hollymath: (Default)
I had to remember to put my phone on silent before I went to church.

I don't think I've been to church since i had a phone to put on silent, except going along occasionally with my mom when I'm back visiting and I can't use my phone in Minnesota anyway.

I haven't gotten myself to church since I was, what, nineteen? Somewhere in my first or second year in college I went from the holdover of fairly evangelical Christianity I'd finished high school with to wanting to sleep in, and then working night shifts on Saturdays and somewhere amidst the practicalities my keenness drained away and my belief drained away altogether without me noticing until long after it had.

I've been to the odd wedding (including my own!) or funeral in church since, but not anything so closely resembling a normal service until today.

And today wasn't that normal; it was the baptism service for my fictive nephew, who was not christened or baptised as a baby and decided of his own volition this year that he wanted to be. He just turned eight today.

It was strangely familiar: the liturgy is more modern than I grew up with, but a lot, especially the congregation's responses, is pretty much word-for-word what I was used to, and it surprised me how much came back to my mind, just in time for me to say it. I fumbled through prayers, only remembering one line as I finished the previous one, and even remembering one of the hymns (though not from my fusty old church but from the Bible camps of my teenage years).

But it was also very different: so much more relaxed not just from the officiants at the front (both women!) but also from the congregation, who chatted incessantly beforehand, who didn't mind their kids running over to talk to their friends somewhere else, who clapped when a six-year-old read the gospel (and having a six-year-old reading the gospel at all!).

It was really special, including Jack using his dad's christening shawl in the baptism. And his Bible as, basically, a prop. "Jack's dad is giving him the Bible he had as a child," the vicar said, and the honesty of small children compelled Jack to say "but I have to give it back to him afterward," which got the biggest laugh of the event.

I'd never seen anyone baptised who wasn't a baby. Indeed my mom was fretful and slightly judgmental of family members who'd never baptised their children; baptism had an air of insurance about it, it was a layer of protection to get in place as soon as possible "just in case..."

The more evangelical Christians I fell in with as a teenager left me with the idea that baptism should be a meaningful decision made by the individual at an age where they can make it. But of course all the baptisms I saw were at my mom's Lutheran church or my dad's Catholic one, where the only way one differed from another was whether or not the baby cried when it got water on its face (and, when I was old enough to spot this, whether the family were regular churchgoers according to the grumbling judgment of my own family).

Whereas this clearly had Jack's personality stamped all over it, and I thought that was lovely. He bounded around, running to and from the front of the church as need be, reading out lines he'd practiced both in the baptismal service itself and as part of the communion service, disappeared to talk to a friend one time when he was about to be needed up front again, delivering that line about having to give his dad's Bible back with perfect comedic timing, and a million little things that made me feel lucky to know him well enough to recognize him here and to be a part of his special day.

At the end of the service the deacon said, "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Stopping for coffee along the way." And it just made me grin. The first part I'm so familiar with, the second wasnt even an implicit part of the doxology I grew up with; at my mom's church people lingered to chat but at ours everybody scattered as soon as we shook hands with the priest on the way out. And even my mom's was too formal to have the coffee being mentioned.

When I got home and changed, I still heard my necklace rattling around on its chain around my neck. I wear them too infrequently these days, I'd forgotten all about it. It says "We're all stories, in the end" and I wore it because I got it as a Christmas gift from Jack's mum one year.

It was fitting anyway for today, a day where near-fossilized stories about my childhood joined up to stories about the people I'm glad to have in my life now that things are mostly so very different but still can be linked back to the old ones.

Only much later did I learn my necklace was a quote from Doctor Who, since I never watched all the Tennant episodes, and that made it a nice choice for today too, when I got home just in time for the news of who the new Doctor is, and the potential for lots of new stories.


Jun. 11th, 2017 12:40 am
hollymath: (Default)
It's Ramadan, when Muslims fast between dawn and sunset. The meal they have after sunset is called Iftar. Hundreds of people go to my local mosque (about a minute's walk away) every evening to share the meal, and this time the mosque invited the non-Muslim community to join them for Iftar. I went along with a couple of my WI chums.

This is part of Taste Ramadan, which had ten mosques across Manchester having an open Iftar this evening. Apparently at least this mosque had done this last year, and found it really successful. Tonight there were ten, and next year they're hoping to spread it out across the whole North West.

I'd never been to such a thing, knew embarrassingly little about Ramadan (I've read a book about Islam, Reza Aslan's No Got But God, and really enjoyed it but that's pretty much it as far as my understanding goes), and the mosque had gotten good reviews from other WI members who'd been along to Visit My Mosque in February, so I was excited to go along and learn something.

And I definitely did. We had a speaker, who seemed quite scholarly/academic which might not be to everyone's taste but it was mine! he talked about the etymology of words like "Ramadan" and "Sawm" (fasting), and generally offered context which I really appreciated.

Muslims' knowledge of both other religions, especially Judaism and Christianity, more than one language and a generally wider view of the geography and history than I'm used to, always make me feel a little sheepish. It must be exhausting, I thought tonight, to have to explain yourself in the only terms white people understand sometimes: to say "fasting already existed before Muslims were told to do it" and I'm like oh, yeah, so it did... I remembered how much I resented giving up candy during Lent and wondered how I'd have coped with giving up everything.

I did think that it must be exhausting having to explain yourself to people like me, on our own terms. So basic. So spoon-feedy and hand-holdy. Everybody was lovely and gracious about it, as always has been my experience with Muslim colleagues and shopkeepers and whatnot, but that makes me feel even worse that white people are so amazed that they're not all terrorists and they do normal things like eat crisps.

He answered a few questions, one of which was about women and the other...actually I think they both were about women? One about their role in Ramadan and one about "the veil." I think he handled them very well, at first saying women's role is the same as men's in Ramadan, except they do most of the cooking and men just sit down to eat and complain about the food, and he'd rather have it the other way around. About niqab he said in so many words that what a woman chooses to wear is her own business, and told us that what is worn is mandated more by culture than religion.

Sadly he also had to make a point of condemning terrorist attacks like the recent one in Manchester, in a way that I will never be held responsible for all the shootings that white Americans do. But again he did it very skillfully, making the point that during Ramadan Muslims are meant to restrain themselves not just from eating and drinking (and sex), but also to try not to tell lies, get in arguments, etc. Much less blow up an arena.

One of the friends I was with had fasted today -- except for a cup of coffee she had to save her from a caffeine-withdrawal headache that she knew would have left her too ill to come along tonight otherwise -- and the other didn't. I didn't, but I also understood that this was in keeping with what Muslims are asked to do during Ramadan, because it would have affected my mental health so severely to not eat. But I didn't eat much (I did let myself drink as much water as I needed, because dehydration induces awful headaches and I've already had those nearly every day this week) so I was really excited for Iftar by the time it arrived.

The food was really nice, all made on site in the apparently vast kitchens, by volunteers. A few hundred people were there, and apparently feeding this many is an everyday occurrence during Ramadan. People kept coming around to see if anyone was running out of food (it never ran out, but it did need to get moved from place to place!) and to answer questions: we asked one when they started cooking these meals and he said around two o'clock in the afternoon. Imagine putting all that work into preparing the meal, having to smell the delicious curry and everything cooking, and not being able to eat it for hours!

This afternoon I was starting to marvel at how anybody managed not to eat until it was dark out (at the height of summer, anyway; I probably do this during winter without even noticing it tbh) and by half an hour before the time I was leaving for the mosque I was beginning to wonder how anybody stayed awake that long. My insomnia has been terrible this week; I hope I get more than four or five hours of sleep a night, soon. Better go try to do that then.

