In case you have been living under a rock for the last 24 hours, some guy that hunts ducks doesn't think anal sex is awesome. This is apparently the most important thing that has ever happened, so I'll give you a few moments to rage.
Feel better? No? What if I told you he got fired for it? Now do you feel better?
You shouldn't. Yes, yes, the guy is a dick. His views are bigoted, and not appreciated by a large segment of society. But there's a larger issue at play here, and we'd be foolish to ignore it. The man was "suspended" from his own TV show, because his personal views do not line up with those of A&E, who claim to support LGBT rights. That may seem reasonable at first glance - afterall, most of us would be likewise fired if we made racist or homophobic statements aloud at work. Here's the thing, though: Duck Dynasty, from what I have read (I'm not exactly up on the latest in "reality TV"), is about openly conservative Christian hunters from Louisiana. Now, I hate to stereotype people, but just from that description, I can assume, probably safely, that they do not drape themselves in rainbow flags at the end of the day. I can also assume that A&E was well aware of the fact that they would have the occasional controversial view. In fact, the more I read about this show, the clearer it becomes to me that A&E was banking on it. Let's be honest - you don't create a show about conservatives from the deep south to appeal to an ultra-liberal audience, unless you're counting on the trainwreck syndrome to work in your favour. Whatever the truth of the matter is, A&E had to know this would happen at some point, and is likely to get more ratings out of the deal, one way or another. Bluntly put, they fired one of their employees for doing exactly what they knew and hoped he would do. Not cool.
But it goes even deeper than that. I vehemently disagree with everything he said. I think it was bigoted and crude, and sorely uneducated. And I completely support his right to say it. This whole "free speech comes with responsibility" and "public figures shouldn't voice their personal views" argument is utter bullshit. No one - not you, not me, not homosexuals, nor Christians, have the right to not be offended. Sorry, but we just fucking don't. Everyone should be very disturbed by the precedents set by stories like these. I'm not generally one to employ a slippery-slope argument, but I can't deny seeing the potential for one here, for two reasons:
Few arguments are more amusing for me to sit back and watch than one between the unashamed omnivore and the fervent vegetarian. For whatever reason, people tend to really dig their heels in on this subject, and pretty well immediately begin digging up the most extreme examples they can to "prove" their point. Meat eaters will offer a pseudo-educated lecture on the nutrients missing in a vegetarian diet, and scream hypocrisy if their opposition has ever been so bold as to take a Tylenol. Vegetarians will put forth an emotional appeal that would make Satan himself weep, describing in gruesome detail the brief and tortured life of the animals that land on your plate. Both will make the occasional valid point, but all in all, it tends to turn into a competition of convincing propaganda.
Here's the thing. Yes, most of the meat that gets to your plate was probably not acquired in an awesome way. Yes, it is possible to get all of your nutrients through a vegetarian diet. Yes, there are many moral and nutritional arguments in favour of limiting your meat intake. Yes, a lot of animal testing facilities and meat manufacturers engage in horrific practices. Yes, there are plenty of perfectly acceptable and equally beneficial animal alternatives. But it is also true that humans are designed to consume meat. It is also true that many of the products we all use and take for granted came by way of animal somehow. It is also true that diseases and infections that would have otherwise killed us can be treated now, thanks to animals. And, believe it or not, it is also true that a middle ground can be sought, here.
The more we all learn about the meat industry, animal testing, and the questionable treatment of many critters, the bigger the moral dilemma we face. More and more people are opting to become vegetarians or vegans, and I, as an (almost) vegetarian myself, greatly appreciate this. But this is no place for extremism, either. When people venture over to either extreme of any issue, the chances of doing overall harm are far greater than doing any great benefit. We have to keep a lot of things in mind here - what are we replacing our meat with? Is that sustainable, and ecologically sound? Is it rational to completely remove animals from everyone's diet, or would it make more sense to force changes in the industry? What alternatives do we have, or must we create, to animal-based medications? What will the economic impact be if we greatly shift our perspective, and what steps are we taking to avoid a collapse? While I'm morally on the side of animal rights activists, I also realise that this isn't just a moral argument. If it were, the right choice would be quite clear: stop doing what we're doing. But there is much more than that to consider. Current hunting and fishing laws make it difficult to sustain ourselves on only what we can catch. Free range farms are a great alternative, but not available to many. Vegetarian alternatives are more ethical, but often difficult to justify ecologically and financially. Many medical treatments involve animal testing/products, and do not currently have a veg-friendly counterpart. The meat industry, for better or worse, generates a lot of income, creates a lot of jobs, and provides a lot of affordable food - if we want to destroy it, we'd damn well better be prepared to replace it.
