Sunday, July 04, 2010

I have been lazily following Cat and Peter's initiative to track and reduce the amount of plastic they throw away each week. It's kind of a cool process, and has definitely got me thinking about it in a new way (I don't save an weigh my plastic, but I now look at all plastic I buy and think about what it would add to the pile.

I think it has actually prevented me from buying things a couple of times (bottles of juice, etc)

But it's also spun off in it's own direction.

I think the craze is mostly past, but for a while "my year of abstaining from _____" books seemed to be all the rage. I read quite a few of them, and most of them were really interesting (though the one about stuff made in China, I have to say, could have used a lot more analysis, and some sense of purpose on the part of the author)

These books are really great for trying to approach a big, unwieldy problem from a very distinct angle. To try to take everything into account, and to actually achieve some sort of balance, certainly makes my head spin, and is just too out of control to write a book about.

But hopefully not to do, or at least attempt, in a real, three-dimensional life.

So, I've been thinking about my plastic use, and my petroleum use (which is more to the point, and includes plastic, obviously) I'm not buying stuff in plastic nearly as much, but I am also more careful about buying stuff in glass (which is heavier, and takes more fuel to ship across the country, so that between the two, a single serving plastic bottle might be a more "eco-friendly" choice than a glass one, if it's travelled over a certain number of miles - I certainly don't know the math.

But also, plastic and petroleum use mostly isn't visible. I remember my horror, working in a produce warehouse (a cooperative one that stocked a lot of organics and supplied mostly co-ops) at how much plastic was used and disposed of inside our warehouse (pallets of fruit crates or whatever else were wrapped in heavy duty plastic wrap to keep things from falling just to transport them across the warehouse sometimes!)

One of my issues is that I never remember numbers, just vague inferences. But I've been hearing a lot lately about how our household trash is almost entirely insignificant. When you throw away a candy wrapper or a plastic strawberry container, you're contributing to the waste stream, but only about 1/10 (?!) of what you already contributed by buying it in the first place (don't quote me on that, the point is that most of the waste is invisible to us as the consumer. That's not to say it's wrong to worry about it, and think about it, but I think it's important to think about it in the larger context (like, if you can get something that is wrapped in paper but was produced by a giant corporation and shipped who knows how far to get to you, versus something in plastic which was produced in your neighborhood, your carbon footprint will most likely be much smaller with the latter.)

Saturday, May 29, 2010


"(W)e have to ask ourselves how these religions are expressed on the ground, in the real world - I mean both of these literally - how they play out in the lives of living breathing human beings and others. What have been the effects of Christianity on the health of landbases? Has biodiversity thrived on the arrival of the cross? How has the arrival of Christianity affected the status of women? How has it affected the indigenous peoples it has encountered? We can and should ask the same questions of Buddhism, science, capitalism, and every other aspect of our or any other culture. Not how they play out theoretically, not how their rhetoric plays out, not how we wish they would play out, not how they could play out under some imaginary ideal circumstances, but how they have played out.
- Derrick Jensen, Endgame, volume I

I just (just, like moments ago) finished reading this book, and it's got me disassembled. I'm not sure what to do with myself. It's like it finally confirmed (or at least one other person sees it) something I have suspected and felt all my life (the inherent destructiveness of our culture) and I feel a little less alone, and I feel way more alone.

Jensen's position is radically anti-civilization. It sounds a little nuts, but to me in the exact same way the kid saying the emperor has no clothes sounded nuts (or would have, at least, assuming everyone else was truly and fully deluded, rather than just lying). He also believes (as do I) that our civilization WILL crash (and soon) - there is no way out of that. In addition, the sooner it crashes the more things will be left alive to start over (including humans and things humans eat - in addition to relatively unpoisoned air and water) so actively working to take it down is a good thing. (Neither he nor I actually do this as yet)

So, there's this joy of validation - yes, it really is that bad, you're not hysterical, and you're not nuts. And then, well, it's really that bad, a horror beyond my capability to process it (brought to stunning relief by all that oil spilling into the gulf killing everything in sight while those in power sort of bumble around to see what they can do without doing anything radical, or changing anything too much, which is pretty much nothing, obviously.

But Jensen also goes after religion. Not all religion in terms of spirit or a sense of awe at the wonder of things, but big religion, our big religions (Christianity, but also Buddhism) - any religion that is not rooted in place.

