Thursday, November 11, 2010

Rememberance Day

On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh month of the year 1918, the sounds of artillery and gunfire were silenced across Europe. The Great War had ended. On this day, at this hour, we remember those who gave their lives fighting for the ideals that our country were founded upon. We remember all the men and women, who gave all that they were, and all they ever would be, who paid with their blood, that we may continue, and our nation endure. War goes on, our soldiers continue to fight and die, we continue to remember. I am heartened, that despite it all, people continue to honour our ancestors and our heroes, and Canadians do so in grand style, with somber reflection. In a culture full of endless white noise, it is remarkable that people, even the very young, will for but a moment in time stop and listen to the silence, and with due gravitas reflect on the sacrifices of all those who came before us, and all those who continue to serve us.

I thank the gods I live in such a nation.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Polytheism and "everyone else"

We are alone, and we have only each other to rely on, because outside our small circle of fellow polytheists, the world for the most part, has no idea we even exist. It used to be that we could point to Hinduism as a beacon of polytheism stretching back for thousands of years, and in some ways this is still true. However, the more I converse with western Hindu's, and the more one actually researches the religion, the clearer it becomes that Hinduism in a broad sense, is pantheistic at its core, and polytheistic at the periphery.

"Ekam Sataha Vipraha Bahudha Vadanti," which may be translated: "The truth is One, but different Sages call it by Different Names" 

This concept is also reflective of many inclusive forms of monotheism, especially that found among Unitarian Universalists. "Everyone is free to worship as they please, because at the end of the day, we're all worshiping the same force or divine spark." As someone who participates on a number of interfaith forums, I have lost count of the number of times these kind of condescending platitudes have been trucked out, in the name of inclusiveness. I find myself repeating, ad nauseum, that this just doesn't encompass my beliefs at all, that it is a simplistic dismissal of an outlying position, and that most folks simply do not care to contemplate the idea any further.

Often, people will admit that I may be worshiping actual, potent beings, but not gods; or at least not "top of the heap", "proper" gods. Those same people will then point to the only sort of polytheism they know, and wax about how chaotic the universe would be if the forces behind it behaved as the Olympians or Roman deities. Little more than squabbling gods who are seen as selfish, petty and tyrannical (yes, these attributes are found only among polytheistic deities, a monotheistic deity could never be any of these things...) Of course, such folks often have little critical understanding of those deities or the myths we have of them.

That last bit is really my point in all this, people have no clue that my gods are not their god(s). Why is this so horrendously difficult for people to wrap their heads around? I have listed a few ideas but there are any number of others.

Do not get me wrong, I'm used to being an outlier; being that (often) solitary voice in discussions on theology who throws a wrench into the monistic language. I'm just mildly agitated with this insipid notion of inclusiveness based on some unified godhead which I am unknowingly worshiping, and only if I truly understood, would the truth become known to me. Because, all those different conceptions of deity couldn't point to their being, you know, different deities?

I am not blindly groping an elephant, and I'm on a totally different mountain!


Monday, November 1, 2010

Elegy for the ancestors

The twilight of age gives way to death, and loss becomes the center of our lives in the spaces between. It is important to remember though, that grief in its time will also pass away. Those who have gone on before us may have abandoned their bodies, but their memory remains. They remain with those of us who knew them, who loved them, and whose lives they touched.

For what is remembered, lives.

The road ahead is long, and those who walk along it are no strangers to pain. Loss and separation are antithetical to us as social animals, yet death itself is no more abhorrent than being born or growing old. For in the end it is not death, but rather, the seeming finality of that "last separation", which is at the center of our grief. I think back to the ancients and their perspective; and for all our "advancements", those who came before us in all their "superstition", did not treat death as an aberration, but understood it as part of the process of living, if the final act therein.

I am not certain what comes next, though I do have my opinions on the matter.

I honour the dead this day,
I give thanks and praise
to those who came before me:
It was they who fought
but who also had peace
It was they who suffered
but who also had joy
It was they who sacrificed
but who also prospered
It was they who died
but who also lived

If I am able to live as they did
with honour and courage
with wisdom and justice
with hospitality and truth
when on the last day
I am to stand before them
in their hallowed halls
and be asked what did you do
I can answer with pride
that I lived as they lived