If we really want to see positive change occur, we cannot come at this with knee-jerk reactions from either side. We have to recognize not just the moral implications of our actions, but also the ecological, economic, and medical. We have to be rational, and not force ourselves into boxes. You don't have to be either a tofuwrappedinlettuceite or a wrapitallinbaconite. You can cut down on meat, but still go fishing. You can be a vegetarian that indulges in cheese now and then. You can eat only free range animals. You can be a vegan that grows your own veg. You can raise your own chickens, and do with them what you will. There's no reason to believe you have to adopt either extreme. If we can at least all agree that the current way of doing things isn't fantastic, and there are better alternatives out there, we can all make a change for the better.
As you've probably figured out by now, one of my favourite pastimes is debate. From the philosophical to the linguistic, from the political to the mundane, any and all topics are worthy of debate, in my eyes. One topic that never gets old for...well...anyone, is religion. And lack of religion. And which versions of which religions are more or less valid. And so on, and so on, and so on. There is no end to the number of possible religious topics, and the internet gives us more than enough podiums from which to rant. One particular debate annoys me, however, on both a linguistic and ideological level.
See, I'm a pedant. And a writer. And a self-taught linguist. I take great interest in words, and how to most efficiently apply them. I'm also, however, vehemently opposed to forcing labels and ideologies onto others. I firmly believe that everyone has the right to define themselves, to take on or reject any label they so desire, and to leave open the option of changing their minds. And so, when the word "agnostic" is used without any additional suffix or context, my brain tends to split off into two diametrically opposed camps. On the one hand, "agnostic" is, by definition, a knowledge claim, not a belief claim. One can be an agnostic-atheist, an agnostic-Christian, an agnostic-Hindu, or any other possible designation. All it means is that one claims no knowledge of whether a literal deity exists or not - it says nothing about what they believe. On the other, I personally self-identify as "agnostic". I don't add atheist or theist or Cthuluist or Flying Spaghetti-ist to that - just regular, lonely ol' agnostic. So I fully understand where others are coming from with that. Yes, technically, if you do not believe in a specific deity/deities, you are an atheist. This is an unavoidable linguistic fact. But, if we are to be honest, words are much more than just cold definitions. Words carry connotations. They give flight to ideals. Stating that one is a theist, or an atheist, carries with it much more than a dictionary definition. It implies an ideology - an ideology not everyone wants to be associated with.
I've often been told that I "can't" be just an agnostic. That I "have to" admit to being either a theist or an atheist. That there is no logical way I can claim to be neither. The pedant half of me agrees - the strictest definitions of these terms demands that everyone be either a theist or an atheist. But the adamant free-thinker in me bucks this idea unabashedly. Sure, we all have our vague beliefs about such concepts, but what is so wrong with sticking with the clearest truth to some of us, which is "I don't know"? Why bother applying terms that we don't feel at all passionate or confident about? Why limit ourselves to a dichotomy that does not adequately sum up our views on the matter? What if I think a higher power is possible, but reject outright the current concepts presented? What if I think a higher power is unlikely, but that a more evolved, unknown species may have influenced our own? What if I think creation is reasonable, but that the proposed creators are not? There are countless ideas one may have on these topics that do not neatly fit into the "theist" or "atheist" models - so why should anyone be required to apply one term or the other to themselves?
