Recently in religion Category

We grow in fits and starts. 

When I was a little girl I made note that most of the heroes were male. From Peter Pan to the Ghost Busters. From King Author to Captain Planet. If there were female heroes, they always numbered at least one less on the team than their male counterparts. I went through a stage of wishing I could have been born a boy--if only be be stronger, braver, the hero of my tale. 

Last night I questioned Jason. Are some people just born more rebellions and less content to follow? 

We didn't know.

I have been trying again and again to fit myself into the jar. The jar of society that says what is and should be. I have to admit that I long for the jar. I sometimes, painfully long to be included in a blind following of faith. To be part of the fold and content and sure and approved of. To have walls around me to make my boundaries. 

I have even been told that I don't need to swallow a religion whole. I can disagree with parts and still be a part of the church. 

But that isn't so. Not for me. I rolled those words around in my palms again and again and again. I wanted for them to be true. But I can't believe in a part of something when so many parts of it suck. It is or it isn't. Religion is a shoe that just doesn't fit my foot. It pinches. But worse--

I know my truths in my gut. I can put my fist there--to my center--and know with a sure rightness where I belong, what I believe, what I feel is good, right, the truth. 

I often second guess. I study. I read and read and read. I try to understand. I question. 

Where are the women in this story? 
Where are the women in this group?
Who has the power here?

*

I hold a high heel in my hand and then I try it on my foot. No matter how I think I should feel about the high heel ( harmless little shoe)--it feels like a chain. It feels like foot binding, a corset, menstruation being filthy, breastfeeding being obscene. Geeze, it's just a shoe. I'm sure lots of women enjoy wearing heels. The other voice says, they bind, they cripple, and if the zombies came, bitch would loose those heels and fast. Where are men's heels? Why is 3/4 of the shoe store women's shoes? Why are 3/4 of the clothing stores, women's clothes? Why are we taught to give such a shit about our appearance? 

I'm angry and despairing by turns. I remember my awakening when I first learned to see the ways patriarcy have seeped into all our perceptions. I was so insanely angry. I'm not that angry now. I'm just, tired. I'm tired of seeing women around me bound by traditions that supress their sextuality and self. I'm tired of women being servants to men and children at the detriment of their own needs, and I'm tired of doing it myself. Of feeling guilty when I go against the established grain, of second guessing, of needing validation and reassurance that it is okay to be angry, think differently, go out on my own, want and need...

The last week I've been in a stupor and I feel like I am slowly pulling myself out of it one grip after another. 

I feel like I should burn a bra (if I actually wore any). Or maybe punch a dude in the face, but tradition isn't only men's fault. 

I think of the many depressed women I've known. I spread my hands to flat palms facing skyward as if to cup them there in miniature. The many, numerous women chafing against the walls of life itself. And what have they typically been, these restless ones? Hurt? Angry? Intelligent, yes--that's for sure. It's the rebellious ones I've always been drawn to. The women like me. We find fault in ourselves and in others. But mostly, the bulk of our discontent--I really think--has been the traditions that hold men in higher value and male thought, and male function,  and a male God. It pisses us off: the way we bind ourselves. The ignorance of not seeing until being yanked by the hand our of the status quo. We know something isn't quite right, but what is it? What is it?

It's subtle, but it's there.

How do I teach my children otherwise? 
How do I raise my daughter better than myself?
How do I pull the broken record from my head?

How did the female divine become erased from our history? How, when we, women, are the ones who grow human life in our bodies and nurture it at our breasts. 

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" When the priest held out the host and said, "This is my body, given for you." not once did I recognize that it is woman in the act of breastfeeding who most truly embody these words and who are also most excluded from ritually saying them."
-author, Sue Monk Kidd. 

Synopsis

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The weather is amazing this week. Today we all wore shorts and t-shirts. I broke out my $1 new pair of flip-flops and we spent most of the day outdoors. This means that every single errand and household chore takes the back burner. This includes blogging. I simply can not squander that much sunshine. Despite sun block applied in the morning before the park, our winter paled skin (even Sage's) are all a bit flushed about the faces. 

I must get to Payless to buy sandals for the children's feet. Let their little toes air and brown up over the next few summery days before spring goes fickle and has us back in jackets. 

And that's the way of the day--a planner open to the date and a series of things I didn't get too then scribbled into the next day--like water overflowing from the cup. The cup runneth over. Better a too full life than one that is too empty. Better a little pool of sand from dirty shoes all over the floor, than a morning spent idle. Even though I just swept and mopped that floor while the baby slept and the big kid played with the neighbor's little kid while the neighbor took her own big kid to his cello lesson. 

