KICKING SACRED COWS
During the night I jotted down a few poems which I was inspired to pen and thought to present as part of a poetry hub. I’d planned to look into my notebooks for other poems penned in the past to augment a poetry hub along the theme of "examining verities from time to time to see if they still are" - a line from my very first webpage 13 years ago.
That theme happens to have been a natural tendency recurring in me since childhood. An early substantial memory of it was times I mentally questioned why the songs in the hymnal received such reverence while any other kinds of music, even if it sang of spiritual things, was prohibited in the sanctuary. What made those hymnal songs "sacred"? I wondered.
I loved the music at church, especially the pipe organ, and I liked to sing. I amused myself during dry sermons by "reading" the hymnal, if truth be known. I mentally "played" or sang the notes sometimes, trying to sing the "parts" as well as the melodies which the sopranos usually carried.
I noticed the names of composers, lyricists and dates of writing each of the hymns were printed out on the top left side of the title lines for the songs. Most dates were fairly current,in my own century, though a few went back a century or so. But none of them was dated between the years 1 and 33 AD! This made me question the possibility that they'd been decreed as the exclusive music choices for Christian worship. That seemed perfectly all right, but by what stretch of the imagination were these so much more sacred than any others?
If those songs which were written as recently as a few years before I was born were OK, then what was so wrong with so-called "secular" music which had encouraging things to say about one's spirit and exhorted folks to treat others befitting a Christian spirit? There was a song - "I'll Walk With God" - which I've always especially liked but it was written for a Broadway musical. Its message seems quite acceptable but it wasn't "approved", though certainly it's as spiritual as "In The Garden", - which I also loved and which was my mother's favorite and which is in the hymnal. Maybe the Broadway composer wasn't affiliated with the right denomination - or even maybe not even the right faith or even maybe with none! After all, the song really doesn't pinpoint those details. I guess it just won't do to just name god without more details! Might be damaging somehow or lead some innocent astray.
In earlier years, at Vacation Bible School, we sometimes were led in singing one called "Two Little Blackbirds" and I NEVER have figured out what that one had to do with anything, in or out of worship. " Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill, one named Jack and the other named Jill. Fly away, Jack, fly away Jill, Come back Jack, come back Jill . . ." and then it was repeated as a second - or third stanza along with some hand movements such as used to entertain infants. But this wasn't a babysitting room while the grownups were in worship, though - it was a "class" for learning about all tthat. Puzzling - very. I kept mulling it over and wondering if something were wrong with me!
I was really confused when the Junior High age Sunday School class seemed mostly devoted to the kids' in the classes talking about the parties and dances they'd attended over the weekend. The teacher seemed more apt to key into those discussions than to answer a timid but serious question about faith which - that one time - I had the temerity to venture. I guess I was still of a mindset that "classes" and "schools" had to do with learning things and clarifying any confusions about them. Whew! Was I living in never-land or what?!
I almost never recovered from the embarrassment, in fact. The aghast looks on the shocked faces of both the teacher and the other class members when I asked my little question convinced me that this was no place to talk about faith and related subjects, even if the sign on the lawn strongly suggested it would be! I certainly didn't have that much first-hand experience with parties and dances, quite frankly, so I felt somewhat as if I'd been dropped out of a space capsule into some kind of unintelligible planet for which I had no affinity or training (nor it for me), although I really had been trained or so I'd thought.
But after that, I just kept my thoughts mostly to myself and reverted to observing the inhabitants as had been my main choice around our dinner table at home where older and wiser heads prevailed. Meantime, I continued to ponder and try to make sense of stuff, and not altogether in vain, I might add, though I must admit that some of my conclusions might have caused even more aghast responses had I shared them too! I still tend to keep them to myself and have only fairly recently begun to present them. I don't want to cause trouble or to make anyone who is sure of everything question it! But I'm getting too mature to fret too much about it if I should ruffle any feathers or alarm any security systems guarding the status quo!
But now, on this particular morning - (and after all, the date is 10-10-10) - and for these and various reasons, now I’m not so sure that this hub can possibly be just some more of my poetry, exclusively, or that I'll even look further for additional poetry for it than the couple of poems I just penned in the wee hours of this date!
I must warn, though, that the entire hub begins to have earmarks of becoming a bit of a rant, and may contain some of the self-worked-out explanations to some of the unanswered questions of my youth.
One thing it isn't: It's not intended to castigate any beliefs or opinions, but simply to open a window for a fresh breeze and respond from my heart rather strongly to comments brought forcibly to my attention this day by someone on a public media whose opinion vehemently castigates those of many others of our fellow travelers on this planet in this or any other day.
I make no attempt to say whose opinions are right, if any, but merely to point out that the claims to be unquestionably right are certainly up for reasonable questioning. When the unreasoning behind such proposals is that people have no right to our opinions, (as if we could stop them if we wanted to much less relinquish our rights to them), is averred by another human person in the process of making adamant declarations of HIS opinion of it, it attempts to strip people of part of themselves as surely as mental castration and does this surgery - or attempts it - by claiming that HIS opinion is an exception by reason of not being his own, but the creator's, allowing him to claim it as being exclusively right above and beyond question or any one else's!