(Here's a picture that has me and my friends in it, though you can't really tell. This is only a fraction of the number of people there, but you get the idea.)
hollymath: (Default)
No internet for almost a week! It was an awfully quiet week, with me spending most of two entire days (not consecutive, thankfully; that'd have driven me even more bonkers than I already am) in bed.

But all that left me with a lot of time to think, and it was a rather bleakly eventful week, too, especially Tuesday, which I wrote about in an e-mail laboriously typed on my phone to a friend the next day (hey when you're stuck in bed all day, the slow progress of words across the screen doesn't seem such a barrier to composition).
I continue to be utterly relieved about not working. I expected a lot more angst about laziness and uselessness, but I am overwhelmed lately even without work. I really have gone back to bed, though with an audiobook and of course this phone.

It shouldn't be surprising, perhaps, that I'm tired after yesterday. I went with Andrew to his uncle's funeral. He was not close to the uncle, but thinks a lot of his wife (who is a sister his dad is close to), so was there for his dad, his aunt, and his cousins. And I was there for him, knowing his extended family hardly at all. It is such a huge one (everybody breeds early and often!) that people only bother with the ones they like. Andrew doesn't like many people :)

The service was in a lovely country church, sunlight streaming through stained glass onto very old stone; I think there has been a church there since Saxon times. I rarely feel so American as when I find myself marveling (inwardly, in this case!) at such things that those around me accept as a matter of course.

Andrew's family are not religious (he said this is the fifth time he has ever been in a church) and I am not now but I grew up Catholic. This was my first brush with Anglicanism, and I confess I was interested in that despite the solemn occasion. I liked the notorious lack of religiosity; the talk of heaven and resurrection was light, and the emphasis was on taking this opportunity to share loss and grief. It was explicit that the vicar (a woman! Such a novelty for a Catholic girl) did not expect many of the people there to share her professed beliefs in the afterlife and so on, which I found fascinating if deeply alien.

Most of the funerals I have been to have been Catholic, and they were -- regardless of the person they were for -- heavy and distant and ponderous where this was welcomely warm and light and close. Even with the light dusting of Christianity over the top.

Our wait at the train station and the ride home left me time to nap before going to Biphoria, which I'm glad I did though I was worried about seeing my erstwhile boss, at a time I'd have been in work if I hadn't quit the day before. But I reminded myself that not working doesn't mean I can't do other things (that i'd needed a nap at the time i'd have started work that day reassured me that it was indeed not a good job for me!) and it was fun to see my friend Emma on a high having just finished the last of her exams to qualify as some kind of accountant. We talked a lot about BiCon too and it reminded me I have complicated thoughts about that (though I am indeed now definitely intending to go for a day, to help Emily out with a workshop). But I can't articulate them yet, and this e-mail is long enough as it is!
I managed to write down some aof those complicated thoughts about BiCon yesterday, for some research I volunteered for after seeing it mentioned on Twitter, again about the experiences of bisexual women. (Always with the bisexual women. A friend of mine who helped out with the last thing like this said she asked that researcher why the focus on women and was told that there is more data on women. I know dissertations are about other people's work as much as they are your own, you need quotes and references, but it does seem to be a pretty vicious catch-22 circle there.)

Anyway, I'm liking this research better already; it's more long-term and open-ended, and it's already sent lots of thoughts swirling around my brain after only a couple of days. My relief at not going to Cardiff BiFest (Saturday ended up being one of the days I had to spend in bed) was ridiculously blatant, again without a shred of the usual regret or second-guessing my decision to not try to have fun.

I think I am very cynical still about BiCon and its little baby siblings, the BiFests, because it still seems as much an excuse for people to see friends who live far away as much as anything else. Which is fine, it's a good thing to do, but I am so, so painfully used to being on the outside of those groups that I'm still a little weirdly sensitive now. While also being aware that the only way to not be a stranger is to go to stuff and talk to people and not just be a whinging mentalist all the time, yes. (Not to say that bisexuals won't be friends with whinging mentalists, but if it keeps me from going or keeps me from having fun, that isn't going to make me easily likeable to them.)

My other major preoccupation of the week ([livejournal.com profile] greyeyedeve will know what I'm talking about!) is not fit for LJ, so I think I'm done here!
hollymath: (liberal)
My mom told me in our usual Sunday phone call that the ELCA has voted to allow gay pastors. It was hard not to cheer when I first heard this, but while my mom knows I don’t share the visceral hatred for non-straight people that I was raised to have, I don’t see any point in rubbing her nose in it.

But that quickly changed. It seems, from her muddled rendition, that there is much dissent among the ranks. People see the vote as rigged, something shoved down people’s throats, because the voting majority required to pass this was changed from the usual two-thirds to a mere fifty percent.

And Mom’s said her local... bishop? do Lutherans have bishops? well, whatever he is, you know... has made his disapproval clear and told the individual churches they don’t have to allow this. So now my mom says her church is going to have a discussion about this.

The more I think about this, the more I feel sick to my stomach.

I have long said that religious communities like the ones I grew up in do people a lot of good. I have said they provide the social welfare that the U.S. government won’t or cant, and the power of support from regularly seeing a circle of people wider than your family or friends, symbolized by the holy power of potluck.

I’ve seen people benefit greatly, both emotionally and practically, from small rural churches like the ones my mom goes to. And I prefer to think of them that way, which is only natural: these are middle-aged farmers who always look happy to see me and the old ladies who served the food at my wedding reception. I don’t want to think of them as having anything to do with the frothing, raving, bigoted, hateful lunatics that people think of when they think of American Christianity’s worst characters and caricatures.

But I know my mom isn’t the only one who’s so uncomfortable with the idea of accepting gay people in any way that she can’t even talk about it. There’s no way she’d go to such a “discussion,” because my family just don’t talk about things and anyway I think she prefers to hang on to her willful obliviousness as much as possible. But other people will go to the discussion, and I can’t help but imagine the things that will be said.

These people who get excited when I’m back home, who go for coffee with my mom and me, they will never know that I am going to Pride this weekend. They’ll never know how I met most of my friends in Manchester, that I -- oh bitter irony -- have replaced the support network I expected from church with the one I found in a group for bisexuals in Manchester.

I think most of the bisexuals will find that pretty funny too, as on the surface there couldn’t be more difference. In one group I’m the girl with the exotic crazy lifestyle, who ran off to the land of free health care and tea with the Queen, but in the other group I am the sweet and innocent one that other people avoid talking about their kinks around.

But despite that wide-ranging difference, I feel love from both groups.

And yet one can love me only because it doesn’t know I’m a part of the other. Some would rage at the dissociation between a deity that pointedly loved the worst among his society displaying such intolerance of those who dare to love who their heart tells them to. I don’t have the energy for that kind of anger; I am merely disappointed, and sad that I will have to continue being a person I am not around the people who have known and loved me since I was a baby.

Ow Friday

Apr. 10th, 2009 12:04 am
hollymath: (sir)
Andrew just wandered into the room and said, apropos of nothing, “Do you think the reason Jesus hasn’t come back yet is that he’s pissed off with people calling it Good Friday?”

“I don’t know, dear,” I said in what is the tone-of-voice version of patting someone on the head.

“ ‘It wasn’t good,’” he says, clearly attempting to do a good Jesus-voice. “It was put-me-on-a-bit-of-wood Friday and it hurt! It was the worst fucking Friday of my life!”

You know he has a point there. When I was quite young, and my dad was disappointed that my brother and I were more excited about chocolate Easter bunnies than we were about Jesus turning into zombie Jesus. (But with him denying us candy for the previous month and a half and claim we were “giving it up for Lent” even though to me it always looked like some kind of punishment, but even I knew better than to mention that so I just asked this instead.) How the hell did it get called Good?

