Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

If the Shoe Doesn’t Fit

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

I used to define myself as a Christian. I don’t anymore.

The shoe didn’t fit, so I stopped wearing it. Simple, really. And yet not.

Because when pressed to define my faith,  I have trouble coming up with an accurate term. A comfortable box to shove myself into. A category that encompasses all the whys and wherefores.

So I was intrigued by a definition I stumbled across recently in the back of a fantasy novel. (Sidenote: Many sci-fi/fantasy novels have really thoughtful and insightful takes on religion. I’ve read books by Jacqueline Carey and Robin McKinley, specifically, that caused me to think about my own experiences with God/churches/etc.  in whole new ways. )

This particular book was The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin. In the “Extras” section at the end of the book, Jemisin answers a question about exploring religion in her writing with this statement:

“Well, I consider myself an agnostic–not in the sense of doubting the existence of God, but in the sense of doubting the capability of any human religion to encompass the divine. More specifically I think religion alone is not enough to encompass the divine. Religion is a handy guide to living, assuming you’re still living in the society that existed at the time of the religion’s founding. It’s useful for unifying and motivating a population. But to understand ourselves and the universe, we need to explore other schools of thought–the complexity of the human consciousness, the limits of science, and more. I believe we will eventually need to interact with other intelligent entities, and exchange ideas. And we need to be wary of the ways in which letting others do this thinking and learning for us can come back to bite us on the ass.”

There is much about Jemisin’s answer that resonates with me. But in being a student of the divine, I have a long way to go. Many questions to ask and schools of thought to explore. But the older I get, the more strongly I believe that life isn’t about finding security in rote answers. Real living isn’t reciting catechism or memorizing prayers someone else wrote.

Life is seeking. Reaching. Asking. Taking a journey in search of the divine that doesn’t quite look like anybody else’s personal quest.

Some can embark on this journey from within the confines–the body–of a church. That’s a fine and beautiful thing.

I couldn’t do it. Can’t. Won’t.

So I left, and here I wander. But, to borrow from that Tolkien quote you see so often on the bumpers of cars, “Not all those who wander are lost.”

And neither am I.

-Lo, who means no disrespect to any whose shoe still fits.

 

 

Required Reading

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

mood: calm | drinking: agua

mckinley_small

Books have always been a huge part of my life. I grew up without a TV, and my mom would take my sister and I to the Dixon Public Library once a week. We’d fill an apple box with books, take them home, and by the time we returned the next week, we had read all the books (some of them twice).

I had an early affinity for fantasy. I devoured fairy tales (the Grimm versions, not Disney), Greek myths, Indian folk tales starring Ganesh and Kali, Lewis’ Narnia, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Baum’s Land of Oz, George MacDonald’s stories of the Princess and Curdie and the goblins who lived just beneath a layer of earth, like moles.

With all these visions of mayhem and magic and brave, bold girls like Lucy Pevensie, I have no idea how I missed out on Robin McKinley. But I did.

I only discovered her by accident a few months ago, thanks to a vampire tale (her only book featuring vampires) called Sunshine.

I was intrigued by her writing style, her fully-realized alter-world, and her strong, stubborn female heroine. So I started poking around the web for a sequel or prequel to Sunshine, which doesn’t exist. I found instead the rest of McKinley’s ouevre, most notably The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword.

I read Hero while still pregnant, and finished Sword while in the hospital after delivering Lucette. And I decided then and there that McKinley’s books would have a prominent place on Lucette’s already packed bookshelf. They will be required reading.

Enough of these namby pamby Disney damsels in distress, whose only hope is a handsome, vapid prince to come along and kiss them, so they can live out their lives in pampered, dull luxury behind the walls of glistening stone turrets.

If Lucette wants to be a princess, I want her to model herself after Aerin in The Hero and the Crown, who gentles a wounded war horse, goes off dragon hunting, and saves her entire country from doom. I want her to favor Rosie in Spindle’s End, who hates the curly golden ringlets bestowed on her by fairy godmothers…

“When she was old enough to hold minimal conversations, the itsy-bitsy-cutesy-coo sort of grown-ups would pull the soft ringlets gently and tell her what a pretty little girl she was. She would stare at this sort of grown-up and say, ‘I am not pretty. I am intelligent. And brave.’ ”

So far this month, I’ve worked my way through four more of McKinley’s books, and I have the last few that I haven’t yet read on order. I’m going to be dreadfully sad when I read the last page of the last novel, though.