Language has a single purpose: to communicate ideas. While creating strict definitions for words is necessary in a functional sense (that is, we all have to come to some sort of agreement on what words mean, otherwise, they lose their purpose), when it comes to vaguer ideologies, abstract concepts, and an expression of hard to define ideas, those strict definitions become a detriment. They force us to apply inadequate labels on ourselves, and limit our own ideas to the words currently available. This is, really, in direct opposition to the purpose of language - it prevents us from communicating our ideas, rather than arming us to do so.
And so, I propose a new definition for the label "agnostic". I propose that, if one chooses to use this label alone, free from any context, we should presume that this is a person that does not feel the terms "atheist" or "theist" sufficiently define their thoughts on the matter. That they have chosen to end the conversation at "I don't know". That they reject the connotations of other terms. That an agnostic is one that does not feel inclined to express vague beliefs, or feels belief is too abstract a concept to cling to. I propose that we loosen the definitions of "middle ground" labels, to communicate the idea that not all ideas can be communicated with a single word.
When I was 18, I lost a lot of weight. I was fed up with being perpetually fat-and-getting-fatter, and had seized the opportunity to break that cycle when I acquired a job at a health-conscious cafe. I began consuming only what was available there, and the weight began falling off. At 21, I quit drinking, after a pretty gross 3 year binge, clinging to coffee as my only salvation. At 23, I quit smoking, cold turkey, after an 8 year pack-a-day habit.
When I was 28, I lost a lot of weight. I was fed up with being perpetually fat-and-getting-fatter, and had seized the opportunity to break that cycle when I acquired a job at an art gallery 2km from my house. I began walking there everyday, and the weight began falling off. At 30, I quit drinking after a pretty gross 2 year binge, clinging to coffee as my only salvation. At 32, I quit smoking, cold turkey, after a 4 year pack-a-day habit.
I'm about to turn 33, and need to lose some weight. I'm not fat, but I am getting fatter. I'm about to turn 33, and drink too much. I'm about to turn 33, and just last week, broke down and had a cigarette. And I'm really, really pissed off at myself.
And I know I'm not alone; this is pretty classic behaviour, in fact. It's a subtle piece of dark humour, that DSM. People that "suffer" (I've never liked that word - I prefer "cope") from major depressive disorder are statistically far more prone to either over-eat or starve themselves, to smoke cigarettes, and to form addictions to drugs or alcohol. They're also more likely to engage in self-destructive behaviour, even when fully aware of the risks. And, in a not at all shocking revelation, they tend to get caught up in cycles that they are perpetually trying to break. I call this cycle "the fear of okay".
As pissed off as I am at myself, and as many times as I have overcome my obstacles (only to fall right back into the same pit), I know, somewhere, in some deep and dark pit of my brain, that I do this on purpose. I know that I sabotage my every accomplishment so that I will...so that I will have something to do later. See, for someone with depression, two things are certain: anxiety about the future (this is what makes many of us suicidal - "the future" is a terrifying and hard to imagine thing), and acceptance of the norm. Our norm, that is. We hate how things are, but we are, at the very least, used to them. We're used to being depressed. We're used to fucking up. We're used to being pissed off at ourselves. "The fear of okay" is the panic we feel when we begin to cross that line between what we're used to, and what may lie ahead. What if I keep the weight off this time? What if I quit drinking for good? What if I really do stop smoking? Then what? If I manage to keep my shit together, what will be left for me to do? I've been many things in my life, but "okay" has never been one of them, and the thought of it is utterly terrifying. I am so used to these cycles, so used to the highs and lows, that the idea of even, solid ground beneath me is completely foreign. If not for those bumps in the road, what could the journey possibly have to offer? Would I still be able to write? To paint? Would I have anything left to say?
If there is anything I fear more than insanity, it's boredom.
And yes, I know this makes very little sense to many of you. I mean, it's pretty simple, right? Stop doing the stuff that makes you feel like shit. Being happy is better than being depressed. This is shit a kindergartener could grasp pretty easily. The problem, however, is not one of understanding. The problem is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of losing the identity we've worked hard to accept, fear of fading into oblivion. Fear of mediocrity. Fear of normalcy. Fear of okay.
