Saturday, April 27, 2013


In my small group at WPUMC we're reading Brian McLaren's Naked Spirituality: A Life WIth God In 12 Simple Words.  It introduced me to the concept of a Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ). 

"...rigid conformity and emotional inhibition stultify the human spirit, and so occasionally people defy the authorities and dare to dance.  They create what author Kester Brewin describes as Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZs), places where the normal patterns of hegemony and homogeneity are broken." 

This is taken from page 65, quoting Barbara Ehrenreich, and citing examples like Woodstock, Burning Man, Mardi Gras.  These events, at their best are about jubilation, freedom, and connection.  He continues on page 67.

"Could it be that the kingdom of God is the ultimate TAZ, the ultimate liberation from the normal oppressive patterns of hegemony and homogeneity."

When I was single and child free it was a lot easier for me to resent and resist hegemony and homogeneity.  Certainly they were always there, but I did feel freer to choose people, interests, and expression that were outside the norm.  I didn't dream of marriage, family, and home ownership.  I dreamt of living purposefully, finding a way to make a difference, to be my own, and to be different. 

That desire was part of why I chose the graduate school and program that I did.  Whole Systems Design (WSD) at an alternative university.  My dream took the shape of wanting to write, specifically articles about good news, and then maybe start my own program focused on that kind of story.  Producing the stories.  Training people to seek, articulate, and promote good news.  But WSD didn't work that way for me.  It focused on talking and small groups.  Not my areas of professional interest.  Worse, to me, it didn't help equip me to navigate or talk back to the "real world" of hegemony and homogeneity.  I graduated more adrift and vulnerable than I started. 

Reentering the "real world" I married my grad school honey, started an interim job, and suddenly fell pregnant.  Six years later I'm still at the job working as the sole provider for my little family.  I feel trapped in the hegemony and homogeneity of job, home, and child rearing.  Any little gap for autonomy is savored, celebrated, and jealously guarded. 

These days I find my Temporary Autonomous Zones in my small groups (ironically enough given the grad school debacle), both the Christian group and the Pagan group.  Granted, we are not dismantling patriarchy or otherwise disrupting the status quo in publicly recognizable ways.  But we are peeling away our conformity and inhibition to unveil to ourselves and these trusted friends our thoughts, feelings, and private realities.  And in Pagan ritual we even "dare to dance."

Today it is easy for me to accept grace as the thing that pierces hegemony and homogeneity and frees us to be authentic souls liberated from the rules that stultify human life.  This definition holds true to the example of Jesus's life - practicing a life of loving others that put him outside the rules and mores of the law and the culture of his time.  He stands as the model of how Christians too ought to live lives of love, lives changed by that grace.  I experience this kind of grace in the Pagan rituals as we minister to each other in ceremony, raise energy together, and "party like Pagans." 

But it's challenging me and yet I'm hungry for it, to have this grace in the rest of my life in the "real world."  (I guess that's why they're "temporary" autonomous zones.)  How do I live a daily life of such grace, outside the bounds of hegemony and homogeneity?  Is it just part of being fully human that we develop and abide by these conventions?  To live in this world, a soul and a body, means we entangle ourselves in these invisible, powerful things.  And it's a life of spirituality, of practice and of hunger, that manifests the desire for grace and the means to be grace to ourselves and others.

Monday, April 8, 2013

consciousness & culture

I'm rereading Starhawk's Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess for the first time in about 15 years.  The pagan group I do holiday rituals with has added a book club to its activities and I'm excited to have more time with these good folks and to dig into some good books together.

Starting with the Introduction of this book I'm struck by how many of the same words and phrases are standing out to me now as when I first read, and underlined, the book.   The ideas that held my attention then also speak to my life today.  Maybe it's something about phases of transition in my life.  Or maybe it's a testimony to my years long search for meaning.

"The concept of a religion that worshipped a Goddess was amazing and empowering."  p.2

"Now my body, in all its femaleness, its breasts, vulva, womb, and menstrual flow, was sacred." p.2

"Maybe, in fact, deep transformation of society could only come from an underlying transformation of culture." p.6

"To create the changes in consciousness needed to transform society at a deep level, we need insights broader than those the issues of the moment can provide." p.7

Although, thinking about it a little further now, it's almost ironic that the same material has got my attention because I'm approaching it from such a different place.  Fifteen years ago I was struggling with the evangelical tradition.  I was specifically addressing the roles and possibilities for women in that culture.  Today I've found a Christian church led by a woman and where women and men share visible and diverse roles.  I'm less concerned now about changing culture and more concerned about changing my own mind, my heart, my life. 

I can hear my psychiatrist telling me to "go inside" and I suspect that she would tell me that meaning won't be found in a book or a book club.  But maybe this book, with its affirmation of the sacredness of life and the immanence of the divine, with its rituals and exercises, may offer a way inside.  And maybe this book club, with its good company of smart, caring, spiritual women, may form a container of kind support as I make the journey inward.

The book isn't just a 'How To Worship the Great Goddess" guidebook.  It's also an invitation to create religion, to change consciousness, and to change culture.  These are big things.  And in small ways I'm already part of them.  Our little group of pagan friends creates ritual together 8 times a year.  Together, through ritual and socializing we create a little pocket of culture where things are a little different from the mainstream.  From that secure space we walk back into our daily lives, and hopefully bring some aspects of it with us.  Nothing too radical.  But still something very real and special in our lives.  And I suppose that's where change, for a person or a group or a society, begins.