Friday, October 28, 2005

Simple / Plain / Modest / Ethical Dress

Ah, THIS again!

I'm not sure why this is with me so often lately.

and I don't think it's really only about dress - it's simply that dress is one of our more "public" choices - and one we engage in daily.

I have been thinking about simplicity of lifestyle (as opposed to the more spiritual-as-not-practical) for a while in many terms

-Biking rather than driving
-trains rather than planes
-Housing, my current dilemma - should I share my 9oo square foot, 2 bedroom apartment with another human in addition to myself, two dogs, and three cats? It's not at all an excessive amount of space for an average american, but it feels excessive to me sometimes (and heating bills are going up!)

But clothing, too, is an issue for me.

But what, exactly?

Things about Plain dress that call to me:

- fair trade (was it made by forced or exploited labor? most mainstream "fashions" were, and not just Old Navy, Land's End and LL Bean too)

-environment (growing cotton is traditionally amazingly pesticide-heavy, synthetics are just gross and golly-knows what goes into making them! Not to mention shipping and fancy, loud, over-lit retail outlets)

- having too much (this is where I still fall down, baadly. I swear, I have no fashion sense, but I still have 20 pairs of shoes (more?) not to mention way too many of all sorts of clothes - including things I haven't worn in a year)

- the "slave to fashion" thing. Though I have to say that I'm not sure one escapes this by dressing Plain. I have even seen numerous comments about the attention it gets you (as if this is somehow our ministry - people will ask us about God if we dress funny - excuse me for being flippant)

Things that shove me away:

- any hint of "cultural conservatism" - the parts of it that come from the notion that women should be covered to be acceptable in God's eyes. The parts that say "This gender should wear this stuff" (that it is partially about codifying gender). The overlap with communities that believe marriage is one man/one woman, and what's more, the man is boss.

-the idolization of difference (ie: "I am holier because I set myself apart from you" It's my understanding that this is much of why quakers gave up "official" plain dress. That the idea was not to be distinctive, but simply to be plain (which, as many have pointed out, is more along the lines of jeans and t-shirts these days.)

Almost everything I own is used these days (I mean, I bought it used) but not everything. This takes care of the environmental and labor concerns. I try to buy new things that have been ethically produced, but sometimes the things I can't find used I also can't find "fair trade" (barrettes for my hair which is growing out, a really good (for Minnesota) winter coat, which I still won't need for a few years I think- actually, I think I can get one from Wintergreen)

This is an interesting point for me, because it would be less of an option if I did not live in a country where lots of people buy more than they need and give it away when they're bored with it (so I am participating in a less sustainable system - in my ideal world everyone would own 4 outfits and wear them until they were not wearable - and there would be no used clothes for me! - but in a more sustainable way, yike!)

And yet, I might be a "slave to fashion" - I've never been very "girly" and have sort of a casual hippie dyke "style" . I have heard many women talk of "indulging their "girly side"" and having a facial, or "dressing up" (in heels and an evening dress, or whatever) - very much NOT my thing. And yet, if my own quirky, relatively simple style was "taken away" from me, how hard would that be for me? Not as easy as I'd usually like to think, I fear.

I also really like color, and I do experience it as a celebration of an aspect of God, and not something that detracts (like owning too much, or thinking too much about how others see me) I like lots of colors, and I like them bright. I assume God likes color too. So there


Yet another day, no answers, lots of questions.

Simplicity and transgender

I recently had a conversation with a f/Friend about trans issues. It's funny, I find myself often assuming the role of "expert" on these issues, simply because I have some friends, and have read some stuff. I am far from an expert.

Sometimes I think I'm a pretty sorry ally. But my heart is usually "in the right place" (heaven help us!)

My friend at one point said that it didnt' seem "very simple"

This goes to the core of my trans issues (well, maybe the core, deep in there somewhere) - I actually don't have a strong attachment to someone being one sex or the other, or being the sex they're "supposed" to be. But I do have a problem with people taking hormones for any reason, with the choice to have surgery (at least in non-life-threatening situations) for any reason.

So, I mean, not having surgery is simpler than having surgery, not taking hormones is simpler than taking hormones. These things make sense to me.

