hi everybody,

i have Things to Say– particularly about my work retreat… which was a week and a half ago, now, but right now i’m just spreading the word that my mom has a beautiful website. she’s showing off her photos and asking for feedback, so if you like beautiful nature photos, you should give it a look!

hurray!

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Published in: on 22 August, 2008 at 3:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

america, why are your libraries full of tears?

it’s international blog against racism week! every year when this comes along, i find myself trapped in some sort of weird writer’s block. i want to say Something, and i usually have Lots to say on the topic, but now, this week, i can’t even begin.

i’m reading a collection of the writings of bayard rustin right now and i just read a peace about the journey of reconciliation. in 1946, the supreme court passed the morgan decision, which said that interstate travel wasn’t subject to jim crow laws. to test this, rustin and 15 others, black and white, took greyhound and trailways buses through the south, with the black folks sitting in the front and the white folks sitting in the back. they went on different trips, not all on the same bus at once, but there were always people of color and white folks participating in the experiment. the reactions were mixed, but rustin concludes that the predominant feeling was that of “confusion.” there was actually little violence and what there was was directed at the white folks participating. there was support and there was rage, but the men (they were all men) on these trips held steady.

what am i as a white ally doing that’s anything like this? what is the religious society of friends doing that’s anything like this? i’m romanticizing the past surely, but oh golly, we’ve gotten so comfortable. challenging things breaks us out of those comfort zones and it’s so hard to be bothered when we’ve got “martha stewart shams and sheets and sugar free powdered iced tea, vanilla coke, lemon pepsi, friends episodes on dvd” as kimya dawson sings about. we are trapped in some sort of ridiculous pleasuredome where all of these things keep consoling us. it’s not just quakers and maybe quakers are sort of better at breaking out of that consumerism thing than some other people, but we’re still stuck somewhere.

is that racism? “your problems can wait, my problems can wait, let’s watch some tv…” it’s despair. and laziness. and cowardice too, in this land of the brave. “i will never fix things so i will console myself with stuff… and i won’t talk to you because you are a stranger… and so i will never hear you and i will never realize i need to change and i will continue to be sad and yet content in my world of privilege…” is that racism? i think it’s all over america. i do it.

“America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can’t stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
I don’t feel good don’t bother me.
I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic? ”
~from “America” by Allen Ginsberg

i am currently looking for employment that will start in two weeks, working 46 hours a week, and being around internetty computers much less than usual– so when i’m around computers, they are for craigslist-searching primarily. i of course have much to say, but i’ve been meaning to share these queries with you all for awhile…

Queries – Race and Class – Young Adult Friends Discussion – 6/18/08

•If you feel comfortable and as a way for us to know each other a bit better,
please address race and class issues in you background?

•What is most joyful for you in your discernment on race and class.

•What is most challenging or more aptly might cause you angst, guilt,
avoidance, or other deep emotions?

•Race and class often avoided in the “mainstream culture” but ever present
among us. Please share a situation where you avoided one or both of these
issues and what affect it had on you?

•As a seeker and a Friend, what is your hope for our community as we venture
forth and walk with the Light in seasoning these issues?

they are from a worship sharing for the young adult group at sf meeting that was led by our building manager and generally great guy, steve. there were four of us there, but the sharing that happened was very deep.

sometimes i wonder if my leading is just to engage in scary conversations. they’re hard when you work 46 hours a week. not that you become less brave, but just your mental capacity to translate things from your heart to your brain and out your mouth becomes less. but it’s possible. i should not make excuses. they just have not been happening too much. i’m not too stressed yet. lulls happen. but as i was part of this conversation, i wondered what it would be like in a group where we were not all already friends and we were not all white. the sharing was beautiful to me, but how would it sound to people who have heard all the excuses, self-congratulations, and ignorance of white folks before. if i facilitated something like this and real, reasonable or unreasonable rage came up, how would i handle it? i hope i would be gracious and not smug, not condescending, and able to be the real love that i want to be.

