Monthly Archives: November 2013

Action, Procrastination, and Other Words Ending in -ion!

If I don’t throw myself headlong into an intellectual project, I will go mad. Mad! I say. This might mean not worrying so much about blogging here or reading other blogs–whatever!! As you might know, I work more part time hours now than I did when I spent one day a week manning the art gallery. This is all for the great purpose of not going into school debt. For those who want to know, I don’t mind it. It’s fine. The job will, eventually, allow me to fulfill this one great nagging intellectual project that I have in mind (which I’m choosing not to share). If the job were one entailing more responsibility, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything on the side. It would be an end unto itself. As it is, it’s a fun job (most days).

Meanwhile, though, I need to stave off madness by finishing the book, based off the Oso and Julia stories, that I meant to complete by the end of December. I have high hopes of unloading this one on an indie press, but we shall see whether the editor/publisher will like what she reads when I’m done. If she decides it’s worthy of her imprint, then I’ll give more information at that time. This is all just to say that I’m not going to force myself to regularly post here, though I’ll try. I need to prioritize rather than fall into my classic nihilist cave where my inner voice informs me, Everything’s meaningless! Why bother?*, while my animus tells my inner voice to Shut up, already! Everything was jolly before you came around. You won’t be surprised to know that, as a child, when I first read Ecclesiastes, I felt like I’d come home–found my water in the desert and all that, even though I lived in the soggy Pacific NW, where I was endlessly searching for a dry spot to be left alone. Ay, semantics and symbolism, my favorites! What does the word desert mean to a child who listens to rain pounding on her rooftop nine months out of the year?

Ah, well, yes. The only way out of the cave is take-charge action! I’m pretty sure King Solomon would have likened that to vanity, too, though he might have considered it the hard day’s work that allows one to eat, drink, and be merry. Let’s hope so. Not that I would (hope or be merry). One has to eat; this one would rather enjoy beverages: coffee, tea, vegetable juice, tonics, wine, and hot toddies. The goats knew what was good. Lest you believe I’m speaking religiously, I’m not. I’m referencing the legend of the goats and their joyful play upon discovering coffee. I wonder what would happen if a herder regularly fed his goats or cows coffee. Would you end up with cafe lattes fresh from the teat?

I’m going to go to bed with my books now. I’m reading two nonfiction books: have mother, will travel by Claire and Mia Fontaine and South With the Sun: Roald Amundsen, his polar explorations, & the quest for discovery by Lynne Cox. I’m also still reading, at my leisure, Tom Simon’s Writing Down the Dragon and Other Essays. For fiction, I’m savoring a volume of Anton Chekhov’s short stories by only allowing myself to read one story a night.

*I often wonder what the point is of foisting more and more absurd literature, which the world doesn’t need and wouldn’t miss, onto the publishing marketplace.

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Is Truth Beauty, or Beauty Truth?

trepanation

Valerie had long desired a trepanation cure. The pressure that pulsed outward at her third eye spoke to her: Yes, yes, yes, it thrummed, and, Free, free, free! After several years of inquiry into the matter, she came to the conclusion that she was finally ready to take the plunge. She didn’t know why she’d put it off so long. The Trepanation Advocacy Group she’d joined along her path of personal evolution was composed of truly enlightened individuals. Each story differed, but the consensus was in.

Trepanation allowed the third eye to open its heavy lid, revealing universal truths, as well as personal truths. The group discussed their visions over Cokes—no need any longer for wheat grass and green tea once the third eye was open! All health, all soul, all body became one through the hole in the head.

But it was Joanna’s ethereal story of meeting her personal guardian angel on the planet Pluto that pushed Valerie into making the appointment. There wasn’t a dry eye in the Burger Barn lobby when Joana had finished telling of how the angel, whose name was Rembrandt, fluttered to her on the back of a brown moth. Moths were sturdier than butterflies, the angel explained to her. Angels riding butterflies was an urban legend that God had repeatedly debunked in bulletins, but He couldn’t convince some that angels didn’t ride butterflies. Aside from being fragile, butterflies couldn’t be tamed properly, and their riders never quite knew what kind of loop-de-loops they would perform in flight. God also couldn’t convince some that Pluto was actually a planet and not any mere rock, no matter how many times He had tried to explain that His categorization methods were not the methods of humans.

