Monday, August 20, 2007

A response to someone who thinks I'm betraying the movement

Firstly, I would not put limitations on what stay-at-home means. You have said that being a stay at home mom doesn't include artists or students. We do not really know what women are doing at home. For some cooking, gardening, homemaking itself is an art and an education. This is very challenging and interesting work when one engages one's mind. What makes it drudgery is when no one helps and no one appreciates that it is work, and honorable work. This includes other feminists who go along with the patriarchal notion that "woman's work" is inferior work. I would, (and did) stay at home even when I was not a student. Homemaking is an honorable and ancient career with many rewards. I honor my ancestors' love of the domestic arts. My ability to manage my family's limited finances, organize and keep a "green" home, cook and nourish a vegetarian/vegan family of fussy eaters on a shoestring budget, homeschool my children, garden, crochet, do laundry, etc. are all work that benefits my family and feeds my soul. I utilize the my feminist background and education to enhance this experience. I am no man's servant, but the matriarch of my family. Homemaking is not for all women, but for some of us, homemaking makes us "life artists" There is something deeply satisfying about devoting one's time not to employment and career, to the fuss and grind of the workforce, but to fully engaged in making children, and gardens and relationships grow. I have had the blessing of being the one who taught my children how to read. Like the women you mention of other cultures, I too wear my babies in slings on my hip, often breastfeeding them while I hang laundry in the sun or while I teach my older children. Unlike my own mother, who wishes she could have stayed home, I have missed little of their funny, wonderful, beautiful childhoods.Susan B. Anthony was also very critical of well-educated women who chose to stay home with their children. She felt it was outrageous. But her best friend, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, knew that a woman's life is not wholly defined by her career and activism. She raised her seven children relishing the art of homemaking as well as a life of an activist. They were one of feminism's greatest partnerships. Both women blessed the early movement with their choices. There is no one way to be a feminist. And this is only one period of what I hope is a long life. Just because I choose not to follow the traditional masculist life trajectory does not mean that I am not a feminist. Who made the rules that that we get our college educations from the ages of 18 to 22 then follow this with dedication to a career in our twenties and thirties? This is not a life path that makes sense to those of us whose pregnancies, lactation, and childrearing interrupts and complicates college and career. We have to develop patterns that fit our lives and make us happy. We have to stop taking the old ways (the men's ways) as being normative. In fact, my staying at home has inspired my husband to challenge the traditional career path for himself. He also chooses to forego a career-driven life to spend more time with his babies. Also, for women, many of the most productive years of our lives are after menopause, when as wise old women with children out of the nest, we can begin new adventures. My life is not completely defined by my childbearing years and what I choose to do with them. Children are little for so short a time and my heart would break if I could not be with them. Thank the Goddess I have the right and the opportunity capitalist patriarchy has taken from so many of my sisters, to stay home and mother my own children.Finally, as a spiritual feminist, my life at home with my children reflects the deepest part of my most radical feminist rejection of patriarchal emphasis on greed and acquisition, on competition and the impoverishment of relationships. I live out my love for Mother Earth, my own body, my intellect and my art with this decision. I trust other women to make decisions that make sense for them. I doubt my right to judge them. Homemaking is not for everyone, but for those of us who love it and choose it, it is a calling.

Random thealogical thoughts

Although this obviously isn't the entirety of my belief, it is the part that most clearly influences my practice. Whether or not there is a God or gods is less important on a daily level than my belief in spiritual "energy" for lack of a better word. I believe that all things have an energy, a soul, a personality and that this energy is not separate from the physical matrix, but a part of it. As the Spiritualists used to say, matter is just denser than spirit, not alien to it. When I'm hanging out my laundry, I am mindful of the sun and the wind, the feel of the damp fabric, the way my hands move, my children in the yard, the dogs and the cats, the bird, the insect buzzing by my head, the feel of grass on bare feet....All these things have a personality...the animals and the children, the sun and the wind, the insect and even its buzzing...indeed, the event itself has a personality that sets it apart from other similar experinces. Even the pebbles in the garden, the very soil itself have personality--souls. My hands have a personality different than my own larger personality...(Don't ask me why but I'm pretty sure they have a better sense of humor.) In this way I see spirits as layering and gathering and joining into the greater Soul of the Earth Mother, then ever outward to the Soul of the Cosmos. And more than that, such combinations and differentiations are also possible inwardly to the mitochondria, and atoms, and subatoms and the spaces between.Also, my ancestors, human and non-human continue to be a part of me, as the influence of soul expands inwardly and outwardly through time as well as space.In my daily life, I feel this in the profound sense that there is a depth of personality and spirit in EVERYTHING which calls me toward mindfulness and patience. It calls me to refrain from objectification and abuse of the world around me-- not always a very easy thing to do, but a goal toward which I continue to grow.

