It depends which way you’re looking…
Sue Monk Kidd mentions this paining by Renaissance painter Titian in “Dance…”. Is is about Ariadne, who has been left on the island of Naxos by her lover Theseus. He just upped and left her there. You can see her on the left with her hand raised to his departing ship, but she is looking to her right at the God Dionysus. You know Dionysus.. the dude with the wine, sometimes known as Bacchaus?
Well, the point Kidd makes in her book is that if Ariadne had just wallowed in her grief and anger at being abandoned, and has just stomped around petulantly looking out to sea, she would have missed the great love of her life, Dionysus. The myth tells us that they marry and create a deep and lasting love, the Dionysus gives her a crown as a sign of his devotion.
If we think of Theseus, the departed lover, as that part of us we are leaving behind when we make a significant change (as the one I discussed below), then we have to see that as that part of us truly departs, we are left to find our hearts all over again. In reality, Theseus, (who in the myth really saved Ariadne’s butt) is just another external source of joy. True joy can only be experienced when we go inside and make the necessary changes there.
What may seem like an abandonment by God, friends, a Church, a marriage, is in fact only abandonment if we are looking the wrong way. If we just turn to the right, we may actually see the love our our life. And that, in my case, is finding myself in this new place, this place of redefined spirituality, and in truth, redefined God.
And guess what? Dionysus is a not only the god of wine (and bully for him) but he’s also the god of women, a god close to and inclusive of the feminine. His symbol is the snake, which has long been held as a symbol for the Divine Feminine. (And isn’t it interesting how the snake and Eve became the bad guys in Eden… don’t get me started) This guy, and I’m telling you I wish he was hanging around to my right, is not only the god of wine and women, but of dance, and joy, and creativity, and spirit, and ecstasy.
Now if we think about myth we have to remember that the gods in mythology always represent our inner persona. He represents to Ariadne something she must find within herself. And the same is true on my journey as well.
It is one thing to buy into the doctrines and teachings of an organized religion (and I’m not just talking Mormons here… and I love you, so don’t fret), but it is entirely a different animal to find answers within yourself about who you are and what you believe. And hey, if those answers inside you really do line up with those organized religions, then go for it! I did, and I am so grateful for the learnings there. But it is now a new season for me. My Theseus has sailed off into the sunset, and I’m not even waving. (I did for a while, but not at the moment).
Ironically, another image of a boat rings true to me, as shared by Richard Dutcher, filmmaker:
The best way for me to describe my situation is to share a metaphor. Buddha once compared his teaching to a boat that helps us cross a river. But, once we get to the other side, no one would think of carrying the boat around on his shoulders. Although grateful for its service, no one would say, “Oh, this boat helped me to cross over the river, so I’m now going to carry it on my back.”
The wise traveler would, obviously, leave the boat at the side of the river and continue on the journey.
I now feel the need to–with respect and gratitude–lay down the boat and continue on.
The past few years have been very difficult for me. I’ve been trying to continue my journey toward God while carrying a boat on my back. I hope no one will take offense at this metaphor. I’m not saying that all of us have to leave the boat of Mormonism behind. Many of you will arrive Home in these boats, I’m sure. But, for some unknown reason, our mutual Father in Heaven requires that I take another route. A large part of me would rather stay in the boat. I like the boat. But, my brothers and sisters, it’s time for me to start walking.
Like Ariadne, and like Richard, I’ve left my boat and started walking. I’m looking for Dionysus within me, not on some online dating service. In fact, in the myth when Ariadne and Dionysus are wed, “it symbolizes an inner marriage of the positive masculine and the conscious feminine. When these two aspects of ourselves come together within, we arrive at new wholeness, new completion.” (Sue Monk Kidd, Dance of the Dissident Daughter, p. 129)
And that is the bottom line for me. I am seeking a deeper relationship with God, a clearer picture of my journey here on this earth, and a whole lot of what Dionysus has to offer. Ecstasy sounds pretty darn good to me. I’d better check which way I’m looking…