Saturday, February 02, 2008
I just had to share my insights with everyone at Gothic Blend regarding a little known book, by an unusual writer, about a controversial subject. I am pleased to introduce you to dirty little Gods: The Musings, Rants and Ravings of a Heretic by Billy Flying Red Horse Starnes.
I came to possess this book in the winter of 2004, having purchased it after attending an Earth Teaching class given by Flying Red Horse and Tal Quetzal Moran. Being impressed with the class and with both of the teachers, I was eager to get my hands on the book. The title, of course, caught my attention. “Something right up my alley”, I thought. However, I didn’t get very far into the book, when life changed and we moved from Atlanta to Nashville. The book got packed away and forgotten…until now.
With the creation of Gothic Blend, our paths have once again connected. With that connection, and the final unpacking of boxes, I knew it was time to read the book all the way through and share my thoughts about this provocative text.
From Fragment One: Mystical Christianity I was a bit shocked to read what appeared to be the admonishments of a hard-line priest, rather than the expansive, understanding words I had heard Billy speak in person. I was amused by my surprise. I had been warned in the Introduction that these “Fragments” were untampered with and were his thoughts and beliefs at the time each of them was written years ago. I could tell that Billy has experienced a lot since the writing of the first chapter.
While I admire and share Billy’s love of language and the desire to fully understand the root meaning and history of words, I admit it made for a challenging read, especially in the beginning of the book. Despite the over indulgent use of extraordinarily large words in the first part, there are meaningful truths that shine through. For example, the “Three Doors to Liberation”, steeped in Christian mysticism are well considered and show growth and the deeper connections being made with the addition of references to several of different names of God. I was particularly touched by the fragment “My Greatest Communion” where, as a priest, Billy experienced the indiscriminating exclusion by ordained servants of God, yet was graciously acknowledged and honored by a true servant of God. It was a light-bulb moment.
Once you move onto Fragment Two, the Zen teachings come to light along with his ability to apply the teachings to common human behavior. This section, written during his time at the Atlanta Soto Zen Center, are reconstructions of Dharma talks he gave while there. This fragment includes funny observations about human perspective during the “Perfect Dharma Talk”, and a touching recognition of saints that walk among us in “Bodhisattvas and Buddhas”. “Sleeper Awaken” struck a chord as this is something I wish more of us humans would do.
Fragment Three: “Sociopolitical Commentary” is when I came to the realization that Billy Flying Red Horse Starnes, is to religious commentary as Bill Maher is to political commentary. They both wish to educate and elevate the awareness of the collective consciousness. Each of them tells it like it is, regardless of whether people like it or not, and are passionate about their beliefs. In this fragment, Billy really gets into the heart of several modern day situations, particularly with the segment “Reality Deficit Disorder”.
Fragment Four: “Earth Teachings” was by far my personal favorite! It was so refreshing to read “A Woman’s Place”. I will share this one with my daughter and all the girls and women I know. The icing on the cake of this fragment is the self-titled section “Dirty Little Gods”: It is our ignorance to our true nature that soils us. Self-love, self-responsibility, and right choice can wash away the dirt…it that is what we choose. Thank you for writing this fragment Billy. There are so many wonderful things in it!
Fragment Five: “Prose and Cons” is filled with thought provoking and provocative prose and starts off with the question: If those who write poems are known as poets, why aren’t those who right prose known as prozacs?. There are so many that I enjoyed that I cannot list them all. However, one that I found of particular fun was “Take-Take-Take” in it’s twist of gist ending.
Fragment Six: “Moonwater and The Fox” struck me as the fable of a courtship and the way that the characters dance and interact with one another as we live and learn together. It was delightfully written and quite a shift in writing from the previous fragments.
Fragment Seven: “Horse Apples” was the final fragment and concluded by delivery lots of well…let’s just say…fertilizer for thought. It is in fertile ground and that the seeds planted in this last fragment will sprout. This one contains an abundance of beautiful and strong seeds, such as: If your is not to reason why, then whose is? and “Mystery is not necessarily a bad thing…” I swear, this fragment has me wanting to make a whole bunch of new bumper stickers and avatar quotes as I yearn to share the poignant passages with others.
I am pleased that Billy left the early fragments in their original state. They are a testament to the spiritual growth of a priest, teacher, and friend, and also serve as a well marked guide post of the areas where the institution of Christianity would do well to self-reflect and correct. As they are written, each fragment offers a new and meaningful message and they build upon each other in wisdom and understanding.
There were many notable quotes in the book. But, one of my favorites, and one I would like to use with Billy’s permission is this:
“Men can only be governed by reason if those men are reasonable.” – Flying Red Horse, 2003
I recommend this book to truth seekers, recovering Christians, and those that are exploring many paths, or are simply curious. It provides an expansive view into the spiritual mind of a man as he evolves from a narrow view of the world into a view of experience and wisdom and then into reflective prose and mystical tales and masterful observations. The keys and concepts that Billy latches and shares, and the connection of these concepts to everyday life, make this book worth the read.
With that, I would like to introduce you now to the man behind the book, Billy Flying Red Horse Starnes.
About the Author:
Beginning born Billy, named after Rev. Billy Graham, it comes as no surprise that author Billy Starnes, at the tender age of 16, felt a need to spiritually minister to others and began preaching in a small Baptist Church in Alabama. What did come as a surprise, at least to his parents, what that his questioning nature and logical mind would later put him at odds with the doctrine he was born into. Once out of high school Billy abandoned organized religion for 13 years and flew the nest by going into the Air Force.
During this time, Billy explored and expressed himself spiritually through music, song writing and then martial arts. It was the practice of the martial art Akido that led to an interest in Eastern Mysticism and meditation. Billy converted to Buddhism after two years of Zen practice and went on to became a Zen disciple (student teacher) and staff member at the Atlanta Soto Zen Center in 1995 where he remained for more than 2 years.
Interestingly, it was during his Zen studies that Billy experienced a renewed interest in Christianity and went into seminary studies at the Federation of St. Thomas Christians where he became an ordained priest in 1997.
However, as history has a way of repeating itself, Billy once again found himself at spiritual odds with the church. Core differences in philosophy, and a distaste for church politics, led to a second departure from all organized religion in 1999.