i will write more about the grad school hunt soon, but the other thing i’ve been meaning to write about (and i’m writing this perched on the top bunk of our room at the st. augustine pirate hostel and we might leave soon, so it will be short) is the odd ways that coming out has become harder in the past 2 years.

when you are… standardly?… queer– gay, lesbian– there’s the grueling heartwrenching coming out process for sure, but then, once you are there, you can come out to everyone you meet by saying, “my boyfriend” or “my girlfriend.”  unless you don’t have one, but you can say something about your ex-bf or ex-gf or the people you are interested in who society sees as the same as you.

as a trans person, i went through the lesbian coming out, then the trans coming out…  and now i’m OUT.  i’m living my life the way i want to live it and everything’s great!  most people i come across don’t even know.  i still get ma’amed on the phone and things like that, but as soon as i’m out of a gay neighborhood, everyone just reads me as a guy.  which is totally awesome.

except that that’s not all that i am.  since t and i are having a baby soon, we are working with lots of laws for queer folk and dealing with lawyers and court dates and all sorts of things.  and i don’t want to keep it A Secret but it’s a whole different kind of information.

it was always about the present and the future.  “i like these people.  i want to date these people.  this is who i am inside and i want to be that.”  now it’s more about the past.  “this is who i was.”  and when i tell people about it, it seems like in a lot of ways i’m just telling them about what’s in my pants.  being trans is about so much more than that, but i don’t know how to start the conversation, because it feels like awkward over-sharing.  it feels as essential to my being and as awkward to tell as the way my dad died.  and i don’t like that.

 

Published in: on 6 July, 2012 at 4:13 am  Comments (2)  

confessions of a professional grad school applicant, pt. 1

2 out of 10 or 11 schools have been visited and now i have a weekend to rest, reflect, and spend time with friends and family before i visit 2 more on monday.  so many adventures have already been had and we only left the bay area on tuesday.

the school year closed on June 15.  June 18 was a teacher work day.  June 19-21, t & i went to art trainings sponsored by the school district.  while t was learning about a whole year’s worth of art curriculum, i was off learning <a href=”http://selfassuperhero.com/students.html”>how to turn myself and my students into superheroes</a>, through a workshop run by the <a href=”http://www.ahc-oakland.org/index.html”>attitudinal healing connection</a>, one of the many fun activities i’ve participated in in the bay area that makes me vaguely concerned i’m joining a cult.  but the workshop was fantastic and i had a great time and am excited about how to use all of that in the classroom.  and i mean, it’s rare that i get to spend 3 days making art.

friday…  we did more things, i don’t remember…  saturday and sunday were about packing and socializing, and then monday was crunch time.  a lawyer appointment (student loans are already separate when you get married and war tax resistance debt is illegal so it can’t be covered in a pre-nup anyway, so we don’t have to get a pre-nup, thank you <a href=”http://www.milesfamilylaw.com/about.html”>dylan miles</a>), a gps purchase, an oil change, shoe exchanging, prescription pick-up, and a car drop-off all meant for a busy day and very little sleep because there was still cleaning, sorting, laundry, and packing to do.  and a bag of split peas to spill all over the floor because that’s just fun at 1 in the morning.

tuesday morning, i got up and biked as fast as i could to the vet to pick up secret’s thyroid pills and then back home.  then i walked as fast as i could to the pet food store to get cat food and litter but it wasn’t open yet so i walked back.  i finished up the laundry and other bits of things, and then went back to the pet food store, ran home, stocked up the cat food, and changed the litter box.  we dashed to our flight, and after t and i stood around waiting for them to find a female security guard to frisk t because she didn’t want to radiate the baby, we finally made it to our flight just as they were calling our name on the intercom.  this was particularly tragic because we hadn’t refilled our water bottles or gotten extra food for the pregnant lady.  but we made it onto the flight, hurray.

after a transfer in atlanta that seemed ridiculous because we would be renting a car to drive to atlanta (and where we finally got properly hydrated and fed (we DID get t as much water as possible on the plane, don’t worry)), we got on the next plane.  in line in front of us was friendly chatty woman and a young man.  the woman engaged us all in conversation and the young man wound up telling us all about how he had just gotten back from teaching english in china.

we made it to rdu at about 11 at night.  as we were going to baggage claim we found our english-teaching friend surrounded by his parents, covered in “welcome to the usa!” paraphernalia, smiling ruefully and sweetly into a camera one of them was holding up.  it was totally charming.

