Wednesday, July 30, 2008

good talking to you again, brandon

When I recall my early charismatic, Pentecostal zeal, I nearly always find myself thinking of my junior high school's cafeteria. I can remember the tables that lined each side; I can see the quadrant in which I sat. I believe I think of that cafeteria in part because it may have been the location for my most fervent, most studied evangelism even though I was to become more theologically and evangelically sophisticated, grounded a bit later on. In that cafeteria I remember telling friends that I certainly would not die - the Rapture of the faithful would happen in my time. I remember my ongoing debate about the demonic and pagan (I had not yet learned to distinguish between them) origins of Halloween. I remember a debate about full-believer's baptism, the notes from which I may still have, nearly 15 years later. Indeed, I remember writing a paper which argued that it may be the case that demon possession is lately misdiagnosed as personality and mental disorder.

As a result of a message exchange with an old, also ex-evangelical, friend, I have just spent the past few hours reading articles and essays from Christianity Today. This is not how I intended to spend my evening... What I find even more interesting is how illicit it feels. As though I were reading someone's diary or spying on a family together or 'slumming' or, maybe, seeing myself in a carnival mirror.

Is, my friend asked me, what drew us into evangelical faith and practice, that which drove us from it? And so my mind has been turning all day. Why and how did I leave the fold? And why has my leaving not stopped at having left - why do I seem to have to keep leaving? Why is it that, having left the church, my mind is still drawn to the quest for god, for absolute and certain ethical living, for rest? Why is it that when I'm feeling emotionally and mentally 'full-up' I don't even realize until after I begin to hear my own voice singing that I am, again, creating a worship service for a god I cannot recognize.

Where are the churches for the unbelievers? For those of us who do not so much long to believe, as for those of us who cannot seem to forget - or seem to want to forget - the habit of worship? Where are our congregations? Where can I meet my church, where brother Ben and sister Becca will join hands with me and we will all pray to no god and worship no god - but pray and worship nonetheless? Where may I preach or be preached to? Who will write a sermon for me and my church? For those of us who cannot or will not or must not believe, but who are still powerfully affected by the ways in which worship and the divine and better-than-human ethics radically shift the ways in which we exist our worlds - where may we meet and commune and offer thanks, gratitude, recognition, affirmation, submission, zeal, power, bravery; where may we join hands and, connecting our bodies, souls, hearts and minds, bridging our desire and our unbelief, -- where may we meet and praise ...
praise ...
where may we offer praise to ears of our own making for a universe given us and remade by us;
where may we offer gratitude for such heretical, devoted, like-minded love?
where may we practice a loving, faithful non-faith?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

"Wall-E" for real this time

Although I understand many of the critiques of "Wall-E" for the way it seems to conflate obesity with laziness, with moral inferiority, with social solipsism, what struck me was, ok, get ready for it folks, I'm really going to change it up on you - the ways in which it recalled to me Jeanette Winterson's newest book, The Stone Gods.
I am not typically a reader of science fiction. Or a viewer for that matter. Perhaps I am a bit simple or a bit old-fashioned or not even a very good feminist, for that matter, but futuristic fantasies usually leave me a bit cold and unsettled and with my brow unattractively furrowed days later ... I couldn't even get through Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake.

"Love, all alike no season knowes, nor clyme"
The Stone Gods takes place deep into our future and even deeper into our past. The story takes place centuries (or so) from now, nearly 300 years ago, and also, somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion years ago. It moves about a bit. It is as much a love story as it is a social commentary, as it is a dystopic fantasy. Billie, the main character, falls in love with a cyborg, Spike. Billy falls in love with an explorer/seaman Spikkers. Billie and Spike journey through space, traverse worlds, colonize a planet, die, live, find themselves abjected from the brave new world and find themselves the subject of the very same.

"Thy beames, so reverend and strong Why shouldst thou thinke?"
Perhaps Winterson can achieve her critique of human activity in her dystopia because it is not visually depicted. If we were to see Captain Handsome or Pink McMurphy or Manfred, we might experience a disgust and a dissociation parallel to that which many felt in seeing the infantile, round humans in "Wall-E". Pink has been "fixed" so that she will never look older than 24 (she's 58). She wants to be refixed to age 12 to regain the attraction of her husband. Manfred is cold and nearly robotic. And, well, I like Handsome, so that's not so bad. He loves poetry. But the scene in the Peccadillo, were it to be visually depicted could potentially have activists of all stripes angrily blogging and reviewing: children, 'ugly' persons, those who not so long ago might have had lucrative careers in the circus industry - depictions of these bodies might very well anger the anti-perfection activists.