So...what's wrong? No, seriously. What, in the day-to-day, average-experience, mundane-motion, part of your life honestly and genuinely makes you mad? What do you regularly encounter that tangibly affects you? I ask, see, because I've been on this kind-of profane high lately, hammering on about how we should take control of our lives, and live them in the moment, how we should stop blaming others, stop making excuses, and stop letting politicians, pastors, and internet heroes tell us what to think, and it occurred to me this morning that all of these shoulds and stops have a common theme.
Ask 100 people the root of evil, and 99 will say "money". If you've got it, you'll do terrible things to keep it; if you don't have it, you'll do terrible things to get it. Even if you're well-off and secure, or not so but content, the world will find some way to make things stressful, because...that makes other people money. For every concern you have, someone is selling the cure. There's a pill, or a cream, or a car, or a gadget, a lawsuit, a market, or a piece of insurance that can fix whatever is bothering you. And the more things that bother us, the more money there is to be made. Every wrinkle you see, every pound you gain, every neighbour you don't like, every word you find offensive, every act you don't agree with is another dollar in somebody's pocket. The entire economy is, in essence, based on power, insecurity and division. Divide and conquer.
Look in any direction; look at any facet of society, and you will see it: the media tells us we aren't thin enough, that we're too old or too young, that we don't have enough of this or that. They make clear the lines between what is good and what is not good. We give them that power, we give them our money, we strive to become what is good, and we begin to look down upon those that are not good. The government tells us what is fair and what is unfair, what is safe and what is scary, what we should be okay with, and what we absolutely should not be. They make clear the lines between what is good and what is not good. We give them that power, we pay them our taxes, we cling tightly to what is good, and yell angrily about what is not good. There are churches, clubs, organizations, and institutions of every possible flavour, all drawing more and more lines between what is good and what is not good, and all of them - every single one - benefits from our division. They benefit by virtue of "us" and "them". The more insecure we feel about ourselves, the more we pass those same judgements onto others, the more firm we become in our belief of what is good and what is not good, the more someone out there benefits.
And this takes me back to my question to you: what, really, is your problem? What actually has a negative impact on your life? When you step back for a second and think about it for yourself, does it really bother you that two men, somewhere out there in the world, love one another? Do you really feel burdened that a family from Pakistan is moving here next week? Does it really affect your life if the girl down the hall is overweight? Think about this carefully before you answer; think really hard about the things that truly impact you on a day to day basis. Think about the struggles you have and where they actually come from. If you can look objectively at your existence and say yes, these things really do affect me, these divisions are legitimate, and my concerns are valid, well, okay. I bid you adieu, fair soldier, the rest of this post isn't for you. I'm sure I will meet you on the battlefield with another profane rant somewhere down the line. But I'm betting most of you, if you're honest with yourselves, will say no. I'm betting that, for most of you, the real struggles in your life, the real unfairness, the real anger, lies in not always being able to make ends meet. In feeling insignificant. In balancing work and kids and love and time to yourself. I'm betting most of you are angry about a car that won't start, a boss that takes advantage of you, people that push ahead of you in line. I'm betting that not a single one of our problems would be solved if everyone magically woke up a size 6, or white, or straight, or pro-choice, or a liberal. These divisions that have been created between us (and they have been created) are false. They are a diversion. They are an effective way to control us. Divide, and conquer.
And if that's really what it is, if we are working day in and day out to afford the cost of being "us", and not "them", if we are paying other people to create our problems for us, only to turn around and pay them again to solve them, well...we should maybe change that, don't you think? If the walls we have built between ourselves are actually locking us in, rather than keeping them out, couldn't we make better use of that space? So I ask you, on this fine Sunday evening, to please ask yourself: what's wrong?