Goddess

Goddess

When I think of "Goddess" I see Her in the same role as "God." She includes all things and really the gender is only a useful metaphor that allows me to conceptualize divinity,( in which all humans share), as feminine. In Abrahamic religion, human qualities are understood in terms of duality.
On the one side we have transcendence, light, goodness, purity, intellect, soul: masculine
On the other side we have immanence, dark, evil, impurity, emotion, body/sex: feminine.
Of course when one side of the duality is considered more holy than the other and one gender is more frequently associated with that holy side, it begins to "make sense" to insist upon a secondary, inhibited and even abused and diminished life for those who do not fit into the appropriate side of the duality. In short, women have been treated like crap for a good long time because our very obvious physical connections to the earth and our bodies have reminded men of their "sinful" connection to sexuality and the earth.
I would challenge that any of the above-mentioned qualities are intrinsically "masculine" or "feminine" but that they are all important human qualities manifested differently according to various biological and cultural conditions.
Reclamation feminist spirituality seeks to both "RECLAIM" those qualities such as sexuality, earth-centeredness, compassion, and immanence as holy qualities with which women have long been associated AND to insist that women who possess qualities of heightened intellect, courage, etc. are not acting "Masculine" but are simply behaving like intelligent, brave people. Likewise, we also assume that men who behave emotionally and compassionately are not behaving in a "feminine" way but are acting like compassionate, emotionally secure men.
The Goddess is understood as the totality of Potential. She includes all human qualities and potentials. She is Zoe, Life Eternal who gives birth to Bios, Life Temporal in a great cycle of life, death and rebirth.
Now, there is a problem with the use of term "Goddess" in my thinking since it is, in English, a derivative word. The "ess" suffix is dismissive...Waitress, authoress, actress...You get the picture. We may borrow and say TheAlogy as opposed to TheOlogy or we might say Creatrix instead of Creator. English doesn't give us the ability to easily differentiate between gendered nouns without using a derivative suffix to denote the feminine...Therefore, "God" becomes normative and masculine both grammatically and culturally while "Goddess" looks a good deal like God in drag. A linguistic bother I'm not sure how to handle. Generally, I refer to a genderless "Divine" and cut my losses. I'm not real thrilled with the use of either "God" or "Goddess" since they are so anthropomorphized as metaphors to begin with...very limiting.
On the other hand, to remain gender neutral is not necessarily preferable since the mostly unconscious and DEEP patriarchal tradition of associating holy qualities with masculinity is so strong that if we continue to refer only to "God" we women may not internalize the essential lesson that God is like women as much as God is like men. It will be like the humorous statement made by one of my fellow seminarians way back in the day who said "God has no gender. HE is neither male nor female." Ha!