But, I was reading on Liz's blog (and I can't seem to make a link now, I'm pretty computer illiterate) about simplicity, and the idea that it is not so much about a hierarchy of how little can you have or do, but about being spirit-led in all your actions.

One thing I have read about the experience of being transgender is a tendency for children to focus a lot of energy on figuring out how to be the gender they've been assigned. That rather than experiencing "being a girl" as simple and straightforward because you were born with a vulva and everyone says you are a girl, it becomes an elaborate act - with constant attention required to laugh the "right" way, sit the "right" way, dress the "right" way (I myself feel that I experienced something similar - but the resolution for me turned out to be that I am a girl, I'm just not good at elaborate roles of any sort - I hope that I have mostly given up such games. I gave up the conscious attempt to play them well quite young.

So, in any case, then it would not be "simple" - not in the secular sense of "easy", and also not in the sense of being true to, well, the truth. (capital T?) Which would be loving God.

(I think)


So, I just posted (basically) this to the nontheist Friends listserv:

I have often thought that words kill the spirit of things.

It's similar to religions where people believe that having a photo taken steals (or kills?) your soul.

Life, and what I would sometimes call "the divine" is in constant motion, bigger and smaller and simply differnt than we can imagine, and then shifting into something else before our minds can possibly focus on it.

Photographs freeze an image - it doesn't move, it doesn't change, and they only capture part - I was smiling, I was wearing blue, my hair was a mess - but they leave behind the image from differnt angles, were you hot or cold? who took the picture? what were you doing 5 minutes before.

They reduce the experience to what they can capture, and often we forget, lose trackof, other elements of the experience (though sometimes we don't)I experience words much the same way.

In fact, I think it's a major reason that codified religion doesn't work for me (and why I was drawn to quakerism) - Once you say, "well, you know, that thing that you can't name, when you feel sorta...., and, you know- well, that thing is called Jesus (or insert icon here)"- you kill it. You don't facillitate deep knowing by attaching a static word, you curb it.

This is tied into the whole "do animals have souls?" question. (I'm not sure I would say that I have what most people have a soul - but if I have a spark of the light of the divine, I am one that believes that nonhuman animals have it too) - and came up in response to a posting that I read as saying essentially that we don't experience things if we can't name them.

Which seems really alien to me. Like, if a small child, or a dog, touches a hot stove and has the pain, the adrenaline rush, the instintive recoiling, involved with that, but lacks the facility to form the concept "wow, that was hot" - they missed out on the essential in that experience?

That is not what my life is like. In fact, for me, remembering that pain is more "real" than having the "I touched a hot stove once" memory filed somewhere.

I felt really "in love" once (more words that mean so many things to so many people) It ended badly over a year ago. Recently I have felt numb around the whole thing (part of the healing?) and only remembered the words "I was in love with her" - and I was confused, what kept me there? what did I think was love when it ended so badly, when I so clearly wasn't loved in return? I remembered the story that I had written on my memory with the word "love" - but it didn't make any sense to me.

I dreamt of her the other night. I felt the feeling, in my body and my soul again. And I knew "what the big deal" was. It was something real, at least to me, something deeper and more whole and amazing than any words can describe. I don't want her back, because I also remember (In my body, and in words) the pain, the horror of it all, but I remember love, not as a word, but as a state of being, and it itself is good.

I don't think that really helped clarify. sigh.

It's so funny to try to clarify the inadequacy of words using words.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Christ has come to teach the people himself

Ok, Alice had a post about this


and I've been mulling it over a bit.

Somehow I'd never really thought about quakerism in terms of the second coming. It just has never been part of the equation for me (depsite having taken "Quakerism" in eighth grade at my quaker school, and having been a quaker for a long time, my quaker theology is a tad sketchy, I fear...)

So, the deal is, I'm pretty excited by this idea. That Christ (spirit) is alive and moving in the world. That we are part of the second coming (I wrote a bit about this in a previous post - the call to be the Messiah, rather than just to worship him.)