I think my parents gave some lame answer about how it was good because it was part of this whole big dying-for-us thing, but even then I wasn’t impressed.

“It shouldn’t be called Good Friday!” Andrew continued. “it should be called Ow Friday!”

He wandered away to brush his teeth or something and came back a minute later declaring, “I’m going to start calling it Ow Friday; maybe it’ll catch on.”
hollymath: (Default)
I just saw my first atheist bus!

Well, technically my only atheist bus. So far.

And it's not really that the bus is an atheist... (I suppose all buses are atheists, come to think of it. You'd have a hard time showing me a bus that believed in God.)

Still, I'm excited.

THERE'S PROBABLY NO GOD, it says. NOW STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY YOUR LIFE. Just like the ones I read about! Hurrah for signs of life outside London. I hadn't even known we were going to get atheist buses in Manchester.

Needing someone to tell, I dragged out my phone and texted [livejournal.com profile] innerbrat, who's just written about this, and [livejournal.com profile] matgb, who told me that they raised enough money that the atheist buses are everywhere. Hurrah!

Even more deliciously, though, I just realized that it was a Stagecoach bus. Take that, crazy CEO! Brian Souter, well-known bastard who campaigned to keep the homophobic Clause 28, is (surprise) an evangelical Christian and there was concern that the outside-London campaign might not happen on buses anyway because of him.

Obviously he apparently decided that atheist money spends as well as any other money, but I still like to think it needles him to see this on "his" buses, just like it needles me to think of giving him any of my money, which is why I don't do it if I can help it.

So ha on him anyway.
hollymath: (tanpint)
me: Bwahaha: Of course horoscopes aren't true, like gravity is true, or bacon.
[livejournal.com profile] textivore: bacon is truer than gravity
[livejournal.com profile] textivore: gravity is just a theory!
me: Andrew said bacon is truer too (He just asked what I was laughing at and I told him I was comparing the relative trueness of bacon and gravity).
me: But I don't eat bacon, so gravity has far more effect on my life!
[livejournal.com profile] textivore: that's not gravity, that's just the force of all the bacon all over the globe trying to draw you near for a bacony hug
[livejournal.com profile] textivore: and tell Andrew i said that :)
me: ::laughs:: He's totally on your side there.
me: Big proponent of bacon, he is.

Okay, so I got a bit distracted by gravity and bacon there, but at the risk of mortally offending my friends who really rate astrology and tarot readings and all thet, I must say I love this article. That entire paragraph is worth quoting
Of course horoscopes aren't true, like gravity is true, or bacon. It's a prose style. Open Linda Goodman's Love Signs and you will find your own love life laid out in black and white. The very arguments you have with your spouse are there word for word. And it doesn't matter which page you open it at, or which sign you are. Astrology isn't a science or even an art, but at best it's a sort of therapy. What we can see of it is a prose style.
I don't have his wide-eyed admiration for "some sort of special communion that most of us can't penetrate, and at which we don't belong"... but still there is a point to all this:
But who knows where the line is and when we cross from the respectable to the ridiculous. Only a third of medicines work as they should, we are told. A British Medical Journal editorial recently had it that codeine was no more effective than a placebo in 60 per cent of cases. And when the subjects were told the placebo was ten times more expensive than usual, the effectiveness went up to 85 per cent. Crucially, the placebo effect was fortified by the patient spending three quarters of an hour with the doctor before taking the tablet.
I'm sure Andrew's written something about the placebo effect being nonsense (I can't find it now because the tags in his LJ are all things like "bastards," batman," "fucking bastards," "holly being ill" and the one called "love" was actually about Arthur Lee), and it hasn't been that long since we were told anti-depressants don't seem to have much more effect than a placebo, so it's something I'm interested in. How far can "mind over matter" go?

I bet placebos would still work on me. I'm too suggestible and suspectible to ideas that I like rather than ideas that are true.

Speaking of things that are true, though: What is with these guys? Nobody said anything about gravity or bacon being more true than the other! Just that they're both true in a way that something else isn't! Silly hierarchical brains, just what I'd expect of the patriarchy!

And the idea of a bacony hug is actually creeping me out a little.
hollymath: (nothing)
It's not just the beloved eccentrics we've got to watch out for. Andrew called me today to tell me that his great-grandmother has died. In an attempt to provide what comfort I could from so far away, I said that while I knew his family isn't always close (it's too big for that!) and they're certainly not religious, if he wanted to go to whatever kind of memorial service might be held (and of course assuming it was after I was back in the UK), I am happy to go with him.

I told Mom about this conversation when I got off the phone, we finished our Scrabble game, and I got up to get a drink or something. Out of nowhere she said, "Well, I guess if they're not religious there's no point in me sending a card." It was a good thing she couldn't see me; I was shocked speechless. And that's probably a good thing too, because if I had been able to speak it would've been nearly impossible to keep myself from saying "WHAT? So only religious people mourn their loved ones?"

I couldn't believe she'd said such a thing. I reviewed it several times in my head to make sure I couldn't have misheard. But it was inescapable.

I couldn't follow the "logic" of that at all. I suppose it wouldn't do much good to send one of those sappy "Well at least they're with Jesus now, eh?" cards, but my family doesn't really go for such overt religious sentiments anyway. (Their reasons for this may be less theological than mine and more cultural — people around here are embarrassed on behalf of the people whose Christmas-card letters are full of gushing about the holy event rather than telling us about what they've done during the year, much less the people who speak in tongues — but the end result is the same for them as for me; the first rule of being a Midwestern churchgoer is you do not talk about churchgoing. (Even if only because you assume that everything you've "learned" from it is obvious to everyone, since that's how indoctrination works.)

"Well, I don't know about that," I said, genuinely dubious. "I was planning on sending a card," I added after a pause, slightly more defensively. I hadn't been until I said it, but it did sound like a good idea. I'm sure Andrew's family wouldn't be expecting anything from me or my parents, and probably wouldn't notice much one way or the other (though our moms do exchange Christmas cards, and his mom sent flowers and other lovely things for us when she heard about Chris, so I wouldn't think it wildly inappropriate, especially since it's Andrew's mom's side of the family, her grandma, to send her a card or something).

But that wasn't really the point anyway: how could my mom think that sympathy was somehow predicated on religion? (If you were going to follow Christian theology through to its logical conclusion, you should really be sending cards to non-Christians especially, because you'd believe their loved ones had been just condemned to an eternity of torture!)

I’m forever telling Andrew, apologetically, that I know my family and the state of Minnesota and other things near and dear to my heart are religious weirdos compared to him and his family and his culture… but they’re not too bad about it, I swear! Yeah, they go to church and they might mumble the mealtime prayer before supper, but otherwise you’d never know! I know a lot of the intolerance endemic in rural areas is encouraged by religion, and that’s terrible, but I’m also almost proud that my family and my community generally seem to use church as a way to catch up with friends and have lefse and lutefisk suppers. We’re subverting the system a bit! Getting positive social benefits out of this as well or hopefully instead of the negative social ostracism, ignorance, hatred, and indoctrination.

But the negative things are always finding new ways to show up, like whack-a-mole, and I never stop being surprised and dismayed at them. It’s rare I hear such bizarre things from my parents, and all the worse for being rare (because I’m not used to it) and for being my parents (because I want to think better of them).

That would’ve been unsettling enough, but she didn’t let the topic go. “Do they have churches around you?” she asked.