Here was the heart of the story: Rembrandt engulfed Joanna with his numerous wings and gazed at her with his multiple and complex eyes and whispered in her ear: In His schema, you are Categorically Free Spirit. You are like the butterflies who perform their loop-de-loops at their own whim and discretion. You aren’t meant to be ridden, but to ride the backs of others. He then let her go, and her consciousness flew back to earth, shooting through the atmosphere and, like a solar ray, reentering her body through the hole in her head.

Without the trepanation, Joanna could neither have let her consciousness go, nor gathered it up again. Valerie wanted to experience that. Her consciousness desired to travel the cosmos. It was weary of being a homebody. It wanted to experience the glowing light, love, and beauty that only trepanned people could. The universe was a veritable mass of glowing love lights, according to the enlightened ones.

The medical trip to Mexico City, where there was a neurosurgeon who would perform the drilling, began like a vacation, the thrill of it trilling in Valerie’s soul. She’d had to take medical leave from the graphic arts company where she worked, and there was no guarantee she’d have a job when she returned, even though the surgery would make her a better artist. As a draftsperson who primarily designed logos for not-so-sexy companies, such as tax brokerage and law firms, she understood that drilling a hole in her head would release her to understand the cosmic importance of such businesses. This understanding would thereby allow her to design spiritual symbols for them that they would adore without being conscious of precisely why.

The day before surgery, she visited the Chapultepec Zoo to become one with the animal world. With her arms wide open to give room for her lungs to breathe, she inhaled the fresh fragrance of manure. Then, she meandered languidly through the park to become one with nature in a way the children chasing colorful balloons and shouting mysterious words in Spanish wouldn’t because they thought only of cake and ice cream. And how much more would Valerie understand what lay beneath it all after the hole was drilled in her head? The thought of being enlightened more than others—and she was by the very nature of having chosen to be trepanned!—filled her with smug, yet benevolent feelings toward the poor little brown Mexican children. If only they knew the truths embedded in the earth where they played….If only, but, no, she couldn’t think of it. They would grow up to be ordinary and do ordinary things and never recognize truth symbols, let alone create them, unless they were trepanned.

“This is the world the way it was,” she said aloud so as to permanently capture the image in her mind. “It will never be this commonplace again.”

Back at her hotel, her head buzzed with dizziness after she downed her last glass of fresh vegetable juice. After that day, she would be able to maintain her health off Cokes and burgers slathered in special sauce, which were decidedly better than the salads and juice she’d subsisted off of for the last several years.

Dizziness aside, it was difficult to pinpoint the moment when everything changed from positive to negative. For a start, she couldn’t sleep at all the night before her scheduled surgery with Dr. Aurora. When she finally arose from the stiffly bleached sheets on the hotel bed, her head had gone from dizzy to stuffed-up. Her sinuses pulsed and pounded, and she instinctively knew that the hole in her head would only let out the pressure beneath her skull, and wouldn’t begin to help the sinuses.

When the cabdriver deposited her at the trepanation clinic, she wasn’t at first leery of it, despite her head congestion. Potted plants waved in the breeze by a quaint gate, which opened onto a shady courtyard decorated with river rocks. Once inside the operating room, however, she found herself staring at a tray of hand-crank drills that looked exactly as if the surgeon had ordered them from an eighteenth-century medical equipment catalog. Surely, they were simply for display, she reassured herself, but she wasn’t to know. Before she saw his face, Dr. Aurora had covered her mouth and nose with a sickly-sweet-smelling pad. Darkness consumed her, and her dreams led her down hand-cranked paths, rolling in front of her bare feet. She shivered and shook with delirium, and yet, she walked down the path because it was the only direction she could see to step.

Then she awoke, and rather than the lightness that others claimed to have felt from the holes in their heads, she felt only a searing pain. Lightning flashed behind her eyeballs, and she instantly rolled over and vomited. Her head was so heavy she couldn’t hold it up. Eventually, she gave into the desire to sleep forever in a black and heavy place. Where were the glowing lights, the love? Where was her guardian angel?

“I’m here, Jane.”

“I’m not Jane,” she muttered.

“You are Categorically Jane.”

She rolled over in her sleep, and there he was: a small black troll of a beast with shriveled wings.

“Come, give us a hug, Janie,” he said. “I have so much to tell you.”

“I can’t move. Too heavy.”

