Friday, May 31, 2013

Isaiah 39-66

Isaiah 56:6-7
Also the sons of the foreigner
Who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him,
And to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants --
Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath,
And holds fast My covenant --
Even them I will bring to My holy mountain,
And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
Will be accepted on My altar;
For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.

Hey, look! The Old Testament God is talking about the salvation and righteousness of gentiles!

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

People like to talk about the Old Testament God and the New Testament God (as i facetiously did above). The truth is, God is God. "I am that I am." Remember that the Bible was written by human beings, who were influenced by the culture and time period that they lived in. I had a class in my freshman year where the professor (now my pastor) used to remind us every day that the things we say about God reveal a lot more about us than they do about God.

So the things that the authors of the Old Testament said about God said a lot more about the authors than they did about God, and the same goes for the New Testament. That's why it's important to read the whole Bible, multiple times, and to talk about it with others, and read commentaries and scholarly works on it: it is still possible to learn truths about God from the Bible, but you've gotta take everything in it with a grain of salt.

This passage, however, is a good example of how God's nature is eternal and unchanging. In fact, all of Isaiah is a pretty good book to read to help people untangle their understanding of OT and NT God. We see God repeating Himself a lot, and those messages are generally good ones to pay close attention to.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Isaiah 5-38

Here's the thing about the Prophets: i have a hard time reading them without a good commentary or footnotes or something. Here's the thing about my current devotional practice: i'm using a very cute, very portable NKJV Bible that i've had since i was three, and while it does have a handful of Precious Moments illustrations, it does not have footnotes. I mean, it has the normal ones where the translator is like, "This word might mean "bread" or "son" or "hawk". I picked "hawk", but, y'know. FYI," but it doesn't have detailed, scholarly notes about historical and cultural context. I have a Bible that does, but it's huge and heavy because in addition to the copious footnotes it has chapter essays and maps and shit. So it's awesome for studying, but it weighs a ton and would require a small suitcase to lug around. Right now, i value portability. When i finish my current cycle of devotions and start a new one, i am planning to switch Bibles, but for now i'm floundering in the prophets alone.

Here's the thing about Isaiah: it is so full of prophesies about Jesus that i have a hard time reading the actual words and not the lyrics of Handel's Messiah. The first few times you read the Messianic prophecies, it's kind of cool, because of the dramatic irony and whatnot, and you can pick through and find little Easter eggs of information in there, and you feel so smart and educated and excited about how awesome things are about to get for the world. But once you've heard a few dozen sermons on these prophecies, plus a few dozen sermons on how Jesus fit them, plus a few dozen on why the Israelites didn't realize that Jesus fit them, plus read the entire Bible all the way through ten or fifteen times, it's a lot harder to care. And yeah, you still like the writing and the poetry, but the substance becomes very difficult to access. Which is why i struggle so much in my personal devotions: i've been doing this for twenty years now. How much more can i learn about this?

So i go through seasons. Sometimes i'm reading the Bible and finding new and cool things and getting excited every day, and sometimes i'm reading the Bible and thinking, "Well, i can check this off the to-do list for the day." And i'm sliding back toward the chore-like end of the spectrum right now.

All of that to say, in over 30 chapters of Isaiah, this is what i have:

Isaiah 29:8
It shall even be as when a hungry man dreams,
And look -- he eats;
But he awakes, and his soul is still empty;
Or as when a thirsty man dreams,
And look -- he drinks;
But he awakes, and indeed he is faint,
And his soul still craves:
So the multitude of all the nations shall be,
Who fight against Mount Zion.

Isaiah 29:11-12
The whole vision has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one who is literate, saying, "Read this, please"; and he says, "I cannot, for it is sealed."
Then the book is delivered to one who is illiterate, saying, "Read this, please"; and he says, "I am not literate."

Monday, May 20, 2013

theme: err on the side of caution?