i sent t off to the rental car place while i waited for our luggage (which only got checked because we were so late and there was no room in the overhead bins).  when i got to the rental car place and found her, she was standing next to a giant SUV.  GIANT.  it was totally hilarious to me, and potentially hilarious to t, but currently terrifying and annoying.  fortunately they’d told her she could return it the next day and probably get the economy car she’d requested, so we headed off to quickly stay the night at the house of my good friend, j from the internet and her lovely husband.  the house is an absolutely adorable home with a screened-in porch in durham, nc.

then in the morning, we poked around getting ready, probably a little too long, and then got on the road back to the rental car place.  it took them awhile to find us our promised economy car, but eventually we had that and were really back on the road.  after stops in random places for things like soup at panera bread, gas from gas stations, and coffee from coffeehouses too far into town, we arrived at athens, georgia at 7:01 for our 7:00 dinner meeting with a grad student from the language & literacy education department at uga.  The food and conversation was lovely, and we talked a lot about the lower cost of living.  one topic was the price of traffic and parking tickets, and so it was funny when we got back to our rental car and found a $10 parking ticket on the windshield.

then we drove to lawrenceville, a suburb of atlanta that i’d visited before, to stay with one of my lovely friends from college, her husband, and her stepdaughter.  we had an entire little basement suite, and there were friendly cats and a fridge stocked with string cheese and luna bars just for us.

the next morning, we went back to athens where i met with three professors from the lled program.  they were all fantastic and great to talk with.   i got fed and everyone was just super friendly.  i think athens could be a really good fit for our budding family and uga would be an excellent place to go to school.  there are still questions about the livability of the funding, but t & i were pretty excited by our second day’s visit.

then we drove through the famous heavy traffic, to gsu in atlanta.  as we were driving up, a woman leaned into a cop car and started talking with the officers and then walked in front of them and a whole bunch of other fast traffic.  i was there to speak with grad students from the special education program.  i’ve been realizing more and more that special ed programs are frequently about interventions and quantitative research which is wonderful and important but maybe i’m more of a critical theory person.  the students i spoke with at gsu were wonderful and friendly, but i started to think that maybe i wasn’t looking at the right program there.  then i went outside to wait for trisha and observed some sexual harrassment, had someone creepily ask to use my phone, and saw the same 2 guys walk around the block multiple times.  i finally went back inside because i really needed to use the bathroom, and then after passing the gauntlet of a couple making out against the bathroom door, there was another guy trying to get me to give him my student card for him to use….  when i told t that maybe gsu wasn’t for me, she was relieved, because she’s just spent that whole time battling the traffic.

we went back to the little suburb and after trying to find a publix with the gps and instead driving to the publix warehouse, we went to dinner with my friend and her family.  that was great.  after some family tv watching, we all went to our bedrooms.  i took a shower and then trisha took a shower, but as she was showering, it sounded like the toilet flushed, and then the water that had been building in the tub also went down the drain.  after she got out of the shower, the whole floor from the bathroom through half the kitchenette was covered in water, and so we cleaned that up, washed our feet and went to bed.

the following morning i had a meeting with the dean, who is the brother-in-law of one of the members of the sf quaker meeting and who sounds like a paragon of integrity.  i was told by the quaker brother-in-law that he would be honest about all of the schools i was looking at so i sort of used the time to go through my list with him.  unfortunately he couldn’t find a bad choice on my list.

after that, t and i met with some grad students at the home of the professor who was sort of hosting this trip, and we went out for food, and then gave us a lot more information about the program.  i am absolutely sold on the program and trisha was absolutely sold on the town.  the only flaw was the funding.

then, as we were driving out and the gun shop billboards started to fly past, she got a little more nervous, but we are in agreement that even if we choose athens and uga, it doesn’t have to be forever.

we got back to the car rental at 11 again, and j from the internet bravely drove us back to durham in a giant wind storm.

i’ve been emailing professors at schools like crazy, and it’s stressful but also a lot of fun in many ways.  it’s nice to have people helping me out and talking with me (and taking me out for food!).  it’s a great way to spend a summer.