He hopped on top of her and flopped his arms around her. “I’m here to reveal reality to you. Are you ready?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“No, not really.”

And then the visions of truth began: images of hunched black creatures in shadows, of darkness, death, and writhing people covered in sores. There was no enlightenment, only endarkenment, if such was a word.

“Stop, please, stop. Where’s my consciousness, hell?”

“Hell? No way! You’re here on earth, Janey, my girl.”

“Lightness, love. Truth. Where is it?”

“Enlightenment, don’t know what that is.” He wiggled a little on top of her and pinched her waist. “I know what lightning is. And gamma rays. I love gamma rays.”

She tried to throw him off her back, but she was too heavy to move. “Please, I beg you, go away. Bring me back to myself.”

“So soon, Janey? Don’t you have any pressing questions?”

“Do you travel around on brown moths?”

“Urban legend!” he shrieked. “I use a spaceship shaped like a comet.”

“Go away!”

Because her eyes were closed, and the world was generally dark, she didn’t see him go. She felt his pressure ease off her back; she even felt it leave the room. But the shadows didn’t leave her for a long time while she slept and slept with no sense of time or dreams. A long time later she opened her eyes–and the world appeared normal.

“Why don’t you turn on the lights?” she asked nobody in particular.

“¿Como?”

Through the dim shadows of a warm summer night, she saw the figure of a nurse bustling around. As she tried to focus, the searing pain in her head belatedly woke up. Never mind, she thought. Never mind.

Before she checked out, she accepted the pain meds the surgeon’s assistant offered her; she never did see Dr. Aurora’s face. Would the searing pain ever subside? she asked him.

“Pain is a gift from God,” he said. “Truth an even greater gift.”

She didn’t smile or thank him. Instead, she popped a pill. She had a flight to catch. Was it possible for the world to appear even more broken and gritty than before–even more commonplace? She popped another pill on the flight home.

She popped another one the first time she spotted a hallow-eyed demon in the food court of the mall. Another pill slid down her throat on her first day back at the office, where she worked tirelessly at exposing truth. From under her fingers, demon horns sprouted from twisted lawyer faces. When she lost her job, she went on the state health insurance so she could keep buying her pain meds.

When she could no longer afford the Burger Barn, which didn’t accept food stamps, she turned to freelance, but for some reason, nobody was interested in the calligraphic words she painted for them over and over, swirling in between ugly brown moths:

Enlightenment, don’t know what that is!

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Love In the Time of Nirvana

(Goal: 500 words)

As one might expect, I’m a bit of a food purist. I prefer to know exactly what I’m eating down to the last ingredient; I read ingredient labels as though they’re literature and, consequently, don’t buy too much packaged food. The fewer the ingredients, the better. For example, I prefer a dinner composed of fish, rice, onions, and pickles over one with fancy sauces. So when I went off to college at eighteen and was forced, by school policy, to eat in the cafeteria, I naturally tended toward the sandwich and salad bar, where I could easily know every last ingredient, from bread to sprouts to mushrooms. It was too bad that I didn’t have a clue about celiac back then; I couldn’t, at the time, figure out why my intestines would periodically cramp so severely it would disable me. It didn’t happen often, just once every month or so. I re-investigated the ingredients in all the food I was consuming, but without the knowledge of wheat allergy, I cut out items that were unlikely to have been the culprits. If I had put two and two together, I might have realized that the difference was going from a meat-and-potatoes and occasional-sandwich type of diet with my parents to an almost solely bread diet.

(Now that I’ve wasted almost half my word count explaining that…)

One night, I went to a Nirvana concert with a male friend who was so annoying that he would never have been more than a friend to me. He was extraordinarily bossy, and I’m a control freak (two OCD, slightly autistic people do not make a great match). Anyway, I don’t allow the average Joe-Blow to tell me what to do. In fact, I’m pretty much not into respecting self-appointed or even real authority figures unless they’re cutting me paychecks, or happen to be my husband or GOD. This man used to insist, for example, that I go back inside my house and brush my hair if he wasn’t satisfied with its appearance. Sadly, my hair was never smooth enough because Portland is a wet climate, and my hair turns frizzy in wet climates. I recall that he slighted my hair on that cold, damp concert night, which set the wrong tone for an evening out. I didn’t fully appreciate Nirvana’s music, anyway. I accepted the invite because live music is always interesting, and the person he’d originally invited had bowed out at the last minute, leaving him with an extra ticket.

