The preacher was in the middle of speaking about the difference between good liturgy and bad liturgy. Bad liturgy, he said, was the sort of liturgy we do--actions and intentions all woven together--for our own ends, so that we may personally benefit from it in the ways we see fit. Good liturgy, on the other hand, is the sort of liturgy we do for God's sake, for God's ends. I saw where he was going, especially from a political standpoint, because it seems that in this country, at this moment in history, far too much is being done for self-aggrandizing, self-benefiting ends, while the ends that matter from a certain Christian perspective--clothing the naked and feeding the hungry--go unnoticed, even though these are, from this perspective, God's ends.
What I noticed as this preacher went on was the absolute divide he made between God and human beings, God's ends and human ends. That divide is, perhaps, why Jesus, who is said to be both human and divine, is such a miracle. For me as a Thean, however, I cannot thealogically claim such a definitive divide between God and what she has made.
As I encounter her, Thea is an author. As I encounter myself and others, we are and are becoming are her evolving masterwork. Thea is not done with her masterwork, it seems to me, and even if she were, her work would be no less part of her. She may be distinct in some sense from her work, but her work is of her, and she of it.
I say this because of my own experience just today as I picked up my first novel, Memory Stands Still, and marveled as I read it. My novel, my words, my stories, are of me. Writing this and other stories has changed and revealed me. One could claim on some level a divide between me and my art, but I would argue--and so would many around me--that my art, like my dreams, reveal the deepest parts of myself. One may talk of Thea, God, apart from her masterwork, but what would one say of her?
One might answer that one would say nothing, and that that would be the best way to honor Thea, who is ineffable. And that would also be correct.
The grace and beauty of Thea is that there are many ways to behold her, to perceive her, to encounter her. As a Thean, I encounter God incarnate in every person, every creature, I meet--every one, without exception. For me, Thea is revealed not as absolute other, but as author of and the very stuff of creation. Thea's masterwork is Thea herself. The radical thing about Theanism is that there is no encounter one can have that is not encounter with Thea. My ability to perceive her in the one who wounds me and wounds others may be limited, but she is present and enfleshed in the meanest and kindest of all of us, in the messy complexity of every one of us, including myself. That is what makes the radical divide between good and bad too facile; it implies that God can be here and not there, and the truth, at least of my experience, is that God is in and of all of it. We the universe are Thea figuring herself out, and singing beauty--in all its difficulty and breathtaking loveliness, into life. We who are Thea are both good and bad, and Thea's intentions, Thea's ends, are very much our own, and ours hers. What this means is that Thea doesn't always get it right--we, you and I, don't always get it right. But we, her creation, her Sacred Body, her hands and feet, are moving, one must hope, in the direction of greater understanding, beauty, and love, for that is her, our, end.
In other words, I don't believe human ends are so very different from Thea's, despite the evils, hatred, and selfishness that run rampant in our world. What I do believe is that it's easy for every one of us to lose sight of what is most important and life-giving in our daily lives for the sake of accomplishing the goals we've chosen to set for ourselves. There is not one person in the world who has not done harm to another while attempting to do what they believe is good, right, or worthwhile. There is not one person in the world who has not engaged in what is selfish while wanting to help others or make a positive difference. Good and bad are woven together, and there is no unweaving them.
But this is not reason for hopelessness. It is reason for relief, I believe--relief in the ability to be honest, to assess ourselves and one another frankly and with tremendous compassion, to choose to hold together rather than attempting to tear apart what cannot be divided neatly into compartments. From my Thean perspective, there is no way to achieve "pure goodness," because there is no such thing. There is, rather, a journey for each of us, a journey with many possible directions, setbacks, and ecstasies. We each have steps of our own in the cosmic dance. We each have our harmony, our solo, our part in the symphony Thea composes and performs in this very moment.
What I would like to suggest is that perhaps, instead of pointing fingers at what or who is good or bad, that it is time to set aside our assumptions and judgments aside for a while and focus instead on what we live for: loving and drawing out the best in one another, starting with the one we see in the mirror. For we are worth our great efforts to love. We are Thea, and love is the masterwork we are, have been, and are becoming.