being quirky with cubbie.

yesterday, when i was at the wednesday evening meeting for worship (i’ve been to our meeting’s evening worship 2 or 3 times, probably all revolving around plans to talk with someone before or afterward), my mind kept getting filled with conversations in the comment sections of articles i’d been reading. i rarely read the comment sections because they are usually so full of vitriol that i find them emotionally exhausting and unhelpful overall. and when i do, the interactions stick with me for a long time. i have internal arguments with commenters over and over again, but continuously come to the conclusion that they will misunderstand what i’m saying and that i don’t have the fortitude or interest in the argument enough to fight it out. that may be a weakness of mine.

but my meeting for worship epiphany (and i’m a little freaked out about how as soon as it came to me i wanted to blog about it but not stand up and say it) is that those conversations are so often about “those people.” no matter who is arguing or what they are arguing about, the argument is always about “those people.” the visual that came to me was a long stream of comments with “those people THOSE PEOPLE THOSE PEOPLE THOSE PEOPLE!” getting bigger and bigger and… screechier and more frantic, if text can get screechier and more frantic.

and then the screeching stopped when it came to me that the hope of jesus and christianity for me is that jesus said we are all “those people.”

my facebook presence is full of a lot of reposting of pictures and links. they are sometimes goofy and fun and shallow (two days ago i was over the moon because i’d found a lisa frank version of the mona lisa immediately followed by sofia vergara’s impression of fran drescher within minutes of each other) and sometimes they are political. whenever i post a political post i try to see it through the eyes of my… um… two or three? politically conservative friends and decide if they would see it as a personal attack. i never ask them, and i’m mostly convinced that they don’t even look at most of my posts, which i’m okay with because i like our friendship. i also sometimes forget to think about this. but i really don’t want my facebook presence to be mean. i don’t want it to be unchallenging either (am i really philosophizing about how challenging my facebook presence is?), but seriously, i’m not seeing anything useful being brought about by mockery, shame, or calling the other side stupid. the people who disagree with me didn’t come to their disagreement through lack of thought, and if there is any lack of thought, i attribute it to the lack of thought that occurs in fight-or-flight mode. when you are being attacked, you don’t think straight. (when you are an exhausted teacher, you also don’t think straight or as much as you would like to, and when you are working horrible minimum wage jobs that the government and media have convinced you are what you are stuck with until you win the lottery, you also don’t have a lot of brain power left. not because you are stupid, but because our current cultural situations are sucking us dry.)

we are being sold a lot of crap. i believe that and i am guilty of buying into a lot of it. i also believe that we can’t change anyone’s mind by attacking them. my mind has never once been changed by an attack– attacks have only ever further convinced me that i am right. if we want to change anyone’s opinion, we have to see that they are doing the best they can with the life experiences they’ve had and we have to remind them that so are we. and then once we are both finally human, then we can transform each other.

ignore-ance.

in one of my first zines, i waxed poetic about the way the word “ignore” is in “ignorance.” i’m not sure what all i said about it, and it’s very possible that this post is just a rehashing of some epiphany i had at 21 years old.

but one of the things that breaks my heart and frustrates me the most is the way that part of human nature seems to be a certain pride in ignorance. the way that when we don’t understand another person’s belief, culture, or ideas, they must me stupid. the way that so many liberal folk think the bible is nonsense, sort of based on the fact that they’ve never read it.

i had a conversation with someone this week in which i was trying to explain my frustration and sadness over the way that smart liberal folks have in many ways just handed religion over to “the fox news people” (… i never watch fox news, so i was doing it right then, right?). and somehow what that person heard was that i was frustrated and sad because smart liberal people are stupid enough to believe in god. it was the oddest thing, my complete inability to communicate that what i meant was that there really is something in religion for smart liberal people but so many of us refuse to access it.

i’m one of the few people in my group of friends who are my peers that was either raised with religion or who still have religion. and so i see this pride in ignorance a lot. i LOVE my friends and i’m reluctant to say this because it sounds pretty critical, especially since i’m too shy to say it when it happens, but there have been times when we’ll pass a church or something and what the church says on the outside looks so ludicrous to the person and they will make fun of it, but it’s something that makes sense to me. but i can’t express it. i can’t figure out what to say to make it make sense.

