It’s Midsummer tomorrow here in Melbourne and we’re in the swing of the season with drinks tonight and what should be a fab outing to the Botanic Gardens for A Midsummer Night’s Dream tomorrow. We kicked off last night with Wendy Rule’s Fairy Ball at the gorgeous Thornbury Theatre (except for the loos, which smelled like a bat cave by the end of the night, and the absence of napkins to accompany the scrummy finger food).
Rule is a Melbourne singer-songwriter with an international reputation in pagan circles. She and her guitars were backed with cello, vibraphone, percussion, violin and clarinet last night, playing two sets that included songs from her forthcoming album, Guided by Venus, as well as favourites such as Wolf Sky, Artemis and Hecate.
The first set, heavy on slow songs, struggled to make an impact over the chatter and the delightful squeals of children dancing and playing with balloons, but the second, ramping up the tempo and volume, got us where we needed to be, and filled the dance floor.
The most powerful gig I’ve seen Rule play was in a delicious venue in Brisbane, a converted church, where, to judge by the vibe and appreciative quiet in the room, the audience was mostly pagan, there not just for the music but for the message as well. There was a similar atmosphere last year when Rule and cellist Rachel Samuel played a gig in our backyard. That was a different ‘our’, and a different backyard, but the magic of that night endures.
A highlight of last night’s gig was Zero, a song Rule dedicated to the energy of creativity. Midsummer was a good time, she said, for looking ahead to projects about to begin, and back to those accomplished. A time to take stock, and draw up energy for the year ahead.
Sitting at the gig, watching the parade of fairy wings and glitter faces, I was reminded of a recent discussion on Radio National about atheism. The discussion itself was illuminating, offering a wide variety of experiences explaining why callers did not believe, or had abandoned their belief, in a deity. (The Life Matters episode was anchored off a new collection of essays about atheism, 50 Voices of Disbelief co-edited by Aussie Russell Blackford.)
The program’s website has a comment board, where one delightful respondent opined that those who didn’t belong to the Jesus club had no right to celebrate Christmas. So, presumably, all these little fairy kids in front of me, prancing and laughing in their colourful costumes, were denied a present under the tree because of their parents’ non-Christian beliefs. As if Santa Claus has anything to do with the Christian faith. Given the festival has been appropriated from pagan origins anyway, how downright cheeky and short-sighted. And, of course, how bloody typical of the fascism that turned me off organised religion in the first place.
Humans are social animals who like to feel they belong. I get that. What I don’t get is that we make this feeling through a policy of exclusion. You can belong to God’s love club, but only if you meet certain requirements. Otherwise, you burn, and good riddance to you. Is this “with us or against us” approach really the best social construct we can find?
Don’t get me wrong. I fully appreciate the commonsense laws, fundamentally Christian, that grease the wheels of modern Western society. The do unto others, the shalt not kills and covets… a lot of these make perfect sense. But to tell me who I should love? To dictate my path to understanding my spirituality and my relationship with the world and the people around me? To tell a whole lot of other people that they’re damned because they belong to a different club, and treat them as such? I don’t think so.
Christmas is a time to get in touch and share the love. We should be doing it all year round, but we’re busy, aren’t we? But to take time out as a community, to draw a breath, once a year, and remind ourselves of who and what’s important, of our blessings and our achievements and our goals, well, that seems a good idea to me. Regardless of which club you belong to.
Merry Christmas. Or whatever you call it, and however you celebrate it. Enjoy, and share the love. Blessed be.