Archives for the month of: June, 2017

Ah, religion. One of the notoriously taboo topics of conversation, so someone said. I dunno why said someone decided our core beliefs should not be openly discussed. En tout cas, I tend not to follow the adage. Each religion is a world full of rich stories, fascinating people, and beautiful places of worship, amongst other things. But it seems that ‘religion’ is one of those words that people get stuck within a rigid definition of and cannot let be what it is: a series of symbol sounds that can represent a lot of different images and feelings.

When people learn I studied religion, they tend to think I’m ‘religious’. I’m never sure what the scope of that word holds for them. But whatever I do, say or don’t do, will be looked at within the context of being ‘religious’. * le sigh * So, just to clarify, I will only say that I do not belong to any religious community nor do I subscribe to any religion or perform any ceremonies or rites. Not even for the official religion of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, aka the Pastafarian. Humma Kavula and the Coming of the Great Handkerchief is purdy interesting too. It smacks of what we learned in Intro to Religion at university – that there can be a religion of anything.

When brought down to the basics, religions provide guidance to three questions: who are we? Where are we going? and How do we get there? The sacred texts, the liturgy and ceremonies, the places of worship and sacred spaces, the clothing, the food – everything within the religion is there to provide direction. The head guys – the pope, the shaman, the monk, the priest, the rabbi – help provide context as the leading students of the study of their religion.

If I did have to choose a religion, like, someone was pointing a gun at my head telling me I had to jump in one of those boxes “or else”, and I couldn’t choose all-theism like Chris Martin, I would choose Islam. Despite the negative hype it gets, on paper Islam provides great answers for the 3 questions. It says that we are souls, and our bodies are temporary clothing for our souls, which will one day return to Allah. People have to do as many good deeds as they can while here, as these good deeds will have to be shown to Allah when one leaves this life. As for further instruction/guidance on how to do that, the Quran sets out the five pillars of Islam that are easy to follow: 1 – witness that there is no god but Allah, 2 – pray five times a day in the direction of Mecca, 3 – give to charity, 4 – fast during Ramadan and, 5 – make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once. Some misconceptions: the concept of Jihad is not violent, as the word means struggling or striving and in the Quran usually refers to personal external or internal efforts to be a good Muslim; women are highly regarded and respected, Islam doesn’t force women into marriage, or harems as a man is only allowed to marry more than one woman if he can prove to love them both equally and the same – which should probably be taken more tongue-in-cheek rather than as permission, as this is an impossible feat. Men are admonished from ill-treating women and told to “live with them on the footing of kindness and equity” (Noble Quran 4:19). Regarding the head scarf, whereas some think the custom is imposed upon women, my understanding is that women want to wear it, as a sign of respect and faith and it makes them feel good and safe.

And then there’s the ‘mystical’ dimension of Islam: Sufism. Sufi’s, like the whirling dervishes, are more concerned with striving for the perfection of worship to get closer to Allah, motivated by love. 12th Century Sufi poet Rumi wrote extensively about this love in what is probably THE best collection of love poems, Ever. Plus there’s The Conference of the Birds by Farrid ud-Din Attar, the story is like Coles Notes Lord of the Rings epic and instructive at the same time in terms of how to attain enlightenment.

As for having no gun pointed at my head, I think anything is possible in this universe, and I have spent many an hour pondering the possibilities. Sometimes I wonder if it was just serendipity, maybe we’re here because of some science experiment gone wild – like, a giant species of being created us human biped beings in a petri-dish of sorts in a lab in science class somewhere out there in the universe. The being got a passing grade and let our ancestors loose in the universe when class was done, ‘cuz that’s just what they did. It seems as probable as anything else. I also wonder if, at some point, another species is going to come to our planet, on a picnic kind of stopover. They’re gonna have really big feet and when they go walking around we’re going to be like iiiitty-bitty ants and they are going to squish a lot of people. I like to imagine that I pop up between a couple of well-coifed toes and survive the accidental culling.

As for God, Allah, Yahweh, the Great Spirit…. ultimately, it cannot be denied that we are here and something had to have come first that allowed us to be here. If we are all made of matter, then we are all part and parcel of the same thing, which means we are connected somehow – like string theory. Which reminds me of another thing we learned in Intro to Religion, a cool bit from Christianity; how in the beginning there was nothing and then there was light and dark and everything else. How did all these things come from nothing our Prof had asked? ‘From God’ people started to say. But our Prof smiled slyly and took it back to some basic logic. “Nothing”, he said, “means there are No Things, and all is one”. All was one until things became named, defined and separated. The nothingness was essentially one and contained the whole… which means we all came from the same thing. It’s a great big world with many languages, so it makes sense we would have different words to describe this thing we came from.

