On this Christmas Eve, I who believe in much but do not identify as a Christian offer this love letter to my coexistent believers (…in anything.* That’s probably you! Unless…).
So: now that I know there is such a thing as a “Messiah Singalong,” I’m never not going. It’s THE BEST. It’s SO WEIRD, also! I love it. I didn’t grow up singing it, I barely know it, but it is very, very fun. Look how dear the conductor is, gesturing to us to sit on back down (we, the volunteer chorus, stand when it’s time for us to sing, and sit when it’s the fancy singers’ turn).
Yes, so, as you might imagine, part of the weirdness for me comes in singing these old, intense words about, you know, The Messiah.*** One I particularly noticed this year and got to wondering about was “heathen.” Because… not such a nice thing to say. People don’t mean this nicely. But then…heath, right? Like __ Ledger? And the __ Bar?** And pretty parts of England? So, I wondered.
And, there’s beauty, as there so often is:
Because: “heathen” totally means a bunch of bullshit now, and definitely in 1934, but it came from a place we heathens can claim, and use to find ourselves beautiful too, if we want to:
“Waste land” also rings a bit sad but originally it just meant land not used for crops; it meant wilderness. Here, though, is the beauty: “an open, level area.” For let us be figurative! Let us decide that “heathens” are those who come from open, level areas, who just maybe aren’t into the hierarchical, binary aspects of religion as it is sometimes practiced but who definitely get down with The Mystery-ous, undershrubby parts, and let us love heathens for our openness, even though the world may deem our culture or enlightenment of an inferior or paganlike grade, especially, you know, this week.
And, bonus: a bunch of other heatheny words.
“Heathenesse” I love because I picture…I don’t know, Stevie Nicks, basically, though its meaning isn’t feminine and in fact gives us another amazing word, “heathendom.” And then “heathenish“…like… just a little bit doomed to the flames, and then “heathenism” sounds so much like “hedonism” and isn’t so wildly (ha!) different that I just love it.
So brethren and sistren and friends with no use for the gender binary, I wish you many merry mysteries and a Stevie new year.
** And, have you pondered that there exists a Heath Bar and a Clif Bar, and Heathcliff (as a Brontë character, a Huxtable, and a rascally animated cat) ?! It’s like the “I Dream of Genie” Dicks (Sargent and York, and Sergeant York)! Ok, now go back and look at the title of the post and go OHH!
***Last year, I processed my feelings by making a crossword puzzle about it. You can find that here.