11 February 2014

Pear Cider

The gods come first, I thought. Dionysos is not a loving god. There is nothing loving about liberation, nor freedom. It just is.

These thoughts rotated through my head during the twenty-minute walk. They came as a response to the Unitarian Society’s service this Sunday, a children’s service highlighting one of the sources of Unitarian Universalism: Jewish and Christian teachings. The woman leading the service commented that she, like most of us, has a gut reaction to Christianity, and the best thing we can take away from it is that God is love. Beneath all of the rest of it, that is what we can take away from the Bible.

I don’t think that God is love. 99.9% of humanity cannot even understand quantum physics, and the rest just understand enough to write beautiful equations and do brilliant experiments with other people who are fumbling to understand the terrors of the void. We have no right to say that God is love.

I bought avocados, dental floss, and pear cider. A few lines from Apollonius of Tyana ran through my head: If he did not honor Dionysos with wine, then why on Earth would he drink any alcohol at all? Drinking any kind of alcohol is a sacrifice for me because I drink rarely. Most of my altered states move in the opposite direction: How can I become alert enough? How can I make my mind razor-sharp, like the edge of a newly-sharpened stiletto? What can I do to myself to reach these states of ecstatic clarity? Alcohol offers no such clarity. It is like what happens to a chef’s knife that no one cares for. None of the signs I saw told me that an offering of pear cider would be scorned, so I bought it.

In silence, I walked to my apartment with the six pack in hand. My fingertips hurt from the cold. Sheets of dimpled ice covered the sidewalks and parts of the roadways. I moved aside to let a FedEx truck through a one-way street where the sidewalks were impassable. New Haven does not handle snow.

At home, I raised the portrait of Dionysos. I thought about my favorite lines from the Bacchae, and my mind turned once again to the statement, “God is love,” and how deeply wrong that felt in my head. A god is uncomfortable. God is what happened to Semele, who burned from the eyes down. God is the flash of light Apollon brought to Crisa that sent the people into terror. God is infinitely terrifying and impartial.

And yet, the gods come first.

I lit the incense and let the stick fall into the bowl where years of ashes have made a resting bed. I raised the bowl and rotated it three times to my right, three times to my left, and three times towards the image of Dionysos in front of me. I cleared my throat and began, Blessèd, blessèd are those who know the mysteries of god ...


Ariadne in Exile said...

I must admit, I have experienced Dionysos as loving. But then, I have experienced love as uncomfortable and liberating, terrifying, ecstatic and vast. How mysterious He is...

Steve Finnell said...
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