Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lady Madonna

For awhile, I was tempted to go around the house and get rid of all my goddam madonnas. All of them. Take them off the walls and from around my neck and leave big empty spaces and replace my Virgin of Guadalupe calender with one that has puppy dogs on it or something.

I was having problems with the madonna. First off, she's always so damn submissive. Head bowed, hands in prayer, taking what they're givin' 'cause she's dying for a livin'.

Also, every person who comes in this house thinks I'm a closeted Catholic because the myriad of Virginal Images would seem to indicate that.

And frankly, I don't need that shit.

I don't need to be thought of as a closeted Catholic and I would sort of like to see an image of the Virgin where she's kicking some ass. Hiking up that skirt and kicking mean-person ass with that dainty foot of hers.

"Crucify MY son? I don't THINK so!"
Well, that is not the Madonna Way.
Although it certainly would be the Mother Way.

I had come to believe that the image of Submissive Madonna was another male-oriented way to control people by giving them this view of holiness as submission. Promise people that if they don't question and just let go and let god that everything will eventually be okay and even if it's not, by the time you die, you'll be rewarded in heaven.

That's some fucked-up shit if you ask me.
But then with the most recent spate of life-happening I am experiencing, I have come to profoundly realize that sometimes all you CAN do is submit. And there is great grace and perhaps even holiness in that. There are forces to which submission is the only answer. Childbirth, for instance. You fight the contractions and it's going to take three times as long. Hurricanes- can't fight those. Hunker down and let it pass. Don't stand out in the yard under a tree and yell at the wind and rain. Unless you like the idea of impalement by oak branch.

So yes, there are times when acceptance and surrender are the way to go. And maybe that's exactly what appeals to me in all of those madonnas. Shit happens. You get knocked up by god, give birth in a stable, raise your child and then see him crucified.

Or something like that.

There are times to fight and there are times to just look around, see what is and if it can't be changed and you can't get out of the path of whatever particularly buggery crap is happening, surrender.

Now of course, the hardest part is deciding what can and what cannot be changed. That's the part of the Serenity Prayer that I always get tripped up on. But once it's been determined that we are, in fact, powerless in a situation, I suppose it's a good thing to have those madonnas around to remind us of the grace of submission. Perhaps even the beauty personified in her sweet face, her bowed head.

And so I have decided to keep my madonnas and go ahead and light candles too. Why not?
But I will tell you this- I will also keep my images of Frida Kahlo because there is something so real and so necessary in remembering that sometimes submission and surrender are NOT the way to go. You can bow your head and close your eyes but it's simply because you're plotting your next ass-kicking move and then you open those eyes and you stare out and you refuse to submit or surrender no matter what the odds are, no matter how strong the wind or hard the rain.

That's what I think.
And I am not, no matter which image of the Woman I choose to worship on which particular day and in which particular circumstances, ever going to believe that I will be rewarded or punished when I die. No golden slippers, no fires of hell.
And even if there were, I wouldn't have time to worry about it now.
I'm too busy trying to decide whether to light a candle to the virgin or get up off my crippled legs and go striding down some particular path of determination to give life-after-this-life a second thought.

I give fire to the Virgin, I keep my Frida in a cool, dim room.

I am trying to figure it out; I am learning that submission and defiance are the two sides of the same coin. I am giving myself the permission to try and determine with wisdom and logic and intuition and knowledge which side of the coin I need to spend in each situation.
I have been given this mind to use for myself and I will not give up my ability to do so in the service of any god or goddess. I have been given this heart to use as well, and it too, is mine to give out as I wish and to keep when I do not want to give it out.

And I am finding that it is as hard to submit as it is to defy and sometimes, it is much harder.
But there is no grace in submission when defiance would serve us better and there is no honor to defiance when submission is the path to take.
And my madonnas and my Fridas remind me of that.

Now the pictures of Bill Murray I have in my bathroom right next to all those Fridas and Virgins?