The problem is, "Jesus language" still kinda freaks me out. Many people who go by the name "christian" seem much more intent on forming "I'm in, you're out" sort of "clubs" and figuring and refiguring who's gonna burn for eternity for not toeing the line (or toeing it the right way). This is, to me, not only inconvenient and disturbing, but feels like what some would call Satan. - a worship of disunion and disparaging of love at its truest.

I know lots of Christians aren't like that, that's not (all of) it exactly....

I dont' believe that Jesus was the son of God in way that's fundamentally different from how I'm the child of God. I believe he said and did a lot of really good stuff, but I really have no basis (in my heart, in my spirit, in my historical understanding) to believe that he "achieved perfecction" or anything else, either.

I mean really, I know nothing about him. I never met him in person, and I don't really feel like I've met him in spirit. Am I doing something wrong? (or not?)

I am eager to learn, to join the movement, to take up my cross, leave behind my worldly goods, as called.

I am not eager to worship, to debase myself, to hand over my will to another being (listening to a voice within myself with a higher (more pure?) call than my two-year-old "I want it!" self is a totally different thing, I think, and I am eager to do that)

But do I have to worhsip the bearded white man on my Grandmother's wall? Do I need to believe in the magic of the virgin birth, or the resurrection? Do I need to "devote my life to Christ" rather than to truth, or spirit?

Do the names matter more than the attentiveness?

I don't know.

Friday, October 14, 2005


I've been troubled by the name of my blog since I thought of it (the first 6 things I came up with were taken, perhaps not the best approach)

I know that that seeking of God is neither active, in the traditional sense, nor passive. I know that in reaching for something far away, we can miss miracles happening at our feet.

I know that I am not called so much to reach for the light as to welcome it, to honor it, to nurture it, quietly active.

And yet, I find that I often reach, or strive. I want to be "doing something" I am impatient.

No answers, just questions, today.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Me & Jesus

I am not a Christian.

I was baptised as one shortly before my first birthday.

Neither of my parents were really Christian, (I think) though they were, nominally.

My mom, and her family, even, have been of the "you will be when you really need it" school of thought (ie: Christ isn't in our lives every day, but in crisis, we lean on him, at least that's how I heard it.) Actually advocating Christianity, not as the truth, but as something we need to get us through tough times. This has never made sense to me (though I have been there now, I have called out in my darkest hours. I'm not sure what effect it has had on me)

My dad is now a quaker too. I learned as an adult that our views are very similar (which means I probably picked his up, somehow, as a child, though I don't remember him telling me anything about God) I don't even know if he would say he's christian (isnt' that odd?)

Sometimes, I would love to be. I want to have mystical experiences, and feel that Jesus walks with me in my life (or I walk with him I guess, wouldn't want to get 'uppity')

But really, when I think of that, I am afraid. I don't feel like Jesus is bad, but I do feel like he's been "stolen" - that so much hatred is justified in his name, I don't know if I can even use it anymore.

And more than just hatred, it's not just that. I can't put my faith in someone who hates gay people and is part of sending people to hell, and doesnt' want women to speak in church.

But I dont' believe that about Jesus, that's just crazy stuff that's been made up about him.

But, still, there's the power thing. I don't experience God as a King or "Lord" (a word I think I was fond of as a kindergartener in Catholic school), or as "above" me.

No part of me believes (or wants to believe) that there is a being that is:

1- seperate from me
2-more powerful than me

That I must beseech, or pray to, even whose "will" is differently from "my will" and I must do his

A lot of people seem to choose the term "a higher power" as less offensive somehow, than specific 'religious talk'

It offends me more. that is thet whole point - that is why I'm quaker. It is not a higher power, it is a broader power. It is not a parent to ask permission of, it is an earth, a universe, a life-force, to feel in the cells of your being. It is different from distracted, superficial, "every day" life, but it is not higher. It is deeper

I believe that perhaps Jesus was the most (only?) perfect manifestation of this in human form.

Or maybe he was a spiritual leader who said and did a lot of amazing things. And had some cool stories written about him.

I do believe he called us to do amazing things.

I do believe that we can do them.

I believe that he died on the cross because many people, in every age, choose not to do them.

