The Very First Druid I Knew
Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," Father's Day Edition 2010!
This is a portrait of my father in his younger years. Honestly, can you believe this is my relative? I mean, do I ever behave this way?
Apple. (points at self) Tree. (points at picture)
Most of the time when people think of Druids, they think of holy leaders. In fact, so far as I have been able to read and research, "Druid" was a class of people within the ancient Celts. If you were a teacher, a poet, a lawyer, a healer -- basically working middle class -- you were a "Druid."
Only after he waltzed away with the faeries did I realize that my dad was a Druid.
I always knew he was an Alchemist. (See his wizardry, below.) I never gave much thought to his philosophies until after he passed and I didn't hear them anymore.
Being a scientist, Dad felt pretty strongly that life ends with death and that nothing -- no soul, no spirit -- survives. And yet he spent almost every Sunday of his life at church, teaching Sunday School and singing in the choir. He was profoundly ambivalent about Christianity. You see, being a Sunday School teacher, he actually read the whole Bible. He found a lot of it unsettling -- and that includes swaths of the New Testament that most Christians lap up with fervor.
Uninspired by visions of eternal life in Heaven, Dad pursued a philosophy of self-sacrifice and moral courage. He was what you would call an "upstanding man." I'm pretty sure I'm the only person who knew he didn't believe the Bible, didn't buy into Christianity's salvation agenda, and yet embraced the portion of the religion that encouraged people to do the right thing even at pain of death.
When my father married my mother, he was warned that she was "high strung." He witnessed it himself. Nevertheless, he wed a woman with a near-fatal case of bipolar disorder and spent his life caring for her, even though, day after day, she abused him verbally and sometimes physically for his efforts. Without his support, my mother would have become institutionalized. Instead she was able to keep her place in society. (Admittedly, most people avoided her company if they could.)
Once I asked my father why he didn't divorce my mother before I was born. He said, "When I married your mom, I made a vow. A vow is just that. A promise. I wasn't going to break my promise."
Well well. A college-educated science teacher and avowed atheist Promise Keeper. This puzzle piece, my dad, does not fit easily into any tableau unless you consider "Druid" to mean a class of person and not simply a religious leader.
Taking Druidism as a caste system, my dad's piece fits. He was a scientist. A singer. A teacher. A parent whose favorite way to spend an afternoon was hiking in the woods with his daughter and showing her all the mountain's secrets, so that she would never fear that which needn't be feared. My dad knew justice, loved justice, and found divinity in all existences. Like both his brothers and his own dad, he was interested in everything. I never saw him bored, ever.
No wonder Peter Pan came for him, called to him, and led him to the Summerlands! My dad, my friend, my inspiration in weirdness. My first Druid.
Eternal youth be yours, Dad. Now, go take your beaker and blow up the whole doggone pirate ship!
Below, one of my favorite episodes of "Principles of Combustion." That is my dad, Daniel Johnson Jr.