Published in: on 30 June, 2012 at 4:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

on wednesday, my 5th graders “graduated” from elementary school.  in what was technically a promotion ceremony, my students and the general education fifth graders at my school, one of the five elementary schools closing in oakland this year, charmed the crowd with their sweet spirits, huge accomplishments, and tearjerking songs and speeches.  it was a tremendously touching ceremony and if there were any dry eyes after the kids sang “true colors,” the principal fixed that with her speech, reminding us how these children have raised us as much as we’ve raised them.

last saturday, i went to a different graduation.  on thursday, it suddenly dawned on me that if i hadn’t already missed it, i could probably go to the graduation of the high schoolers i’d worked with two years ago.  out of my caseload of 28, about 20 were 10th graders, which meant that this would be their graduation year.

when i graduated high school, i was very smug.  it wasn’t a big deal to me, just a rite of passage to get past to get onto my real life.  and it’s difficult to say this in a way that won’t come off as smug or condescending, but in the past few years, i’ve learned so much about how hard graduating high school can be.  reading disabilities, bureaucratic hoops, cops watching, friends and relatives getting shot, no money for food, low expectations, and huge household responsibilities were not anything that i had to deal with in high school.  there were suicides and attempted suicides and alcohol-related car accidents and a sense of depression and ennui, and getting through and past all that was a challenge in its own way and i think high school is a challenge for pretty much anyone.  but in the end, the assumption was “of course you graduate high school.  that is what you do.”  but when i went to the graduation last week, i was immediately struck by a sense of deep pride and joy.  “we survived and conquered.  we fucking did it.”  it was a holy space.

and what was so exciting was that sense of “we did it.”  not “i did it,” which is i think what i thought of my graduation, but instead, “we did this together.”  in one of the graduation speeches, the speaker talked about her classmates as her rivals who were also her backbone.  yes.

the camaraderie among the faculty at that high school was huge.  when i went back to teaching elementary school, i compared the relationships forged at the high school as being like those on a battlefield.  and despite race differences and gang rivalries and all of those things, there is a deep bond between the students at the high school as well.

it’s funny, right.  the way that god is found in those places that hurt so much.  the pain is inexcusable.  causing that pain is inexcusable.  causing that pain with our inequitable laws, prejudices, and greedy fears is absolutely inexcusable.  the world needs to be better than that.  and so it’s ironic that those deep pain moments are the places where i see god the most.

though it also makes sense.  these “comfortable” lives of ours with on-demand tv and microwave dinners, that are based on the sweat of workers we don’t even think about and that smooth over oppression and negative emotion, cannot be the kingdom of god (or the gateway to the kingdom of god if you believe that heaven comes later).  neither are the experiences that would make for that deep sense of celebration for even surviving high school.  that is not the kingdom of god either.  but being in that place of togetherness and joy, if we could just keep that instead of working for trinkets and pushing past each other for what we think is ours, then those inequities and fears could stop.

this post seems equal parts white guilt manifesto, hallmark card, and sermon.  i believe what i’m saying and i also think i cannot put it into words without simplifying people’s experiences and without simplifying god.  i was excited about posting this, but now my lack of appropriate words makes me wonder if it’s worth it, or if it will just go into the collection of words written by good-hearted white liberals that repeat each other and are based on unrealistic idealism.

so i’m going to change the subject to something related but different.  now i’m going to start writing about the morality of lgbtq rights.   because i rarely post and this is something else i’ve been wanting to post and i think i can actually make a good point at the end of all of this.  and at least i know if i idealize the lives of lgbtq people, i’m idealizing my own life.

i’ve been thinking about lgbtq rights as a moral issue in a totally new way recently.  i suddenly realized what a moral nonissue the right to love who you want to love is, and how the focus on that takes a lot of the heat off of everybody, queers, queer-hating folks, and queer allies, to actually fix real problems in the world.  i suddenly started thinking about all of the things lgbtq folks could be doing with their precious and dynamic time, energy, and hearts, if they weren’t stuck being so busy defending their rights to love who they want to love.  again, i am totally idealizing a whole lot of things, but just think what could be done if people weren’t fighting so hard over their ability to hate, or to not be hated.

bah.  it’s coming out all wrong still.  it seems so vitally important, but the words are not strong enough.

i am thinking a lot about that part in huckleberry finn where huck decides that if helping jim makes him a bad person, well then, he might as well just get used to being a bad person.  and we sadly chuckle because we the readers know that he is actually a good person, he just thinks he’s a bad person.  and in the same way, all this angst about the morality of queerness is just totally beside the point of what life and morality is really about.  not that we shouldn’t fight for queer rights.  that’s not what i mean at all.  but the whole hatred of queerness thing just suddenly seems like nothing more than a colossal waste of energy.  god does not want us using our time and energy on justifying our hatred or our self-hatred.  that cannot be what this world is about.  the question suddenly reframed itself from, “queerness: good or bad?” to “why would anyone spend any moment of their time trying to convince people to hate others, rather than just helping people who need help?  who came up with those priorities?”

being quirky with cubbie.

