Saturday, August 21, 2010

(e)gods, ego(d)s, e-gods, egads! A tale about how to dye cloth

image is from here

There once was a woman who lived in a small but traveled village. Most of the travelers were missionaries. They brought the word of their god to the disbelievers. They never spoke directly to her, at her, for they saw that she was a lost cause. What person of great spirit would spend her days dying cloth blue, in such a fashion as to only produce a few finished items across a long season? They knew of her output because villagers would tell them about her if asked, but only with praise for her work. Nevertheless, the god-fearing missionaries scoffed at her methods and thought her either evil or insane. After all, she lived and worked alone. She never married any man nor bore any children. Aside from feeding her animals and tending to her vegetables, she worked only to dye cloth blue. She spoke up when she had to but wasn't known for being a conversationalist. The missionaries fed off village gossip as they made their way out of one and into another, and so took the villagers' regard for her and her general silence as signs of condescension or impudence.

When she collected the cloth initially it was more or less white. The blue dye was the most beautiful rich blue you can imagine or have ever seen. Her process for transforming the cloth, however, was ridiculed by many passers-by. They mocked her because they saw a bit of her process, and they thought it, and her, utterly crazy, ludicrous. They felt she was engaging in activity, every day, that was preposterous and an absurd waste of time, if she wanted "success". It's not that her cloth wasn't, when finished, blue. It's that the process took so long they felt she'd never earn enough to make a living. So although they mocked her, on some level they wished her to be well.

The villagers being busy with their own chores and tasks, never have the time to watch her for more than a few minutes, and they knew from experience that her blue cloth was the best in the village--they had no reason to deride her for any reason. Though they didn't understand her process, they respected it for what it produced. And throughout the village many of them saved their earnings to purchase blue cloth from her. Even some of the travelers had a sense about her product. And some of them, too, bought her cloth, even while they may have muttered something unkind under their breath about her being crazy.

Her process was as follows:

She prepared a pot of very hot water by adding a certain number of handfuls of blue dye which she kept in a bin quite nearby. With a clean branch she stirred until the water was evenly blue--deep, rich, dark blue. To look into the pot, even at noon, was like looking into the depths of night with no moon. She immersed the white cloth fully and let it soak a while, simmering. She then slowly lifted it out with the stick, let it drip over the pot and cool down, and then took it into her hands and wound it tight, rinsing out all excess liquid directly over the pot so all the extra dye-water fell back into the pot for the next immersion of cloth. She wasted nothing.

Once wrung out she shook open the cloth and placed it nearby on a very large round stone, expansive and curved, so that the cloth directly faced the sun as it journeyed across the hot sky.

On the already warm stone, the cloth dried quickly. Was it time to re-soak the cloth? She could get in several dunkings in an hour or two, depending on the intensity of the sun. But for her, no. She left the cloth on that stone for most of the afternoon. Finally she'd take it up and bring it inside at the end of the workday. Any morning she began to work she repeated that process. Back onto the large sunned stone the same soaked, simmered, cooled, and wrung out cloth would go. What the missionaries who passed through her village whispered to one another as they saw the dye in the pot and the cloth on the stone is this, "Doesn't she know that the sun BLEACHES any color at all OUT of the cloth?!?"

She heard them often--some of them wanted her to hear them. Some travelers were so rude as to say it loudly, as if intending to make her feel like a fool. She had little interest in considering the validity of their insults. There was nothing any missionary said that she hadn't heard many times before.

Day after day, travelers passed and whispered or made a point not to whisper, calling her names, calling her dying process crazy.

But back to the cloth. Each day, apparently, the cloth went from wet and blue-ish, to dry and bleached back to white. From day to day there was no noticeable change. She also saw no change, but this didn't stop her for she knew how things worked. For days, weeks, the same cloth went into the pot, was wrung out, and was placed flat on the warm stone to dry, and, it seemed, to be sun-bleached.

