I get uncomfortable every time the syllable god pops into a conversation. I just don’t find it to be a very useful word. What does it mean?
I spent the early part of my life marinated in the unchallengeable mysteries of Godthefather, the guy with the beard, a capital-G, and surveillance cameras under the wings of birds and in the vapor of the air, the god who keeps track of your shortcomings so you can pay for them with suffering. Eventually I asked the disobedient question: Is this the best system that the smartest and most loving being in the universe could come up with? The repercussions made his g-o-d name turned to poison, and then sawdust on my lips. But other people use the word all the time. It’s their god-given right.
A lot of folks have dropped the god-word but have left the punitive institutions in place with a loose use of the word karma. Good karma and bad. Karmic circumstances. Karmic accounting. You better be good, ‘cause whatever you dish out is coming back. You better be better or you’ll get sent back as a toad. It’s like god-the-judge put the system on autopilot and slipped out to smoke.
Some say it’s a patriarchy thing, god-the-gigantic, the guy-in-the-sky. It’s the entirely wrong image. Goddess is her real name. She is kind. Thank Goddess. Goddess willing. Goddess knows. Ye Goddess! I think that’s godthefather in a princess suit.
Theologian and philosopher Mary Daly says, yes, do depose the smiting lord, the jealous and angry old man of patriarchy, but just-say-no to the Goddess as well. She’s not radical enough. Not accurate enough. The absurdities of the patriarchal god won’t just go away if you rebrand him. God needs more than a gender change, says Daly, god is the wrong part of speech.
In Beyond God the Father and Pure Lust, the foundational works of her Elemental Feminist Philosophy, Daly tries to retrieve concepts and sensibilities lost to humans in the cancerous overrun of patriarchy. One of the tools she uses to do this is language. She explores with words, inventing and re-inventing them as a way to turn ideas sideways and see what other kinds of light might come through them. The problem with god, says Daly—the lord, the old one, the wise one, the almighty—they’re all nouns. A noun is a fixed thing, a glop, static, with boundaries and the potential to be doornail dead. A god so limited and boring as to be noun is of little use in this glorious world, says Daly. But ahh, god the verb, now there’s something useful and believable. And to keep you from confusing the verb with the guy in the grandpa suit, she coins a new word: Be-ing. Hyphenated. Capital B, “the constantly unfolding verb of verbs” she calls it. There’s nothing to follow or obey. Just Be-ing. What you can do is participate.
I can go a ways with that. Even though I really don’t see Be-ing settling unobtrusively into my vocabulary, I like the way the world feels when everything in it is a verb. How the birds have been birding out there all day. Wrenning wrens nesting. Ravening ravens, parenting, childrening, branch bouncing. And the garden gardening away all afternoon without me while I’ve been over here, aliving.