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

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

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

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

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

i want to ‘lectrify my soul.

yesterday at meeting for worship there were a lot of tears. and when somebody spoke/sang about the belief that there will be laughter even after people go, my natural tendency toward making people laugh when times are sad, went into high gear.

i wanted to tell the “hilarious” story of my first quaker meeting. i was an american tourist in whitby, england, and i had a cold. i tried to get tissues before the meeting started but nowhere was open, and that hunt took so long that i got to the meetinghouse just as meeting was started so i couldn’t find the bathroom. so i dashed in and sat there, for my very first hour of silence. except thanks to me, it wasn’t silence. the silence was regularly punctuated by my sniffles, as i tried to sink into the worship in some way. as i remember, there were multiple doors into and out of the worship room, and so even if i had felt brave enough to get up to go to a restroom at such a mysterious and holy time, i didn’t know where any of the doors led. so i just sat there. and sniffled. and felt american.

at the end of the worship time, the elderly woman next to me, kindly turned and told me that she wanted to offer me a tissue, but they were all up her sleeve and she wasn’t sure if that would bother me or not, so she hadn’t offered me a tissue.

what i got from reliving that story in my mind yesterday, was actually less about the funniness of the story but of the tissues we all have up our sleeves that we are too self-conscious to share.

but i didn’t tell the story or the lesson i had learned from it. there’s this flowchart that’s somewhere in our meeting’s seeker’s packets that gets referred to sometimes, and it’s about how to test whether to share a message. the part that i remember the most is that you can ask yourself if the message is just for you or for the group.

here is my embarrassing and guilty quaker confession:

what keeps me from speaking at meeting for worship, more than anything, when i have these “enlightening” moments is that as i start asking myself if the message is for me or the group, another piece comes in, which is, “am i willing to live by this?” and sometimes i’m not sure. sometimes the idea of living by my own grand advice that seems like it’s from god to the group, with me sort of tangentially involved, is so terrifying or exhausting-seeming, that i keep it to myself.

also, yesterday, i finished reading a pendle hill pamphlet by ben pink dandelion, “confident quakerism.” when i went to return it to the library, the library committee member behind the desk asked what i’d thought. and it was hard to answer, because i’d started the pamphlet months ago, read half of it, and then read the other half today. as i recalled, the beginning had been somewhat irritating, but yesterday’s reading had been useful. as i recall, the beginning dealt with some theological mistakes the author had made, and something in how they were presented had irked me. but there was a sentence near the end about how conversations about our spiritual mistakes breaks open things between people. in my conversation, i hypothesised that maybe our mistakes our better talked about than written about (and now i am writing about that idea). maybe they crystallize a little out of context, when you see them in print.

but it was interesting to read that yesterday, because besides theological mistakes, another place where stuff breaks up in important ways, is when people talk about race and oppression. i’m looking at ph. d. programs right now and i just discovered this week that there are education programs that have whiteness studies as part of it, and that has gotten me really excited. so i got all excited about that as a theological exercise, too.

but of course i don’t want to mix up an academic field with worship.

but probably the core of my belief system is that god is there when you are open to the truth. and frequently that is messy and awkward.

(and at the same time something i am continually learning is the boundaries of one’s own messy-and-awkward and others’ messy-and-awkward. as a writer who has very little filter, i must be mindful that others have filters and boundaries, and they are there for a reason.)

after meeting for worship, my girlfriend and i trekked over to ocean beach to see gillian welch, old crow medicine show, and emmylou harris pay tribute to warren hellman, the man who had started the hardly strictly bluegrass festival, a free music festival in golden gate park. i can never be convinced to go to the festival anymore because it is too crowded and full of alcohol and pot, even if i think it’s a good idea. but i liked the slightly smaller (though still robust) crowd of this event, the considerably rarer instances of people lighting up anything near me (though i did have this funny interaction on the phone with my mom between sets. she said, “we’re lighting a fire in the pit out here,” JUST as pulled out a pipe and lit it right next to me, and so i said, “yeah, someone’s got a little one going over here, too.), the explicitly respectful vibe of the event, and the beautiful escape valve of the roaring ocean just behind me. i was actually able to enjoy the music.

life is sadder than sometimes i’d like to admit. and it’s hard. and growth is hard. but there is god in the music and the laughter and the time shared together and the solitude of the ocean and the mistakes we make and our ability to open up about those mistakes. and if there’s not, there’s something really close, pointing to what god really is.

