quick content update

I've still been writing songs, oh yes. Of the last month or so's crop, however, only two are worth writing down.

The first, [be the one], I composed the same night as [Ithaka], when Dave realized that he'd have to stay with his mom for awhile for me to be able to afford to get by. Needless to say it was a sad night, but since then most of the uncertainty in the song has changed into hopefulness. I didn't want to post it until I'd had a chance to play it for Dave. He liked it, so you get to see it. The prettiest parts of it are the "ahh..."s, which are each a string of notes as long as a line. I was going to write words till I realized it really didn't need them, and given the tone of the song the chorus is better without excess verbage.

The second, [player to be named later], I wrote yesterday. It's a happy bouncy song which has a lot of triplets on the lyrics. Which means the syllable emphases fall in odd spots sometimes. It was a classic example of revise, revise, revise--the lyrics, tune, everything got completely scrapped and rewritten at least three times to make the tight little ditty I have now.

[be the one (to decide)]

lover you think that I'm wrong
you would not have waited so long
but I chose and I choose you
I'm not gonna lose you
I'll choose you long after you're gone


if you don't deserve to be mine
if you think I've wasted my time
then don't write and don't visit me
online or physically
you be the one to decide this time

you be the one to decide this time

promises are easy to break
orgasms are easy to fake
but we know the price of being coy
is a future that you destroy
a place inside you that is always going to ache

tip the bottle and bite the lime
and don't pay your mirror no mind
though I'm right and you're perfect
my opinion's worthless
love, you be the one to decide this time

you be the one to
you be the one to
you be the one to decide this time

[player to be named later]

every morning as
I'm walking out to catch the bus
I wrestle pride and worry down
try to wrap my hands around trust
it's always better to surrender to great love without a fight
but oh my invisible friend
I just got myself working right

player to be named later
I hope that you can hear my prayer
player to be named later
I hope that you can hear my prayer

I can smell a demon
all the way across the street
they taste like bile and sweat and panic
but chewed up they make good eats
it's dangerous to go believin'
when believin' makes things real
so I ain't choosing a religion
based on how it makes me feel

player to be named later
I hope that you can hear my prayer
player to be named later
I hope that you can hear my prayer

I'm not the kind of gourmet fool who feels contempt
for a reality from which I'm not exempt
cook up points of view until I taste the scent
of the thing that all the symbols represent
whether I came to be here by design or chance
I'm here now, I'm here to make you dance

player to be named later
I hope that you can hear my prayer
player to be named later
I hope that you can hear my prayer

2009 wrapup: the name of the year

Starting in January 2008, I got in the habit of giving a name to every year. It was partly inspired by the way, in the book Redwall, the abbey's chronicler gives each year a name based on a memorable event which took place during that year. Except I give the name to the year ahead of time. Kind of like doing baseball pre-season predictions, except much more vague. And as we all know from newspaper horoscopes, fortune cookies etc., the more vague a prediction is, the more likely it is to seem accurate!

2008 was the Year of Great Change. I'd been hoping for the "good" kind of great, rather than the "your father dies and your life is altered irrevocably" kind. Still, it's important to have lots of ways in which to appreciate the irony of life when life is difficult. So that counted as a plus, to me, for the "name the years" idea, which is why I decided to keep doing it.

2009 is the Year Without Disaster. At the beginning of this year I was unemployed, living with Dave in the West Loop in an apartment too rich for my unemployment checks to cover. And, having gotten all the mileage I could out of the painful irony of 2008's name, I felt a strong desire to pick a more hopeful name, even at the expense of vagueness, because the facts on the ground were pretty grim.

As it turns out, Year Without Disaster was a fairly decent name for the year I've experienced. The closest call was when Dave and I had to move out of our place. However, thanks to Mom's help getting movers, Mom, Amber, Pearl and Paula helping us pack, and the surprising fact that I found a good housemate on Craigslist on short notice, it wasn't actually a disaster - just very, very difficult.

Rather than terrible events, my Year Without Disaster was instead characterized by things that were good, but still less than ideal. Getting free state-sponsored psychiatric care--for a few months. Getting a permanent job--at a grocery store. Writing better songs--less often, and with fewer opportunities to play them. Deepening my relationship with Dave--because he had to move back to his mom's and we both have to work harder at staying close. Oh, also things that were unpleasant but could have been much, much worse, though I won't enumerate those. That would be a bummer, and is beside the point.

So to come up with a name, a theme for myself for 2010, I've got to put my thinkin' hat on, step back, and ponder the current situation. It's impossible to know exact events ahead of time, of course. (At least, not without losing all touch with the context of the present, without which that information is meaningless.) The best insight you can hope for is something like the way a master chess player has a vague, intuitive hunch how the board will look twenty or twenty-five moves from now. You can, at most, find yourself a reference framework, a set of mental filters, a way of looking at what's around you that is likely to be useful in the times ahead.

So I will name 2010 the Year of the Cheese Procedure.

Oh, that would make so much more sense if I'd made a few "tales from the deli counter" posts. Maybe I will; I've got a little time off next week, though I'll be doing a cheese procedure (a sampling--excuse me, "dynamic selling"--event) till we close at 6 on Christmas Eve. However, it's late, I'm on the morning shift tomorrow, and I promised Dave and myself I'd get good sleep tonight. So a full contextual description will have to wait.

Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, joyous Eid (okay, okay, Eid was back in September, bu I don't think Islam has a December holiday), blessed Solstice, and wonderful winter family togetherness time to all. And to all a good night.


(I'm in a much better mood lately. Talking to Dave for hours on AIM every day rules, and I've also been talking to my sisters on the phone a lot. So I don't feel so disconnected.
Anyway, here's a song I wrote about a week ago. Amber got me reading this cool series by Rick Riordan, wherein the Greek gods still exist in modern times and still have squabbles, half-human kids, etc. The second book, The Sea of Monsters, go me thinking about Odysseus. So I thought to myself, if Odysseus were to write an emo song about his trip through the Sea of Monsters, what would it be like?)

it's been two long days since I last touched page to pen
and ain't much changed since then
supplies are short
and the wind is calm
this trip is taking way too long

and I better not be wrong

I was the only man in Greece who didn't care about Helen
just wanted plunder
and a quick end to the killin'
ain't it just like the gods to let them go home
and send me out here alone

there's a tree that grows up through the floor
there's an old dog waiting by the door
will you be my old lady anymore
when I drag my bones back up the shore
of Ithaka, Ithaka, Ithaka

every dame out here want to make me a slave, or dinner
but brave Penelope, not one of them's a winner
monsters, princesses, sorceresses
every one of them tastes frustration

I have only one destination

there's a tree that grows up through the floor
there's an old dog waiting by the door
will you be my old lady anymore
when I drag my bones back up the shore
of Ithaka, Ithaka, Ithaka

yeah, the crew barbecued some beef
that was sacred to the sun
and I blinded a child of Poseidon
but they mostly got eaten
and I'm still as lost as ever
I never say I'm beaten
great Athena knows I'm clever

but Charybdis takes all my letters

there's a tree that grows up through the floor
there's an old dog waiting by the door
will you be my old lady anymore
when I drag my bones back up the shore
of Ithaka, Ithaka, Ithaka

roseanne vs. the vma's

I'm just an ordinary average guy
my friends are all boring
and so am I
we're just ordinary average guys
~ Joe Walsh

I have a problem with envy.

