The Two-Headed Serpent

It’s been a while since I wrote in this blog.  I’ve mostly been sharing my thoughts only with myself, in my private diaries.  I’ve been going through a hard time; my depression and anxiety resurfaced.  Slowly, I’ve been climbing back out of it.  I am not religious, but I find channeling certain symbols helps me identify how I feel and what I’m going through.  I feel a lot of connection to the classical elements (earth, fire, air, and water), but recently I feel like a snake, who had its old skin starting to restrict it and cloud its eyes, and is starting to wriggle out and tear free to a bright new set of scales, that was inside all along.
I was puzzling for a while on how to put this into poetry- but I realized I already had.  A poem that I wrote shortly after coming to Gainesville.  I think I want to share it now here.

Four snakes float to an amber shore
On the back of an osprey who never soared,
One has two heads.
An old man comes along, on his usual walks,
Seeing the bright set, scoops them to a tin box
With his scarred hands.

The three snakes squirm and fight with rage.
“Speak to the man, to let us out of this cage!”
They say to the snake with two heads.
“You’re not one of us, so you’re one of him.”
It grows shy, afraid, its eyes grow dim
As it waits for it all to end.

The man has to work to feed his snakes.
When he’s away, that chance they finally take
Except for the snake with two heads.
It hesitates
The man only wanted to keep them safe
But there’s a way, and she knows that she has to go away.

She springs free- it’s a grand new world!
The sights, the colors, the wind!
She wants to breathe fire, she wants to SCREAM THUNDER!!!
She wants to crack apart the pillars of the world in her coils.

But she sees the hurt too, and knows that there’s still pain
She wants to nurture, protect, shed her blood to heal the world
She gives her heart and soul unflinchingly, unguardedly

Her skin peels off, she’s breaking free,
The two headed snake bursts out
In a riot of noise and color
No longer a slinking thing, a winge’d being of flame and peace,
A feathered Serpent of the World,
The Twin Spirit Quetzalcoatl,
A Rainbow Set.
Free

It is the story of my family, who shaped so much of who I am now, and a dark time we endured together.  I have made amends with them, for doing the things we had to do to survive, and I am so  glad and grateful they are now such a positive force in my life.  I couldn’t have torn free without them.

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A Dictionary Definition of Homophobia

Recently, I was browsing a Catholic blog, and came across this post: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/inebriateme/2014/04/two-things-that-happened-yesterday/

I liked what it was saying about scapegoating, but I felt like being a sadist so I scrolled down to look at the comments. For some reason, this one stuck with me:

I am not addressing the main point, but I wish to register a complaint about terminology used in this article. I really, really, really object to use of the vocabulary of the “gay” ideology, especially by those who are orthodox Catholics. The word “gay” is a completely ideological word. It does not describe those who experience same sex attraction neutrally but is completely tied with the ideology of making that sexual inclination the primary focus of one’s public identity. I know many who experience same sex attraction who object to using the word “gay” to define themselves — it is absolutely demeaning to be reduced to a one dimensional caricature as someone who is completely defined by their proclivity to a certain sexual sin. As for “homophobia”, it is a ridiculous word that literally means “fear of same” in Greek. Also, it patently does NOT mean lack of charity toward those with same sex attraction in accordance with the Christian principle of loving the sinner and hating the sin. As used by the gay activists, it simply means anything that is not 100% in lockstep with the gay ideology and agenda. If, God forbid, the Catholic Church’s magisterium were ever to adopt the highly un-Christian and un-Catholic ideology of gay activism and use its terminology, I would have to investigate whether the Church has fallen into heresy despite the promise of Our Lord, and would have to make a difficult choice about Church membership.

 

Usual, “I’m not homophobic, and even if I was it doesn’t really exist anyway” kind of twaddle. But for some reason, the “As for ‘homophobia’, it is a ridiculous word…” line was what made me want to respond to the post. However, I realized what I was coming up with was really too good to waste on this guy, and wouldn’t really do anything to change this commenter’s mind. So I decided to put it up here instead. It is no longer addressed to that one commenter, but to everyone who denies being a homophobe, or that homophobia does not exist.

 

Language changes, and definitions change and adapt. We would not have called an issue that impeded or stopped performance on a piece of machinery a “bug” sixty or so years ago. ‘Homophobia’ means “fear of same” in Greek, but in English it ‘literally’ means “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals.” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/homophobia

Irrational “Not based on reason, good judgment, or clear thinking.” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/irrational When your gut churns when you see two men or women holding hands, even though you don’t know those people, and they have never done anything to harm you or yours in their life, and you have no clear reason for disliking these people other than their homosexual behavior.