we passed a church once that said “church of god in christ” and my good friend just thought that was the funniest thing. “how can it be ‘of god’ and ‘in christ’ at the same time?” and i couldn’t figure out how to explain it…

this post is becoming more about my inability to express myself and be an advocate for my faith than i totally feel comfortable with.

what it was meant to be about, and what i’ve been thinking about the most, is what a part of human nature all of that is. how we choose what we are experts in. how i don’t watch the news, watch sports, stay current in music… but how i get frustrated when someone doesn’t know all the classic movie stars or bad ’80s tv or y.a. lit that i know. we know what we know and we like that we know it and we think everyone who doesn’t know what we know are deficient in some way. and people who know things different from how we know them is also deficient, because they are clearly paying attention to the wrong things.

are there ways to bridge that?

he’s both a fish and a mammal and i hope he’ll never change

one of the big questions i wrestle with lately is about the necessity of christianity for me. i think it will always be a question i wrestle with, because christianity has so many different facets and meanings. “clearly” i have no use for the angry fundamentalist christianity that seems to be what most people equate with all christianity, and i hope to never go back there again. but it has its ghosts in my psyche, raw nerves i’m still nervous about touching.

my girlfriend, who i’ve been with for four years and who i’m planning a life with, was raised, basically, areligious. and i live in urban areas and queer communities that can also be fairly areligious. and there is a pride there that makes sense in the face of the religion that makes it on the news, the religion that seems to wear ignorance as a badge of honor. the problem then, though, is that ignorance of religion becomes the opposite badge of honor. i am continuously upset by the angry war between the religious and the nonreligious, because i think they’re actually on the same side which is the side of anger and fear.

my areligious girlfriend and i try to be on the side of love. and if god is love, is religion necessary?

the answer, for me, is that it can be helpful. it can provide a framework and a discipline for transforming and growing love past something shallow and greeting card.

the challenge, though, is moving past my own shy fear of unpopular opinions and desire for happy family life, and trying to ethically and honestly live a life based somewhere in religion while living with, loving and honoring my girlfriend and her traditions.

in your head in your head they are fighting.

this

plus

this

equaled me saying this:

“i think the thing that is breaking my heart in this is so many of the people who are screaming vitriol also claim to be on the healer’s side… claim to be his spokespeople… and in so doing, drive so many people away. it reminds me of this time i saw graffiti that said “fags hate god,” in, i’m assuming, a response to all the “god hates fags” stuff… and my response was, “of course. that is the logical response. and it is very very sad.””

cat and her friend, sarah, and i have started praying for each other or holding each other in the light… or something vaguely worded but powerful… as stressed out, burning out, caring teachers. i’ve needed it immensely these past two weeks.

my class is very violent. not… physically, really. but in the way that this world is very violent, and i’ve got a lot of sensitive frustrated students who live in a town where violence is how you solve things. where you need to get sponsorship from coca-cola or chevron to get enough money to sponsor a project for your class. where i’ve lost the line between cultural loudness and the loudness to be heard when you go home alone or to a too crowded house and every single person you know needs way more than they get. i am disappointed in myself frequently because sometimes i shout back and what kind of quaker shouts back at children.

kid: “if you go to church, why do you yell at children?”
me: “why are you yelling that question at me?”
kid: “I’M NOT YE–…”

it feels bad. 17 angry students and 1 tired teacher feels bad.

in about an hour, all over the country, there will be protests. protests about all the gay marriage bans that passed in this election. i won’t be there.

partly it’s just that it’s been a really stressful week and i’ve not got enough sleep for 3 nights in a row. and maybe that laziness is informing my sense of leading, but i don’t think so.

i just don’t feel led to go. i think it’s really sad that proposition 8 won, but i’m not convinced that my going to this protest will fix what needs to get fixed.