Sophia Rant Part 2

For my part, I opt to understand that although my linguistic tools to express ineffable concepts are necessarily sketchy, limiting myself to a clearly historically patriarchal toolbox is even moreso. Therefore, although I speak of Sophia, I also speak of mythological traditions cross-culturally and work to create my own stories. I look to the diversity of real women both historically and cross-culturally for inspiration of what is possible both in the divine and in myself. I look beyond anthropomorphic expressions by viewing divinity in pantheistic terms. I move beyon nouns and experiment with the notion, as Daly famously suggested, that "God is a verb." In this way, through a proliferation of metaphors, including a healthy amount of gynocentric versions, I prevent, to some degree, stagnating in my God-talk into a gendered, culturally specific version of femaleness, maleness and holiness.We can already see in this group the legacy of limiting the vision of female particpation in the God-image to acceptable "feminine" qualities. I see it when I'm teaching as well. Women feel excluded from intellectual discourse because they doubt that such work is appropriate for women. Because intellect is considered masculine, and emotion is considered feminine (and this is only one example of dualistic thinking that I could cite here) a thinking woman is considered masculine. And a masculine woman is considered at best exceptional and at worst, monstrous. When we think "like men" and play "the boys' game, " we are derivative and inferior or, if we're lucky, pretty smart "for a woman." When we opt to think our own thoughts dissimilar to the patriarchal pattern, we are dismissed as "emotional, " "strident, " "irrational." Limiting the Goddess to a traditional maternal role or to that of primeval helpmeet sends a message to women that our role, as those made in the image of the consort of God, is to help...not to do the job ourselves, not to develop as humans not for our children, or our society or our families and religions....BUT FOR OURSELVES. Dualism marginalizes us, makes us supplemental reading in the human story. No. I don't have time for that crap. When such dualism is projected skyward into an all-powerful God and a consort of limited feminized role, the notion that women are here to "help" and "serve" and "nurture" is reinforced.Additionally, Sophia is a pretty tepid goddess to begin with since she lacks much in the earthier, lustier categories and therefore cannot speak to me as a mother. (Mothers don't necessarily view ourselves in the same way way our offspring view us which explains why gynocentric goddesses are often more more bloody and more sexy than patriarchal goddesses). I would also point out that creating a goddess of wisdom does not mean that men think women are wise any more than 19th century men celebrating the new Statue of Liberty felt that women should have the vote.

Sophia Rant: Part I

Sophia rant
The "feminine" side of God is problematic for me.1. Because God the Father is still all-powerful and all-encompassing while Sophia is limited by "feminine" attributes.2. Because referencing a specific female image as "feminine" is essentialist. (Bio-determinism)3. Because it ignores the wholeness found in both real women and in a broad range of extra-canonical mythological references to gynocentric Deity.Christian Sophia apologists seek to teach women about female divinity by telling them that Sophia is God as a woman but such teachings remain trapped in dualism...male/female, postive/negative, ego/anima(us), etc. dark/light, spirit/body, intellect/emotion. The specific sex that belongs to our body and even the gender into which our cultural experiences press us does not complete our stories as human beings.In a society that considers men not just normative, but the model of divinity, women are deriviative and limited in their ability to move toward the fullest expression of human interaction with divine energy through self-development. Giving us Sophia as a model of the feminine divine only tells a part of the story of our human potential...Worse, it doesn't even allow US to decide which "feminine" story is told. Sophia is the image of the feminine divine through masculine eyes, an idealization of Wisdom from a series of cultures that have largely denied real flesh and blood women's access to education and authority. Give me a Goddess that helps me reclaim the ENTIRETY of my divinity...creation and destruction, blood, sex, lust, wisdom, moderation, serenity and frenzy. I want the whole ball of wax: not just the stuff God the Father rejects.

Thoughts on Abortion

I'm sure others will add to my response but I would begin with the unfortunate observation that despite the fact that most women can experience healthy pregnancies, there are no guarantees. Perhaps most of can name one or even several women whose lives were endangered by their pregnancies. I know several women, who although normally quite healthy, during pregnancy unexpectedly developed severe pregnancy related illness. One woman's pregnancy was quite healthy but she nearly died at delivery. I myself had a very high fever after giving birth to my second child which led to an extended hospital stay. Because even women in robust good health at the time of conception may face illness or even death as the pregnancy progresses, it is important that no woman be forced to proceed with what could potentially endanger her well being. Abortion remains safer, unfortunately, for many women, than full term pregnancy.Another thing to consider is that not all women are in robust good health when they become pregnant. Although on the surface, a pregnancy may not put their lives in danger, again, there are no guarantees. One of my cousins believed she could make it through a pregnancy with cancer and died shortly after giving birth. Who decides if a woman should or should not have an abortion? Certainly legislators should not have the right to make these decisions. How can they possibly understand the multiple physical variables each woman faces in her unique pregnancy with her unique body?We will leave aside the religious, spiritual, psychological, and social aspects of this discussion but although I cannot see myself having an abortion, I also know that it is beyond my ability or my rights to imagine that I understand how other women experience pregnancy. I also observe that although women of former generations knew that each pregnancy might signal the end of a woman's life, we have become complacent in our belief that pregnancy is no longer dangerous and that somehow words like "unless a woman's life is in danger" can have any meaning. Who determines this risk? The guys in Washington? What do they know about it? Although I am a strong advocate of natural childbirth and the attitude that most healthy women will give birth to healthy children without medical intervention, I feel it is important to note that it is still very possible that a healthy woman will become ill or die as a result of her pregnancy and therefore no woman should be forced to carry a pregnancy to term.