In "Wall-E" this is the case, the depiction of a human body mistreated through near-complete inactivity has angered many whose bodies are larger than Vogue norms as well as fat-positive activists. But the etiology is misunderstood. "Wall-E" is not saying 'fat people make the world bad' or that 'fat people are the source of degeneration'. Rather, it seems that, given a situation in which, rather than change our world, we leave it to wait for a miracle, a savior; given a situation in which humans take on no projects, have nothing to do, simply spend time in consumptive pastimes waiting, waiting, waiting - it seems reasonable to expect the body to be marked by the mental and social inactivity which precedes and enables the physical inactivity as well.
I am aware that I am writing on a razor's edge, but I hope I am making some sort of distinction which may be interesting, may trouble these critiques at least in some sense.
It is not the case that current cases of obesity are caused by mental and social inactivity. What is required in a film is a visual depiction of psychic and physical phenomenon. Certainly if I did nothing but sit for 24 hours a day drinking cupcakes in a cup, I would lose muscle tone, muscle mass, gain weight, etc. But what is interesting and difficult in movies is the strength of the link between mental, social and moral reality and physical embodiment. In a book these things can be alluded to, glossed over, done subtly. They cannot be so subtle in a movie.

"She is all States, all Princes, I, Nothing else is"
And yet, in both The Stone Gods and in "Wall-E" we have improbable love stories which are believable and beautiful and characterized by enormous hope. Interestingly as well, the lovers in both stories are vilified and become subversive, as though we are to be led to believe that love is increasingly subversive. John Donne's poetry takes on even deeper metaphysical meaning in The Stone Gods and poetry itself becomes somehow dirtier than a sex club. Love is all but meaningless except between a human who would not have herself genetically fixed and a cyborg. Or, in the film, human physical contact is all but eliminated (and then touchingly, hopefully reintroduced) and the most beautiful expression and experience of love (one of which both Beauvoir and Kierkegaard could, in some ways, be proud) occurs between two robots, neither of which are expected to feel at all.

"Thine age askes ease, and since thy duties bee
To warm the world, that's done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy center is, these walls, thy spheare."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

well that was a bad day....

rather than writing a proposal for conference-planning, i have so far spent my morning deleting old emails. i found this:

"i'm in a foul mood and am in great danger of lashing out to everyone i love best, telling them to forget me, forever, since i am so unworthy of their friendship as to be undeserving of even a last conversation. i am wallowing in self-pity, gorging on self-loathing and perfuming myself in bitterness. currently there is nothing admirable, lovable, respectable, good, or in any way worthy in my person. my character is of such hideousness, if it were not mediated by the opacity of embodiment, i should be a very Gorgon, Medusa herself, turning all who look on me into horrified, disgusted stone.
i alone of all persons cannot seem to become a healthy, happy, well-adjusted, moderate grown-up. i alone of all persons am unique in my excessive childishness, my selfishness, my self-centered-ness, my inability to receive or give love from/to anyone. i am an undisciplined mass of inarticulable desires. i am haughty and narrow and stingy and rigid. i act as though i deserve the world but do not even work to deserve the kindness of my friends. i demand love but do not even begin to *be* loving-ly. i am foul, wretched, inhumane, a monster.
i style myself wise but don't live according to wisdom. indeed, i hardly live according to any of the principles i most highly value: bravery, courage, steadfastness, love, thriftiness, generosity, simplicity. i kaleidoscope myself where i ought to focus. i fling myself beyond myself rather than concentrating myself where i am. i dream of a future but idle in my present. i contradict my contradictions and make paradoxes of my paradoxes. is there any wonder i am unlovable? there has been no self for me - or anyone else - to love." march 1, 2008

as it was in my university account, i was in great danger of losing this written moment to the time-gods who preside over the existence of messages. this one deserves a longer life

interestingly, months later and in a rather happy frame of mind, i still identify very much with those angry and tender expressions above. ok, so maybe not a Gorgon, but still. yes, i am or may be all of those things. but there is a world to love and i am in that world.

Friday, July 25, 2008

it couldn't have been the cheese...