From the beginning of one lunar cycle to another, something did change, however. Imperceptibly, the cloth began to hold more of its dye. Incrementally. Over a long period, it shifted from white, to a very pale light blue, to a clearer blue, through the middle hues, and finally ended up a deep rich blue, even at the end of that last days time in the blazing sun. And when that day's work was done, the cloth was no longer white-turning blue. It was, through and through, a blue cloth. You could dig into any fiber and no whiteness would be found. And no amount of sun could bring it back. It was different now than it once was. It has become something new. Blue.

This is a story about radical personal-political-spiritual transformation through practice. The individual practice, let's say if daily, shows no demonstrable change. But over time transformation happens, as long as the actions are repeated in accordance with how one is taught. There isn't one way. I have told you of one way that worked for her. But there are other ways to make something change even in a context where ones ways are mocked and ridiculed.
I am contemplating the relationship between ego and the gods of human imagination. And the relationship between men's egos and men's gods. And what, if any, relationship they have to G-ddess, aka She Who Is All.

I am realising from recent conversation with a friend, how the male god sneaks in when one is least inviting him in as a male-specific god. I have watched for a long while how the Male God/Ego is meant to be worshiped, with all other matters placed subordinate to that prime commandment.

A beloved white woman, a lesbian feminist friend I once knew who has since passed on, believed in the power of language-in-life. She grew up with a white male god image and with white male god-language, and chose later to change that to a female G-d/dess in her own imagination but not from her ego. She conjured this G-ddess, who had many faces and many colors from stories of Her from the past. And, also, she grew to make contact with this G-ddess who was revealed to my friend. This felt artificial initially, in the ways, I think, that learning a new language can feel utterly strange and impossible to feel at home in--as if it will never be and can never be a mother tongue. But over time, sure enough, She was realised/experienced by my friend as surely as the old male god once was.

My friend gained strength in this G-ddess, a kind of strength the male god, the only-white god, had not ever provided. The old god took from her and also repeatedly asked a lot of her. He asked her to be submissive to Him, always. To do otherwise, so it was said by the men who worshiped Him, was a sin against Him. She did not believe in anyone being submissive. Nor in a kind of dominance that was practiced in society by white people and by men, throughout the time in which she lived. And she lived through the Civil Rights Movement and the Women's Movement in the U.S., so she saw hate in the faces of many whites and many men who felt threatened by Black men, Black women, and by white women too who wanted justice, not subordination. She noticed how such people, herself included, were called "uppity", as if to strive to reach a level of human stature and standing in a white male supremacist society--a level that white men took for granted and felt fully entitled to, was way to ask for too much to ask for, as well as unnatural and against the white man's god's will.

Her G-ddess did not ask for her to practice either submission or dominance, only to be true to herself by listening deeply to herself, beyond the seemingly ceaseless echos of men's voices. In the depths of her own being was the G-ddess's being and becoming. In the depths of everyone's being, the G-ddess assured her, was the power of the G-ddess of Joy, Love, Wisdom, Peace, and Joy. Also of Rage, Action, Perseverance, and Justice.

The white and male supremacist dualisms taught to her--that to feel rage against injustice is somehow not peace-seeking and joy-bringing, or is and must be some kind of condescension or hatred for whites or for men, was revealed to her as untrue. Most of that only-white male god's knowledge wasn't from any G-d/dess at all. These truths were written in hand by men. Only men, some of whom later became white and pretended their new god always was white. They spoke their truths and put them down as G-d's truth, believing that what their egos conceived and apprehended must be As It Is and As It Should Be. Their egos got in the way of apprehending and appreciating the wisdom of G-d/dess.

Beware the voice of any god that comes in the words written only by men in ancient texts or on Internet web pages, especially ones that proclaim with certainty that lightness is holy and darkness is evil. And remember that in practice, with perseverance, white cloth can be made blue, and can remain blue no matter how long it bakes in the sun.

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