living through the dry, oaty bits.

the first week of 2012 has been full of paradox for me. or maybe not paradox, but big… confusion. big… holding of awkward truths.

objectively and retrospectively, i’m a big fan of breaking open. the change that comes after the world has shattered you and you come back. in the moment, though, it sucks. in the moment, while you are breaking or watching someone break or the world seems to be so irreparably broken, it just needs to stop.

at the same time, sometimes when things are breaking, things also slow down and get soft. circumstances beat at your heart but people who love you are gentle. when my dad died, i had a rotating circle of friends who shared my bed, cuddling me to sleep. right now, things are like that. our house is a house of dazed, sad confusion, but the guests give us love and laughter. as we keep watch in the dark, our friends are the lights.

that is one thing that is going on.

the other thing is the bus ride every day. every day i get on the bus at 6:18 am, close my eyes and open them again at about 7:05 on the last stop. usually i don’t fall asleep, but sometimes i doze a little bit in the middle. then at the end of the day, i stand in front of a gas station and wait for the bus to pick me up.

thursday in the late afternoon, with me at the bus stop was a family. a young woman, a young man, and two kids, one in a stroller. the adults talked about drugs and sex and the baby in the stroller screamed. then the woman took the baby out of the stroller and got in it herself. on the bus, the baby screamed, the young man got off the bus, both children screamed, the young woman hit them, they continued to scream. i’d just finished a day that included one student’s near-violent screaming meltdown that ended with his parents being called and him being picked up early.

friday morning, there was a woman on the bus talking to anyone who would listen. 20 minutes before my bus stop, she started yelling at me to wake up and then at the bus driver about how she was worried this woman wouldn’t wake up. i opened my eyes and grouchily told her that i wasn’t a woman and that i did this all the time and had never missed my stop. she apologized. then she apologized. then she apologized. i closed my eyes. then she told me about her heroin addiction, selling methadone, setting a car on fire, jumping off an overpass, and getting her leg amputated. multiple times. in multiple ways.

these moments make me want to stop, to move away, to live somewhere where it is not so hard. i think what i really need is to become less permeable, to stop carrying these things around. because really my job, as a teacher, is to make sure my students don’t become these people. that’s like, the biggest, scariest job in the world.

all the bus stuff has been rolling around in me for a bit and a clever blog entry title that i came up with was “wrapped up like a douche,” like the misheard version of “blinded by the light” and my desire to wrap myself cosily away from all the bad things in the world, like a selfish jerk… but that’s a little too self-deprecating and crude for a title.

and, lest you think the oakland city bus makes one give up all hope, last night, as i was going to see friends downtown, i walked onto a very crowded bus, and the first thing i witnessed was a girl, about 8 years old, singing to an appreciative woman who i could tell had been a stranger before this meeting, “happy birthday to ya, happy birthday to ya, happy birthday to ya.”

today’s passive aggressive prayer.

dear universe,

i know haters gotta hate, but i thought you were above all that.

Published in: on 3 January, 2012 at 6:38 pm  Comments (1)  

god’s work isn’t done by god. it’s done by people.

oh, right. there was another part of christmas eve that i forgot to write about.

over vacations, i like to work at an independent bookstore in bernal heights. i used to work there regularly before teaching, but now i don’t have the time or energy– except during long breaks from school. since it’s my “fake job,” it doesn’t feel like work as much as just a fun thing to do. the only part that feels like work is waking up and getting there. once i’m there, i have a great time shelving books, talking to customers, making me to-read list even longer.

i’ve got another friend who works in retail around here, but it’s her real job and it’s a bigger store. not just a little neighborhood bookstore with loyal customers, but a department store downtown. as i was leaving my shift at 3 on christmas eve, i texted her something about being in the home stretch.

she didn’t respond until i was walking down 24th to the christmas pageant. i felt my phone buzz and looked to see she had sent me a text message that said, “dead god.”

it turns out that she meant dear god, but from a large retail perspective, christmas eve is about as “dead god” as you can get. not only is god dead, but you’re about there, too. i remember when i worked at jo-ann fabrics and crafts, etc. just how soul-sucking it all is.

and that’s the irony of the season that we all know. christmas corporate retail may be the biggest reason for atheism there is. “THIS is how we celebrate god’s birthday!? f*** that. if he was real, he wouldn’t let this happen for any reason, let alone for him.”