Two little blackbirds make - at least - that much sense! One can see why children are given that anomaly to sing so they'll be more accustomed to absurdity as they grow into the system.
Out of Darkness' ruts and murk,
It rises up from
It knows the way to clarity.
It's rarity due only to
Sacred Cows' impeding
Thoughts more brave to stave
The Staleness' ruts and murk.
A path is swept,
A cleansing bath is drawn,
For truth and love and light,
To shine about,
To end the grip of Ignorance
On earth's long tortured night.
______© Nellieanna H. Hay
So, then - It may have been mere coincidence but this Sunday morning I turned on the TV to catch the weather forecast for today and for this upcoming week when I know I MUST put nose to grindstone and get my taxes finished and turned in under the deadline! Not sure whether clear weather or rain would help - but of course, - I definitely need no power outages which could result from unexpected thunderstorms!
In any case, the channel which had been ongoing when last the tube was used - fired up immediately and the programming in progress was well into a cyber sermon in which the guy was saying "YOU DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT TO YOUR OPINION, not if you believe in . . etc.!" I was too stunned to switch to the weather immediately! I needed to see how he was going to top that!
He went on to explain what it was that HE THOUGHT about it and to mock and make fun of anyone who qualifies any strong personal OPINION in regard to his beliefs, applying to the delivery for the sake of common courtesy at least language to make it somewhat bearable. He pooh-poohed that approach as spineless - or worse - and admonished believers to declare as adamantly as he was doing, without any regard for others’ opinions and sensitivities - and without any sort of softening qualifications of what they believe or crack in the wall of certainty, (so long as it agrees with what this preacher believes, being implied). wow. He topped himself, for sure.
Now, I respect people's beliefs. I even understand and share a few of them. I've had training in depth of the belief system this guy was advocating. Nothing wrong with that on the whole. I’ve also read and studied other belief systems, many equally dogmatic and stony.
I’ve known one Christian minister who dared to give serious ear to an oriental belief system which he knew intimately, having been both an art student and a missionary as well as mastering the Japanese language there, where he gleaned insight to recognize a rich spiritual value in their culture with which he hoped to enhance his own sermons. When he returned to the states and his own congregations, however, he was almost literally ridden out of town on a rail for daring to suggest such a thing! So much for considering anything ELSE. This morning's TV sermon's message was not unique in that in fact.
But is it - must it be beyond people’s grasping to realize that if one thinks something, it IS opinion, and it IS personal opinion? It has been personally thought out or else it has come into one's awareness in the form of thought presented by someone else from some personal perspective or from a group's explanation and interpretation of some other opinions previously postulated. And then it has been accepted and adopted individually and personally via whatever personal capacity to accurately interpret and understand meanings in order to make a decision about it. It may then become adopted as a PERSONAL "experience" or revelation, ignoring the process of sorting through it and weighing it against the personal background, interest, sense of "need", or any other PERSONAL device for forming OPINIONS and espousing causes.
The result is that the person has finally chosen it as a valid and acceptable personal opinion or interpretation, as opposed to a vast array of others which may or may not have crossed his field of awareness and may have escaped notice, and therefore either acceptance or rejection. Such a supreme presumption! - to insist on having been singled out for the ONLY valid information imparted among millions of souls and which somehow was simply poured into one's consciousness unexamined by oneself, directly from god!
But choices are inevitably made regardng "what" TO BELIEVE and what not to believe, which already puts them at risk of being less that correct to the extent claimed. These are personal choices, though often made under considerable duress, it seems. Once made, THEN the chooser may justify the choices as being handed out by divine decree to him/her as one of the lucky ones.
Once accepted, then, if it involves a moral code of behavior, it may even be observed "in action", so long as the person is diligent, doesn't backslide too observably and is good at keeping occasional deviations or backslides out of the limelight; or else is inclined and good at making a big deal out of periodlc public confessions, so as to clean the slate and then proceed back out into next week's realities to repeat the procedure. There is no limit on repetition of this process. I know a person who "goes up front" and confesses EVERY Sunday. One would think a new pattern would eventually click in, unless the standards are too impossible to reach - in which case, perhaps it’s less her fault if she can’t live up to them than it is their fault for setting the bar too high. Or perhaps she has too high an interpretation of the requirements. One must admire such dedication and diligence, I guess. It would be gratifying, though, if it seemed to "take" a little more each time in actual everyday practice! Or at least to accept the limitations of one's own perfectabiltiy and to actually rely on god's grace to overlook them!
But civilization has been built upon such motivations, conquering more of the basic primitive urges we may have shared with the "lower animals", though at times one wonders who's the lower! But we can't fault such progress, I suppose. Still, one wonders how it is that the very same sequence of misbehavior is still so rampant, given the longevity and adamant persistence of these singularly true and irreproachable tenets for most of the historic occupation of man on the planet? It's a "puzzlement" - as the King said to Anna.