As I see it, personal responsibility is all well and good but in an ethical society, we do not punish a woman's poor sexual decisions (or her victimization) with a potential death sentence. Carrying a child to term is a beautiful and heroic act: It is Goddess power. Being forced to carry a child to term by the state denies women their basic civil rights, their privacy and their dignity. To force a person to go through all of the dramatic physical and cultural changes that go with pregnancy against her will reduces a woman to a brood mare...a piece of property to be controlled by the patriarchal state.That a zygote or embryo is entitled to equal protection with that of a woman is not shared by all people. I, for instance, feel that my life as an individual with a history, emotions, a family and self-awareness is more worthy of protection than that of a hollow ball of cells without a central nervous system that may or may not survive the entire pregnancy anyway. (An important consideration given the large number of embryos that are naturally aborted without women even knowing they were pregnant in the first place.)Would I prefer that all women were in situations in which their health, their family's health, and the health of the child were not threatened by pregnancy? Of course. Abortion, in my view, is not a decision that any woman would relish. Often a person must make this decision within a difficult and even painful context.Do I wish that women would be more responsible with their use of birth control? Sure. But we live in a country with an abysmal record of creating access to affordable health care and birth control for women and the grisly reality for many women is that they are often not given a choice about their sexual relationships. Marital rape, date rape, incest, and abuse are all too common. And birth control often fails. Condoms break. Birth control pills are missed. That's just life.But what of women who are "promiscuous." Shouldn't they just control themselves? Well, the simple answer is: Its none of our business.Additionally, to characterize all life as sacred or of equal value is not necessarily a secular viewpoint nor is it shared by all religious or spiritual perspectives. Another woman's religious or spiritual opinions about the sanctity of life are of very little interest to me when I am deciding what to do with my health and body. I would much prefer is MY spiritual perspective regarding MY body and MY pregnancy was the deciding philosophy. YOUR spirituality has nothing to do with MY pregnancy. Luckily for us, we live in a country in which a fundamental basis of our society is the separation of church and state. We must defend this.In the spirit of the body-loving nature of this group, I stand by women's ability to love their bodies and to be able to make the decision that their health is, in fact, worthy of protection from those who would apply moralistic and religious principles to prevent women from attaining quality health care in the form of decent birth control and abortion. Our love for our bodies is seriously demeaned in a society that sends the message that women's sexuality is as simple as just keeping our legs closed.

Biblical Authority

My assumptions about the bible are that it is not an inspired text but does contain some inspirational readings within it. Perhaps (although I don't know) my understanding of the nature of divinity is quite different. In a sense, I can agree that our knowledge of divinity is quite limited inasmuch as that which IS is so much greater than any one of our perspectives can fathom that we rely on our loving discourse with one another to begin to paint pictures of TRUTH with our shared and often paradoxical stories. In this sense, cross-cultural perspectives, gendered perspectives, etc. are very important. A proliferation of metaphors is essential not only for establishing a compassionate community that honors diversity but also to allow each individual room to experiment and move within their God-talk. One metaphor stagnates and retards. Multiple metaphors give a soul room to play. Ever watch a child play dress up? None of it is real any more than any of the gods and goddesses are real but there is value in the play and experimentation. I believe that through experience, contemplation, observation we each have direct knowledge of the divine but have been trained to doubt our embodied knowledge. In large part, I believe outside authority retards our intrinsic and natural ability to recognize the divine.
The reason why I am here is because I believe that the Christian perspective is so well integrated (often unconsciously) into the Western perspective that to ignore it is deadly. That's my negative take. My positive take is that as a neo-pagan, I have acknowledged that my ethics come from a liberal Christian background. As an individual, I make assumptions about how the world works that have deep roots in a personal, family, and cultural tradition of Christianity. And that isn't going away no matter how pagan I become. So I agree that there is value in understanding the bible as a text that has had deep meaning to millions of people, in different ways over thousands of years. That's powerful. It has been healing and beautiful but it has also been destructive and violent as hell.
My thing is that although I know the bible pretty darn well, I do not find it authoritative because I believe that the only reason it is more authoritative than other texts is because it enforced its authority. The patriarchal family and capitalism have also been deeply meaningful for millions of people but I reject their authority in my life too. Some of the bible is lovely and inspirational (although not exceptional) and some of it is loathsome. If it is not the origin of western misogyny, it has been its most effective vehicle. I accept its critical cultural impact but deny its spiritual value...at least in my own life...as an authoritative text. Jesus is cool but he was not a god and I've found equally cool statements made by Ghandi and Matilda Gage and my grandmother. I'll quote Jesus when it suits my purpose. He's one of the good guys and I'm not above drawing from those deep, historical waters. I'll quote Susan B. Anthony too because other feminists like her even if I think she was a...Anyway....
I think I will always find meaning in some of the text, in the history of the religion, in the stories of faith and the tenderness and love I find in my christian friends and family. I had to stop being a Christian because I could no longer accept that idea of an authoritative canon, the divinity of Jesus, or the authority of any congregation. I still believe in many of the key liberal Christian principles and ethics but I find them in other 'sacred' texts. I am interested in the bible and its dynamic history but it represents a religious perspective that remains a construct for me that grew powerful in large part because it silenced other peoples' spiritual perspectives and human rights... and doesn't give me room enough to play.