so, i laughed a lot out there on 24th, about getting “dead god” text message on my way to a christmas pageant. but then, that christmas pageant, with it’s men in angel wings and a real live baby for jesus, reminded me of the aliveness of god. in fact, there was a line that we in the congregation said, “christ has died, christ is risen, christ will come again,” which can metaphorically describe that paradoxical moment, the paradoxical moment we all live in every day. every day we are killing christ, and every day… we can be christ.

after i got home from the pageant, i discovered that the issue of “western friend” i was about to read had a big section on the occupy movement. and from someone who is either not called to actively participate in that movement or who is too lazy… i see that christ aliveness in the occupy movement.

we always say that if we had been there, we would have been right there with jesus, or we would have fought the nazis, and then there are those moments where we realize we might have just been cozily at home instead. would that have been a moral failing then, and is it a moral failing now? or is that the wrong question?

tonight, i followed my recent christmas tradition of visiting a new church for one of their holiday services. a few years ago, i managed to pack in 3 services in one christmas, but this year it will just be the one. i’m not going to make it to meeting tomorrow, even.

tonight’s service was at a church in noe valley called holy innocents. i started my decision-making process based on churches that would be near where i was today and that had an early evening service that wasn’t at 5:00 because I wouldn’t be able to make it for that. i found 3 churches that fit those criteria, via google, and then i decided on this one, because it was a christmas pageant and because the website invites you to come early so you can get a costume.

as i walked through the mission at 5:30, i marveled at all the things that were closed. there was sort of a nice hush over things. i have mixed feelings about holidays, but i like moments that are set aside for coziness, nonetheless. i know it probably sucks for a lot of people who don’t celebrate christmas, but the idea of everyone being still on some level is appealing to me. perhaps that is judeochristianically oppressive of me…

the pageant was wonderful. it not only told the story of the birth in the manger, but also the story of the first christmas pageant, which they attributed to francis of assisi, and we all got to be involved, in costume or not. i was a strange stranger, in my bright yellow bert sweatshirt, with an ill-placed coffee stain on my pants, and a “michelle obama, first lady of fabulous” totebag, but i still felt welcome.

ever since christopher hitchens died, i’ve been doing some extra thinking about religion. it actually happened as i was starting karen armstrong’s the case for god, and if you know me, you know i’m a much bigger fan of armstrong than of hitchens. the way i think of it is that armstrong and hitchens are in opposite camps, not because one believes in god and the other didn’t, but because of their very different conceptions of what god even means and what the debate over religion is really about. because to me christopher hitchens and “the religious right” are on the same side, because they think god is about going to heaven and believing in impossible things. but for me, and from what i’ve read by armstrong, for her as well, god is about living in such a way that the kingdom of god can be here and believing in god is more about trusting in the possibility of that world. and that kingdom/world is not about others going to hell but about merciful, inclusive love and justice…

one of the ways to bring about that world involves discipline, as i am reminded over and over again by armstrong’s tracing of the history of faith. at one of my first quaker meetings, robin m. spoke about discipline. at the time, i thought she was being too hard on herself about whatever it was she was speaking about, and smugly thought discipline wasn’t that important. but the thing with god, for me, i think, is that… things can be fine without god, actually, but they are so much better with god (like sex and love). there is some anne lamott quote, i think, about how god is sort of found by accident, but prayer makes you accident-prone. and so that’s where the discipline part comes in. i’ve been using a method of prayer i found in a book by brent bill recently, and even though i’ve been extra-aware lately of my lack of discipline, i think i’m getting better.

as a quaker and as a liberal, i have mixed feelings about holidays. as a quaker because everyday is sacramental and as a liberal because our society’s main form of christianity is pretty oppressive. and then there’s the whole commercialism aspect etc. but man, i love light in the darkness. as a weak, undisciplined human i love it. every christmas tree in a window makes me smile, every christmas song on the radio (except “do they know it’s christmas,” ugh) makes my toes wiggle, and i’m wearing a red-and-green set of pajamas right now.

anyway, before i left the church, i took a final restroom break before getting on the bart to go home. the toilet paper was running out, and so i hunted down a new roll. and i thought about how sometimes that better, kingdom-of-heaven world that is possible, gets it start from small moments of discipline, like the ministry of putting on a new roll. that sounds potentially sardonic, but i don’t mean anything disrespectful. i mean, respecting the next stranger who comes along, having no idea who they will be.

not to be too cutesy, but…

i’ve been sort of g. d. mad at g-d, lately.

Published in: on 29 November, 2011 at 7:55 pm  Leave a Comment