I'm a raging pessimist. A raging pessimist kept in check by also being a head in the clouds, peace-lovin' hippy. Don't think that makes sense? I ask of you, then, to read some Camus and get back to me. Pessimism is not, as it's commonly defined, the philosophy that everything is shit; pessimists, in fact, are often the most optimistic of beings. This may seem contradictory, but I assure you, it's not. While many would love to pit optimism and pessimism against one another as mortal enemies, the fact is, we are far more friendly than the outside world wishes to give us credit for. Pessimism is not a negative view of the world. Rather, it is an existential answer to realism. Pessimists see the world for what it is, and realize that, ultimately, life itself has no objective meaning - it is up to us, as individuals, to create our meaning. And, for many of us, this is a positive. Knowing that this limited, time-restrained life is all we get, and that we are here only via chance, chaotic order, and luck, makes it of the utmost importance to appreciate, and live out to the fullest, our existence. We are, in short, the universe experiencing itself. This is about as far from the mundane and negative as one can get. This, my friends, should be the most positive thing you ever hear: the pessimist's view is that...this is it. This is your opportunity to BE the living universe. How much fucking cooler would you like life to get?!
Of course, though, positivity has to come at a cost. For you to live your life to its fullest, you must first accept a couple of things: first, you are going to die. Believe in an afterlife if that's your gig, but at least come to terms with the fact that the life you are leading right here and right now is going to end. Second, you are the one holding you back. Fuck your parents, your exes, and your shitty friends. Fuck your school and your job. Those are the things you are allowing to hold you back, but they are not to blame. You are. Once you reach an age in which your mom is no longer feeding you from her teet, once you have learned to read and write and multiply and divide...your life is your own responsibility. You can go on and blame others for your failures, but you're only lying to yourself and making excuses as to why you can't do this or that. Basically, if you are over 16, fuck you. You have every opportunity awaiting you, and if you don't take them, fuck you. It is the pessimist's view that your life is yours to define, yours to live, and yours to succeed in, or screw up, as you see fit. It is the pessimist's philosophy that you own yourself, that you own your life, and that the only person there is to blame when it all goes to shit is...you. Sure, you can blame your government, you can blame your parents, you can blame the shitty town you were born in...but if you've not made any move, if you've not made any attempt to change the things that are holding you back, you have no one to blame but yourself. Who, exactly, do you want to be in charge of your existence? Do you want your parents to rule you forever? Do you want the school system to make your decisions for you? Do you want your boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend, to dictate how you should live your life? No? Then stand the fuck up and move forward. Move in your own direction. This is the pessimist's view: it is not one of negativity and nothingness; it is not apathy and anarchy; it is a firm decision, an accepted philosophy, that all of your life's decisions are yours to make. You define your life. You make it what it is. Blaming others is an act of apathy and cowardice. If things aren't as you wish them to be, do something about it! And, if you screw it all up, as we all have (often several times), have a drink, load up your iPod, smoke a joint, and start again.
This life is yours. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, and don't live it any other way.
Am I supposed to know, or care, who Thunderf00t, PZ Myers, or Rebecca Watson are? Should I honestly give a flying fuck about YouTube heroes, armchair (or...more than likely, computer chair) pundits, or internet feminists? Is there some reason I'm expected to have a serious opinion about these people?
I've been asked whose "side" I am on regarding these folks and issues several times as of late, so I suppose maybe people do care about the opinions of other random people on the internet. But, lemme let you in on a little secret. I don't actually expect anyone to give a shit what I have to say on my blog. It's my blog. It's a place where I get to rant about whatever the hell I feel like ranting about. If you agree with me, cool. If you don't, just as cool. I'm a little taken aback by this weird, celebrity devotion to anyone with a web-cam and a strong opinion. I can't imagine any of you, dear readers, becoming my "following", and, honestly, I'd be fucking creeped out if you did. My whole point here, if I have one at all, is to encourage you to think for yourselves. It is not, I repeat, not, to have you agree with me. I'm just as happy when someone comments with a "go fuck yourself" as I am when someone "likes" my post on facebook. I don't want people to agree with me, I want people to think.
But...I digress. I did have an actual point to make with this post, but the wine has gotten in the way. Ahem...
Internet atheism doesn't mean a fuck to me. Nor does internet feminism. And, particularly, neither does internet anti-feminism. Oh, you have a YouTube post about how Slutwalk is a stupid idea? OMGWHOCARES? Certainly not I. You think you're clever because you made a vlog about how Christians are idiots? You're not. You believe asserting that all sex is rape on your bought and paid for WordPress site has earned you some feminist crown? It hasn't. And you, you, dude that figured pulling your dick out at a feminist rally while your cell-phone camera recorded the whole ordeal was a witty answer to the issue? You are a huge asshole.
