Tag Archives: Creation

Sacred Space: Finger Bones

My hands ache.

I am acutely aware of the weight and shape of every bone in my hand.

I can feel the tendons stretching and relaxing as my fingertips dance over the keyboard to write these words.  The movements, subtle though there are, carry their own slight discomfort to the pain centers of my brain.

The tenderness is unfamiliar, and irritating, and strangely welcome.

It means that I’ve actually been working.

***

These posts, in my Sacred Space series, are supposed to chronicle my efforts at building a small private temple on my property.

The tree, which I mean to carve, stands untouched.  The ground where the fire pit will eventually go, the fountain and small reflecting pool, the spiral walkways…,

It’s all still a grassy patch of nothing in particular.

The plans are there, but the time, and the will to begin, remain elusive.

***

I took half of the month of May away from my job.

Beltane was celebrated with fire and feast and a flurry of creative exertion, as I broke ground on a new workshop in the backyard.

There was digging, and then backfilling, and leveling.  Lumber and nails were unloaded and then transformed into floor and walls, and eventually many-jointed trusses arched overhead like the bones of some terrible beast.

I took a break from my job to do work, to build a place where I hope to do even more work.

And that probably seems just a little insane, in a world where vacation time is ideally spent in some sort of leisure activity – or even better, inactivity.

But while the job I go to every day puts bread on the table, it lacks true satisfaction.  I spend most of my time creating nothing, adding nothing of substance to the sum of my time on this planet.  I find, instead, that true satisfaction comes about when channeling an idea through the body and forcing it to take shape in the material world.

***

So I haven’t built my temple yet, but my workshop is almost done.

And maybe that’s not so bad, because I think a workshop is a sacred space in its own right.

The stories that my ancestors have passed down, about the gods we worship, tell us that they were not only masters of warfare, and magic, and healing.  The greatest of the gods, the ones who were heroes among their own immortal folk, were the masters of every art and craft.

At the woodworking bench, at the forge, at the loom and the wheel, wielding hammer and saw, and torch and trowel…, through hand and heart the very energy of creation is focused in the places where we make the things that will last beyond our fleeting lives.

We reshape the world in our image.

How better to honor the gods of our fathers?

***

My hands ache – and that is as it should be.

A hammer is scarred by every nail it strikes.

That is the sacrifice we make to change the world.

Even the bones in our hands can be a sacred space!

Lace your fingers together.

Do you remember the rhyme?

“Here is the church…here is the steeple…,”

This is the eleventh post in this wandering series, following the thoughts, planning and eventual construction of a small temple space on my property.  If you wish to follow along, you may see other posts in this series by clicking here.

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Filed under About this Blog, Modern Life, Philosophy, Religion, Sacred Space, Spiritual Journey, The Gods

A Comprehensive List of All the Things Entirely Yours

Today is April the 15th, and for those of us in the United States, it is the last day to file our taxes (barring all the usual extensions and other means of putting the thing off, that is).

It’s a bit of a relief really.

Mine were dealt with weeks ago, but I’ll be glad to get a bit of a break from the complaints of my friends and neighbors.  Every year we seem to greet the spring with a rising chorus of, “They’re taking my money, they’re taking my money, they’re taking MY money….,” the inference being that your property is being stolen by people who don’t deserve it.

But does money equal property?

It’s not tangible.

The paper and the coins that fewer and fewer of us carry are nothing more than placeholders, effigies of a number which itself is a representation of a highly generalized valuation of the total output of goods, services, natural resources, expectations for future development, and compounded debt (yeah, let’s not forget about the debt), that is the product of our nation.

Which is to say that a dollar is worth nothing more than what we all agree it’s worth.

Money is not property.

Money is a social contract.

It’s the stuff that we’ve agreed to use instead of trading a clutch of chickens for a bolt of cloth.

You don’t own it.  It belongs to all of us.

And part of the price we all pay for using it, is that we agree to cycle a certain percentage of that which we have accumulated back to that body which does all the printing and tabulating for us.

