I’ve just returned from a week of camping with three of my women friends. Well, it was really more like “glamping” – water, eletricity, both ocean view and shade trees, wine and delicious meals, and time to read.
I was continuing to read Sue Monk Kidd’s latest book – The Book of Longings. I came to page 196 (in the hardcover edition), where I read about the main character named Ana, and her dream:
“I am giving birth, squatting over the hole in the corner…(the baby) slips from me into Yaltha’s hands, and I reach for her… When Yaltha places her in arms, I’m startled to see the baby is myself. Yaltha says, “Why look, you are the mother and the baby both.”
I read this passage with a lurch of recognition. This was my dream. The one I had ten years ago. The one I wrote about this past June, and referred to last week in my previous blog post:
“One day, as I walked through the woods, I was surprised to find that I was pregnant, fully pregnant, and going into labour. So I walked to the seashore where I found myself alone on a beach. I realized that I was going to have to go through labour and birthing this baby without anyone to help me, so I lay down on the sand, near the lapping waves, and proceeded to deliver my own baby. As I gathered the baby in my arms, I looked down, and was astonished to see that the baby was… me. I had given birth to another me! I had become my own mother. I could mother myself.“
Sure the details and settings are different, but the punch line of the stories is the same.
Maybe this is some kind of archetypal story that I read somewhere and then processed through my dreams. Have any of you readers come across this mother-birthing-herself story before?
There are more layers of synchronicity involved with this woo-woo moment, that I won’t get into here, but they definitely got the hairs on the back of my neck prickling.
However this came about, the timing is pretty cool. It sure got my attention, and it made me smile.
When I heard from my friend Rebecca that Sue Monk Kidd had a new book, The Book of Longings, I ordered it right away. The first morning I sat down to begin reading, I encountered two quotes on the page before the first chapter. I was so taken by these quotes that I had to pause and consider them. They were new to me and yet familiar. They shone like the next stepping stones of my journey.
First, this from The Thunder: Perfect Mind (an ancient Coptic poem)
“I am the first and the last
I am she who is honoured and she who is mocked
I am the whore and the holy woman
I am the wife and the virgin
I am the mother and the daughter
I am she…
Do not be afraid of my power…
I am the knowledge of my name
I am the name of the sound and the sound of the name.“
Then, this from the Gospel of Thomas:
“Knock upon yourself as on a door,
and walk upon yourself as on a straight road.
For if you walk on the road, you cannot get lost,
and what you open for yourself will open.”
I was reminded of the powerful dream I wrote about a few weeks ago (June 26,2020 post)
This dream was about discovering that I was giving birth to myself (I am the mother and daughter), and re-inventing my own life (Knock upon yourself as on a door).
Now I really wanted to read on! The story follows the life of Ana, who was destined to become the wife of a young Hebrew man named Jesus. (Intriguing…)
As a girl she is considered to be a misfit and a disturbance. “I’d long been able to read and write, and I possessed unusual abilities to compose words into stories, to decipher languages and texts, to grasp hidden meanings, to hold opposing ideas in my head without conflict.” Ana wrote the stories of the women that were not represented in the traditional scriptures.
This reminded me of an idea I heard recently – “Write your own Bible”. What!? Is that allowed?
Once I accepted the idea that the Bible is not the actual words of God (there was no magic tape recorder at the Sermon on the Mount), I could appreciate the writings as they are- the words of the people of God, with all of their human limits and weaknesses, in a time very different from our own. A time in which women’s stories were even more under-represented that now. Some sacred texts, such as the ones above, were not chosen to be included in the Christian Canon. Who made those decisions? The men of the Church of Rome.
Hmmm. Maybe it is time to write my own personal bible – just for me. By that I mean I can create my own collection of sacred texts that speak to me, as a woman, sister, daughter, wife and mother; as a woman who reads and writes and makes art and music; a woman who seeks wisdom, beauty and inspiration; and who questions and challenges the status quo. I can look beyond the traditional scriptures, beyond the Christian Canon, and collect the ideas and wisdom of women and men who inspire me, no matter what their faith tradition.
Gail sent us this link to a video made at the Boston University Theo-poetics Conference in 2016. I had never heard of Marie Howe or theo-poetics. Thankfully I took the time to listen, and was immediately engaged and intrigued, both by her poetry and her commentary.
Regarding her own discovery of theo-poetry she says, “Poetry didn’t have answers, but had companionship, and could hold the questions themselves, without having to resolve them into answers, into dogma.”
She also quotes 13th century theologian Meister Eckhart: ” We are all meant to be mothers of God…for God is always needing to be born.”
YES, YES! I feel the need to draw this idea somehow, so that I can take it in more thoroughly.
(The video is 1hr16min long, so it takes awhile, but even a short dip into its content will reward you.)
