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.

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.

“the soul selects her own society” : or what i want out of a quaker blog, PLUS extra bonus material about rage & cubbie

about two months ago, maybe going near 3 now, though i’m not absolutely sure on the timeframe, i went to my first quaker meeting. i went because i was dissatisfied by my recent experiences with unitarians, my desire for a faith community, my desire for more spiritual fulfillment, and because my partner, whose aunt is a professor at a quaker college, said something along the lines of, “quakers are nice.”

that first meeting, two things struck me: 1) that the silence was really nourishing & 2) that i felt immediately welcomed and accepted by everyone. i have not felt that at any uu church i’ve been to. i haven’t felt any animosity, but i’ve felt like the outsider of a cool clique.

every sunday, i’ve found myself wanting to do nothing but go to meeting. the silence has continued to nourish, in deeper and more profound ways, and that welcome has blossomed into a feeling of genuine care. there is such a recognition that we are all seekers. i love that. none of my questions have been brushed off. everything has been thoughtfully considered. i feel young and new and naive, but that has come from my own baggage surrounding those things (and has not always felt negative) more than from the group itself.

in, i think it was holy silence by j. brent bill, there is a part about community as part of the spiritual journey, and how for community to work, you really have to know each other. and… i’ve always been very much about putting myself out there to people. sometimes i worry that it is self-absorption. and i think some of it is. but as i said in the introduction, i want people to be able to learn from me– and at the same time… i think i, um… kinda wanna be… eldered. if i understand the term correctly. i want the been there done that people to hold me accountable. that seems really scary and also… kind of selfish — take time out of your busy schedules to monitor my spiritual growth!!! (please?) but i want to give back. in many ways i don’t know how that giving back will be, but…

i was starting to write “i am prepared to give so much to this spiritual community” and i think that’s true, but the word “prepared” startled me, so i’m going to not quite say it, in the hopes that it will feel absolutely true soon-esque.

i might get defensive, i might get cranky, i might cry a lot, but… i do that with the things i tell myself, too. i hope you will be gentler, stricter, and truer to me than i am.

today’s paper journal entry (i have so much i’ve written in the past months that i plan to share, but… this is what it seems i should post today. still with the giant and scary.)

“i have been battling more stress in the past 2 days. it seems like whenever i view my home as a sanctuary– and sort of specify what that means, there is trouble.

but i have noticed that the things that have brought me joy while calm bring me some calm while stressed– though it’s amazing how much i battle that. there are times when as much as i hate being pissed off, its still how i weirdly prefer to be. it feels like a gift, like something i deserve to feel– even though peace and joy would actually feel better. but i feel entitled to my rage and in it, i seem to say that nothing should get in its way.

it’s interesting, because i’ve noticed this in reference to my alone time related anger. and so it’s like, ‘well, if i don’t et my alone time i should be allowed to be really angry about it.’

but my anger isn’t constructive– it’s teary and frustrated and full of desires to physically rip holes in myself. the alternative brings a glow to things. it shouldn’t be hard. humanity is so silly.

this morning & yesterday morning i didn’t get or give myself my precious solitary time. yesterday i was so tired and slept until after noon- not waking up until bonnie called. this morning i had a staff meeting at 9, which meant leaving at 8, which meant an hour to get ready and i had to print out some things, which took up the “spare” time that i could have had. but i have made sure to give myself time later — and yesterday […puck was] very accomodating for my need for alone time. hurray!

in wrestling with our faith tradition by lloyd lee wilson–
‘Peace comes not by the Pax Romana or Pax Britanica, or even by the Pax Americana, but by the rule of Christ in human hearts. Our best defense, on every level, is evangelization: promoting the true knowledge of Christ in every heart. That will protect us (and everyone) from the mugger as well as the invader.’

and you know what, i believe that.

but at the same time, i still think i believe that belief in christ can be corrupted to be the ’cause of all outward wars.’ because it has been used for that justification for so long. and those who are used to that belief and justification get tense and enraged– on either side of the battle, really. either ‘jesus, he knows me and he knows i’m right’ or ‘you’ve been using your jesus to fuck me &/or my friends over for so long.’

and it aches that that is what has happened, but–

the holy spirit is not solely the christ holy spirit. i mean– it is the holy spirit of which jesus talks, but it is the holy spirit of other faiths, too.

and being ecumenical within oneself might be an attempt to bridge those wars.

but– i have heard and it makes sense to me that the surest way to find the meat, the heft, the truth is to follow one tradition to its core.

but in our society, the concepts are so misconstrued & diluted that the words have become almost poisonous.

and so– does one try to save the terms and explain what has gone wrong– or does one avoid the words.