Fear- “an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fear?show=0&t=1396911614 When you believe something is a threat. The ‘gay agenda’ is a threat to your worldview, that it should be acceptable when you believe it should be punished. It is also a ‘danger to society’ that will have terrible consequences if society accepts it as normal.

Aversion- “a tendency to extinguish a behavior” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aversion?show=0&t=1396910479  You love the sinner, hate the sin- you have a conditional love for that person, so long as he or she never displays any behaviors that suggest they are homosexual.

Discrimination- “The practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other groups or groups of people.” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discrimination You have suggested that this can be vague- but you are showing discrimination when you are devaluing their claims of bigotry, treating them differently because of their homosexuality when you may lend a better ear to, for example, claims that your religious views are being suppressed, like the many ‘freedom of religion’ bills that are beginning to crop up.

Homosexuality- “The quality or state of being homosexual.” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/homosexuality When you say love the sinner, hate the sin, when you hate the sin you hate the sinner, because homosexuality is a state of being. Even if they refrain from having sex with the same sex, being homosexual is still a part of who they are, innate in their being (personality and biology at the very least, probably their soul as well, depending on how you define soul)

Homosexual- See ‘Homosexuality’.

From,

A Former Homophobe.

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Faith and Science

For the last week, I have been thinking a lot about what the process of science actually means to me.  I have been going over it in my capstone class, I unleashed all my disdain for someone who didn’t respect it, and to top it all off we had the Ken Ham/ Bill Nye debate, where one of my science role models debated the creation of the world and evolution with one of the most ignorant people I’ve ever heard of.  All this made me kind of want to put my thoughts down as well, to puzzle through it.  To kind of sort out my religious/spiritual beliefs along with what I think about science.

I’ve already gone through the discussion of my religious/spiritual development, and my Deistic Pantheism on my first post.  But I did not go as far into my relationship to science.  Since we were allowed to read whatever we wanted, basically, I early on latched onto studying animals, especially dinosaurs.  I loved animals of all kinds, and all their behaviors, but dinosaurs were, well, just cool.  And they were all lost to an intriguing and misty past, full of questions that I wanted to help answer.

I started looking at humans after we started homeschooling, as I began studying history avidly.  It was, for me, one of the easier subjects to read about, and I quickly fell in love with the past, shunning everything past about 1500 or so as gritty, nasty, or, well, it just seemed more confusing.  Which may say a lot about what I learned about the religious simplicity of the medieval period I was so enamored with.

Even during my ‘Christian’ phase, I had never felt that there was any conflict with my beliefs and what I knew about science.  Like many other Christian academics, I am able to separate my religion from my work.  The only conflict I had was when I left the bubble of our family and came to college, with the sociological things my dad had accidentally passed down to me, primarily the homophobia, but also the Christian Right political beliefs that I had helped indoctrinate myself during our stay in Florida.  This was roughly when President Obama was getting elected to his first term, and I listened to the radio hosts (Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage) pretty religiously.  These conservative religious beliefs came into conflict when I took my political science class, where I learned that our government is not as simple as ‘majority rules,’ and to a head in my sociology class, where I refused to write an essay when a guest speaker from Family Planning came and explained about sex education and the sexuality and gender spectrum.  It was also around this time when I switched from wanting to study paleontology to studying archaeology, and after I graduated from the community college I went to the state university to study anthropology in preparation for that.

Anthropology helped cure my misconceptions where my sociology class had failed.  It was a gentler slope.  Where sociology had presented me with all these ‘stereotypical liberal lies’ that I had so proudly stood against, anthropology proved little by little that what we consider normal or set in concrete in American society is very different in other cultures.  This allowed me to start thinking critically (for the first time, really, in quite a while since I was homeschooling myself) and question myself and my beliefs in what I thought was how the ‘world’ (read, America) functioned.

This leads me into the topics we were covering in my capstone class.  There is some debate in the anthropological community about whether anthropology should be termed a ‘science’, and if so, should the traditional ‘four-field approach’ be discarded, and the ‘more scientific’ fields of biological/physical anthropology and archaeology be weaned from the ‘softer’ fields of sociocultural anthropology and linguistics.   The answer isn’t simple, but I will present my other examples before suggesting what I believe.

