Visiting North America’s only mainland Shinto shrine (not counting Hawaii) :
From the Burke Museum in Seattle :
What have you found?
I’m an ex-cradle-born-Unitarian Universalist for good reasons. I’m politically moderate. I converted to sparkly Roman Catholicism at age 21. I am Jewish-curious, and am deeply attracted by their cohesive peoplehood and long, honorable struggle with a crazy God. When I was 22, I did something like animism and nature-based rites of passage in a community, but that community didn’t stick, even though the spirituality sure did. I don’t believe in fairies, I believe in birds. I don’t believe in unicorns, I believe in equines. I don’t believe in dragons, I believe in reptiles. The World is what’s real. Prayers and spells don’t save you; human research and evidence-based practices do, but a really grounded spirituality makes it all worth living through. Now I’m a scientific panentheist (is it really necessary to differentiate between pantheist and panentheist? Really?) who believes in a Creator that lives, breathes and moves in all created beings. I don’t claim that this Creator is always or ever going to do as we wish, or can even be trusted the conventional sense, though it can be greatly loved in its wildness. Nature is violent, insane and unjust, and we have every reason to think that any Creator who wrought it might be the same way. But Nature is also, simultaneously, beautiful, life-giving and deeply good. And so the same must be for this mysterious Creator. Such is life on earth. Sometimes I wish I were born in an Animist hunter-gatherer tribe of 30,000 years ago. Then again, I’m grateful for the gift of reason, evidence, vaccines, the internet and refrigerators. What I want most of all is a real tribe I can belong to. I wander, but I am not lost.
Where would the Abrahamic religions be without their precious conflicts? I say “precious” because all the Abrahamic religions have developed largely by thriving on conflict to such an insidious degree that they experience a crisis of purpose when not faced with some constant, huge moral drama of problems to suffer and fight against. Abrahamic believers can never let themselves be at peace with the life of the world’s profoundly normal and anciently functioning natural cycles of life and death. They must always look for some problem to throw themselves against, and when they do not find one, they invent one. They are bored with peace, because peace does not bring about their sick fantasy of armageddon. They have become so entwined with their need to fight everything that even the world itself has been sorrowfully vilified by their holy texts that resent the creaturely body and the ground itself. What a poverty of spirit when the whole living, physical world is decried as your resented enemy keeping you from some imaginary disembodied heaven, instead of your natural, creaturely, beloved eternal home.
To truly educate is to bring out what is already inside a person. A teacher may input information, but authentic education uses this imparting of information to draw out the animistic aliveness of the student in their capacity to wonder.
Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash
when I go to draw the face of Beloved
I see I can make no true form
in the line of a pen
in the curve of wet clay
for to worship is to draw close to the real
the one who cannot be repeated
what angle, what curl of hair
in this corner of memory
is quite like the body I know–
it is dark where his eyes fall
into shadowed circles of dusk