1. I recently told my boyfriend that i wanted to be an English teacher to stop people from making shitty "art" that incorrectly references Romeo and Juliet. Two prime examples are Twilight and Taylor Swift. Bella, who we know is super smart and sensitive because she reads lots of depressing literature and compares her life to it, is particularly fond of Wuthering Heights and Romeo and Juliet references. Because apparently, neither she nor Stephenie Meyer noticed that in WH, the main characters are two spectacularly shitty people who make each other and everyone else they encounter bitter and miserable. And they don't end up together. And in R&J, the two main characters impulsively get married, and then impulsively kill themselves (seriously, Romeo, if you had waited like thirty seconds, you would have lived happily ever after!). You can't exactly call it a great love story, not if you're paying attention. In Taylor Swift's song "Love Story", she outlines a story that is superficially similar to R&J (and also throws in a confusing Scarlet Letter allusion), and the whole point of the song is that her dad didn't like her boyfriend so they were just like Romeo and Juliet and then Romeo proposes and her dad is cool with it and they live happily ever after.
So for everyone whose English teacher did a crappy job teaching this play, let me clear something up: if your relationship reminds you of Romeo and Juliet, THAT IS A RED FLAG. GET OUT NOW.
This post from Cliff Pervocracy underlines that point, although from a slightly different angle. Teenagers in love make terrible decisions, and a parent who tries to stop those decisions is not a bad person. Ignore Twilight. Ignore Taylor Swift. Romeo and Juliet are not good role models. Teenagers of the world, frustrated affection will not actually kill you. Impulsivity might.

2. I've posted a few times about how i'm in this awesome relationship and it's really confusing, because i've never dated someone for this long before and we're not engaged now and won't be any time soon, so i have no idea how to just keep being someone's girlfriend. I'm not struggling to patch holes in a failing relationship, i'm not flushed with new love, i'm not desperately seeking an excuse to break up. I'm deeply in long-term love in a strong relationship and i don't know what the hell to do about it. I know how to get into relationships and i know how to leave them, but the basic daily maintenance of relationships is hard and new and confusing. I'm glad i'm not the only one who feels that way.

3. This is a 

  • graphic novel
  • written by a woman
  • about food
  • that includes recipes.
So basically, it was designed with me in mind.

4. In the last election, we spent a lot of time talking about rape, because some legitimate medical doctors who specialize in women's reproductive health and some legitimate lawyers who specialize in rape cases explained to us all that there are different kinds of rape, and that one of them can never result in pregnancy, so we need to stop using that excuse to justify abortions. Oh wait, actually, what happened was a bunch of idiot politicians accused women of making false rape claims and also demonstrated a profound misunderstanding of how biology works.
In the aftermath, i had a conversation with a well-meaning friend who pointed out that women do sometimes falsely accuse men of rape, and it really sucks for the men. Back then, i was less educated about rape culture than i am now, but i did know that a woman who cries rape, whether true or not, will be blamed and doubted and questioned and ridiculed, and a man accused of rape, whether true or not, will be defended. I said then that i'd rather live in a world where women feel comfortable reporting rape, even if that means that men are sometimes falsely accused, than in a world where women who really have been raped are afraid to come forward because they think no one will believe them, even if that means that no man is ever falsely accused. Or, as Cliff puts it, "I'd rather live in a world where a hundred false accusers are told 'I believe you, I care about you, and I'll stand up for you,' than where one rape survivor is told 'gosh, this story has two sides and I really need to consider him innocent until proven guilty.'"

5. "Maybe I'm a fatalist, but I think that if someone wants to cheat on me, they'll cheat. If they don't want to cheat on me, they can go to a skinny-dipping-and-soapy-Twister party with thirty-eight beautiful single women and not cheat. But trying to keep them from cheating by having weird rules (other than "don't cheat on me") about who they can associate with -- that falls somewhere between creepy and downright abusive in my book."

6. I love this outline of consent culture, especially the conclusion, where Cliff draws a parallel between different types of consent violation. Now, i absolutely DO NOT want to suggest, or to imply that Cliff has suggested, that someone making you dance or go to a bar or give them a hug or whatever is the same as being raped. I do want to affirm, as Cliff points out, that we can't arbitrarily decide that "no" counts in some circumstances and not in others. It's not okay to force sex on someone who says no. It's also not okay to force alcohol on someone who says no. It's not okay to force a hug on someone who says no. It's not okay to force socialization on someone who says no. And it IS okay to say no to anything that you're not totally enthusiastic about.