Mary

The historical Mary of Nazareth and the Madonna/Theotokos must be understood from different perspectives. As an historian, I see Mary as a Jewish Palestinian woman, possibly a rape victim, raising a child in an occupied country in the first century. I do not believe in the virgin birth. The Madonna/Theotokos is a goddess figure drawn from the mythology that grows up around Mary of Nazareth's connection to Jesus of Nazareth and comflated with the mythologies of several Near Eastern and European goddesses including Isis and Artemis. As such, she is among many of my favorite representations of the Goddess. I find her particularly potent because she has such immediate emotional relevance in world history in the past two thousand years and continues to have tremendous numinous power even among modern people. From a feminist perspective, the veneration of Mary as Mother of Christ is problematic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it perpetuates the demonization of female sexuality and promotes a dichotomy between body and spirit. However, I go ahead and worship her from a more purely pagan perspective as Goddess and view her divine child/consort Christ as a manifestation of the sacred masculine energy (Horus/ Attis/ Dionysus/ Balder, etc.) He is bios (life temporal) to her Zoe (life eternal).

Hyphenated Spirituality

terms/hyphenation
It strikes me that in order to be hyphenated as I am, I must start with an assumption of subjectivity. If I believed that a divine presence akin to anything Abrahamic orthodoxy celebrates (fears?) actually existed, then I couldn't play around with the concepts as I do. I'm a polythesist mainly because I don't believe in gods at all so I can play with their names at will. For me, its all about philosophy and pragmatism. Which belief system is most likely to lead to the most positive change in the least amount of time? Which one is most comfortable for me and is least likely to piss me off? These are the important philosophical issues. lol I have no patience for those with religious certainty because they are required to ignore or condemn others' realities. They frequently must ignore or condemn their own realities to remain "faithful." They become apologists--contortionists--- to maintain orthodoxy.
Nineteenth-century Spiritualism and contemporary eco-feminism interest me because they share an interest in exploring the self in relationship to the immanent numinous. God is fine, thought the Spiritualists of old, but too far away for me to prove. Aunt Edith is dead but talked to me yesterday. THAT I can grasp. In any case, I'm far more interested in the experiential qualities of spirituality that fall outside of God-talk. I experience connection with the universe I know as a spiritual phenomenon. I understand that this connection can be explained scientifically, but those answers bore me.
Now all this comes out of giving a speech at a secular humanist conference and being blown away by their certainty (and you'll recall I have no patience for certainty) and how remarkably similar to right-wingers they were. Now, I'd much rather hang with an atheist than a right-winger any day because at least we could discuss politics and science but still....I admit leaving that conference feeling shaken, and, to indulge my dh's sense of humor, not stirred. I found their certainty upsetting in that it discounted so much of my most profound experience and left me feeling that what they offered was not even all that interesting. That may be because I'm not the kind of person who is interested in questions like how or what or when. I always want to know the why of things. I could give a crap how something works (a car, a sunset, love, religion). I'm interested in why it works. What does it all mean? What gives it depth and what sets it into flight?
So... I'm looking for a word that means that I honor spirituality and sceptically entertain the notion of divinity but find it of secondary importance. I don't like agnostic as a term. It always sounds more like someone who just can't commit to atheism. While uncertainty is a good thing that pushes us toward greater learning, I long for a term that captures my unertainty but also also captures the potential beauty of non-theistic spirituality. I'm not whatever-it-is-I-am because I haven't found anything better, or because I'm just not ready to throw in my lot with the atheists. I'm this way because this is as authentic as I know how to be. I am right here in the center of my evolving relationship with the universe including all its uncertainties.
Anyway. There it is. Inelegant. Sloppy. *sigh* Oh well.