In my second point, I erupted at someone on Facebook for disregarding and disrespecting his anthropological studies.  He had been with me at the field school over the summer in 2013, and what I felt was a gut reaction of disliking him only grew stronger as we continued.  It wasn’t easy in the mountains, but it’s trials and tribulation that brings out someone’s true colors, and boy, his shone through bright and clear.  Among several other selfish, ignorant, lazy things that made him a pain to work with throughout the field school, to me what made me lose all respect for him whatsoever was his admission that he did not plan to use any of his education in the future.  He was not going to go into archaeology.  He was paying all this money, and doing dismally, just for the social experience.  His dismissal of everything I held so important, anthropology and archaeology, made me glad never to hear from him.

Until this week, when a friend posted a video protesting the use of the use of the name ‘Redskins’ by the Washington DC football team.  She and another Native American friend, and I, were talking about how political correctness requires a much more mature perspective than just ‘being polite,’ but understanding that words have very real effects on marginalized people, and that using those words reinforces the already present equality.  So when this guy I’ve been writing about comes on and talked about how he thinks he has a moral right to defend the owner of the Redskins to use whatever he wants, I just unzipped and read him the riot act of everything I ever thought of him.  He has been studying all the same things I had, and yet he had not learned anything about respect for others.  He had ignored everything he had been taught in every anthropology class he had ever been in.

Finally, the Ken Ham/Bill Nye debate.  There are much more in-depth analyses of the event elsewhere, and I only need to touch on it for a few things.  First, I will acknowledge that Ham used a few tenets of the scientific method, in order to find evidence.  The issue with his science (among many, many other things) is how he wields it.

Because this debate tied a lot of things together for me about this week.  Ham showed me that science is a tool, independent of perspective- or it should be.  The difference between Nye and Ham is that Nye, and other, more religious, scientists, recognize that science can be used by anyone.  Whether you’re atheist, or Christian, Muslim, or Hindi, you can use science to learn more about the world without compromising your faith, or getting it twisted up in it.  Ham, however, uses science more like a weapon, and it is chained to the gauntlet of his faith.  If his beliefs about creationism were taught in school, anyone’s belief would need to be compromised.  Even Christians of different sects would need to sacrifice important tenets about what they were taught to accept Young Earth Creationism, to say nothing of Buddhist or Jewish students.  Science, regardless of who uses it, is a tool, and it is neutral to your spirituality or beliefs.

This leads back again to the anthropology debate, and whether it should be considered a science.  In my mind, yes, it should be.  Anthropology, like any academic discipline, is a tool, a way to ask questions and seek answers for them, and a way to examine the world.  People of all faiths study anthropology, and people of all faiths can use anthropology without compromising their religion.

To close off, this is why I got angry at the Facebook guy.  He had been studying all the same things as my fellow students, and he has this tool lying just at his fingertips.  But he is deliberately choosing to set it aside, to not make use of it.  To me, refusing to use knowledge you have striven so hard to attain is the greatest sin, and was the final spark that made me finally lose my patience.

It’s said that ‘knowledge is power.’  I’m going to redefine that by saying that, ‘knowledge is science, and science is a crowbar to lift the rock of ignorance in order to reveal the questions that need answering.’

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When the year ends, so will an old me- when a new year begins, a new me will begin

It has been a while since I wrote on this blog.  But, it’s late at night, I’m too tired to play anything but not tired enough to go to bed, so it’s a good time to just do a flow of consciousness, backtracking through the last part of the semester.

I began really struggling with school for the first time.  It wasn’t necessarily harder, but I was feeling the social pain of self-isolation, and I lacked the motivation to do hardly anything.  My solo therapist even suggested it might be depression.  I suppose it could be, though I don’t really feel very sad.  Though I suppose I have been allowing my emotions to be expressed a little more freely.