(i’ve been asking myself questions about marriage as a state thing anyway, and if i even like that at all. wondering if people who live together in any sort of committed household, even if romance is not involved, should get all the state marriage “perks” and if the faith and other communities should be in charge of “policing” the holy, marriage stuff…?)

i think it’s just that, even though this may be naive and not politically cogent, it’s all really about love. ALL. are all people who love each other allowed to live that love how they want to? AND… are we loving enough to accept our differences?

i personally think it’s a travesty of the christian faith to use it to justify hate of any kind. AND i think it’s depressing that the queer response is an equally vicious and dehumanizing hatred. i think, then, we are both wrong.

i’m thinking about this person quoted in kornfield’s a path with heart. “my parents hate me when i’m a buddhist, but they love me when i’m a buddha,” she says. i can’t go out and fight this with fighting words and anger and hatred. i’ve just got to love even harder. maybe queer folks have to love harder than straight folks. maybe that’s not fair. maybe that’s like african american folks having to be twice as smart and twice as hardworking to get the same breaks as white folks. but maybe it’s a gift.

if i went out today, i’d bring or make my own sign like the ones i like at the peace vigil outside the federal building. “let us then try what love will do” or “there is no fear in love. perfect love casts out fear.” even those seem a little too weapony in this situation.

i guess i just think if it’s a battle between the christians and the queers (which it isn’t, because there are christian queers and christian allies, and because it just isn’t), we’ve got to beat them at their own game. and remind them that it is their game, too. christianity boils down to love. and so does queerness. we should be on the same page.

we are living in a historic time. obama is the president-elect, and maybe that’s about love too. it’s definitely about some triumph over hate. and it was painful to get here and it’s still not perfect, but we’ve gotten somewhere. i don’t think we will get far like that by hating each other, blaming people, or doing anything other than reaching across lines.

allison sent me a link to a blog of particularly mormon folks apologizing about prop 8. being loving and trying to bridge gaps. we’ve all got to do that. or at least i do.

would i be bridging gaps at the protest? possibly. maybe that’s what i should be doing– going to the protest and talking about love to the protesters and everyone. but i’m not. in fact, i’ve had the sort of blog-writing experience that involved stopping and starting and having conversations and now it’s 3 hours later than it was when it started. i must keep this open though. way has opened for more love to come into the world. what am i going to do about it?

on wednesday, we had a weighty friend come and speak with the young adults. he came to talk about his spiritual journey, especially in relationship to conservative friends. he talked about the history of christianity, the way and the word and what those things mean, and his belief that the world needs to embrace it now. he was honest– about himself, and about things he doesn’t understand (what atonement really means, why christianity has gotten co-opted and can be used for ugly things), and about the trickiness of the idea of jesus being the way (he believes this is true but that other faiths are going toward the same thing as well, in just as valid and important ways. and that people use the idea of jesus as the way to divide)– and i always am struck by that. i tend to trust and believe most people, but i’m still amazed when i KNOW i can trust and believe them– and that happens a lot with quakers. (and in terms of honesty, staring back at these words, i think i’ve put a little of myself in them. that way that you can hear someone and they answer a question that you have, and suddenly your question plus what they actually said becomes what you remember that they said… even though your question was never put into words.)

i go back in forth about the whole christianity thing. it’s been so poisonous in so many ways, and part of me wonders if it should just be scrapped. it’s maybe just too loaded at this point. BUT it DOES have such potential and it seems like it can be transformative and amazing, and so maybe it’s important to snatch it back from people who abuse it.

during the last bit of the conversation and the worship that followed, i realized that i felt the way that i did a few years ago, when i was at the tranny roadshow. kelly & jamez, these kids who i’d met at the portland zine symposium while we were sharing a table (my partner and i had one half for our zine distro and button press, & they had their own zine distro and were also there on behalf of the denver zine library as well), put together this amazing travelling performance art extravaganza, and it came to olympia.

at some point in the evening, shawna virago played us some amazing rock music. and between a couple of the songs, she told us that we were making history. and it really felt true at the time. i felt like i was on the pulse of something very true and urgent. & that’s how it felt being part of a conversation about christianity not being poisonous.

