Dreaming the Chaos

Last night I dreamed I was in a circus. But it was a very bizarre circus. I came into a public place and confronted a man whom I know was an evil man who took people for all their money. He was sitting on the back of a chair counting it in envelopes. I grabbed an envelope and said, “I’ll take that thank you very much” and he looked at me in wonder. Inside the envelope were several wads of bills and $1000 bills. I explained that he could do whatever he liked, but he would regret it if he did and I was keeping this cash. I then called in my circus as back up. There were tiny elephants and people no bigger than knee high. There were wooden soldiers and a whole host of Cirque de Soleil type people that did strange things and acrobatic feats. There was a marching band that came in in very tight formation playing their music, but as they processed, they grew smaller and smaller until they were very tiny on the floor and huddled together as one entity. The whole implication, though, was that they could hurt you and would if I gave my say so. The room was duly subdued. I then switched to a dream where my boss was in a casual setting like a bar with a lot of other people and me. He was friendly and approachable and nothing like he is in real life.  Why we were all there and what we were doing I don’t remember.

Dreams fascinate me because they say so much about what happens in our unconscious. But for Pete’s sake, what does this circus dream imply? My life has been chaotic of late; divorce, health insurance woes (lack of at work), my youngest son left Tuesday for Iraq (he’ll be there a year), my boss, a pastor, is not doing something that seems to me to be a no brainer in the ethics department, the business manager quit because of it, my friend at work had a bad mammogram yesterday and is very worried, and all manner of other things it seems. The circus makes sense in a way, but the bizarre characters don’t. Any thoughts?


I’ll Take the Red Pill Please

I found this post at Scotteriology via Exploring Our Matrix. What an excellent analogy. The Matrix was a revolutionary movie for me. Like Fight Club it was one of the few movies that dared challenge how deeply humans are enmeshed in what we perceive as reality or what we have created for ourselves as a protective layer against the harshness of the world. Some of us are living lives pretty much on the surface of  reality, but biblical fundamentalists are buried beneath another layer called inerrancy. As a fundamentalist I felt pushed further and further back from the surface of reality as layer after layer of dogmatic belief was draped over me like blankets. The deeper one went in biblical theology according to inerrantists, the poorer the chances of ever waking up from it.

I’m not sure now what the “red pill” was for me back then. I think it was first discovering that so many different sects of Christianity interpreted the same set of scriptures in entirely different ways that set me on my way to questioning the “reality” fundamentalism claimed to construct for me. At least it got me out of a fundamentalist church. The final swallowing of the red pill was in a mythology class at university. There I discovered etiological myths. I learned that myths are so deeply ingrained in cultural consciousness that some cultures began to actually believe their own stories; those poetic stories told ’round a fire at the tribe’s center, stories about heroes and exploits of group salvation when the tribe began. These stories about gods and goddesses and supernatural phenomena, centered around the supposed origins of the world, were written down eventually and the very act of writing made them seem magically permanent somehow.

This germ of a thought opened every door for me. If I could claw my way out of the morass of inconsistent and self generating dogma that inerrancy provided, unplug myself from the “machine” of fundamentalism that was feeding me only what it wanted to make me serve it, then I could at least begin to see things clearly and make decisions closer to the surface of reality. All I had to do was handle the fear than engendered by facing the world as it was, not as fundamentalism told me it should be. Swallowing the red pill was the best thing that ever happened to me up to that point.

Others’ Rooms and One’s Own

Yours and my own room might not be so eclectically pleasing or so richly furnished, but the Guardian book blog has got a revealing series about where writers write. These writing spaces range from richly furnished rooms to cabins. Looking at these brings back fond memories of finding such a place for myself.

Since I was a little girl I’ve wanted my own space to write and be reclusive. I remember that the books that resonated with me the most back then were books in which the main character had a secret place to go to in order to be alone. There was a book called Jenny about a young girl who made a place for herself among tall, tall grass in her backyard. I specifically remember a character of another book who found an old abandoned shed with a little desk in it and a large, metal key to lock it with. I don’t remember the title to the book now, but I vividly remember the picture in my mind of the shed, the drawer, and the key and the times she would steal away from her house and go there. She would carefully unlock the desk and take out her notebook and write. Oh to be able to shut and lock your own place! This image spurred a lifelong passion for diaries, journals, and locked books.

