Feeding the Beast – Toxic Masculinity and God the Father

It’s been a few thousand years now that we’ve been worshiping at the altar of the Father God. The creator, who through an act of his will  brought everything we know and all that we don’t into being. The One God to rule them all binds our Abrahamic religions like a cock ring, too small for pleasure, primed for pain. This beastly preoccupation with might and right leaves us awash in toxic masculinity, embroiled in never-ending wars both at home and abroad.

Neanderthal family

They say Neanderthals were the barbarians
So where are they now?
If this is the 21st Century
why does it feel
like the Wild West?
Wake up my brothers
before you drag your sisters down
into a cold, dark grave

Insisting on believing in a creator described only as He presents some pretty formidable challenges to our experience of life and reality.  What to do about those pesky women? Eve, as we are told, was an afterthought, yanked from Adam’s sleeping form and apparently born to raise Cain.  Puns aside, we all know she made trouble, right from the beginning.   Martin Luther knew what to do about her:

10462425-Beautiful-young-pregnant-woman-sitting-on-chair-Stock-Photo-pregnant-pregnancy-belly“The rule remains with the husband, and the wife is compelled to obey him by God’s command.  He rules the home and the state, wages war; defends his possessions, tills the soil, builds, plants, etc.  The woman on the other hand Is like a nail driven Into the wall …so the wife should stay at home and look after the affairs of the household, as one who has been deprived of the ability of administering those affairs that are outside and that concern the state.  She does not go beyond her most personal duties.”

We had God the Son for a time, preaching a gospel of kindness and peace. We saw where that got him and in these apocryphal times his word seems but a whisper. imagesMaybe it’s the Antichrist’s fault.  The Beast, evil personified and projected outward, because it’s not something that lurks within.  Hitler gained a lot of power through the mass projections of the people of the Third Reich.  While many of us don’t understand the rage that drove the German people to war, we need to recognize how our projections make it easier for us to be controlled.  All because we can no sooner admit the beast than we can admit our divine nature.  Sex and death drive the news.  If we’re not looking at boobs we’re hearing about natural disasters, mayhem and murder. When women are not fully and fairly represented, neither is life.  Nurturing professions are undervalued, teachers are unsupported and pornography and child abuse proliferates.  True intimacy can only occur when love abides, between people and within each of us.

It’s time to withdraw our misguided projections and honor the divine and the animal aspects of our nature.  We create the world we live in every day of our lives. Perhaps God is not so very distant, after all.

Whose Eyes?

Whose eyes are these,
blinking the world into being?
From the ground, to the air
From the ocean and deep below
Whose eyes are those?
That dog, love shining in his eyes,
Grandma chasing her little girl
Street eyes, turned inside
Eyes, searching mine
to see a friend or a foe?
So many eyes, pouring
thoughts and feelings into each other
like pitchers of light
mingling laughter and tears
Streaming through the cosmos
There’s a soul of kindness inside
each and every pair.
Smile the next time you look
into someone’s eyes.
God will see you.


The Accidental Pilgrim – Part 1

New Mexico cast a spell on me thirty years ago, though I hadn’t visited in more than two decades. Waiting at the Austin Bergstrom airport bound for Santa Fe and Taos, I was looking forward to spending a week on vacation – with no agenda and good friends to see. In a sign of things to come, two days earlier a butterfly circled my head as I came home from work and landed next to me on a leaf. It crawled onto my hand when I invited it aboard and stretched the length of its humming, vibrating body onto my index finger. What a buzz, invigorating and meaningful in a way that had yet to unfold; these things are not always obvious at the time. Butterflies have come to me in times of transformation, signaling death or rebirth, both within and without.

As I waited to take off, I noticed something unusual; there were five albino children on my flight. If this were a dream I would look up albino and expect something innocent, pure and childlike to come my way, perhaps a spiritual experience of some kind. Audrianna, one of the delicately pale children of eleven, sat next to me clutching a soft, cream-colored teddy bear named Washington (after the city where they met). Our conversation was lively and we kept each other entertained until she and her companions left for Minneapolis, while I flew on to Albuquerque. Audrianna helped me to remember how much fun summer vacations are when you’re young and heading into the tingly unknown.

Driving through Santa Fe on my way to Taos, I enjoyed the bright blue skies and the wrinkled mountains rimming the horizon, but did not feel the enchantment fully until I got closer to Taos. For the next five days I crushed on the beauty of Taos, leaving many pictorial mementos on Facebook and gushing to my friends, while scanning MLS listings to see how feasible it might be to move there one day. My friends Lucky and Becky are a magical duo; we’ve had great fun in Canada, New Orleans and Port Aransas, but we all experienced Taos at another level. We went to the Pow Wow and visited Taos Pueblo where I found a beautiful butterfly kachina figure carved out of the root of an old cottonwood tree. The colorful carving portrayed the protective, guiding spirit of the butterfly arched over its human companion, both figures connected at the root. Like my guardian angel, I felt the butterfly’s touch signal the start of a new chapter in my aesthetic life, in the process of realizing myself as an artist. The monarch butterfly’s epic annual pilgrimage exemplifies this journey of (anything but) fragile beauty, led by spirit through fields and mountains of hardship, over every horizon and home to a land it knew but had not yet seen.

