new solar system, and were having trouble with one of the planets. Some, addicted and stuck like an old vinyl of Three Dog Night’s “Mama Told Me Not to Come” slept along the piers of Santa Monica, next to wounded Vietnam Vets with PTSD, spending their days begging for quarters to buy the next bottle of whatever they drank or a dime bag of smack.

There were those who had truly idealistic ideas for creating a better world. The ones who were honestly dedicated to caring for the planet and one another grew up and opened natural food stores, grocery co-ops, neighborhood gardens. Across the United States, spiritually oriented dreamers who had been in some way part of the Hippie movement helped usher in the New Age. 1987 was the year of the “Harmonic Convergence.” It was part of my Happening, and many of those with whom I connected during that time truly dreamed of a better world. The Age of Aquarius, as had been predicted, would be the dawning of peace, love, and harmony.

Yet like the Hippie era twenty years before, the New Age movement of the 1980’s was only one aspect of a complicated time. Alongside the spiritual growth and outreach, the recognition of pluralism, and the move toward acceptance of cultural and socio-religious differences emerged new kinds of music, fashion, and art. New names wove in with the old, eventually supplanting all but the biggest, most popular bands from the early days. Punk, Glam, New-Wave, and Heavy Metal…and that’s where I came in.

Timothy Leary’s popular 1960’s mantra, “Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out” transformed into Ian Drury’s “Sex and Drugs and Rock & Roll.” Looking back over these subcultures of youth and young adulthood, certain similarities stand out to me. These mantras mean the same thing, down under. Beneath the psychedelic tie-dye patterns, the Victorian velvet beauty of both boys and girls. Like dust-bunnies under John and Yoko’s Peace bed, beneath the spandex, big hair, eyeliner, and Aqua Net® runs a theme of patriarchy, power, and rape culture.

As I read through Miles’ book I noticed that all the photographs of Flower Girls and Hippie Chicks depicted thin, fresh-faced young women. This tells me that these women mattered more to the chroniclers of the era. In the book, women other than the handful of singers and artists mentioned were girlfriends or wives, most were unnamed. One wonders if the photographers bothered to ask the names of most of the women. This was a time that is often referred to as the “Sexual Revolution.” One wonders whose revolution it really was. The Gurus of psychedelics touted group sex and called it enlightenment. They gathered women around them like harems. Yet, rarely did they seem to listen to the thoughts and ideas of women. The only poetry deemed worth reading or listening to was written by men, the same men who either hated women or loved too many of them without ever really loving any of them.

Twenty years later, male musicians and artists slept with stoned underage groupies, dated exotic dancers, and those who were married rarely shared that information. Drugs developed for medicinal purposes began to emerge as “date rape drugs.” Pop songs by females or groups headed by females glamorized dressing for casual sex at the expense of the woman’s own identity. For instance, in 1984 the pop band Animotion sang “Who do you want me to be to make you sleep with me?” MTV showed the average size, regular girl that she wasn’t sexy enough. Only the tall and thin could pull off skin-tight spandex pants and a crop top with spike heels.

On the other hand, there were a number of strong female singer/songwriters who faced the challenges of relationships head on. Singers like Pat Benatar, Annie Lennox, and Aimee Mann dealt with domestic abuse and independence. Yet even in the telling of such stories it was evident that girls’ art was somehow judged as beneath that of the boys’. Aimee Mann and her band ‘Til Tuesday sang “Voices Carry,” a song that to me spoke of verbal abuse. In the video for “Voices Carry,” the male partner confronts the female about her time rehearsing, calling her music a “little hobby.” Those of us who had lived in domestic abuse found solace in the songs and videos that showed us the strength of the woman who was “walking…walking out the door!” In the world of Heavy Metal, female artists were rare. Included in the handful were Maxine and Roxy Petrucci of Vixen and Lita Ford, who kept her nails short, played lead guitar and eventually sang with Ozzie Osborne. On the lighter side, Cyndi Lauper wanted to have fun, and Madonna introduced blatant sexuality, materialism, and brilliant marketing to girls for generations to come.