I feel sick when I try to even understand people who claim that he died on the cross because his father loves us and doesn't want us to go to hell, but would have to send us to hell, even though he's God, and theoretically shouldn't have to do anything he doesnt want to.

I dont' even know what to do wtih the fact that people believe that.

Every now and then, in moments, I think I am a christian.

the last time was a year and a half ago, on Easter. I went to a UCC Church, right after having attended my first (and only) passover seder at a friend's house (where all the non-jews sat at a "kids table" and the conversation among us degenerated into a terrible discussion of what sort of motions christians might make if Jesus has been stoned or electrocuted)

But anyway, at the seder I learned about the Elijah cup, the one everyone pours part of their wine into, to set a place for Elijah, who will come and announce the coming of the Messiah. At the sermon the next day, the pastor said he took that cup (not just "the wine" which I had always heard) and gave it to everyone to drink in rememberance.

And for a moment it was all clear. It was not a call to blind worship, to some sort of magical thinking about human sacrifice, but a call to be the Messiah, in rememberance.

I could almost be that kind of Christian.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Musings on plain dress.

I'm thinking about it.

I've been reading postings on plain dress, and I'm just fascinated by it, though not exactly led to it.

but something Martin K. said about having so many clothes they won't fit in your closet really hit me. I have lots of clothes. Almost none of them are new, almost none of them are extravagent (actually, none of them are) but I have LOTS of clothes and LOTS of shoes. I wear mostly the same ones every day, but when I think of getting rid of some, I tend to think, "but that's really usable, I will need it someday."

Perhaps I should have called this "confessions of a quaker pack-rat" - which I definitely am.

I also wonder if there are any non-christian plain-dressing quakers out there. It seems to be mostly part of a sort of revival of christianity among young adult Friends. Parts of this upswell touch me, but on the whole, it doesnt' speak (directly) to my condition.

And part of it concerns me, because I see links in it to a sort of conservatism and traditionality. As a queer person, this raises all the hairs on my back. I find myself alert, waiting to see what the consequences will be.

The fact that almost everywhere you encounter it is "plain and modest dress. I am not at all worried about modesty. I believe one could even make a good argument for nudity as the purest form of plain dress. (you present nothing but yourself, you spend no money or time on clothing, etc.).

As a genderqueer person (relevant to this is the fact that I am a woman who most often chooses men's clothes, but not always) the gendered-ness of plain dress is something I find unsettling. If I chose to dress plain, would it be in male or female garb? would I be "allowed" to switch back and forth? but then, that reintroduces the issue of time devoted to choosing what to wear each morning.

Right now I am thinking mostly about giving up t-shirts that say things on them (well, not giving them away, making them into a quilt I think :)

and what seems really compelling, and quite challenging, is the idea of reducing my wardrobe drastically - picking a number, a limit. Like packing for a trip. 6 pr socks, 6 pr underwear, 2 shirts, 2 pants.

I'm not sure what those numbers should be, anyone have any advice?

Friday, October 07, 2005


My meeting, or at least people in it, are struggling recently with Universalism.

We have lost (or, some of us feel that we are losing) some valued Friends, who find that they want to worship with others who share more of their concept of the divine than those in our larger meeting do.

I really cherish my meeting, and specifically where we 'stand' on the question of universalism. This is why I was drawn there, this is why I've been able to grow there.

I recently attended a Unitarian Universalist church for the first time, with my girlfriend. I was saddened to find myself asked to recite what felt to me like a "creed" - it did not say "I believe that Jesus was the only son of the father almighty" (excuse me, I don't remember the words) - the words I choked on as a child, but it DID say, with what felt like EXACTLY the same certainty, "I believe that Jesus was a good man who lived and died like anyone else" (or something to that effect)

What I cherish about Universalist Quakers (not that it is universally true of us) is true universalism - that whatever is spiritually true to a cherished member of our community, is true. It does not have to be personally experientially true for every member of our community for us to worship together.

for me that creates a richness that I cannot imagine in another setting. I believe that people who I love have a relationship with Jesus. I can see it shining through them often. I do not have a relationship with Jesus (or perhaps it is only distant) - God is revealed to me most often in water, in wind, in sunlight. Sometimes I suspect, and hope, one can see it shining through me.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Queer Freak

Both of these are words that I identify with quite strongly. And I often find myself wondering why.