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I find I like things full. I like things rich. I like people and new experiences. I have to force myself to slow down sometimes lest I boil over into an overtired, two year old like, tantrum. I'm not someone who needs to force myself to action. I need to force myself to inaction. Stop to smell the roses, you say? What roses? Where? Too much to do to stop now! Compare me to the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland and you have me about right. 

I have a pile of books to read and that always makes me happy. I'm at the back end of an 800 page, fantasy monster. It's been so long since I picked up a new fantasy author and it feels like coming home. It used to be I'd go to my local Borders and take my time pawing the new stock of fantasy looking for something different to try. Then there is a book club book and a long historical tome on John Adams and a whole stack of books on Buddism and the Tao Te Ching (almost through it for the second time this lifetime, thus far) and then another novel recommend by a blogger I admire and two books pre-ordered that I can't wait to dive into. And the missionaries left me a Book of Mormon so maybe I should brush up on my bible first. Where did I put the bible? I have two copies. One a student version I got in one of the churches I went to when I was in high school. The other my father got in jail and brought to me.

After a break to force myself to relax, I'm back to Yoga twice a week and excited by my increasing strength and flexibility at the same time I'm determined to improve. It used to be I had no confidence in trying something new and now, I'm laughing into the sweat stink and rhythmic breathing of the class when I almost fall over. "Recapture the carefree joy of being a child," says my instructor. I have it by the toes. We're spinning.

On Sunday I accompanied the before mentioned neighbor and her family to their church. Why not? I was invited and I'd never been to a service in that particular branch of Christianity. It made me want to go church service hopping. Try on churches like trying on shoes. Search for the truths that reverbate in my chest. Like riffling through an old attic trunk. Yes, that part of the service reminded me of Taoism and that bit touched directly on my personal beliefs. And isn't it nice to hear a bunch of people speaking from faith? Isn't it nice to listen and take in new things. Like lowering myself into a hot bath after a long day.

I haven't done enough. I want to learn so much more, but right now I'm still favoring the Methodists although Yoga (part of Buddhism) seems the best religion for me to swallow whole--if I was one for taking any flag and waving it as mine. I'm just not a flag waving type though. I'm more into highlighting my favorite parts and scrapping the rest. Not to mention the fact that I almost downright flash my rear end at the bits that offend my liberal sensibilities. 

A woman I hold very dear, a Baptist if you want to get all specific (and married to a wonderful Baptist minister) told me that I'm not supposed to swallow any religion whole. That it is okay to disagree with parts of it, but I just can't agree to disagree! I can't wear the badge of Catholic/Baptist/Methodist/etc, unless its all. And it can't be all. It just can't. So I'm just going to snip and paste what works into my own book. 

The personal spiritual beliefs of Autumn M. Canter by Autumn M. Canter 

I believe that all religions hold a kernel of deep truth and that they all branch from the same source. 

All paths lead to the Tao. 

Nameste~

Peace be with you~

Amen!

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My love of Whitman

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The poetry of Walt Whitman has been part of my personal patchwork quilt of beliefs/mantra/life-out-look for a very long time. I don't remember when I first read the work of Whitman. It was probably an excerpt in a high school English textbook. All I remember it that it echoed in me. It felt right and good and painfully profound. 

I bought a couple collections of his work to mark up and dog-ear. To go to in time of need to be reassured and celebrate. Walt Whitman saw me through the worst of my grieving for Bryan. 

He has a bold, confident love of the natural world and our connectivity to each other and everything around us. 

"I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-
     work of the stars,
And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain
     of sand, and the egg of the wren---"

-Walt Whitman's Song of Myself

He writes of joy and celebration. He writes directly to the reader. He makes me feel part of a great whole and accepted. 

"Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence towards people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men...reexamine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very fresh shall be a great poem" 

--Whitman's preface to his original Leaves of Grass copy. 

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Only I have the power to make myself less than I am. Only I have control of how I live my life. Walt Whitman called it "the open road". I get to walk it how I please. May I do it with kindness and joy and celebration and graciousness.

Our journey must end at some point. The words below are my favorite but of Whitman. The part I read again and again after Bryan died. 

"I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your bootsoles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good healthy to your nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop some where waiting for you."

--from the very end of Song of Myself

Wouldn't you agree that his eyes are kind? 

Writing my own religion

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My religion--if it can even be called that--is a patchwork quilt of wisdom, words, experiences, and feelings that I add to as I grow older. I don't have a church, a temple, a particular creed, holy law, book, or list of commandments. It's a feeling in my gut, a moral compass meets insatiable scholar. I know in my core that there are certain rights and wrongs and truths, but I'm always hungry to learn more and add to what I believe and what is important to me. 

