Dangerous Compassions

what can I bring you?

I told my friend that I half-believe several different mutually exclusive ideas about divinity.  I said they were layered together like an onion.  God is tasty!

I helped facilitate an intergenerational zoom for the local UU church yesterday, and I led an activity where we drew our conception of divinity or where intuition comes from or what it could look like.  Any visual representation of that.  We listened to “Green Bus” by Innocence Mission as we drew.

I thought it might be too open ended, my request-instruction-hopes too vague.  But they drew things they liked too.  Mine was the only whole onion.   Ming had a slice of onion.  A child drew a red brain with yellow light bulbs in it–so beautiful.  An adult drew a sweet star with symbols in it and blue-white light.  Someone drew two halves of a brain and listed stuff.  Yeah, there were symbols, a tree outline, and hearts, eyes, arrows.

My onion has an angel of childhood Christianity in the middle.  The Virgin of Guadalupe who I adore as a mixture of indigenous spirituality and the invader’s ritualistic deathcult come together into a new amazing thing.  The overwhelming Goddess energy of Shakti who powerfully gives life, too bright to behold.  Earth based spirituality, the Void which scares me, a brain of reason–my previous pretending everything is made of matter and can be explained, that longing for neatness.  Then a plant representing nature itself.  The greenness of chlorophyll and slow force of moving up, up toward the sun–life itself that will emerge from the rainforest, wanted or not.

There’s more than that too, but I only had four and a half minutes as “Green Bus” played.  You know I’m non-dual.  I’m really pantheist, over it all!  So I would need to draw the whole universe somehow.  And I think regular people are God, some idea of Christ in the stranger.  There’s a term for it I can’t remember, but it gets mentioned at Catholic Worker stuff regularly.

I do Bhakti yoga, so I’m worshipping God in people I love, especially Ming, newborn babies who seem still partly elsewhere, and super living little kids who are so vibrant and creative they don’t even know how not to be how they are.  Touch, a smile, an idea from a friend that can help keep me going.  An unknown neighbor’s wave as I pass by on my trike.  I think they enjoy how happy I am.

Last night Ming and I were listening to Innocence Mission’s “Lakes of Canada,” as it autoplayed next after “Green Bus,” and I told him it’s a masterpiece, a truly great song.  

He wanted to know why.  We watched a lyrics video so he could see the words, then watched and heard Sufjan Stevens playing it too, on a roof on his banjo.  His baseball cap so cute, his objection that it was too cold outside overridden by the rude French guy.  Then the lyrics version again.  He asked me what it was about.

I told him transcendence.  Relationship and being underestimated for her little mouth and shyness.  The beauty of the flashlight shining their path in the dark–maybe they were camping, after rowing on the lakes.   

I said how the sudden joy is like “a fish, a moving light”–you can see it for an instant only, but it’s swimming in the deep all the time, real and helpful.  Or the light is a glimmer that lasts almost nothing, but it can help us keep going for a long time.

He pushed me more–why is it great.  I said the beauty of the music was enacting the transcendence that the words were talking about.  A sublime melody, the way it subtly builds.  

I really feel a song can be a ritual, holding my hand and guiding me through an experience, keeping me safe in it while showing me something new that can change me.

“How do you hear the story in the words?” he asked.  

“Honey, I have a master’s degree in it.  A lot of practice.”  Maybe he suspected I was making it up?  He was trying to understand how I could understand.  The winter lungs are really important, but it’s hard to explain.

I said it was ok.  He’s a spacial genius.  I almost never understand where I am.  What few maps I have in my head are incorrect, though sometimes helpful anyway.  I know how the sun appears to move, now, at least, and in Las Vegas I almost always know where north is.

My love and I do the good work of life.  Maybe I’m wrong–maybe “Lakes of Canada” is not so good?  But that song helped me get through a divorce when I was 23 years old.  I listened to Birds of My Neighborhood every day, in my sad apartment, and tried to keep living.  I’m still alive even today.  

So thanks, Innocence Mission, for being God and singing about God, showing us light and fish and all that.  I need it, for sure.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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