The group therapy sessions really helped me get through the semester.  Even though they didn’t have the information I had been really looking for, and I had to do more to educate them than they did me, it was still an amazing experience, and I hope to be able to continue next semester.  I was able to explore feelings I had heavily suppressed during the years in Florida, and realize that I had been fairly (though unintentionally) dehumanized and lost my sense of personality.  With the group therapy, I realized that I was expressing myself more directly, and my insight and blunt questions seemed to help the other members a bit.  They were pretty much the highlights of my week, and I really should have gotten their last names to be friends with them afterward…

At any rate, because of the group therapy, I began making further steps on my transition.  As of now, I have an endocrinologist available, and I am waiting on a reference from my counselor, but I have done a number of things on my own.  I bought a long-sleeve feminine shirt, a shorter-sleeved patterned blouse, a skirt and some stockings at a thrift shop, just to see what I would look like.  The results to me seemed nice- I felt more like I was ‘dressing up’ when I was at the archaeological conference in my last flash of masculinity, with the shirt, tie, vest, and pants.  With the skirt and leggings, it felt like I was just getting dressed for the day.  I haven’t worn them outside of my room yet, but I will probably soon.

Just this week, as well, I stopped by an Avon store, which had been listed by the Welcoming Project as an LGBT-friendly business, and walked inside, pretty much saying, “This is probably the weirdest thing you’re going to do for today, but I am a transgender person, and I would like some help with makeup.” The lady was very nice and welcoming, and helped me by selecting a large sample of foundation, eyeshadow, and lipstick.  Even without knowing the first thing about makeup other than a few Youtube tutorials, I was able to play with it, and find what shades worked and what didn’t, and what I liked and disliked.  And it felt very easy and natural, and I enjoyed the effect it had.

I think the biggest thing since the last post were the holidays.  I wanted to go to visit my dad for Thanksgiving, but I think he might have been retreating and he made a number of excuses for not having me over, which I could agree with as he would just be too busy and we likely wouldn’t be seeing a lot of each other, and I would just be sitting in his trailer without even a decent Thanksgiving dinner.  So, while I felt a little spurned, I didn’t let it get to me, and wound up having Thanksgiving with the Anime club president and her family. 

When Christmas rolled around, he was more anxious to have me in Tulsa, and I had grown more nervous.  I knew the progress I had been making, and I was afraid of the discussions I would need to have with him would not be pretty, and I did not want to have to discuss them with him on Christmas.  I didn’t need to have his negativity during the holiday season.  And, while I was briefly motivated by a resurgence of the holiday spirit, to do actually put effort into doing something for someone else, I knew that not only would my efforts not be reciprocated in any form (since it would just be acting with his expectations), but it would just be repaid in stress and a negative atmosphere.  Plus, you know, same thing as with Thanksgiving, with me just sitting in the trailer.

I wanted to go visit my sister instead, and that would have been an amazing Christmas, with my nephew, brother-in-law, and my other in-law family.  But I just didn’t have the money to do the trip, by bus, plane, and the car definitely couldn’t make that trip again.  That was a shame, but I put the effort to give them a variety of other meaningful gifts.

More meaningful than what dad gave me- he bought a Voice-to-Text program and a parking pass for the next semester, both things that I did not need to use at all.  I suppose I will use them as I can- the voice-to-text program I intend to use to both practice my voice feminization and use to type on this blog, and the parking pass will help me become more involved with campus activities.  But regardless, it showed that he really has little idea of my interests or actual needs, or paid attention to what I said about them.

So, this holiday was hard, and I only barely healed the hurt I gave dad when I told him I didn’t want to come.  I will be going back, at least for a while, in May when I graduate, which I am not looking forward to, but have to do anyway, so he will have his time with me.  He’s still not progressed in his transgender education, and was surprised again when I told him I looked forward to introducing him to any future girl friends, as he still doesn’t get that gender and orientation are two completely separate things. 

Anyway, that’s the big news, just trying to keep things up to date.  I’m looking forward to the new year, where hopefully I will begin HRT treatment, and my graduation, which will likely look significantly different than my TCC graduation picture!Image

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My First GLBT Group Therapy Session- and a sudden decision to come out.

For the last two months or so, I had been dealing with social isolation, and therefore, social anxiety.  I thought I had made some good friends at an archaeological field school I had attended over the summer- but the dynamics radically shifted once we were back in Norman.  I stopped being the highly energetic, helpful person I was in Colorado, and became extremely shy and reclusive when I returned to Oklahoma.  I let relationships slip away because I didn’t have the energy or personality to maintain them.  I got a pair of new room mates, but I hide myself away from them as well, too shy to interact with them on more than an occasional basis. 