Ultimately, as the global community grows, we would all do well to learn more about the worlds’ major religions. Because where one thinks there could be no-thing, every thing might be found.

When Donald Trump first aired in my orbit in the 90’s, there was no connection so I distanced myself from all things Trump. Then he got into politics and was everywhere on my radar, I couldn’t escape him. Every. Day. In the news, it was something even more wild and absurd and crazy that Trump was purported to have said, and every day it got my eyes bulging and my fighters’ cap on. And as everyday it’s the same thing and it’s creating a world of chaos, and there is no way to escape it, what does one do? How does one like myself, like yourself, like anyone, live in the same world as Trump, in a world where everything that we are, believe and represent is the epitome of everything that he fears, simply because we are not like him?
At first I was leaning more toward the haters’ bandwagon. But I had a moment like Pacha, with the llama in Emperor’s New Groove, I said to myself that no one could be as heartless and disrespectful and horrible as he was being made out to be. So I suggested, as Trumps’ daily tweets and memes made it seem that he was becoming so absurd as to be bordering humour, he had to be PUNKED-ing us, punking the world. It’s like, The biggest punk or practical joke. Ever. Because no one could be as bad as the media makes him out to be, and that’s all I have to go on, as I have never met him before and only heard of him and his locker room talk. Buuuuut, if you can’t believe half of what you hear and less of what you see, then the news could possibly be biased. There are fake tweets purportedly from Trump that made him out to be showing disrespect to veterans, but they weren’t actually made by him. And even if a lot of the bad stuff is true as reported, his behaviour is all for show, he’s hiding something. That is the purpose of the red-herring. And he is the king of red-herrings. He didn’t invent fake news but it seems to follow him like stink on a skunk.

Let’s be honest, the press has not been nice to him. Whenever there is the opportunity to put a photo of him, it is never a flattering one, it usually makes Trump look uncomfortable, or is otherwise unflattering, and not like the angelic photos they would post when Obama was in office. I reason that it just cannot be as painful as it looks, that he is not as bad and horrible as he is made out to be. Like, all the books, comics, stories and otherwise sacred texts I’ve ever read, whenever something looks that bad, it’s a ruse.
So I reason that Trump, and his new verb, being Trumponian, in not reading what yer commenting about but insulting it after admitting to have not researched it, I think that what he’s done, and continues to do, is throw out so many red-herrings that it’s forced people to examine what is the Truth and look into the foundations of what is being said.  What this activity could be doing is keeping people busy on so many fronts that we don’t have the resources to look into what his true goals will be or where it will be or what it is. It could all a part of his plan to get people to come together and realize how we all want the same things and how it’s better if we work together and how we can work together. But, like how sometimes people use negative reinforcement to teach,  he’s using absurdity.

IF that’s his plan, it’s inGENious. Like THE best play from Barney’s Playbook. Because what Trump has done and continues to do with every tweet, is uniting the world. Plus, when the ruse hits the fan, he’s ultimately going to come off as some sort of Willy Wonka kind of character.  Peruse Instagram for half an hour and you’ll see people from all over the world talking about and supporting each other in their truths and the struggles they have had to endure simply for being. It may appear to be only a bunch of photos and emojis, but they are challenging the truths we have been spoon-fed since birth, and sharing it with the world. They are dialoguing on politics, religion, sex and music and books and ideas. Trumponian politics has opened a lot of people’s eyes to what truth is and what it means. He’s made people actively question what is best for us and the answers are causing revolutionary activity in people coming together, in person, in large groups, for good.
There’s a character in some First Nations stories called Coyote, he’s known as the Trickster. He’s a shape-shifter and likes to laugh and have fun. He can be cool but you can’t win against the Trickster; you don’t end up getting what you want when you think he’ll give you what you want, you get something worse. I think Trump is like the Coyote. The Coyote’s nature is to trick, to have fun, to make one believe something that isn’t based on truth. He pretends to be someone he’s not. And the others watching either do or do not know he’s the trickster. His purpose is to reveal cracks in one’s character to help better that person. The Trickster is ultimately not evil or bad, just bored, who doesn’t take into consideration the results of his actions, doesn’t care about them. So, I reason that if Trump is the Coyote, he isn’t a bad guy. He’s trying to trick us into thinking he’s this sexist, racist, narcissistic tyrant by what he’s doing, but he’s ultimately not that, and so those who support him are being tricked into believing he’s being honest and speaking the truth. It’s going to be difficult for those who really believe what he has been tweeting and refuse to see the humour in the punk… there are always those who can’t handle the meme… If he’s punking us, at some point, something’s going to happen like in the Wizard Of Oz, a screen will be pulled back and he’ll be like “Oooooh. Hi!”. And then all the craziness will stop. There will no doubt be an awakening/adjustment period, because it’s going to be the punk of the lifetime. On the world.
Slowly, he’ll start pulling back in each one of the red-herrings he flung out and we will no longer be adrift in this harbour of fog caused by real or fake news.

