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.

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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?

war requiem and meme of fives

this past weekend, the san francisco choral society performed benjamin britten’s “war requiem” at davies hall. i met with some other quakers who held signs (i held my favorite “there is no fear in love, perfect love casts out fear”) and passed out leaflets with requests that people consider the spiritual aspects of the peace and what they could do to help end the war (one side was full of volunteer opportunities with the afsc). there was also a short paragraph inviting people to quaker meeting.

the response was entirely positive. i was very brave and handed out pamphlets, which i usually shy away from. i had a few mini conversations and overheard a few. there were comments along the lines of “i didn’t know you’d made it out west” or “you guys are cool!… i think.” also a woman came and asked why we were protesting the performance. i said we were really more in solidarity with it (the two organizers of our little group actually held tickets to the performance). she said she would write about us in her article about the concert, and she gave me her card. look out for the next issue of the “ukrainian weekly” for the news!

a newish quaker described us as like the proverbial light on the hill, but with a path completely obscured and blocked. the man’s saying he didn’t know we’d made it out west is in line with that idea. i like whacking away a few of the branches. some might call it proselytizing, some might call it witnessing… to me it’s just saying, “hey, we’re here. we’re an option in this world full of options. and we’re friendly… and look, there’s even a young one!”

***

robin did the meme of fives and it got me thinking about some things, so i’m going to post it, too.

“The rules of the game get posted at the beginning. Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.”

1) What were you doing 5 years ago?
i was meeting izz, miranda, amy, and johanna for the first time. going to the portland zine symposium for the first time. getting a job with princess cruises on their phones. getting acclimated to life after college and life in seattle. getting freaked out about getting close to the first anniversary of my dad’s death. trying to find the right unitarian church to go to.

2) What are 5 things on your to-do list for today?
contact hr. call the building manager for the meetinghouse to make sure the young adults can meet. go work at the bookstore for 6 hours today. clean something. stop sniffling!

3) What are 5 snacks you enjoy?
cheese and crackers, cheese and apples, yukon gold potato chips, pickles, vegan donuts.

4) What are five things you would do if you were a billionaire?
take care of my mom, do nice things for the world, live somewhere pretty, visit lots of places, help my friends.

5) What are five jobs you’ve had?
rose grader, childcare worker, botanical bookstore clerk, assistant in the humanities office, college bookstore clerk. (i decided to go chronological.)

and like robin, i don’t know who to tag, but it’s fun, you should do it.

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.

yesterday, i had this deep conversation about peace and war and how war is so much easier to do than peace, but that peace is so much more worth it. growing up, i always wondered “can’t we all just get along”? and the older i get along, the more i recognize the difficulty in that, and how rewarding facing the challenge is. and how our current power structure works around oppression via war– the rich and powerful sending the oppressed out to fight those they wish to oppress. and how rewarding that is for the powerful and rich. and how hard it is to have hope living in that sort of power structure. we talked about utopian communities vs. making small changes but still being complicit in so many ways and the pros and cons of buying local food.

anyway… this came to me again on the bart to meeting and then again at meeting. i had this message about this difficulty and how meeting is a place to find inner peace to take into the meeting community to practice our peace skills for the broader world. i felt the familiar tingly feeling i’ve come to recognize as a nudge to speak. i took a deep breath and…

someone else stood. and said something very similar to what i’d been contemplating. and right behind me, i heard someone whisper something, and i whirled around and glared. except that i hardly faced them, couldn’t see, and whirled back immediately. which was SO RIDICULOUS! and so i started to sit there and beat myself up about it, which was also ridiculous.

i sat for awhile longer, facing my anger and my guilt and my pride and my frustration, and then i felt something deeper than before, and i stood and gave vocal ministry… in the second person! it was about that experience and ended with “and the message you were going to say is that peace is really difficult. and now you know it.”

***

other things:

* i’m feeling less cranky about my young adultness. i had some really enriching conversations with other young adults today which really helped me have patience with myself and remember some of the things to not be cranky about.

* i’ve been in a cranky-ish place in general. it always seems like when i am in a place of idealistic understanding of my place in the world, my patience with everybody is slimmer than usual.