If you’ve every tried to drive any distance with more than a few chickens in your car, you’d be glad to pay your share.

So, having come this far, I thought that, as a bit of a public service, I should just go ahead and list those things that, unlike the mighty dollar, really do belong to you.

Perhaps you will think of other things as well.  Feel free to suggest any additions in the comments below.

Land

Yeah, no.

Land does not belong to you.  I know, I know, you payed a bundle for it, and you slapped a fence around it and posted it with all kinds of big angry ‘PRIVATE PROPERTY’ signs, but really, no.  Your little patch of earth was here for hundreds of millions of years before you came along, and will be here again when the oldest of your decedents are nothing but dust.  At most, you are a temporary caretaker of those lands to which you hold the deed.

Looked at from this perspective, it becomes clear that instead of the land servicing OUR needs, we are responsible for its care and upkeep.

If anything, we belong to the land.  And we pay for the privilege!

Property

Okay, we’ve all got our stuff.  And it’s very nice stuff.  And we’re all very proud of it.  And eventually, with the exception of a few very nice or sentimental items, every bit of it ends up in the dump.

Do you still own a thing after you’ve thrown it away?

But sure, I guess we can put property on the list, even if fleetingly.

Children

Mmmm…, maybe while they’re still in the womb.

Honestly, the whole point of children is that they’re growing away from you bit by bit from the moment you have them.

Also, like it or not, the perspective with which society views us shifts dramatically when children come onto the scene.  Because “the children are the future” and with every day that passes they become a little less ours and we become a little more theirs.

What will they do with us in our dotage?  Which of our precious things will they allow us to retain?  Where shall they choose for us to live?

Our children, indeed.

We’ll hold the little ones tight and give them all the love we can, but let us not delude ourselves into thinking of them as truly ours.

Art

Ah the power of creation which we share with the gods themselves.  To take crude matter and shape it into the stuff of dreams and nightmares.  To write and rhyme and sing our ideas into being, bringing life and light into the hearts of our fellows.

To create art is to render a piece of yourself for all to share, and what could be more your own than something that is, by definition, an expression of your inner being and talent.

But does an idea, no matter how personal, belong to the artist who renders it for all to see?

Or does it become a shared commodity, with every viewer putting a little of themselves into it, seeing reflected there their own thoughts, their beliefs and biases.

Is art property?  Or is it the most deeply personal contribution one could make to the public good?

Our Thoughts

Yes!

We all have them.

Our thoughts and dreams, our fears and ambitions…,

They are ours, they exist only within us, and if we cling to them and keep them for ourselves, we can take them with us to the grave unsullied.

Congratulations!

I wonder though, what exactly is the value of a thought unexpressed?

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Filed under Culture, Modern Life, Philosophy, Uncategorized

Mary – Quite Contrary

“It’s not that I hate the Virgin Mary, I just don’t think she deserves so much attention…,”

I think we’ve all had that moment: you are standing in a public place and you hear a snippet of conversation from the people walking by that grabs your attention away from whatever it is you were doing.  Sometimes it’s just a fragment of a sentence, an incomplete thought, that leaves you hanging, waiting for a resolution that will never come.  Or perhaps, it’s something that seemed as if it were intended for you but was not: the verbal equivalent of waving back to the stranger who you see enthusiastically gesturing at someone immediately behind you in a crowd.

And then there are those moments when you overhear a complete thought, and you know that it was not intended for you, but the concept expressed is so strange that you must restrain yourself from turning to the speaker and saying, “What!?”

The young woman behind the counter was waiting for me to order my sandwich, and I was trying to do just that, while at the same time wondering why a group of Catholic school girls standing behind me in line were talking about “hating the Virgin Mary”.  Suddenly, I couldn’t remember if I had decided on the Bacon Turkey or the Italian Combo.

Mother of God?

When I talk about Christianity in this blog, it is usually done from a perspective of “fight for your right to be different from them”.  On the whole, I try to leave discussions of biblical mythology to others who are more vested in the topic.  It is not that I don’t find their stories and perspectives interesting.  It is simply that I learned long ago that the lessons of the biblical narrative do not resonate with me.  Having spent much of my youth examining them with an ever more critical eye, I find that my spiritual path has taken me in other directions.  Aside from a few “universal truths” that all faiths may share, I see little of value to me in Christian teachings.