… today, during meeting, i stood up and said, “i love you and i will be transformed.” it was going to be longer i thought, but it wasn’t. i stood for what felt like a very long time before and after.

there are many sides to any story. there are many sides to my own stories. there are the stories i tell now and the stories i’ll tell tomorrow. and there are the stories that tell one part of how i feel right now, and stories that tell a whole other part of how i feel.

the important part of my last post for me was that Right Then, i was feeling Very Disillusioned. as i wrote it, i tried to express that it was probably temporary and that i also felt a load of other things. i was as frustrated with the person in question, and as sympathetic to my meeting as i was angry and disillusioned. it felt urgent and it still feels important that i wrote it from the lens that i did, because i don’t express that part of things much. and there’s always a part of me that wants more from quakers, that wants to push harder, that wants to hold the group accountable to the things that i’ve learned from quakerism to hold myself accountable to.

it hurt people. i didn’t want to hurt people. but it’s hard not to hurt people when one is speaking from hurt. (which is a potential lesson from our experience with that person.) but there’s also tremendous potential for healing. which was what i was going for. i was hoping that in being honest about how i felt about the situation, i could heal and the meeting could heal.

of course, with blogs, honesty becomes one-sided and poisonous. whether you intend it or not. it doesn’t feel like dialog, and it can seem invasive.

i’m leaving my post up, because it’s true. it’s also only part of something. it’s not totally true. it’s not my whole truth, and it’s not The whole truth. but it’s true for what it is. and because there are posts before it and after it that keep it in context. our meeting wasn’t perfect, it did the best it could, it’s been amazing for me, i wish it could be amazing for everyone. that’s what i tried to tell. you miss that if you only read that post. that’s another scary thing about blogs. mine’s a conversation with myself and it’s easy to misunderstand things when you just catch part of a conversation. it might be a generational thing, i might be embarrassed someday, i regret that it was hurtful, but i think this blog serves the community best when the seams show. a flawless community is not real– as much as i wish it were.

i’ve gotten 10 visitors in the past few days that have visited my site from searching for cubbie, quaker, and blog. before these past few days, that had happened a couple of times, but once i became controversial, people wanted to find me. i hope that they will come back and see the calm days, the loving days, the joyful days. those are most days.

i hate that our meeting has caused people pain. i hate it because it has not caused me pain, and that makes me feel strangely guilty, very sad, and a little angry at everyone involved. who are you that you can not be perfect to me and also this person? who are you that you do not find the perfection here? who am i that i am willing to accept this place that has wounded you?

when i posted about feeling like an enabler, it was true. there have been times when i feel like i’m making excuses for abusive behavior to a wounded person. i am not wounded by these people, but i’ve seen it happen, and i’ve tried to make the woundings not true. “have you tried this? have you considered that?” i feel like i’m making excuses. there is a truth to the disconnect between mine and others’ experiences that is not abuse, but it feels so much like my experience of dealing with abuse that i don’t know how else to name it yet. i’ve known denial. i haven’t known this “one person’s medicine being another person’s poison” like this before.

since my post, i’ve gotten 3 phone calls and a few emails. i’ve felt embarrassed, stalked, hounded, and loved. every conversation, i expected some sort of cease and desist order, but instead, i got love. some hurt, some agreement, tons and tons of love. and not just to me. i heard about so much love for this man. and honestly, i’d sort of forgotten that part, even as i claimed to sort of remember. i’m sorry i forgot. i’m sorry if you felt like your efforts and care was dismissed. i screw up. and you still love me. i raged like i did because i believed we could handle it. i forgot that that could hurt you, but i knew i’d be forgiven. that’s pretty juvenile, i guess. i’ll try not to take advantage of that again.

talking with him that day reminded me that i need to be honest. and it reminded me that i have not been faithful to all that i should be honest about. i’ve talked in my clearness committees about my yearnings for scary conversations, and haven’t really done them. i initiated a one-sided scary conversation over here, not expecting the sort of follow-up it had, and was confronted with a number of scary conversations that made me want to show up at meeting with movie star dark glasses. but i didn’t. i held myself accountable to my words. and now i will start on those scary conversations that need to be had. the ones that don’t ambush– the ones where we choose to be brave and face each other and ourselves… and god or whomever is there to keep us safe there.