* i’ve been testing a leading around a beyond diversity 101 training for trainers done by niyonu spann. i think i’m supposed to go, and i’ve talked to a few people about it, and am currently in contact with our ministry and oversight committee about some sort of group to help me test the leading and support me through the experience. once again, i’m just so full of gratitude at the support and love i get from these people. i feel like such a squeaky wheel, but people don’t seem to be covering their ears. it’s so good. thank you thank you thank you.

from 6-14-07 in my paper journal.

“i’ve been thinking a lot about peace a lot lately, & how important it is, & how i think the trick is that we keep dehumanizing each other. we keep attributing such vicious things to each other. & yes, we keep hurting each other, & yes, somethinges it’s on purpose, & yes, we are frequently dumb, but… that’s because we’re human, not because we (anyone, our enemy, our friend) is inherently evil. but so much we keep getting pissed off, & only listening to that anger, & not letting it cool, & screaming at each other. but no one listens to screaming. no one can. “yes, you are making a reasonable point there.” no. instead, it’s ow, ow, ow, you’re hurting my ears and my heart, SHUT UP! etc. ad nauseum.”

… ironically, i’ve been tremendously irritable about complete strangers lately. “STOP HAVING THAT FACE!” is what’s been going on in the background of many of my customer service interactions lately. oh, my high-falutin’ ideals.

reading karen armstrong’s the battle for god and ann brashare’s 3rd sisterhood of the traveling pants book, girls in pants, i was startled to find a similar theme. the them and “moral” of both, seems to be that… when people feel bad about themselves and/or when they feel threatened, they get mean. this is, i guess, sort of obvious, but… i think we miss it a lot when we are dealing with difficult people. i thought about it a lot today at the peace vigil outside the federal building. mostly people who passed were really positive, but we had 2 really angry people, too. when i was hearing the happy honks, i thought about the idea i’ve heard some that “the tide has turned” and the way that this is linked to people’s frustration (mine included) that it took other people so long to realize that the war is wrong. i’ve heard (and i think said) “how could they be so stupid for so long?” but maybe not’s the right question. “why are they so hurt and scared and angry?” might be the right one. ministering to their hurts is probably the best way to win them over… but i’m still speaking of us & them…

and, also, i was a total grouchy brat yesterday, so it’s not like my insights into human nature are doing me a whole lot of practical good right now.

….

in other news, i was going over some quotes i marked from the battle for god and these got me thinking about quaker plain dress:

“Western observers were particularly dismayed by the spectacle of women returning to the veil, which they had seen as a symbol of Islamic backwardness and patriarchy since the days of Lord Cromer. But it was not experienced in this way by those Muslim women who voluntarily assumed Islamic dress for practical reasons and also as a way of casting off an alien Western identity. Donning a veil, a scarf, and a long dress could be a symbol of that ‘return to the self’ which Islamists were attempting with such difficulty in the postcolonial period…

Where Western men and women attempt to bring the body under the control of the human will in their gyms and workouts, and cling to this life by making teir bodies impervious to the process of time and ageing, the veiled Islamic body tacitly declars that it is under divine orders and oriented not toward this world but to transcendence. In the West, men and women often display and even flaunt their expensively acquired tans and finely honed bodies as a mark of privilege; Muslim bodies, concealed under layers of very similar clothing, emphasize the equality of the Islamic vision. By the same token, they assert the Koranic ideal of community over the individualism of Western modernity.”

… it’s funny because it gave me insight into my own trouble about plain dress. how plain dress and plain speech for me right now involve revealing all. all of who i am… believing that that’s important.

… i have more to say about both of those topics, but i have to go.

well, after spending some time in florida and san diego, in a heat & stomach-bug induced stupor of much tv-watching and video-game-playing, i came back home without puck, who was still in san diego with their family. puck had the computer, but one day, in the middle of stressful errands, i went to the library and used the computer to write an entry questioning panic & its place in a spiritual life, and typed up two more entries from my paper journal. i clicked “publish,” a message came up to say it had posted, but when i went to look at it, there was no new entry. and although i had copied it to the computer’s clipboard, the paste function didn’t work, so… i got sort of cranky. but now i am posting from the comfort of my own bed, puck sleeping next to me, butter cleaning himself in front of me, and secret scowling at her reflection behind me. i know i will be able to copy and paste, and so i’m going to try posting again. but about different things.

