“Religious hokes-pokes”: a reply to Jean-Jacques


With love and gratitude to Jean-Jacques Fournier, my provocative poet-in-residence.

How French of you to picture me throwing an egg at you. Love that Gallic spirit!

So, no egg, however, I’m going to throw something else at you re the religious hokes-pokes.

It may be vexing and offensive to you and I’m going to say it anyway. I hear the disgust and fear of people who consider themselves atheists whenever the word God is said in their vicinity. Like they’re going to catch something like leprosy or rabies, or worse, religion.

To those people I want to say this.

Do not mistake me. What I’m discussing in my other post and when I’m using the word God I’m not talking about religion. I’m not even talking about “spirituality”. The closest word, though still a mere label, is “mystical experience”. I had one, you see, in 2011, standing on a street corner waiting for the lights to change at lunchtime, holding the sandwich I’d just bought.

As I was standing there, a portal in the world opened. It is the cruel irony of the experience, cruel and just I would say, that what I discovered in the portal cannot be communicated in words. It can only be experienced.

I’m still learning what happened that day and probably always will be. The one thing I’m clear about which changes everything and has me using the word God in a lame and misleading attempt to point to this Thing, this Immensity, is that you, Jean-Jacques, have no idea who you really are.

You think you are a man who lives in Canada, a French-speaker, an accomplished poet and everything else. Your identity is that, but You, you are quite other. Who you are is immense, glorious, unspeakable.

You think anyone can make a discovery like that and not want to share it with you, with others, with the world?


To visit Jean-Jacques’s site, click here: http://fournierjj.wordpress.com/

Image: Renee by Jacques Lartigue


15 thoughts on ““Religious hokes-pokes”: a reply to Jean-Jacques

  1. You do me great honour from beginning to end of your opening sentence, leaving me in a somewhat lost for words situation, which is not a frequent occurrence for me.
    Just to be sure there is no misunderstanding, the temporary loss for words has nothing to do with my being vexed or offended ( which I am not), and cannot be by what you say as to your beliefs, as for I have no cause, right, or reason to challenge what brings you comfort and a sense of well being.

    As to disgust or fear in about the word god or atheism, apart from the overuse of the word god as a convincer by these man made religious self appointed spokespeople, I truly have no opinion, like or dislike with the needs of others in this regard. And as far as atheism, to me it is just another label to categorize people who have a different opinion on the subject of the religious god interpretation, which is not part of my diet. To each his or her own, and may they all as happy with their choices, as I am with mine.

    My lost for words was due to your installing me as your “provocative poet-in- residence”, a grand honour indeed for which I am most flattered, touched, and thankful. And let us not forget the “immense and glorious”, though I the jury, is still out on “unspeakable” if you don’t mind. Sorry but my Gallic spirit and silly sense of humour could not resist that last bit…

    Again I thank you ever so much, and shall be forever grateful for your generous attention and touching accolades, dear friend, JJ


    • Well, yes, you are sweet and now I do feel like throwing a small and perfectly-formed cream pie in your direction because you are not taking me seriously.

      What I’m talking about is not a “belief”. It is an experience. Like the taste of wine on your tongue, grass under your feet, cold air on your face. And it doesn’t give comfort or wellbeing. It gives awe.

      Say if I were to tell you that not only were you unspeakable, you were me. Krishnamurti, the Indian philosopher, speaks for me here: “When I don’t know who I am, I serve you. When I know who I am, I am you.”


      • I do apologize profusely for my closing, wee hours in the morning, comment. One which was not intended as disrespectful as it obviously came across. I truly took your words quite seriously, in spite of having missinterpreted the subtlety of an “experience” as opposed to “belief”. I stand corrected and am thankful for you’re taking the time and patience to enlighten me on this important difference.

        In retrospect your rebuke has appreciatively make me realize that I must at times forgo my constant visualizing of life, as a poor joke on the average bloke. The bloke majority who takes him or herself too seriously, as I had for a long time in my younger days. I suppose in a way I enentually over adjusted, and I must now curb my enthuseasim to make light of a sad world, the while I use my poetry to rid my soul of the difficult and sometimes unbearable aspects of what my fellowman rains on us. That poetry in a way is my “experience” that has over the years replaced the “beliefs” once held that were destroyed by the self-serving misleading systems and their rather dubious gurus.

        So again I apologize for my out of place words, and thank you for having brought me a little closer to knowing who I am. As to the cream pie, do as you see fit, but be warned that I do have a sweet tooth.

        Your admirer, and ever faithful friend, JJ


      • OK, so now I’m cutting up the fresh strawberries and raspberries for the top of the cake, drizzling with fresh passionfruit, putting in the candles spelling out your name, and placing it before you reverently .. voila!

        You are very sweet. Apology accepted. There is so much in your reply. Here are a few thoughts ..