“Yeah, lots,” I answered, as innocently as possible. I didn’t bother adding that many seem to have been converted to more useful things, like pubs, flats, community centers, mosques...

She followed up with, “Do you ever go?”

“I, well, I work a lot of weekends, unfortunately, you know…” I said. Immediately I hated myself for weaseling out of answering the question. It’s true that I do, but it’s also true that I am, basically, an atheist now.

I don’t know if there are gods or an afterlife or whatever. They've never tried to make themselves known to me, that I know of. And that's kind of the point: I don’t care, because if they are out there they’re not making any impact on my life.

I’m a bit uneasy about the militant tactics of some of the recent trendy atheists. I can understand the context for such zeal, especially in the States (though of course the most obvious example is British), where it’s bad enough being the wrong flavor of Christianity, or belonging to some non-Christian religion, never mind having no religion at all. But that passionate antagonism towards theists is not my thing, and for a long time I associated that antisocial behavior so strongly with atheism that I didn’t want to think of myself as one. (I admire many people who’d rather be right than be nice, but I’m not cut out to be one of them.) But when I think about it, I realize that since my life features nothing theistic, I guess it is atheistic.

It’s a silly way to define myself, by what I am not, which is another reason I don’t usually think of myself as an atheist… but that’s a point for another day! Today’s point is that there’s more keeping me from church than my work schedule, and I felt lousy for, basically, lying to my mom about this. Even if I was doing it with the good intention of avoiding a really difficult confrontation that would be sure to hurt and disappoint both my parents, even if I thought those ends justified that means, it’s still lying.

My mom agreed that I did work a lot of weekends, but wouldn’t let up. “You used to be so good about that sort of thing,” she said. "I'd like to see you get back to it." Meaning: for a year or so when I was in high school I hung out with fairly fundamental weirdos of the Charismatic Christian type; the sort who go on retreats and start Bible studies at school and listen to bad music that they’ve convinced themselves is better than any secular music and wear ugly jewelry with crosses on it.

I had lots of reasons for “being good about that” — practically no one else would be nice to me or even talk to me much at that point; I was thrilled to have something bigger than myself to belong to, something to feel passionate about; I had always felt different from almost everybody around me and this was a good excuse to be even more obnoxiously different — but none of the reasons were actually to do with really believing, deep down. (Though I did such a good job of pretending to be good that I even convinced myself for a long time.) So I wasn’t really “being good about that.” I just looked like I was.

And, in the way that my mom never seemed to notice if I dusted my desk and dresser as long as I shuffled around the things resting on them to make it look like I’d dusted, it doesn’t seem to matter if I’m good at religion as much as it looks like I’m being good about it. Indeed: though she’s disappointed in me now, what she doesn’t know is that I’m still getting pangs (they come and go) of longing for the sense of community that I grew up with in small towns and their churches. So I flirt with the idea of going to a Unitarian church or finding some Quakers to hang out with, but everything from habit to the sure and certain knowledge that Andrew will make fun of me to actually working on a lot of weekends has prevented me from getting any further than looking at some websites.

Though happily some good has come of all the uneasiness this conversation with my mom has brought me: talking about it to a good friend has inspired her to tell me that if she’s around she will go to those kinds of churches with me, and I think that might be good for both of us. I look forward to finding out. There is something about church, as my upbringing has made me think of it, that I do miss and that I do need to get back or at least to find some analogue of. It’s just almost certainly not the part of church that my parents think is important. And I don’t even feel able to tell them that.

I forget sometimes how hard it is, being back here. There’s a slowly but steadily increasing gap between who I am and who they think I am. Every Sunday when I pick up the phone to call my parents, I make a mental list about things to talk about: the weather? baseball? (only good for my dad, of course) complaining about how much I have been working? I might be making a slightly more conscious effort lately, but the fundamental problem is not new; it was never easy to talk to my family. I grew up in silent terror because I was more like people I read about in books and not much at all like people in my family or at school, and I (reasonably, I think) came to the conclusion that there must be something wrong with me.

Now I have the internet so I know that while there may be more of them, and people like me may be scattered hither and yon all over the globe (and perhaps on several other planes of existence that may or may not actually exist, depending on what you think the definition of “is” is) but they are out there; I am not alone.

But I’m still alone when I come back here (unless I bring Andrew with me, but that brings a whole other set of complications with it, because the sorts of things I'm describing happen to him too, except far more so as he doesn‘t have my lifetime of coping mechanisms for this cognitive dissonance). And here are there so many people who think more or less like my parents do (where else would they have gotten it from?), and I’m so small against all of that. I still, sometimes, have to remind myself that I’m not necessarily crazy just because I don’t have anyone to talk to here.

How stupid of me to think I’d need LJ less when I was here. I always forget what it’s like here, what I’m like when I’m here. I’m gasping for it, and damn the dial-up, because the internet reminds me that I am not crazy.


Mar. 25th, 2008 04:36 pm
hollymath: (nothing)
"Happy Easter Sunday!" someone said to someone else at work. I could not hear the response but got the impression that the greeting was reciprocated. "Happy days, man," said the first somebody with a smile that I knew was there even though I wasn't looking at him; I could feel it.

And I thought, I remember that. I didn't envy them the subtle undercurrent of joy in this little exchange, I didn't even envy their sense of belonging, of a shared conviction. I just remembered feeling like that myself, not all that many Easters ago.

For the few years when I was trying to fit the Charismatic Christian demographic, I was just looking for excuses to tell people that Easter was my favorite holiday. Not Christmas. Not boring old overcommercialized expensive blizzardy Christmas. Sure, it probably had something to do with how much I hate winter and love spring, how you don't get tired of Easter songs like you do Christmas ones because you don't hear them for months on end in shopping malls, And even when I was trying to play along with this Christianity thing I had to acknowledge that part of me preferred Easter because Easter was the end of Horrible Lent.

Lent meant fish every Friday -- I remembber liking fish when I was very young and soon just tolerating it and then dreading it and then being revolted at the mere smell of it, which is the state I'm still in now, and I'm sure this has got to have something to do with Force-Feeding Fish Fridays. I should just be glad I was born after Vatican II or I would've gone crazy (or vegetarian) at the mere thought of fish far sooner than I seem to have done. Lent meant dreary hymns in church every Sunday, Stations of the Cross every Wednesday night at the end of CCD, the novelty of palm leaves on Palm Sunday still unable to overshadow the creepy Passion-play in the gospel reading that week, where the congregation's part (that of the angry, stupid mob) seems to consist mostly of things like "CRUCIFY HIM!" and other stuff that nearly brought me to tears in the emotionally-charged context of a Christian teenager "retreat," things that generally overall have probably scarred my poor mind more than any other single thing... but more than any of that, Lent meant no candy.

Catholics are meant to give up something for Lent. (And/or the opposite: to do something no fun and Good for You, like giving your pocket money to Catholic charities, as well as to refrain from things that are fun and actually good for you). My dad always gave up candy and so my brother and I did too.

I don't know why. I don't know how it started: this was the assumption throughout my life until I moved out of my parents house (though by the time I was a teenager I was scarfing down Reese's Peanut Butter Cups from the school vending machine, still the closest to an illicit substance that I have ever gotten).

I don't remember ever choosing to give up candy. (Though I do remember some conversations that went "Well, so, if you don't want to give up candy what do you want to give up instead?" where my answers like "Homework!" and "Going to school!" got th reactions that you'd expect them to; I expected that too but had to try anyway. I was truly stumped: what did I have that I could give up? We were not Dickensian but sheesh our lives had paltry pleasures as it was; when I was young I was grateful that my parents had never ever grounded me like I saw happen to naughty children on TV; when I got older I realized there wouldn't have been much point: I wouldn't have noticed the difference. I didn't really have friends to call or invite over or visit, I didn't have a TV or video games in my room. I spent my time playing quietly by myself in my room and reading books. I was perma-grounded.)