Every year when awards season comes around, I gather my pettiness around me like skirts and flounce away from the TV. Or at least away from the channels where one may watch the Emmys, the VMAs, and various other musical award shows. I don't want to see droves of people who are, in my heart's reckoning, not quite as good at songwriting as myself, be fêted and fawned over and asked to give speeches--or even have the cameras pan over them while they watch with sour expressions as rivals give speeches.

The real reason they are there, of course, has more than anything else to do with merchandising. That is, the amount of money their CDs, mp3s, concert tickets and associated gewgaws are able to siphon into the pockets of their corporate sponsors. But supposedly--nominally--in theory--they are being honored for having created wonderful music. As the creation of wonderful music (though I lack the means to distribute it at the moment) is one of the central load-bearing pylons of my identity, this is maddening. I feel like the dog who must sit and watch while I, the foolish human, slowly devour a delicious-smelling steak which the dog is one hundred percent certain is rightfully his. Hence, I do not watch these shows, because I tend to act like an ass and sarcastically insult all the performers, even the ones I like, and detract from everyone else's enjoyment.

As I said, a problem. A problem for which a practical solution still evades me. All I can do on that front is bide my time, keep an alert eye and a grasping hand ready for any resources I can use for the purpose, and continue to get better at writing and playing songs. So that when I do find an opportunity to do more than nothing about it, the quality of music I can actually produce will be as high as freaking possible.

I used to have another, more serious problem with elitism--or, to use the wider-reaching Biblical term for it, pride. I touched on it briefly in my last post.

It came directly out of my extreme social awkwardness and low self-esteem; identity-wise, that sort of pride is a last-resort defense against loneliness. It says, I am not excluded from these social relationships because I am an unworthy ally, but rather because I am so special and different that it is important for me to hold out for something better. Which contains a couple of major untruths right on the face of it. First, the falsehood that certain kinds of people or relationships are somehow better or worse than others. After assuming the first falsehood, the second falsehood states that being unfit to have "lesser" kinds of relationships somehow gives you extra points or makes you more fit to have "better" kinds. Take the two wrong ideas together, and you get a burst of ego-soothing pride every time some incident takes place which ought to have made you feel ashamed. Like all fake "good feelings" that come from lies, though, the emotional energy for it had to get stolen out of another part of your personality. In this case, it comes from robbing yourself of the ability to like, respect and trust others.

Pernicious lies like the above are the sort which ruin otherwise decent personalities and make the people who exist through them impossible to like. All the self-loathing, acting foolish et cetera that I eat raw to try and shake them off are a very small price to pay, considering the risk. And the risk is not totally gone. I still have a somewhat shaky hold on self-respect, still have trouble holding on to friends once I've made them (though at least I can now make friends pretty easily because I like everyone and it shows), still catch myself mentally turning my nose up at things which I know are good and valuable and not to be scorned. It's like Jefferson said: The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Personality construction isn't architecture; it's flow mechanics. It's being able to maintain a standing wave with just enough curl that you can surf in it.

So yesterday evening Dave was channel-surfing and we ended up watching an episode of Roseanne. It was one of the big end-of-the-series ones where all the relationships have more or less stabilized and everyone's together twisting together loose strands of plot. So people were talking about the big stuff, relationships and love and the future, way more than in your typical sitcom episode.

I have no idea why, but when I was a lonely, ulcerous little kid, the Roseanne show stood for failure in my mind. I'd never watched it, just assumed that it was about people who'd given up striving for Greatness and Fame and a Chance to Earn a Place in History, and chosen to settle for being (ick!) an ordinary, average family. One of those nasty-assumptions-based-on-several-falsehoods that I didn't think about consciously, and wouldn't have recognized as such until I'd taken the trouble to drain out all the tributary falsehoods. That life isn't worth living unless at some point you attain Greatness and Fame. (And presumably Even More Ulcers.) That being part of a large, loving, occasionally squabbling family that still has each other's backs when it counts is somehow a bad thing, or an unimportant one. To name just a couple.

As I sat there and watched the show, saw all the plot threads come together as the fictional family reaffirmed their love and support for one another, I felt the same old gut-twist of envy that I normally expect from watching the VMAs. These fictional characters, for whom I used to feel casual, unexamined contempt, had something I desperately wanted. Not only the acceptance (howsoever grudging sometimes) and the togetherness (howsoever irritating sometimes), but the stability and means to enjoy and focus on those things. It's just a show about an ordinary, average family who has the freedom to sit around and live life and work out their relationships with each other, and the reasonable expectation that they can keep doing so. I want that, more intensely than I want a record deal, even. And at the moment, I'm about equally likely to be able to get either one.

Luckily I have a lot of practice appreciating the irony of moments like this. A way of life for which I once felt ill-thought-through contempt turns out to be one of my highest ambitions. A seemingly unattainable one, too, at least in the immediate term. Pass the salt and carve the crow, it's a typical dinner at my place.

Tomorrow Paula's going to be coming over to pick Dave up. Him staying here is not something I can afford with what I'm making now, and none of his job opportunities in the area panned out. I have no idea what's going to happen next. And this time that doesn't feel like a good thing.


The entrance to the place was clogged with sweating courtiers--not the sleek top-level ones but the dented, scarred, slightly too old and slightly too ugly ones who actually got everything done.

~ Neal Stephenson,
Quicksilver, p.168

"I just lost my best friend on Dead Man's Curve!"
"What's Dead Man's Curve?"
"It's an incredibly dangerous curve in the fake highway we built."
"Why would you build an incredibly dangerous curve in a FAKE highway?"

~ Upright Citizens' Brigade, the episode with the space dolphins

Authenticity is dangerous, elusive--necessary. Pundits cross verbal swords over what the "real America" is or isn't, hipsters chase an ever-receding horizon of cool, philosophers and theologians argue over the original intent of ancient texts, governments attempt to demonstrate the connections between their mechanisms of power and the will of the people they rule and, supposedly, represent. And very little of this, when I boil it down to its syrupy essence, has much to do with my life in practical terms.

I spent probably more than half my life in an attempt to win free of a deep-seated, irrational self-loathing. And just as, in this man's army, the reward for a job well done is another job, the success of that project cascaded into another project: self-respect.

Looking into how people put our personalities together has led me to observe some things about norms--the expectations and standards of behavior we use to judge the worth, the coolness, the desirability of various actions and behaviors. We also use norms to create and, unconsciously at least, rank the categories into which various types of persons may fall. A norm is, structurally, a collection of memes which we have invested with belief.

I've got some of the classic ivory-tower intellectual norms about blue-collar jobs. You could call it prejudice, naivete, or even something nicer if your norms lean in the same direction. Namely, deep in the bottom of my brain, I feel that people who work with their hands and the strength of their backs are in some weird way nobler and more connected to reality than people who sit at desks and crunch numbers or wrangle legalese.

Since most of my jobs have been the sitting-at-desks kind, I've experienced an interesting tension between pride in my work and shame that it's not "honest" labor. Now, however, I'm in a place where I don't just feel like an authentic, hardworking American laborer, I actually am one. I work (when I'm lucky) eight hours a day, on my feet, slicing meats and cheeses. I make salads, help customers find items, even make sandwiches or pizzas on occasion, and at the end of the night I take deli slicers apart and clean them, mop floors, and turn out the lights when I leave.

And I'm friggin' loving it. I actually do feel more connected to reality, and even if it's only an illusion created by my preconceptions, it's a useful illusion and I cultivate it. This teeny tiny job in this one grocery store is where the rubber meets the road. The whole corporate hierarchy of the company which owns "my" store, all the people who have desk jobs crunching numbers and wrangling legalese, exist so that I can have a side of beef or turkey or ham to slice up, tag, bag, hand to a customer and say, "Would you like some cheese with that?" Call me crazy, but I've been here almost three months now and it's still exhilarating.