Short digression – Trump reminds me of the guy from the movie Robots, of the big ol’round CEO robot, the old guy who had started the company then got lost and then lost hope on making a difference and was found playing with dominos to pass the time when the younger Robot came along and woke him up.
All this to say that while Trump seems to be a head scratcher or face-palmer, and the only plausible explanation to be able to live in the same world is to think of him as the Trickster, it could be a warning, like the ‘end-is-nigh’ à la Whoville in Horton Hears A Who.  One of the good side-effects of Trumponian politics though, is that it’s also causing a lot of self-examination. People are being forced to look at their own biases and shortcomings, and are seeing how we are each imperfectly perfect. Which, is creating a whole new world order of sorts, based on reality and respect and equality. People are standing up for what they believe in, and the joy ride while surfing Instagram that he’s caused is bringing people together.

And if it turns out that he’s not the Trickster, maybe some of his freinds could chill and watch The Meaning of Life with him by Monty Python. I’ll keep watching it play out on social media. And twitter…. And will hafta come up with another way to make sense of it all. Cuz it’s Trumponian.

Next Week: Religion

Knowing the danger of choosing words that could inadvertently cause disrespect, where does one start writing when one doesn’t know which words will cause pain, because when using descriptive words, many of those words used have become stereotypes of people, and often times these stereotypes create images that are not flattering or nice, and thus the word creates an image and the image does not reflect the actual person or thing.

Recently I’ve become hyper-aware of disparaging words being used synonymously with stereotypes, or meant as insults, and how prevalent these words are. Like all women are bi*ches: on tv and in songs, rather than refer to women or lady, all women are referred to as bi*ch or ho. Ya know, swearing is fine in context and even saying nig*er if yer black, or even bi*ch if yer a woman is owning it. Yet it’s gotten past the point where Kanye commented on it years ago, “Stevie Wonder never had to use the word bi*ch to get his point across”.

The origins of using the word as an insult comes from referring to women as female dogs, and comparing women to dogs and in the use of this word, stating that all women are dogs. Unless one is actually referring to a female dog it shouldnt be used. It’s disparaging and insulting, like the use of nig*er and redsk*n. The words were historical insults, when people they were referring to were thought of as the everyday farm animal because of the colour of their skin or where they came from or what they had between their legs.

In any case, it came to the point that I had to start deleting songs from my playlist, because every time I heard the word it felt like the people who were saying it were physically slapping me across the face. And while I don’t think they mean for it to feel that way, it hurt enough to have to delete it. I’ve had to delete 9 of my top 50 fav songs, I miss Death Around The Corner by Tupac the most. It was like saying goodbye to a friend. I feel like if I didn’t delete it though, would be like saying that it was ok for any man to ever refer to any woman as a bi*ch, and I don’t believe it is. If someone is being referred to specifically, that doesn’t need to be aired publicly.

One area where men and women are questioning and defying the stereotypes and, challenging them, is on Social Media. Gil Scott-Heron was right, the revolution isn’t being televised, it’s being social-media-eyezed. All over the world, people are posting what words and truth mean to them with their emojis, images, songs, books and people, and their words. The way they use words, it’s as if the word was  a sqaure peg that is now being made round by showing us a different perspective.  They’re changing the face of the world, creating a universal language, forcing us to look at the good, bad and ugly of ourselves, and i like to think we’re changing for the better because of it.