I remember another book about a girl who velvetwas a migrant worker’s daughter. She went to an abandoned house and found a tower room with windows on all sides and window seats with cushions against all the walls of the circular tower room. The cushions and curtains were pink. I just found out the name of that book after all these years. It’s The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. I read this book in the 4th or 5th grade and have never forgotten it. The product description at Amazon.com reads:

Robin was always “wandering off” (her mother’s words) to get away from the confusion she felt inside her. It was not until Robin’s father found a permanent job at the McCurdy ranch, after three years as a migrant worker, that Robin had a place to wander to. As time went by the Velvet Room became more and more of a haven for her–a place to read and dream, a place to bury one’s fears and doubts, a place to count on.

A place to count on. Hmmm. Another of Snyder’s books was magical as well. It was called Black and Blue Magic and resonated deeply in my soul. It was about a boy who found some magical cream that he could spread on his shoulders and sprout wings. With those wings he could fly out of his window at night and fly over the city in which he lived. Wonderful All of these books were about children who find solace in solitude and being away from all that would intrude into a child’s need for privacy. They were all about a place they could count on to heal them.

When I fled the abuse in our childhood home, I tried to go anywhere I could to find such magical places in our un-ordinary household in our ordinary small town; a place of solitude, safety, and comfort.  A place to count on.  Like Jenny in the first novel I ever read above, I tried to find my own place out in the backyard amidst a small hedge of short pine trees. They were enclosed somewhat, but less than ideal.  I spent some time in there writing stories in my notebook. However, I could never find the perfect spot, that spot that you just KNEW was where you could be most private. The cellar of our house, accessed through a door outside, was too dank, musty, and spooky for that purpose, although my sister and I found a nice, big steamer trunk with old jewelry in it and a set of books about Egyptian methods of mummification. This set off a period of stealing spices from the kitchen cupboard with which to conduct “experiments” down below.  There was a shed out in the backyard, similar to the one found in the book (whose name I can’t remember), but it had no windows and spiders thrived. Ick. And of course I could not find a Velvet Room as their were few abandoned houses to retreat to that were in such good condition, nor was their magical cream with which to sprout wings.

I never did find that place of retreat. I think that my whole life has been spent trying to find that place of solitude that would allow me to think my own thoughts and to write. It’s every writer’s ideal. Virginia Woolf wrote of all those lost women writers who were never discovered because they lacked a room wherein to write and the means to support themselves. In A Room of One’s Own, Woolf writes,

When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to. Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.

Yes, where might all the mothers be, trying to flee young children by locking themselves in the bathroom, if they had a room of their own in vw-monks-housewhich to write? What masterpieces might there be? Or, perhaps, what could we have learned from hearing how ordinary women lived ordinary lives and tried very desperately to carve out their own spaces amidst the duties designated for them? Woolf said that not only did women need rooms of their own but sufficient income to support herself doing it. It appears that one cannot have one without the other.

As a mother with young children I remember watching The Waltons on television while my kids napped. I remember that John Boy wanted to turn the small shed next door to his house into a room of his own where he could write.  I think Mary Ellen was rightly outraged about his claiming to be older and a boy and therefore more rightly entitled to the place. Similarly, in the television show The Brady Bunch, Greg and Marcia Brady had it out in a step-sibling brawl over the attic room and who rightfully could claim it. I remember thinking that the boys would always win that one. Men, it is assumed, needed their own places to be creative. Women had the run of the whole house after all, they reasoned! But they forget that so does everyone else and the whole house is not private for  women.

Having one’s own room is the beginning of claiming your own space for the first time AND asserting your right to have one. Until recently, I never did find a secret place of my own. Now I have such a place, albeit not secret. But it’s mine. Mine will never be photographed for the Guardian Book blog, but it is no less important in the grand scheme of things than anyone else’s space and it is certainly, if I just realize it, more than adequate to provide me with that place I need to write; that place I can count on.