The coolest part about it is really the human aspect. There's a camaraderie among people who work together with their hands that just doesn't exist in an office. We spend a shift together, or at least within eye contact of one another, performing the same mind-numbing and back-straining tasks, over and over, getting hassled by the same hilarious (in retrospect) customers, staring at the backs of the same item tags and watching to see when our trays and dishes need to be refilled. And when there's a lull in business, when it's time to mop up at the end of the day, when we're outside catching a cancer stick on break, we connect like real human beings. We swap war stories about crazy customers, talk about our kids/parents/significant others/roommates, and just generally bask in mutually earned respect.

Far from having my old norms dispelled by a rude shock of horrible reality, I find them confirmed and solidified. It matters that I can spend a shift pushing pizzas and squirming my whole torso in under the counter to scoop up precise weights of potato salads and still walk out the door smiling. It makes a difference in somebody's day that I gave them their turkey sliced to the thickness they wanted, got them a sample, and still found the energy to joke about the weather. If I want to be a bodhisattva when I grow up (even if that is just a collection of ideals I've assembled in my brain! or like a saint, but with more arms--both good!), then this is a step I absolutely could not have afforded to skip. This is freaking important.

Sure, I spend a lot of time worrying about money. That, too, is part of being a real authentic blue-collar American. At $8.20 an hour (per union contract for new hires--did I mention I'm in a union now? how cool is that?), the difference between 27 and 30 hours a week is the difference between not quite being able to pay my rent and being able to pay it and also buy bus fare and maybe some eggs, bread and beer. My manager is cool about it--she schedules me for the first seven hours of an eight-hour shift, so that if, at the end of the night, I find there's enough work to keep me there a bit longer, I can call in to the person-in-charge and get me an extra half-hour or so for the night. Gives me a chance to juice the clock from 27 hours up to 30 or so, in other words. Me being an awesome worker and high-energy customer service guru is the difference between getting that consideration and getting scheduled for the union-contract-minimum 16 hours per week--which would most definitely not be enough to pay for my rent, bus fare and food.

I work at a nexus in the maelstrom of commercial exchange, but subsist on a very narrow margin between the income I can produce and what I must consume in order to continue eating and living indoors. Every day is a balancing act. Sure, I could get the employee-discounted coffee for $0.83--but do I have that much in my bank account? Will I need it later for rent or bus fare? Or do I actually need to get it, to get a cash-back amount of less than $20 (the minimum ATM withdrawal) so that I can recharge my bus card in order to be able to get to work tomorrow?

It's kind of weird. I worry about this stuff every day, I run the numbers over and over in my head to reach the same sums, and then I take a step back into the philosophical, metagaming sphere which is my native realm. And I ask myself things like, "In what do you actually believe?" or "What gives you strength and keeps you going?" or "Whence comes your help?"


I am reformatting my personal definitions of all those things with every step I take, with every slice I push through with the strength of my arms, with every cent I spend. Authenticity, as I conceive it, is a thing you earn by living in spite of difficulty, through effort, by meeting challenges for which failure is not an option. It is the triumph of the spark in the ashes of the phoenix, the extra twenty minutes you put on the clock, the quarter you find in the gutter that makes bus fare home out of not quite enough. It is the difference between independent life and living under a bridge hoping for a handful of someone else's change. It is so very little, and in the final analysis, everything.

poem in lieu of update

In my first blog post since, well, awhile, I could cover many topics. Tales from the deli counter, stories of my impending AIM-based D&D campaign, details of the checking account dance of not-quite doom...but those things can wait for another day. Because I wrote a poem!

Props, surprisingly enough, to David Drake's novel Fortress of Glass. Once I ran through the library's assortment of Mercedes Lackey and Lois Bujold, I thought I'd give him a try. Some of the images from the book seem to have filtered their way into this poem. It's a pantoum! I think it needs punctuation, and I'll probably edit it, but the basics are there.

[hedge maze]

Math's in my head, where music used to spring
Numbers curl out with sharp-angled leaves
These soaring notes spread under me like wings
I gather feathers up in muted sheaves

Numbers curl out with sharp-angled leaves
I dance among their vertices like glass
I gather feathers up in muted sheaves
With every balanced step I gather mass

I dance among their vertices like glass
Reflecting all the light that dapples through
With every balanced step I gather mass
Momentum for a great leap, but where to?

Oh, plant me a horizon in this soil
These soaring notes, spread under me like wings
Will bear me to some fresh, immortal coil
Math's in my head where music used to spring


The baseball season has officially begun, and now that we dwell in a place where there is cable, we can watch (in Dave's case) or vaguely be aware of while doing other stuff (in my case) the baseball postseason in all its glorious merchandisable glory. I have not paid attention to baseball at all this year, so I'm anticipating my preseason picks for both the National League and the American League will be hilarious in retrospect. Mmm, retrospect.

My preseason picks:

East: NY Mets
Central: Chicago Cubs
West: Arizona Diamondbacks
Wild card: Atlanta Braves

East: NY Yankees
Central: Minnesota Twins
West: Oakland A's
Wild card: Chicago White Sox

Actual standings at the end of the 2009 regular season:

East: Philadelphia Phillies (Mets finished 4th)
Central: St. Louis Cardinals (Cubs finished 2nd)
West: LA Dodgers (Diamondbacks finished dead last in the West)
Wild card: Colorado Rockies

East: NY Yankees (why does being right about this make me feel glum?)
Central: Minnesota Twins (good hunch on my part there)
West: LA Angels (Oakland finished dead last in the West)
Wild card: Boston Red Sox

I have learned a few things from this exercise. I will list them in a random order!

#12. I know absolutely nothing about the Western divisions in baseball. Worse than nothing. In fact, there is only one way to make use of my opinions on these divisions. Take my opinions, write down the opposite of each, then go to your local sports betting facility and place wagers for MLB games based on the things you have written down. You might end up with cab fare home for your troubles!

A(2)(192-j). Each season, I get one shockingly correct hunch. However, it is always surrounded by abysmally incorrect hunches. I could attribute this either to random chance, with which it is logically consistent, or to the time-traveling machinations of mischievous fairies.

Stupid fairies. Er, y'know--the wingy, shiny, time-traveling, wish-granting kind. Stupid them.

#771. Picking the Yankees is apparently the smart move again. Man, I liked it better when they stank on ice. Although now, if they lose in the first round, it will be to the ChiSox's arch rival, the Twins. So I suppose that's a no-win situation for a sports-bigamizing Chicagoan like me. (*looks up at TV* Wait, why are we watching this game?)

ZZ9(pl)Za. The Cubs are always good on paper. On paper is where they have home field advantage. Everywhere else, they are like the pitching staff of a team visiting Mile-High Stadium, home of the Rockies, before the humidor was installed which counteracts some of the extra sproing given to the leathery spheres by the high altitude. In other words, grimly brave but ultimately ineffectual.

#1. If I am going to have interesting things to say about baseball, it would help to actually follow it.

now live from under a local bridge!

Okay, not under a bridge. It was a close thing, though, and without much and prodigious help, that is where we would be right now.

Moving is complete!

Well, technically, moving was complete last Saturday. Mom, Amber and Paula all came to help us finish getting packed. And Mom, in a burst of extreme generosity and very good sense, hired some movers to do the actual loading, driving and unloading. Since after all the packing etc., just watching them made me feel tired, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have been possible for the few of us to do it all in less than three days! Even with a UHaul.

