Madwoman Out of the Attic

a feminist trudging forward in a patriarchal world

Monday, December 05, 2005

gettin' all spiritual

In the most recent issue of Dialogue, there was a great article called "My Belief" by Gail Turley Houston. She was an English professor at BYU who was fired for being a feminist in the 90's. In this essay, she talks about how her beliefs have evolved, particularly in light of her harsh treatment by the administration at BYU.

She is a profoundly spiritual person, and I loved reading about the way she is often spiritually affected by certain everyday aspects of her life.

She says, "As I seek the exquisite knowledge of God in my daily encounters with other persons, the natural world, or even the very unnatural institutions of the modern society in which I live, it is as though God reveals the Saviour to me in these encounters and I am quite literally succored throught these seemingly "customary" meetings to enter the field of the transcendent. I am struck more and more by the daily awareness that every minute of my life is a site of the holy..."

She goes on to describe some everyday encounters that expanded her vision and her understanding of the world:
  • talking to a young environmental activist who told her a story of a harrowing moment during a WTO protest, in which, with one accord and with no prior planning, just as the police were about to shoot tear gas at them, all knelt peacefully and chanted a prayer, a peaceful action which stopped the police from firing at them.
  • listening to NPR and hearing one of the first environmentalists, a former forest ranger, who in 1912 shot a family of wolves as he had been instructed, and as he gazed into "the flames of the dying wolf's eyes, understood for the first time that she and her pups had been a part of the living garment of God." In the eyes of that dying wolf, he saw the eternality of God.
  • talking to a professor from the Canary Islands who opted to not have her baby blessed in the Catholic church, but instead went to the seashore and "each person in the circle of blessing, made up of men and women, spoke his or her love and blessing to the child." Houston goes on to say that as they walked back to campus together she knew she was "hearing about a retailored form of spirituality that was trying to get back to the original glorious garment of was almost as though I could touch that retailored garment -- and it was touching me, for my own spirit felt electrified, elated, and pure."
The fact that I am so compelled by her stories hints to me that perhaps, somewhere inside of me, I have possibilities for spirituality too. I have begun to come to the conclusion that in order for me to accept myself as a spiritual being, I simply have to redefine what the spirit is. I'm beginning to accept that I'll probably never feel it in a testimony meeting, but I sure felt Something when I read Houston's wonderful essay.


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