7. I will definitely be keeping this in mind when it's time to talk to my own kids about sex.

8. Even if all you read is the title of this post, it makes a great point. Because here's the thing: if someone calls you racist, they are either right or wrong. Right? Either you are being racist or you are not. If they are wrong, you probably won't get anywhere by arguing with them. They are confused, or over-sensitive, or they misunderstood something, or whatever. You can apologize, and you can ask what was offensive in your statement, and hopefully the ensuing conversation will clear up their misunderstanding. And if not, oh well. But if they honestly think you are being racist, even if they are wrong, you arguing with them is unlikely to change their mind. And if they are right, if you are being racist, arguing with them will definitely not help your case. Instead, you can apologize and ask what was offensive in your statement, and hopefully the ensuing conversation will clear up your misunderstanding. Oh hey, look at how the recommended plan of action is the same in either instance!
I can't speak for anyone else, but i know that i personally will occasionally surprise myself with a racist thought or feeling. I'm not, like, actively racist; i don't burn crosses or wear a white sheet or petition for re-segregation or anything like that, but i do occasionally discover an underlying assumption that i wasn't even aware of. It's helpful to have these things pointed out to me, because that's how i learn that they exist and can start working to eliminate them.
It doesn't feel good to realize that you are racist. It doesn't feel good to have someone of a different race point out that you are racist against them. But i'm guessing that it probably doesn't feel that great to be non-white and to live in a white-dominant culture where most people you meet will be a little bit racist toward you at least once. I'm guessing it doesn't feel great to live in a culture where everything you are is Other and everything you're not is normal. I'm guessing it doesn't feel great to see institutionalized racism all around you, so deeply ingrained into everyday life that a lot of people don't even notice it. And i'm guessing it doesn't feel great to gently point out some of these racist things and have people get all upset and tell you that you're wrong and you need to be less sensitive. As above with the false rape accusations thing, i'd rather have an overly sensitive non-white person tell me every day that something i did or said was racist, even if they are wrong, than to have even one thing that i say or do or thing cause pain to someone else.

Also, i've repeatedly said here that the person accusing you of racism might be wrong or overly sensitive, but the chances of that being true are pretty slim. If you say something about Black (or Asian, or Hispanic, etc.) people and a Black (or Asian, or Hispanic, etc.) person tells you that it is a racist thing to say, they are almost definitely correct. And even if the thoughts and feelings underlying your statement were truly not racist, it's pretty clear that you didn't express yourself clearly, so aren't you glad to learn that your words are unclear and to have a chance to clarify your statements?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Proverbs 19-31, Ecclesiastes 1-12, Song of Solomon 1-8, Isaiah 1-4

Proverbs 20:5
Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water,
But a man of understanding will draw it out.

This is such a beautiful image. I think even if i weren't a Christian, i'd love the Bible for its brilliant metaphors.

Proverbs 25:17
Seldom set foot in your neighbor's house,
Lest he become weary of you and hate you.

As an introvert, i may have just found my life verse.

Ecclesiastes 11:3-8
If the clouds are full of rain,
They empty themselves upon the earth;
And if a tree falls to the south or the north,
In the place where the tree falls, there it shall lie.
He who observes the wind will not sow,
And he who regards the clouds will not reap.

As you do not know what is the way of the wind,
Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child,
So you do not know the works of God who makes all things.
In the morning sow your seed,
And in the evening do not withhold your hand;
For you do not know which will prosper,
Either this or that,
Or whether both alike will be good.

Truly the light is sweet,
And it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun;
But if a man lives many years
And rejoices in them all,
Yet let him remember the days of darkness,
For they will be many.
All that is coming is vanity.

The word in Ecclesiastes, translated here as "vanity", has been translated into a different word or phrase in pretty much every version of the Bible that exists. Some get closer than others, but none really hit the target. But i think this whole passage here does a pretty good job of explaining the concept: Things happen as they happen. The world keeps turning. There are cycles and patterns to life. Do your best with what you have and know that nothing lasts.

I'd also love to forcibly tattoo this passage on the chest of anyone who comments on tragedies, especially natural disasters, by suggesting that they were "God's wrath" for the sins of those affected. If the clouds are full of rain,/They empty themselves upon the earth. That's just how it works. We don't know the way of the wind or the works of God, so we sow our seeds. Life goes on.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

food and faith and feminism and flove (i couldn't think of a "romance" word that started with an f.)

So my boyfriend and i were talking recently, and he made a comment about how my blog's voice has changed to a "feminist tirade". He has a point; i've become more aware of feminist theory and feminist issues lately, and i've been reading feminist blogs (four in particular, whose archives were amazing and from whom i have learned a lot). These things do color my writing, and of course when i am reading lots of feminist blogs all week long and then i do a weekly link roundup, there will be lots of feminist stuff in at least one post every week.

For those of you who have gotten tired of the "feminist tirade", rest assured: i'm about to start working my way through the archives of some cooking blogs. I'm also about to finish my year-long Bible-reading project and start a new Bible/spirituality reading project (more on that below). Both of these things will color my writing. How could they not?