I don't remember even being asked about giving up candy for Lent. I certainly don't remember getting a good explanation (or even a poor one, but for something so serious as giving up candy it'd have to have been really good to even stand a chance) for why anybody (much less me!)would want to do such a thing. We just... had to.

I was just forbidden to eat candy. And you know what that is? I told myself again from a young age. That's punishment. Lent was just arbitrary misery. I was not at all impressed with my dad or his religion.

(Though I tell myself I shouldn't complain too much, because if it weren't for my dad's religion he wouldn't be my dad. Chris and I were both placed by Catholic adoption agencies one of whose stipulations is that at least one of the parents be Catholic. I love my parents and am glad to have them but this is small consolation when Mom's hoarding Creme Eggs in the freezer and I can look but not touch.)

So, even more than usual for a holiday based on chocolate eggs and bunnies, Easter was a joyous gluttony for my brother and I, the first candy that had passed our lips since about Valentine's Day. The delicious decision of whether to eat the bunny's feet first and save those mesmerizing blue-and-yellow eyes, or to eat its head first and put it out of its misery, was almost worth the horrible ugly scratchy pastel frilly new Easter dress that I would inevitably wear under my winter coat because Easter dresses were not designed for the climate of the Upper Midwest.

I tried to justify such sensible reasons for preferring Easter to Christmas with some pious nonsense. Any religion could celebrate the birth of its deity, big deal, but we were the best because we could celebrate the not-being-dead-any-moreness of ours! That anyone could fail to see Christianity's obvious superiority in this regard truly baffled me until I learned that it was hardly an original innovation.

And by the time I realized that, I didn't care any more and was kind of glad that I hadn't been able to suppress my sweet tooth in the name of religion, even when I (and my dad) had been trying to make me. I'm sheepish now about how effectively Christianity managed to bamboozle me in my late teens and thus I'm glad of any part of my real personality that remained unsinkable. I don't like chocolate nearly as much as I used to and I now love many things that my teenagereligion told me not to -- punk music, sex, gay people, non-Christians -- but I have a soft spot for the love of chocolate for persevering where those things did not (or at least, did not do as well as they should have).

That's all gone now though. The only impact Easter had on me this year was to make me walk a long way for a bus and still get to work late both Friday and Monday. Damn bank holiday buses.

But later in my shift on Sunday my mind started drifting back to that thing I'd heard. "Happy days, man."

I wasn't having the best day so I started thinking grumpy thoughts about how atheists should get more holidays.

I'm so sick of the way days blend into one another, weeks slip by with little to distinguish them, seasons are unremarkable. I miss the variety of seasons I'm used to in Minnesota. Manchester may, as someone else at work said yesterday when we noticed the snow had once again given way to sunshine, "have five weathers a day," but it seems like it's the same weather every day. Manchester is cold and rainy in the winter and ... cool and rainy in the summer.

And living in the city as I do now, I feel cut off from the cycles of growing and harvesting and resting and renewal that I grew up with on a farm. What good are solstices when on either the alarm still goes off at 6:30 and I get up and catch the bus; whether the height of summer or the depths of winter I go out into a world of bricks and concrete to do the same work?

Don't get me wrong, I'm loving my tenure on Spaceship Earth and doing my best to enjoy the ride. I just think, especially with a job that doesn't even give me proper weekends, with a birthday overshadowed by Jesus' (and unlike him, I can at least say that it's my real birthday) so I don't even have any "personal" holidays to replace the ones I've lost with religion... I just need more holidays. More nice big meals with my friends. More excuses to give little things to people I love besides "jut because." More long weekends when I can visit my family as some of my friends are doing with theirs this weekend. More reasons to hear (or say or think) "happy days, man." And mean it.
hollymath: (laundromat)
This, written by an Englishman living in North Carolina, explains better than I've been able to (my USian family just blinks at me in confusion), just how different the British attitude to religion is. He's saying what would be for Britain tediously obvious stuff about climate change and the importance of teaching good science and so on, but as so many other things that are obvious in the rest of the industrialized world (where abortion, the dealth penalty, gun control, socialized health care, and many other hot topics in the US are not even an issue, are not argued by the extremes of the right or left wing), they're very contentious in the US.

I lie back and imagined that this guy might soon find himself in a country more like the one he left, where (as [livejournal.com profile] matgb pointed out), a Tory front bench spokesman just admitted to being an atheist on national TV. What would it take?

A lot. I sighed. It seems impossible really, but of course such paradigm shifts always do.

But then I started thinking of another newspaper article I read yesterday, about the demise of religion, specifically Christianity, in Canada and a feminist explanation for the reason it declined so suddenly in the '60s.
It is impossible to refute or underemphasize the fact that religion was suddenly confronted in the 1960s by changes in the social construct of gender and a resulting severing of the centuries-old linkage between Christian piety and femininity.

Women — the traditional mainstays of institutional religion — in huge numbers abruptly rejected the church's patriarchal exemplar of them as chaste, submissive "angels in the house" with all of the social and moral responsibility for community and family but none of the authority.

Unable to find acceptable religious role models or religious ideals that were not painful or oppressive, they reconstructed their identities as secular and sexual beings...Birth control gave them the deliberate choice to be sexual, to move out of enslavement to fertility, to delay and limit the size of families. Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae (On The Regulation of Birth), shocked even loyal Canadian Catholics by upholding the church's ban on contraception.
He makes a very good point, and from personal experience I can confirm that my dislike of the Cathollic Church goes all the way back to the fact that I learned at an early age that it had no interesting career opportunities for me even if I'd wanted them.

But there's something else that's occurred to me now in the context of thinking about what it would take for America to be like that. Because my first thought on imagining a religionless (or at least less-religioned) US was not about the sad disappearance of potlucks but about a neighbor of mine (well, of my parents now of course) who died of brain cancer a couple of years ago. And my own family when my dad didn't have a job for a couple of years. And millions, surely, of other Americans who have benefitted from bags of groceries, like we got, or benefit suppers to help pay for medical bills, like our neighbor got. Much of that sort of thing is organized by churches. "Faith-based" organizations are responsible for a big chunk of the volunteer work and chartiable giving done in America.

I didn't think, until now when I thought it strange that I hadn't thought of it, about any kind of mystical or metaphysical impact the loss of a churchgoing, theistic population, I just thought about what it would mean for me... or people like me, since I'm not there any more. As long as unemployed people and ill people are shat upon by the USian government, as long as there's a dearth of non-religious do-gooding (by the government as much as individuals! see "whatever happened to New Orleans"), churches will try to fill that vacuum.

My knowledge of all history everywhere is extremely vague, but when I read about the religious sea change in Canada in the 1960s, I couldn't help but think about the one other thing I do know about that place and time, which is Tommy Douglas. He's the Prometheus who brought socialized medicine to Canada. It seems obvious but it wasn't mentioned in the article, and I'm sure it's a gross oversimplification on my part, to think that people were less interested in church as secular institutions were developed to take care of everybody. But I'm sure of the benefit suppers for people with cancer, the mass food-shelf donations, the sense of community that is one of my favorite things about coming from where I do, and it's all based on churches, on organized religion.

Of course all that stuff is possible without religion, and of course USians with no religion can rely on other social networks of friends and family... but until a better governmental safety net comes in to place for the sick, poor, unemployed, etc., I wouldn't blame USians for keeping up with their god-bothering.