I have respect for dissent. I have respect for thoughtful, meaningful debate. I have great respect for people that, honestly, and with profound sincerity, have formed an opinion to present to the public at large. I have no respect for fucking wankers that think being contrary for the sake of it is a great intellectual achievement. Every 2 year old knows how to say "nuh-uh"; if your hope is to seem more clever than a toddler, I highly suggest taking a little more care in presenting your opinion. Being the internet's "Angry Atheist" doesn't impress me, dude. I get it. You think religious people are stupid. Good for you. Go read some Carl Jung and get back to me. You think all men are potential rapists? Cool; get acquainted with William Blake and then we'll talk. Oh, you're an anti-feminist, you say? Right on, I'd love to hear your criticisms of Margaret Atwood and Virginia Woolf. But I'm willing to bet my pittance of an income that you've not bothered researching these people. I'm willing to bet every penny in my pocket that you neither know, nor care, about the movements these people have inspired and contributed to, and I'd bet my life savings that you don't give a shit. Your opinions are based, solely, on your 20 or 30-something year old perspective of life as it is now, within your own, narrow, and highly biased, view of life today. You can take whatever view of atheism/theism, or feminism/anti-feminism that you prefer, but don't expect me to give a shit unless you have a substantial argument to back it up with. Your basement produced YouTube video means absolutely nothing to me, nor does your broad sweeping generalisations about everyone with a penis being evil.
Short story long: unless you have something substantial to place on my table, get the fuck out of my kitchen. Being contrary for the sake of it, thinking you're really fucking clever for calling belief in God stupid, thinking you are the Queen of the Feminists for managing to squeeze rape into every conversation, or thinking that pulling your dick out at inappropriate moments makes you an intellectual superstar is pretty well guaranteed to make me hate you. Protest is cool, dissent is cool, demanding change is cool. Being a dick for the sake of it, and proudly whipping out your broad brush of bigotry just encourages me to shuffle you into the same bin as those you despise.
Try this on for size, if you will. Think for yourself. Read a fucking book. Shut your mouth, and your web-cam, until you have the slightest clue what you're bitching about. Realize that things aren't generally painted in black and white. Shut the fuck up for a minute and think.
I wasn't sure whether to post this on my genealogy site or this one. To be honest, I wasn't sure whether to post this at all. I tend to refrain from really personal posts, and pretty well always regret it when I fail in that. But a feeling has been overwhelming me lately, and I think it safe to assume I am not alone in this feeling.
I won the jackpot in family photos recently. My grandmother made the move to a lodge, and in doing so, gave away a whole lot of her stuff to her kids and grandkids. I was fortunate enough to get box upon box of photo albums -- a prize I'd been begging for for years. I developed an interest in genealogy several years ago, and have since been harassing every living relative I know for any pictures, documents, or stories they may have, so when my mom arrived on my doorstep with 4 giant boxes of photos, I was beside myself with excitement. I spent weeks pouring over each album, smiling reminiscently at photos of childhood Christmas celebrations, and staring, fascinated, at worn and faded photographs of ancestors long gone, seeking out familiar features. What a treasure I had acquired, I thought -- how fortunate, how blessed I was to have so much history summed up in these books.
And then, I got really depressed. My feelings of fortune were replaced by feelings of futility and waste. Why give these photos to me, of all possible people? At 32, I have no children, and it is quite likely I never will. My cousins, hell, even a couple of my second cousins, have acquired themselves large families, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. It seemed both ironic and tragic that the one person with an interest in, and access to, our family history was the one person that had no one to pass it on to. I, in stereotypically depressive fashion, pictured myself dying in my modest apartment, and...whomever would arrive to clear out my things finding these boxes of photos and having no idea who to give them to. I was overwhelmed by the burden of being the dead end in our family tree.