Plain and Simple

Plain and Simple
The mantra is "Waste not. Want not." I say this as I hang the laundry on the line and think of my solid Protestant ancestors who I think would approve of my desire to reject wastefulness from my life. Today, after taking a bath in 12 cups of water, I realized that this expression only works when it can be reversed: "Want not. Waste not." It is nearly impossible to live a green life unless one is willing to live a voluntarily simple life. Our greed for things prevents us from knowing who we really are and what we really need to be whole. Having too many possessions makes one a slave to the material world.
I have been purging for years now. It is a perpetual process because it is so easy to pick up the this and that of life in our commerical society. It has become a spiritual ritual for me to work my way through my home releasing my material attachments. For us, there is an accumulation of second-hand furniture, clothes, toys, books, etc. I suppose because we are a low-income family, those who love us want to help. Apart from one barrister book case and a mattress, I do not think my husband and I have ever purchased any furniture in 11 years of marriage. Almost none of our clothes are new apart from socks and underwear. Our towels, doilies, table clothes, sheets, comforters, and pots, pans, silverwear, and dishes were gifts or second hand. We are blessed to have these things available to us but they can become overwhelming if there are too many of them. So I release them. I have a passion for neatness and organization; for having everything just where it belongs and in just the right amount. In mason jars on my counter we have just enough silverwear for the family to eat. In the cupboards, just enough plates. But there is still much to do. I still feel burdened by possessions.
Lately, this sense of being burdened by possessions and the dictates of the material world has led me to simplify my wardrobe. Since childhood, I've preferred a plain wardrobe. When shopping for school, I remember asking for a white blouse, a pair of dress shoes and a pair of sneakers, gray pants and a matching jacket. All other items had to be in somber, solid colors that I could mix and match with my wardrobe staples. Today I go through my wardrobe and shed the superflous, the little worn, and anything in the least bit flashy leaving only a few plain skirts and tops to match with a couple jumpers and a couple shorter skirts for work. Now my clothes hang in about a foot of space in the closet. The relief is exquisite.
For some time, I was trying to figure out what do with my hair. Feeling I should "Do Something With It" I looked at hairstyles and colors. Now I have let it grow out and have purchased some kerchiefs to tie it back. Every time I remove something; unnatural beauty products, vacuum cleaner, dryer, exess furniture, magazine subscriptions, chemical cleaning products, disposable feminine products, plastics, I feel this sense of great relief and homecoming. I feel as if by clearing away the stuff, an exercise I first began in my attempt to do my part to save the planet, I am finding myself. There I was all along just peeking out under the clutter.

