Recently there has appeared on my Facebook timeline, and from numerous FB friends, a post with a link to a guided meditation video they enthusiastically suggest everyone try. Included on the post is a photo of a gently rolling ocean, a pristine sandy beach, a beautiful blue and puffy white-clouded sky, and the title of said highly-recommended mediation: “F*ck That.”
Please pardon the profanity. And/or the use of asterisks.
If you haven’t already, and if you dare, I invite you to give it a try now!
What do you think? I know it’s pretty crazy, and I admit I feel rather sheepish saying this, but imho "F*ck That" takes me through a fabulous contemplative process! Afterwards, I feel remarkably cleansed, relaxed and light-filled.
Several of the folks sharing this meditation on FB have been earnestly recommending it as a great “toe in the water” for those who have been heretofore resistant to trying any form of spiritual practice. Talk about an effective “front porch….”
No matter what your tradition or beliefs, there’s something about putting yourself in a sacred setting and letting your really difficult and "improper" feelings, struggles and experiences ride on raw, honest language; even -- maybe especially -- when it's language one should never use, and most certainly NEVER utter in quiet, focused, intimate communion with the Divine.
Of course, this paradox is what makes this meditation also so funny. As I’ve said before, “low language” is one of the chief characteristics of classical comedy. And this guided meditation brings things really really low! But also surprisingly "high." You could easily argue that every “f*ck” and “sh*t” spoken, and encouraged for introspective cleansing and transformation, is there for good reason; nothing is gratuitous.
Even so and in addition, many of us -- even as we're breathing, letting go, laughing, and continuing to hang onto every next word of our most mellifluously-voiced meditation guide -- are also keeping a constant lookout to see if lightening is about to strike. Have we made God angry for engaging in spiritual practice in this scandalous and seemingly most irreverent way? Are we breaking a Commandment?
Probably not - Commandment #3, which prohibits taking the name of God in vain, is not necessarily a prohibition against "bad language." Instead, it prohibits taking it upon yourself to command God to damn someone; it is God’s decision alone who and who not to curse. In this meditation we have but a smattering of well-placed ‘dirty words" describing certain body parts and bodily activities. Oh, and one mention of a female dog. Er, several female dogs.
As a pastor always interested in what's happening at the intersection of comedy and theology, I thought I’d share some additional thoughts on this meditation from my place at the table. (After all, shouldn't someone be giving a professional opinion on this stuff?? :) )
So, okay. For one thing, “F*ck That” actually takes us back to what scholars think was comedy’s original purpose. And religion's.
In ancient Greece, when spring rolled around and it was time for villagers to plant crops, a sacred ceremony took place in which a symbolic plate of food would be ceremoniously paraded to the altar of the “provision gods.” A group of traveling revelers, also known as the "comus," would follow right behind that plate, spewing all sorts of profanity and mockery at the food, political officials, human behavior, the gods, you name it. The idea was that this kind of “comic” language drove the evil spirits away, and, hence, a successful harvest and food on everyone’s table was thereby guaranteed.
(On the flip side, I guess it only stands to reason that if the harvest ended up not being good, the blame was to be placed on the "comus" because of their inability to tell good-enough jokes. As a fellow comedian, I’m grateful I didn’t live back in those days; it’s hard enough to have to live with yourself after you have a bad set, but then to have to realize it’s your fault there’s famine in the land….ugh.)
In any case, it’s interesting that obscenity and lampoon (and especially when well-done, of course!) was, in ancient times, believed to be the ultimate tool in eradicating the powers of evil and promoting well-being. Even then, the power of laughter was well-known and clearly valued.
The other thing this pastor wishes to say about “F*ck That” is that it brings to mind…the Psalms. The Bible's book of most-earnest prayers and praises to God.
The Psalms I’m thinking about in particular are known as the “imprecatory” ones: #’s 7, 35, 52, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79 83, 94, 109, 129, 137, 139, and 140. Take a look at any or all, and you'll see they are "songs" of great fear and despair. The Psalmist is being assailed by an enemy and relief is dearly needed. At some point in each Psalm, God is called upon to take care of the Psalmist's enemy, and not in language you'd associate with the "spiritually mature."
For example in Psalm 140 God is requested to....
In Psalm 58, the Psalmist is wishing God would do this to his awful adversary:
Then there is probably the most perverse notion of all, at the end of Psalm 137, where our Psalmist offers the following "blessing" upon the Babylonians:
Talk about obscene and offensive language! Words that one should never use, and most certainly NEVER when in focused, intimate communion with the Divine! I guess, however, these and other creatively perverse curse commands don't quite break Commandment #3, since they show up throughout the Psalter and are to be used for our prayer time as legitimately as "The Lord is my shepherd...."
Perhaps what we're invited to do in these imprecatory praise prayers, like with our currently popular guided meditation, is let the fullness of our difficult and improper feelings, struggles and emotions ride on especially raw and honest language, whether or not such things "should" be said or not. I know from personal experience some of the most grace-full (and immediate) responses to prayer I have received have come from pleas filled with so much pain and rage and confusion I didn't know what else to say except words that should only publicly be spelled with asterisks. For some awesome reason, God doesn't seem to care.
In fact, I think the raw-er we are when addressing the Divine, the better. There are a lot of soul-eating c*cksuckers out there that need to fall. First from our beings, then from the world. Say that earnestly and aloud, and before you know it, they're slime. We're able to carry on with peace in our hearts, joy in our hope, and renewed strength for the three ring sh*t show of our lives. And the lives of others.
Breathe and f*ck that.