Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Food, shamans, atheists, lesbians

I’m still coming down from this past weekend when I gave two presentations and heard three others. Since 1992 I have not missed the annual Women & Spirituality Conference in Mankato, MN, always a source of sustaining inspiration, and this year was one of the best. Where to start?

The keynoter was Vandana Shiva, a scientist and, in my view, one of the most admirable persons in the world. The outrage of seed patents—the pretense that corporations create seeds—turned her from nuclear science to food activism.

She analyzes the pathology of the Western mindset that thinks conquest of the earth is a good thing, that nature exists only to serve “man,” that animals are only factories to produce goods, that artificial is better than natural, that Monsanto’s genetically altered seeds deserve priority over centuries of indigenous expertise, which had produced drought-resistant, flood-resistant, and pest-resistant seeds. She made us aware of the insanity of industrial agriculture with its reliance on pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and antibiotics controlling the world’s food. She told us of corporate greed inducing a rash of suicides among farmers in India.

Unfortunately, Shiva could not stay to answer questions but went off to another venue in the States and then on to Germany. Her busy schedule of engagements gives me hope that the corporate hold on food production can be overcome. Unless it is freed from obscene profits, world hunger will not diminish.

I learned about and watched a video of shamans healing people in Nepal. It reminded me of the shaman Jesus of Nazareth, apparent in the Gospel of Mark. I absorbed a presentation explaining scientifically that consciousness—our thoughts, beliefs, intentions, desires, and feelings (including those of which we are unaware)—shape our reality. Wow, what a realization that is!

I spoke on “Atheist Spirituality,” bridging Christian language with different spiritual beliefs, including atheism. How can we find common ground between the religion that claims “we are the one, true church” and atheists? By realizing, first, that atheists are driven by spiritual conviction. They are disgusted by religious dishonesty and corruption because of their deep spirituality. Second, by realizing that religious language must not be interpreted literally or taken as fact. Heaven and God are ways of imagining the Invisible, not factual descriptions of the Invisible. Heaven can’t be described in miles or feet. When we die, we’re not going to meet a fellow called “Father” with a man called “Jesus” sitting on his right side.

Much of my talk focused on the The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality by André Comte-Sponville, and readers of my blog can find some of his content by poking around in my blog index under “Atheism,” starting with Mystic atheist.

As usual, my presentations ended in participant discussion, which always fills me, gratifies me. It’s so exciting when they get it! From an atheist I received a new compliment I cherish—she said I comforted her. Another atheist who is also a lesbian recounted the time someone learned these facts about her and exclaimed, “You don’t look like that!” We could laugh, but it is sad that the stereotypes exist.

It was good to be among people who have moved out of the box.

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

The conference sounds like it was well worth your time ~ with many bright and well informed people. I've heard so many horror stories about Monsanto. Profits that cause such lasting harm.
I've been reading your other blogs, too, Jeanette, and continue to learn and appreciate your work.