One especially bad instance for me was an Anthropology Undergraduate Society meeting.  It was the first time I had attended, since in all previous semesters I had been working while they were meeting.  I was supposed to introduce myself to everyone.  Instead, I froze, trying to hang out with the field-school members who were there.  And I became excluded- probably not by any conscious effort on their behalf, but the circle of conversation was closed to me.  Everyone was seated in front-facing desks, and there was nowhere for me to sit, so I was standing, looming over them.  The facing had it so everyone’s back was toward me.  Every time I tried to enter the conversation, my entry was too forceful, and it was awkward, out-of-place, and unsuccessful.  I tried to run away, but I nerved myself to go back- but could only engage in more looming.

When I got home, for some reason it clicked in me.  I was completely alone.  I had no presence or impact on anyone in Norman, Oklahoma, hell, the world except for my few connections to my family and one online friend.

I was free.

I decided I was unequipped to deal with the social expectations and realities of being a man as I imagined myself as.  I therefore needed to radically reinvent myself, become not the man I aspired to be, but the person.  And that person, to me,  is undeniably female.

I’ll get into my female role models in another post, as this is supposed to be a record of my first therapy session.  And the events that followed.

I had gone to an archaeological conference and had almost crippling social anxiety attacks, to the point of almost going to the side of the road and crying.  I suppose it was my last hurrah in masculinity- I cut quite the dashing figure, in my nice shirt and vest, even a tie, and I made a good impression on the scholarly representatives.  But somehow I completely alienated all the field-school people who went with me.  I began getting depressed, I suppose is the best word for it.

To the point that I even told my dad about how crushed I felt.  I had been doing research into therapists in the area, but now I felt I needed help to even function socially.  My gender took a back seat to the social issues.  Dad agreed that it was perhaps time to get help, and signed me up with a counselor at the school program to see what I needed.

She was very accommodating, allowing me to share what I could.  I emphasized that my social functioning was the most important thing to me at the moment, but she suggested I join a GLBT therapy group they were organizing.  I agreed that it would be a good idea- both for me to figure out where I stood as a transgender person, and as practice for me to organize my social skills.

So today I attended my first meeting.  There were two therapists, three gay men, and a lesbian woman, so I was definitely the odd one out.  They greeted me with kindness, and curiosity.  The conversation seemed to flow pretty well, but I am ashamed that I probably messed things up more, by wanting to jump in with contributions about me, and asking fewer questions.  I guess it’s all a part of practicing and learning.

I was surprised by what they noticed about me- I tried to demonstrate my old, deep voice (which I use to sing Johnny Cash with ease,) and they said it seemed like I had had difficulty doing that, even though I had not had any official voice training.  They also noted that I seemed very natural and comfortable, which I indeed felt.  Point is, I guess I had made more progress than even I realized.

Now to probably the more important part of the story.

As I was writing this post, I was talking to my sister.  I am uncertain whether she was fully in support of me changing my gender, or if she was dancing around the issue, but she told me to “just go out there and be you”.  After that, I was talking to my dad, who had sent me a call.  I was suddenly seized with a strong sense of guilt talking about the group.  I decided it was “now or never,” and gave him a call.

His response was not helpful.  As when I was suffering my social anxieties, his response was to pressure me to adjust my appearance to what is ‘normal.’  His preconceptions are really strong- he knew about SRS, but kept forgetting that I expressly told him that I was not attracted to men.  He believed that liberal people at college were pulling me to make this decision, and that the group therapy would only ‘push me down the hill.’  He concluded by asking me, as a special favor, to ask my social therapist if there was an alternate group to help ‘push me back up.’ 

However, on the other hand, he did give me his support the only way he knew how, and I have to appreciate that.  He said he would always love me, no matter what I did (although he hoped I will change my mind) and that he would always be there for me.  So I still have him (very strongly, perhaps a little too much) in my life- now all I can do is try to do a long education about the truth of the matter, especially bringing him up to speed on why we need to change the world.

 

 

 

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How I Came Out to My Sister (before I even knew it)

I was just browsing the web between classes at school today on my phone, when this story happened to catch my eye.  The tagline on the main page of Huffington Post read “My secret is that I wish I was a woman.”  This struck me especially hard to home, because it is the same thing I had told my sister after an interesting dating experience.