McKinley feels like a once-in-a-lifetime discovery, and I pity the poor author whose book is the first to follow my McKinley binge. They will suffer horribly by comparison.

-Lo, who will always find time to read, newborn infant or no.

Boycotts are Bollocks

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

bookshelfMood: Bothered
Drinking: Tea from the ‘bucks

This is not a timely post. It is, in fact, rather behind the times.

All the Christian brouhaha over The Golden Compass movie was last winter, and all the Harry Potter paranoia is old news.

But I was wasting time on facebook yesterday and noticed that one of my virtual acquaintances had joined a group called “Do NOT support ‘The Golden Compass’.”

After taking a moment to indulge in a hearty eye roll, I clicked over to the group to see what idiocies they were spouting, and found more than a few.

Such as: “The movie… is designed to be very attractive in the hope unsuspecting parents will take their children to see the the movie and that the children will want the books for Christmas.”

And: “In the final book a boy and girl kill God so they can do as they please.”

Really. And people wonder why I’m such a misanthrope.

Seriously, this shit is ridiculous. I’d wager a hefty sum that most people who panicked and inundated their friends with email forwards urging them to “Boycott The Golden Compass!” never even bothered to read the books. They just regurgitated the paranoia they heard from somebody else.

The same thing happened with Harry Potter – so many people with their knickers in a bunch, but they never bothered to stop and be reasonable for a moment. They just ran like lemmings off the cliff – “Witches are bad! Magic is evil! Harry Potter hates Jesus!”

Yet these same hypochondriacs don’t seem to have any issues with the magic in Narnia or Middle Earth, because the authors of those books were supposedly Christian.

Whatever.

I read His Dark Materials (Philip Pullman’s trilogy of The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass) several years ago and found them to be fascinating science fiction stories. The kind of tales of fantasy and parallel worlds that engage imagination in the best sort of way.

Yes, there are spiritual elements to the books. But I don’t get my philosophy of life from science fiction. I don’t think anybody does. Except for maybe Tom Cruise.

The thing that horrifies me the most about all of this boycotting and book burning is the idea that children can’t think for themselves. I read the Wizard of Oz books as a kid, but I didn’t go run and jump into a tornado so I could get to the Emerald City.

Tales of fiction and fantasy exist to help us dream. To take us into new worlds, to lead us on improbable adventures. Part of the fun of being a kid is reading books about things that aren’t real. Hell – that’s part of the fun of being an adult, too.

I’m not going to rip a book out of my child’s hands because the author might hold to a different belief system than I do.

The most dangerous thing in all of this insanity is not the books, or the movies spawned from the books. It’s the thought police. It’s the people who think their God is really small enough to be threatened by an agnostic or athiest’s work of fiction.

Safe to say that my children can read their fill of books about dragons and muggles and daemons and fairies and goblins and wizards and talking lions and armored bears.

In fact, all of those books are already sitting on my bookshelf, just waiting to take a new reader on a grand adventure.

And I won’t stand in the way.

-Lo, who thinks it’s not the athiests who are the big bad wolves.

Morning After

Thursday, May 19th, 2005

Mood: Placid
Drinking: Of course

I finally got behind a mic last night.

It’s been much too long. When I lived in Chicago, you couldn’t keep me off the stage. I grabbed a microphone every chance I could get. I slammed at The Green Mill (and won a coupla lottery tickets) and did the open mic there, too. I read at churches and tea houses and parties and concerts. I was addicted to the sound of a real, live audience.

And then I moved 2,000 miles west and shut up.

There were a lot of reasons for the silence. I packed a couple of serious life changes into a few month’s time. I left all my friends and history behind me for the promised land of fog and inspiration. But when I got here, I was bereft of all that anticipated inspiration.

It didn’t seem so at first. I’ll never forget the moment our U-Haul (bearing all our worldy possessions, including our only vehicle since we sold our cars–Boy’s old yellow motorcycle) rounded the corner and rolled out of the Waldo tunnel and we saw the red towers of the Golden Gate bridge shining up ahead. Boy and I looked at each other and grinned. “We’re home!” I said.

The first few weeks were full of the fun of finding a flat, exploring the city, starting a new job (downtown at a fancy agency that was spitting distance from the Transamerica Building). We were giddy. But not for long.

Just days after we signed the lease on a gorgeous 2 bedroom flat with an ocean view and a garbage disposal, the bottom fell out. Seems we had arrived on the west coast just in time for the dot com crash. And since my fancy agency was chock full of dot com clients, well, they crashed. And as the newest employee, my head was the first on the chopping block.

