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Archive for March, 2010

The God of the day today is the God of presence amidst mind numbing boredom. This is the God who wages peace with traffic stopped at stop lights, three hour work meetings, and writing the content for the wedding website my fiance and I are diligently trying to do.

This is the God who I am beseeching right now, while the opposing God (the God of the seduction of mindless entertainment, whose current Avatar is the internet tv series Clark and Mike) is currently wooing me!

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I have been wanting to write about this forever, and I guess this is the night!

I’ve been reading the blog “Slacktivist”, which is the writing of an evangelical socially- liberal Christian. I think perhaps you might enjoy his writing as well? Or, possibly, you will not enjoy it. Hard for me to say, really, but you should check it out, just in case!

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A friend of mine recently said that religion resonates in the same part of us that poetry does- a non-literal part, an imaginative part, a creative narrative part. I think my friend is a genius on this matter, and it’s led me to think about the creativity of religion, which so often gets wrung out with the attempts to prove it.

I pretty much cannot wait until we move to the next religious fad, and I pray to God (who I think more or less gets what I am saying here, and doesn’t hold it against me) that it’s polytheism. Aren’t we due, really, for some household gods? And honestly- I have to admit, it’s a cognitive stretch for me to contemplate that the same God who has his eye on the sparrow and counts all the feathers on it’s head is also the same God who is busy creating universes whole cloth, and also is the same God I mutter an urgent “Holy crap, please let me defeat physical reality by catching my bus on time even though I just woke up and the bus will be at the bus stop in eleven minutes, please please please!” plea to on the unfortunately not rare enough occasions that I sleep in. Not to mention that it would be pretty awesome, really, for the big three religions if, instead of fighting over the attributes of God (which *must* really annoy God!) we could all be released to just actually draft different versions of Gods.

Some Gods I’d like to initiate:

The God of the things my cat sees when she is staring out the window at nothing at all, but very intently.

The God of almost always missing that last step, but still not falling on your face.

The God of forgiveness for uncomfortable conversations on the elevator.

The God who watches over long ago boyfriends so you can stop obsessing over them.

The God who got you through 8th grade, somehow.

The God of finding your tax returns at the last minute.

The God of finding beautiful, soul connecting random passages when looking over strangers shoulders at the books they are reading on the bus.

Etc.

Frankly, I’d like to see a world where instead of killing each other over A God (and/or his non-existence), we could all instead engage in a Marketplace of Gods, where we get to barter and engage in all sorts of religious intercourse and bidding and etc over our various incarnations of diety.

It just seems, potentially, endlessly more fun.

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Close to my house is a bicycle shop. It’s a place where the owner and his friends fix up old bikes to sell, and teach folks who come in how to fix up bikes- it’s a place where people in my neighborhood like to hang out, and the owner has the rare breed of charisma that makes you feel welcome and at home but also extremely honored to be in his presence. I’m not a bicyclist, and mostly I admire this from the meager distance of passing that way twice a day to and from work, or in the second hand accounts of my friends, who really, really like the shop a lot. Going there is a bit of a local sacrament, among my environmentalist, bicyclist friends. Going there is a bit of an act of sanctuary. It’s a religion I don’t belong to, and I suppose I feel a bit of the things you feel when it comes to religions you don’t belong to and are drawn to, but then also nervous about- fascination, wariness, respect but also a reservation to that respect- all at once.

Once a week, the owner opens his shop to a woman who practises punk rock yoga. Punk rock yoga is a movement by yoga instructors who are trying to break yoga out of the cultural trap of provence of wealthy, skinny white woman (or those who aspire to get there); the notion is to create a space where a wider range of people can come to practise a deeper awareness of their breathing, their bodies, their community, their spirituality. My friend B introduced me to it before she moved away to a different city; I was nervous about it, having my fair share of body unease to begin with, and also being in the midst of a serious reluctance to try new things, but B made a gentle and persuasive pitch for it, and I wanted to go with her, so I did.

I go there, not regularly, but regularly enough that I’ve begun to feel a sense of familiarity replacing the initial sense of awkwardness. I go there to try to be mindful of my body, to try to get out of my head, because I have some vague notion of the virtousness of yoga (it’s perpetually on my list of “oughts”). I go there because afterwards I feel delicious. Or, as in the case of tonight, I go there because I’ve talked it up to a good friend earlier and, while the last thing I want to do when it comes to it is move my body through a series of challenging poses for an hour, the thing I want to do even less is stand up a friend.

I go there, but, in some fit of contrariness, I’m rarely ever really mindful of the place itself. I’m familiar enough with yoga, and flexible and pretty strong, so I can do a lot of the poses without thinking too much about it. So I tend to go there and, in direct contradiction to the purpose, spend that hour and fifteen minutes thinking about the things that fill me with anxiety- problems at work, stressful friendships, worries about family or money, all the things I don’t like about myself, etc. I leave yoga feeling physically exhausted, but not particurlarly spiritually refreshed. And I leave there feeling really, really guilty about that.

Today, for whatever reason (and I suspect that the reason exists beyond my peripheral vision), I had this moment in yoga where all of that just, suddenly, drained away. It was gone and in its place I suddenly felt extremely aware- what a blessing to be in my body! What a blessing to be surrounded by women concentrating on their breathing, on their balance and their posture- what a blessing to feel my breath leave my body and float around in the room to mingle with their breaths!

It reminded me a little of other times of sudden, communal sacredness. When I went monthly to a friends sweat lodge in Ohio. Youth group as a teenager. Listening to my friend P’s band perform my favorite song in a pub. Singalongs when my friend bring banjos and battered books of protest songs from the sixties. Chaperoning youth group sleepovers and that moment of impossible exhaustion and elation that comes at 3 in the morning on an August night. Sharing a train ride across the country with a recovering alcoholic and a lady lutheran minister. As I listened to the labored inhalations and exhalations of the women around me, and my own allergy induced weeziness, and as the musician this evening (a leather faced, thin boned, white bearded gentleman playing blues on a guitar, moaning along with his melodies) strummed and hummed, in a shop filled with bicycles and smelling of grease, and with just candle light and the light from the street lights outside to illuminate, and as I stretched my body, I felt such warmth and light, and such total delight. I felt such tremendous joy, such tremendous contentment, and also, paradoxically, such a pure yearning to follow that contentment and gratitude to the heart, to find God to thank him, personally.

I tend to focus on finding God in the midst of my mistakes (God is a very frequent visitor of my messes; God seems to be a lot more patient with picking me up and dusting me off than, well, I am), or of finding God in the tiny still details of my walk home (the sudden look of clarity in the eyes of a stranger, the oh my good lord too beautiful unfurling of leaves or soft snowfall or patterns of rain), or of finding him in the grace and silences of my most intimate relationships, or in the forgiveness and gentle forgetfulness of the same, or in the least of our brethern, socially speaking, who humble me every single day. It’s wonderful when God pokes me someplace I forget to look, and say “why, hello there, I like this yoga stuff too! Why hello there, isn’t it kind of incredibly, you silly girl, that you have a body that does amazing stuff, and that so do all these other people, and that you come together to be earnest and silly in the midst of these body moving machines”? I like finding God in the midst of that ohm. I have to giggle like Hafiz when God reminds me that from a certain perspective, it’s all so much play.

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