Saturday, April 08, 2006

what do I worship?

I have seen this question come up here and there, posed from theist quakers to nontheist quakers (most recently, from Rich in Brooklyn to me, I think)

It's certainly a good one. We pretty much all easily refer to Meeting for Worship, but if you don't even believe in God, what do you worship??

Well, okay, I've actually wondered something similar. (maybe) - is worship what I want to be doing here? (or what I'm called to do?) It can bring to mind the sort of religion where the church sends people out to beat you up if you don't "tithe" (and didn't they call it "tribute" or something at some point??"

I am in no way interested in trying to buy myself brownie points with Santa-God, or even stroking his ego for the heck of it. I pretty much don't (really) believe in him - but when I do, he can really annoy me. no worship there (ok, not much)

So, I have a problem with the word "worship" because it has all these connotations of thinking myself less than something/someone else, and somehow kowtowing to, or fawning over them, out of fear or goodness knows what.

But, the word also still basically works for me


I guess because I've reinterpreted it. I feel as if I can be in a state of worship without actually worshipping something. (though it would seem to be a transitive verb, wouldn't it?)

Years ago I was riding to yearlly meeting with a friend who is a christian, and he asked me if I had ever experienced God, and I said no, but I had felt awe. He asked me what it was like, and I spent a few minutes describing it (and later blushed to realize that I would have said pretty much word for word the same thing if someone had asked me to describe and orgasm, though I haven't often associated that with religious practice)

And he said, that's a lot like how I experience God.

so, I don't know how close our overall experiences are, and why he would call it God and I wouldn't.

But I know I can experience an openness, an awe, often in nature, or cuddling with my cats, or eating really good food, and in meeting for worship.

So, I don't worship anyone or anything. Maybe I worship everything? But I think I worship


Sarah said...

It's interesting that your aversion to the word 'worship' comes from not wanting to think of yourself as less than Something out there; that's precisely why worship is so important to me.

The best analogy I can offer is when I see someone that I love very much and haven't seen for a very long time- my love and delight at seeing them so overpowers me that everything else becomes insignificant. On a much larger scale, that's what worship is for me.

I've always thought of worship as a transitive verb, too, but I entirely understand what you mean by that state of awe. I get that, too . . . that state of stunned, breathtaking thrill. mmmm.

I'm really enjoying following your blog more; you come from such a very different perspective from me that it always shakes me up a little.

earthfreak said...

Sarah -

thanks for commenting! I really enjoy your comments, and your blog, as well.

I read this yesterday and have been mulling it over. I think I may have chosen words somewhat inadequately. the imagery of "less than" struck me as shallow as I was writing it.

So, I think I do worship (sort of) something that is beyond me, that transcends me, the key is that it is not above me.

What I was trying to get at is the fact that the "king" sort of imagery doesn't really work for me. Perhaps not so much because of the hierarchy (though I have a problem with that) but because of the distance.

God (or whatever) is, I think and hope, too close - we don't worship our parents, our house, our fruit trees, our lovers. Or maybe sometimes we do, but I believe that if it's a healthy situation, not because they are "more perfect" than us, but because they inspire a sort of perfection in ourselves, be it momentary, or, oddly, imperfect :)

peace : )


Liz Opp said...

Nice topic, Pam. I especially resonate with your comment in reply to Sarah:

I think I do worship (sort of) something that is beyond me, that transcends me, the key is that it is not above me. What I was trying to get at is the fact that the "king" sort of imagery doesn't really work for me.

A number of years ago, I was doing a role play that involved a woman portraying God (!). Since I was the "director" of that role play to help me resolve an internal struggle I was having at the time, I had "placed" God on a chair or table, looking down at me. After all, I had unknowingly been indoctrinated with the concept that God is above, separate, distant.

As can happen in role playing, the woman portraying God moved herself out of where I had placed her. She came to stand directly beside me, shoulders touching, and she said--in her role as God--"Actually, this is how I see myself. With you."

My experience of God has been transformed ever since.

I would also say that I use the word "worship" as a noun as well as an INtransitive verb.

"Worship" for me is a state of blessed beingness. I don't worship a Thing or even God. I come to worship so I may listen for guidance, hopefully with others who are listening as well.

I listen.
I wait.
I rest.
I worship.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

Droplet said...

Hi Pam,

Thanks for this. I wonder about the term "worship" too, and am realizing that what I do at Meeting for Worship, and what I think about when I hear the word "worship" are not the same thing.

When you say
So, I think I do worship (sort of) something that is beyond me, that transcends me, the key is that it is not above me
I want to add - something that is bigger than me, but not separate from me. Something that includes all of us.

I find I have my most "worshipful" moments when I am firmly grounded in Love--of the people I am worshiping with, or others I am thinking of, or the beauty of Creation, or that which lives in me and thee, or in deep connection through music or some other shared experience. Perhaps the difference is the openness you mentioned, that allows us to pay attention in a different way.

Canine Diamond said...

Once again, I'm getting into the game WAY after the fact. Sorry.

Do you know the old song "It Soon Be Done"? The chorus goes:

I'm gonna shake hands with all of the elders,
Tell all the people 'good morning',
Sit down beside my Jesus,
Sit down and rest awhile.

I'm into Jesus a whole lot but that's always been one of my favorite gospel songs and it's a pretty good description, in a nutshell, of what worship is for me. (Come to think of it, there is no mention of God in the rest of the song, either, so as a non-theist I can sing it and mean it.)

Paul L said...

Pam -- your question is, in many ways, THE question, though for me the question is "Who do I worship?", not "what." (Bob Dylan once sang that "you have to serve somebody". . . and Jesus said "No man can serve two masters.")

There's no "what" I've ever known that's worthy of my devotion, only someone with whom I can be in relationship with.

But "what do I worship" is a perfectly good question, too. I looked up the etymology of the word "worship. " It's listed as a noun, interestingly enough, and comes from Old English and means "condition of being worthy, honor, renown."

The dictionary I consulted defines the noun "worship" as "the reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object; the ceremonies, prayers, or other religious forms by which this love is expressed; ardent devotion; adoration." So the noun seems to require some object of the state of worshipfulness.

But "worship" is also a verb that can be both transitive (to honor and love as a deity; to regard with ardent or adoring esteem or devotion) and intransitive (to participate in religious rites of worship; to perform an act of worship).

So it's certainly within the ballpark to "be in a state of worship" without necessarily having an object of worship.

I actually think this is what a lot of unprogrammed Friends "do" in meeting for worship: they make themselves inwardly "worthy" by letting go of creaturely thoughts and worries and returning to "original mind", ready for whatever (or whoever?) walks through the door.

And with Friends, it isn't a solitary, meditative waiting, it is a corporate action, everyone together becoming worthy.

But if one doesn't have an object for the worship, perhaps the question should be "Why do I worship?