I know a lot of women my age, some younger, some older, that have no desire to have children. Some simply don't see a place for them in their life-plan, some have made a conscious decision to not participate in the increase in population. Some have approached it from a political position, some from an emotional position, some from an awareness, and lack of desire, to pass on their own insanity. All of them, however, agree that they do not want kids. I am not among them. I have always wanted children. From the age of 5 or 6, all of my future plans incorporated kids. I would graduate highschool (ha!), begin university (double ha!), meet and marry the man or woman of my dreams. Postpone my degree while I gave birth to, and began raising, my first child. And so on. I had it all figured out. And then, I turned 30, with still no sign of offspring. I had put off a lot off things with this one plan in mind. I began to panic. If this, the central part of my plan, was never going to come to fruition, this meant re-evaluating my entire life. It meant redefining myself as a person. I had always intended for "mom" to be my main title - what was I without it? What would I be? How would I define myself from this point forward? I really had no idea. The only other titles I've ever felt comfortable with are "daughter" and "poet". But those aren't entirely satisfying in the staring-my-mortality-in-the-face sort of way. Perhaps my poetry will live on, but perhaps it won't. Poetry is possibly the most finicky and pretentious of all mediums, and there is just as large a chance I will die entirely unheard of as there is that I will become the next T.S. Eliot. And, while being a daughter is a precious and infinitely valuable thing, it certainly won't carry on into anyone's future. I have had to face the fact that I am the end of my line. As an only child with no children, my own direct ancestral line ends with me.
And I guess I just have to deal with that. But this is the feeling that I've found overwhelming as of late - the rational, logical part of me has no problem facing the prospect of not bearing children. In fact, I can think of many positives to this situation. But the emotional, creative part of me is lost at this revelation. How does one make use of their acquired knowledge if they've no one to pass it on to? What exactly is the point of one's existence if they do not create a next generation? And these are not questions asked from a self-defeating position, but genuine, existential pondering. When one has always envisioned themselves as a parent, as a carrier-on of things, all other possible avenues seem foreign and vague. It becomes necessary to retrace one's steps to a time and place when all things were unknown, when the future was uncertain, when life was scary as hell. Only this time, you're going back with the wisdom, and bitterness, and appreciation, and freedom that age brings. It's a clusterfuck of emotion and logic, knowledge and ignorance, freedom and limits. It's a world I never imagined having to enter, one that I never planned to live in, one that I hope to make a mark on, and one that scares the shit out of me.
The photo albums have since been packed up, the best of their contents scanned and posted. The memories have likewise been locked away, sent to their rightful place of things both fond and distant. And, a new plan has begun, if not to hatch, at least to incubate. There is no feel-good, heart-warming end to this post, nor to this feeling, I imagine. But there is a bit of hope, and a bit of excitement, in the unknown. When the plan that has both guided and distracted you for so many years is suddenly carried off in the wind, every opportunity becomes yours to seize; everyday becomes a new beginning.
I've been asked a couple of times now where the New Year's post is. While I must admit it strokes my ego in a rather sinfully delicious way to know people are waiting for my next rant, I have to be honest here and say I don't really give a shit about it being January 1. That's not said in a bitter or pessimistic way at all, it's just...well...
This is my 33rd January 1. For many years, I did the resolution-making-new start starting-diet begins today thing, and every year, those resolutions and new starts barely outlasted the variety of salads I had filled my fridge with. Many of you know that, over the last 7 years, I have lost, and kept off, 75Lbs. You know what day I started that process? Me neither. After 10 years, I quit smoking in 2003 (and started again in 2008, but that's another story). You know what day I smoked my last cigarette? Neither do I. After a decade of talking about it, I finally, last year, published a collection of my poetry. Any guesses as to what month I began seriously compiling and writing? Yours are as good as mine. The point here is, when one really wants to do something - to make a change or take a step or let go of something poisonous - what the calendar says means absolutely nothing. When you're ready, you're ready - and if you're not, you're not. It being January 1, or Monday morning, or exactly ten years to the day since...whatever, will make no difference whatsoever to whether you are ready or not. If you are, you will do it, right then and there. And if you aren't, you're only setting yourself up for disappointment by promising January 1 is some magical day in which you will find your will.