Maybe the question people would like to ask, but don't, is if I believe in God (of the capital "G"). God is so multi-facitated. Different in the old testament and the new, different in different cultures and the many mutated Christian religions. So to ask me if I believe in Him, confuses me. But to ask me generally, "Do I believe in God the father, creator of Heaven and Earth who gave his one begotten son so that we might all live" (did I get that even close to right?) ? 

The answer is, no.

Now don't recoil, reel of begin praying for my salvation. 

I believe in the divine. A force beyond my ken that connects all living things. I believe in the sacred--a precious something that is bigger than myself. 

I believe in a gross generalization, because such a force isn't simply human. It can't be sexed as he, or father, or be attributed to petty acts of revenge and coercion like the biblical god. It just is

So, take that as you will. Perhaps to you it means I do believe in God and I'm simply nitpicking with a lawyer-like tenacity.

While I don't ascribe to an organized religion, I believe there is wisdom to be learned from formal religions. I believe that many churches, temples, and congregations bring a lot of good to society. I've always felt soothed mentally from all forms of religious gathering or meditative things that I've participated in. From the droning recitations of Catholic mass, to the upbeat Hymnals of the Methodists, the words of the Seder in the Jewish faith, the breathing and poses in Yoga, and the outdoors libations given in the spring during a pagan campfire. I've read the pamphlets the Jehovah's Witnesses have handed to me and I've found wisdom in the Tao Te Ching.   

I'm simply too damn stubborn to swallow any creed hook-line-and-sinker and then let their drum dictate the beat of my own life. I can't believe a book written by infallible man,  is 100% truth. But I can find knowledge and poetry and beauty within writings that others hold beyond reproach. Still, I am hungry to learn and understand. I want more squares to add to my quilt. I want more wisdom.    

And so, I write my own religion. I give praise for the small miracles of my small life. I keep my mind as open to new learning as I possibly can. 

I see "God" in my children's faces, in a late fall flower, and in the simple, unnecessary, kind gestures people preform each day because they want to, not because they have to. 

Continuum

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I remember being pregnant with River and sitting at the laundromat as I was often wont to do having no washer or drier and being a stickler for clean clothing. There was always a well thumbed stack of magazines on one of the side tables. The parenting and mothering and babies, babies, babies magazines were suddenly flip-able. I was soon to join the club of reproducing and raising young. Any first time mom is proud of her bulging gut--her membership card of a grotesquely enlarged uterus filled with fluid and blossoming life.

I was probably contently rubbing my belly as I read through a parenting magazine....that is until I read a disturbing article on how parenting does not make parents happy. In fact, studies of happiness before children verses after children showed that parents were depressed, stressed, over worked, and horribly unhappy after having children. Who wants to hear that when a baby is an incoming like a projectile missile? One that blows up in your face.

But life really can be split into two sections, B.C. and A.C. Before Child and After Child. Nothing is the same. You certainty will not be, can not be, will probably not even remember what it was like to not have a child but in the hazy dream-like quality of a day dream, a high, a crazy night on the town where you might have passed out in a parking garage.

Jason was telling me how fast we grew up and how completely we have changed since we had River. You can see the fault line clearly forming in the weeks after he was born. As my attention went from my husband to solely rest on my son and Jason became weighed down with the responsibilities of providing for a child and being yanked between that need and the need to be home with that same child. We circled River, occasionally crashing together, remembering to embrace to ask how the other person was doing, to really look at each other and see.

Children must be, hands-down, the hardest part of a marriage. Here you have created something you love more than anything else. You created it together because you love each other so much. You created this child from pure love and want nothing more than to continue to feed it with everything you are, have, can, should, and imagine you ought to. It's very easy to neglect the love that came first, the one that created the child. To go from being a partnership working together to two people working apart for the same cause. Occasionally raising tired eyes to a face that used to hold much more regard and thinking, "Ah, yes you. I forgot about you."

*

I'm the annoying optimist you want to throw things at. Shit, I used to despise optimists when I wasn't one--when I was a sour pessimist with a pin in hand waiting to pop my and others' balloons. But steadily I've been moving towards optimism--first forced, than tried on like shoes, then held onto like a raft when lost at sea. Bryan dying has made me a stronger person. Which seems horribly wrong, doesn't it? Unfair. Like dancing on someone's grave. But really think about it. It took that pain, that knowledge, this never ending hole that is his absence to make me look around and fiercely want to treasure what I have been given. I have something to prove. That something is that I want my grief to transcend myself. I want Bryan's death to mean more than pain and anger and a pointless waste. I want his death to move like ripples in a pond, through me, to make the world I touch somehow better. As if I could spread my love for him instead of letting it turn me inwards--to my own sadness. Because nothing so good should become so tainted because it has changed--a horrible, unfair, agonizing change, true. But love just the same.

