Do you ever have moments where Goddess takes some decision you make, looks you up and down and says, "Oh really? We'll just see about that."? Because I have them pretty regularly. And however molded you feel when your behavior gets checked by another human being, it doesn't really compare to the feeling of having the Divine check you all in your face.
A few years ago, I spent a couple summers working as a tour guide and Resident Assistant for an organization that was helping international students improve their English skills while also experiencing the joys and doldrums of tourism in San Francisco. There were kids from many different countries: Spain, France, Poland, Italy, Taiwan, and Korea. It was fascinating to notice how much older, more worldly the kids from the Western European countries initially appeared to be. Their clothes tended to be trendier, they were more vocal about what they wanted to try (and also what they didn't want to do). But they were also more difficult and some of that worldliness did not necessarily translate to greater maturity. Particularly with the Italian students. Kids caught trying to sneak out past curfew? The Italian students. Kids caught buying weed on Hippie Hill at Golden Gate Park? Italian (and French) students. It seemed that every staff meeting we had, there was some kind of update on what the Italian students had gotten up to. At least in my mind.
Let me take a moment to detour and say that I have been a teenager looking for fun and stories to gather during my own tour of Europe at 15. We went to Italy, Switzerland, France and England and I wanted to have some adventures to speak of. That trip was my first experience of a club (it was hot and rank and some guy with sweaty hands kept trying to flirt with me but I danced up a puff in my hair and had myself a very good time), my first time ever ordering an alcoholic drink (it was an Amaretto Sour and, for years, that was the only thing I would order, for the most part because I didn't know any other drinks), my first time ever meeting a man who smelled like sunshine (Nico, in Venice. He was a gondolier and I can still smell him if I focus on the sun or see clothes hanging out to dry).
I even participated in a miniature group rebellion. We had a free day and the only assignment was that we take some time, at some point during the day, to visit the British Museum. My group went and spent the day doing what we wanted (nowhere near that museum) and then, with 45 minutes left before we had to meet our chaperones again, we raced over to the museum on the Tube. By the time we got there, we only had about 10 or 15 minutes before closing. I came up with a plan, we'd grab pamphlets and each girl take a floor, run around and find something that we could report having seen in case of any questions (which were never asked, actually). I decided to go to the Egyptian floor (because I love Egypt!) and race around like a madwoman. Almost everything was a blur but I think I saw the Rosetta stone and I know I saw a mummified red-haired man in a pressure treated glass case. I now love leisurely strolls through museums, but I still think that 15 minutes of madness was some of the most fun I've ever had in a museum.
But that was then and this was now and now that I was an adult, my allegiance was firmly with the adults and, frankly, the quiet kids were the easy kids.
I decided, after those two summers of obnoxious Italian boys and spoiled, snotty Italian girls, to consciously embrace a full fledged prejudice against Italians. I actually thought it out. I tried to challenge myself, "Really? That's not what you're about. It was just a group of kids. Blah blah blah." But, based on the "brats" who'd been shipped over, I rejected all of those considerations in favor of a perspective that they were spoiled, entitled, racist, and there was some terrible parenting taking place over in Italy.
Sometime later (but still recent enough for the momentous conscious prejudice decision to still be fresh in my mind), I took a class in my Women's Spirituality program at CIIS where I had to research my motherline. I talked to my grandmother and then traced my genealogy using ancestry.com and was proud that I was able to go all the way back to my 4th great grandmother, Georgina, who was the first of our ancestors (as far as we now know) to have been freed from America's slave system. I also traced my mitochondrial DNA (which is passed only from mother to child) and was proud to find out that I am a true Daughter of Eve- my motherline DNA goes all the way back to 70,000-150,000 years ago, just before the time when scientists place the first migrations out of East Africa.
Then I decided to do another test to find out my ancient ancestry- who are the people I am most closely related to on this planet? It just happened that I got my test not long after my acceptance of my prejudice against an entire country's people based on the rude behavior of approximately 40 of their teenagers. (Do you see where this is headed?)
Who are the people I just happen to be most closely related to? Mediterranean people, and particularly Italians! Seriously, there were just dots (representing ancestral connections) all up and down that damn boot. I also had dots in Egypt, East Africa, and Turkey. But on a list of 20 of my "top native population" connections (meaning people who had experienced minimal migration in the last several hundred years) half of them were connections to somewhere in Italy. Half!
What was that you were saying about Italians again? Would you care to repeat that?
When I got my results, all I could do was laugh. The Goddess checked me, folks, and she checked me HARD.
Part of what fascinated me about my results was that I had a lot of ancestral connections to places in the world I'd always felt strong connections to, like Egypt. I'd been in classes with Lucia Birnbaum, author of The Future Has an Ancient Heart and heard her speak about ideas like ancestral memories and memories that we can receive through our DNA. Frankly, I'd been skeptical of all of those ideas. But seeing the ways that my longstanding cultural fascinations were strongly represented in my genetic connections grabbed and held my attention.
I started this article a few weeks ago and paused to see what else might like to be added to it. Then, Guido Barilla, chairman of the Barilla pasta and food brand, decided to air his consciously held prejudice against LGBT people on an Italian radio station when he said
“I would never do [a commercial] with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect, but because we don’t agree with them . . . Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role. He added that if gay people “like our pasta and our advertising, they’ll eat our pasta. If they don’t like it, then they will not eat it and they will eat another brand.”
Each of us is a whole entire Universe and all of us together are an interlocking Universal system. To consciously decide to cut off a part of the Universe is the height of arrogance and ignorance. Especially since you never know when what you are cutting off might be a significant part of yourself.
It's probably too much to hope that Mr. Barilla will uncover some latent homosexual tendency and make a public shift to a more conscious and open (as in, not just to avert negative financial impact) perspective. But I will hold out hope. And if the Goddess has anything to do with it . . . well . . .