Needless to say (or maybe I do need to say), the night was a disaster. Bossy male friend became more and more possessive of me as the night wore on, turning surly and aggressive if I so much as spoke to another person. To escape him for a few blessed moments, I moved down the aisle to greet an old friend and managed to get caught in the mosh pit, where I lost a shoe and was generally pummeled by large men wearing leather or flannel jackets and combat boots. I quickly worked my way out–not being a tough chiquita, not even as a cover story–and that’s when the cramps started. Yes, those pesky, as-yet-undiagnosed cramps. Surly male friend (I think I’ll call him Dick) thought my pain was a bad attitude toward him and eventually left me at the concert alone. Hurray! Um, no hurrays. I didn’t know Dick had left me there until it became quite clear that he was not in the restroom or anywhere else. The concert hall cleared out; I found my shoe, and then I proceeded to search the lobby. But there was no Dick to be found.

I stepped outside, my vision blurry from the pain. Dick couldn’t have left me there. I lived forty-five miles away, and he had driven me to the concert. I had no immediate way to get back home. The Tri-Met bus system went out as far as Newburg, and I lived farther out in McMinnville, where the bus lines didn’t extend. Still, if I was able to find a phone booth, I could grit my teeth and call my parents (I hate being a burden to other people and asking for help. Hate it! Control freak, remember?). First, though, I had to rest. I had to curl up somewhere and wait for the cramps to pass. I tried to reenter the concert venue, where it was warm and carpeted, but the security would have none of it. Nobody was allowed back in. So I curled up right there on the sidewalk, my knees clutched to my chest. The street was empty, the sidewalk finally clear of concert goers. It was pleasant after all the noise and commotion (noise being the one drawback to the aesthetic of live music; well, that and mosh pits).

And lo and behold, who should round the corner but my one true love? That sounds silly, doesn’t it? Oh, well, I don’t care. He was the person I knew I was going to marry back in high school. I don’t know why I knew; I just did. It was kind of an absurd reckoning because he was the boy all the girls went ga-ga over, and, therefore, I should have despised him, yet somehow didn’t. There he was, and for no other reason except that he and his roommate had gone to see a movie downtown and had chosen to take a walk afterwards.

Yes, he and his roommate rescued me. They wanted to take me to the ER, but I was the same person back then as I am now. You couldn’t have convinced me to go the doctor unless I was on my deathbed, which I wasn’t. I was only in pain. And pain passes. It’s temporary. I suppose love is temporal, too–a part of this earthly, physical reality. Twenty years is a long time, though, and that’s how long it’s been for my love and me: Twenty years, in which he has been far too disdainful of mucking about with female beauty rites to tell me how to wear my hair.

(And, yeah, I just doubled my intended word count. So sue me.)

Finis.

*This post has been slightly edited to reflect both Dick’s and my personalities better due to the misapprehension from a blog thread.

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Dr. Jill Reports

I’m not a doctor, obviously. Dr. Jill is the name my dad calls me in jest because I used to obsessively study health and medicine and try to force him to take his daily cod liver oil. These days, I find the study of health and medicine banal. However, I happen to have woken up with a sore throat and stuffy head, and I thought I might give my report on why I woke up sick.

I don’t exhibit symptoms during the flu and cold season any longer. I don’t have respiratory problems, and I’ve even curbed my airborne allergies, which is no easy feat in the state where I live. Allergies here are terrible owing to the low precipitation. The air never seems to clear of pollen and dust. But I digress. I’ve also heard that the cold and flu season lasts from September through July; I even heard that from a doctor. I’m not sure if it’s an exaggeration, but if so, it’s an exaggeration based off reality: people here are frequently sick with colds and flus.

This used to be the case for my family, as well. Some years, it seemed we had a new cold or flu every month. Some months, the revolution of symptoms made it seem as if we had multiple colds throughout the month, though I doubt that was true. My children’s immune systems have improved, and so has mine. For me, I haven’t had much in the way of illness at all since I began regularly taking vitamin C, vitamin D at 35 IUs per pound of body weight, and one drop of Lugol’s iodine at 2.6%. I started taking the Lugol’s to prevent achy thyroid, which I presume was a lingering side effect from childhood exposure to fluoridated water (I really don’t feel like explaining why fluoride can be damaging to the thyroid; go read about it yourself).