I think the need to have a private place where one can go and think their own thoughts and perhaps paint or write or compose music is a necessary thing for everyone. Women however are notoriously selfless when it comes to asking for their own space. They need to be more selfish and unapologetic at the same time. They need to be more assertive about asking for space, or better yet, just taking  space and claiming it as their own.  It’s a universal innate thing to do; retreat to a place we can count on to heal us. So, do you have a secret room? I certainly hope so.


Love and Freedom vs. Fear and Possessiveness

The Naked Soul has a most excellent post about love and possessiveness that is a very old “new” lesson, but one that needs to be learned over and over again, especially in today’s world where people feel they have a right to just about everything. I find it sad that the most possessive of people may use coercive forms which may include violence to keep from losing what they fear.  However, this fear is not love, but a desperate need to fill some void in our lives or to keep somehow what we think the other brings to us; something that perhaps we wish we had but that we don’t find in ourselves. Tobeme writes:

This attachment that we form feels like love, however it is not love in the purest sense. The other person becomes a possession, a possession which we begin to fear losing. In our fear of possible loss we become insecure about our relationship. When we become insecure our thoughts and behavior change and often as reaction to our fear of loss we begin to tighten our grip and seek more control over the other person. We become suspicious of the behavior of the other person, we worry about them straying when we are not around, we may even sabotage other relationships that they have with long time friends and even family in the name of “love” which really is in the name of attachment and our fear of loss.

Who hasn’t felt this at one time or another? I think as we grow older and hopefully wiser, we can learn to express our feelings for others in ways that give the utmost freedom to them and to ourselves.  The rest of the post is well worth reading and re-reading.

Of Go Betweens and Grounding in the Infosphere

Steven Vedro has written an Part II of a series entitled “Living in the Infosphere” for Reality Sandwich that tries to untangle the meaning of the “Web” with its intricate modes of communication and multiple information ports on the Internet; aptly renamed the “infosphere.” In surrealistic and philosophic fashion he helps us understand what the spirituality of the Internet means for us. Yes, that’s right, the spirituality of the Internet. All entities, worlds, and cosmos are imbued with spirituality don’t you think? Whether we project a spirituality into it or one evolves naturally and surrounds us with itself is the question of the day, but he definitely senses the forces at work in the interconnections between human beings interacting with all those bits of information and the results that are evident because of it.

Vedro believes a radical shift in our way of thinking is taking place, evident, I think, recently in the historic turn of events in this country. Vedro calls such radical turns of events “second tier thinking.” There have been many who predicted humanity’s movement into a “second age” or “new age” and the predictions come like clockwork, but there is a particular truth that Vedro points out that I find striking and it’s the way we use the Internet to communicate with our fellow planetary travelers. The Internet challenges us to open ourselves to receive information at all times. The Internet never closes, so to speak, therefore, we also never “close.”  We allow bits and pieces of all sorts of information to come and go through our neural processes at all hours of the day or night. We exchange those bits with others and it becomes a ceaseless circle of exchange. There are many bits that are welcome and good to invite in, but Vedro points out in this quote that we also come into contact with some unwanted elements he calls:

the unpleasant truths of humankind. Because it cannot effectively be censored, it forces us to ask the hard question of “what is the truth when everyone can speak?” It drags us into hard places, exposes us to situations where we must make our own values clear and public, forcing us to examine and defend our own core beliefs. Our inability to know if the person in the chat room is really who they say they are, our fears of fraud and identity theft whenever we enter personal data online, and our being deluged with false spammed messages all reflect our trickster self run amok.