*

So blame it on my optimism that I can look at my husband and assure him that things will get better and easier (and believe it). Believe that I embrace my moment in time because I know it will change and fade. My children will grow and I will miss those days when they cuddled in my arms, threw tantrums, pissed themselves in public, and cried with fever. I will miss this time, I know I will. Sometimes it is harder for Jason to feel that. He might know it, but he can't feel it as clearly as I can. He's more logical. More in the moment. More fixed in time.  

I don't believe that the changes we have gone through means love has changed. Though I am older and wiser and have experienced more of life, I am still that same girl who flung myself into my husband's arms shrieking every time he walked in the door. I can summon up those memories and feel what I felt then and in that way I still am then.

I feel like time if fluid. That my memories make that so. That somewhere I am nineteen kissing Jason till my lips feel raw. That somewhere my brother is jumping off the roof into the pool while my mother isn't home--against her orders not to ever do that again. That somewhere my father and mother stare down at my newborn face until their necks ache.

I believe that there is usually some seed of good, of great, of grand amidst all the crap that might of spawned from it. If I can remember that, I can move on with faith that more good things are to come.

And I know they are.

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More on religion

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River learned a few new things during our travels. The first being that it is okay to run away from his mother in airports to flirt with old women. The second is how great it is to hit his mother in the face. The third was that Baptist churches involve a lot of clapping.

We arrived in Georgia in the early hours feeling quite hung over with a baby that had finally passed out for the second time after waking up in D.C. He awoke just in time to harass us for the expensive airport Mexican food we had bought to split in the two seconds before we had to board our next flight.

Georgia is as remembered. Not quite as cold. Not quite as cloudy with slightly different looking greenery and a suspicious number of Waffle House signs rising yellow into the sky. We enjoyed light jackets, grits, and visiting with my husband's mother and elder brother. His twin brother (a whole 4 minutes older than Jason) is a giant turd and did not come.

Perhaps the most interesting part was attending a Baptist Church Mass. The first mass I have attended since I decided that 1. I didn't believe in the Christian/Jewish/Muslim god 2. That it was morally wrong to attend a church service I otherwise enjoyed if I was pretending to believe in something I didn't.

As background- I was raised Catholic. Roman Catholic. Made my communion. Sat with a nun and prayed round a rosary, dressed as a small bride to Christ, and prayed on my knees before bed every night. Religion was never forced down my throat. In fact, I was dosed in a good dose of liberal thinking that was at odds with Catholicism so that I pushed against it and found it just didn't fit me right. I thought maybe I didn't believe in god at all. Then I, OF MY OWN TEENAGE VOLITION, began to attend a Methodist Church and sing in the choir with a good friend of mine. I really enjoyed this and found it gave me a good deal of spiritual healing. I continued this, OF MY OWN VOLITION, in my college town at another church. But religion kept scrapping on me even as I tried to shove my arms in. Like attempting to fit yourself into a coat three times too damn small. I concluded that the God of these churches was something of a misogynistic a-hole and I didn't want anything to do with him. I still think Jesus was the man.

After a time, I felt like yelling things out while I bowed my head during prayers. I thought I was becoming disrespectful to be silently deceptive with all those believers around me. I gave up church long after I have up god. For this very reason I refuse to Baptise my son. I would find it incrediably rude to lie just to appease relations. I'm not going to tell a "holy man (or woman)" to his face that I will raise my son in a religion in which I will not. 

Still, I like church. I like the sense of people coming together for good. Although it still urks me that that good is often attributed to God when it should be attributed to one's own efforts and responsibility as a living being sharing a home with other living beings. Also- LIBERAL. So of course I'm waving the flag for women's choice and gay rights. Send me a memo when any Christain religion says it's okay for two dudes to hump each other and/or a woman to make her own choice what to do to her body and I'll reconsider a few things.

This past weekend I went to a black Baptist church. I was one of maybe 4 other white/whiter people present. I LIKED it. I liked sitting there and seeing all those brown faces.  I liked the swaying, clapping children of the choir. I liked the strange candence of the preacher's voice, the shouted out 'Amens', the vocal agreements from the congregation, and the sweat that ran down the preacher's brow.  It was beautiful.

People need something to unite them, I understand. Some people need God to focus and add a meaning to their lives, a goal, a way to be. There is a stronge goodness in religion that has always drawn me. Soothed me. I've often by envious of faith. But now I'm just glad that those who have it are satisified. I was content with just spending time with family. I see their God in love. I don't need to pray to him. He isn't listening. That good is in each of us.