So to Mom and Amber and Paula, you have our great thanks! And Mom, you gave us the getting-married present we wanted and needed most!

Our new place is pretty awesome. We have a roommate named Don, who's a cool guy and is already being a good influence on us in terms of neatness. The place wasn't just cleaned-up and nice looking for the potential renters, as it turns out. He really keeps it this way all the time. Also, he has a dog named Oliver.
:) <--- me, learning we get to live with a dog
:-D :*-) ) <----- Dave, learning we get to live with a dog
O_O >_< x_x;; <---- Shashi, our cat, learning we now live with a dog

Having experimented a bit, I've found that my new commute, if I hit all my buses, is actually only an hour. As opposed to the hour and a half it was before. Except on Sundays, when one of the buses I need doesn't run past 9pm. That, however, is okay, since Don's cool with picking me up from the bus station as long as I take a phone with me and call. And I can always explain to my manager that it'd really be better for me to not work Sunday nights.

Dave is looking for a job closer to new home, and plans to make a day of it tomorrow. This week up till now has been a flurry of (for me) work, unpacking, and various move-in chores. Like, for example, getting our wireless router hooked up to Don's internet. It works way better than the DSL at the apartment did, lemme tell ya.

So, yeah. Got new place to live. Made beef stew. Arranged furniture in bedroom. Played some KoL. All in all, a very good week so far!

Oh, and I finished [in the middle of it]. I don't think it's all that good, but at least it's done. Made me think maybe I could put together an album of "riddle songs", where each song is about an abstract concept or state of mind which is danced around but never explicitly stated in the song. (Edit 4-28-10: Actually this song IS really good. Took me awhile to notice.)

can't get me moving
unless I'm dragged up by the chains of duty
but if I stand still
I can't wave my hand and call forth beauty
gotta find what's left of me
at the end of the live-long day
gotta hope it's enough
enough, enough to give away

I'm in the middle of it
I'm in the middle of it
come get some, come get some from it

I loved a neighborhood
it showed me how to run and when to stand
and when I had to leave
it helped me find a solid place to land
you get so tired
of having something to prove
but underneath is fire
so you've always got to move

I'm in the middle of it
I'm in the middle of it
come get some, come get some from it

and it's a waste of breath
not to have a little talk on it
and it's a waste of time
not to give it every hour
and it's a waste of ground
not to lay a little rock on it
honey, you've got to sweat
to be empowered

I'm in the middle of it
I'm in the middle of it
come get some, come get some from it

pride and disgust

Apartment hunting developments in brief, for those who are interested:

The place we were looking at before is now a non-option. Leasing agent told me verbally that we'd start on a month-to-month basis and would be out if we fell a month behind; I assumed co-signing would be on that basis and told Mom and Amber this. However when Mom called the leasing agent, he told her it would be a minimum six-month lease, for payment of which both principals and co-signers would still be responsible in the event of eviction. I am annoyed with the agent for this, but hey, what can be done?
So I'll be looking at another place tomorrow and yet another on Friday, and we'll see what happens.

The rest of this post is about things inside my brain. As that is the purpose of this blog: to spill my guts for your amusement and possible informeditude.

For this post, there's a chart I want to scan, and maybe later I'll figure out how and scan it in here. It's a handwritten copy I made from a chart on page 78 of Peter Carroll's Liber Null. (I later lent the book to a friend, so I'm glad I had made the copy.) The chart divides up the many shades of emotional experiences into a wheel, where each emotion is placed across from its opposite--loathing opposite greed, anger opposite joy and so forth. Sure, it's Carroll's personal interpretation of how emotional experiences can be divided up, but as a concept it can still be a useful tool.

One perspective on it is that one can use the chart to understand the tensions within experience. In physics, every action produces an equal and opposite reaction. In personality construction, every emotion produces an equal and opposite emotion. To be angered by one experience is to create within oneself the potential to find joy in another.

Another side of it is that in a sense, each emotion contains its opposite. When we experience greed and loathing, the actual relationship each emotion creates is very similar: only the direction is inverted. Loathing pushes us away from the object and greed draws us toward it, but in both cases, we are bound to it. We develop a powerful relationship with the object of our emotion, a relationship which influences our perceptions, our choices, even our values. In math, the "absolute values" of "plus 5" and "minus 5" represent the same distance from zero--just in different directions. In a similar way the "absolute values" of positive and negative emotions can represent the same distance away from "no relationship at all".

So, once upon a time, I was in high school, and I was plagued by constant, intense feelings of self-disgust. A gesture, a word, a stray thought out of place--and how many stray thoughts go out of place in a minute? an hour?--and a wave of moral and emotional nausea so intense it was almost physical would rise up in me. I disgusted myself to the point where it got in the way of everything except breathing. (Unless I breathed too loud or sniffled. That, too, disgusted me.) Thus, I decided the most sensible thing I could do would be to eliminate the emotion of disgust from my personality.

Those of you who have been reading me or listening to me blather for a long time already know this story. It's one of my standard referents, and is still something I'm pretty proud of, because that was my first step in the direction of attacking my emotional issues head-on. At the time it was a really smart move, because this one emotion was totally out of control and throwing everything else inside me out of whack. (Er, out of alignment. Whatever.) Unless I put the work in to develop ways to manage this emotion and keep it within its proper, useful context, letting it back into my personality would have been unwise.

However, when I removed one negative emotion from the spectrum of my experiences, I also removed its opposite, positive emotion. I didn't know what it was, exactly--until it came back! Recently I have gotten to the point where I have a kind of pride born of self-respect. Of having proved to myself, to my own satisfaction, that I'm competent to meet various challenges. A whole bunch of real-life experiences went into this, some of which I've blogged about, some I haven't. Some are still ongoing. (which will hopefully always be the case! one should never cease to grow!)

Three days this week, I'm on loan from my usual grocery store to another store in the chain. This other store is about to close; it has very few customers and very little staff and is generally older and dingier than my store. For the first time I'm alone behind the deli counter and responsible for it. I'm doing pretty well, and I'm proud of myself for it, in no small part because this is a comparatively blue-collar sort of job, "real, honest work" as I see it, for which my previous experience hasn't much prepared me.

And I noticed that I was starting to feel disgust. Simple, honest, physical disgust. At the intense amount of work I had to do to keep this deli counter sanitary and free of flies, at the process of skewering raw chickens for tomorrow's roasting, at the way certain items got dried out and nasty during the day. About halfway through my shift I realized that I was feeling disgust--and immediately I understood what this meant.

