[In 1993, while toiling in the stacks as lit-critter in grad school at the University of Illinois in Springfield, I had a wonderful opportunity to write for Anthony Moyer's Springfield, IL underground 'zine, Unlimited Possibilities. Tony published his monthly newspaper for 7 years and stuck with my work through thick and thin even though I actually didn't even learn how to spell till year 3. This piece was from year two. I also fancied myself quite the rhymey poet at the time and the piece somehow incorporates three whole poems masked as paragraphs. Why I do not recall. Lol. I do know this: 20 yrs ago I thought it was clever and in some ways I still do. I still want people of all faiths, religions or no, to take heart as we pass through this chilly, often painful season. I still want each of you to feel warmth and light from your fires, from your family, from friends and from these words.]
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
"Which Groundhog Will You Worship?" 1993 Happy Holidays Piece
Happy Holidays, 2013,
Greeting my kinsmen in this the midst of our high holy season. My encouragements in all your holiday endeavors. Find Light. There are many to choose from: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, New Year's, the others, or, my personal pick this year, Groundhog Day.
In making your own choice, my advice is, choose them all. The worship of god is too great a thing to remain contained in any one church. The purpose of god is to see and to sing or enrich the whole world with your search. Saying "just one church" is not about finding the best; but running away from the worst, nor embracing and bathing the breast of the blessed, but numbering the names of the cursed. For if god is love, and god is all, then each church is holy--when all blessings be--and sown veils only cover-up bloodstained stone walls when any some one's one word should set every any one some free. Mark my word, it's the mark of a religion that's flawed when it's claim of frame limits the worship of god.
Sounds great on paper.
But then there's the "having to actually deal w actual winter" part that so often sucks so: cold swallows up the sun, everything starts to die and you have to take to your cave hoping for some warmth. Mere survival takes faith and we, in turn, take warmth from those around us instead of just from being; and often eventually even make offerings all around in trade for hope of Spring. Festive, huh? That may be the reason the US calendar provides us with these winter festivals plus others that haven't quite scored the marketing just yet. Basically they're all simply winter time excuses to gather, seek joy and make offerings. Besides, in America we all get a chance to spend money:
Thanksgiving (which will be mere bones by the time you read this) offers heritage, pilgrims, football, sharing food and the eternal question of what is the philosophical meaning of minced meat as dessert. Hanukkah, which is beyond the realm of my experience, and Solstice--point of balance in the deepest night, a godly time for light -- neither of which to my knowledge incorporate football, though perhaps they should in search for ratings. Used to be we savages sacrificed our king when the nights began to look like they would last forever. Then Christianity came along and convinced us it would be more profitable to simply sell our spirit to merchandisers crafty enough to meld the ancient Nimrod winter holiday with our Pagan tree sacrifice & phoof! waah laah! we have Christmas.
My usual favorite, New Year's Day (not Eve): the concept of time's birthday, the most prolific of our national religious holidays (showing up on three different dates: Oct. 31, Jan. 1 and April 1). The turn of the year says a little something towards a sense of solstice, the getting rid of the old broken stuff to make way for new breaking stuff. No wonder, New Year' is so well celebrated; we get to throw all past away in the pause between soap operas, celebrate time's birthday and open a new present.
But then there's Groundhog Day. Besides being an excellent Harold Ramis film, I am talking about Feb 2nd, when we celebrate a medium sized rodent-like mammalia as deities. Like many religions, the essence of the holiday is that if the groundhog does or does not do a certain something then a set of conditions is fated to fall on his followers. If the groundhog DOES NOT see his shadow then it's sunny days, yippee! If he DOES … trouble and pain for all those who believe or, at least, worry about trouble and pain, because the weather is ultimately going to do whatever it DOES, the will of medium sized rodent-like mammals aside. Sounds like any of the other winter holidays?
Everyday all over the planet, billions of people do their certain devotions to their certain groundhogs certain that it is going to make a difference. And, while it may work for many, I've often had a question: Which ground hog will you worship? I mean there are so many of them. If you had to pick just one, how could you be sure? Hey, you might pick a nutria and where would that take you? Then there's the bit about the shadow. Are you supposed to watch him all day and he's never supposed to see it or does he make allowances if he has to double back on his path? Can you just bribe a groundhog to get what you want and if he doesn't come through should just go pick another one? Even worse, what if the critical moment where it mattered if he did or did not see his shadow happened before you were awake that day? Are you stuck to just guess what he's thinking about the weather or should you just go outside yourself and tell which way the wind blows and judge whether you need a coat or not?
Used to be the political leaders of a country presented themselves as the groundhog. And of course everybody said long live the king, imagine the alternative. Billions of dollars and great works of art have been made that way. But after a few thousand years or so and some very fine artwork glorifying some not necessarily fine kings, the people noticed that the prime proponents of the king-as-god concept were the king himself, and his priests. So, of course, that kind of thing fell be the wayside … in some cases, yet groundhogs continue to thrive. Some groundhogs who claim if you don't adhere strictly to their beliefs then their followers have ever right to kill you. This insures the deity's power over your mortality, which has also led to some impressive artwork; but still the rain it raineth every day.
Here in America, we've made up this one groundhog all adults know as completely false and taught our children to worship him. Of course it does sell soda water and I wouldn't want to slander old St. Nick, patron saint of thieves.
Maybe all that groundhog business is really just a mask that we wear to hide our fears. Maybe we're just afraid to not believe in something. History's always been that way, check the groundhog mythology yourself: Romulus and Remus discovered the penis: but Venus discovered Mars. The terrible Thor clambered plunder for war; while Elohim made himself from his stars. The fierce Yahweh taught the people to prey, Mohammed led the people to sword; while wise old Emerson called believe and all is one, but remains to this day largely ignored.
Maybe, we all just want something to believe in, to comforts us, like Teddy bears. When we're cold and scared in the dark our groundhogs do give us something to hold onto. And it is true, being mammals, almost any groundhog you get a hold of is likely to be warm, fuzzy, and to some degree playful unless you make him mad. But then maybe all groundhogs, like all ground, are holy, maybe the whole thing's holy and it's all just one big groundhog. You know, because I was just dirt before ate by beans I ate; because I am the air I breathe and all that's on my plate, I cannot think I am not God (unless I think I'm not) and my part reaches half of all my hole, the rest still blessed, I thought. Because I was and am and are and still a speck of time I live to love all I am knowing and dare not doubt divine.
So … which groundhog will you worship, pray tell? I hope you try them all; I hope you find light. Happy Holidays.
Springfield, IL, 12/18/93