While my dating history has not been extensive, it has been extremely diverse.  My first date in my entire life was with a model who had appeared in Victoria’s Secret, my second date was my first kiss, and also my first girlfriend, who was an escort (not employed at the time of the date), and my third date was a bisexual geeky girl.  I had been talking about her over the phone with my sister, who told me she was herself bisexual.  I forget how exactly the conversation got turned to that point, probably me doing an overly confident assessment of myself as a prospect for my girlfriend, but I distinctly remember, as I anxiously paced up and down the trailer my dad and I were living in (of course, he was absent at the time,) telling her, “I sometimes wish I were a woman.” 

Of course, I backtracked, saying I had no illusions about my body being feminine, and how I could never go for surgery- but that was before I had done my research, before I had seen the amazing transformations transgender people can achieve.  Now that I am a little more educated, I can see that even then I was more open to my transition than I thought at the time.

I’ve told one or two other people since, people I imagined would be liberal and open to it, but all those times I had never had an intention of actually beginning the process.  I thought I was doomed, and I should just accept who I was.  I had been a big, burly, bearded mountainman, and was proud of my facial hair which I am so determinedly fighting now.  What changed between then and now?  I will have to think harder on it, with the help of some group therapy coming up, but all I know is that something has definitely shifted.

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Magic, Religion, and Science

I was doing some of my readings for class, my landscape archaeology class to be exact.  They were discussing roads in ancient Egypt, and how they were not only used for economic transport of goods, but for military patrols and religious ritual pathways.  For some reason, this brought to mind some of my earlier dabbling in belief and the supernatural, and led me to reconsider my current stance.

My dad had been brought up in a southern Baptist church of some sort, and he hated going to church.  Therefore, he never pushed going to church on us.  However, his sociopolitical views were still heavily based on these beliefs, as I may be revealing in later posts.  But for the majority of our childhood, he did very little in the way of moralistic or religious teaching.  The main lessons he wanted to pass down to me and my sister was to obey the Golden Rule (do unto others what you would have done to you); conversely, he also taught that our family motto was “Our family doesn’t start fights, but we finish ’em.”

He let us read pretty much anything we wanted, and our main access to religion was various Story Bibles, or a ‘Book of Virtues.’  I preferred the Book of Virtues, which combined short stories from a wide variety of fiction and history to demonstrate and teach things like Honesty, Loyalty, Hard Work, and Generosity- ironically, a lot of the things I hold dear in the My Little Pony setting (Kindness, Generosity, Honesty, Loyalty, and Laughter… Magic in a little bit.)

I did enjoy one version in particular of the Story Bible we had- where it combined the Biblical stories, and in the margins detailed historical and archaeological details about life at that period.  But these books were fairly marginal- the things I liked reading about most were animals.  I knew more about dinosaurs and animals when I was eight than a lot of my fellow students know now, unless they are taking specific classes in biology and zoology.

When my dad remarried after seven years of raising us on his own, the woman he brought into our lives changed everything.  She was a Russian artist from Izhevsk, with her small daughter.  While my dad was teaching us about what he knew about the ‘secular world,’ she brought a new aspect, and unlocked our imaginations.  She was a deep and abiding lover of fantasy fiction, and encouraged us to read and learn about works like Lord of the Rings, the Brothers Lionheart, the Chronicles of Narnia, Amber, and so much more.  While she taught my sisters to use their creativity in their artwork, for me she unlocked it in my writing and narrative imagination.  Until about a few years ago, when I decided to shift to a science fiction work, I had been writing and rewriting a fantasy story- which led me to my brief but passionate involvement with religion.

We had returned to the states and were living in a marina in Miami.  My mother was beginning to start the pattern of almost daily shopping trips that eventually would lead to the dissolution of our family, but for now it was a great expansion of my available literature to read.  I think it was in this period I first read “The Once and Future King,” now my favorite book, but for the interest of this post I will point out the book that led me to analyze my spiritual beliefs.  I forgot the title, but it was a book detailing ‘white magic’.  It caught my eye, and I bought it in order to gain ideas for my fantasy story.

I forget the majority of the content, but the main theme of the book was invoking various angels and spirits for help.  The main thing I used it for was cleansing and divination.  The cleansing ritual was my first and only exposure to ritual behavior, and I would diligently stand in my little cabin, inscribing pentagrams in the air in the four directions and whispering the names of God/angels (I would need to squish my arm a little bit to get the southern one, because there wasn’t room.  It was probably a psychosomatic effect, but my room did indeed feel a little more clear, as the tensions in my family were beginning to take deeper root. 