For those of you who like the "feminist tirade", rest assured: that stuff isn't going to go away. I may have finished the archives, but i have added these blogs to my feedly, which means that while the concentration of feminism will be lowered, it will not be eliminated. I am a feminist, and therefore you could say that everything i write is feminist (whether or not it is a tirade is a little more subjective).

For those of you who haven't noticed any change . . . um, thanks for reading, i guess?

What to expect moving forward: Stuff about food. I'm changing the way i think about food, the way i shop, the way i cook, the way i talk about food. It's slow, and if you don't talk to me in person every day you might not even notice it, but i am trying to be more intentional about issues of food. I don't know how much of that will show up here or in what form (recipes and photos? links to other people's recipes and photos? rambling meditations on what i like to eat? mmmmmm, chocolate chip cookies . . .), but there will be more food stuff.

Also: stuff about God. I've always had God-ish posts here and there as something was on my mind, and in the past year i've tried to post at least once a week about my personal faith issues and feelings, and this will continue with a slightly different look and feel. I'm reading the Bible straight through again, but more slowly. I'm also reading more books of theology and philosophy (and i get to decide what counts as "theology and philosophy", so expect some "Year of Living Biblically" and "The Things They Carried" alongside of Henri Nouwen and "The King David Report"). Instead of posting journal entries about my Bible-reading thoughts, i'll be posting journal entries and prayers and meditations and reviews on everything spiritual i am reading and all of the thoughts and feelings i am having.

Also: stuff about my boyfriend. Because he is awesome and reads my blog and talks to me about stuff in my life and loves me and is good to me and is super snuggly and wonderful. But he's also internet-shy, so he won't be on here all the time and he won't be on here in any detail. Because i love him and try to be good to him as well.

Monday, May 13, 2013

numbers now? yes.

1. Oh, Cosmo. I stopped reading Cosmo when i realized that, far from the hundreds of brand-new sex tips promised on every cover, they really only have about six and rotate them with slight variations. (Suck on a piece of ice before giving oral! Suck on a Popsicle before giving oral! Chew a piece of ice before giving oral!) Also, brand-new sex tips? Something tells me that as long as there has been ice, people have been bringing it into the bedroom. Because if there is one area of scientific exploration that refuses to be held back by lack of government funding, it's ways to make your genitals feel good.

Here's a beautiful analysis of Cosmo's bizarre stance on human (wait, not human, female) sexuality:
"Your fantasy: Watching two women get it on
Why it revs you up: You know what it's like to be a woman but have no idea what a man experiences. So with only females in the picture, every kiss, touch, and lick is something you can relate to. Plus, girl-on-girl action is usually portrayed as more sensual.
Remember, kids, there's no such thing as bisexuality! Hell, I'm not sure there's such a thing as female sexuality at all; are you, like, attracted to people? That's pretty gross.

How to use it: To get more sensual lovin' from your guy, set the scene for it: Put on slow tunes, light a candle, and slip into delicate lingerie. He'll get the message that you want to take things slow.
That's right, kids, when you feel attracted to women, the best way to explore that desire is with a man. That'll keep ya on the straight and narrow.

Also note Cosmo's continuing dedication to not saying anything, but conveying the message entirely through set design and costuming. Because, let's face it, most guys would be pretty turned off by their girlfriend whispering in their ear, "I had a fantasy about two women and tonight you're going to do me nice and slow while I tell you allllll about it."

2. I'm honestly not sure what the point of this image is supposed to be. It's tagged "funny pictures"? I don't get it. But i do think it's interesting, for two reasons: look at the food in Mexico, Italy, and Australia, and compare it to the food in Britain, the US, and Germany. What i see in Mexico, Italy, and Australia is lots and lots of fresh produce (and in Australia, an unholy amount of red meat), compared to the huge piles of packages in Britain, the US, and Germany. Canada is almost entirely fresh food (including a whole fresh fish; no frozen fillets here, apparently!), Japan is mostly packages, and so forth. The second thing i notice is amounts. The family in Chad is six people with three large bags of what looks like grains, several smaller bags of what i guess are spices, and maybe half a gallon of water. Fifteen people in Mali have maybe twice as much food as the family in Chad, but it looks like they have more variety and maybe some fresh fruit. The family in Turkey, on the other hand, is only six people with two or three times as much food as the family in Chad, and it's almost entirely fresh fruit and vegetables. There's no caption or accompanying article, so i'm not totally confident in the take-away, but it is something to think about.

And on a totally unrelated note, i like that the family in Japan is watching TV.