What Vedro says is true. Someone close to me pointed out that we should always accept our core beliefs being challenged and not cringe from it. How else are we to grow if we don’t? Dragging ourselves into the “hard places” is what makes us think for ourselves.  Vedro would agree, however, he likens our defenses against such unclear information to a warrior’s shield.  Using the Warrior archetype (never mind that some women and men might choose another archetype for boundary protection), Vedro challenges how we use metaphorically the warrior’s shield as a protective device against the infosphere while we try to navigate it at the same time:

The Warrior’s shield can be painted with many designs, projecting different identities out into the networked world. Safe behind our aliases and proxies, we now have the freedom to reclaim the power of our voice — whether by text, video or podcast. One can download personal ringtones that announce to the world your “tribe of the moment.” One can practice playing with the shields of persona, trying on different identities, exploring in Sherri Turkel’s words, one’s “inner diversity.”

On the other hand, sometimes throwing down the shield is the biggest high: requesting in the act of blogging exposure, a validation of one’s existence, telling the world, in Emily Gould’s words, “all my secrets [so that] you won’t have any ammo against me that I haven’t given you.”

Blogging exposure struck me as phrase that explains what it is that we all try to do out here in the infosphere, especially those bloggers who try to process the vast amounts of information available and ask, “Yes, but what does this mean for me?” There’s really no reason to be out here projecting ourselves onto the world unless that is our primary motive. I mean, besides the obvious profit motive which drives a myriad of others to be out here, what is it that drives the rest of us? Some want to convince us of ideology, but overall we are all “selling” ideas and trading the commodity of information. But for what? If we aren’t running “the restaurant at the end of the universe” for profit, then why do we set up our little info booths and like Lucy in the Peanuts comic strip, hope that others stop by and ask our advice?

Over at Ephemeral Thoughts, my friend points us to a significant quote by a blogger named John. This quote struck me as a good reason why most of us sit ourselves metaphorically down and blog daily. John believe that it is our participation in the co-creative processes of God, or whatever you name your spirituality these day. He writes:

Perhaps it is not a question of either/or, but of both, and that a cosmic philosophy that integrates both the transcendent and immanent has not really been given a fair hearing yet?

Perhaps we have failed to grasp that our daily toil and struggle in issues of righteousness in our daily lives is our participation and co-creative contribution (or lack thereof) to the realization of the transcendent divinity goals of eternity within time and space? Perhaps we have failed to realize that the transcendent Deity/God as Creator has made a way, the “evolutionary idea,” by which the creature can co-create experiential deity within the evolving universes on the levels of matter, mind, and spirit; or that God is not only the source of that which is but that which will be, of that which is actual as well as that which is potential, and that within these projected divinity ideals God has made a way for you and I to respond to the divine call and contribute through free will choice in the actualization of these very divinity ideals. (Shuck and Jive: The Meaning of Life.)

“Integrating the transcendent and the immanent.” Yes, that’s it. Some of us have stopped struggling daily with “issues of righteousness,” electing instead to struggle directly with life itself, rather than mere ideas about life. We are forming direct bonds with those who help us live lives full of love, compassion, and justice, but most of all love. But John has a point about seeing ourselves as co-creators in an evolving universe rather than what I see most ideologues are out here doing; being watchdogs and purveyors of the moral order. In John’s view we are go-betweens for the transcendent and the immanent. Seeing our lives in this way and applying it the evolving infosphere is far more helpful in my opinion than hoping to change a few minds about our ideologies or politics. How about we become the priestesses or shamans if you will that help others transition to a more open and accepting existence? Forget the spiritual and mystical for a moment and simply see yourself as one who offers love rather than its opposite. Love moves things along. Hatred never does.

Stephen Vedro writes in similar terms and defines the Warrior’s purpose as a healing presence against the Shadow Warrior:

There are many web behaviors that reflect the Shadow Warrior (who is really the Savage): angry words and flames, scattershot spam, trolls intent on destroying not only the false shield of persona, but the entire being behind it, violent games, hate speech and hateful religion. The true Warrior metaphor however, is now manifesting in the return of groundedness to the web.

