Tuesday, August 31, 2004


Lately, I've been thinking about this poem in relation to motherhood/parenthood:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so he loves
also the bow that is stable.

Kahlil Gibran

I was listening to the rendition of this poem in song (by "Sweet Honey in the Rock") with my 5-yo daughter the other day. When I asked her if she agreed with the song, she said "NO!" It took me a few seconds of mild annoyance at her obvious misunderstanding and ridiculous stubborness to capture the irony of that exchange. I laughed with the light, bubbly laughter of bemused self-recognition, which seemed to irritate her for some reason. It only made the whole thing funnier.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Unitarian Universalism

My church (fellowship) is an incredible community. And my faith (Unitarian Universalism - also known as UU) is one I will never relinquish, at least as far as the principles and core beliefs are concerned. Are there flaws, misconceptions, hypocrisies, and otherwise annoying behaviors among UUs? Absolutely. And that's just counting my own contribution!

I have always been UU, really, since I had any real religious consciousness. I was raised... "Christian" (Anglican, Presbyterian, and a smidgen of Catholic schooling.) I encountered numerous people during this experience that I hold in very high regard and to whom I owe a debt of gratitude.

But I never could really call myself a Christian, because I never really believed that Jesus was God. I had (and still have) a great deal of respect for what Jesus said. I was a mega-pacifist as a child because I knew that this was Jesus' message. What *would* Jesus do, after all? Would he ever agree to dropping a bomb on *anyone*? No matter how bad or irredeemable that person might seem? Let alone children? Anyway, my motivation in holding these beliefs was to play the part of a real, bona-fide Christian. Well, I'm not. My values are mostly Christian ones, yes. After all, just being part of U.S. culture is going to involve some incorporation of Christian values. But I am at the core UU. Ironically, my (overt) pacifist political stance kind-of faded away along with the pretense of my Christianity. (Especially ironic since UU as a denomination is much more "pacifist-leaning" than Presbyterianism...)

My mind: Says pacifism is not always the answer, not even usually the answer, maybe it's... occasionally the answer... should be considered as a possible answer in certain situations.

My heart: Cries for justice and defense of decent people *however* that may be acheived. (My heart is kind-of a crybaby about political stuff generally, and I don't usually count on it in the voting booth...)

My soul: Well, my soul is still pretty darn pacifist (I recognized this on 9/11... I'm assuming here that your soul is located in your gut.)

So I'm a "closet pacifist". And I go around defending war-supporters in my congregation - go figure.

But while my soul retains some lingering childhood beliefs, I have never, at any time, with heart mind or soul, accepted that Jesus is God. Nor do I accept God as He is commonly presented. And I don't regard the Bible as a Holy Book; my respect for it is the same as that for any other religious document and no more. (Reading "The Happy Heretic" or "The Skeptic's Bible" sometimes gives me solace, though I'm not an athiest.)

I *can* say that I have known God, though I cannot define God. (The only thing I will insist is true about God is that no one else *really* knows anything either.) My most recent self-challenge has been to break the habit of thinking of God as male, primarily by intentionally visualizing Her as female. This practice has helped me in many ways to break other habits of conceptualizing God - habits that limit understanding and true connection with a force that simply says "I am that I am". For example, is God all about order and symmetry and grand cathedrals and Bach cantatas? Is God a mighty and ominous figure? They say "God is all-powerful." Well, what is power? Can it be held by a round-bellied matron? Can God be found in a spider that's missing a few legs and yet still striving to survive on the jungle floor? (stolen from Barbara Kingsolver's "The Poisonwood Bible") Can God be found in childbirth, that messy, slimy, painful, primal process which yeilds a life - a life
screaming, clawing, weak and vulnerable, yet so beautiful. Of course God is there. This kind of thing is mostly where God can be found. Can I love this God with all my heart, mind & soul? Yes, I can, and I do. And I continue to seek even greater understanding.

Thankfully, UU is a place where I can safely explore these ideas, and many others. It might seem rather chaotic from the outside. Actually, it's rather chaotic from the inside too. But it's worth considering that many of the "weird" ideas accepted by Unitarians and Universalists in the 18 & 19th centuries are now fundamental principles of American philosophy, rarely questioned even by the Religious Right. Food for Thought.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Why am I first a feminist?

I think my response hit a nerve with the guy at work who sent me the "nagging" article. He gave me the old, tired idea about how feminists are always looking for problems in everything, acting out their anger from childhood, and there's never any hope for happiness in their lives - just frustration and bitterness. I honestly don't know if he was kidding or serious, but it didn't matter. The argument was just ridiculous.

Feminism is my favorite cause. Though it may not address every problem in the world, it really addresses so many. If it were possible to get rid of sexism completely, I honestly think that people's lives would be vastly improved. And when I think about it, I realize that my co-worker is half right about anger being part of my motivation. I'm angry about things I personally have experienced due to sexism, and not just in my childhood. And I'm even more angry when I see other women enduring similar things and worse. Let alone the fact that men often lose out too (Some argue with me that this is a reason I should stop beign "so angry" - because "men are hurt by sexism too", as if they think my cause is to equalize suffering as opposed to ending it!)