edited on june 6, 2008… and again on june 9, 2008

my meeting has had a long history with difficult and complicated man. i’ve only known him for a year and half, but many people from the meeting have known him for at least three years. he has a personality that many people find abrasive, a bluntness that many people find arrogant, and a presence that’s a little larger than life.

or at least on that latter point, he did. i met him for breakfast yesterday morning and his wild hair and beard had been shorn down, and he was a little more subdued than usual.

i guess he’s leaving town because after six months of many many membership meetings, it looks like he’s not going to get to be one. he says he’s tired of knowing people don’t want him around, and he’s ready to go.

of course there are other factors, of course it seems a little melodramatic, of course there are complicated feelings brought up because of some of the ways his personality is like my dad’s, of course i romanticize things, of course it’s never that simple…

but i’m pretty angry. and embarrassed. i KNOW that not everything is for everyone, but this guy has always been open and honest and has integrity down to the bone, and our meeting has hurt him and sent him on his way. he’s hurt people, it’s true. but it seems like he’s only ever hurt people by challenging people to be their best selves. maybe it’s his opinion of what their best selves are and not the Truth of their best selves or something, but he’s given us his best. he’s changed. and he’s changed us. but he still has to go.

let me clarify that the meeting is not actually sending him away. he’s making that choice. but with some of the treatment he’s got, it’s surprising he’s stayed this long.

quakerism seems very small to me today.

we walked down the street together, and i talked about how opposite my experience has been from this. how i’ve found only love and acceptance and opportunity for growth within this community. we laughed about my “palatable” personality and the ways that has eased things. he’s pushed people away, it’s true, and i don’t want to do that, but what am i doing with my palatable personality that’s changing people.

today i doubt quakerism’s ability to do much anything good. today i feel embarrassed for all the good things i say about it. it’s changed me, but how far?

right now i feel like the enabling friend of quakers. “yeah, they beat you up sometimes, but that’ll change tomorrow, they’re not always like that, give them another chance.” they’ve never beat me up, but today i do feel bruised.

as i go deeper into this flawed community that i do so tremendously love, let me keep my honesty, my integrity, my love, and my self. let me change things that need to be changed, let me have the honor to face them, and let me hold the hands of people who get hurt because of the things that are stuck. help me grow my voice so that i can have some of that honesty that is leaving– but only let me speak my own truth. which includes receiving so much love and seeing so much pain.

… since my initial posting of this, there’s been some confusion about what i’m saying happened. and i think part of that is because i was confused in myself somewhat about what happened. the membership committee did not come to unity about this person’s membership. he was not told he couldn’t be a member. i give that impression in this post, though it’s not what i actually mean to say. he gave up on his side of membership meetings and that’s sad and i think says things about our meeting and about him. but the membership meetings would have still been going on if he hadn’t left.

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?

guest post: stephen matchett’s listen epistle

stephen matchett is one of my personal heroes. his understanding of god and the world is so gentle and loving that i can’t help but be inspired. he’s the first person i go to with spiritual concerns. part of that is because we’ve got a similar outlook on things, and part of it is that i know i will be stretched by his perspective.

recently, we were talking with a newish quaker, and he asked us both what we thought quakerism needed. stephen spoke about how it’s actually a religion and people forget that. i rambled about demographics and diversity… then after a minute, i said something about listening– about how we could all listen better– to ourselves, to god, to each other. stephen pulled this out of his bag. i asked him if i could post it here. he said yes. it’s also in our meeting’s newsletter for this month.

An Epistle
submitted by Stephen Matchett, from an epistle-writing exercise that was part of the final session of Krista Barnard’s recent series on spirituality and the Bible. (2/19/2008)

To Friends in meeting: Now the time has come for you really to listen to one another, to the messages each brings, with open, tender ears and hearts, not with suspicion, not derailed and distracted by language or preconceptions; God’s moment is here, the Spirit breaks in, you are poised at a convergence of the currents of life that can take you far and bear you up and amplify my Peace, Word and Revelation if you let them pour in. Listen: If you have given up, or come up dry before, or made a judgment that I have departed from here, come back. There is more going on than you know. Listen: If you are assailed by perceived criticisms, put out by the apparent demands of workers who came late to the harvest, or jealous of the Truth you have come to know, then know that others may not express my gift in the same way; relax into my Peace; but do not doubt my love for all, or the purpose of my instruction.