This “groundedness” is what both men are talking about really and what drew me to both the article and the quote. One uses “God” terms and the other uses archetypal metaphors, but they are really speaking about the same thing; staying grounded in an ever and far too rapidly changing universe. Without it, we are really at the whims of all those who are bent on destroying the processes that evolve us into the next millennium. Are we going to cling to old ways and behavior because they are familiar and give us a false grounding; one without legitimate reasons or one that simply maintains someone else’s vision of a “stable” society” or are we willing to step out there and act from better intentions than that? And unless we face our own Shadow Warrior; one bent on destroying all that is worth living for simply because it has the power to, there will be a vast disintegration ahead of us and a true intellectual and spiritual apocalypse. I hope I’m standing on the side of love when that happens.

Why I Keep Coming Back to Faith and Religion

Because there’s nothing else more interesting to talk about, that’s why. Politics you say?

Politics is boring and means nothing in the long run. Obama will win the presidency and things will go on as they always have; the rich get richer, the middle class will still exist from paycheck to paycheck, while the poor in this country will starve as millions of dollars go overseas to enhance the coffers of corrupt regimes.But HEY, we can “dialogue” with those corrupt regimes and all will be swell. What’s so new about that? We have no part in this process and to paraphrase Obama, the reason I turn to religion is because there ‘ain’t nothing else to take my ‘flustrations’ out on, ‘ya know?’ Well, I agree. Without my religious studies, I’ve become downright BORING!! Without scriptures to study, I have no interest in studying ANYTHING! At what point do you stop fighting and go with the flow?

But seriously, I don’t think losing one’s religion is all that exciting. In fact, my struggles to define my faith have provided some of the juiciest moments in my life. My struggles with people in church has been the most rewarding. It occurred to me that, while I have been making a show of looking for another job, I have long forgotten why I took my present job to begin with. I was sick of academia, sick of politics inside the university, sick of the state system that sucks you dry and leaves you with nothing. I took the job I am in now because it’s freedom personified. This church taught me that there is freedom to believe, freedom of movement, freedom of thought and leisure time outside of work. Yes, and freedom to believe the way I want to. I don’t have to pretend that I believe the party line. I also realized that I am far from a humble person. My chief sin in life is pride. I take so much pride in myself sometimes that I can’t see what a shitty job I’m actually doing at my workplace. I feed off the office gossip. I revel in talking about people needlessly. Let’s face it, there are always some people that we work with or that we know that make us worse persons not better ones. I am also touchy about being acknowledged for my accomplishments, whatever those may be. I have an inflated sense of self-importance and for some reason, and I’m always thinking that moving elsewhere will take care of all that. Says who? I will just take my shitty attitude with me somewhere else. How long before I start moaning over there?

On another point, I’m not sure who commented here on the blog about the fact that my dreaming about my former pastor is perhaps a step toward nudging me to reconciliation. What keeps us (read: me) from taking those steps? Pride of course. Insistence that I was completely right and she was completely wrong. Insistence that I knew better than she did about church matters. Pride in my importance and in my perceived role in the church. It’s the mistaken notion that I was a valued member when really, I was probably the patsy to bring the axe down. I actually wrote the pastor an email this morning acknowledging my complicity in the church ganging up on her at the Pastoral Relations meeting fiasco that started it all. I could lay the blame at the church’s feet because they did spur me on, but afterwards I felt about 1/2 inch tall. Who was I to be spokesperson and “correct” others? Yet, I spent hours on the phone listening to complaints so that I could exercise that spirit of correction on their behalf. So, why do I feel so shitty about it? I also actually miss her company, even though she had some things to repent of as well. But you know what? I’m not good at reconciliation. I’m only good for breaking off what doesn’t work for me.

So, I think I will refocus, with a new and improved lens, my study of religion and my nurturing of my own spirituality in whatever form that comes in. If it’s in the bible, great. If it’s in the Upanishads, who cares? I’m done fighting the unwinnable fight about dogma and doctrine and truth claims that can never be proven. Dogma’s neither here nor there anyway. It’s all about how we allow grace to flow through our relationships isn’t it? I need to learn to keep the tap of grace flowing through me and not allow it to stop with me. I’m spiritually clogged. If I want to keep the bible as my spiritual Drane-O then who does it hurt? 🙂 Blessings!