Blatant mistreatment of women may come from just a few men who are simply selfish and mean, who take advantage of their priviledge and power. But it's mental inertia (from otherwise well-meaning men and women) that keeps those power structures in place. It's hard to envision different possibilities and to change one's habits of thought. Easier to deny other's suffering and pretend that your own isn't really that bad.

I find solace in doing something about this, even if what I do is really very little. There's purpose in making things even a little bit better. Maybe that means I'll never be truly content with my life because I see sexism "everywhere". The truth is, when I don't speak up about what's right - that's when I'm frustrated. When I finally say something, even if it's not well received, even if it's not perfectly written or very original, that's when I'm able to relax and enjoy life.

Here's a quote I found from the (now defunct) Ms. Magazine web boards:

"Feminism has fought no wars. It has killed no opponents. It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, practiced no cruelties. Its battles have been for education, for the vote, for better working conditions... for safety on the streets... for child care, for social welfare... for rape crisis centres, women's refuges, reforms in the law." (If someone says) 'Oh, I'm not a feminist,' (I ask) 'Why? What's your problem?'" - Dale Spender

I'm so glad I copied a bunch of stuff that I liked from those boards, because it's all lost now! Unfortunately, most of the quotes have no attributions. Well, blogging isn't "real" publishing, right? And if, by some insanely remote chance someone reads a quote I copied and recognizes it, they can always let me know they said it and I'll be happy to give credit.

Here's something else from the Ms. Boards:

I'm a feminist because one day I discovered that the rest of the world doesn't think equality is obvious.

I'm a feminist because I had enough of being treated like a sweet little girl and having my opinions dismissed.

I'm a feminist because I can't stand to see my beautiful, smart friends agonizing about their weight, dumbing themselves down, erasing themselves for guys. It's awful.

I'm a feminist because this world leaves me no other choice.

I'm a feminist because I'm anti-bullshit in general, and in my life, I see a lot of anti-woman mentalities.

I'm a feminist because I believe in equality, for all people to be seen as people, and not a role, not a thing, not a race, not a group, and certainly not a stereotype.

Well, I can't agree with these more. Feminist is the first way I describe myself.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Just for fun

I don't know why I read articles from women.msn.com because they always seem so full of bad, sexist advice. Maybe I like to torture myself.

This one was sent to me by a co-worker: http://women.msn.com/806748.armx?GT1=4529

Here's my response to him: (He thought it was funny. Maybe a little scary. But he sent it along to his wife and sister, for whatever that's worth.)

Mary Ann says: "If I have to look at your tools in the front yard for one more day, I'm going to scream."

Love says: "I'd like to make the place look nice for my book club. So sometime this weekend, could you bring your tools into the garage?"

Barb says: "Oh look! Here comes the trash truck. Bye bye tools that used to be in the front yard!"

Donna says: "If you spent as much time playing sports as you did watching them, you might be able to lose some weight."

Love says: "I've decided I want to get in better shape, and I thought it would be fun if we did something together."

Barb says: "See ya later! I'm off to my work out with my new personal trainer...he's so strong and muscular, I'm bound to get in shape!

Rachel says: "You bought another piece of stereo equipment? How the hell do you expect to send our kids to college if you're blowing all this cash on junk?"

Love says: "I'm getting a bit worried that we're not saving enough for the kids' education. Could we sit down sometime this week and go over our finances?"

Barb says: "You owe $X to the joint account, which covers bills, retirement and college. If you don't want to pay it, feel free to buy stereo equipment for your own damn apartment."

Tom says: "If we're going to get into a big thing about who's spending what, then I'd like to have all the numbers in front of me. I'm willing to compromise but she has to, too. Because frankly, those highlights she gets aren't cheap."

Barb says to Tom: "Hope you like gray hair! Oh, and also hairy legs and pits, because razors aren't cheap, either, y'know."

Nora says: "Are you planning something special for my birthday?"

Love says: "You know what I would love to do for my birthday..."

Barb says: "I'm expecting a surprize party for my 30th birthday, and it better be good."

Olivia says: "What do you mean you're going for a bike ride? Your parents are visiting next weekend and we still haven't repapered the upstairs bathroom."

Love says: "Why don't we spend a couple of hours straightening things up, and then we'll take a bike ride."

Barb says: "If your parents see fit to complain about the ugly bathroom, they can go look in the dirty old mirror up there and remember who raised you. I refuse to do their nagging for them!"


And once your man does what you ask -- or better yet, takes the trash out on his own -- Love says it's crucial to give him positive feedback.

"Acknowledge and appreciate any activity that moves in the right direction. And be sure to listen to his point of view. Because sometimes taking a bike ride is actually what you both need to be doing."

Barb says: "This is wonderful advice for raising a child. Or a puppy."

Barb also says: "Will there never be a time when I need positive feedback for doing chores, because, well, I don't always feel like doing them? Or a time when he needs to hear my point of view in favor of slacking off? Nah. That might mean I'm not a perfect wife and mother, or even worse: that I don't want to be!"


I am:

A feminist
A Unitarian Universalist
A mother
A "radical moderate" (And would have chosen "theradicalmoderate" as my blog title if I *could* have, but it's taken)
A full-time computer programmer

At some point I will go into more detail on these, when I feel like it.