Well, he's just for me. He's just for joy. He's just there to remind me that even though we're all going to die, in the grand scheme of things, we might as well crack each other up while we're still here.
And to me, that's as important as anything. Whether we're surrendering or defying, whether we're submitting or fighting, we can't be afraid to be goofy and glad and to not take everything so fucking seriously.

Holy mothers, holy artists, holy funny men, holy hopes and dreams and holy lives and holy births and holy deaths and holy days.
All holy. All filled with grace.
Holy motherfucking shit. Everywhere you step, everywhere you look.

Bow your head, stare into the eyes of life and death, laugh at the universe. You better believe it's laughing back at us. And if you ever come visit me and see all my madonnas, keep all of this in mind. That I think Bill Murray and Frida Kahlo are as important as the Virgin. It's not about religion, it's about living here-and-now and finding the grace in whatever path we're on at this particular moment in this particular life on this particular planet in this particular universe.

And my madonnas are staying right where they are.


  1. How come no one ever gives me morphine when I'm having heartburn? Why do you have to be 83 freaking years old to get some decent drugs in this country?

    Lucy, forgot my password again...

  2. Wisdom today. I love the part about hurricanes and wind and rain. Having lived through that and cancer, I know it's true.

  3. Bill Murray and Frida Kahlo are as important as the Virgin.


    Lovely post. I might add that from my own life-view that whatever icons we embrace through our years of living and bleeding and loving and grieving are as sacred (and as profane) as those provided by any santifying church or government or media corporation.

    Choose your icons or live with the ones thrust upon you - learn what they mean FOR YOU and as you say, let go and spend the coin of the realm the best way you can each time you do commerce with the world.

    (sorry if this is a duplicate post!)

  4. I have a poster in my house that I need to take a picture of and show you. It's from a Pearl Jam concert from I don't know how many years ago.

    Anyway, it's the virgin, but she's holding a skateboard in her arms like you would a baby and there's a boombox floating above her head with rays of light shooting out of it. It cracks me up to this day.

  5. If you can get a bad ass Jesus online, I'm pretty sure you can get an Ass kicking Madonna!

    Great, now I know what to get you for Christmas.

  6. "I believe in nothing; everything is sacred. I believe in everything; nothing is sacred."

  7. Bwahahaa. I love you. Beautiful. Sometimes you really do just have to submit.

  8. DTG - That reminds me of something from a Vonnegut book I was thinkging about when I read this. SB would know which one it was. Maybe Cat's Cradle.

  9. oh my.
    i am right there standing in awe beside you, in your kick ass hallelujah choir.
    no religion, holy, EVERYWHERE.
    why reduce or confine the infinite
    divine that is in all moments?...

  10. Steph: it's Tom Robbins, from Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.

  11. you could remake the Virgin in your own likeness, kicking ass.

  12. Lucy- I know. Damn.

    Steph(anie)- Thank-you, ma'am.

    Kathleen Scott- And I think that the older we get and live through, the more we know it.

    Mary- Yes. We can all choose our own icons. Somehow, humans need them. I think.

    Ms. Fleur- Well, I'm a little sensitive about the madonna. I would hate to make fun of her. Although she probably wouldn't mind.

    DTG- When did Tom Robbins quit being amazing start just being weird and creepy?

    Aunt Becky- You? Submit? NEVER!

    rebecca- "why reduce or confine the infinite divine that is in all moments?..."
    And that is what I was trying to say. Thank-you.

    Juancho- THAT IS MY LIFE! Maybe. Some days.

  13. hm..i m not even catholic..but i love madonna ( as well as l a kahlo)....i use dto have a cool t shirt which said: mary is my homegirl..and it had a rather strong madonna on it...

    but on of my fav madonna pictures is this..maybe you like it too...

    dont get me wrong..i m not for child beating ..of course not..but i think that this image by magritte shows a more alive and usual side of mary then most other pics do...

