By Rachel Van Alstine
What most people don’t know about me is that technically I am an Ordained Minister of the Universal Life church and a Honorary Doctor of Philosophy from the same. It is one of those credentials one picks up as a lifelong Non-Conformist and Social Misfit.
You see, you either join a religion that celebrates your “soul type” – or you collect friends like you, who eventually wish to get married but not in a stinky conventional way. Sometimes both.
I am also a practicing witch, neo-paganish person. Since dying and NOT getting any answers to the human ape’s most pressing questions, I am not too sure if there is a “who” to believe in.
I guess I see it like Bernie Sanders’s campaign folks did – “Not me, Us.” The spiritual ideal – and if Buddhism is to be believed (even in part) the existential truth is – that we’re all God, experiencing our self. Therefore suffering, joy, even hunger are to be seen and experienced as but a single prism of the whole.
Life, then, is an endless experience of the now. So, why not experience that now as Love? I mean, it really is the only true emotional common denominator. Most of our other emotions are dependent upon its availability, scarcity, or projected sum in either the plus or minus column.
We, then, as a species are motivated on an existential level by love.
Yeah, I know, the anthropologists, sociologists and other scientists will argue against all that, trying to break down love to complexes of hormonal response that guarantees the survival of the species.
But I am going to steal a great idea from Pope John Paul the II, who in an address to Pontifical Academy of Sciences. That idea is of “Non Overlapping Magisteria.” This is a pretty obscure reference – unless you are a Catholic Theologian or a Bachelors Anthropology Student – so I will drop a link for your future consideration in the notes of this sermon. Suffice it to say that John Paul suggested that one truth, did NOT cancel out the other truth.
We could hold in our hearts, minds and dare I say spirits two very disparate visions of our life.
One like mine, that I am an irascible, moody, and opinionated woman who really only believes in science and Noam Chomsky, AND that I love every single iota of life on this whirling ball of rock and water, especially Brother Cornel West and rather circumspectly accepting geese.
Get behind me, bird Satan!
In other words, I like most humans – even dare I say it – Socialists…
I believe that I am mad as hell at the world and everyone in it, and I love you all madly and would give you the blood in my veins and the shirt off my back to save you.
People like to call that “Christian Charity,” as if caring for people was started by a bunch of long hairs in sandals who followed what we’d call today as a “ProSocial Narcissist,” and traveling preacher (homeless dude.)
Cooperation is as old as hominids; empathy and mutual aid are arguably the first tools in our Australopithecine ancestor’s evolutionary tool box. We see it in our cousins the great apes, who still live in extended family groups that play, fight, eat, hunt and love together.
It is hard in this day and age to have one foot legitimately in the concrete world around us, and in the spirit world that exists within us and all creation. We are constantly pushed in either direction as if the two things are separate and not part of a continuum that is Life.
Capitalism has sold us a false truth, one that we are as a species only starting to comprehend.
We can in fact, love and care for everyone and still live. It isn’t dog eat dog, it isn’t a big UFC match where the person with the most capital wins.
The pursuit of this “Story Arc”, this Ayn Randian vision of human experience – hastened on, I might add, by industrialism – has lead us away from the basic tendencies of human beings, human apes, hairless monkeys, or if you prefer “fleshy visions of some dude in the clouds.”
I may be wrong here, but the ten commandments left out Capitalism. In fact, Jesus, the longhaired homeless benign narcissist, had a lot to say about sharing, caring, communication, love, acceptance, poverty, labor theory…
I know, we all want to forget about the last eighteen months. Covid was a collective Trauma that at least for Americans rivals the Civil War in the numbers of the dead. If the riots around the death of George Floyd are any indication – that collective trauma is still not dealt with, and here we are, a century and a half later at war with a microorganism who is at this point still winning.
But if we don’t wish to continue to splash around in the kiddie pool full of spiritual and emotional trauma of the past and present, we need to start looking within for the true spiritual principles of our existence and *gasp* movement towards a more just society.
So, I am going to ask you, for today at least, to think of one good way you can honor the truth of who and what your are by being demonstrably a force for love. And I am going to challenge you to practice it all week, with EVERYONE. Your family, your friends, the folks at work, some dude on the street, the cashier at the grocery store (especially the cashier – they deserve better from all of us, and definitely their boss).
If it is charity? Give something tangible. I don’t care what, even a pretty rock, to every person you see or feel has a hole in them where love needs to be. If it is elbow bumps, carrots, poetry quotes, or a kleenex, give it. If it is a hand loading their car with groceries, do it. A door opened, a door closed, the return of a dropped item or whatever. Just do it.
Remember we’ve all just been through hell, and the experts say that between climate and politicians, we’re headed for more of the same. Be the love you talk about. Don’t let it become like the many other things you hold in dichotomy to your “real life.” Express your spiritual self; in the end, it is all we have and all we really ever share.
I will leave you with a “Hymnal”, which is really just a play list, for your Sunday meditations.
Until the next time I wake up with a Sermon in my head, be like Bill and Ted –
“Be excellent to each other and party on…”
Spotify Playlist for Today
Rachel Van Alstine is the host and producer of our own ‘Left Coast Wisconsin’ podcast as well as the co-host of ‘The Indy’