Pat sent us this lovely contribution for today: A practice of gratitude is not about dismissing sadness, anger, fear, or confusion. Rather, it offers us the opportunity to see that we often experience multiple feelings at once; to welcome joy into the same places where we hold grief; to turn our attention to what is quietly growing and breathing day by day, which, to our possible surprise, includes ourselves. KRISTIN LIN Gratefulness.org
Yesterday evening I spotted this wise words on a poster in the window of Fig Love Clothing in downtown Nanaimo. We were on our way to get ice cream.
It was a timely reminder to me. I had, just that morning, turned to my journal to help me process some uncomfortable feelings that I was experiencing. In the quiet of those moments, as I wrote my unfiltered observations of my thoughts and feelings, I did indeed come to some new understanding, for which I am very grateful.
I once found a dead Anna’s hummingbird in our garden. As I picked it up I thought the head was brown, but as I turned it in the sunlight, it became breath-taking; an iridescent mixture of fuchsia, purple and green. The beauty was invisible until I made ever so tiny turn of my hand. There are so many lessons there, including – on the rewards of changing your point of view, even slightly.
I’ve just begun reading an interesting book called, Women Who Read are Dangerous, by Stefan Bollman
Great title, right? And the cover image had me instantly engaged. It is a survey of the history of art depicting women reading. Who could resist?!
On the first page of the introduction I encountered the suggestion that Eve and Pandora may have been predecessors of women who read. Huh?
OK Wikipedia – what do you have to offer?
“Each (Eve and Pandora) is the first woman in the world; and each is a central character in a story of transition from an original state of plenty and ease to one of suffering and death, a transition which is brought about as a punishment for transgression of divine law.“
“It has been argued that it was as a result of the Hellenisation of Western Asia that the misogyny in Hesiod’s account of Pandora began openly to influence both Jewish and then Christian interpretations of scripture. The doctrinal bias against women so initiated then continued into Renaissance times. Bishop Jean Olivier’s long Latin poem Pandora drew on the Classical account as well as the Biblical to demonstrate that woman is the means of drawing men to sin.“
Pandora was a myth that pre-dates Eve. In that myth Pandora is held responsible for all of the sins of mankind, including the seduction of men. Isn’t that interesting? It reminds me of the deflection of male responsibility that we still hear today: “That girl was asking for it – look at the way she was dressed. What was he supposed to do?!”
And what about Eve? I’ve never really taken a good look at Eve’s story. You know, Eve, from the Bible, mother of all humans.
I always thought of it as a myth, although I knew people who took the story literally. Before I was introduced to the work of Joseph Campbell*, I didn’t really appreciate the importance of myth. To me, a myth was a fairy tale, and as such, the details, messages and symbolism were lost to me. Now, I see that fairy tales are also myths. They illustrate important teaching, principles, and values of a culture.
Taking a fresh look at Eve’s story, in 2020, I wonder what principles it illustrates.
Clearly Eve was a woman with an active, curious mind and she hungered after knowledge. When Eve went after the knowledge that was literally dangling from the Tree of Knowledge, in the form of an apple, she was being disobedient. This disobedience made Eve responsible for the very first sin (Original Sin), making her the mother of all sin; AND leading Adam, and the rest of humankind astray. WHAT! How’s that for a misogynist message?!
*I was first introduced to Joseph Campbell’s work through a PBS series by Bill Moyers, called The Power of Myth. Here’s a snippet:
A continuation of an imaginary conversation with Diana Butler-Bass based on her book Grounded.
Me: As you say, Diana, the world of my childhood Christianity was a three-tiered universe. Looking back it feels a bit like believing that the earth is flat:
1. Heaven= God’s home, with all the angels and saints, where we look for divine assistance and guidance.
2. Earth= where we all work out our daily lives, striving to reach the bliss of heaven and fearing banishment to eternal hell. Oh yes, and where Jesus came down to meet us in person.
3. Hell= a burning lake of fire, eternal banishment from God and all that is good; where we will end up if we are not “saved”.
We did not question this view of reality because it was not safe to question. After all, doubt could lead you to an eternity in Hell.
So, Diana, now it is 2020 – where are we now?
Diana: The case could be made that the first years of the twenty-first century could be called the “Age of anxiety” or the “Age of Fear”…
“Where is God?” is one of the most consequential questions of our times.
Conventional theism is at the heart of fundamentalism and depends on the three-tiered universe. But we now live in a theologically flattened world – we have discovered that we are fully capable of creating the terrors of hell right here and no longer need a lake of fire to prove the existence of evil – and we have found that the ranks of saints and angels seem to have thinned and that no deity will be sending miracles to fix the mess we are in.
Is there another option between fundamentalism and a deceased God?
I think so.
If hell has moved in next door to us, perhaps heaven has as well.
Me: If heaven is right here, of our own making, then perhaps God is also right here – within each of us, and within the birds, trees and sun. Perhaps God is the force that gives us all life and love. Perhaps God is the spirit of the universe.
Me: “GOD” has become a heavily-ladened word. It is packed with centuries of baggage. Today, if you were to ask me, “Do you believe in God?”, I wouldn’t know where to start. The question has so many possible meanings. What do you mean by God? The old man on the throne in heaven? The God-man Jesus who walked the earth, died, came back, and then disappeared into heaven? The great judge of the Old Testament? The many gods of Hinduism? Allah the all-powerful and all-knowing? And what do you mean by “believe”? Intellectual assent? An alignment of values? An act of faith without proof? What I would like to be true? What I hope for?