3. If you have a few minutes (or hours, maybe) to kill, play with this website. It's mesmerizing, and after a few minutes you feel like a world-class artist.

4. Hey, look! Rape prevention advice that contains zero victim-blaming!

5. My whole perspective on gender has undergone a massive shift in the last few years. It's probably not done, because guess what? I'm a person, and we're allowed to learn new things and have new experiences and then change our minds based on that new knowledge. But right now, this is making a lot of sense to me.

"Imagine a big table with tons of dishes laid out. Some of them are physical traits, some of them are psychological. There's everything here from "big biceps" to "played with dolls as a child." And there are all traits here, not just things you'd associate with gender -- this is a table of traits, not of mixed up boy things and girl things. "Brown hair" and "likes classical music" are on there too.

Go ahead, load up your plate. Load it with anything.

And the really important thing here is that the dishes are not paired off. "Chest hair" and "breasts" are not a dichotomy. You can get one, or both, or neither. Ditto "watches pro wrestling" and "sews prom dresses". Certainly some dishes are popularly eaten together -- "penis" and "testicles" is a perennial favorite combo, and "penis" and "likes racecars" do seem to have some mysterious association -- but they're not locked together. It's possible and acceptable to have one and not the other."

6. I would watch the fuck out of these shows. Actually, i think "Bob Loves Luisa" is "Modern Family", and i do indeed watch the fuck out of that. Read the comments for even more awesome TV show ideas.

"In this hilarious family sitcom, the husband and wife genuinely understand and want to work with each other. One of their children is very intelligent and the other is very creative, and Bob and Luisa encourage them both to do what they love! Dramatic conflict arises from temporary misunderstandings and outside challenges, and is resolved through open -- but wacky -- communication and teamwork! Also there is a goofy next-door neighbor.

7. Allie Brosh is one of the best people in the world. Like, better than your mom, probably. I've been reading her blog, Hyperbole and a Half, for several years now. In October of 2011, she wrote a hilarious and touching (and slightly troubling) post about depression. And then she disappeared from the Internet. A post showed up on Reddit at one point where she explained that she was taking some time to get better and would be back when she could.

Finally, last week, she had healed enough to get back to work.

On a human level, i am so very proud of her for all the hard work she has done in her life. Being depressed is hard. Stopping being depressed is even harder. She is an incredible person, and i am so glad that she exists in my lifetime, that she has worked so hard and come so far. She is an inspiration to us all, and it is amazing to know that a human being can be as wonderful as she is.

On a personal level, HYPERBOLE AND A HALF IS BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!! With her trademark absurdist wit and wonderfully shitty artwork, Allie has chronicled her recent struggles. These posts should be taught in psych classes for all of eternity.

The part that resonated most with me was the fish metaphor.

"It would be like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge that the fish are dead. Instead, they offer to help you look for the fish or try to help you figure out why they disappeared."

Friday, May 10, 2013

Psalm 66-150, Proverbs 1-18

How long has it been between these posts? Two weeks? Whatever; i'm covered by the blood of the Lamb, right?

Moving on.

Psalm 139 is probably my favorite right now. Poetically, i hate it; or rather, i hate the author, because he beat me to this. I wanted to write this psalm, and i've tried to a couple of times, but he already stole all of the ideas. Other poets suck, and i love them for it.

Full disclosure: one time, i was really pissed at God, and i wrote a reverse-imitatio of this psalm. Basically, i just changed a few words here and there to talk about how i felt like God had abandoned me. It was a terrible poem, but i felt better afterwards.

vs. 9-10
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.

vs. 14
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.

Really, i could quote the whole thing here and never write anything again and be perfectly happy, but instead i'll make you read it on your own and i'll keep up with the second-rate blather.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

I grew up in a denomination called Nazarene (similar to Baptist or Methodist). One of the things we do is a scouting program (like Boy Scouts, only even more religious) for kids from 1st through 6th grade. Kids do traditional scouting things (knot-tying, pinewood derby car racing, tent pitching, fishing, etc.), and also study the history and theology of the Nazarene church. It's pretty cool, actually, and helps cut down on kids who are like, "Well, I'm (fill in denomination here), which is, like, different from other ones? I guess? I think we baptize babies or something."
Anyway, Proverbs 3:5-6 is one of our big memory verses every year. And really, it's a good one. Trust God.

Proverbs 8:1
Does not wisdom cry out,
And understanding lift up her voice?