        The only thing to be serious about is that there is nothing to be serious about. Your instinct to make light of what you see is sound. What I’m suggesting is that what you see, what we all see, is like a pimple on the bottom of an elephant.

        We have it that the world is grim, hard, sad, a poor joke in your neat phrase. People hurt us and betray us, the very people who are supposed to love us; people die or leave us; people cheat us, take advantage of us; so called leaders become corrupt; companies fold and take our life savings; our beloved child is born with a disability; our land is appropriated for mining purposes; our national parks are sold off to “developers” and so on.

        The world is all this, and at the same time, as I experienced on that street corner, it is nothing at all like this.


  2. Narelle, I had an experience I can only describe as being shown “the other side.” I’ve tried to describe it, but, as you said, it really must be experienced for anyone to get to full impact that it had on changing everything about how I live my life and feel about the afterlife. I can’t say I know what you experienced, because I don’t. I just know that you did and I can appreciate the power of it.

    I, too, am at a loss for words to describe the place I saw and the force that was there. I use Universe. You see, I’m a Catholic in Recovery and the Image of a man-God keeping a ledger of my sins is branded into my psyche…


    • haha, thank God you’re here. When the men in white coats come to take me away, I won’t be alone.

      I remember you speaking about your experience, Lorna. It’s what inspired me to start to consider how I could speak about my own experiences.

      You make a good point, that we’ll reach for the vocabulary and concepts of the religious tradition we’re familiar with in an attempt to make sense of it. That’s how i view all religious and spiritual texts now, including Christian, Buddhist, Taoist and so on. Each of them is a particular society’s attempt to use their vocabulary and iconography in an attempt to communicate this Thing.

      I had two preparatory experiences that softened me up. One was about 5 years when I was running, the other was in 2008 that I described in the post “Love is/God is”.Then there was the big one in 2011. If I put words to it, the only ones that will do are these: I experienced the creation of the world.

      It has changed everything and yet I also wonder how it hasn’t changed more. It’s so amazing that I think “how can normal life still be going on?” Do I really still have to go to work, get upset about things, pay bills? How is that possible?


  3. Having had an “experience”, perhaps of the sort you describe, I would never naysay anyone for whatever interpretation they care to apply to it. I am not religious, but as we all have, I have friends and family who are deeply entrenched in their particular religious beliefs. All I am prepared to admit is that there is a “Something”. Those who are fortunate enough to feel it can never say they believe in “Nothing”. But it is always personal, not something to attempt to convert anyone else to believe. When I grew up, religion was personal, and people didn’t discuss their personal opinions so freely.


    • The issue of evangelisation is really interesting. We look at the US and are astonished at the prevalence and vehemence of religious thought. It just doesn’t exist like that here.

      We have the opposite issue from that of having family members attempting to evangelise their religious beliefs. Here, to speak openly about religion is rare; people would be very reluctant, even scared, to let others know they have religious beliefs. Here, it’s all aggressive nihilism and atheism, and an apostate is someone who doesn’t ostentatiously declare themselves an atheist. We watch TV shows like American Idol and are amazed when contestants openly talk about Jesus or God or faith.

      In answer to your rhetorical question … I know this is not what you meant but I can’t resist. I can never say I believe in Nothing but I do say wholeheartedly I experienced Nothing. Nothing and Everything is exactly what I experienced ;)


  4. Nice word adornment… Though I’m not quite what follows quite fits this nice word, but the intent I have to believe does, as I am its author. I’ve sent it along this way because I did not want you to miss it as the ode is to a friend we both know and admire, well at least I surely do.

    “ Apostasy ”
    ~ belief to experience ~

    To abandon
    Belief long held,
    But there be time
    When to prolong
    A bogus song
    Lacks the grounds
    Of having it around…

    Be no measure
    Of import
    For failure
    To support,
    Held beliefs
    So imposes
    Mostly grief…

    We oughtn’t purge
    Any urge
    Wants peace of mind,
    Advances thus
    Said kindly gods,
    Shall we from then
    Be unwary urged
    To thence find trust,
    When an experience,
    Evinces apostasy as just!
    ode to a friend
    who grasps the nuance

    © Jean-Jacques Fournier
    April 2, 2013


    • haha, yes, we are both apostates, apostates of belief. Belief! Can’t stand the word, and the service it’s been put to, the service we all put it to, namely, screwing someone over (and most of all ourselves). As you put it so aptly, it’s the great dispenser of “mostly grief”.

      You know the biggest problem with belief? People who say they’re not religious think the word “belief” doesn’t apply to them. Ha!

      No, let’s you and I and everyone pitch our tents in the fields of experience instead. Thank you for your wonderful poem, JJ x


  5. I will have now at 21:00 hrs! Just finished a full day and evening on the final touches of my book # 6 of 90 poems, called Reflections – of a probing eye. It’s meant to go to print next week. And I in turn with a glass of good red wine in hand, wish you a good day at your end. Ciao…


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