"I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with the nonhuman world and somehow survives...Paradox and bedrock."-Edward Abbey

24 January 2010

Seeing Dragons

In Chinese folk belief, there are the Long Wang. These are the Dragon Kings, the Gods of Rain and Funerals. Kind of a nifty title there. I have always liked dragons, even and especially the Asian ones. They have been known to bring good luck.

The quickest way to describe myself theologically is as a heretical Tibetan Buddhist. I like the shamanic aspects incorporated from Bon and Buddhism has always made sense to me as a philosophy. There are other aspects to my stitched together theology and silly superstitions, of course; bits of Gnosticism, various folk beliefs from around the world, Kabbalah, ancient Egyptian, native American, Taoism, Shinto, Voodoo, maybe even some Pagan and/or Muslim. My sister once remarked if I hadn't practiced a religion, even for just a bit, I had least read some about it. I think she meant that in a good way.

I do believe in pluralism. That there is more than one way to be in touch with the Divine, of which names such as Elohim, Vishnu, Dharma, the Force, Blessed Sophia, Goddess, and the like or just masks we place over it in order to make sense out what it is we're seeing. To me, wandering some trail out in the bush is being in the presence of the Divine, just as looking up at the peaks surrounding our narrow little rift-like valley is. Sometimes, I think trying to explain my particular view of theology and the Divine is right up there with trying to explain fire to an australopithecus, which borders upon quite impossible for several reasons, most notably of which is australopithecus have been extinct for a couple million years. So, I pretty well stick to the simplification of heretical Tibetan Buddhist and save the more drawn out explanation for discussions and debates on theology, which I don't get into half as much as I used to.

I am fascinated with perceptions. How one's worldview can color and shape the visual information their eyes are receiving. The facts and what belief and memory have to say about and add to that.

Where someone with a more Abrahamic belief would see evidence of their one god and angels, I see gods and bodhisattvas and spirits and Chinese dragons in cumulonimbus clouds. I have taken to calling thunderheads dragon clouds. Another way I can tell the seasons are changing is when I see the Long Wang slithering and coiling across the sky or when they disappear, replaced by the mare's tails, cobwebs, and glacial storm walls, which come with the colder seasons.

A few years ago, I was at the joe job I was doing at the time. It was summer, during the monsoon season. A particularly impressive storm rolled through in the late afternoon hours. A maelstrom, which got some of the more devout of the Abrahamic faiths to recall a particular flood.

The storm finally broke and the sun appeared once more. There were still dragon clouds as the sun began to set. And it was a spectacular sunset, with hues of flame and gold against the royal blue of a darkening sky.

"God really is something, painting the sky like that, isn't he?" A coworker asked me. Then, she remembered I wasn't Jewish, Christian, or Muslim. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you."

"None taken," I said. "Have I ever told you about the Long Wang?"

She shook her head to indicate I had not. So, I told her about the Dragon Kings, the Lords of Rain and Funerals, to which she listened with a tolerant smile on her face. She too was one who believed there was more than one way to be in touch with the Divine. After awhile, we went back to watching the sunset.

"Kind of amazing when you think about it," I mused after a little bit. "An atheist would say we're just seeing clouds. Groupings of frozen water particles. And yet you see the hand of your god and I see Chinese dragons."

"The Lord..." she caught herself, smiled that tolerant smile, and touched my arm. "The Lords work in mysterious ways."

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