(and then there’s the way that i think that people who seem hardwired for non-religion have the same access to truth as those to whom religion is natural and ‘easy’– but then who am i to say that they do not know it but they believe in something holy.

they believe in something i find holy.

…)

and then there are the wars that have nothing to do with what word you call truth– the person vs. self wars. the world falling apart in tiny immediate ways that breaks down the sense of inner calm, that embraces all noises, cracks, and ugliness– unless it is directly happening to you. the war of the world not making sense in a physical, literal way, minor disasters that seem to shatter everything and the self that responds defensively with an attack at the self that should have either fixed the world so it wouldn’t break in such a way, or has no right to get upset about it.

i went to the bathroom and then the toilet paper roll fell off the wall. i decided to fix it, but i couldn’t find the tiny screwdriver. then the drawer wouldn’t shut. then puck wouldn’t listen to me. then it turned out that the problem was deeper than something that could be fixed with the screwdriver, because the part in the wall where the screw was is stripped of anything to keep the screw in.

thus, the end of the world, complete with loud accidental noises, loud on purpose noises, shouting at inanimate obkexts, grudges, self-blame, feeling ignored (after having asked to be left alone), inadvertantly tiny [voice], and tears.”

see, see, see? i want to show you all my flaws, and that scares me, because i don’t want it to seem just like confessional and now i am absolved, woo-hoo!, but instead… so that you know where i’m coming from, what seems to be stuck in shadows. who this is that is coming to your community and saying, “i need things. point me in the right way. don’t give them to me, probably. but just… make sure i keep looking.”

and… since i am fluffy and stuff, i have also been daydreaming about this next bit of this post, which is the 10 things that i think i feel like most people know about me, but that since i am new, the quakers don’t.

1) religion has pretty much always been a big part of my life.

2) marilyn monroe is actually kind of my patron saint.

3) i actually identify is not a boy or a girl, but somewhere in between and also outside of the two… but i prefer masculine pronouns. i have been on hormones for about 5 months and really like pretty things.

4) my father was a drummer (reggae, blues, and some other things). he died of a drug overdose on halloween 2002. it wasn’t really a surprise.

5) i didn’t actually realize i liked kids until i did my americorps term last year.

6) puck and i hope to raise kids in community in a few years.

7) anti-racist and general anti-oppression work is really important to me, and it is also something about which i continually feel very dumb, inept, and clumsy.

8) we have 2 cats, butter and secret. secret is very mean. butter is very soft.

9) i have a history of self-injury that i’m still working on.

10) i studied religion in college– this made me feel clever, stupid, bitter, inspired, and like i will never ever be an academic.

so, since that was so scary to share…

i’ll share something scarier.

but first i want to talk about that last one for a second. i’m nervous about the raskalnikovian theological implications of what i said. but the idea of anyone vs. no one being a christ, i think, just means to me that anyone vs. no one can hear/listen to god in the same deep way that jesus could.

but! now that i have convinced you (i probably haven’t) that my last potentially controversial/theologically unsound idea is actually pretty much the same thing as what quakers believe… i’ve got a new, scarier thing.

this is an email that i wrote right after november 5th’s meeting. it was an amazing meeting in ways that are still too gigantic to put into words, but at some point i felt that i was called to speak. as i was about to stand up, the clerk clasped the hand of the person next to him, and… meeting was over. i was in a total daze as i tried to interact with people after that, but i started singing when i left the meetinghouse. i sat outside for awhile, and then went home and emailed another person who had ministered with what i’d felt called to say. it’s interesting, because i’m still kind of overwhelmed and frightened about the idea that i could be called to say something, and i’m not sure if i’ll ever totally trust it, so i drowned my email in “i think”s. but i’m not sure i think all this. it feels bigger than i am usually capable of thinking? maybe. see, then, i’m like, “maybe you just think it’s a revelation because you think you are so special.” i don’t know. i don’t think i think i am so special… i could go on like this for a long time, and this was all meant to be a short preface to the email. which is here:

“i think that the kingdom would be when we were all called out of
ourselves to our higher selves. i think the problem so often is that
we still have our egos. i think that jesus is true, but not the only
way of truth. when he is seen as the only truth, he becomes like an
idol, because we are still grasping onto our selves rather than
truth– and that idolization brings war?”

i called the person the following wednesday, because i was suddenly afraid that maybe it had been seen as a criticism of what he had said. but he didn’t take it that way, and i told him that i thought maybe i was supposed to say it at meeting, but… and i went on a typical self-doubting ramble, and he said, “i think it’s real… whatever it was, i think it was real.” i can’t actually remember his exact words, but they gave me a lot of comfort.

Published in: on 16 November, 2006 at 7:47 am  Leave a Comment