If you were asking about my intellectual assessment of the facts, my most authentic answer would be, “I don’t know.” There is tremendous freedom and relief in that response. After all, it really doesn’t matter what I think. It’s not up to me to figure it all out. Phew!
If you were asking about my gut feelings and my hopes, I would tell you that I believe there is a force for good in the world that energizes everything. It is the Spirit of the Universe. That spirit is the thing that compels me to breathe, and trees to grow, and clouds to form and drop precious water for us. It is the creative force that spurs us on; to get up everyday and build a day. It is the spirit behind music, thought, art, dance and all shapes and forms of creativity. It is the thing that connects all of us, human and the rest of Creation. This is my belief, otherwise known (in light of the afore mentioned, “I don’t know”), as hope. And if I am wrong, so be it. I still chose to live as though it is true. How much do I know for sure? Nothing. And I’m ok with that.
Diana: A change in the conception of God is a cultural event of some magnitude…To relocate God is to reground our lives…
We now are free to customized and personalize our lives. We are making our spiritual lives as well, crafting a new theology. And a God that is far more personal and close at hand than once imagined…God is not above or beyond, but integral to the whole of creation, entwined with the sacred ecology of the universe…
This is a middle-ground revolution, in which millions of people are navigating the space between conventional theism and a secularized world. They are making a path that enfolds the mundane and the sacred, finding a God who is a “gracious mystery, ever greater, ever nearer” through a new awareness of the earth and in the lives of their neighbours.
Me: Thanks Diana. That’s helpful and inspiring. Thank you for writing Grounded.
An imaginary conversation with Diana Butler-Bass, using quotes from her book Grounded
Me: As a Baby-Boomer, I had long understood that I was a part of a large group of children, born in the post World War Two years, when the men came home from war. But I never really thought about what effect the war had had on our parents, and how the war had affected our upbringing, our culture and our view of God. How did people’s belief in an all-powerful God survive the trauma and devastation of the war?
Diana: “There had been so much death, it was too awful to consider that God was a wartime casualty as well. Soldiers wanted to get home to their sweethearts, back to houses with picket fences in small towns, back to family, church, and business. Getting back to normal was the key task for mid-twentieth-century people, even if normal was irretrievable gone.
Me: Wow – that made so much sense. A traumatized generation returned home seeking comfort, familiarity, security and affirmation. Women were sent home from the workplace and the men set about building the homes and families that they dreamed of during their tortured days and nights of the war. That was their safe place, and it included church and an all-powerful patriarchal deity.
Diana: “Revivals of religion swept through Western nations to restore order and familiarity, first in the 1950s and then again in the 1970s. The faithful baptized legions of postwar offspring, built bigger and taller temples than ever before, and exercised more influence and political power that Christianity had know since the days of Pope Innocent III – all as a testimony to God’s victory over the forces of evil and the triumph of true religion.”
Me: Yes, I can see the connection now.
I was born into the revival of the 1950s. I attended Catholic School and weekly church where I learned the about order of the universe. Then, just as I was establishing a healthy skepticism about the church, the revival of the 70s came along. I was in high school and university during that time. I was eagerly swept up in the Jesus Movement. Now I had a new sense of security and purpose.
Suddenly I can see myself as a product of world history. That’s powerful! When I look at my own life and spiritual evolution against this backdrop of war, recovery, discovery and cultural revolution, I feel a part of something larger.
What I considered my own very personal journey of discovery was a common journey for many of my generation. We were all looking for meaning, healing and connection.
Leaving the traditional church felt frightening and risky at the time. I was leaving behind my roots, my psychological safety net and my community. I was also leaving behind the cognitive dissonance that was causing me a lot of moral distress. My silence about the Church’s teaching on issues like same sex marriage was implying agreement. I did not agree. Looking back, I could see that much of my fear was actually generated by the system I was trapped in.
I saw that the Church’s interpretation of the Bible was a mug’s game. No wonder the different denominations could not agree. Scriptural passages were picked over and chosen to support the social and political agendas of the day. At that time, and in that particular church, they had chosen to overlook scriptures regarding women not speaking in church, divorce, and many others edicts that do not make sense in today’s context. They also chose to interpret and teach literalism regarding texts about heaven and hell, homosexuality, sex before marriage and creation. Who is making these choices?
Who indeed! Who were these people? Who wrote the Bible? Who chose the documents that were included and not included? Who decided that their own thoughts on paper were THE THOUGHTS OF GOD, not just their own thoughts about God? I found that once I started to question these things, the whole house of cards began to tumble down.
The Bible tells us “Man is made in the image of God.”
Maybe- God has been made in the image of man. Maybe this is the biggest and most powerful example of anthropomorphism ever!
Is there really a God? If so, it is not like man, or woman. All bets are off!