Posts Tagged ‘otters’

Oh, goodness! Being “good” as being “same”?

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Having recently listened to the Joe Jackson song referenced in class, I have been on a “kick,” if you will, about sameness. As our readings, particularly the Wilkins piece, exemplified, sameness offers solace and comfort, as well as social reaffirmation that one is on the “right path.” For example, we witnessed the University Unity kids assert repeatedly that they do pursue and hold friendships outside the confines of Unity and Christianity as a whole. However, and most notably, they find it hard to know “where they stand” with these secular friends or friends of other faiths. This cuts Unity/non-Unity friendships short, or only allows them to reach a certain point before one or both of the members feels disconnected from the other person on moral grounds. And in terms of Unity lifestyle, there are many areas that are apt to prompt disagreement with non-Unity friends.

The idea of being a part of a group that Wilkins originally categorizes as “just good people” is intriguing, because it brings up the necessary and essential idea of goodness. What—and who—can be considered “good?” In terms of Unity alone, it seems that if one is dutiful in praying and reading the Bible, setting aside time for God, and abstaining from sex, drug usage, and immodesty, then that individual fits the criteria for “goodness.” But in effect, adherence to these rules leaves very little room for individuality and potential to think for oneself outside of an academic context, so no wonder it limits their more secular relationships.

My question here is, does goodness imply sameness—sameness of “thought, word, and deed,” as outlined in the Nicene Creed itself?

This is a disturbing thought, because the last thing we want to believe is that we, as humans with functional minds and control over our actions, could subscribe to a set of prescribed actions and thoughts to such an extent that we become, as we mentioned earlier in the semester, “holy spirit zombies.” That we would be unable to identify any personal characteristic or marking qualities aside from surface-level hobbies, such as Lucas’ swing-dancing pastime, is frightening to a modern, liberal, 21st-century mind. And yet, on the surface, they seem so normal—college hoodies and movie nights with friends, going out to diners and for ice cream, and the like, seem to suggest that we as non-Unity members are not so different from them after all.

However, it is also important to note that while the Unity kids seem not to stand out in their choice of dress and lack of partying—Wilkins describes them explicitly as “vanilla” at one point—this is precisely what sets them apart from the norm. Though understated and subtle, Unity kids maintain the appearance of social “norms” in the way that Christian Rock does—they take the semblances of the mainstream and then “clean it up,” therefore making the action more palatable for those who subscribe to the Unity lifestyle. For example, some of the Unity girls like to go out and dance with their friends, but instead of contour skirts and pumps, they can be seen in T-shirts and jeans.

“Unity Style”

versus

This chick

This is the tricky part: T-shirts and jeans seem so normal, but in this case, their wearers are actually embodying a quiet form of resistance to social (i.e., secular) norms. By going against the expected code of dress, Unity girls maintain the modesty expected of them, and are able to participate in activities outside Unity, all the while upholding Unity values.

This resistance is fascinating, because it is often gender-dependent, can have many layers, and can be done in a variety of ways. In my Language and Gender class, we have talked a lot about gender and how individuals and groups will often subvert gender in ways that are unexpected and often surprising. If you have the time, I would recommend you read the following article about “Nerd Girls” that we had to read for class. Just the idea that the category of “Nerd” does not already include females is noteworthy, but that aside, it is a good read and exemplifies yet another way that groups subvert, undercut, and otherwise resist social norms and gender expectations. Furthermore, this is another example of how important sameness is in terms of connection and group cohesiveness, and how social situations can become potentially problematic or confusing if not all participants in the conversation approach the subject the same way.

[Incidentally, another gender-bending article we read for Language and Gender may be of interest to some of you. It is a culturally-based a commentary on Japan’s “Kogals”who routinely defy and redefine young Japanese women’s sexuality through sexual availability, deliberate linguistic change, and distinctive images that offer yet another form of resistance against traditional femininity.]

Whew, sorry for the longest blog post ever! See you all in class!

The Body of Christ?/Marriage: The Eternal Love Triangle

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Okay, not to say that our other readings weren’t interesting and all– they were– but I was fascinated by Paula Jean Miller’s “The Theology of the Body.” One point of interest has a lot to do with Kristen’s earlier post, in defining the role of marriage and both (or roughly speaking, all three) parties contained within it: “…John Paul focuses on the true goal of human sexuality: the union of man and woman, body and spirit” (502). Although Miller proceeds to say that John Paul perceives this institution to be “the basis for a fully human, sexual-personal relationship,” (502), I wanted to push this a little further and argue that it is actually the basis for, scripturally-speaking, a sexual-personal-metaphysical/spiritual interrelationship. How’s THAT for complicating things??

I mean, New Order says it best when they beg the beloved addressee of the song below to pay attention and work on the relationship: “Every time I see you falling/I get down on my knees and pray/I’m prayin’ for that final moment/to say the words that I can’t say.”

Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order

The delightful throwback moment of classic New Wave Brit Pop Electronica circa 1982 aside, I’m serious when I say that God/the Holy Spirit is the third “partner” in marriage, and that this, instead of increasing the sin in carnal feeling, actually alleviates some of it (within the confines/context of traditional, legal Christian marriage, of course). Rather than being ashamed of the body (Eve/Fall from Eden, anyone?), “…the Holy Father teaches that the body is the very oldest sacrament, instituted by God at the dawn of creation: He calls it the ‘primordial sacrament'” (502). This seems to suggest a certain growing tolerance on the part of the Catholic church towards sex for pleasure (no birth control though!), and that our bodies are, indeed, a blessing, an instrument, and a constant source of temptation.

This is a frightening, weird, and tantalizing contradiction, when we think about it. Our bodies can be used for either evil or good, and we can neither become too appreciative of them (lest we fall prey to vanity), nor too harsh about them (lest we begin to covet aspects of our neighbor’s physique).Gosh, the seven deadly sins are everywhere, aren’t they?! Reminds me of Cyndi Lauper’s album “12 Deadly Cyns (And Then Some).” 🙂

12 Deadly Cyns And Then Some

What complicates this seemingly-impossible avoidance of body-related sin even FURTHER is that Miller outlines how our bodies are indistinct from our essential “selves.” In fact, she claims, we are all physical manifestations of God’s “body,” so that in order to be embodied, we must carry on with God’s perfect plan, or else we are not our actual selves, if that makes sense…or that our physical skin, muscles, bones and brain are somehow wasted, since we are not the “incarnate spirits” we are supposed to be. I think Miller puts it best in the following passage: “As embodied persons, there is no way for us to come to know one another except through glances, words, gestures, idiosyncrasies, hugs, and withdrawals, all of which we experience through the personal body” (502).

And then, of course, there’s the sexual-spiritual element we discussed in class last week when we talked about spiritualists/spirituality/spiritualism– after all, this class is about Sex AND Religion! But just for kicks and giggles (and good music), here’s John Mayer to teach you the good news: 😉

Haha 😉

 

Here Comes the Ghost, doo doo doo doo :)

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

In Ghosts of Futures Past, Molly McGarry touches on several things that “struck my fancy,” so to speak. A brief list of these may include the following:

-Mediums channeling those of other sexes/genders, and the complications thereof

-“Free love” and how it upset the “moral hierarchical order” of man-woman marriage—who knew the turn of the century marked the first hippie era?! (Just kidding—I know it’s not parallel, but the terminology made me laugh.

-The “science” behind the “hysterical” woman—and the sexualization thereof

-Phrenology (I’ve just always thought it was cool), and

-Walt Whitman!

 

Of all of these subjects of interest, however, I found the section concerning Walt Whitman to be the most compelling. It is no surprise to me that one of America’s earliest poetic geniuses, who arguably created all-new forms of dealing with language, was also interested in the occult and wished to channel other’s souls. In fact, as the general public became more comfortable with and receptive to spiritualism, such instruments of spiritualistic “tinkering,” such as Ouija Boards, landed on the market. Spiritualism had officially become marketable, and the American public readily consumed.

Ouija Board and “Spirit”

*Side note: I still think it is really weird that Ouija boards are sold at Toys R Us, right next to Apples to Apples and Monopoly…as if they try to serve the same purposes in terms of entertainment…

This fascination with otherworldly or spiritual means of communication became somewhat of a motif throughout the 1900s, actually; some other major artists who exhibit similar interest and dedication in spiritual efforts include Madonna, who dabbled in Kabbalah (much to the fury and/or excitement of Jews worldwide), and my beloved Beatle, George Harrison.

George Harrison <3

Both Whitman and Harrison made spiritual beings integral to their lives and their art; however, Whitman’s efforts in the matter were, of course, complicated by the fact that he was gay. This is where phrenology sailed in to “save the day,” by justifying Whitman’s love for and commitment/connection to other men as biologically-based; it was literally “all in his head.” As we talked about last class, biology served to “prove” (read: assuage) certain aspects of American society that were “undesirable”; in doing so, it provided evidence for racism, sexism, etc. As we can see from the image below, sometimes we still see vestigial signs of this phenomenon:

“You’re just a woman with a tiny brain, a brain 1/3 the size of a man’s. It’s science.” -Ron Burgundy

So basically, “Anchor Man” aside, I have a lot to talk about in class today…

I’m Seeing Double And Not Even Filled With New Wine

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

I have been trying to understand how such a double-standard as men fooling around with prostitutes and in brothels while women were expected to be cold, chaste, and submissive existed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  I suppose I mean middle class (and possibly upper class?) men and women, aka, the established white, Protestant, professional, middle class.  Was it the intention of the ‘better’ part of society to sleep with or to save these poor women?  In this period of revivalism we have seen the impulse to clean up the streets by haranguing and rounding up these women but on the other hand we have many men of the same class and background desiring to ‘get off’ with these women.  I know that it was not always, although I’m sure it sometimes was, the same men who were both cleaning up and putting out so that would indicate that there was a tension within the white, Protestant middle class make-up.  That, at least, would seem the reasonable answer.  Still, that doesn’t really explain the double-standard.