The self-confidence and pride I've got now, which are based on having set and successfully met various challenges for myself, these things are the opposite of the self-disgust which used to be so crippling for me. Pride based on practical knowledge is the opposite of disgust based on irrational terror. Worthy / unworthy is the spectrum of experience I'm talking about. Right now the scale is very small--but nonetheless I've come back around full circle. So there's a whole wavelength I'd cut out of my emotional spectrum which has now been restored to limited functionality! Hooray for functionality!


wound so tight

So this was totally not the direction I was expecting this song to take. It is a jazz number, with lots of show-offy spots for runs and trills and stuff. (But no guitar part as yet. I've been working on finger-picking but the voice part is hard enough by itself.) My voice at seventeen maybe could have really taken it places, but I can give it a decent treatment even now. The chorus is a couple months old, so I suppose my song-making parts had time to give it a good "three points and a prayer" treatment. Meaning, it comes back to the same image from a different angle each time. And has a happy ending, for a wonder!

panic rises up so subtly within me
crease my brows and purse my lips, and I look old
I'm like an origami spider up a chimney
I will fall into the fire if I unfold

wound so tight
wound so tight
because everything else is unraveling

we gather up the things we own
the books, the clothes, the telephone
devices we use every day
and statues we cannot display

but like a camel full of water
knowing I'm my father's daughter
swells my back, makes it seem muscular and strong
how can I carry all this gear
I'm just a snarl of love and fear
and will, suspended from a filament of song

wound so tight
wound so tight
because everything else is unraveling

when the harness breaks
you grab the rope
and when the rope breaks
you clutch the stone
though we must leave this place
we see our loved ones' faces
here so that we won't have to leave this place

for we all weave our hands together
trying all our best to never
let one of us go to tumble to the ground
so whatever else we're losing
we are rich because we're choosing
to love, be loved, to cherish and be bound

wound so tight
wound so tight
because everything else is unraveling

some weird kinda poetic justice?

It's been a frustrating thirty-six hours for the Fiat, and I'm not entirely certain I should write about it. Except when you get the same frustrating thing from multiple different sources near-simultaneously, this is often a good indicator that you have missed something important.

I've basically just gotten the message--in real life, in a variety of different situations--from about six different people, "you're an irresponsible child, and we don't trust your judgment or think you really care enough to try." In fact every different situation has been accompanied by someone saying "you're a child." Of course not in a mean way--just in comparison to their standards.

Ordinarily I wouldn't mind being called a child, if it weren't for the context. And for the first time in my life I'm pretty sure that I haven't been acting like one. So maybe some kinda weird poetic justice, an opportunity to reflect on all those times in the past when I was irresponsible, did act like a child, and created this impression, this image of myself which is now proving so hard to shake. Either that or I am missing something really, really important which is about to rear up and bite me in the behind. However, I will not have an uncontrollable public attack of hysterical panic about it. That is what I did when I was a child. I instead will get fingernail-bitey and panicky at home, and then go to work and act like nothing is wrong.

Since after all, people a work probably have their own things to panic about. Like responsible adults, however, they are able to disguise their true feelings from everyone except those select few who actually care what those feelings are, and/or have the ability to do something about the situations to which those feelings pertain.

P.S. Present company most definitely excepted, as I explain in the comments. You guys and gals are all cool in my book.
P.P.S. Wow, major typo in the title there. Fixed it!

We're in the process of getting married! And moving!

That's us, yesterday, at Ronny's Original Chicago Steakhouse. Steaks and Buds for both of us were only $20, because Ronny's was having a sale. The piece of paper I'm holding in the photo is a marriage license, which cost twice that. (Dave found a fellow restaurant patron who was willing to get our picture using Dave's phone, because it seemed to me that you-all would be slightly mollified if we at least had a picture.) So we have between now and Nov. 14th to get it signed by a judge or cleric and sent in to the Cook County officials. Perhaps we will keep the actual date a secret for awhile after the fact--but we are most certainly keeping it a secret before. This is going to be the most non-secret elopement it's possible to have, but it's still going to be an elopement. Because that's what we want to do. So there. At some point after the actual documents are official, when we can afford it and have agreed on a design, we're probably going to find us a good tattoo parlor and get our wedding rings. :D

Immediately after food, we went north to see an apartment which I can actually afford on the money I'm making working at the deli. And as Dave pointed out, if he found a job in the neighborhood, we would be making significantly more than would be necessary to survive. We could, in other words, start doing cool stuff like debt service and savings. We'd still be living right next to a train line--just a different one. The one I take to get to work. Much, much closer to work. In a neighborhood that's actually slightly nicer than the one in which we currently reside. So depending on how fast we can get an appointment to see the leasing agent (and whether our execrable and/or nonexistent credit is adequate) we could, in theory, start moving our stuff into it while it's still September, and start paying rent Oct 1.

Now, if I were you, and if I read this from the other side of the interscreen, I can tell you what I'd be thinking right about now.

(And by "you" I mean "our friend or loved one, who quite likely knows us in real life and would have been invited to our large, public ritual for the acknowledgement of heterosexual life-partnerment, such as the one shown in the above photo I copied without permission from the website of a photographer apparently named Ian Haring, if in fact we were having one, which we are not, at least not at the traditional time in the process.")

If I were "you", I'd be thinking:
"Huzzah, good for them, and about freaking time!"
"Those sneaky jerks have forgone a large public ritual, thereby denying me and everyone else who knows them the opportunity for the vast exchange of social-structure and relationship information which the organization and performance of such a ritual exists, in large part, to expedite! How very rude, even if it is monetarily practical at the moment!"

See, this is why elopement is both frowned upon and attractive, depending on one's feelings about large, complex social relationships among large numbers of people. When many different relationships, some very intense, between a whole lot of people at the same time are all going to be altered by a single event, it makes good sense to mark that event with a public ritual. Just in terms of emotional and mental economy. That way everyone who has a stake in the event can symbolically communicate to everyone else involved what the event means to them, how their relationships with various other involved parties are going to change, and (just for garnish!) how they feel about the fact that it is happening. Furthermore, because these changing social realities are acknowledged publicly, simultaneously and symbolically, everyone has a much better chance of remembering who now means what to whom afterwards. The form of the ritual itself acts as a mnemonic device: common ceremonial elements serve as shorthand to describe relationships even to persons not within the social group but familiar with the culture. "Oh, do you know them well?" "Why yes, I [did X] at their wedding."

Also, too, it gives people an opportunity to express their love and support* in a highly condensed and reasonably approachable way.

So, if you feel you absolutely must do something to express your love and support**, by all means, please come and help us pack, help us move, come over and find stuff we're not going to be able to take with us and take it back to your dwelling with you***. Or you can, y'know, wait for us to give in to the inevitable and start planning a post-matrimonial party of some kind. Haven't talked it over with Dave yet, but I'm thinking Firstiversary Party. Has a nice sound to it, and is sufficiently far away****. ;)

Love and pez be unto all of you.
I for one am exceedingly***** happy.

* or their hatred and opposition
** or hatred and opposition
*** or call our prospective landlord and tell him nasty things about us, sneak into our current apartment at night to unpack our boxen, and leave behind large, badly damaged pieces of furniture
**** also, it now occurs to me, announcing a Firstiversary Party would require revealing the date of the actual marriage, which would be fun
***** but not, I think, excessively

eviction song

Written just now! I was gettin' all nostalgic because of not being able to play guitar on this back porch much longer. The guitar part is really pretty--I heard it in my head first, and am kinda surprised it was so easy to play. Tried to make it one of those songs where this specific experience can be metaphorically generalized, so the song-story can apply to other people's similar-but-different experiences. Bit of a rising action at the end. Chords included in parentheses, although there's actual picking in this one. But the chords give a general idea of the tune if you know how to strum 'em. Chord sequences repeat until superseded.

back when the moon was full (F C G D)
I was so self-assured (F C D )
just getting comfortable
in this place I cannot afford

take a deep, deep breath, girl
they don't charge for the air like the land
you can clutch at the carpet and weep but still
it has slipped from beneath your hands

take your ancestors' ashes down off the shelf
load 'em up on your full faith and credit
one last look at the skin of your childhood self
one last curse that you had to shed it

pick your landing site (F C G@3fr Bm F)
and stick it (C D)
got a problem left
just lick it
pack your baggage
here's your ticket
all you have is all you have (C G G@3fr Bm)
all you have is all you have
all you have is all you have

'cause you're evicted (C G D)

halcyon days are ovah!