Take Possession of the Outposts

When I look at evil, I believe that it is closely linked to a kind of tragic ignorance of our own identities. I see sin as that which leads us away from "God" (to use the easiest term) To deny yourSELF is a deep sin in my thinking since we are all a unique manifestation of the Divine's urge to know Itself. I will not exist again in this precise manifestation nor can any other creature learn about the Universe as I do. This does not make me any better or worse than the angels or the insects but it does make me unique and therefore responsible. To conform is to waste this chance to serve.
A deeper sin still is to lead another human being away from his or her true gifts and calling. I do not know much about the rich or the powerful. I cannot understand their motivations. l do know the folks around here who are working people and farmers. Despite the fact that they are generally decent people whose love for each other is apparent to me whenever I am in their company, many are dedicated to distorted ideas of patriotism and fundamentalist religion and/or are racists or sexists or otherwise bitterly misanthropic toward those they conceive as outsiders. They are not, as I view them, greedy or sinister but they continue to choose to follow greedy and sinister leaders. I cannot reconcile the kindness of my neighbors with the cruelty of their politics except to believe that they have been led away from themselves.
To see them ignorantly defending the politics of the very people who abuse them outright breaks my heart. Their land and their futures and their bodies are ruined by the politics of greed. Worse, the "redneck" who blindly agrees with fascist rhetoric saddens me because s/he shows the symptoms of a stunted spirit. Deprive people of education and love and joy and fill their minds with fear of difference and fear of learning and you create the disposable slaves you need to labor in whatever unethical venture you devise. Send them to the mines and the factories. Send them to war. Convince them to waste their money on plastic and poisons then dispose of them when you are done.
I do not know if there is hope. As a historian, I am aware that this is not the first time that a culture has driven itself to the brink then pulled itself back just in time. Maybe we'll pull something out of a hat. I do know that the world is worth saving and I am pinning my hope on the belief that whatever pain distorts the soul, it is not easily broken. The Waterloo Congregational Friends rejected the supreme authority of all temporal leaders. They rejected even the supreme authority of the Bible believing that such thoughtless faith in any body or text was merely a form idolatry. Instead, they declared that the inner light is the "beginning and end of all religion."
I am afraid and I am tired. But I still sense more goodness in the world than evil. It is an a spiritual feminist that I face the world, doing at least what I can do now and learning every day what more can be done. I am afraid but not helpless. I am tired but I am not giving up. As a mother, I see that the stakes are too high.
"We need not expect the concessions demanded by women will be peaceably granted;" said Matilda Joslyn Gage over a hundred years ago, "there will be a long moral warfare, before the citadel yields; in the meantime, let us take possession of the outposts.".

Plain dress

In an ironic exhibitionism, I am writing a blog on plain dress. Following a leaning felt since childhood, I find that in recent months, I can no longer ignore my desire to dress plain. It has become an obsession. I search the internet to find examples of plain dress and long for a simple cotton dress with an apron and bonnet. What is that about? A bonnet? I actually become uncomfortable when I can't cover my head now. What the hell? I wear kerchiefs most of the time which I bought in plain colors and kind of hope no one thinks I'm a religious conservative. I purged my wardrobe months ago leaving only the most plain items. Some red sweaters remained (red is my favorite color and a goddess color too) and I kept a short skirt and some jeans and comfy pants. I find that I never wear the pants and I now find the short skirt ridiculous.
Last week, I wore a long black skirt with floral print and a black top for a lunch meeting. They didn't show and I was left waiting around in a shopping district. I felt very uncomfortable because I didn't feel plain enough. I figured the skirt, an old favorite thrift store purchase, was fine for home but too busy to wear in public and the top, though black was not in a natural fabric. I kept thinking that no one could tell what I was. It was a very awkward, disturbing feeling to be there looking like "a normal" person. A "yucky" feeling if you will. I wished I had a button or sign that pointed out "This is not who I am!!"
So what am I? I identify spiritually and historically with Friends and Pagans...but not with Christian Quakers and not with Wiccan pagans. Neither my Quaker or pagan thoughts make sense without the other. Maybe they don't make sense together either. Whatever. I see the desire to dress plain as my desire to separate from the rest of the world which I find distressing to say the least. I cannot stand to be a part of it. I also want my dress to be a visual testimony of my beliefs. In a sense, I am sharing the millennialist sentiments of my Burned-Over District ancestors. Repent, the end is near. But I won't be climbing up on any haystack to wait for the descending savior. My concerns are environmentalist concerns: global warming, species extinction, melting icebergs, pollution. I don't believe we have any time left to waste. The end IS near unless we become very seriously committed to protecting our future. Unfortunately, I believe it is already too late. We're screwed already but I'm still holding out hope that we can mitigate the degree of our children's suffering.
Part of my plainness comes from my strong belief that we must pay heed to Gandhi's advice, "Live simply so that others may simply live." But must I wear a kerchief and drab colors? What's up with that? All I know is that it is a relief to wear such things, a relief to own very little. If only I could avoid looking like a conservative Christian.....