November 16, 2013

Nothing that is original can perish: Lady Olivia Robertson, 1917-2013

Bear with me. This will be long and full of feelings, but these are things I haven't been able to talk about for a very long time. In the spirit of Olivia Robertson, an amazing spiritual woman who always had the knack to be able to be herself without judgment or censorship who passed to the Beautiful West yesterday, I'm going to present my thoughts here, in her honor, and in her memory. I will miss her more than I know how to express.

I read about it in the back of Rolling Stone when I was 13. "Fellowship of Isis," the little ad said. "International Goddess organization."

The ad caught my attention at a curious time. I'd recently lost my maternal grandfather, and his final words to me, "what are you going to do with your life?" were a mandate. I'd asked my parents for a hiatus from church. Sitting in the place where I'd had to watch that funeral was the last place I wanted to be, plus I was dealing with my emotions around well-intentioned but misguided behavior from relatives who suggested in televangelist-fueled wisdom that Grandpa might not have gone to heaven, due to his not having attended church. I didn't blame God or Jesus – I was more than certain that Grandpa was right with Them – but I found myself dissatisfied with a structure that suggested heaven was only something you got if you had enough punches on your churchgoing card.

It wasn't a typical teenage rebellion. I didn't go running to some opposite. Atheism held no appeal, and neither did Satanism. Instead, I spent a lot of time in the woods, in the library, in solitude thinking about what my grandfather had taught me by his life. I considered every Christian sect and then everything outside Christianity. After my review, I became a Buddhist. Meditation was helpful and I enjoyed the practice, but found myself troubled by that First Noble Truth. While I could agree that life is often suffering...I couldn't agree that it was suffering all the time, that everything was always doomed. I loved the world and the people and things in it too much. And if I couldn't get past the religion's first tenet...well....Of course, now I know better, even having had the honor to speak about it personally with the Dalai Lama once, but that's a story for another day, and I wasn't meant to be a Buddhist apparently.

So I retreated into the Egyptian mythology I'd read off library shelves since elementary school. I wondered what the world would've been like, had the Battle of Actium ended differently, or Julius Caesar had opted to listen to his wife and stay home on a certain March morning. I wondered whether ancient Egyptian deities even existed anymore.

And then I saw the ad, and I wrote a letter, and my adventure began.