Just as well that I seem to have scared Gideon off. (And just as I was getting warmed up, too!)

My landlord wants us out by the 28th, if possible. He is so very reasonable and nice about it, on the phone. Even--certebus parebus, all other things being equal--I agree he has been more than generous. But I can't keep up this damn place on the pittance I make and that's a fact.

Now all that remains is to determine:

--Which mom(s) will allow us (and/or cat) to move in with them of a sudden
--Which people we know are willing to help us move out
--Which storage facility shall house whatever of my/Dave's/Dad's stuff we don't want to either give to our local thrift store or throw away
--Where I will work that I can get to from wherever I must live next

And other things of that nature. Wish me well, or if you know me in real life, let us get in contact soon, and I will beg you for whatever assistance you can render!

Gideon response III

But, about my commas... there is some dispute that commas are underused. I'm surprised, being an author, you didn't know this? (Did I do it right... the commas?)

Ah, I was just needling you about the commas 'cause you needled me about the French grammar. :)

May I ask the name(s) of the book(s) you wrote? Considering the Biblical simplicity of your pseudonym and the fact that your blogger profile page contains no links, you are effectively completely anonymous. Hence I had no way of knowing you are a published author. Congratulations! Can your work be purchased off Amazon or a personal website of yours? Or is it, like your current blog, something you'd rather I not see?

So, sweetie, (oh... does that demean you? No disrespect, but, you are young enough to be my child) let's see how honest YOU are, in your seemingly down-to-earth, laid-back, unassuming way of being, and in interaction. You ready, like so many other enlightened atheists I've encountered, to step up to the plate with ol' Gid, or, are you going to play the offended priss, and stomp off, somewhere?

You may use whatever endearments towards me you wish! As a child (as opposed to my current state, namely, "I'm not quite sure why I don't still count as a teenager") I was always envious of kids who had interesting nicknames based on their names or even based on their exploits. Good or bad, notoriety is notoriety in the eyes of one's peers. So you can call me sweetie, or honey, as my coworkers at the deli counter do, or Farty McGee The Butt-Faced Broad if that's what revs your engine.

This is my 'house' and I invited you. So I'm not leaving, and I have no intention of banning you. If I don't like you as a commenter, I have only myself to blame, since you wouldn't be here if I'd just sat back and said nothing. As for the other, I've only left one place as the result of an online fight. And that was a forum inhabited by the aforementioned Reverend Roger, of whom I am still very fond, albeit from a distance. If you are interested I will tell you about it; if not, no worries.

On to our differing views of what constitutes the proper approach to Christianity! You come to the discussion as a Christian who views himself as a righteous mouthpiece of God. I come to the discussion as a former Christian who has been deconverted for about ten years.

The only reason I bother with you at all, is, (comma?) that His Spirit moves me to do it. The "old man", as I said, doesn't really care. This is in line with what the apostle describes in his analysis of the human condition, during and prior to conversion.

Well, hey, I'm flattered your invisible friend wants you to talk to me. (And please know, when I use the term invisible friend, it is not meant to be derogatory. I had a beast of a time trying to find a symbol-set-neutral term, so that I'm not conceding the appropriateness of the other person's terminology in the middle of the discussion. And that's the best I could come up with.) It certainly jives with the fascination you inspire in me, which led me to invite you here. You are a rare amalgam of traits I abhor and traits I respect, which means that unlike many people who share certain of your views, it is actually possible to talk to you. You are a troll, yes, but by comparison to others who share some of your views, a very urbane and civilized troll! So yes, let's--let us bother with one another for a time.

I'll admit that, sometimes, it is gratifying to "kick some ass", especially when they ask for it. Of course, YOU would never do that, would you?

Honesty and transparency are the main reasons I like trolls. The thing I find abhorrent about your particular brand of trolling is that you take the position "I'm hurting you because it's good for you when I hurt you." Whereas Roger and his crew were quite open about the fact that they hurt people because they got a buzz out of starting fights, making people squirm, and doling out comeuppance where they believed comeuppance was due. You do the same, but you hide behind God. "No, see, Jesus wants me to be mean to you; the fact that I enjoy it is just a side benefit, his reward to me because I'm so faithful to him."

I am enjoying this interaction with you, by the way, however you wish to characterize it. It is like moshing with brains. Exhilarating, and lent a dangerous spice by the fact that there's always a remote possibility of someone getting an arm broken or a nose bloodied!

And I relish the opportunity to have this discussion with you, because I try very hard to operate within the frame my interlocutors are using. As I see it, when people take on the same tone, the same roles with one another, they can actually exchange information and ideas. If one person takes on an attitude which is sharply and wildly distinct from that of the other person, they don't communicate much. They just trade emotional value loads back and forth, until they either achieve equilibrium and begin to communicate, or one of them gives up. You came in "guns blazing"--so I get to blaze! I so, so rarely get to blaze! :D :D

As for my character, I am a Christian, whether I meet your criteria for being one or not. You said it - everyone tries their best.

It is true, as I personally choose to define the term, I do not at this time consider you a Christian. My definition of the term "Christian" is: a person whose highest and primary aim in life is to become like the Christ of the Gospels, according to my understanding of the same. Your definition may be similar, but it is necessarily based upon your own understanding of the Christ of the Gospels. Which is clearly different than mine.

When you say "the apostle", you mean Paul, yes? I've been flipping around the beginning of Acts, and I don't see any of his sermons transcribed until well after his conversion, when he was saying things like "For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, to lay upon you no further burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well." (Acts 15:28-29) This arose out of a disagreement among the Apostles over whether Gentile converts should have to conform to Jewish custom as well as Christian doctrine. In these times the meat-sacrificed-to-idols bit doesn't apply. Though nobody seems to pay any attention whatsoever to the Jewish ecclesiastical laws from which the other instructions were drawn. Fornicating, now--Christians today do pay a lot of attention to fornicating. Ah! But I am getting bogged down in details.

To which statements of Paul's did you refer, or was it more of a general comment?

In fact, if one reads Proverbs, the wisest man that ever lived says, in effect, over and over, that assholes don't deserve any respect or fair treatment!

Oh, I love Proverbs!

When I was a little girl, Revelations was my favorite book of the Bible (so exciting, you know?) but as a teenager, I started to like Ecclesiastes best. It's good that it comes after Proverbs; it's like a sequel. King spends long reign composing wise sayings, then at the end, tired and trying hard not to be bitter, recounts what it feels like to be the person reputed to be most wise. Good stuff!

Nice thing about Proverbs is, it has a quote for every situation you can think of. It all depends which real-time thing you mean to hook up with which part of the proverb.

"There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health." (Prov 12:18)

"He that despiseth his neighbor sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he." (Prov 14:21)

"Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm. Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways." (Prov 3:30-31)

"The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh." (Prov 11:17)

Rose-colored glasses seem to be a common feature with the scarlet-A crowd. Only Christians are hypocritical pricks. *Sigh*

This is an interesting statement, and I put it up here right next to my own cherry-picked Bible verses for a reason.

I'm'a add another couple quotes from you and then get down to business.

I've had many of "God's children" desert me, though, at crucial times, and many atheists, too!

[quote from a different place]

So, when I see a bunch of know-nothing clowns blogging about how God is a prick, if He exists at all, I say to myself: Gid... those bastards need a visit, and a little tuning up!" Of course, any tuning up I do is in brotherly love! You believe me, don't you?

*Big, innocent, bloodshot eyes*

Now, it seems to me that you do not make any distinction at all between lifetime atheists and ex-Christians.

