Tuesday, October 02, 2007


In my dream last night, a man, a wiseman, a shaman, I think, came to me and said "It is only when you have love that you will achieve wisdom."

Mystical elements keep cropping up in my life.

While jogging in Baltimore over Labor Day weekend, I found myself skipping around Orthodox Jews. My friend lives in a primarily Orthodox neighborhood. And as I jogged, I found myself envying them. It was not that I wanted to become an Orthodox Jew. No, I wanted the community with all it's good and bad. And it wasn't just community in general that I longed for, I have that...rather it was a religious community. I wanted to worship with someone. It was a strange longing, and I took it and moved on...both figuratively and literally.

But later that evening, I ended up in conversation with one of Ros's friends about religion. We had a very intimate chat about our religious experiences, etc, and about religious community. I realized that for all my protestings of atheism that I'm not truly an atheist, and that I do want to be part of a religious community. Again, i just sort of thought these things, and left it at that.

Forward to my independent study conference calls....the student who is doing this with me, is a Neopagan. And we start talking about religion. I used to be a NeoPagan, and I loved it. But I'm not really sure if that's a community I could ever be in again. We talk a great deal about this, and while a part of me feels silly it feels really good to talk about gods/goddess/magic again. I realize that there is still a part of me that really feels deeply about these things. But there is also a part of me, the academic part who studies religion, that feels vaguely silly and ridiculous. And all of these parts are having a hard time articulating what I really believe.

And top it off with the dreams. The insomnia has gone away, and I am now sleeping deeply with these vivid dreams that stay with me all day. Some are disturbing my equilibrium with life while others seem to be trying to tell me something. More importantly, I am dreaming about Ishtar again. This has lead to some strange actions that again leave me feeling slightly embarrassed. The other day as I"m cleaning up the study in preparation for my sister in law's visit, I find myself tearing down the display of Guadalupe stuff I have up, and thinking about how I need to make a shrine to Ishtar instead.

There is a part of me that wishes I could embrace this stuff like I did when I was nineteen. Sometimes I wish I could unread. And then again there is a part of me that can not imagine ever living without that critical eye. But for now, I am starting to wonder if I can reconcile this mystical side with the intellectual side.

In fact, my whole feelings for academia seem to be quite divided. I love theory. I love reading Foucault and Deleuze and thinking/talking/writing about their ideas. On the other hand, the writing that is coming from them is creative...at least more creative than my academic writing. As I'm writing all the boring academic stuff, I long to be writing about other things....about love, and about sex all with their ideas tumbling around in my head. I feel vaguely unsatisified with the academic world, and a bit angry at it as well.


Ros said...

I understand the "vaguely embarrassed" and wishing for a community. I rarely talk religion with non-religious friends, or with my brother, for example. And I tend to feel that religious experience is a private thing. Yet I get some comfort & connection from working with some fairly religious people -- so when they ask me how I am, I can reply "I'm blessed", or we can do the "God is good"/"all the time" thing, and it makes me feel connected through my beliefs. Make that shrine to Ishtar if you want to. Aren't the formal trappings of any religion no more than a gateway to the spiritual experience? I know I don't believe every word I recite in church, but the ritual brings me comfort.

argel said...

what i find interesting about religion is the strong link between my psyche and the religion´s rituals. this link helps me to live on. it creates a mystery, a powerful source of inspiration and love. on the other hand, i must admit that Auden´s poetry helped me to come to terms with religion because, after all, who cannot respond to lines such as these: "life remains a blessing/Although you cannot bless", "you shall love your crooked neighbour/with your crooked heart" and this stanza: "In the deserts of the heart/Let the healing fountain start,/In the prision of his days/Teach the freeman how to praise"?

John B-R said...

You will never be able to do anything the way you did when you were 19. You will have to do it as you are now. Which will be different and frightening/exhilarating. Every day. As for Foucault and Deleuze, well, they're dead, you don't need their approval (I'm putting something very crudely here, I know). Isn't the purpose of reading and thinking to fight with and transcend what you read? PS I have never understood why academic writing needed to be boring. Why don't you write from your whole self when you do your school work? I did; they didn't kick *me* out.

Ginger said...

No I don't want to be 19 nor do I even really want to feel the way I did at 19. But there is a longing for not knowing..sometimes. And it's not approval I'm looking for...and even if it was not from the theorists I read. Mostly I'm bitching about conforming, and of course it's necessary..we all conform to some extent...but there comes a time when one has to decide where to draw the line. Adn as for religion, it's the lonliness I'm speaking of really...the desire to connect with others who feel as I do. Argh...it's too complicated to explain.

Argel, yes it is very much ritual for me as well.

Lolabola said...

Yes ritual for me too. But lately I do find ritual in the most surprising places. Everyday events are taking on that ritual mystical rhythm somehow. I'm talking about taking the bus and brushing my teeth....don't really know how to explain, it sounds a bit trite.

I wanted so badly to be 'religious' as a kid, and then finally realized it was more to be part of community involving ritual.

At a wedding last fall, everyone present sang Ode to Joy together. (should I mention that, as a piano teacher, I despise that song?) We were in a tiny tiny chapel, packed with people who weren't really getting along and suddenly everyone was singing together and I found myself so incredibly happy and wishing I was part of a religion, just so I could experience that more often.

Also I struggle a lot with academia/critical thinking. Can't figure out why I'm so angry about it and yet can't fully dismiss or accept it either. Just keep waffling between the two. I do embrace all that mystical side finally though. Now it's the intellectual in me I criticize and can't see how to be impartial to.

Ginger said...

I think that when I talk religion I mean spirituality. For me they really are one and the same, which I suspect arises out of being a student of religion. But that the terms are so complicated...very complicated.

I don't think it trite at all to see ritual in all that we do. In some sense, it is ritual but the mystical side does come I think with a certian mindset. And I often find myself falling into this as well.

My mystical side is slowly returning. It's been buried for a long time but things keep happening that one could see as a digging out so to speak. For me, the struggle lies, right now at least, in reconciling these areas. I do not like to live a life comparementalized.

Horacio said...

isn't the best intelectual endeavour "mystical" and all mysticism "intelectual" to some extent?
and YES! you should go back to being a neopagan if that's how you feel... who cares what academics think.

Ginger said...

Well for Deluze intellecutal endeavour was quite "mystical." His work on becoming is very mystical, I think. And yes of course you're all right...I can practice what I wish. I'll have more on all that later.