AMEN!  


On religion

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Nothing makes me feel more queasy than a Christian preaching right and wrong and dammit, I love going to Christian church services. What I don't like is someone pointing at someone else and saying "You ARE WRONG and I AM RIGHT. You and going to HELL and I am being A GOOD PERSON, because A BOOK TOLD ME TOO. I am going to heaven."

As an ex-christian myself I know what it is like to have faith in god. A faith I stopped having as I grew up. I can't say enough that I didn't stop believing in "God" out of rebellion, anger, or bitterness. I certainly am not pointing at Christians and laughing because they believe in something I don't. In fact, I respect the peace people find in their religions and the simple love they share in a church service. For a time going to masses soothed something in me and I often tried not to cry at the gentle words and that feeling of unity that happens when loving, good people sit in one space and their collective prayers brew like a storm in the rafters. There is power and energy in religion.

But it is wrong to point your finger at others and tell them they are wrong. It is horrible to raise yourself above others. The wicked power of religion is that it easily convinces others that they are BETTER. Think of all the atrocities done in the name of Gods. It is wrong to despise women that have abortions and men and women who have sex and loving relationships with members of their own sex. Why? (because Autumn says so?) No, because these people are human like YOU and it isn't right to shove people into categories of right and wrong.

Do you know what your God really wants you to do? Do you know what Jesus died for?

Sometimes I think people forget that God=love. It is as simple as that. You want to claim to be a good Christian or even a GOOD PERSON than love and stop hating.

Peace, yo.

On depression

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My weekend was spent reading, doing some homework, and watching movies.

I am seriously bothered by the older man on campus. He reminds me of my father. Today we stood side by side making waffles. I felt ill. I just kept thinking "Don't you talk to me" Of course he did. He seems so dumb-uneducated. His hands are ruff looking from years of manual labor. When I see them I feel my world spinning. I wanted to demand of him "Are you a drunk too?" Instead, I quickly hurried to my table, ate as fast as I could, and got the hell out of that place.

My mother called to bother me about not going to church- although I stopped going quite awhile ago. I don't understand why she would be annoyed and disappointed at this when she never goes to church. (and her being from a heavily catholic family and with the memories of ruff catholic school girl skirts and dresses) I don't know what she expects of me. I believe she wants me to get things in life she didn't. She insists Jason and I wait to get married until we have lots of money so we can have a nice wedding. HA! Maybe I don't want a nice wedding. She never stops in her nagging to consider that I may not agree with her.

Soon I may be trapped up on a mountain by obligation and guilt. I'll watch the smoke curl around them and smell its stink. I feel them wondering about me. But I'm used to that. I've always been the odd one. I blame their ignorance on lack of a good book diet in their lives.
Honesty I don't really believe in God and I haven't for a long time.

I believe that we should strive for good, help the community, and better ourselves because we are all human, and capable of higher thought. (though most people don't seem to be :P) I'm all into the love nature thing and each other. But I don't believe in some all mighty being that goes through the lists of dead and says whose heaven or hell bound. No, I really don't believe in God or the teaching of the bibles. I go to church as an unbeliever. I love the faith of others, their commitment, the goodness they show. That is why I go to church, to feel that faith beating against my skin. So their is my confession. I don't believe in a God but I have been trying to ever since I lost my faith when I grew up. But it won't happen, ever.


Depression my old friend

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Eat an apple that fits in the palm of my hand
The skin breaks and floods my mouth

sing sing singing in church. My white robe, the green sash. My arm aching from holding up that damn book. Sing out to the stained glass window. The folds of the robes in red and purple. Feeling like I'm going to faint, my belly pressed against the wood. The congregation far far below looking up at me. The glass is so deep, the red and the purple. The organ pulses sound under my feet.
Sitting on the stone steps, watching the Virginia Creepers spotted red and green, trembling over the walls. The world is awash with colors.

Sing until I shake from trying to hold the note. Sing and brush my eyes around the crowd trying to find faces that are not there.

Phone call from Karen sitting in the window. Sound of her voice so fimilar and so different.

Cursing in the hallway, in a frenzy, pacing. Flinging myself on the bed and crying with my face to the wall and my knees drawn up, trying to push it all out. A few quick breaths, a roll of tears over my nose and cheeks, but not enough. Never enough anymore. Why can't I just cry like I want to?

"O' Fortuna" "O' Fortune" I will listen and lay on the floor again, staring at the ceiling and waiting for me to rebecome the person I enjoy.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the religion category.

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