The “Goat Story” Sense of Life – Nov. 1. 2020

          The Greek festival honoring the god Dionysus was one of the most important arts festivals in the ancient world—dating as early as the 6th century BC. Combining theater, music and dance, the multiple-day event in Athens was attended by people from all over Greece.
          The opening of the festival included the ritual sacrifice of a goat—a ritual enacted in the belief that the sacrificial goat would rid the city-state of its “sins.” A similar Jewish ritual is described in the Torah. Both cultures viewed the ritual as having a sort of purging effect upon the community—the symbol of a new, fresh start, a new way of being. Before you roll your eyes, think of how our customs may be judged three thousand years from now!
          The plays that were such a pivotal part of the Dionysus celebration focused on what today we might call the “Hero’s Journey.” They were theatrical presentations of humans encountering and overcoming (or not) life’s challenges. These plays became so synonymous with the Dionysus festival and the ritual sacrifice of the goat, that they became known as “goat” songs or “goat” stories. Two Greek root words, tragos (meaning “goat”) and oide (meaning “song” or “story”) form the word from which we derive the modern word “tragedy.” These early plays were the beginnings of the theatrical genre we know today as tragedies (versus “comedies”). 
          To say that there is a “goat story” sense to life—a sense in which we must encounter and overcome life’s vicissitudes and travails—is not a particularly controversial or agitating statement. But say that there is a “tragic” sense to life and many of us, especially in Unity, get our dander up! Goat stories have the power to transform us, raise us to new levels of consciousness. This Sunday we will hear three amazing goat stories from Therese Finn, Kathi Harrison, and Barbara Michael, our three brave congregants who took on the task of doing a deep dive into Chapter Four (The Tragic Sense of Life) in Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward. Don’t let the title deter you. There is alchemical gold in Rohr’s idea and in these stories. A rich day awaits us Sunday. I hope to see you then!  With much love, Linda