From my vantage point of thirty years out, I can see the blazing path that the women of the 80’s rock world opened for the females of today, yet back under the belly of the beast, I recognize manipulation of the market by the powers that be, whoever they are. Heavy Metal is still dominated by males, lyrics are often hateful and patronizing (“I like your pants around your feet”), and when a female fronts the band, it’s most often symphonic rock, and she is supplementary to an all male band. It’s still news when a woman is the lead guitarist or the band is all female. Generally, it seems as if girls and women continue to be marketing tools, one night stands, play things to be used and put away or left behind when the game is done.

It is little different in the worlds of poetry and art. There are thousands of fabulous female poets, some of whom are quite famous, yet still the names I hear dropped as the greats are Burroughs, Ginsberg, Kerouac, now with the addition of Bukowski, all of whom have been accused of misogyny, and perhaps rightly so. While this doesn’t take away from their talents, it certainly gives me pause, particularly in a world where I have heard the words, “girl poetry is not worth reading” come from the lips of lesser writers.

After all these reflections, I come back to the question that brought me here. Although Barry Miles coffee table book Hippie is a fairly exhaustive exposé of the youth movements of the mid to late 1960’s and very early 1970’s, there is little reference to the work done by females, particularly in the areas of poetry and visual art. Is it simply because a crowd of 7,000 would not fill a hall to hear the works of female poets at the time, as they did for William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Adrian Mitchell, and a host of others, all of whom were male?

We’ve come a long way since the 1960’s in many ways. Yet in the area of the arts, where talent and appeal should trump gender, there are still few females who come to mind as “household names.” One would think that there has been progress, when the whole country mourned the recent passing of poet and author Maya Angelou. One would think…until one finds that there are some who would detract from the value of her work by debating – just days after her death – her right to call herself “Doctor” based on having received around 30 honorary degrees over her lifetime.

By the way, I am a girl poet. I have written a lot of crap that’s not worth reading. I’ve also written a few things that are worth reading. Pretty much like any other writer, even the men.

In Mind

There's in my mind a woman
of innocence, unadorned but

fair-featured and smelling of
apples or grass. She wears

a utopian smock or shift, her hair
is light brown and smooth, and she

is kind and very clean without

but she has
no imagination

And there's a
turbulent moon-ridden girl

or old woman, or both,
dressed in opals and rags, feathers

and torn taffeta,
who knows strange songs

but she is not kind.

Denise Levertov, 1964

By Heart, With Faith

I decided to go ahead and sign up with Linked In.  Not sure why, but for some reason it seemed expedient at the time.  I became a member of a Linked In group for "Spiritual Writers."  The first post I read was one man's question about how, as a spiritual writer, one reaches atheists.   This one question led to a thread that was unbelievably argumentative between some rather more conservative Christian writers, some Buddhists and Universalists, and a couple of Christians who are more pluralistically minded.  It sure veered away from the original question!  Nevertheless, after reading through all the arguments, tedious as some became, I wanted to post my answer to the original question.  Once I did, I realized that what I had to say was at the core of my personal understanding of the Gospels and what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  It really has nothing to do with what religious tradition we choose to grow in.  It explains why I could consider myself a believer and follower of Jesus even when I walked with Wiccans and Pagans.  It explains my discomfort when faced with the multitudinous arguments about which "religion" is the best one or the right one or the only True one.  I really believe that religion is a construct of humanity. It can be a useful tool for spiritual growth and service to humankind.  A particular religion is not, however, the only way to realize our connection to the Creator and to one another.  Within Christianity, no particular denomination is the only way to follow Christ.  While some denominations stress the sacrifice of Jesus and blood atonement, others stress the resurrection of the Christ and the hope of eternal life in God, and yet others stress the teachings of Jesus in light of social justice.  Are any of them fully wrong?  Are any of them fullly right?  Are any of them any more right than other teachings that are parallel to those of Jesus?  These are rhetorical questions, by the way...my own thoughts as I struggle with the foundational structure of my own chosen denomination, the Gospels, Paul's writings and all the things I have learned of other belief systems in other cultures and the shifting understanding of Spirituality and "God" as something that transcends all understanding and all structure.  Anyway...this was meant to be a simple introduction to my sharing of the comment I made on the post.  So, here it is:

I have come to believe that while the so-called "Great Commission," recorded as being said by Jesus (but not called by that title in the texts) to preach his Gospel (i.e., the good news that it is possible to find the "kingdom of God" in this life and there is hope for all in the transcendence of death etc., etc.) and to make disciples in all the world DOES NOT mean to bash people over the head by proselytizing our particular understanding of what has come to be known as "Christianity." I believe that He meant for the Apostles and the disciples to teach others to live as Jesus lived and to follow the ONE commandment that He gave: to love the Lord with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we just followed that commandment, all other commandments would be followed by default. Not only would we be an example of Christlike living, but we would change the world. Jesus also said that whomever is not against Him is for Him (Mark 9:40). Therefore, it would behoove those who find their spirit enlivened by one of the many forms of Christianity to simply live as Jesus taught, and stop making enemies for Him. The more "atheists" and others are beat over the head with judgment by those who call themselves "Christian," the more they will choose another path, be it a "spiritual" path or not. Whichever it is, they will grow in antipathy against Jesus, all because His so-called followers cannot live the life He taught them to live.

Therefore, just write with your heart and live by your faith. All else will fall into place.

That's just my view of it, of course.

Time & Becoming

I recently read William E. Connolly’s book Pluralism, in which he introduces ideas that challenge time as a linear succession of specific events that are fixed in history.  Connolly proposes that memory and anticipation are linked to the perception of time.  His ideas are drawn from the philosophy of Henri Bergson, who proposed something to the effect that time and duration can only be perceived through intuition.  “Duration,” Connolly writes, “is this rapid flow back and forth between several layers of past and future anticipation as a perception.”[1]  In a given moment, a memory might be called up, and in the reconsidering of the event, the future might be different than it might have been had the memory not been dredged up.  The way Connolly puts is that “Duration is the flow of time as becoming.  It is waves of memory protracted into a present unfolding toward an altered future.”[2]

These ideas are not new to me.  Until the past few years, I had not heard of process theology, but many years ago, I read Stewart Edward White’s The Unobstructed Universe and Jane Roberts’ The Seth Materials, as well as a number of other “mystical” texts that explained time in a non-linear fashion.  Time is not static, but is fluid.  The past is affected by the present, and the course of the future can be changed.  This isn’t something tangible, as if one could physically go to the past and change the future à la Back to the Future; rather, it is a spiritual endeavor.  It is a construct of memory and perception.  Consider this personal example:  a female graduate student is writing a final paper while her spouse of less than a year plays guitar in another room.  The music being played was written some twenty years before, when the two were friends, married to other people.  In hearing the music, the student is virtually transported to the time in the past when she first heard it.  She reassesses the memory, for now the music that was played in the past has a new connection to the present, and the future is thus changed because there is a new emotional response associated with the original time when she first heard the music.

Burgson wrote his papers on time, duration, and free will in the 19th century.  He was not alone in his thinking.  As I readdress this line of thought, I discover connections between Burgson and the Golden Dawn, mysticism, theosophy, and me.  In my little bit of research, I discovered something that sparked a memory.  I vividly recalled reading a book when I was in my late 20’s by someone named Maitland.  It was a book about Isis Mysteries.  I understood little, but it was old, and it occurred to me that perhaps the Maitland was related to me somehow.  I have always heard that everyone named Maitland or Lauderdale were related, and Maitland was my mother’s maiden name.  Sitting at my computer from the vantage point of 2012, I was transported to a small room on Venice Boulevard, just a block from the boardwalk at Venice Beach, curled up on a mattress, cup of tea beside, reading this ancient book that I had borrowed.  I felt the cloth binding, inhaled the musty scent of yellowed pages.  I turned the pages, hardly understanding the archaic language of 19th century occultism.  I closed the book, and it was gone.  I had given it back to its owner, determined to find a copy I could have for my own so I could decipher the puzzles of this mysterious Maitland.