the next morning, i got on the bus that comes right outside my house. it was pretty full, and in the middle was a man yelling. he was yelling to us “o childrens of israel” to “shun the buddha, shun the kuram” (i am obviously a better person than him because i know children doesn’t need an s at the end, and my anglicized version of the kuran has the standard “n” at the end. this knowledge makes me smarter and thus kinder. which is why i’m pointing out his mistake. to show that i am better than him.). he told us that he loves us. he told us that god would transform us. he told us that we needed to listen now, that marriage is between a man and a woman, that we are all terrible, that god would send the tsunami if we didn’t repent, and then it would be our fault “like in indonesia.”

this is the third time that i’ve heard someone yelling on the bus about how god will send a tsunami to san francisco because of all the gays (one person compared us to “solomon & galore” and i thought “what a great gay club name” and i still think so, and i can’t tell if that thought is cruel and condescending, or just my standard love of the way that language moves and changes and grows and expands and lives). they’ve all been different people. they’ve all been people of color. they all seem pretty crazy to me. they all seem hurt and scared. i want to have the words and strength to tell and show them that this fear is not it. this fear and anger is the opposite of it. this fear and anger is pushing people away from that transforming power– it’s telling people that god is not for them and it’s telling people who love god that they are not good enough for god, which is not true. god accepts and loves us for who we are, every bit of it, and when we learn that, then we can start growing and getting better. we just get smaller when our god is not big enough to hold everyone. and if god can be made that small, is god worth saving?

the saddest part to me was not his rant. it wasn’t my inability to counter his rant to him. he could be crazy about that or other things, and that’s definitely sad. but the saddest part to me was that after he got off the bus people applauded– mostly out of relief that it was quiet again– and then one woman who didn’t seem crazy said, “yeah, but there was nothing wrong with what he said. everything he said was true.” and a lot of people agreed.

i’ve started an essay a few times about this san francisco conundrum. this tsunami thing. this white queer privileged people vs poor people of color who are also people of faith thing. it’s a scary multi-layered divide. where does the healing start?

i know the secret to life. i’m okay when everything is not okay.

i’m at one of those magnificently shaky times where i feel like i have grasped the secret of the universe. *laughs*

it’s one of those times where i feel really grounded and like i’ve “got it” — but i know from experience that these moments are actually just a flicker in a life. that the thing that i’ve got will become part of my being, or i might even forget it, and not long from now, i will be caught up in the drama and confusion again.

i feel steady, but i know that factually, i am new to this faith, i am young, i am in love, i am myself in all of my flaws, and so i know that there will be more insights to come, and that i am coming at my life through this one lens.

BUT paradoxically, that knowledge makes me feel all the more grounded. because this awareness of my particular position, and this acceptance of that… is new.

the historical meaning of the word “convinced” in quaker terms, as i understand it, is something more along the lines of “convicted” than, um, believing something that’s been proven to you, as we understand the word today. i feel like that has happened to me recently. i feel like i have a path to follow and i need to be true to it, and i have been convicted in that way.

there’s always been that self-hate aspect to my understanding of christianity. i always thought that i could only get to know god if i hated myself. and the narrative that i hear so frequently about this “convincing” involves this sudden belief in one’s unworthiness.

and now i think i’m there. but it’s not unworthiness like… i’m bad. but this unworthiness like, i’ve got this tall order coming in from god, will i be faithful or will i get lost? and also this deep deep gratitude for everything, and feeling awed by that. we are all unworthy of this universe, and yet we are part of it and that is acceptable.

at some early morning session at our meetinghouse, someone from m&o said this thing– and it resonated, but of course now i’ve forgotten the exact words or where he got it from– but it was something like “you are fine just the way you are AND you could use some work.” and for me, that’s exactly IT right now.

