04 December 2008

"Heaven Forbid" by Gosha Gibek.)

Dear Drummers,

I’d like tor remind you about my Winter Solstice event at Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality. Click here for tickets. We had a rehearsal last night, and I am telling you, this show is going to be amazing.

At work today I asked a new employee if I could take his picture for a communications piece I was producing. He did what everyone one does when I ask to take their photo: cringed, and sheepishly said, okay. I started my usual speech trying to make him feel comfortable, and he let me speak for awhile but then quietly interrupted me and said it’s not that he’s embarrassed, it’s that is religion doesn’t really allow him to have his photo taken. He would have done it if I had insisted, which of course I did not. This experience made me wonder: what does my religion forbid me to do?

Well, first off, I don’t have a religion. I have a “spirituality” but I definitely not a religion, which is a heavy word. In fact the roots of the word religion are “to bind.” Spirituality comes from the word Spirit, which is the Latin word for breath: diaphanous, ephemeral, free.

All religions sprout from culture. I don’t think we invent God, as Freud asserted. There is something more mysterious about the universe than simply humans fantasizing about a Creator. But it is clear that in every corner of the world, our concept of God sprouts from our culture, which is rooted in our physical landscape. It is our time and place that offers us our vocabulary and imagery for God.

I am well aware that my God, my religion, sprout from the soil of 1960’s America, watered with fear of “the Man” and his institutions and fertilized with feminism and her freedoms. And this is why I have spirituality (breath) rather than a religion (the ties that bind).

But a question nags at me today: I know what my spiritual life calls me to do, what it calls me to try to be like. But does my spirituality call me away from anything? Does it ask me to deny anything of myself? Does it forbid me anything? I am finding that this is a very good question for me to ponder and so I offer it to you as well.

When religion forbids, is this the sign of some corrupt authority holding onto power? Is it a holdover from an older superstition that no one has dared to think through now in modern times? Or is it possible that a religion cannot be a truly deep one without stating injunctions against certain things? Once in seminary a professor said that any religion that does not seriously wrangle with sin is not a religion but a hobby. I walked away offended but I think he was right (and that’s probably why I was offended).

Can spirituality only call us to “the Good” or must it also warn us away from the evil? But not only warn, for that is a suggestion. I am talking about the power to forbid.

I’m thinking about this because on the Celtic wheel of the year we are heading into the direction North, which is associated with spiritual battle. And I’m thinking about the great Celtic warrior-hero Cúchulainn. In the Celtic world many heroes have a geasa, or taboo, laid upon them. Cúchulainn’s fate is sealed by his breaking of his geasa against eating dog meat. But in early Ireland there was a powerful general taboo against refusing hospitality, so when an old crone offers him a meal of dog meat, he has no choice to break his personal geis or break the cultural gies. He eats the meat, is made weak, and dies in battle soon after.

I am also thinking about a conversation I had once with a Rabbi who said that the laws of Judaism, which some people think of as too many and extreme, actually make him feel free. He knows exactly what he cannot do and therefore he does not spend energy contemplating these possibilities. For him, freedom comes from being firmly bound.

So, back to the question. What in my spiritual life binds me and thus frees me? What are my taboos? On Friday we will explore the topic of Spiritual battle. But not before we have a whole lotta thumpin’ stompin’ whompin’ fun.

No comments:

Post a Comment