I had my first 'teeth' dream. It was kind of horrible! I was somewhere in public. It seemed a bit like a food court/mall, but a bit more posh. First two of my bottom left side molars fell out. That was a bit unsettling and unexpected, but I thought I could manage it. No one would notice as the gap was relatively far back. Hmm. at this point, the mall looked a bit like a bazaar. Interesting. But then teeth around the hole started falling out as well. Into my hand, and, as I was suddenly in a women's bathroom (which looked rather like the bathroom at Pops for Champagne), into the sink. I wiggled my front top incisors and, finding them very loose, simply pulled them out of my mouth. I had a handful of teeth and no idea as to what to do with them. First I thought I ought to call the dentist. Then I thought I ought to call 9-1-1. Before I could do either, a group of my girlfriends came in to confront me. What did I expect, being a drug addict and all? I could not convince them that I had done no drugs. They were dismissive and accusatory while I stood aghast with a handful of teeth.

Later, in my apartment, I saw a bee. Cat started jumping around and following it, trying to catch it. I encouraged him: "Get it kitty! You can do it!" Then there was another bee. And another. And still more. I was stung on the front of my hand, in my palm, on my arm (all on my right hand/arm). The sites of the stings swelled and turned purple and then calmed down about an hour later. Then, and this was horrible, a bee got stuck in my ear. I could not get the bee out nor think of a way to do so. It stung me inside my ear and then was gone. My apartment filled with bees (leaving me now feeling like Pharaoh) and I worried about poor cat - there was no way to protect him and he would be covered in horrible bee stings.

I had no cheese last night. Indeed, I had no dinner, just a lovely glass of wine. But such dreams!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

sometimes the world is good to you

and i did it. had the biopsy. the valium helped immensely. as did the alcohol afterward. i didn't even cry. it was uncomfortable. and it did indeed feel rather like a menstrual cramp afterward. could i do it again? only with a friend and only with drugs. but i think i could do it. oh, and that stress ball was helpful too.

it was encouraging to meet a friend for an early breakfast before hand. to eat a swedish pancake. to have chance encounters with two friends on my way to breakfast and to feel even more a part of a community. it was soothing to enjoy such pleasant weather today. to walk around in sunshine and cool breezes while the morning is not yet old. it was bittersweetly comforting to lose control of my body in order to gain control of it - by taking a sedative drug, i was able to relax just enough to make my body endure the (short) procedure. and it was perfect to have a hug.

feeling a bit exhausted. will read and go to bed early. will hopefully wake up early and begin being productive again tomorrow.

Friday, July 18, 2008

of museums and cervical biopsies

so i went in for a colposcopy today. i'd never had one. i'd never even heard of the procedure before. it is not the case that all colposcopies culminate in biopsies, but mine was to have. apparently it is nearly certain that i have a type 2 dysplasia and so ought to have a biopsy to determine what sort of treatment is warranted.

a smart woman would have had the biopsy performed immediately, while the doctor was there, all up in her business, with the tools prepared and just gotten it over with. and then she would have gotten drunk immediately following.

i am not a smart woman.

instead, as soon as i saw the biopsy instrument, i began to cry and couldn't stop. i felt like such an idiot. the test has to be rescheduled. i have a prescription for valium which i can take before my next appointment. the doctor tried to explain that this is really a necessary procedure. i tried to explain that i understood its necessity but was afraid i might kick her head if she actually put that thing inside me. that there was no way i could see myself enduring the procedure, as fast as it might be.

so now i will be paying for two exams. will have days (months?) to anticipate the small bit of physical pain it will cause; days (months?) to reflect on what a baby i was.

so a friend and i went to the museum. we had a cocktail, calmed me down, went to the Field Museum and then had a half bottle of wine. it was lovely. calming. a pretty day stolen from summer and we explored the ancient Egypt and Americas. and i tried not to think less of myself

Saturday, July 12, 2008

stilton is for dreaming

apparently many folks report vivid and bizarre dreams after eating stilton (a fun fact which i did not know). i treated myself to a bit of cheese today while at Trader Joe's, after having thoroughly enjoyed a champagne tasting at Pops for Champagne.
i enjoy strange and often vivid dreams as it is; i am curious to see how my dreams change - if at all - with the cheese: will my dreams be even more memorable? will they grow still stranger? will they simply be 'brighter'? i will report back if anything fun occurs. for now, the cheese is lovely with tea and a cracker.

i've been otherwise dreaming however. there is the chance that i might not move at the end of the month after all. i find i am coming quite close to hoping that i will be able to remain where i am. if i do, then i will make of this place a homier home:
- i will finally put curtains up in the living room
- i will paint my bookshelves
- i will get a comfortable desk chair
- i will find a better way to organize my closets
- i will finally make a cushion for the toychest
- i will finally get a coffee table
etc etc.
i like this space a lot. but it could be made more efficient and more beautiful. i will finally coordinate my colors and maximize utility. but i am trying not to think very much about this possibility - it is still just as likely that i will move and then this dreaming will have been misdirected...there are still all those French verbs to conjugate and memorize.