i’ve been wrestling a lot with self-compassion and compassion for others lately. defensiveness and welcoming and sitting in sorrow and not trying to fix things immediately. and i feel like that quote is the secret to it. for me right now. i am fine just the way i am AND i could use some work. the people who i can’t stand right now… the people who i love but who disappoint me… the people who i adore… it’s true for us all. we are all connected and interconnected by this odd mix of being the exact right products of our pasts and also these bundles of unfulfilled possibilities. and it’s really beautiful.

and so i’ve been letting my heart get broken by all my flaws and all the flaws of the community i love… but i’m not letting it stop there. i CAN’T save us all from ourselves and i don’t actually want to (well, maybe sort of. i’m struggling with my desire to be a superstarsuperherobestbestbestever person). i accept that (again… sort of. *laughs*). but i can do what i can do. i can learn what i can learn and i can teach what i can teach… and i’m excited and terrified by that.

yes yes yes.

(this just in! the quote is from pema chödrön. it’s actually “you are perfect just the way you are and you could use a little work.” her teacher said it to her.)

everybody’s got their something

i’m reading two books that are working as companions to each other:

if god is love: rediscovering grace in an ungracious world by philip gulley & james mulholland

&

wide awake by david levithan

i’ve never read anything by the authors of the former, but it’s in our meetinghouse library, and it’s been recommended by a few people (like robin m.). it’s a hopeful, helpful book about acceptance, love and compassion as part of what god is and what god wants.

david levithan is my favorite young adult writer alive today. i’ve read 2 other books by him, and each book he writes seems to fill an empty space in the universe. the books he writes the world needs, and he writes them lovingly and elegantly. this book is about a time in the not too distant future when a gay jewish president is elected! it’s set after “the reign of fear” and during “the jesus revolution” when people– especially young people– are embracing that whole love and compassion and acceptance part of christianity. it’s a delicious book.

***

the beyond diversity 101 training has been postponed until the fall. i’m sad, but it also makes things feel a bit more expansive. i don’t have to “get everything done” by the end of march. and i feel okay with exploring local options a bit more.

as usual, i got my head out from under the blankets by laying out exactly what they were with a few friends (of varying capitalizations) and experiencing their compassion with my confusion. golly, i love that there are people in my life who will let me be a brat for awhile and will actually scold me for calling myself a brat, rather than for the bratty things. because the only way to get through them is to just have them and accept them and to… get through them.

you cannot scold yourself away. you will always be there with your everything. and so will everyone. and accepting all of that is the challenge. and it can be a pain in the butt, but it can also be really fun.

yesterday was one of the first times in a really long time that i nearly had an anxiety attack. it was wet and nothing was going right and i was soaked and had just gotten to work and was dropping a bunch of things and i was late because i had to run an errand for another coworker so i wasn’t getting completely informed about the change in the day’s schedule and i started stuttering and my throat got all tight.

and it’s funny when you realize that the reason you’ve felt so serene lately actually has less to do with personal growth than with your life just being more serene lately. and the way that cracks when things start to crack.

***

i had my second clearness committee for membership this past week, and it went a whole lot better. it did feel deeper in ways i don’t know how to describe, and i just felt more settled in my decision.

robin asked me if maybe i’d been experiencing buyer’s remorse. i’ve been thinking about that, and i still think the answer is no. for me, whenever i’ve experienced actual buyer’s remorse, it’s been a case of “okay, why did i just spend x amount of scarce resources on this? what was i thinking?” and what happened, i don’t think was about scarcity or a mistake in that sort of way.

i think if i was going to turn it into a shopping analogy, it would be more like looking through ads for computers. and they each have their list of specifications. and a lot of them are like “CHOCK FULL OF THIS ONE FEATURE!” and being like, “um… i’m not totally sure if my computer needs that one feature…” and deciding on one that does have that feature, but it’s not so much in the advertising. and so then, i spend a year studying this computer and learning more about it and also that one feature. and realizing that i kind of like that one feature and how it works with that particular computer. and so then, i’m standing at the counter with my money ready to buy this actual computer, and suddenly i remember that i’m okay with that one feature, and i’ve just spent all my energy studying this one computer and now that i’m okay with this feature, should i go back and delve into those other computers?

(the feature being christianity.)