In fact, the most appealing elements of the Christian mythology would appear to be the ones that Christians take the greatest pains to ignore and obfuscate.

Take the case of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

On the one hand, the Catholic church has, over the centuries, taken a page from their Roman forefathers, and transformed her into something of a goddess.  She is set apart from other women through the miracles of the Immaculate Conception (which marks her as sinless), the Perpetual Virginity (meaning she remained pure in body, even after childbirth), and her bodily Assumption into Heaven at the end of her life.  None of these things are attested to in the Christian scriptures.  They simply exist as “church tradition”, handed down through the centuries.

This is a Marian Shrine built overlooking Valencia Island, near the town of Portmagee, County Kerry, Ireland.  The shrine was built over the Tobairin Holy Well which, like scores of other Holy Wells scattered throughout Ireland, would previously have been dedicated to a local goddess.

This is a Marian Shrine built overlooking Valencia Island, near the town of Portmagee, County Kerry, Ireland. The shrine was built over the Tobairin Holy Well which, like scores of other Holy Wells scattered throughout Ireland, would previously have been dedicated to a local goddess.

On the other hand, there are the Protestant churches that all but ignore her existence.  She was, they contend, but a vessel used to deliver their savior into the world.  Beyond that, she is a figure of little importance to them.  Her veneration is seen as a distraction from the mission of Christ.  Only God, through Christ, is worthy of reverence in their eyes.

But why?  Why are such extreme and contrary emotions (passionate love and scornful disregard) directed at a single young woman, who may or may not have given birth to a demigod?

Perhaps it is because Mary represents a fundamental truth that certain people are desperate to keep hidden, even if they themselves are not entirely conscious of it.

One of the great miracles of Jesus is purported to have been his ability to raise one from the dead.  Indeed, it is the core belief upon which the Christian religion is founded, that he himself returned to life after three days in the grave.  Yet, nowhere does the Bible say that Jesus is able to actually create life.  He is shown healing the sick and wounded.  He may recall the spirits of those who have passed back into the bodies from which they fled, but that’s just moving energy and consciousness from one place to another.  Throughout the gospels, nothing new is ever created by Jesus of Nazareth.

Any act of true creation needs a woman.

The Hebrew God ‘may’ have sent his son to pay, in blood, for the sins of his fallen people, but he was only able to do so through the agency of a mortal woman.

Try as they might to either dress her up as some specially created paragon of holy virtue, or dismiss her as a distraction from the more showy miracles which involve walking on water or replicating loaves and fishes, the simple truth is that the deliverance of mankind could only be accomplished through the power of a mortal woman.

They may call their god “The Father” but what is a father without a mother?

Impotent.

The power of creation requires a father and a mother, male and female principals, which in combination, produce a third.

Some may wish to argue at this point, that the first books of the Bible describe the creation of the universe by their God, alone, without a goddess anywhere to be seen.  And if the literalist view of ancient scripture is what appeals to you, you will get no argument from me.  Although I might enquire as to why you think the feminine plural pronoun is used so often in the untranslated Hebrew.

A discussion for another day perhaps.

Getting back to my point.  I would contend that we lowly humans are, in many ways, as powerful as the gods themselves.  The miracle of creation is but one of the more obvious forces at our command.

And that’s just the thing about Mary that drives certain folks to such lengths as to either ignore her altogether or elevate her to a status beyond that of mere mortal.

If a regular thirteen-year-old girl from the 1st century equivalent of a 3rd World country, can do something that their supreme deity cannot do…, well it seems like the whole enterprise is on a pretty rickety foundation.  And shoring up that foundation, keeping the faithful distracted and their own coffers flush – that’s gotta be a full time job even without all those uppity women creating life everywhere you look.