This makes a lot of sense to me, at least at some level. I think what he's getting at is a lot of the trouble that I have with Christianity (and other religions) - they do not speak to (of/through) me about how to live me life as it is and as I experience it, they speak of a number of things that have nothing to do with me, and leave me cold.


(and this feels like a big and) he takes them to task for both letting us off the hook and for comforting us when we should not be comforted.

Some of the problem with our view of the environment is our cultural assumption that the point of it all lies elsewhere. Many of the worst offenders in US politics have been born-again christians who believe that the rapture is coming, and at best it doesn't matter because Jesus will come and take us away, and at worst it is a GOOD thing to destroy the planet, because it will somehow hasten (and facilitate?) Jesus' coming.

Joanna, in responding to my post about Christianity, said: "when I focus solely on what needs to be done and what I can do to meet it I am sometimes overwhelmed by my impotence, blindness, double-mindedness; and I need to be reminded that my hope for the world is based on God's goodness not my own. That doesn't mean that I can sit back and assume that God will fix everything"

which totally made sense to me. It IS overwhelming to think that we're all there is. And sometimes, it's not good to move forward with an ego grounded in that notion either :)

[and, I'd like to point out, Joanna lives a life, from what I can tell, about 300x closer to the life I think I "should" live than I do, so I do not mean to denigrate her choices or approach at ALL, but it doesn't work for me. At least not yet]

But, Jensen's point would be that all religions have been used to say that somehow it doesn't matter all that much. There is sometimes a sense that God will take care of it all, so we don't have to work so hard, OR even more, that it doesn't matter if God takes care of it. It doesn't matter, actually, if polar bears die because there is no ice for them to live on. It doesn't matter if tons of sea creatures die from toxins, fishing nets, or from having so much plastic crap in their bellies they starve to death because they can't fit in any actual food.

The point is to do our best, or to live up to our own light, or to be faithful.

And that is NOT the point for me. I want action, I want to make it better. I was drawn to quakerism because I thought we were IN the world, that we cared about things, really cared (not like cared about our own spiritual development in relation to slavery, actually cared about slavery, and stopping it)

I do think this attitude has a benefit in taking away our tendency to beat ourselves up about things. Evaluating how you did at the end of your life, when you can do no more, it is really "as good" to have done the best you could as to have won. But it does make a difference in the real world if you won, and the real world matters. (to me)

Maybe I"m not a Quaker?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Wondering about Christians

Turns out I wonder much the same about Christianity as I do about Paganism. Basically just, what is it? who "counts" and who doesn't? Is just saying you're one all you need? What if you DON'T say that you're one, but follow many of the tenets or it, even more so than many of its followers?

This came up recently for me because a friend who is a pastor posted some bit of pastorly wisdom to facebook, and I responded that it was useful to me even though I wasn't christian. He wrote me in private to say, "well, why not become one?" To his thinking, as I'm already concerned with social justice and ethical behavior, I'm halfway there!

So, what I wonder about first, with Christians is, again, what is one? Not that I think there's an answer, though unlike Pagans, there are lots of legally incorporated entities with tax-exempt status in the US and lots of rules and creeds and probably bylaws and stuff like that (which all help us to be better, more evolved spiritual beings, right?)

I assume there are bits of that in neopaganism, but I'm not actually sure. Anyway, the fact that christians have it doesn't really help me understand how people frame their own understanding of their own christianity anyway.

I've studied some, but it sort of all boggles my mind. A friend who used to be an evangelical christian pointed me recently towardthis page about all the different ways to interpret the book of revelations and what it says about when Jesus will come back, when the dead will rise, all that. I don't think it includes the "someone was just trippin'" or the "they were just wrong" interpretations of the book - no, this is just a ton of different ways to think the rapture and stuff is for real.

Which I tend to assume MOST christians don't believe, but there are probably polls proving I'm wrong.

The christians who tend to annoy me the most are those who are excited for other people to go to hell, followed by those who thank Jesus every time they find a good parking space (really, that guy needs to get a life, if he's worrying about where you're gonna park), but I don't interact with either of those types, much....

What I'm left confused about is people who aren't too worried about the super literalness of the Bible, and probably don't think I'm doomed to hell for not thinking Jesus was especially the son of God or whatever other magicalism it might be.