***

the other thing is that thanks to allison, we’re working on starting a young adult group for our meeting. and i’m excited about it in theory, but a little freaked out about it in practice. a lot because i’ve really treasured having quakerism be a place in my life to have grown-up friends. and a lot because somehow because of being part of the meeting for a little over a year now, i’m a sort of resident expert, and i am really really not. there was a moment in my clearness committee where i was asked about helping to clarify other young people’s questions about quakerism, and i’m not sure if i’m up for the task. both because i’m not sure if i can do it (i told someone today that it’s like the near-sighted person without their glasses leading the blind), and because i’m not sure if i can do it gracefully. lately i’ve been feeling like a crotchety old man in general, and i guess this is just how i get to learn how to be my own age, and accept my own age, and accept people who are going through things i’m going through, rather than just hanging out with amazing role models. because my peers can be role models, too.

***

the last thing is that i have access to the old site again, so i‘m going to be putting up the old posts. so there will be some new things coming up, but i will be backdating them so they will hopefully be put in correct chronological order. put up all the old posts. i even managed to get the old comments in there, but all as one big block comment from me. but with credit to the names of the people who posted them.

so this is what the volume knob’s for.

i’m reading sex god by rob bell right now. among other things. i read a lot of things at once. not at once exactly, but they’ve got bookmarks in them. i open them at least once a week.

rob bell is the guy who does the nooma videos, which robin m. introduced to our meeting about a year ago. they’re a mix of earnest and too clean, but they were definitely thought-provoking. it’s been exciting to read a book by him, even when i feel a bit like i’m being played. as someone who came to see a few of the nooma movies with us said, “this isn’t a movie; it’s a sermon.” and there are aspects of sermons that you learn from and there are parts where you just watch the person’s attempt to teach you and that distracts from your ability to hear it.

anyway, sex god is about sex and god. and in general, it’s smart and loving, two things i like in my sermons. but i was about midway through, and i was noticing a distinct lack of mention of homosexuality. and i got really curious, so i decided to go on the internet and google the words “rob” and “bell” and “homosexuality.”

and then i found myself in the magical land of homophobia! *sigh* not exactly the best way to end christmas night. i forget that people think this way sometimes. i forget that love is lost and forgotten, joy is completely out of the question, and bible-based self-righteous rage is all that is left.

and i am so permeable and malleable still. and that was the first i ever heard of homosexuality really. not from my family. my dad made some gay jokes, but i didn’t know that’s what they were. but when i was in high school and depressed anyway and then starting to come out and then suddenly BAM, i heard that the way i was feeling was a straight road to hell. and i’m having a mean ol’ case of baby fever these days, and the echoes of the way that traditional baby having is not possible in my case (and there is relief, of course. it’s a lot harder for queers to get accidentally pregnant than it is for straight people. but it also hurts.). and it was, you know, the middle of the night, and i just couldn’t stop reading, curling further into that high school angst and sadness.

but at some point fortunately, i remembered joy. i remembered it as something bigger than what was being talked about. i remembered that there might be words written that say that things that feel Right to me are Wrong, but that my gauge of Rightness vs. Wrongness is the joy in it. there is love where i live and it’s better for me than following rules that hurt. and that’s what i know.

in san francisco, there’s a group that’s called gay shame. they do a lot of anarchist action and graffiti and one day i saw a sign they’d made that said, “fags hate god.” and it was so obvious. if all you know is that god hates you, all you’re going to do is hate god. but… for me at least… there’s joy in god too. god is all truth and queerness is part of my understanding of truth. god is in my queerness. hating one is hating the other.

oh, right, back to rob bell. all i could find out from my reading is that no one knows what he thinks about homosexuality. that he keeps being vague about it. the people who sounded so angry were angry because it implied softness. i’m just nervous because not knowing is worse than knowing the worst. not that i need rob bell’s endorsement, but you know, when you’re reading a person’s books about how sex and god are linked, you kind of want to make sure you have the same definitions of sex.

Published in: on 27 December, 2007 at 2:12 am  Leave a Comment