Shout out to all my teacher friends!
And, uh, me, i guess. I'll be teaching soon (Lord willin' and the crick don't rise), and then i'll be one of those lifting up my voice for wisdom and understanding. I've been doing it for many years now on a smaller scale, and i'm looking forward to a captive audience.
Because seriously, guys, wisdom cries out and understanding lifts up her voice. Just listen, okay? Geez.

Proverbs 16:3
Commit your works to the Lord,
And your thoughts will be established.

I think about sin a lot. (Hubba, hubba.) No, but for real: i spend a pretty good chunk of time pondering the nature of sin and badness and evil and how we can rise above it. So many things are habit, or we don't know that they're wrong, or the thoughts and words come so quickly and sometimes we can't pull them back in time. Sometimes it really does seem like we are rotten to the core and can't do anything about that, and like trying is pointless because how can you ever conquer all the sin in your heart, anyway? if you lived long enough to do that, you'd also live long enough to pick up all kinds of new sins. And either we're covered by grace or we're not, so just do your best and don't worry about it, right?
Well, yeah, but also no. Do your best, and don't worry about it, because doing your best means surrendering fully to God, who can conquer ALL of your sin. All of it? All of it. Even the ones you don't know about? Even the ones you don't know about. Even the ones that are long-held bad habits? Even those. Even the ones you're in denial about. Even all of them. Even everything. Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established.
*          *          *          *          *

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What's in a name?

When i first started writing seriously, i decided to use a pen name. I planned to write YA fiction, and at the time i wanted to be a psychologist and to work with teens. I feared that people would think that my work was fictionalized case studies, and in order to draw a firm line between my creative writing and my counseling, i decided to do them each under a different name. After all, even if everyone in the world knew that the two identities were the same, by deliberately giving them each a different label, i would (i hoped) help my readers and clients to compartmentalize my work in the same way i did.

Because obviously, i would be such a famous writer and shrink that it would be virtually impossible for anyone to be unaware of my work in both fields, and if i wasn't up front about my ethical separation of the two, there would be a huge scandal and lots of interviews with Barbara Walters or Tim Russert about my deception of the American public. There is no arrogance quite like that of a fifteen-year-old who is the smartest employee at the sandwich shop. (I worked at a Quizno's in high school. Business was slow, so i would often write during down times. 75% of the other employees were high school dropouts, and the other 25% would probably never even apply to college, so yeah, i was the smartest one. Kind of like being valedictorian of summer school.)

As i began to write more and more and to expand my genres, i started to worry that people would read my poetry only in light of my short stories, or vice versa. Perhaps both were equally good, but people would hate one genre and love the other, simply because they had read my stories first and were disappointed by my poetry simply because it was so different. Or perhaps my poetry would be terrible but it would be published anyway because it had my name on it. (Remember, i was most definitely destined for literary greatness. No question about it. Plus poetry is really easy to publish and people go crazy for it and take it very seriously.)

So i decided to create a different pen name for each genre. At one point, i had about six worked out, and i was practicing signatures for all of them. Because of course i was.

The first pen name i'd picked was very important to me, for personal reasons. And because it was so important, i did not use it when i started this blog, or when i created my twitter account, or when i did various other online/public things. I wanted to reserve it for "real" writing.

And then, as i immersed myself more and more in online writing communities, and as i began sharing about my offline writing projects, i began to feel that i had made a mistake. I also became more and more disenchanted with the idea of multiple pen-names for one life. It all seemed so contrived and artificial. The name 'Diana Lark' in particular could hardly have been more obviously false. What seemed beautiful and interesting and appropriate at seventeen and nineteen seems trite and wrong at twenty-three. And more and more, i find myself returning to that real, important, personal name, and wishing that i had stuck with it from the beginning.

There is a lot wrapped up in a name. There is family history, world history, mythology, poetry, and etymology. There are connotations, different for each person who hears the name. There is the way it looks on the page, typed or hand-written or signed quickly on the inside pages. Name is identity. Name is power. Name is definition. Name is prophecy.

Over the next few weeks, i will be shedding the name Diana Lark in favor of the new one: Judith Elsroad. Thank you for following Diana all this time, and let's get geared up for Judith! It ought to be quite a ride; one of my Twitter followers had a dream last night that my tweets were read on NPR under a different name. So, prophecy?

Monday, May 6, 2013

common theme: rape? and sexual orientation? the two are unrelated, unless you are a bigot.