Taos was alive with the bright energy of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. Nurturing monsoon rains refreshed the air and the desert, bringing flowers in its wake, greening the trees and keeping the streams and brooks babbling along. The land, Taos’ friendly citizens, the healthy food and the curved, clean lines of adobe dwellings made me feel at home. Always nearby were the footprints of the Pueblo people. Georgia O’Keefe, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Dorothy Brett, DH Lawrence, and Millicent Rogers brought many artists to New Mexico, pulled by the spirit of the mountains, entranced by native art and the harmony of nature and spirit. Millicent Rogers captures her journey of spirit in a letter to her son Paul written toward the end of her life:

Did I ever tell you about the feeling I had a little while ago? Suddenly passing Taos Mountain I felt that I was part of the Earth, so that I felt the Sun on my Surface and the rain. I felt the Stars and the growth of the Moon; under me, rivers ran. And against me were the tides. The waters of rain sank into me. And I thought if I stretched out my hands they would be Earth and green would grow from me. And I knew that there was no reason to be lonely that one was everything, and Death was as easy as the rising sun and as calm and natural-that to be enfolded in Earth was not an end but part of oneself, part of every day and night that we lived, so that Being part of the Earth one was never alone. And all the fear went out of me- with a great, good stillness and strength.

As the Navajo say, “In beauty it is finished.” Perhaps I left a part of my heart in Taos, but I know I will soon return to its bright mountains and good people.

I took the high road from Taos to Chimayo, relishing the mountains rolling into the desert, the villages sprinkled along the way, the peace and light. Bright white light shines from the spine of the red earth into the hills and mountains of New Mexico. I’ve been to the Sierra Blanca and the Sandia Mountains but this was my first visit to the Sangre de Cristo range in northern NM. I talked a little about Chimayo in my dining post but the experience of visiting the sanctuary, seeing the little shoes left by pilgrims for the baby Jesus, the crutches wired to chain link fences – that’s a horse of a different color. I am open to mysteries, embracing of whiffs, feather light touches and glimmers of the divine. Poems are born of those moments of connection. I enjoyed a centering meditation in the chapel and had fun picking grass for a horse living in the complex, whose lips were a fence away from some juicy tufts. A small family took over as I left, the horse reaping the benefit of our Franciscan kindness. I came away with some healing earth to share with friends who might need a blessing in times of trouble and set out to visit Ralph and Danny in Santa Fe. In spite of a lovely day in the mountains of Chimayo, my mind struggled with the tortured image of Christ center stage in the Old Spanish chapel.

I was raised Catholic, yet the grisly image of crucified Christ (hereafter known as Barbecued Jesus) still sets me on my heels. I once heard a record in Catechism that detailed minute by hour the suffering of Christ on the cross. It was morbid in a way that the bleeding, wax figure of Jesus at the San Jose Catholic Church in South Austin exalts. The primal need to kill God; to know that we, as humans, did not suffer alone and unheard is something I understand. The hate side of love bears our burden of ignorance, desolation, hunger. Can we offer ourselves fully without it? Perhaps some of the vitriol we see on the world stage – one religion attacking another in the name of God- is an expression of the hatred we cannot acknowledge. Despite my cynical response to the tortured savior I did collect some of the sacred earth from the sanctuary to give to friends and family. I can appreciate miracles, divine intervention and the triumph of compassion over suffering. All faiths bear testament to these extraordinary events and states of being.

Still, when I got to Santa Fe to see my friends Danny and Ralph, talk turned to barbecued Jesus. How could people who were forced into Christianity turn to the very image of their oppression? Give me the resurrection and help me to understand forgiveness for the barbarism of human kind, please. Once upon a time the three of us shared a multicultural approach to spirit, spoiled citizens of a time and place that advocated compassion and inclusiveness. This may become a relic of “the good old days” given the rise of religious intolerance and extremism worldwide. It was sad to confront my cynicism in the harsh light of religion and the politics that buzzed like flies around a tired old mule.

I have described myself not as a seeker, but as a finder. There are times of abeyance, of low ebb when nothing comes or goes. Just before a prayer, a movement of a focused will to be. These are the hinges that open or close the doors of past and future realizations. Part II: behind the blue door . . .

Celebrating the Space in Between

This Easter Sunday brings themes of crucifixion and resurrection, the birth of Spring and the death of Winter. The Passion Play features the human drama through the life of Christ, the humane being who was sacrificed on the pillar of our inhumanity. Religion often paints the world in black and white, good and evil, dark and light in pageantry rich with color, full of drama. It is the life of Spirit that demands pomp, trumpets, thunder and lightening. Or is it? For every resurrection there is a death, but what about the space in between?

As gestation precedes birth, resurrection requires a period of introversion, a time to listen and to feel the gentle approach of the wholly spirit. Wholeness, integration and peace reflect the indwelling presence of grace, God’s love. Without calming our aroused and overburdened senses, we lose that moment of suspension, “best just before” when anticipation evaporates in the fullness of being. Here and nowhere else, no past, no future, recognizing a divine connection within and outside of ourselves.

How often do we take the time to find this space, always present in the background of our lives? If we remove all the layers of thought that obscure this still point of eternal emergence, the beginning of the beginning, who remains? Can we re-cognize the humane being, God’s flame residing in each of us? I am allowing myself to let go of who/what/where I think God is. I don’t know but I feel the support of a spirit that integrates me, that brings me comfort and guides me to love. In the space between the thoughts, the chores and the pleasures of daily life, spirit blows like a gentle wind. Bringing us ever closer to the moment in which we embrace ourselves in loving kindness and offer the same to others. May peace have her way with us some day.