this sunday, i was the welcomer. there was a request for welcomers for christmas eve and new year’s eve, and i decided that i should ask to do new year’s eve, since i’d never done it before, and i’ve wanted to get involved in a helpful way with the meeting. i had a promise of a tour and orientation, but when it finally happened, i was somewhat dismayed to find out that it was just about the nuts & bolts of door unlocking and things, and nothing about what to say, how to say it, when to say it, or what to do if something went wrong. i asked about it, but the answer didn’t come in way that i really understood, but there was so much reassurance that nothing would go wrong, that i decided to trust that.

everything went well and the building manager wound up doing most of the things for me that i had been trained to do anyway. i welcomed people, and it was neat to see all the people coming in and to see a little bit about what goes on before meeting, rather than running in at 10:58 (usually i tutor a girl at 9:30 and come straight from that, but with the holidays, i didn’t.). my worry about feeling separate from the meeting for worship came true, and that’s the main reason that it’s not something i want to do a whole lot of at this time.

but the other reason was that at 10:35, someone came up and started opening the door with his suitcase. then the door shut with him and all his things on the other side. he tried to open it again, and so i went to help him and ask him some stuff. first i asked if he was there for meeting for worship, and he said, “yeah. are you?” this threw me off guard, of course, and i felt humbled in my classist assumptions.

a note: i live in the tenderloin which is “the bad part” of san francisco. i pass houseless people regularly. the meetinghouse is in my neighborhood, and i’ve learned that the rule is that people can sleep in front of the meetinghouse any time except for sunday mornings. at 9, they work to rouse them and send them away, and there was a challenge that sunday morning with a person who would not leave. this person looked decidedly different, but he definitely seemed like he lived on the street.

so, i let him in, and gave him a suggestion of where he could put his suitcase. he told me he’d been to meetings in alaska, and started walking to the door. i walked with him, but a few feet away i saw that robin was giving ministry. so i started to say that we should wait while she spoke, and i put my hand on the door. but i didn’t finish what i was saying, when he pulled the door open, being much stronger than me. part of me wanted to stop him still at that point, but i knew the choice then was to just let him go.

i stood around, watching him settle in, and took lots of deep breaths, and tried to connect to god about the whole thing, but then someone came out to talk to me. he said he’d felt called to come out and talk to me. he told me about how we don’t let people in when someone is giving ministry, but i explained that the door had been forced out of my hand. then he asked if maybe he shouldn’t have been let in at all, but i didn’t agree with that. it was good to have someone to talk to at that time, even though i mostly just felt embarassed, and we got hushed by someone through the window.

i felt sort of crushed by the whole thing. had i done the right thing? was there a right thing? and most importantly: would people think i was incompetent? i talked to a few people after meeting. 2 more people reminded me that i wasn’t supposed to let him in while someone was speaking, and i was able to explain, but… i don’t like that i was so quickly all about taking the blame off myself. i’m not sure if blame was even involved, but… just… i needed to tell people, “that thing that happened was not my fault.”

i spoke to robin who was fine with it and said that she was sure i’d done everything i could. a few other people said reassuring things. but in the end, there was just this feeling of commiseration about those wacky wacky street people and our problems with them.

it seems like this is opening some dialogue about the tools to give welcomers, but i… don’t think it’s just new welcomers that need tools. i don’t think we just need a direct answer for what to do if something like that happens… because… what is “something like that?” why do we need to guard our sanctuary? i’m not saying we don’t. but if we do, why do we?

the next day, yesterday, new year’s day, there was meeting for worship followed by a meal. i went, and as i was walking, i was thinking about this book we sell at the bookstore i work at. it’s called the god delusion. it’s new, it’s popular, it sits in front of the register. the book jacket talks about how it proves that religion is destructive and science is the answer. the reviews say things like, “this is the answer to the religious right, who will surely label the author the anti-christ.” i paged through it, and all i see is rage. i disagree with his premise. i think that religion can be destructive, but so can science.