All that being said, I don’t take these supplements on top of junk food. We eat staple foods in our home, which may or may not be considered healthful, depending on what brand of healthfulness you believe in. A standard meal at our house might consist of a beef roast with potatoes and other vegetables, or we might eat a very plain meal of fish and rice. What happens to be in our favor is a general lack of interest in sweet foods and beverages. In fact, I’ve gotten to the point where the flavor of sweet foods turns my tongue. Ice cream is repulsive to me and soda tastes like poison. Despite that, we had a vacation day yesterday, in which my husband decided to buy me a chocolate–a beautifully crafted hard, dark chocolate shell filled with Bailey’s Irish Cream flavored filling. Later, he took everybody to Cold Stone Creamery, where I indulged in the sweet cream flavor. Yeah, it’s tasty for about three bites because the richness offsets the sweet. I ate most of it, though, because it was a “vacation” day.

Why am I not surprised that I woke up sick? Sugar is nasty, my friends. You can eat it if you want; I won’t judge. But please be aware that it will lower your body Ph, weaken your immune system, and generally contribute to any kind of inflammation you may suffer from. Some researchers have found that it contributes to the growth of cancer cells. You can go read about it and do the research yourself. Meanwhile, I’m going to drink a cup of tea and cope with a nasty sore throat. My distaste for sugar, I believe, is a good thing.

This is not Dr. Jill, but regular Jill, signing off.

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Guess That Patriarch

It doesn’t matter how much study I’ve done on the patriarchal homeschool movement; when it comes to information and truth, there’s no end to it. The more I study, the more I’m forced to adjust and readjust my thinking. But it’s an unending process of reading and sifting. Due to too much negative exposure to the real-world patriarchal homeschool movement (that is, exposure to real people and not merely lofty philosophies), I tend toward being overtly critical of the leaders of this movement. Their logic may seem impeccable to them, but the actual fruit of their labor is often so rotten that it renders their talking points null and void. Recently, owing to the “fall” of Vision Forum’s Douglas Phillips, I’ve been reading yet more articles on patriarchal homeschooling. This is NOT my favorite subject. The talk points are old; the people in the movement more tiresome than ever. Most of the time, I want to tell these people to get a life. And I would mean it literally, too. Get a life that allows you to breath every once in a while outside of an hierarchical obedience structure. Take up a hobby. Or whatever works for you.

However, this night I was surprised by one whom I had previously considered to be one of the Dangerous Patriarchs. I arrived at the article(s) by a series of link-outs from a current article on Phillips’ demise. I was not only surprised by the sentiments expressed in this supposedly Dangerous Patriarch’s article(s), I was surprised that it was written five years ago. Okay, so let’s put this into perspective: Five years ago, one of the Christian patriarchal leaders whom many in the patriarchal movement follow to this day warned of patriarchal dysfunction:

I am convinced that this “Patriarchal” evil disguised as righteousness will be disposed of by simply dragging it into the light. The facts are too embarrassing and shameful for this pretense to continue. Many have continued to be faithful to their patriarchal precepts in spite of the many indications of failure, convincing themselves that their poor family experience is the exception. They plod on in blind faith trying to do better, but they blame their failure on their children, accusing them of worldliness and rebellion. When things don’t work out like the model they have been presented, they shut the door tighter against the world outside, not realizing that their failure is visible to the whole world, and is actually a universal side effect of a very bad idea.

In another article, he writes:

The healthy parental attitude comes from a presupposition that human autonomy is an unalienable right and responsibility endowed in each human being by our Creator, and that it develops in each child incrementally in the natural course of physical and mental development, commencing fully at the commonly recognized onset of adulthood.

The arguments for patriarchal authority extending beyond the onset of adulthood are not based on nature or any command found in Scripture. They rest only on the basis of “apparent” examples in the Old Testament of patriarchal authority in a tribal and clan society that extends well beyond the commencement of adulthood, even until the end of their natural lives.

If you have been exposed to the Christian patriarchal homeschool movement, perhaps you can guess who the author is. Personally, I’ve had several books from this person’s family ministry foisted on me. I’ve also read a number of his/their articles. I’m good at spotting writing styles, and maybe you are, too. For a million points, Guess That Patriarch. Honestly, I’m thankful to have my worst cynicism exposed as the unforgiving and black-and-white construct that it is.

Or follow this link.

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