But they still think I'm missing something, and I can't for the life of me figure out what. Occasionally, the really convincing ones don't seem to worry about what I'm missing, but live their lives in a way that makes ME wonder if I'm missing something. (not that they're nicer people than I am, though maybe, but they're more at peace, I think, and often nicer, now that I think of it)

A LOT of what I run into, in my own dancing around with this in my head, is a sense that my best sense of Jesus (both what feels truest, for the most part, and what feels more likable) is of a man supremely concerned with justice and love, and enormously pissed off by dogma, religious strictures, etc. As if he was almost always saying, to those concerned more with tradition, "forget all that nonsense and heal the sick, feed the hungry, love each other, enjoy life"

And I guess I find myself wanting to say pretty much the same things to a lot of christians a lot of the time

Which feels a lot like wanting to be outside more than a lot of pagans seem to.

Plus, there's this sense, and I just don't get it, that being concerned with, for example, social justice is a really important first step in some larger process, the end of which would be something like "becoming a christian" (and that's where I'm wondering, what is that? is there a hope I'll believe something different? start praying to Jesus (like, and mean it?), just join a church, exactly as I am?

but most importantly, to me these things seem like ends in themselves - housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, comforting the suffering, preventing war, fighting for justice. And I'm baffled, and somewhat angry, when I run into, over and over again, what seems like the notion that they are somehow accessories to THE POINT, which I still don't even understand - that would be belief in something? It would be _________ - what would it be?

Liz blogged a bit ago about being a faithful servant. I didn't really get it, and it didn't resonate with me (I don't think/care much about being a faithful servant, for after all, who would I serve?) but it DID bring up this issue again. One item she mentions is helping a friend facing homelessness (I'm not sure what that entailed) but I had done something similar this winter (sadly, I think many of us probably had opportunities to do so for the first time) but it was radically different for me, I think, because God never entered my mind, not for a second. It's cold, she's scared, I have space - a number of thoughts/reasons/motivations, but not remotely related to God or religion.

And I *like* it that way. Perhaps only because my view of religion is still so shallow? It made sense to me, after all, when I was a small child with a simple philosophy. It *sounds* like wanting to house the homeless out of a hope for garnering favor with the divine, rather than out of some inborn sense of empathy or compassion. Am I missing something that is better/bigger/more awesome than empathy and compassion as a motivation?

This extends to other areas of spirituality for me as well, religion seems to cheapen it. Trees are AMAZING, the ocean is AMAZING, life is AMAZING - you can just be drop dead (hopefully not literally) blown away by the wonder of it all, and then someone bops up and says something like, "you're missing the really amazing thing, which is that some dude made this" - which leaves me completely nonplussed.

I dunno

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wondering about Pagans (actually, I don't know what this is about)

Stasa just recently blogged about how much it hurts to have quakers (and others?) assume that all pagans do ritual. And I have to say I'm a little surprised. I suppose I was one of those guilty parties. My natural reactions so far have been all along the lines of "but don't they?"

Which I guess I just have to leave out there until some pagans stumble across this and have something to say. I suppose I could also go poke my nose around, but I feel like I have. The thing about looking things up online is that stuff that's posted about pagan rituals is mostly going to be rituals that happen. you're not going to find an instance on the web of a pagan going for a walk in the woods and communing with nature (well, you might, you might even find it here, but it's not gonna turn up on a calendar of what's happening at your local community center, where a ritual just might)

I've actually been wanting to just whine about pagans, really, for a coupla days. It's silly, but I feel like when I encounter organized pagans in real life they're like afraid of nature. This really boils down to two experiences. Once a year or two ago when we were having a meeting of some sort at the meetinghouse on or around June 21st and there was a scheduling conflict because the pagan group that uses our meetinghouse had booked it for summer solstice, and I just though, my god, don't they want to be outside on summer solstice? is that more prejudice? is it silly to assume pagans want to worship outside? I want to worship outside! especially at midsummer. Then again, I don't think I'm pagan.

The second instance was just a week or two ago at our local May Day celebration. Some pagan group (except maybe they didn't even say they were pagan, they were "earth" something, oh well) was trying to recruit members and their big upcoming thing was a camping trip they take for a week every summer, and like three different people told me enthusiastically that it's at a professional campground and you can take hot showers every day and there's electricity at every site. I personally like camping without electricity, and can do without a shower for a few days (though I'd probably want one if I was gone a week)

I can't quite explain how it makes me want to cry that people who identify around, and, well, worship, the earth can seem so disinclined to like BE on the EARTH.