Sweet time

Dec. 14th, 2007 10:00 am
hollymath: (holly)
I remember very distinctly sitting in a Lutheran church and wishing I could have Hinduism instead.

I think it must have been for Easter (it was definitely my mom's church, and we were only there for some Easters and Christmases and other days when my mom sang in the choir (and only then if we'd managed to go to my dad's church earlier or the night before, beause Lutheranism just Doesn't Count in the way Catholicism does, you know)) and I think I was in junior high. That's when I somehow started to get the vaguest notion that there were other supernatural traditions in the world; I had to write a report about one of them for school, and I picked Hinduism because George was my favorite Beatle at the time.

One of the reasons I always knew I was a terrible Christian was that I absolutely adore my life.

The leader of the Bible study I went to for a while in college told us after reading some passage about how great heaven is that she's "a heaven junkie," that her husband laughs at her for being so excited about it. I've always been the opposite, and in this one instance never managed to accept the party line about the world being full of sin and ugly things and we should focus on the next and perfect one. Of course my life was far from perfect and I was well-aware that the world is even further... but I still love it. I love gluttony and sloth and, when I finally found out about it, lust. I love the way my mom's perfume smells and I love listening to music and I love baking cookies.

I remember, trying to get into the spirit of things, telling myself that heaven would be like listening to my favorite music all the time, but it didn't work. Not even for a second. Heaven was just too scarily unknown. Would my family be there? What about my friends? This was tricky first of all because it depended on whether I believed my mom's church, which maintains that you're "saved by faith and not by works," and my dad's, which seems to think that you're saved by going to church all the time, giving them money, and telling a guy in a box the size of a phone booth all of your sins. But whichever option I went for, or even if I allowed both, things weren't looking great for most of my loved ones, and that meant things weren't looking great for me: How could I be happy without them? I didn't know then what I do know — how deeply it affects me to be even this far away from them for even this long — but I knew enough to wonder how I could even be me without them.

This reward-in-heaven thing has kinda backfired on me. I can see now how it appealed to centuries of medieval peasants and African slaves and so on, who found things irrevcably dire and needed something to keep them from going crazy, and the revenge of a life lived well isn't bad, even if it has to be a future supernatural life. But not only do I not need that to hope for, I don't even want it. I'm quite happy with my life as it is, thanks. I'm nowhere near finished with my enjoyment of all the sights, smells, textures, tastes, sounds and ideas that this world has to offer me.

My time thinking of myself as a Christian (thanks mostly to the efforts of falling in with the charismatic Christians in high school because no one else would talk to me until my senior year) was during a year or two either side of the year 2000, so I heard a lot of millenarial apocalyptic stuff, and it never failed to give me the creeps. Not just the "well we can hope for nuclear war in the Middle East becaue it fits in with Revelations..." stuff but even the more general, painless "rapture" scenarios were unsettling to think about.

The world ending (whether through God's benevolence or humans' stupidity) before I'd had time to get sick of it seemed as much a tragedy as it would be to get run over by a bus. Indeed: far more so, because the world ending would put everybody under a bus (even the bus drivers!) at the same time. Whether by bus or Rapture didn't matter to me; I'd be done with this world forever, and I didn't want that.

That's why I found myself in church one day wishing that I was allowed to believe in reincarnation.

The possibility of not knowing and thus appreciating the future reincarnations did occur to me, but I was sure that if I retained anything of my "essence" I would still appreciate the next go-round with the same attitude I had this tiime. Then I realized that I might already be reincarnated and didn't know it, and that thought made me so dizzy I would have needed to sit down if I hadn't been already sitting, in a pew not really listening to a sermon about how lucky Jesus was because he really did get to come back to life and walk around with his friends.

I wouldn't have fared much better among Hindus or Buddhists anyway; as I was only vaguely aware at the time, those worldviews don't think much more of this familiar life than Christianity does, so reincarnation is just endless repetition of worldly suffering, to be eventually escaped by enlightenment.

So I'm still thinking like I always did, trying my best to make the most of all the time I have to see and smell and hear and taste and touch, without trying to warp myself into a certain state of mind about heaven or possible future lives as ants or penguins ... or, knowing the future, androids and brains in jars.

Not really relatedly, I was thinking of the future last night. I was thinking of being very old a nd sitting with Andrew in a room full of books, in front of a fireplace. We weren't talking, possibly reading. I thought When we're like that, I'm never going to think You know, I kissed him far too much. No, I'm going to think I never kissed him enough.

So I kissed him, lightly, on the mouth. We were lying in bed facing each other. I gave him many more tiny kisses in rapid succession, until I was smiling too much to do it properly. "I'm making up for lost kisses," I explained.

I have a lot of catching up to do, I think. I feel like I've missed out on a lot of such things. It still makes me sad that for the entirety of our marriage, I've spent a lot of time being too unwell, too tired, too uncomfortable, or just uninterested in much more than hugging. I've been frustrated at the times I thought I wanted sex but my body didn't seem to agree, and frustrated again at my inability to explain to Andrew that I could want and not-want something at the same time. His patience and evident happiness with even cuddles has always made me feel wonderfully loved and cared for, and I try to remind myself I don't have an entitlement to be happy, but it's hard not to expect that as a newlywed.

This is one of many times that I can say "I don't know how to think about this, because the movies haven't told me." There are stories about true love conquering all and there are stories about marriages that are miserable from the beginning, but not many about this odd combination I find myself in. My husband and I love each other more than I've ever seen anyone love anyone else... but my wedding arrived in the midst of a depressing period of my life and even though it's one of the reasons I've been able to claw my way back to functionality and moments of contentment since then, my marriage still isn't as happy as I expected it to be. And it's hard not to wish it was and throw a tantrum at the unfairness of it. Of, yes, my life not being like a movie. I'm like that.

I realize this doesn't mesh well with all the stuff I just said about how much better my life is than any stories religion has to offer me. But maybe the juxtaposition is what caused me not to flagellate myself any more over my illness and my unairbrushed life. Those things create plenty of misery on their own, thanks very much; I don't need to fret over it until I've made myself into an oyster slathering layers of dark lacquer over this tiny original bit of misery until I have myself an unavoidably gigantic, diseased pearl.

Buggre Alle This for a Larke, as a certain holy book said.

I don't know why I couldn't think so before, and why it suddenly made sense to do so just then, but I thought it was noteworthy. Don't waste time moaning and fretting about time wasted. It can be a hard feedback loop to kick — like when you know you need to get to sleep, and you fret about how late it's getting, and the fretting keeps you from sleeping — but suddenly I could tell myself HURRY UP, DO THE THINGS YOU'RE GOING TO WISH YOU'D DONE. AND SHUT UP!

And it worked. Hence all the kisses. Andrew kept being afraid I was crying even though I was happy, and eventually had to tell me to stop so he could get some sleep.

The other noteworthy thing about last night: I don't remember ever thinking so happily about the future before, specifically with Andrew.

I can't find a way to say this that doesn't make him sound bad, but trust me it's not meant that way. He was sure, from very early on in our relationship, that he definitely loved me and always would. I was honest with him: I've never trusted myself to think anything "forever" (cf.); perhaps because my life's been in so much flux the last several years and I feel I've changed a lot as a direct result. High-school me would hardly recognize me now and I'm not sure what she'd think.

I could honestly tell Andrew that I didn't see any reason my feelings for him would change, I don't think it's likely... but I wasn't going to pretend to promise undying love, or undying anything. And that was fine with him: indeed, he's said many times that it's irrelevant to how he feels about me, and that even if I left him, even if I killed his family or burned his books or continue to refuse to watch Doctor Who with him he will still love me. His intensity continues to amaze, amuse, and concern me in equal measure.