Lifetime atheists who never had any religious beliefs tend, in my observation, to be sort of casual, sarcastic, and baffled when they bash God. They're not so much opposed to people believing in God, they just don't understand why a person would want to worship a being which fits the garbled description that usually comes across to them. Lifetime atheists, then, oppose God because of either ignorance, or because they have encountered Christians who are more interested in pimping a political or social agenda than in actually preaching the Gospel. Even the Apostles, for all they argued about Jewish dietary laws, for all of Paul's exhortations not to bicker or fornicate or whatever, they followed the pattern: convert first, encourage life changes afterwards.

The way you, and a lot of those who take on the name of Christians, seem to do things is the opposite.

I know it's not Biblical--but do you remember that famous scene in Ben-Hur, when Ben-Hur is on a forced march and collapses from thirst? A gourd of water is thrust towards his mouth and he drinks, desperately. Then he looks up and sees a robed figure who, in the story of the movie, turns out to be Christ.

At a time when I was attending a church which met in the city, some of us went out a few times in the hottest part of the summer to hand out tracts. They were clever little tracts, written by our pastor, which had a graphic of droplets on the front next to the word "thirsty?" On the inside was a brief Gospel message, and directions and contact information to the church. We walked through the park in the daytime, under the hot sun, handing them out.

But we didn't bring any water. Not water bottles, not a jug and Dixie cups--nada. We didn't quench people's physical thirst, as a physical metaphor for the way in which Christ is said to quench the thirst of people's souls. We just reminded them of the fact that they were thirsty, did nothing to help, and then left. So instead of associating Jesus with their thirst being quenched, people associated Jesus with their thirst being mocked. Not surprisingly, nobody showed up at services in response to the tracts.

My point is that even if you are right about humanity's need for salvation, you are doing the same thing I and my then-fellow churchgoers did. You are rubbing their noses in the fact that they are "wrong", but you're doing it in such a way that there's not a snowball's chance on a hot summer day on a Chicago sidewalk that you'll inspire in them any desire to find out how to do right, instead.

As for former Christians, the above also applies, but they (we, I suppose) actually have baggage over and above the mere ignorance of the never-believers.

You, yourself, have been lied to, abandoned, mistreated by Christians and atheists alike. You think very little of humanity in general and take solace in God's wrath against the sinful.

And yet--if we assume you're right about Christianity being the One True Faith--you are actually stronger in your faith than those of us who left. Closer to God, still able to partake of his presence, mercy, gifts etc. Right here on my blog you've mocked people who left Christianity, saying "oh, they didn't get what they wanted, so they're taking their ball and going home." By your reckoning, we caved in to merely human weakness, abandoning God because humans failed us, humans who happened to be taking on the name of God at the time. We allowed the image of God in our hearts to be sullied and tarnished, confused with the images of human pettiness and human spite. Yet you, who have also been hurt by those who called themselves Christians, were able to stay with God and not lose your faith.

Yet you have no compassion in you, for we who were (allegedly) so destitute of strength, so pitiful and spineless, that we could be driven away from God by mere human cruelty. Instead you take pride in your own perceived strength of soul and are boastful. You do not rejoice that you are saved and we, because of our own fragility, are damned. Instead you take the things in us which are broken and seek to break them further. You do not encourage us by saying that God is not as we think he is, that we can live with God and be mighty and speak out against those who would take on God's name in vain. Instead, you compound and multiply the human pitilessness from which we fled.

You are exactly as you perceive us to be. You were hurt, so you take joy in hurting. You are strong, so you believe God has sent you to belittle and lash out at the weak. You see people being petty and spiteful and mean-spirited, so you go in among us and are petty and spiteful and mean-spirited. You bait and barb and look for chinks in our armor and wait with baited breath for a reaction of rage, for the wrath of the violated, the panic of the invaded. You are gleeful when you find it. You are satisfied when someone chases you away, because you take it as proof that you have done God's work.

"He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot. Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee." (Prov 9:7-8)

"Say not thou, I will recompense evil: but wait on the Lord and he shall save thee." (Prov 20:22)

"Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the Lord see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him." (Prov 24:17-18)

And finally! The one I was looking for!

"Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou be like unto him." (Prov 26:4)

I've gotten these quotes, given you "So much flattery!", as you said, to try and make sure you really, really understand what I'm trying to tell you. Most non-Christians would not bother to do it. The never-believers won't because they don't know how, and in the case of other ex-Christians, your persona is specifically tailored to give them a knee-jerk, emotional reaction which produces only flame. Which escalates into more flame, which helps absolutely no one, not by any definition of the word "help" which I would accept.

Personally I don't think that I and my fellow ex-Christians should be derided as weaklings for leaving a religion that mostly hurt them. Whether I myself am a weakling is a matter I always consider open for debate! Truly! But in my opinion, if ex-Christians have come to the conclusion that this idea people like to call God is a bunch of bullshit invented by humans who want to be able to bully other humans and tell them what to do, then we get to think that. And if we want to blow off steam about how frustrated we are at the bullshit we abandoned, then we get to do that, too. And if you are distracted by the steam and smoke and baggage and won't be troubled to "look behind the curtain", then we are going to interpret your behavior as merely further evidence that we were correct in the first place. Turnabout, my friend!

It is the person who makes the positive assertion--viz., "Christ is the only truth"--who bears the burden of proof. One who makes a negative assertion--viz., "you are not believable or honest when you talk about Christ, and as far as I can tell there may be no Christ"--merely asserts that a burden of proof has not been met to that one's satisfaction. If you think we are fools and weaklings because we say we are not satisfied with the proofs you offer, you can do one of two things. You can throw up your hands in disgust and laugh at us on your way out the door, or you can try different tactics. I myself strenuously request the latter.

I'm not friends with every atheist and ex-Christian on the internet--nor every interesting, cool, compassionate Christian, either, and I'm friends with some of those! But the ones I choose to follow are the ones that seem to be doing something interesting or amusing with their post-deconversion reaction, and not merely wallowing in bitterness or spite. I am quite sure you see it differently. Nonetheless, my willingness to respect and tolerate your different perspective is why you are here to stay as long as you like, instead of haranguing somebody else until they ban you. ;)

Much though I love to blaze and clash with you, I want there to be real information exchange too, because this is important! I think a lot of people within the aegis of Christianity would either:

a) tell you to "go get 'em!" because they are making what I see as the same mistake you are making, or
b) not want to criticize you because you are a co-religionist.

Some of the people in this second category are those same Christians you denounce as "pussies", the ones who frustrate me because their "God" seems to make them more squeamish, more frightened, more withdrawn inside themselves, than they ever would have been without a religion. People in the first category, as I said above, would not have stuck it out with me this far.

So I congratulate you on that, certainly. And congratulations as well for keeping me up past my bedtime on a worknight. ^_^ Ah, the joys of a job that tires out my back but not my brain.

I await your next response with great interest!

Cheers, toodles, and hope everybody had a happy Labor Day.

Gideon response II

I was going to post about Deborah Butterfield, and wildness and time and order. And also about Bruce Droppings, since has elected to quit this ethereal blogosphere and concentrate on his real life and will be sorely missed, by me at least. However, Gideon came back, and I am most certain my response here will be too long for a comment.

Let that be a lesson to you lurkers! :) If your comments are lengthy and impassioned, I will respond, no matter the nature of said passion!

Your French is a tad disjointed, girl, but, I got the message... same to you.