Opening to my message together may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. Agreement on first principles must be in the heart and must proceed from trust.

You need not dispute. Build one another up. If you falter or fall back, don’t give up. Bear with one another. Listen: I am speaking through each one of you. Listen.

the three new stages of cubbie.

1) i’ve reached a new stage in my transition.

now, when i make eye contact with and smile at men, they look at me funny.

i have no idea what to do with that, especially in light of that whole “walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of god in everyone” thing.

how do i live my gender & my faith and not get punched in the face? how is it that the traits that i’m cultivating in my quaker life have already been socialized into me via the gender i was raised in– listening, caring, smiling at people in the street? is quaker essentially feminine? (WHAT DOES THAT MEAN ANYWAY!?) and then, also, why are there so many more men in my meeting than women? is that across the board in quakerism?

2) i’ve reached a new stage in my quakerism.

i went to the war anniversary march and rally on wednesday evening. most of the local quakers had participated in civil disobedience (or holy obedience as someone said today) in the morning, but because of work, i couldn’t do that. but a few of us were able to meet at the evening event.

there weren’t a lot of us, but i think it was good that we were there. i think it was good for us, and also good for the atmosphere to have us still and silent and peaceful at this rally where people were proclaiming that need for the end of war “by any means necessary.”

for me, the most incredible experience was when a man came up to me and talked. at first i was very nervous, because i wasn’t sure if i would be clear or correct, or if i would make myself and/or quakers look stupid. so instead i just listened to him. he had a lot to say, and i smiled (and made eye contact) and nodded and made sympathetic faces and noises, and i didn’t say anything. he talked for awhile, and then clamped me on the shoulder and said he felt better.

i said, “thank you.”

that was one of those “yeah, i’m a quaker and i’m so glad” moments.

3) i’ve reached a new stage in my theology.

quakers don’t do holidays, because we’re supposed to be living those holidays all the time.

but i also think there is a human need for holidays and remembrances and things. to remind us. maybe we should always remember, but it’s nice to be reminded.

i particularly get the winter holidays. how else would we get through winter without hopeful feasts of light and love?

it’s funny that i get them, because i grew up in florida. and i attribute my florida childhood to the reason why spring holidays don’t move me as much. light in the darkness grabs me more than the gradual entrance of surrounding light. part of it is that i’ve got horrible flower allergies, so i meet spring with some nervousness, dread, and pain each year.

AND, as i’ve been contemplating jesus and the meaning of his life, i’ve gotten stuck at that last bit. that death and resurrection bit. i’ve known it as a story from my childhood that means something on a deep level to many people– and there death has made sense, but the idea of a literal resurrection has been such a block for me that i haven’t been able to figure out the metaphor.

and then last night, during the young adult quaker movie night, we watched “portrait of a radical” from the series “crisis of faith.” it was about jesus and his life and what it meant. and i don’t think it was said, but suddenly something clicked and i could understand the resurrection as that amazing realization that jesus’s life and spirit didn’t end with his death. which is something i’ve been contemplating lately anyway– how to live a christlike life and stuff… and so the joy of realizing that sort of resurrection made sense.

it’s interesting because for me, my own easter happens over halloween. the anniversary of my father’s death and being faced with the world’s mockery of death brings me to a place of reflection about the power of life and love. i mourn over his self-destruction and remember that there can be so much more for me. i don’t have to drown in myself and the world. i can keep going, keep loving, keep living.

it’s not exactly the same of course. my father is not christ, my own human potential is not what easter is about, but the sense of transformation is similar, i think.

that which the quakers call diversity

it recently hit me that the closest physical feeling vocal ministry has for me, is the sensation of coming out. which, also, isn’t tangible. it’s a little bit like nerves, it’s a little bit like the sensation of having to vomit, it’s this gut feeling that what you are about to say is so deep and so true that it’s going to change you by saying it. and because of that, you’d really sort of rather not. couldn’t there be some other thing, can’t i just sit here and hear something else– i’ll learn from that too, i can… no. is it really that important, am i sure it’s not mine, my legs will totally just collapse under me… yes. you will be fine. just try and remember not to put your hands in front of your mouth this time.

