Sunday, July 27, 2008

What is the question?

We took our children to our MM today and found that those of us arriving in our minivan were twice the number of all the other Friends present. Apparently there is a Yearly Meeting this weekend. I did not know this but then I've been rather busy these past couple weeks as I have been organizing and promoting a conference and running about in historical costume giving speeches. My teaching and public speaking engagements are not really a part of my blog in a direct way although it feeds into my general anxiety. I'm not at all sure that I'm doing the right things professionally or personally lately. Am I supposed to be teaching? Should I serve on committees? Should I be writing more and for what audience? Does any of what I'm currently doing as historian help the Earth one iota? Am I wasting my time? There is so little time to waste. I'd very much rather everyone would let me put on a cape dress and a bonnet and let me do my laundry. I like to do laundry.

You see, I've been looking for answers lately. Or rather, I've been looking for the question. What the hell is the question? I don't think I've ever had this kind of difficulty before. It disturbs me. It isn't like me to be so unsettled in my thoughts. I feel very much as if I've been asked to write a final essay for a very important test except no one has told me what the question is.

Not that I've had much time in recent days to consider this perpetual state of confusion. This past weekend I was running a two day conference (so many details!). It went tolerably well and would have been a bit less stressful were it not for the fact that I was also asked to lead a march and then do a dramatic reading for another event occurring simultaneously with my own event. Being a very histrionic sort of person, I said "yes." So I entertained a hundred people on Saturday, led a march and gave a speech on Sunday morning, and then sped off to another town to finish a conference and give a speech there that same afternoon. People took pictures and filmed me for a documentary. It was all rather exciting. And meaningless.

"Thank the Goddess for you!" said one organizer as she hugged me. Yuck. What does that even mean? (Is that the question?) I was irritated with her Goddess talk the way only another Goddess woman can be irritated. It was sloppy and drew too much from antiquated Jungian essentialist ideas of gender. She kept talking about how powerful her Baby Boomer generation was and how my generation (but not me of course!) just didn't get it. And wouldn't I come serve on their board of directors and be their "historical and moral compass?" And I'm thinking, "Lady, you don't want to hear what I have to say about history and morality." But I smiled and thought about how very little I can say for certain about my own professional future. What the hell am I doing? I have no career (adjunct work hardly counts) and I have no real prospects. Should I be getting a better job? Should I be jumping at every chance to add something juicy to my cv? Perhaps that is the question.


So there we were at our MM this morning (which is scheduled at an ungodly early hour I might add) and I take the children out to have our First Day school. We'd had some difficulties with remaining quiet so we practiced sitting silently for fifteen minutes before I spoke to them. And then they sat at my feet and I asked the question.

"Do you know why we come here?" This was followed by "Do you know why we are so quiet? Do you know what the Friends are listening for? and What is God?"

As it turns out, my children are very smart people. We had a lovely conversation about these questions. We discussed how God can be a man or a woman and how God is neither a man nor a woman or even a person for that matter. We discussed that God is Mother Earth and Spirit and Light and everywhere and how there is that of God in everyone and how we are all brothers and sisters. We talked about a singular God and plural gods and goddesses and how perhaps they are really all the same. (If children can be so many different people all in one day of play, why cannot God also play?) We discussed peace and compassion and loving our neighbor even when that person is George W. Bush (that's a tough one!). We spoke of the rocks and trees and creatures as our family and how all human beings are related to each other. We talked about having too much and giving too little and how other children don't have toys or food or even parents and how my daughter wakes up and looks at her room and says, "I don't deserve all this." We discussed how God is always speaking to us and all we have to do is to listen. The world is full of messengers like Jesus who tell us to love one another. We are all messengers and we are the hands and eyes and heart of God who loves us because we are Her children. Just as our own mothers hurt when we try to harm our siblings, so too does God hurt when we make war or pollute the Earth. She depends on us to take care of each other. And that is what Friends are doing. We are listening and we are trying to do Her will.

Anyhow, that's how it all came out when I was talking to my children. Rather simplified really and didn't I just say to my husband last night how irritated I have been with Goddess women who simplify feminist thealogy and say goofy things like "thank the Goddess for you" when they haven't done their homework and when they are clearly engaged in essentialist arguments that ignore theory and history and pretend there is no such thing as race, or class, complication, or change over time. Did they sleep in the day our entire society covered postmodernism?

What is the damned question? Why do I sit and stare at tarot cards? Why do I open the bible randomly (God help me) or surf the net for hours. What am I looking for? I received my "calling" many years ago and have been following it the best I know how but today I feel very much like I stand on the edge of a precipice and that I am being asked to jump. Or fly. Or turn right around and run like hell.

I sat there with my children at my feet today. Do you know why we are here? Why must we be so quiet? So what is it that the Friends are doing in there? what are they listening for? What is the calling? What is the question? And how will they know when they have heard it properly?

And what I told my children was that we know we are hearing God's voice when we are being told to love and when our hearts are open to our brothers and sisters (the human ones and the tree ones and the animal ones too). And how do we hear God's voice? My son said that first we must be very still.

Indeed.