But in the process, how is it that the personal OPINIONS one has accepted "in good faith" seem to become bold-faced declarations from an all-powerful, loving creator and the human declarers claim theirs to be the the ONLY possible, everlasting, correct ones leaving no doubts whatsoever? At least one would suppose that being vessels of such wisdom might have improved the world a mite! Oh, yes, not to forget, - that question has a built-in catchall reply, which is that another high power over the planet with opposite goals and principles - the Devil - gets into the action. So when things go amiss as they often do, "the devil made it happen". Certainly no one else is responsible! And if some other group claims to have THE god in their back pockets, why - that's probably the Devil masquerading to deceive the poor misguided heathen.
Doesn’t it ever occur to people that really these credibility-stretching assumptions may not be so, at least not in total? -and that others' OPINIONS (which they also think are the ONLY valid ones) are at least statistically as possibly valid as the one held by oneself? Isn’t it possible that somehow all these OPINIONS may have some kernels of truth but none has all the truth, more than likely and that man in his foolishness HAS stumbled across truths none of which explain EVERYTHING?
Of course in order to be so bold as this morning’s cyber preacher and not be accused of supreme egomania, the personal OPINIONS must be delivered as not having derived as creations or from observations of one's own but as coming straight from god, making it imperative for any others’ personal OPINIONS to be severely denied the right to BE or coexist. Never mind that many other equally adamant opinions circulating the globe claim the same source just as adamantly and with as much certainty, though with different names for god, which is not too surprising in other lands with other traditions and languages. Names are merely symbols of whatever they mean to convey (not the reality of the entity itself which simply IS regardless of the name we may assign to it for our own convenience in thinking and in speaking of it) and so there are, of course, different words for the same entity, even for people agreeing that they are referring to the same entity they perceive in their heads, so when switching languages from one to the other that entity is perceived and conveyed by ether word! Why, then, is it so difficult to conceive of a supreme being whose IS-ness may be named differently in different cultures and conceived of a little differently as well, in keeping with their own heritage and imagery? We don't all have access to the same imagery for visualizing these things, which may be why it's best to just omit images and focus on the qualities.
That others don't think to at least find out about our god, how we visualize and name the diety, so as to be able to call theirs’ a name in their languages which can be claimed as simply translations of ours for the god who is claimed to be the one and only - is it a serious error on their part or is it on our part? Or - or - or - are all names for the diety amiss? And who in the world has the facts here? Not I.
In any case one can notice or deduce that often the main messages and systems supposedly delivered by the different presentations of god sound suspiciously similar! Most all have half the populations, men, as the masters and a select few - priests (almost invariably men) as the all-powerful keepers of the purse-strings, with a small group of elite male advisers supporting their authority, if not ready to do battle or at least declare unfitness for any deviation from the proclaimed dogma,- give or take a few current conditions affecting the basics and the details one way or the other. I mean - it does seem that the female half of the populations in some areas may be so naturally threatening to their men’s position of authority that they must be kept subdued with greater diligence and covered from head to foot in heavy dark garments, barely able to peek out and see where they’re going, much less what is going on. Almost seems a case of "methinks thou doth protest too much!" Scared rather than sacred is what it appears, much less the faithful carrying out god's instructions.
This morning's preacher fellow also went so far as to claim that this dogmatism he advocates is a big draw for others into the fold, rather than turning them off, as those with a softer delivery argue. Well, sure. There are lots of folks walking around who PREFER blind validation to having a reaching searching open mind of their own! It spares them the huge burden of responsibility for their own actions and frees them to act as they wish so long as they follow the rules and confess when they goof up, including failure to submit usury to the coffers, or stepping out of the "party" line or questioning their children's singing about blackbirds in bible school. Let me add that the term "party line" has had special meaning for me ever since Junior High Sunday School. "Dance program" seems fitting too.
It's ok if they want to think that. In spite of the preacher's declaration to the contrary, people do have personal choice in what they accept and buy into!
What seems absurd, though, is the extreme to which this kind of believing is willing to go in order to assure itself top billing all over the planet! Or is it that these sweeping assertions are made in a desperate attempt to bolster up and to keep up the front of unwavering rightness - and so, the automatic wrongness of everything and everyone who doesn't agree totally?
To me - unguided as I am - it would seem that god to whom they ascribe their opinions really needs no such "help", although within the system, that question has been provided an easy answer, too. It's claimed that god chose mere mortals to speak for him. And as though to be certain this seems plausible, this entire belief system was supposed to have been spread and accomplished by the "foolishness of men". I just hardly know what more need be said or done except a modicum of humility along with the foolishness, perhaps?
I don't prefer to kick any sacred cows but sometimes it's tempting, especially when they are being big bullies.
In the Now,
No Sacred Cow
I'll not avow
What I can't know,
No formula invades.
I'll not deny the truth I feel
Though I dream and hope and
Wander through Elysian fields
Where enlightenment steals
And carries me o'er yonder.
But I come back home
To Earth to roam
So long as I dwell here,
Feet on the ground;
To LIVE my life,
This vital time around.
______© Nellieanna H. Hay