But last night, just like the other obvious stuff noted above, it suddenly made sense to want Andrew around as much as I want food and sleep and music and everything else I love — it's good company, but of course he belongs in it — and for the same reason: because even too much is never enough for me.

Yes, it's an opinion that most people apparently come to before they want to get married... or if nothing else by the time they say it in the wedding vows (if they're anything like ours anyway, which ended "until death parts us"). But I'm glad I never pretended to have that kind of "forever" feeling then, or else I'd have just made a revelation that was expected of me years ago so I couldn't even tell you all about it. Now I can enjoy it when it gets here, in its own sweet time.
hollymath: (magnadoodle)
When I was very little, I was sure that they were saying that Jesus died in Calgary. (This was probably not helped by the fact that the Olympics were being held in Calgary around this time. I would've just turned six then.)

It made a lot of sense to my small self that Jesus is Canadian: a little bit weird, but still accessible. Still a pretty nice guy.
hollymath: (narrativium)
Oh, I accidentally volunteered myself for that tell-me-about-your-interests meme, so here's what [livejournal.com profile] idiomagic wants to know about.

amor et hilaritas Love and cheerfulness. A phrase associated with Robert Anton Wilson, from whom I learned it. For someone who spent a lot of time talking about science and the future and brains and everything, it's refreshingly accessible for little old me, always running on emotion and intuition.

ascorbate Well timed! I was just thinking today that I'm a brilliant poster child for the effects of Vitamin C (another name for ascorbate). When I'm taking enough -- at least a few grams every hour, but I think it was more like 4-6 an hour for most of yesterday -- I feel pretty well, if a bit lethargic. When I'm not, like when I'm sleeping or today when I've had the attention span of a brain-damaged goldfish and keep forgetting, I'm snotty, sneezy, coughing, and sore-throated. The effect is dramatic, and that's just on a simple cold. I've read many books by Andrew's uncle, Steve Hickey, and they make a lot of sense to me, but all I really care about is that when I'm sick vitamin C makes me better, faster. As fast as I let it, really -- you need many doses at regular intervals to keep the levels in your blood high enough, especially when you've got any kind of infection or disease -- and when I slip back the cold moves forward, like lines on a general's map of the battle. And since my nose is running again, before I write any more I'm going to go get a few more grams before I forget.

foot-shaped noodles One of many now-fossilized in-jokes embedded in my interests list (some of them so "in" that I think only I know about them). Maybe four years ago now, [livejournal.com profile] comradexavier went through a phase where he went around calling everything noodles. I'm pretty sure that once when he was stuck waiting for me to get out of class or something, he wrote a program that took whatever input you gave it and said "this noodle is ____-shaped" (I remember him trying it out on my roommates, who supplied suggestions like "orange" or "student" or whatever and were amazed to see "this noodle is student-shaped"). I think he actually wrote on my foot, carelessly placed too close to him while watching the History Channel or something, THIS NOODLE IS FOOT-SHAPED, in his tiny perfect handwriting.

headology Granny Weatherwax is one of my favorite characters in Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, and it's largely because of her "headology." She is a very powerful witch with a fearsome reputation, but most of that comes not from turning people into toads but from headology. Headology is what she calls her ability to manage people's expectations so she doesn't have to use magic. As Wikipedia says,
It has been said that the difference between headology and psychiatry is that, were you to approach either with a belief that you were being chased by a monster, a psychiatrist will convince you that there are no monsters coming after you, whereas a headologist will hand you a bat and a chair to stand on.
I think the appeal is related to my affection for the first and most wonderful thing I learned from Pratchett and/or Neil Gaiman: the gods are as real as we think they are, magic is as good as its effects.

narrativium Another Discworld idea (the genesis of this icon), though this one I mostly learned from the Science of Discworld books, by Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart. Instead of trying to explain it myself, I'll just tell you what they said:
Discworld runs on magic, and magic is indissoluably linked to Narrative Causality, or the power of story. A spell is a story about what a person wants to happen, and magic is what turns stories into reality. On Discworld, things happne because people expect them to....

On Discworld, the eighth son of an eighth son must become a wizard. There's no escaping the power of story: the outcome is inevitable. Even if, as in Equal Rites, the eighth son of an eighth son is a girl. Great A'Tuin the turthle must swm through space with four elephants on its back and the entire Discworld on top of them, because that's what a world-bearing turtle has to do. The narrative structure demands it. Moreover, on Discworld everything that there is* exists as a thing. To use the philosopher's language, concepts are reified, made real. Death is not just a process of cessation and decay: he is also a person, a skeleton with a cloak and scythe, and he TALKS LIKE THIS. On Discworld, the narrative imperative is reified into a substance: narrativium. Narativium is an element, like sulphur or hydrogen or uranium. Its symbol ought to be something like Na, but thanks to a bunch of ancient Italians that's already reserved for sodium (so much for So). So it's probably Nv, or given what they did to sodium, Zq. Be that as it may, narrativium is an element on Discworld, so it llives somewhere in the Disc's analogue of Dmitri Mendeleev's periodic table.

* and some things that there aren't such as Dark
—Ian Stewart & Jack Cohen,
The Science of Discworld II
I think stories are about the most interesting things ever, thanks to those books I consciously consider them the best way to think about the world and how I relate to it.

shambolism Only recently did I get around to looking up the word shambolic.

adj. Chiefly British Slang
Disorderly or chaotic:

Seems perfect for me. I've never heard it used as a noun before, but shambolism sounded good. It sounds like a cult or something.

(Ha, imagine that; a cult based on disorder and chaos!)

unitarian jihad Pretty much all there is to say about that is this.
Beware! Unless you people shut up and begin acting like grown-ups with brains enough to understand the difference between political belief and personal faith, the Unitarian Jihad will begin a series of terrorist-like actions. We will take over television studios, kidnap so-called commentators and broadcast calm, well-reasoned discussions of the issues of the day. We will not try for "balance" by hiring fruitcakes; we will try for balance by hiring non-ideologues who have carefully thought through the issues.

Too long has your attention been waylaid by the bright baubles of extremist thought. Too long have fundamentalist yahoos of all religions (except Buddhism -- 14-5 vote, no abstentions, fundamentalism subcommittee) made your head hurt. Too long have you been buffeted by angry people who think that God talks to them. You have a right to your moderation! You have the power to be calm! We will use the IED of truth to explode the SUV of dogmatic expression!

People of the United States! We are Unitarian Jihad! We can strike without warning. Pockets of reasonableness and harmony will appear as if from nowhere! Nice people will run the government again! There will be coffee and cookies in the Gandhi Room after the revolution.
Though neglect not the Unitarian Jihad name generator; that's how I got the name Sister Howitzer of Courteous Debate, which I used on my LJ for a long time.
hollymath: (Default)
I've taken the golden apple off my necklace for the moment, but the St. Christopher medal still catches people's attention. Yesterday at work somebody beamed at me and said "You are a Christian!" I sort of smiled. "You go to church?" he said.

"Um..." I said. "Sometimes." (Well it's true! I was in a church on Saturday! Also on Thursday, if only to dust it.)

"Which church do you go to?"

Gah! I didn't know what to say. I don't really go to church these days, but then I can't blame them for thinking so if I go around wearing a Catholic good-luck charm.

Shoulda said this!


May. 7th, 2007 05:53 pm
hollymath: (magnadoodle)
I was telling Andrew a few days ago about how I stumbled upon a Unitarian church near us.