I was wearing pigtails, a miniskirt, big stompy boots and a David Bowie t-shirt (with glitter) on the day I got laid off.

All I could think as I sat there trying to comprehend the pitying looks and conciliatory tones was, “I should have worn something more serious today. I look like a 15-year old.” Followed by, “David Bowie is bad luck!”

I didn’t know, as I collected the requisite box full of office belongings and stood on the corner, whimpering and waiting for Boy on his yellow motorcycle, I didn’t know that this was just the first of four layoffs I would experience in a single year. The world was definitely crashing.

For the next couple of weeks I woke up with panic attacks and lay on the couch in flannel pajama pants, eating Tostitos and watching the sideburns grow on 90210. When I got laid off, Boy didn’t even have a job yet–we had moved west on my shiny new salary. Somehow he managed to land one quickly, but his monthly salary just paid our exorbitant San Francisco rent, with $2 left over.

We bought groceries with unemployment checks. I had never felt like such a failure.

I refused to answer phone calls from my friends back in Chicago. I didn’t want them to know. I didn’t want them to talk to me about giving up and moving back “home.” San Francisco was my home, and no matter how much it hurt, I was determined to stay.

For a girl who got through college on an honors scholarship, a teacher’s pet and chronic overachiever, being laid off was unthinkable. I spent hours at the Kinko’s on Sloat, copying my resume over and over. I sent out hundreds. But all over the city, all over the Bay Area, there were thousands of people like me, and we were all desperately applying for the same job.

I finally took a temp job as a secretary for a scary non-profit organization. And got laid off. I landed a job at an online radio station that I was completely overqualified for. They offered me much less than my old salary. I took it without blinking. I showed up for my first day of work and the doors were locked. Another dot com, bankrupt.

Every rejection, every defeat, just pushed me further into panicky blackness. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t write. And I certainly couldn’t get up onstage.

It’s been almost five years now since we first arrived and I’ve had the same job for two years. I started writing for myself again and making plans and working on projects and shooting cinepoems. But I still didn’t get back onstage. I visited the Berkeley Poetry Slam last fall, the one at the Starry Plough on Shattuck. I knew I could write circles around most of the poets who performed, but I didn’t sign up. I even told the host that I used to slam at the Green Mill. He got all excited and told me to come back. It took me six months.

When I finally returned, I got there early. I was the first person to sign my name on the list of readers. But they do a lottery at the Berkeley Slam. They pull your name from a hat, and they didn’t pull mine. So I sat there all night with a fistful of poems and a head full of adrenaline, and I didn’t get onstage.

But since that one wasn’t for lack of trying on my part, I just got more determined. And when I heard that local heroine Daphne Gottlieb (who kindly met me for drinks a coupla weeks ago, thanks, Daphne!) was reading at an open mic in the Castro, well, that was it.

I got to SMACKdab early last night. I signed my name at lucky #7. The fabulous Kirk Read was all smiles with his pink feather boa and made me feel right at home, even though I was the only straight person in the room. Way I figure it, there’s no better place for your poetic coming-out than at a gay men’s community center. And I was right.

The audience was warm, respectful and appreciative and my fellow performers were by turns adorable, hilarious and brilliant. (Some unintentionally so.) So, after 5 long years, I consider the cherry re-popped and I’m eagerly anticipating my next microphone.

Although this isn’t the poem I read last night (I’m saving that one ‘cuz she’s extra-special), this is a poem that I wrote shortly after the whole shock treatment of being laid off finally started to wear off. I actually wrote it at the request of Wil Foster (of Sheltershed), who sent me some music tracks from his “International Plastic” album that he wanted me to write poetry for. The track I wrote this poem for was called “Dreams”. (You can listen to the finished version in The Library.)

Here it is in print:

I am living in a dream
with skin on.
Vision formed of things to touch,
things to see.
And it is much more complicated now.

Once it was a someday thing.
(wish i may, wish i might)
But now it’s real and I am here.
(look and touch, taste and see)

What do you do
when the dream comes alive?
When the white statue breathes
and the marble flesh grows warm.
(does it come alive just in time to die)

Step down from the pedestal now.
Draw a deep newborn breath
and leave perfection far behind.
To be flawless is a dreamland thing.
(now we live and fall apart)

The porcelain shows pores.
The mouth opens sores.
And this is what happens
when dreams come true.

-Lo, who knows that sometimes the fantasy is better than the reality, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the fantasy is better for you.