A Modern Travesty: Free Market Sexism

 

Say it Aint’ So?

I suppose two points need to be made.  Women were assumed to have no great sexual desire, theirs was sensual at best, while men were permitted some license to blow off a little steam and…cough…release some…hmm…energy.  This first assumption could only really apply to proper women, that is, women who were of a middle class bearing and education.  Education must have been viewed as a means to moral living and separating oneself from the flesh to pursue higher ends.  I do wonder at what sort of education is here implied.  I cannot imagine many men and future husbands were keen, earlier in this period at least, to allow women the full academic training they received.  So, perhaps a basic grade school education, teaching or typing, or perhaps even informal, social education?  However it was meant, education was something these women-of-the-night did not posses, although I’d bet in the school of hard knocks they were straight-A students.  Besides, their own craft must have been plied well enough as these men kept coming back.  Again to the point, these women must have had some sexual desire but felt unable to express that fully.  It seems likely that some husbands and wives did engage in sex for pleasure but felt unable to talk about their experience in a public setting.  Others simply resigned themselves to a life of sexual repression and potential frustration and bore their role.  The wife was to be the homemaker, the child-rearer, and the instiller of morality within the home and the children.  Given that role, it must have felt like a danger to civilization to have a proper woman leave the home to engage in salaried work or anything that might jeopardize her maintenance of the home.  The fear really must have been that the rug would be pulled out from under civilization.

Fear Not!

Men, as the saying goes, just needed to keep it in their pants.  This might be misleading and my meaning taken to be that I would have advocated some form of marital chastity but quite the contrary.  Because a married man and women were not at liberty to engage in sexual relations apart from the procreative purpose (I’d wager some if not many did engage in sex for pleasure early on but were not at liberty to discuss it in public or even with friends as they might become the social pariah) men, being the less likely to keep his pants on, were driven by their sexual desire toward prostitutes and women of questionable morals.  This strange set-up might have been averted or at least mitigated had husbands and wives been able to take pleasure in each others bodies.

But that men were silently allowed to seek gratification outside the home while women were not still seems strange to me.  Is it the nature of the patriarchal power-structure that so inclines men to ‘protect’ the women from the very vice he himself practices on the street?  Would a monogamous matriarchal structure illicit a similar response from women toward men that the men needed protecting?  (Mind you, I’ve never been married but it seems to me that, however you make it work, it is, among other things, a power-structure wherein someone- some ONE party- has the dominant say-so.  One needs only to read the works within Chaucer’s marriage group to understand that this dynamic is both old and, indeed, cast as a power-structure.)  I wonder too whether or not this exact husband-wife dichotomy phenomenon was unique to the American.  I get the impression that it’s a WASP thing, so American and British Protestantism, but was this basic structure prevalent in Germany, Holland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden as well?  And what about the other continentals; did European Catholics operate in marriage the same way?  Is this exclusively a Protestant happening or just an Anglo-American Protestant phenomenon?

Need I Say More?

As a society, it seems that we still operate under this same idea where the man is given more license and if something bad happens to the woman then it was probably her fault.  When a woman is harassed or raped people will often ask what she was wearing as though if she was wearing something revealing then she must have been asking for it.  Likewise, society at large is much more offended if a woman curses than if a man does the same.  It could be my Southern upbringing, but if a woman curses, especially in pubic, then she isn’t being ladylike.  A man does the same and, while still bad, it isn’t as bad and is more understandable since he is a man.  How is it that committing adultery with a prostitute conveniently falls outside the bounds of sexual immorality for men, at least practically for many men, while women are not allowed to even express sexual desire without being labeled a whore?  Chastity and sexual monogamy become the hallmarks of a good, reputable woman and not for men.  This must come down to their understanding of masculine and feminine gender roles and this then must intermingle with their interpretation of scripture and color the lens by with they read their Bibles.  I’m sure it is the same for us, although we do tend to think ourselves as modern, new, morally superior, more intelligent, and generally better than those who came before.  Let us avoid this propensity toward a chronological snobbery.  As I hold some condemnation toward my grandparents generation for things we now consider immoral and wrong, so to do I wonder what my grandchildren will condemn me and my generation for doing or tolerating (and lets just throw out this idea of our being a ‘tolerant society’ right now, shall we.  Would you really want to harbor wrong and be proud about it?  Should we tolerate the racist and embrace him as a brother without condemning his racism?  I know this issue gets hairy at times but I’m not sure I want to say the racist is alright with me.  Goodwill, compassion, charity and all that, but “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord” (Isaiah 1:18).  It’s Lady Liberty, not Lady Tolerance.  Let us find a little truth in Liberty, shall we?).

And now, for something completely different: Otters seem very reasonable.

 

 

Travel Hazards and the LGBT Community

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Just another post concerning gay issues, this time about travel from our State Department.

For giggles:

Everybody needs somebody