The divination took the form of ring dowsing.  I had a gold ring, representing Vilya, the Elven Ring of Elrond (mom was a BIG Lord of the Rings fan- and so am I!)  and I would tie a length of thread to it and knock it against a goblet-like cup, asking questions.  The power of this was inexplicable, even to the day.  We would test the method by hiding objects somewhere on the boat, and then use the dowsing to figure out its location by narrowing the parameters: like we would ask, “Is it in the aft half?” and with a negative response, would ask, “Is it in the main cabin?” and so on- and it would lead us to the hidden item.  This is what I was thinking about when I was doing my reading- my thought had turned to applying this on a landscape, like a criminal investigation or archaeological site. 

We asked a great many other things, where we discovered I had the greatest power; my ‘guardian angel’ who was answering my questions was just like me, only with no sense of humor; and so on.  There was one question, however, that completely changed my point of view, and made me abandon it wholly.

I had been reading the Bible parallel to this, since I had been given a very handsome edition of the King James Bible.  I had never studied it very rigorously, but this was one of the first times I was reading it straight through, in all of its archaic glory.  I came to the part in… Judges?  Kings?  The bit where it says this: “There shall not be found among you . . . anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you.”  [Deuteronomy 18:10-12 (please forgive me if my citation is wrong, I had a hard enough time with MLA formatting!)] 

A little unnerved, I tried to rationalize with myself- I thought I was using this power under God’s angels, that this was different than what the Bible was discussing.  But, one day I asked the dowser a fateful question: “Am I going to hell for doing this?”  Two knocks: A yes. 

I never performed that dowsing ritual again, and soon discarded the book of white magic.  My belief in miracles and power shifted from that book to the Bible, and I read it fervently.  I had no one to teach me what it meant, so I combined it with what little opinions I had from my family, to form my translation of it.  I saw the world around me as corrupt, sinful; everyone was obsessed with sex and sexiness (it couldn’t possibly because I was sixteen and starting to notice, right?  Didn’t help that we were in Miami too, where people dress scantily pretty much out of necessity.)  I began to hate myself for masturbating, and when I even went to my dad for help, he gave me the disappointing answer that it was ‘natural.’  I became, for the first time, very disenchanted with the modern culture, and began to search for alternatives.

This is when I considered becoming a monk.

I had been reading for my homeschool about the kindness and inspiration of the Order of St. Francis, and about the scholarly guardianship of the Order of St. Benedict.  I avidly read the Rules for both of these orders, and found a lifestyle of predictability, scholarship, and worship that greatly appealed to me.  I even contacted the abbott of the Florida chapter of the Benedictines, asking how to begin, even though I was too young.  However, being stuck with my family and lacking independence, that eventually died out.

I have forgotten what started my decline in my loosely Christian beliefs.  A lot of people have a kind of revelation, where they realize something is wrong, just doesn’t compute with the God they know and love.  For me, I think it was a  book of philosophy where they detailed the beliefs of the Enlightenment Deists.  That kind of view, where God has set things in motion and kind of lets it loose to do what it will, clicked with me with much stronger force than anything else had.  It seems like a good way to synthesize the supernatural effects I had observed, and the scientific knowledge and perspective I was accruing.  It also fit well with the multicultural knowledge I was gaining- how can you explain a single Deity, who damns nonbelievers to hell, when all over the world there have always been people believing in their own thing, and all throughout history as well?  What happened to the billions of people who died before Abraham was even born?  It only makes sense that there is some higher spiritual power or powers- whether we call it God, Coyote, Allah, Vishnu, or Bastet, what matters is how the natural world was set in motion and how we comport ourselves on it.  For matters after death, I believe that the individual goes where she believes she will go.  This is why I am so afraid for fundamentalist Baptists and other Christians of that fervor- they focus so much on Hell, I fear that’s where their psyches will imprison themselves after death. 

Meanwhile, this belief frees me to continue my scientific endeavors with no conflict between the natural and the supernatural.  Understanding evolution has no contention- some force set it in motion, or provided the structure of DNA necessary to enable adaptation- hell, maybe even the scenario of the lightning striking the primordial sea and allowing the fusion of the first organic compounds was an act of ‘Godliness’.  This perspective, which I guess may be called Deistic Pantheism, has been a great boon to me when I began studying anthropology, where I readily understood and began to apply the principles of cultural relativism.  It also allows me to question, criticize, and investigate without being hindered by any specific beliefs- including the perspective of atheism. 

 

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