and i have been otherwise dreaming. dreaming of learning to sew. of learning to cook well and often. of learning to be terribly efficient. of learning to preserve and can. of learning to love well. of learning to forget. of learning to allow myself to be hurt. of trusting others even without reason. of being brave, marvelously brave. of taking risks and courting danger. of having adventures. of allowing myself to be wrong.
i have been dreaming so much i've hardly had time for sleeping and have been rising early and staying up late. i've been drinking less coffee but feel a deep delicious energy just beneath my surface. i feel a sort of effervescent bubbling over of possibility for growth and change just now and i am terribly excited to see what i make of it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

herbal teas; paint chips

I have been in a bit of a funk these past few weeks.

For example, I have not been drinking nearly enough water. For a while I was doing really well with my water intake. Lately, I've been lucky to get two cups of coffee in a whole day. A really good day included a couple three-four beverages of the alcoholic variety.

In preparation for my ladytime, I made a big pitcher of red raspberry leaf tea and drank it all. Now I am sipping another pitcher of cocoa spice tea in preparation for bedtime. Two pitchers of tea today! Hooray!

But will I transform this one shining, exemplary day into a habit? They say it takes 21 days to make a habit (give or take). I'll try one whole moon cycle (plus these few days before) and see if I can ingrain my fluid-drinking habit. I'll give myself 5 off-days - mostly because I am moving at the end of the month and so will eventually have to pack my tea.

I am beset by the urge to paint my bookshelves. I have two unpainted wooden shelves I am currently itching to paint. I think I want a sort of grayish/greenish/slate-ish blue, but I don't want the effect to be too "country". Neither do I want it to be too "primary-school". But I want color and harmony and coordination.

So: For this cycle, I will commit to 2 cups red raspberry leaf tea and at least 2 tall glasses of water daily.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

have i mentioned how much i love jeanette winterson?

With each reading of Written on the Body, I grow angrier and angrier with the narrator. This adds to my anger/frustration - Winterson has deprived me of pronouns with which to easily name my heartbreak.
The narrator of the book, a nameless, ambiguously gendered someone, leaves her/his beloved, Louise, in a misguided attempt to save her life. Why did s/he not trust Louise? This is what codes the narrator as masculine (though not necessarily male) to me: it seems, to me, that the feminine response would be to absorb Louise's suffering, to refuse the 'heroic' act and do the work of brow-mopping and hair-and-hand-holding. It seems so very masculine to believe that withholding love is an expression of it.
It is this same act that codes the narrator as feminine (though not necessarily female): like the mothers before Solomon, the narrator would give up her precious beloved to someone else's care, someone inferior, someone whose 'love' is oriented away from love, if only that means the beloved might live. The narrator adopts a maternal stance in his/her misreading of the situation (it is *not* guaranteed that Elgin can actually save Louise; this is where the narrator is heartbreakingly myopic).
Of course, there is no King Solomon in this novel and Louise is no infant, the narrator no mother and Elgin - we never learn whether Elgin was telling the truth.

And so here is the humbling bit - for the narrator and for every reader who identifies with the narrator - that for Louise (and any and all of our beloveds), it might not be worth it to be saved if the salvation does not include the beloved. Can we ever believe that we might be valued so highly by the one we love? Is it selfish when we want to so believe, to be so loved?
We are not to love the beloved more than god - that is blasphemy. We are not to love the beloved more than ourselves - that is antiquated and un-feminist. We are not to love the beloved more than our career, our children, our friends, our lives. What, then, is so beloved about the beloved?
We are supposed to love properly, efficiently, moderately - no blistering-hot, full-to-the-neck baths for us, but tepid 7-minute, water-saver showers. Turn off the water when you soap and when you shave.
No bucolic bliss any longer: it is wartime and to ration our passion is a virtue. we must be economical. The heart is too precious for everyday consumption, we must enjoy our diet of corn flakes, graham flour and winter savory.
No blistering inferno, gone the dazzling sun, we've left the chemist's lab; we dare not even glance at the crucible wherein our hearts could fuse (and alchemy is so out of style) sunglasses are our most popular accessory - can I get spf3000 for my heart?

this was supposed to have been a musing about similarities between The Stone Gods and Wall-E, the new Pixar film....