  14. Jeezus, that was your best, most important sermon ever! I love the way you think, the way you take an idea or a notion and turn it over like a stone, making me see the sense in things. I keep telling myself the secret is there is no spoon, which is my favorite movie line of all time, from the Matrix, but it's not really a solid life philosophy somedays.

    Also, you can't know how much I love that you said that is some fucked up shit. That was my best friend in high school's saying. Man, that shit is fucked up. Or for really big messes, that is some fucked up shit right there.
    She taught me to laugh instead of cry, and always reminded me to quit fucking up and get my shit in one pile. These two sentences applied to most of the shit we dealt with in out teens, and as it turns out, most of life too. So thanks for making me think of Janet today.

    Thank you for the notions of grace in the face of helplessness, acceptance and knowing when to relent and when to kick ass.

    Thanks for Frida's stare this morning, and for reminding us to be more like Bill.

    I just love you to pieces.

  15. I love your sermon on "goddam madonnas." Fabulous.

    Add Frida and Bill and that is one holy trinity right there.

  16. I'm glad the madonnas are staying. Whenever I see one now, I think of you, and because of you, I bought a madonna candle myself and lighted that bitch up.

    Love you!

  17. Surrender meant that I stopped fighting and tying to control others. It doesn't mean that I am submissive or that I accept what is unacceptable. There was a good discussion on this last night at a meeting. I ask myself what my motives are when I mind someone else's business. 94 as I like to say "if it doesn't have my name on it , I don't pick it up."

  18. The thing I love about Mary (the mother of God, I mean) is that she really is more than the submissive figure you see around at Christmastime. She believed that the world would turn upside down - the hungry would eat, and the powerful would be made lowly.

    She is one of the more radical folks in the Bible, but for a lot of reasons old white religious guys have tried to downplay that. But Mary the radical who was waiting for everything in the world to be upended is the one I think of when I see her in your house.

  19. Oh, yes.

    I'm glad that you got that off your chest. The air feels cool and clear.

  20. Maybe it's like the way people find their complement in a spouse - you have your madonnas so she can remind you to do what doesn't come naturally sometimes.

    (I found out about not fighting the contractions. Didn't work out how not to. But then I suppose I wasn't really given the chance. Ah well. At least I know now.)

  21. I adore those pictures of Bill :)
    (and you...)

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  23. Danielle- There you are! I love that image. Thanks for sharing it with me. Love it. Love you, too. I hope all is well in your world. I've missed you.

    Mel- Well, I just love you to pieces, too. Which is one of my favorite sayings. Ah darn it. Just...thanks.

    Lisa- There are so many holy trinities. I like to recognize all of them which matter to me.

    Ms. Bastard-Beloved- Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Amen, sweet sister.

    Syd- What a great saying! Or, as a man I used to know said, "Ain't my monkey and I don't have to feed it."

    Anna- I have no idea what Mary thought or wanted. Do you have a source? As a mother I just feel pretty sure that she wasn't as submissive as she is portrayed in art when it came time to give her son up.

    Elizabeth- Yep. Felt good to me.

    Mwa- Yes. As I said to my friend K. last week- we preach what we need to hear. And honey, if I'd have learned not to fight contractions my labors wouldn't have lasted for so damn long.

    Corinne- Isn't he just the most darling man? Love you, too.

  24. Your words always make me feel better. Tonight they calmed me down and chilled me out. I needed a perspective check in a big way.

    Thank you, Ms. Moon


  25. ah you know i missed and love you too!! and now i m back...holidays are over...and soon i start to blog again:-)

  26. Michelle- You okay? Love you, baby.

    Danielle- It's about TIME!
    No, seriously, it's just good to have you back.

  27. The Mary who sang the Magnificat is the one I'm talking about:

  28. "He's just there to remind me that even though we're all going to die, in the grand scheme of things, we might as well crack each other up while we're still here." Thanks. I've had a crappy week with lots of road blocks and I needed to hear this.

    Gonna surrender now, while giggling

  29. Hmm... Did you say, submit? I'm having a hard time with that word.


Tell me, sweeties. Tell me what you think.