So lets shame them and put them down.  Let’s tell them that all of their worth is contained in their unbroken hymen and lacking that, they are mere vessels awaiting a mans seed.  Let us make childbirth and motherhood into commodities, to be regulated and controlled by men.

Above all, let us ignore the example of Mary, and look down our noses upon those sinful wenches who conceive out of wedlock.

There is a special kind of irony in listening to a group of Catholic school girls complain that the ‘Virgin Mary’ steals too much attention away from their Christ.

You’re quite correct girls.  She wasn’t a goddess.  She wasn’t sinless, or forever virgin, and was almost certainly not bodily transported into whatever realm your god may reside in.

She was a young woman, just like you.

Perhaps she was chosen by a god, as others had been before her.  Or perhaps not.

Either way, she had a power envied by politicians and priests for generations beyond count.  She, like you, held within her the most powerful force known to man: the power to give life.

A little something to think about on Mother’s Day.

Send your mom a card and thank her for the miracle.

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Filed under Mythology, Religion

Born in Darkness

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before…,

—from The Raven by Edger Allen Poe

We have a strange, and if I may say, somewhat backward, relationship with darkness.  We are raised, almost from birth, to be terrified of the night and frightened by shadows which lurk beyond our sight.  We populate the dark with our fears and anxieties, making of it a home for every predator, villain and devilry that our overwrought imaginations may contrive.  We strive to light our homes, our yards and streets, and when we think there may not be enough light to reach every dark corner, we bolt high powered halogen security lights onto every pole and surface we can find.  We flood the night with so much glare that the stars themselves are hidden from our sight.

We excuse this behavior by telling ourselves that we act out of self preservation.  We imagine that our ancestors gathered close around some meager blaze as they sheltered in their caves by night.  Perhaps, we tell ourselves, that those distant ancients could hear wolves sniffing about in the darkness, just outside the reach of the light, and knew that they were safe and secure within its protective glow.

In our apprehension, we have sought to extend that glow further and further, to cast light into every shadow and in so doing, to rob the night of its mystery.

Are we any safer?

And even if the answer to that question is yes, was it worth turning the night into a pallid likeness of daytime to achieve that supposed security.

I step out of my home and into the night only to find myself illuminated from almost every direction.  Looking into the drab sky which hangs above me, punctuated by a scarce smattering of pinprick lights, I find that I don’t buy into the original argument.

Men…, caves…, fire…, safety.   It all sounds very plausible until you remember that in those ancient sites where early peoples left cave art behind, those paintings NEVER appear near the entrances to the caves where the people sheltered and light was plentiful.  Instead, those sacred images were produced in the deepest, darkest most inaccessible parts of the cave.  Although we cannot know precisely what spirits may have motivated our earliest ancestors, it seems clear enough that they understood something about the darkness that we, as a culture, appear to have forgotten.

While darkness may sometimes hide danger, it is home to the most sacred of mysteries: the birth of light and life and power.

We have become so fixated upon our own journey toward some imagined darkness that we forget that we were birthed, each of us, from darkness itself.  Literally speaking, the safest, most comforting and secure time of our lives was spent in the womb.  The mystery of life begins in darkness, and though we may live out our lives in the light of the sun, it is to the comforting darkness of our beds that we return when the day is done.

In these days leading up to the Winter Solstice, the days grow shorter and shorter while the darkness of night extends to the fullest reach it shall know in the year ahead.  Our ancestors understood that the living year is born, as are we all, from a place of darkness.  They welcomed the darkness of creation, and the eventual rebirth of the sun, with feasts and gifts and sacrifice that have been passed down to us from a time beyond recorded history.

However you choose to celebrate in the coming days, I welcome you to join me in the deepest part of the longest night of the year.  Step out of the “safe” light of the fire for a few moments and into the darkness beyond.  Close your eyes and listen to the sounds of the night around you.  Feel the breath of mystery upon your cheek.

And when you are ready…,

Open your eyes and peer deep into that darkness,

Not fearing, but wondering;

Not doubting, but dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before!

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Filed under Culture, Holidays, Philosophy, Spiritual Journey