i feel sort of like that right now. there’s this post i’ve been meaning to do for awhile, but it’s scared me tremendously, and fortunately for that fearfulness, i haven’t had time to write it.

there’s this thing going on with me lately. quakers are calling it my diversity concern. i’m calling it… “my concern that quakers are calling my diversity concern…” then i ramble to people about how my concern is not about having a certain level of diversity in the meeting for its own sake. i say “i don’t care if our meeting reaches the exact ratio of diversity that the city has.” “don’t care” isn’t exactly right. i’d love that. that could be rich and amazing. it also might not be.

then, i tell people about how when vanessa julye came to our meeting a couple of weeks ago, she shared the vision of the fgc’s committee for ministry on racism, and that the second half is what i want. i want the first half, too, but my concern is about “seeking, with God’s guidance, to help Quakers transform themselves institutionally and individually into a beloved community–whole and enriched by its diversity.” yes yes yes yes YES. my whole body says yes every time i read that, my toes wiggle, my shoulders relax a little, my eyes get teary.

then i talk about how i think it can feel yucky to come into our meetinghouse. and how it can feel yucky for the meeting to have new people come in. because we are not quite prepared. my concern is about lessening that yuckiness on both sides. i don’t know if it will ever go away, but i want it to be smaller.

and the scariest best thing has happened. other people want this too. other people have been talking about it for years but haven’t felt ready to or have not had the institutional support to work on it. new people are talking about it. the most amazing thing happened the other day when a new young person to our meeting sent out an email about the two sides of being a welcoming and an affirming community. and it was amazing– seeing this concept that i’ve been coming to know so well, come out of another person’s mouth (or keyboard).

but it’s not just best, it’s scary. because it’s reminding me over and over again that this isn’t mine. i’m having a clearness committee, but i’m not sort of diversity star. i want these changes to happen, but i’m not going to be able to make them happen. i’m going to have to work with other people– people who say my words in different language, people who say my words and mean something completely different, people who i adore and who will never quite hear me, people who drive me absolutely bonkers– and sometimes these will be the same people.

allison and i’ve been sending each other a few emails, and in her most recent one she brought up empowerment and control. i’d like to have control. it gets in the way of me empowering other people.

this may be what the meeting needs, but it’s what i need. i will be humbled and changed and made different. and it kind of makes me want to vomit.

gifts of translation & the child of divorce.

a few weeks ago, robin & i had coffee. we walked through the castro, where they are filming milk right now, and we got to see people waiting to have a fake protest, wearing ’70’s clothes & talking on their cell phones. it was pretty great.

on the way there and at the coffee house, we talked about a whole lot of things, but one thing that really stuck with me was our conversation about translation. i was talking about what i was feeling like i was called to do, and my space in between our meeting and new people of various sorts, and she brought up the gift of translation. she talked about how in the pentecost story, there’s a specific mention of the gift of translation- there are those who can speak in tongues and then there are those who can understand them and bring that to other people. and how that gift doesn’t get talked about much. she talked about it like it was a gift we both shared.

i think it is a gift i have, and a gift i’m working on.

but later on that same day, i was talking to another quaker about our spiritual gifts– those we share with each other, and those that other people have and working on moving past judgment and/or ency about them. it was really good, and then suddenly, i realized that for me this translation thing is a tricky gift of the child of divorce. the tricky gift of loving two people or two sets of people and seeing both sides and trying to help them see both sides. my parents didn’t divorce until i was 18, but i decided that they really should get it over with by the time i was 9.

and recently, i’ve found myself in that codependent sort of trap– i NEED to make these people see what each other means, because it’s MY job and no one else can do it and they certainly can’t and crapcrapcrap they don’t understand each other yet, and it’s MY fault.

so i’m stepping back a little. not really out of the fray maybe, but out of where i was and to a space where i can see where i was, learn from it, listen to more than just myself, and move forward in a better way.

there are prayers i am praying, but i’m not ready to put them online, but even if i don’t ask for human help (and i probably will), i’m still asking for help and knowing it’s there, and i like that.

soon, i want to talk about where i am about my clearness committee, where i am about diversity in my meeting, and where i am about belief and god. soon meaning… some day. stay tuned.