When i was a freshman, i took a public speaking course. One of our assignments was to give a persuasive speech on a controversial topic. I can't for the life of me remember what i chose; probably something about feminism? Anyway. Several people spoke on gay rights, particularly gay marriage and don't ask, don't tell. One young man in the class was vehemently and vocally opposed to the very idea of gay soldiers.
"My dad was in the army," he said. "Those guys do everything together. They change together, shower together, spend every minute of the day together. I don't like the idea that someone who could be attracted to me might be in that environment."
Let's leave aside the non sequitur of his father's years of service. Let's also leave aside the issue of women in the service. And finally, let's ignore the fact that many, many, many, many women, both civilians and soldiers, have experienced all manner of sexual harassment and assault at the hands of men in uniform. Instead, let's address his unshakable belief in two things: all gay men are automatically attracted to all penises, and no gay man is able to control his sexual impulses. Because obviously, never in the history of the world has a gay man been able to look at any man (in any state of dress or undress, alertness or vulnerability, position of authority or position of subordination, homosexual or heterosexual, attractive or ugly, attached or single,) and thought, "Meh, not for me." To be gay means to be so strongly attracted to all penises everywhere that you cannot help but touch them, even if they belong to your boss; or your straight, married, best friend; or a really ugly, rude, obnoxious, bigoted guy with terrible personal hygiene; or a nice, single, attractive, gay man with a great personality who just doesn't like you that way. Obviously.
An entry in Cliff Pervocracy's archives addresses the issue of sexual abuse and harassment on the job.
"And I'll tell you a personal story: back when I worked 24-hour shifts, I shared a very small quarters with three people who were attracted to my gender. We slept together, shared a bathroom, and frequently changed clothes in front of each other. If I didn't want to sleep next to someone whose orientation made them potentially aroused by my gender, I'd have to sleep out in the truck . . .
Of course some female EMTs do face abuse. What if they had harassed me? Then the problem would be the harassment. "He was all heterosexual at me" isn't a complaint; it's "he was all disrespectful and abusive at me." It'd be nice to ban abusers from service but unfortunately we rarely ask and they never tell . . .
(Or, following the logic often used to exclude women, ban heterosexuals. They're the ones with the problem, right? Some hetero gets his boxers in a twist and files a frivolous complaint and your whole career goes down the tubes, I tell ya.)"

One of the finest features on Pervocracy has GOT to be Cosmocking. Here are some gems from an entry in April 2010 about avoiding rape on road trips:
"If you are taking a long trip and will need to stop for fuel after dark, go to websites like to find full-service stations along your route. That way, you can stay in your car with the doors locked.
There are several insane paranoid precautions you should take specifically when doing anything after dark. Apparently rapists are vampires.

When you're shopping at night, or if the lot looks eerily empty, ask store personnel for a security guard to walk you to your car. If there isn't one available, keep a hand free of packages as you walk to your car, and stay in the middle of the parking-lot aisle, away from vehicles, where criminals might be hiding.
Apparently rapists are funhouse vampires, and they operate by jumping out and going "boogy boogy boogy!" . . .
[If your car breaks down] While you wait for help to arrive, do not under any circumstances get out of your car; roll up your windows, lock the doors, and stay inside.
For fuck's sake. Is air toxic to women? I don't know about rapists; this is how I would act if there were velociraptors outside the car."

My introduction to Jennifer Knapp came from WOW 2001 (shut up; it played in the Christian music store where i worked). Her song "Into You" was something entirely new in Christian music. I knew the Point of Grace/Avalon/Petra/Michael W. Smith worship choruses, the Anne Murray hymns, and i was learning about Contemporary Christian Music for the Jesus Youths: DC Talk, Switchfoot, Superchic[k], KJ52, and so forth.
But i had never heard a voice like Jennifer's.
I had heard music that was immediately identifiable as Christian, and i had heard music that you could play at Youth Group OR under the credits of a popular movie or TV show (Switchfoot, i'm looking at "Dare You To Move"). It was in the 90s and early 2000s that young Christian artists began to simply write songs from their hearts, instead of trying to write "church music" (Keith Green and Amy Grant aside). There were still musicians who were trying to hit a particular target, but artists like Jennifer wanted to make art and trusted that God would speak to people through it, just like He has for the past several millennia.
"Into You" remained my only Jennifer Knapp exposure until 2010, when i learned that she had 1. temporarily quit music to spend some time in obscurity and personal growth, 2. just come out as a lesbian who had been in a same-sex relationship for many years, and 3. ended her "retirement" by releasing a new album about her feelings (both about her partner and about Jesus and the Church). I read several interviews, impressed by her reticence and discretion about her personal life, touched by the pain and anger she had felt and expressed, and wishing desperately that the interviewers would stop asking about her girlfriend and start talking about her music, because every time they did i became a bigger fan or Jennifer Knapp. I downloaded the new album and fell in love.
Three years later, she talked to Rachel Held Evans and her fans, and that interview has forever cemented Jennifer's place in my heart. Because not only is she a brilliant and talented musician, but her heart for God is amazing, and she says some stuff that i've been feeling and have been struggling to articulate. I wish i had enough skin to tattoo her words on my body:

". . . If I understand correctly, your journey took you to a point where you now own the fact that you can't not be gay and you can't not be Christian. For the second part of that - What were some of the moments, the thoughts, the experiences that brought you to the point of claiming your faith as a Christian?

There are times in our lives where we are witness to certain events and happenings that radically alter how we will move about our world. We have experiences where we are forever changed in how we see the world around us, how we see ourselves and how we will react in navigating our individually unique journeys. I am grateful that the Gospel spoke to me in such a way. I saw, I experienced, I left altered by a grace that I knew I could never merit nor repay. To this day, my life has never been the same.
Try as I might, the message of Christ continues to inspire and move me, even when no one is looking, even when others insist that I am "doing it wrong" or not acting 'Christian enough'. Being in a church every Sunday isn't why I identify as Christian . . .
Over the years I have continued to question what calling myself a 'Christian' implies. There's a lot to unpack there in terms of religion, tradition, history, theology -- but honestly, in the end, it doesn't matter what anyone calls me. I am and continue to be inspired by my experience with Christ. No one can take that away."

Pervocracy should just write articles taking down other articles. Because seriously? there's a lot of bullshit that needs to be deconstructed, and she does it so well and so hilariously. Here's a takedown of the idea that women "withhold" sex as punishment when men hurt their feelings.
"Some women make a habit of withholding sex from their partners, while some only do it under very specific circumstances. To men, this seems like cruel and unusual punishment.
Some women have sex very often, while others prefer to have sex less often. To men who think everything is about them, this seems like it's all about them . . .
Personally, I've never withheld sex in a relationship, because I couldn't withhold it from myself, but I've turned down sex, um, ones of times! For reasons that had to do with both my partner and myself . . . If I'm not fucking you because I'm unhappy, the main problem is the unhappiness; the fucking problem is only a symptom . . .
When I'm angry at you, I don't want to have you inside my body. This is not some ultimate cruelty that I'm "not above" . . .
Again, ugh, "sex privileges." It's not like I can just hand you the key. I have to be there the whole time and everything."
That last line is one of Pervocracy's greatest contributions to the discussion of "sexual rights": if a guy is hitting on me and i turn him down, i'm not just denying him sex. I'm also denying myself sex. It's not like i can just unscrew my vagina and hand it to him for the night. If he wants to have sex with me, that means i have to have sex with him, too.
Many men (and women! Example: Cosmo) seem to forget this, and talk about sex as a commodity that women hold. Women can choose to give their sex to men or to deny their sex to men. There is little or no discussion of women wanting sex, women pursuing sex, women being "denied" sex, or women actually "having sex with men". Sex is not something women have, it's something they give or keep. And of course there is little or no discussion of women having sex with each other; lesbians are an invention of porn and Katy Perry designed to give sexual pleasure to men. And women do not want sex because they like the sex itself, they want sex because they love their husbands or boyfriends and want to please them, or because it's the third date and they want to turn these guys into their husbands or boyfriends, or because they want a promotion or raise, or because they want attention and affection, or because their biological clocks are ticking and they want babies. Women choose to give men sex for one of these reasons, and they choose to withhold it because they are cranky, or they have a headache, or whatever.
Here's the thing: sex is something that two people do together. Rape is something that one person does to another person. If you want to talk about rape, we can talk about rape, and we can talk about how you can rape my vagina without my consent or enjoyment. In that case, you get laid and i do not. So me denying you sex? Is me denying you rape. But me deciding that i don't really feel like having sex with you? Is me deciding that do not want to have sex. And maybe it's because i already have a boyfriend and you're not him, or maybe it's because i'm on my period, or maybe it's because you are unattractive to me, or yeah, maybe it's because i'm cranky or have a headache or whatever. But at the end of the day, if i am not having sex with you, it's not because i hate you and want to prevent you from getting laid. It's because i do not want to have sex. So men: stop whining about how women won't let you have sex with them, and start figuring out how you can make women want to have sex with you (hint: more hygiene and fewer rape threats will go a long way).