And no, this is not meant to be a pagan bashing rant. Like I said, I don't even know if the people I'm talking about are pagans, or if other pagans would think they were pagans or what. Plus, I'm not very good at organizing my thoughts before broadcasting them. I learned the word "tact" as a child from people telling me that I don't have it. Sorry (really, I'm sorry)

Which actually maybe brings me to my point (really? can that happen?) which is more about how pagans seem even harder to pin down than quakers. Who are they? what do they believe? Do they marry same sex couples? do they have female clergy? do they have a book? What do they DO? (which,I have to say, I've been asked more as a lesbian than as a quaker, but it might be close) This is something I should be able to look up somewhere, right?

Is there a membership process for being a pagan, what would you become a member of? I get the impression there are pagan clergy (like, who can marry a couple legally and stuff) so then, who ordains them? what sort of things do they have to know first? What IS a pagan? is there any agreed upon definition? Can you be an outcast from Paganism? I suppose I had thought not, but I don't know. says:

one of a people or community observing a polytheistic religion, as the ancient Romans and Greeks.
a person who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim.
an irreligious or hedonistic person.

So I don't think that's all that helpful.

Actually, writing this, I am finding I have a lot of similar questions about christianity, possibly another post to come soon.....

I think for me, the thing is, that why I'm a QUAKER has a lot to do with basically the spiritual power I feel in the world. As a christian-by-default child, I felt what they were talking about sometimes - love for my fellow human beings, a strong sense of justice, I just didn't think that stories about fishermen and churches with stained glass windows, men in robes, incense and candles, had to do with any of it. I found that they detracted from something that needed no embellishment, so leave it alone.

As I've grown I've been somewhat inclined to call myself a pagan quaker, because that power that I feel is most present in nature and "natural" things (trees yes, cars no) - for me this is roughly parallel to being a christian quaker - yes to Jesus, but no to most of that other stuff we (possibly) grew up with as non-quaker christian children. But most pagan quakers I know seem to be more organizedly pagan than that, maybe because they didn't have it growing up and still feel the need for it? I'm not sure. I personally don't have a strongly anti-ritual view of quakerism. it doesnt' work for me, and I don't want it to become, even a little bit, how my community "does" quakerism, I think that would be a problem, but I don't think that people who do ritual (be it catholic or pagan, or something else) outside of meeting need to be excluded or shunned or anything. I guess I'm also wondering if that's a concern among people for whom ritual in other contexts is important?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Save the Planet, eat your dog?

Ok, that's not actually what this article says, but it's how it's titled.

The comments afterwards are, in my opinion, a little hysterical, which I would totally be if someone actually tried to take my dog for food (or hurt any of them for any reason)

I started writing this ages ago, and am going back to check on my "drafts"

I'm not sure what I was going to say about this, I'm horrified by the title, of course (well, of course for me anyway) but it brings up some stuff I think about quite a bit.

For one thing, I'm basically on board with this, in the way I'm on board with many things (like population control - I'm not down with killing people, but I do think that any and all efforts to keep population down by educating women and guaranteeing access to birth control, as well as personal choice is a good thing)

So, I'm a fan of not breeding pets on purpose. I would actually advocate simply doing away with the practice. I have lots of pets, more than I want (at least twice as many as I'd like) because I function at maximum carrying capacity on the theory that that's one more animal that doesn't end up euthanized - it's pretty sad to think about, really)

And I would advocate that just from the perspective that if you want a dog or cat (or hamster or ferret) you can almost definitely find one at the humane society. If breeding were seriously curtailed, maybe they'd all find homes (if it was actually effectively stopped, there might actually be a "shortage" of pets, but how likely is that it could really be effectively stopped altogether?) Certainly the environmental perspective is added incentive.


I don't feel like I ever developed a theme for this, or figured out what I wanted to say. But there's something to say here. Our relationship with animals, particularly pets, is to say the least bizarre. People (many people, in the US) freak out about eating dogs, but think you're a terrorist if you oppose torturing dogs in a lab to find out neat scientific facts (or cure cancer - ha! that's going really well, how about we stop as a society doing all the things we're pretty sure cause cancer? Like spewing pollution, spraying our food with pesticides, etc?) nor do (most) people mind at all eating cows, pigs, chickens, etc, NOR the fact that they are treated brutally for their entire short lives before they are eaten (I probably still wouldn't eat meat if I knew it was raised and slaughtered "humanely" - but the difference between that, which I have no theoretical problem with, and how your meat is produced is HUGE, unless you know the farmer personally (and how it is slaughtered no matter what - farmer's aren't allowed to slaughter their own animals they HAVE to go to licensed facilities, which at this point are pretty much all awful beyond belief)

