Andy’s Flaming Chalice – November 2012

November greetings! It’s going to be a full month! Keep your eyes out for news of the Welcoming Congregation Refresher Program, which will examine how we are doing with “inclusive language.” And November kicks off with Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, giving us the opportunity to remember and appreciate those who have transcended the Great Mystery before us. Celebrating Dia de los Muertos is a warm tradition at Starr King and the altar created for it is always affecting.

Dia de los Muertos is a tender and loving reverie, but an aura of spookiness hangs about it; those we love who have died may have a continued existence in an unseen Other World. Conjecture about the nature of that Other World is no casual inquiry!

Some of us think that life ends when life as we know it ends. I lean toward this myself. But it confounds me to think I end with death, since I have never known an existence in which “I” was not a central feature. On the other hand, I confess to a tiny suspicion that when my eyes close in death, that just might be the end of you too. In our largely Judeo-Christian tradition, the specter of damnation clings to death even for those who “don’t believe,” and folklore tells us that those who step too near the Other World may sometimes be plucked unexpectedly into it, on a one-way ticket.

I don’t know what the “truth” is about another plane of existence but I find it arresting that we in our culture conflate our beloved decedents with a sphere which has distinctly threatening vibes. Like mythic images of Devouring Mother or Murderous Child, we sense with unease that what is most dear to us can be transformed into our destruction. Like the barrier between the quick and the dead which is said to become permeable on November 1st, we harbor a special fascination for things which are at once marvelous and perilous.

At the end of November we celebrate Thanksgiving, to acknowledge with thanks the gifts life has bestowed upon us. We celebrate our continued existence with a bounty of food, because all bounty echoes absent privation. Our gratitude is informed by awareness that the gifts of this world are not bestowed equally; we set aside this special day to notice and be humbled by our good fortunes and invite others to draw near our cozy hearths. November, you are all about shifting boundaries, whether of existence or circumstance.

November brings the Leonid meteor showers in mid-month, peaking around the 17th. The Leonids are often easily seen at this time of year. They were so vivid in 1833 that many, many people thought The End was at hand; the illustration at left depicts that event. If you find yourself away from the city lights on a clear night, why not grab a blanket, a friend and a Thermos of some hot tasty drink, and revel in our extravagant cosmos?