By Reverend Donna Schaper

I’ve been saying “Ashes to Ashes, Stardust to Stardust” at funerals I officiate for the last year or so. I have been astonished at the response. It is pervasively positive. We religious hybrids are desperate for a new kind of religion—a sincere platform from which we can engage the falsehoods that surround us.

I think of Mayor de Blasio’s government enforced gentrification—the other name for his affordable housing policy. It is not enough to build the 99% a few apartments. The only thing that truth seekers could imagine as good—instead of less bad—is levying major taxes on the 1% so that they not buy the land we already stole from the natives once. Owning an apartment you don’t occupy? Really? Let’s reclaim moral proportion. Most of us are
appalled at the obscenity of gentrification. Let’s tell
the truth.

I also think of President Obama’s interest in raising the taxes on gasoline, maybe as much as 25%. That would be fabulous and go a long way towards making alternate side of the street parking a thing that our children can’t imagine ever existed. The only insincerity in the President’s plan is that he wants to use the tax to improve and restore the federal highway system. Where is George Orwell when we need him? Why de-incentivize driving with one hand and re-incentivize it with another? I’d rather see every other highway, road, and street in the country turned into streams of solar panels. Maybe trolleys could run alongside them, if solar powered. That would be a public policy that religious hybrids could praise. It would have common sense logic and a religious kind of truth.

I also think of the way most of us falsely think about that great cheat, death. We think we just die. When we think that way, we also think we just live. We don’t “just” live or die. We LIVE. We DIE.

That great mystery of life and death is the reason I’ve been changing the language I use at funerals and memorials. Instead of saying “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust,” and joining the usual insincerities and indifferences, I have been saying “Ashes to Ashes, Stardust to Stardust.”

The shift happened first at the memorial for a great porn star at Judson. All of her eulogists called her a great star, over and over. That’s when I had an epiphany. Of course she is a great star. In fact, in physical fact, that is what she has become.

I had watched Carl Sagan’s show Cosmos light up the night sky. Cosmos reminds us that everybody who ever was is already up there overhead, blinking. When we die, we become a star. Why use the word “dust” when “stardust” binds our genome to a biologically evolving eternity? Our genetic matter goes to a star. Why not tell the truth about death or gentrification or cars?

Or why frack when we can use sun or wind? Why stop when you can continue, even if in another form or way? Why drive cars at all? Or allow rich people to gobble up what has become your land and your home?

Spiritual practices for hybrids get to the truth. They don’t enjoy or put up with lies, falsehoods, or the higher or lower b.s. Spiritual practices are more like solar energy than anything else. They shine. They are truth. They are core. They are an energy that creates more energy.

Lots of people turn spiritual practices into confections. But they are not confections. They are defections, when we disrupt the normal absurdities on behalf of the deeper absurdities. In those deeper absurdities, truth is lurking, with a pirate’s rogue patch on its eye. A star twinkles, high above us. We may as well act like we see it there.

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