Anyway, what is up with that? Why not eat the dogs killed at the humane society and spare a few cows and pigs terrible suffering? Why not just be a vegetarian? why not get rid of breeding pets altogether? (really, it would take years to "catch up" and run out of pets, I promise)

And, a friend just recently posted something on facebook, as an example of racism, that someone arranged to fly a bunch of dogs out of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. (this is an example of racism I guess because everyone knows dogs don't matter, or at least not much, so doing anything to help them while black people are suffering is racist - don't get me wrong, I don't have anything good to say about the official handling of hurricane Katrina, I just get tired of people freaking out that some people care about dogs, even though there are other bad things in the world too) I actually assume that the only other option for those dogs was to be left where they were to starve to death, which was never considered as an option for any human being, so I'm not at all worried about some imbalance or misplaced compassion)

But really, dogs have no rights. Dogs were not allowed to be evacuated (even when people were, which sadly wasn't always either!) People were not only encouraged but forced at gunpoint to leave their dogs to starve.

Just the other day I saw a sign at the dogpark that people in our area are going around stealing dogs to sell to labs and for pitbull bait. I have no idea how accurate or hysterical this concern is, but I've been worried (sometimes frantic) about it. And the truth is if someone stole my dog from my yard I most likely couldn't expect any help from the police looking for her, certainly not more than I would get for a bike, and, if caught, the thief would most likely suffer no consequences worse than if they stole my bike (dogs and bikes, after all, cost about the same)

I guess I'm just sooo sick of hearing how animals have such a privileged place in our society, and comparing how well we treat them to how poorly we treat some people. I don't disagree that we treat some people poorly, but the problem is not that we treat animals better (we don't) but that we shouldn't be treating anyone that badly.

I'm also really sick of people's bizarre sentimentality when it comes to dogs and cats (at least those not used in labs) - I live in a city where dogs and cats are killed frequently, and where a lot of animals get eaten frequently, and yet these people are too tenderhearted to eat dogs - not to kill them, not to eat other animals. apparently just too tenderhearted to make any sense, or be honest with themselves

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

me and Jesus (again)

"Prayer of the Day: For those in need

God of the broken, God of the wanderer, Christ who is without shelter, surround those in deep need among us. Surround them and help us hear their cries for help. We are a people who long for the broken to be mended. We long for justice in the face of much corruption. We want to practice hospitality but have legitimate fears. Surround us in our trying times and help us to reach beyond ourselves. We confess we are bogged down by so much need in the world. May we have the courage to stand for what is right even when it offends, the imaginations to help create a better world, and the strength of your Spirit to carry on. Let us be as you are in this world. Amen."

So, today on facebook (shame) I got links to the above and to this in my "news feed"

The prayer really speaks to me. I don't talk to Jesus/God/Christ/Anyone like that, but sometimes, when someone else does (on my behalf?) It stirs something deeply in me (often if someone does it on my behalf it pisses the hell out of me - maybe I just have to be able to choose whether I identify with the supplicants in question.)

As for joy. Yeah, I want more joy. I want more joy in meeting. I want room for it. I don't necessarily feel like there isnt' room for it (and what do I know? I mostly hang out with middle schoolers, and mostly corrupt them at least as much as I teach them anything - we made paper airplanes a few weeks ago, which I felt sort of guilty about, until someone pointed out to me that there had been a message in meeting about our lack of joyfulness, then I felt downright productive!)

The comments on the blog post veered toward the joy that people who have given their lives over to Christ feel.

and I come up short.

It's not even that I DON'T want to give my life over to Christ. I have no idea what that means. I have to say that pretty much anyone I've seen who claims to have done it seems to range from about as happy and loving as I am to downright petty and nasty. I know a few Christians, as I've mentioned before, who really radiate the love of Christ (or whatever) but they generally spend zero, nada, absolutely NO energy telling me that I'd be better off if I was a Christian. They seem relatively firm in their belief that Christ loves the stuffing out of me and there's nothing I can do about it. (but true love isn't stalking, or manipulating, or threatening - if you really love someone and they have no interest in you you don't harass them mercilessly, you love them, from whatever distance they require)

Sometimes I feel like I have a really amazing relationship with Jesus, I just have to keep it secret from his "followers" (and I'm not just talking about Pat Robertson, I'm talking about Quakers) that makes me really sad