Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mothers' Day

I have to quickly bury that first post, since it clearly breaks the rules of not trying too hard to form something. And it's Mothers' Day, sunny out, spring-like.

Mothers' Day is safely this side of religious mystery, but also safely the other side of Hallmark foolery. (I'm not so sure about Fathers' Day, which seems more like PC reciprocity).

I'm a plainly anti-religious type, who is plainly offended by people who insist on literal readings of sacred texts, and who attempt to offer proofs that rule-following behaviors actually result in cosmic responses. I get really really offended when people pray for rewards, as when athletes offer prayers before or after significant plays. I smugly suppose that the only valid prayer would be the one for More Light, and a kind of openness to whatever the cosmos has in response, since I do find in my own life that I get the response I'm looking for, and am often just too plain grumpy to see the one I need.

So, that's by way of exposing myself. But there is that other side of me which plainly envies the belief of those who pray, apparently successfully, to Jesus. And I am equally offended by smug atheists, who rule out any possibility that there is some undiscovered (perhaps even undiscoverable) cosmic structure which rewards faith with actuality (actual faith, with actual truth).

But that sticks me in this over-intellectual limbo. I guess I have lots of company here. I want to intellectualize the Jesus story, for one, to make it a kind of 'as-if', so that Jesus was a man, at that crossroads point in cultural development, who spelled out human responsibilities for otherwise pre-conscious humans who were used to following less justified rules and voices.

The story in any case has not just incredible staying power, but actual transformative power. Sure, one has to dig though the Hallmarkian overlays of the institutional Church to get at what is true there. But even that -- those dogmatificatons of a simple story, and those reifications of tales whose morals needed to be rung out, and those proprietary mystifications to make appropriations into expropriations and thereby bloody -- even that may have been somehow necessary to keep the tale alive. In any case, the accomplishment is so astonishing, as to be very much an act of 'as-if' God.

My particular limbo is almost by definition infinite, since I won't accept any literalization of what I stand apart from, regarding as metaphor from my privileged remove anything others claim to see, but which I can't measure. I have a hard time granting that pious athlete his credit for simply humbling himself -- withdrawing ultimate credit from himself, despite his creditable hard work to earn it. And that exposes my flaw.

I think there was a time when I would be so cruel as to ridicule those who would purchase their sentiments from a greeting card rack. That was back when I was proud of having never eaten McAnything. Come to think of it, I was also proud of never using plastic for purchases. How ground down I have become! Today, I will almost surely spend absurd amounts of time scouring the racks for a suitably inoffensive card, just so that I can get credit, in terms which don't mark me so much as a crank, for having thought about Mom (and even my ex, the mother of my kids). And I will almost surely pay with plastic, without which I would really be marked (by a lifestyle found behind food co-op counters, say).

I feel lazy! I should have the energy to live more consciously. I should recover the strength to recognize Mom the way I used to, with evidence of more genuine thought and feeling. And I should live more off the grid. But I have been ground down, and worn out. Jaded? Spoiled? I simply haven't the time and space to think about it, much less to do anything about it. And now, finally, I fear and even know that I have lost the actual feeling. That this grinding down is more like a co-option into something plain wrong and opposite from where Jesus meant to lead us.

My conviction these days is that humanity is not a grant. Sacrilegiously, that we are not endowed with a holy spirit. Rather that humanity is something toward which we can only aspire, and that in order to do so, we must act very much 'as-if' our fellows (if not ourselves) have been endowed with humanity.

So, Happy Mothers' Day Mom! As with church attendance (can't do it!), I rehearse something which I know I still do feel, or perhaps once did feel with enough certainty to propel this promise into eternity. I am glad for the day. It keeps me from falling farther still.

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