Words are powerful things and need to be handled with care and respect. Because like stones dropped in a lake, they create ripples that cause waves to hit beaches on the other side – who knows what damage will be done. Words are sounds that are ultimately felt and sensed with the whole body, not just the ears or the eyes. Thus, all this to say, that in choosing my words, I hope you dig le shit meme si tu get pas tous les lyrics. And I mean no disrespect and apologize in advance if I choose a word that inadvertently causes pain.

 

Future posts include racism and feminism.

The title of this blog comes from the undergrad thesis I wrote for an honours BA in Religion. It was actually pithily called the Myth of Myth and Native Mythology, but the subtitle was “a booklength string of words, or, a bowling ball on a trampoline”. The subtitle came from the conclusion, which after 60 pages of examining value systems, words and how truth is determined, stated rather simply, that essentially a myth was a string of words that was meant to reveal a truth, or some aspect thereof. While the word myth comes from Greek mythos and means story, for some reason, myths are generally understood as being stories that are exaggerated or untrue. And it seems as though a lot of people can’t get past that understanding. If you think about how and when you use that term, and what you mean when you use it, what does it mean to you, honestly?
Anyhow, in my thesis, I propose that the words we use to understand the world are heavy with cultural baggage. Thus, when we try to understand something outside our culture, there is the risk that things are going to be lost in translation. This can make communication difficult even in the best and easiest of times. I’m using English and therefore have some assumption that English speakers and readers will understand the words the way I mean them. But, that’s not how it always works.
The thesis points out that sometimes people get stuck in the words and their definitions – or the shape of them if you will, rather than letting the words be what they are, which is a group of symbols or signs for auditory sounds, which technically are felt within our ears. For example, an A is a visual symbol that represents that sound, which many have learned is the first sound in apple or ape, and thus words are a series of symbol-sounds that represent objects, thoughts, feelings – everything that is. Where things get lost in translation, is when we apply our cultural baggage which can result in thinking there is only one understanding, or feeling, for each word. For some an apple is red and juicy and tasty, but for others it’s sour or rotten and riddled with worms. Both are right, so neither is wrong. If we don’t allow that a word can mean more than one thing, it’s kind of like thinking that the EXIT sign means we have to crawl through the sign to get out. But if you’ve read American Psycho, it’s not an exit, it’s just a sign, guiding one to where the way out is. So it makes sense to let words point us in general directions, and let the shapes of the letters and sounds wash over us in feelings and fade away instead of getting stuck within the rigidness of them…..That, and hope the writer will provide context.
That was perhaps a rather long intro to the topic of labels and what you can expect from this blog. But context is important. There’s a scene in Dear White People ep. 2 of the television show when the journalist is told: “trust me: find your label” because “labels are what prevent people in Florida from drinking Windex”. That’s what came to mind when I decided to jump into the blogosphere. Because when I first saw the scene, I did that head pull back, half squint wha-you-talkin-bout face and went full-on defensive talking to myself about how labels are bad and how we have to defy our labels, in the way we have to fight the power, (also wondering why people in Florida were singled out 🤔). I reasoned that labels pigeon-hole and constrain and limit. Which, I realized, as I took off my armor and let myself feel the signs, makes sense… for how many times have I googled something so specific that was found on a blog written by someone who specializes in the nature of my query.
So at first I didn’t want to apply a label because I didn’t want to scare people off or give unrealistic expectations, anne frankly I worry that if I say who or what I am, instantly images will form in the readers’ head and then the round peg of what I’m doing will become whittled away by a readers’ understanding of what that word means to him/her. But I do also see the point in terms of wanting people to think this is not Windex. So, about me, I will say that I’m a verb. In the words of Buckminster-Fuller, I’m an ‘evolutionary process – an integral function of the universe”. I have two BA’s (sociology/political science and religion), and I have previously written for film, television, press and social media. I love words.

And as for category… perusing the ‘top 42′ lists complied, I dint see anything this will fall under, so ima say it’s a post-existential look at verbs, like being and doing. I see and live in the world and write about it. A couple of years ago, as a national news reporter, I interviewed a graffiti artist who pointed out the need that graf artists’ work had to be public. I think it’s because we all wanna be heard in some way, we want to be seen, it’s confirmation we are here, like our voice is important, like “Killjoy was here”. Or like the little guy in Horton Hears a Who who finally declares “I am here, I am here, I am here”.

New posts will go up every Thursday. Future topics include politics, religion and race.