For a moment I sat balanced on a wall between the 21st century and my own past.  I sensed that time had changed and though a mystery was solved, a new one had been created to take its place.  Edward Maitland was a writer, humanitarian and a hermetic mystic.  He is somehow, though distantly and thinly I’m sure, related to me.  What does this knowledge mean?  Is my future somehow altered by the visit to my past?  Perhaps it is, at some level.  I am certainly not a different person because of it; but I have no doubt that I am changed, ever so slightly, by the introduction of this new information.  When I, the graduate student, was transported back to a moment when I first met my husband under circumstances that could not have foreshadowed our marriage so many years later, I knew that something changed.  There was a new emotion attached to the song that hearkened back to the first time I heard it.  That emotion, of course, was the love that I feel for my husband today.  Now that the memory of that very first time is imbued with the emotion from today, I can never go back to the original experience.  It is new, it is different, and it changed everything.

Time is not a dimension.  It is a becoming. Each memory becomes a new moment. Each moment, we become something new.  Each day becomes a new expectation, and each thought becomes a new reality.  Standing once again on the border between times, I am aware of my becoming as a reality filled with wonder and awe, helping others to find their way into a new eternity.  I expect it.  I am becoming.  I am being.  I am.

[1] William E. Connolly, Pluralism, (Duke University Press:  Durham and London, 2005) 101

[2] Ibid, 102

The Tower

In my Wiccan/Pagan past, I read tarot cards for friends, and at one time was even a "Telephone Psychic" using the Mythic Tarot deck to answer people's questions. Earlier this year, at the beginning of Lent, I began to think of The Tower.  You see, the symbolism of the card is about life changing: breaking down old ways of seeing things and interpreting events.  It's about realizing that something drastic has to happen sometimes before we can move on.  I think that the time people spend in prayer at Lent is about that very thing.  As we look into ourselves and see how we can actually change the way we respond to the world physiologically because of the way we respond psychically (or emotionally or mentally or whatever other non-physical word you feel most comfortable with), we tear down our old walls.  We allow ourselves to flow out of the tumbling bricks.  The Tower is surrounded by a moat of stagnant waters.  When the bricks fall and the gate crashes down, the moat cracks and the waters return to the greater waters, becoming something alive again.  We are all finding new ways of being alive.

As I write this, I can't help but think of its appropriateness for Lent.  It matters not that most "Christians" don't think the Tarot is "appropriate."  This card is all about Lent.  It's all about sacrifice and resurrection.  And each of us, as we seek to learn about ourselves and how we can help others with the things that we learn here are undergoing a time of sacrifice, splaying open our hearts and laying them out for all to see.  After that, what can there be, but resurrection?

I light no candles today.  I will celebrate with family and friends; I will smile and laugh as I help hand out Easter baskets at the community party at the church.  These things are temporal, they are of this world.  Though I will be fully present at these events, I must not forget that today is a day of darkness.  Christ has descended into the land of the dead.  He has not yet risen into this world.  I need to remember what life was like before Christ.  For me.  For us all.

Taken literally or figuratively, the story of Christ is the story of triumph over spiritual death, over the attitudes of those who would destroy my happiness and my hope – even if that be me.  Stories of dying and rising gods have given hope to people throughout history; the Egyptians had Osiris, the Sumerians had Innana, the Greeks had Persephone.  Each of these stories reminds us that there is a time of darkness before dawn; someone must overcome the powers of death that there might be new life.

For me, Jesus is so much more than these stories, for he walked this earth teaching his followers to live as He did, revealing the Image of God in the Love that He both lived and died for.  The story of Jesus’ life shows us that there are things worth dying for, and they are not the things of this world, but the restoration of the Image of God in our hearts and our souls.  His life is an example of the life God desires for us – a life of servanthood and giving; a life of standing for what is right; a life of sharing God’s Love with all.  His life reveals to us that though it is a simple life, it is not an easy life.  In the end, however, it is a life worth living.

Today is a reminder that the darkness must be embraced and lived through before new life can break through into a new day.  Tomorrow we will remember that though our Master Teacher Jesus died, he died that the Christ might be revealed to the world.  He died that the Holy Spirit might be known to those who accept It.  He died to show us that there was more to life than the temporal desires of our bodies.

Tomorrow, I will light the candles.


Suzy Jacobson Cherry

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