Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Traveling to Find the Goddess Within and Without

I spent the last few days reading Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor.  It's an interesting joint memoir by a mother and a daughter, each one writing alternate chapters, and it chronicles a time when both of them are at loose ends in terms of what to do next with their lives.

Now you likely know Sue Monk Kidd as the woman who wrote The Secret Life of Bees, but at the time covered by this memoir she has yet to write the book.  She has a desire to be a novelist, but she's doubtful that she can pull it off. She's gone to a writer's conference where she had a famous author dismiss her idea and an agent ask for the manuscript when she writes it.  In addition, she's just turned 50 and works to accept that she will not live forever.

Her daughter has just finished undergraduate school.  She has a vision of grad school that's been dashed because she didn't get into the program.  She can't decide what to do.

The narrative arc is familiar to many of us who are familiar with life cycles.  But this book also shows how the arc is a spiritual one, not just a psychological one.  The women travel to sacred sites in Greece and France, and they encounter powerful examples of goddesses and Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Both women use these images from myth and Christianity to help them find their way.  It's a compelling look at how we might do the same.

I come out of a religious tradition that during my lifetime has been supportive of women.  I can imagine what a liberating experience this book might be if one came out of a more repressive tradition.  Or perhaps it would be terrifying.

I also come out of an academic tradition (Ph.D. in British Literature) that has explored these ancient symbols in all sorts of ways, so their explorations didn't seem radical to me.  For people who don't know this history, I can imagine that the book would be a revelation.

It's a great book for an uplifting read.  It's not unrealistic:  we watch these characters wrestle with these issues across many pages and months.  But it has a message that we need to hear:  we deserve to feel love, we deserve to feel good about ourselves, and it's not too late to become the person the world (and God) needs us to be.

For those of us in liturgical traditions, it's a great book to read in conjunction with the baptism of Christ.  We will be hearing that God is pleased--even before Jesus has done a thing.  In our hyperactive, must-do-more world, it's a message we could stand to hear regularly.

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