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.

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