I most definitely cheat on my themes. Instead of a real memory for Memory Monday today, a topic I wish was a memory from history classes.
Enter, Zitkala-Sa. I spent all night reading about her (yeah, insomnia again). As usual for history, she’s been repeatedly sidelined, her name dropped from many works in favour of white, male names. This includes an American Indian opera “The Sun Dance” whose publicity coverage attributed composition solely to William F. Hanson in the 1938 New York Light Opera Guild première. In fact, he only transcribed the notes of music she composed.
Wanting a sample of her works now, I found her essay, “Why I am a Pagan.”
In short, for all those who have never felt “God in the rain” This old essay from Zitkala-Sa, a native american woman living in the early 1900s, convinces me that, if she is a pagan, then so am I.
More power to people who can feel the power in a synthetic building and the words of a man, however inspired. I feel that uplifting spirit and communion more in the places Zitkala-Sa describes.
I feel, if some almighty creator decides I must burn in hell for that (preferring nature and spiritual experience, following an innate sense of morality, compassion, and ethics over a synthetic structure and attending lectures on rules), then he would be a tyrant and the ultimate example of absolute power corrupting absolutely, not someone worth worship.
I don’t think that will be the case. Those who believe I am soul-risking wrong? I feel just as sad, perhaps more so, for you than you do for me. There is power in speeches and buildings filled with believers, positive emotions, and trust, yes. Lectures, reading, and the passing of knowledge among us definitely contain merit as well. However, I believe you miss the point holing up in that building first, nose firmly planted in the rule books. Rules are necessary, yes, but the warnings of punishment and promises of reward? I argue they are only for those who have yet to discover their intrinsic value.
I don’t refuse to kill or lie because some vengeful God will burn me in hell for it. I don’t tell the truth and treat my fellows with compassion because I expect some great reward from someone else. I do these things because they feel right, regardless of what any paper says. Those rules are truly in my heart and I hurt when others break them, let alone considering it myself.
My magical moments with that great spirit humankind has felt and interpreted various ways over the ages, also come from within, and are strongest in the natural temples of creation. My communion is on fire in nature, the rain full of emotion, tears of relief from the sky. Tears of a nurturing spirit. I feel it alive in every part of my body and love everything around me.
Lectures have their place, but experiencing it, without words (or perhaps with in later poetry) is far more valuable to me.
Regardless, I still don’t conform to labels of religion, so you won’t go around finding me claiming any religion, pagan or otherwise, nor denying it. I am where my spirit dances, and that cannot be contained in simple labels.
For me, this force humanity has always sensed, that some refer to simply as “God” or “The Great Spirit” is far stronger in other living creatures (nature), than in the buildings we build and the sermons we preach. The latter, you may feel through a powerful sermon and communion with those who believe as you. The other, at least for me, hits me straight in the heart and radiates with every positive emotion at once, all over. Nearly impossible to capture with words.
For me, “God is [truly] in the rain.”
*And in you. In me. In my mother, my father, my brother, and my sister, my friends, my family, the trees, the earth, the sky, in art, expression, in a life lived in love and compassion, and even in people struggling through life with little of either.
*Yes, I’m purposefully paraphrasing what the character pictured above says about V when asked who he was…not that I think he was God by any means, I just thought it sounded appropriate as a tie-in.