but that’s not why i feel pangs of guilt and sorrow about selling that book. i don’t have control over its sale really, but it hurts to look at the book. it hurts because of the amount of rage. it hurts because i believe that rage is the problem. the “i am right, thus you are wrong” of it– it’s been done. it has done more damage than religion and science combined, because it’s where their problems come from too.

so, i found myself sitting with that at meeting. and i tried to look at the rage and understand it. and in a lot of ways i do. corruption, war, hypocrisy… these are upsetting things. the world is very damaged. it makes me angry, too. but not in the same way. not in the way that i want to write a book pointing fingers at anybody. but… i realized that he, like me when i get a good idea, probably thinks of his ideas as this huge, tremendous gift to the world. he can help it, he can save it, he wants to share his gift.

and then it came to me that our truths or our bits of the truth, however you want to look at it, are gifts. the question is how to give them as gifts and how to receive them as gifts.

when that came to me, i knew i had to speak. i felt dizzy, though, and pretty convinced that if i stood up i’d fall right over. but i didn’t and i said it and it felt big and real and scary. and then i was tired. and excited. but tired. after meeting, i decided that we really need some cots for laying down after something like that. i was pretty silent through the meal and dazed, and someone joked that i must have had a late night the night before. which was sort of true, but i’d gotten enough sleep to be fine during that meal (though i did fall asleep at the castro last night despite the fact that audrey hepburn was on the big screen right in front of me). it just… had been a big experience.

and it’s crazy because… i don’t know the answer to that question. AND i’m not even totally sure what it all means. but it seems important. we don’t want to share our beliefs like they are vases that would really look better where our friend’s favorite vase is. that’s not about the vase or our friend. it’s about us.

yesterday morning, before meeting, i was reading the letters in a friends journal from april ‘95 (someone donated a bunch to the meeting house library, and the librarian recommended i take some). john woodbury had something to say that resonated with me a lot. it’s related to what i said in ministry, and with my concern about christianity and how it can be right and complete and also not the only thing…

“We are all victims of language. Every word in our language is a symbol. We can’t talk about our inner life or our spiritual life in any other language but symbols, metaphors, allegories, and abstractions. In a way, a credo or creed, or statement of beliefs, has really nothing to do with where we are, because where we are is a matter of experience, not of the words we use to describe it.

Each of us has a very personal spiritual life, and we can only describe it in the words and vocabulary that we borrow. The richest and most common place that we get this vocabulary is the religous tradtion of our cultur, and most of us were born and raised and lived all our lives in a culture where the Christian mythology is the vocabulary or the language with which spiritual things are described. We borrow this vocabulary fo this source but also from other sources. We borrow it from our reasoning, we borrow it from the words and the literature of other people who think– and all kinds of sources.

I do not understand this fuss or why there is a fuss between Christocentric Quakers and Universalist Quakers because I have trouble with the Quaker use of the word Truth, with a capital T, as though any person can really know the spiritual Truth over and above everybody else.

If there is such a thing as absolute Truth, our perception of it is so imperfect that we have no right to be intolerant of anybody else’s perception of the Truth.”

… golly, i need to go to work.

well, first off, this. it’s about the die-in after the peace vigil last thursday. i was at the vigil but left before the die-in, but i’m excited about what happened… and there are pictures!

from 11-22:

“i have a hard time centering down when doing my kitchen solitary study. i think it is because i think of it as a study time. and also because my solitary silence is much more empty-feeling than the silence at Quaker meeting. it is full of the loudness of my own thoughts– & i cant figure out how best to do it. there is so much in my reading to mull over– there is this journal to use to unfold big thoughts,– there are cozy cats– there is the lack of feeling of community. i feel lost & frightened when left to my own devices. and at quaker meeting i know i am supposed to be worshipping, but here, worship feels like a lazy break from the importance of study (especially today with my bleary sleepy eyes), especially because it is still so stuttering & new & confused. i know how to read & think & write alone at a table. but meeting God here, i don’t know.”

i like that i leave some time between when i first write in my journal and when i post it, because i get to look back at what i wrote and see where i am. and fortunately, much has changed in my morning practice, since only 2 weeks ago. i’m not sure if it’s a for good change, but that lost feeling has been less.

Published in: on 12 December, 2006 at 10:24 am  Comments (1)