Both are outsider words. Words saying "I'm not normal"

My mother wanted terribly for me to be "normal" - is it simply "rebellion" - almost 20 years since the end of teenage, for me?

I am a lesbian, and started using the word "queer" as simply something "easier" than saying "gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender" to identify my community (even before I knew any trans folks, I identified them as my community - as "other")

Now I think it is evolving. It means something to others that I'm not sure I understand. I found this on Wikipedia, it's the closest thing I've found to what I'm talking about:

"Because of the context in which it was reclaimed, queer has sociopolitical connotations, and is often preferred by those who are activists, by those who strongly reject traditional gender identities, by those who reject distinct sexual identities such as gay, lesbian, bisexual and straight, and by those who see themselves as oppressed by the heteronormativity of the larger culture. In this context "queer" is not a synonym for LGBT and many activist groups accept the acronym LGBTQ as preferable to the less inclusive LGBT."

We are having an adult education forum at meeting on what "bi" and "queer" mean, as we are working towards a greater understanding in our meeting of GLBTIQ issues (I is for intersex, again, I know no one who identifies this way, at least who identifies to me this way) And I wonder if I "count" as "queer" - I see it somehow as breaking the rules, or challenging the rules. And I find that some of my inclinations are quite traditional.

I am a lesbian, yes, but I am also monogamous (profoundly so), and would like to be married someday. The idea of marriage has deep meaning to me. I am not "into" S/M (not the least little bit), etc. There are many many "rules" that I do not break.

But for me, I think, the key is that I don't break them because I have no incliation to. I don't feel that G-d will strike me down (or even think less of me) if I have more than one sexual partner. I simply know that it would be the wrong path for me.

I even have straight, monogamous friends who I think of as "queer" - not because they do anything to stand out, but because I have faith that they act on their hearts, and their leadings. I believe that no part of their heterosexuality is rooted in fear of G-d or society, but its entirety is rooted in the calling of their hearts (and the rest of their bodies!)

I know lesbians who I do not tend to think of as "queer" because they seem to have an investment in "blending in" - a question of looking for your piece of the pie, rather than thinking about massive redistrubution of pie, or even about having tapioca pudding instead (I am having tapioca cravings lately)

I don't know so much about "freak" - I think I have just felt like one all my life, and like "reclaiming" the words "dyke" or "queer" - It's been a process of saying, to the "mainstream" - "yes, you are right, I am not like you, I am in some ways profoundly different, and that is something that I cherish, now that I have come to fear it less"

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

There are so many things in my head...

I've been reading quaker blogs lately, and finding that I'm intimidated (and often enlightened)

I wonder if that's how people's thoughts actually flow - one deep insight into the nature of G-d (or even a deep questions!) after another. No "white noise" - not even any personal pain or joy, per se.

I find myself to be quite self-centered lately. My own heart is such a complicated and sometimes foreboding place, I can't imagine venturing out farther into the world.

My friendships have been a trial to me lately (as they drop like flies around me)

Monday, October 03, 2005

Here goes....

I've been wanting to "blog" for a while, waiting for inspiration I guess. I don't think I've gotten what I've expected - more of a push than a "leading"

I find myself somewhere between an angsty teenager and a thoughtful adult, not that one can't be both, but I have trouble reconciling them in myself.

I feel I have many "deep" things I'd like to explore

the souls of animals (including humans)

ethics as opposed to religious framing of concientious behavior

plain dress, and quaker (and other) "simplicity" overall



being in the world yet not "of it" (is that what I aim for? or to be wholly "of it?" I'm not sure - and perhaps it wraps around like some strange puzzle and is the same thing?)

Oh, and plenty more

On the other hand, I could easily spend much of my time trying to figure out my last relationship and what I expect from life, and what I can offer.

What an odd experiment, to post online thoughts and feelings deeper than might be shared with the people we are closest to in our daily lives.