In a rare break from my tradition of not explaining my poetry and leaving it to the reader to interpret the meaning, I should probably explain the background behind the rev/ and I read it in books. More because there is a much bigger story behind it than it needs much explanation.
Longtime readers (if you can call anything greater than 2 months “longtime”) will probably recall that I have traversed the gamut of religions and spiritual practices in trying to define my own. In roughly chronological order, I explored or dabbled in: raised Catholic, existentialism, Mahayana Buddhism (though I didn’t know it at the time), general mysticism (Sri Chinmoy), Kabbalism, Starhawk-flavored Wicca, Theatrical Urban Wicca (kind of a unique and probably unfindable tradition these days), Gnosticism, Celtic Druidism (not OBOD), general NW Coastal Native American shamanism, Lakota (“Sioux”) medicine, Taoism, Zen (with and without the Buddhism), Ásatrú (old Norse revival religion) and a few others tossed in to give everything flavor.
I am a seeker and, over all this time, have by and large really ended up classifying myself as a zen- and tao-flavored Jungian pan-polytheist. If that sounds like a mouthful saying a whole lot of nothing, that’s okay. I know what I mean. To break it down, I believe that all gods and goddesses (poly) are one (pan) representative of various human archetypes (Jungian) that point us towards the Tao (the Way). And, because fussing about the details is counterproductive, it is best to let ourselves just live in the present instead of worrying about all that religious shit (Zen).
That largely explains I read it in books. I’ve read a shit-tonne of spiritual and religious crap over time. It’s interesting background information you’ll find in books, but most of it is utter tripe. And yet… I get suckered into reading new books all the time. If you ask me, most of what you need to know you can ferret out in the Tao Te Ching or the Chuang Tzu. The rest is window dressing. And you can find (mediocre) translations of the Tao Te Ching in almost any language for free, or pay a bit more for decent translations, or pay way more for horseshit translations which are mere reinterpretations of the mediocre translations and have zero translation done on the original texts. If you dig into either of those texts, really understand the messages, you’ll really have no need of the esoteric ramblings of most other authors.
There are other books, but I’m trying to limit the length of this post and they really cover the guts and bowels of almost any tradition out there. Ask me, if you are looking for something else.
But one of the things that has always grated on my nerves and given me the urge to punch people is the idea that spirituality is a commodity to be bought and sold.
Simply: it cannot be bought and sold.
Which actually brings me around to the second post I made last night.
Sometime between the Celtic Druidism and the NW Coastal stuff (and concurrent with the dissolution of my first marriage), I decided I needed to redirect my life and start giving back what I’d taken from various religious communities. It has always frustrated that everyone wants to “help” you on your path (for six installments of $25.99), but most of these folks think they should be paid above-market value to give you God or peace of mind. I’d contacted the leader of the Druids I hung out with prior to moving to Seattle and asked him if he’d be okay with ordaining me. He painted out that I didn’t need his approval (see Universal Life Church, the church under which he was licensed), but I wanted it anyway, so Tony gave his blessing and only made the caveat that I couldn’t call it a branch of their group until we had some more in-depth discussion about what that meant — a discussion that never happened because, by the next time I saw Tony, the group was going through reorganization and I never got back to finalizing the deal, having fully thrust myself into vision questing (Haŋblečeya) and going to sweat lodges.
In the meantime, I had some cards photocopied onto card stock with my contact information and got my reverend’s credentials registered with the State. I performed several wedding services and a remembrance, refusing to accept donations. Spirituality cannot be bought nor sold.
I was also frequenting a local Irish pub at the time and one of the bands scheduled was not a local band (a rarity), but one from Texas. I’d stumbled onto them in one of my various CD-hunting shopping sprees and decided it was a great idea to go check them out (I loved the singer’s voice).
They gave a stomping good time the night they played and they noticed my friend and I actually enjoying their music. So, between sets, they came and bought my friend a drink and me a coffee (one of my initial forays into sobriety before it finally stuck). We got to gabbing and laughing and giving each other shit and, before we knew it, they were asking how they could get in touch with us when they came back to Saint Paul so we could hang out again — away from the pub.
I didn’t think much about it, but I pulled out one of my cards and handed it to the singer.
“O-ho!” she said examining the card closer, a little under the sauce by this point. “Reverend Michael, huh?”
“Yeah, sure. I do stuff for folks when they want someone who doesn’t make a big production out of whatever they need, or if they are poor, they just need help, or if they are friends.”
She held the card aloft so all the band members could see it. “We’ve got a religious man in our company folks, mind your Ps and Qs. Watch the language.”
And everyone almost fell out of their chairs laughing (I’m much funnier when you’re drunk).
Anyway, she’d decided that, like a mascot, I was the official Reverend of the band.
And every subsequent meeting after that, I was called “The Rev” or “Reverend Mick” (I had told people that if they wanted to shorten my first name, it should be to Mick, not Mike; mostly because it sounded better in an Irish music setting than anything).
So… Now you have the background. I couldn’t tell you why it was on my mind last night, it just was.
Please note: I am probably not currently in good standing with the Church, so my credentials are probably about as good as a lump of cold sick on the bedroom floor. I haven’t maintained contact with ULC and I’m not sure how often they purge their membership lists for inactivity.