I said I liked Unitarians "because they don't mind so much about believing in God and stuff, they just believe in ..." and here I meant to say something about support and community and stuff ... but was too lazy to even try to articulate it, so I just said


I can't speak for them really, but now that I think about it, that's what I believe in. Everybody, regardless of race or creed, should have access to the holy power ofpotluck.
hollymath: (Default)
On Friday at work someone asked me "What's that on your chest?"


"Your necklace."

"Oh! Uh..."

My necklace is a tarnished silver chain with one wonky link. I wear it all the time. There are two charms on it because I don't really want to be parted from either of them.

The first is a St. Christopher medal that [livejournal.com profile] kalieris sent me after I mentioned, on a whim, wanting one. It, as her comment says, belonged to her mother. The back already looked slightly bent and dented when I got it; better than new. I think I have added a little dent or two myself since then. I've not taken it off, except to replace the chain, since I got it. And at my wedding I wore the necklace that matched my earrings but put the St. Christopher medal around one of my ankles.

I first thought of it because I wanted to keep something of my brother nearby; this has his name on it. It's the best I can do, the best I've thought of so far. But even before I got it in the mail, tucked inside a Christmas card in the tiniest ziploc bag ever, I was already finding other good reasons to appreciate it.

There's the petites-madeleines aspect for me, especially for Catholic iconography, largely because of my grandmother.

Then there's Christopher being the patron saint of travellers. Considering I was only a few weeks away from getting married and thus moving to another country, I thought that couldn't hurt.

Also I found it interesting that he's possibly not a real person at all, and certainly not named Christopher (the only reason he caught my attention now) anyway. The name he had before accidentally ferrying Jesus across a river, Reprebus or Reprobus, simply means "wicked person", so saying that Reprobus became Christopher amounts to saying "A wicked person became a Christian."

Also in the comments to that entry linked above, Andrew told me Christopher was "excommunicated" when the Roman Catholic church weeded out some mythunderstandings and suchlike from their sainted canon ... and that he, along with all the other fictional saints, was adopted by the Discordians. Wikipedia tells me it's a common misconception that Christopher's no longer a saint, but I'm happy that he's been tainted by Discordians anyway.

Which brings me neatly to the other pendant on the chain. It's sort of teardrop shaped, like half a yin-yang, but instead of a dot in the middle it has a golden apple with a K on it. It's half of the Sacred Chao (pronounced like "cow"; a chao being a single unit of chaos). [livejournal.com profile] soltice and I bought the charms for each other for Christmas last year, as you can read about here. She describes her half thus:
In Discordia, the Pentagon refers to logic in general and specifically The Law of Fives. The Law asserts that all things happen in fives, and all things are divisible or multiples of five. The trick of this law is perception: If you look for a thing, you'll find it everywhere. Just as if you look for a particular car on the road you'll see if everywhere, if you look for a particular number you'll see it everywhere. In the context of the discussion, this was a personal joke on me. If I look for proof or disproof of something related to myself (gender, sexuality, general self-worth), I'll find it everywhere. Such proof is an illusion. It's a psychological trick the mind plays on itself. I'm only now beginning to realize this, and I often slip into my old ways. In my friendship and relationship with her she's been an encouraging voice for me to go and live life, rather than continue to tie myself down with responsibilities and proofs.
I got the apple because I have been chaosifying her. Also because it is the only half left after she's taken hers.

I thought about all of this very fast and answered, "It's ... religious."

"Oh," the person said. "Are you religious?"

Well, no. Actually.

I'm going to make sure it's tucked into my shirt before I leave the house again.


Jan. 6th, 2007 10:59 pm
hollymath: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] ivana_duboise just asked me if I'd heard about the congressman being sworn in on the Quran. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] ludickid I could say I had! I get all my news from LJ. Then he mentioned that a Buddhist congresswoman used no book at all! None of you told me about that, so I didn't know it.

"After hearing the bit about the Qur'an," he then said, "I thought that if I was ever being sworn into office I would have a stack of philosophy texts."

I grinned. A very Darren idea. "No French ones, I hope," I teased.

"Just a bit of Sartre. Maybe Voltaire. Definitely Kafka. Kant. Bentham. I'd probably just have to throw in Swift too."

I thought it was a good list, so I read it out to Andrew. He complained that Kafka wasn't really a philosopher, which didn't surprise me. But then he announced something that did, "I would use Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?!" That made me laugh.

So now I wanna know what books you'd swear on. I'm afraid I'm of the boring no-books school, and I'm sure you can do better than that. I'm stealing [livejournal.com profile] crocodilewings's answer: the OED. I don't think you can better than that, even with a Superman comic.

P.S. [livejournal.com profile] ivana_duboise also just bought me a microphone, so I can do Skype now. Lemme know if you want to talk.


Aug. 7th, 2006 09:24 pm
hollymath: (Default)
I stood by the toaster in the break room, but watched pita bread never toasts and as a temp worker I have a deep aversion to appearing anything other than busy, and the habit doesn't wear off just because this is my lunch break.

So I leaned on the counter. I scrutinized my surroundings, surely a vital task that I can perform better than anyone else. To my right, the fruit magnanimously provided for us had been thoroughly picked over, as it always is long before lunch time; only the most bruised apples and lousy oranges remain. To my left, the light bulb in the microwave shone on nothing because someone left its door open.

As I turned my attention back to the toaster, I caught a glimpse of a sign on the wall.



I know the Premises team has other signs dotted around (IF YOU ARE THE LAST PERSON TO LEAVE THIS FLOOR, PLEASE TURN OFF THE LIGHTS), and yet something about this one gives me, for a nanosecond, the crazy idea that this is a Bible quote. Blame my atrocious peripheral vision, having just read The Chyrsalids, the fact that some (but not all) of it's red, or the way Premises looks like a combination of Proverbs and Genesis and the extension number doesn't look so different from chapter and verse citations.

At first I was annoyed at having the kind of brain that imagines such stuff, but by the time I was escaping this hot, smelly room with my pita bread and red pepper hummus, I realized I might have to like, at least a little bit, a religion whose genesis or proverbs include Wipe Out the Microwave after You Have Used It, whose ostensible originator is on record as saying Don't leave your mess for the next person to clean up.
hollymath: (apple)
"I liked the second one best," Andrew said as we made our way back to the train station. (I personally appreciated the last one most, enjoying the Scouse Jesus and his two lovely assistants, who played Peter and Paul a bit like Michael Keaton plays Dogberry. I was also quite fond of the props, especially the tree and the ass.)

The second one was most of the creation story, up to Day 5. "God should be an old beardy Yorkshireman," he elaborated. I grinned. I think that was the least-derogatory thing he said about Yorkshire all day.

It reminded me of contemplating the lyrics to "The Blacksmith and the Toffee-Maker," after Andrew pointed it out in his recent Jake Thackray article. At first, conscious of how telling accents are in Britain, I wondered Wouldn't the toffee-maker suspect something was up when "God" had a Yorkshire accent? But even before the thought was fully formed, I was scoffing at it. Something gives me the idea that people in Yorkshire would only get suspicious if He didn't.


Nov. 30th, 2005 10:26 am
hollymath: (holly)
I wonder if I, though entirely not Catholic these days, might like a St. Christopher medal.

I realized that I don't know anything about Christopher except that he has the same name as my brother and is on medallions, so I thought I'd look him up.

Turns out he's either a giant or ogre, eighteen feet tall, or a cannibal with the head of a dog, of enormous size and terrifying demeanor.

Yes, I definitely think I like this guy.

He's also the patron saint of travelers. And if I am anything these days, it is a traveler.

Oh, it seems he's invoked against bubonic plague, too. Something to keep in mind.


hollymath: (Default)

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