Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Flashback: A Poetic Sense of Life

[Continuing in my re-posts from the past, this one was originally posted on February 1, 2010. It is about the unique things we can learn, or be reminded of, when we listen to our children. My daughter is now 26 years old, and I am still learning things from her, but I'll always treasure the glimpses she helped me to see from a child's point-of-view so many years ago.]

“Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Luke 18:17 (RSV)

Mircea Eliade was a religious historian who wrote many books about mythology. He made it quite clear that ancient people were not simple-minded. They were every bit as sophisticated in their thinking as we modern people are. The difference is that their mode of thinking was mythopoeic – mythopoetic, if you will – while our modern mindset is scientific and analytical. Reading Mircea Eliade convinced me that myth is not falsehood. Myth is truth, spoken from a poetic mind set.

Robert Coles is another author I would recommend. A child psychiatrist and Harvard professor, he wrote a book called The Spirituality of Children in which he showed us that children have a much greater grasp of the truths of life than we adults often give them credit for. I think that children have that poetic sense that our ancient ancestors had and that all of us once had before it was socialized out of us.

When my daughter Elaine was six years old, I overheard a remarkable conversation between her and her playmate. They were involved in an art project painting rocks at our dining/arts-and-crafts table. Elaine (while painting a rock) said, "There's the right color! I knew God would show me."

Her friend said, "God is in my heart."

Elaine replied, "There's Mother God and Father God. Mother God is the Earth and Father God is up there watching over us." She made a big sweep of her arm as she said this. "Father God can't watch everyone at the same time, but Mother God can."

Her friend responded, "There's two – there’s God and Jesus."

To which my daughter replied, "Well, I know Mother God very well – I'm like her."

Her friend, not exactly following Elaine's statement said, "I like her to."

"Do you sway with the grass?" Elaine asked her. "Mother God sways with the grass," swaying her arms and her body back and forth as she spoke.

At six years of age, my daughter had a remarkable gift. She had latched onto a feminine identification with the divine. "I know Mother God very well – I'm like her... Mother God sways with the grass."

Elaine had talked to me before about her ideas. I once told a theologian friend of mine about a conversation I had with her about Mother God and Father God when she was four years old. She said, "It's hard for me to say something about Father God, but it's easier to talk about Mother God." I asked her why that was. She said, "Well, Father God – I don't really know him, but I know Mother God. I was in Mother God's belly before it was time to be in my mother's belly to be born. You see, I have two mothers: Mommy and Mother God."

I had marveled at her honesty and insight. My thought was that she captured the notion of the imminence of God vs. the transcendence of God. My theologian friend's comment was that Elaine's idea was "classic Meister Ekhart." Not bad company for a young observer of life. My daughter is a sophomore in college now. My hope for her is that she will always remember the God who is like her, and that she never forgets how to sway with the grass.

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[As a postscript, you can see from the essay above that Elaine had an early start in art. She is now working out of an art studio and teaching art to college students after having earned her graduate degree from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. She currently has an exhibit on display at Ground Floor Contemporary art gallery. To view some of her artwork, visit her website at]


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