My wishes for the new year are the same as those I had yesterday, and the day before that. That we all find the will to be honest with ourselves. That we all follow our dreams. That we all let go of those things that have been holding us back; that we purge what is toxic to us. That we live up to those morals we hold most dear, and, likewise, stop pretending to care about things we don't. To be a little more patient, a little more compassionate, a little more generous. To gain knowledge, to lose ignorance, and to attempt leaving this world a little better than we found it. Ultimately, my resolution today, and yesterday, and last month, and last year, is to live my life as I see fit, and leave you to do the same.
Happy Today, everyone.
It seems I struck a nerve or two on my Facebook the other day (number of people shocked by this: zero.) when I went off a bit on this alleged "war on Christmas". I gained the ire of theists and atheists alike, which is always a good indication I've done something right.
Here's the deal: I don't give a shit what you say, whether it be Merry Christmas, Blessed Yule, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Hannukah, Happy Holidays, or "thank fuck we all get a day off!". I think this war on Christmas has been completely manufactured, just like most other wars, by small groups of indignant people with nothing better to do than take offence to holy shit everything. That said, I do also sympathize somewhat with both major camps:
Christians* seem to feel, and perhaps rightly so in some cases, that the end-goal of many is to ensure they cannot express their religion anywhere but in the privacy of their own homes and churches, and that us evil heathens absolutely hate anything that even vaguely smells of Christianity. This isn't true, of course, but I have indeed encountered several strong atheists that seem to take this position, and have witnessed what I consider some pretty petty moves in this direction. The idea that Christians are persecuted is laughable, but the idea that some people take offence to even mentioning God in public may actually have some merit.
Non-Christians*, on the other hand, seem to feel that there's an obnoxious assumption behind terms like "Merry Christmas"; that is, that everyone subscribes to the same belief, and is part of the same culture, and that we will all be partaking in your festivities. Again, that isn't necessarily true, but it has some merit, as evidenced by some of the more questionable "war on Christmas" slogans.
I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, I'm a fan of inclusiveness. I think, particularly in a multicultural, legally secular and culturally multi-religion society, it is preferable to extend greetings that can apply to everyone. On the other, I think it a bit tragic to get offended when someone offers you a sincere wish of goodwill. Is everyone sincere? Of course not, and I'm sure some people say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays with a snide intention. But, by and large, I still have enough faith in humanity to assume no ill-intent in someone offering me a greeting.
What I see going on here is not a war on Christmas. I see a war on goodwill in general. I see people that are so hung up on their religious, political, or cultural affiliations, that they are actually angry that someone had the nerve to wish them well. And you know what? It's a fucking disgrace. People have bought into this war in much the same way they buy into the others - you know, those real wars in which people really die and are really persecuted. They've heard just the right propaganda to send them into a tailspin of fear and anger, to see them as the enemy, and to take all of their words as further proof of their agenda for total control. When someone gets offended at hearing "Merry Christmas", what I hear is "stop pushing your religion on me, you arrogant, self-righteous asshole!". When someone says "don't take the Christ out of Christmas!", what I hear is "no other religions or cultures count for shit; the winter holidays are ours and ours alone". When someone gets offended by "Happy Holidays", what I hear is "someone that isn't the same religion as me had the audacity to wish me well! How very dare they!"
And then, I get really, really depressed. With all the horrible things going on in the world, with all the real persecution, with all the real war, with all the real atrocity people encounter everyday, one would think any sort of pleasant greeting would be appreciated and returned. It's nothing short of a tragedy that two simple words expressing hope that we enjoy our holiday is worthy of offence. The war on goodwill has been waged, and I for one am opting out. Feel free to wish me anything you like, and I will do the same. Step down from your pulpit, and join me for a pumpkin spice latte and some shortbread. And, for the love of all that is good, chill the fuck out and enjoy your holiday.
*yes, yes, I'm well aware this does not apply to all Christians or all atheists. That's sorta the point. It's the tiny minorities in both groups that have led us blind, deaf, and dumb into their battlefield.
Wherein I say
whatever I want.