XD Aye, disjointed it is; serves me right for trying to use a language I only learned in high school. And trying to quote The Truman Show at the same time.

Would you mind letting me know how to find your current blog, or is that not part of the purpose for which you created it?

And I see there that you chose to continue telling me your opinion of Lorena after I'd requested you not do so. Certainly, the choice of what to type or not type is yours to make.

I lose no sleep over anything that I say, or, is said to me. It's just text... period.

Your comma usage is a little disjointed, but I think I get your meaning. Words are just words, yes? Sticks and stones may break Gideon's bones, but words will never hurt him. And if other people get hurt by words you say, you don't worry about it either. Gideon is not his brother's keeper, eh?

You are a fence-sitter, Lex. You imagine your neutrality as something superior. Sooner or later, you will be called upon to take a stand.

And you, Gideon, are on the biggest high-horse I've seen in many a year. This is twice now that I've seen you make broad sweeping assertions about an individual's character, thoughts, imaginings etc. based solely on a few thousand words of text and your own personal biases.

Are you sure you're not a secret Discordian? Your troll persona invites comparison with that of The Good Reverend Roger for its potential to generate sheer flame. Dear dog, you are wasted, simply wasted among the Christians!

At any rate, it is not the case that I am neutral, nor is it the case that I imagine my stance to be something superior. I will explain both of these statements.

Firstly, I am in favor of Christianity properly carried out, and at the same time I am a fuming, foaming, irascible opponent of Christianity twisted to evil, selfish purposes, such as you have done. You, sir, are the classic example of the "Christian" who, from what I observe:

--talks himself into believing his own personal biases are the Will of God Almighty
--uses those personal biases to bully and demean others into attacking or fleeing from him
--rests replete on a cushion of self-righteousness, believing that he has forced wicked sinners into revealing their own wickedness.

You reveal nothing except that people scream when they are stabbed. And then you congratulate yourself on your cleverness in wearing stab-proof armor to something that was supposed to be a bareknuckle boxing match rather than a knife fight. Congratulations! That's exactly what Jesus would have done!

I digress, however. Christianity properly carried out is a very different thing. Many good-hearted people strive to live up to Christ's example every day. Sometimes they fail, other times they succeed with heartbreaking brilliance. I admire them either way!

Atheism is not a prefabricated system of moral rules couched in a story; thus each atheist develops his or her own moral code based on a personal interpretation of life. Thus, there are some athiests whom I feel are shallow, selfish dolts, and others whom I admire. Some of the ones I admire also try to live up to the moral standards they themselves have developed in ways which are, on occasion, heartbreakingly brilliant.

The thing I am for is something which is neither Christianity nor atheism, and which you would laugh at if I explained it to you. So I won't. For the above reason and because I assume you're not terribly interested. Since, I again assume, anything which is not your pet version of Christianity is a laughable excrescence not worthy of much thought.

I don't believe what I believe because it I think it is Absolute Truth, but rather because the effects of having placed my belief as I have are more healthful and conducive to positive personal growth than anything else I have yet tried. Provisional, diversified belief is something foreign to both Christians and atheists, I think. I am certainly not saying it's better--in a lot of ways it's cumbersome and inefficient!--but it works best for what I'm trying to do. And I don't mind the inefficiency of a work in progress.

I've spent my whole stupid life having people think that I think I'm superior because of the way I use language. I don't think that. I spend a lot of effort trying not to be unfairly prejudiced against others in any direction, whether it's elitism or classist distrust of the powerful and comfortable. (Sometimes I even succeed!) I'm saner and more understanding and more helpful than I was five years ago, ten years ago, or when I was a child. You consider me to still be a child. (And perhaps a drunkard to boot! Truly, though, novels are the vice that threatens to take over my life--alcohol I use judiciously for muscle relaxation and to promote increased volubility at appropriate times. I have four rules. Don't drink if you think you might need to: 1. drive, 2. work, 3. care for small children or the infirm, or 4. be in the close presence of people you don't trust.) Certainly I don't know your perspective well enough to understand all that these perceptions imply, but I am interested to find out.

I don't care if gays bugger themselves silly, then get sick and die. (Just don't do it around me!) I don't care if 10,000 children in Ethiopia croak from starvation. We have our own problems.

See, this is one of those statements which makes me think that if the alleged Holy Spirit really is influencing your mind, you must be resisting it pretty fiercely at every turn.

Christ, the Christ described in the Gospels, cared deeply about every person who ever lived and ever will. He cared enough about any individual gay person at risk for a horrible, slow death from AIDS, about every child in Ethiopia whose family was killed by war or disease, to die for them. This Christ cared so much that if any person were in need of salvation, he still would have incarnated on Earth, suffered and died on the cross, and risen to life again so that person would have a chance at eternal life.

You, as you say, don't give a fuck. All you want to do is "kick some ass" when the prompting within you tells you that there's some ass available for easy kicking. And you seem to think that's Christ talking. Which is why I think you're a bully, and one of those who takes on the name of your supposed Lord in vain, for the sole apparent purpose of your own gratification.

response to Gideon in lieu of content!

Greetings, my few, my happy few, my faithful readers. I have stayed up past my bedtime typing this up. Friday and Sunday this week will be my days off, so Amber, Pearl, Mom, I will attempt to call you then. Love! Hugs! Miss you!

In the meantime, I am still working hard and remaining in good spirits. Our downstairs neighbor Stan, who has five dogs, is interested in giving us one. Dave has taken up walking Stan's dogs for a very reasonable fee. And Stan is desirous of giving us one of those dogs. Namely Blue, with whom Dave has subsequently fallen in love. (He woke up calling for Blue yestermorn, at which point I decided it was best to surrender to the inevitable--fortunate my inclinations already lean in the direction of a dog-plus-cat household!)

But here, here is a comment which surely exceeds the 4096 character limit, or whatever it is. Here is my response to Gideon, in all its silly detail.

Ah! mes amis: je vous aime toujours. Bonjour, bon aprés-midi, et si je ne vous pas rencontrer plus aujourd'hui, bon nuit.

Oh, don't worry about my constitution--the deli counter is toughening up this egghead faster than you can say "it's 9:15 and I want you to shave me a pound of prosciutto!"

(My new least favorite meat. I already disliked the taste, but it's a bastard to slice, too. Sticky, falls apart at the slightest touch, and must be laid out in neat layers separated by little plastic sheets. Which sucks when there's a line. But enough shop talk!)

Lorena is one of those online people I consider a friend. Though it is often said that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend", I try really hard not to have enemies. So although, because of events for which I was largely not present, you seem to be the enemy of my friend, you are not my enemy. Make of that what you will! I have neither banninated nor baleeted anyone other than an obvious salebot, which you are not, and hope to keep my streak alive.

May I ask why your blog is now disbanded?

As for Lorena, please, since we are clearly of such differing views, I prefer not to discuss her further. It would only annoy us both. Your participation in this intention would be appreciated greatly by me!

Instead, hoping you do not mind, I will apply some of your points in re: deconverts to myself, and see what happens.

I will even take your words out of order, a great indignity!

The whole idea behind faith is that it gives one HOPE. After spending half of my life as an agnostic, by golly, I just don't see a lot of friggin' hope in the religion that she's chosen! Three score and ten, then... nothing!

For purposes of discussion, I tend to default to my dad's definition of religion. It is from the Latin, res legiones, namely: chosen things, the things one chooses to guide and shape one's life.

So, you find the atheist-materialist viewpoint a hollow and hopeless one. Many do, and seek organized faiths or DIY spirituality to fill in the gap! Christianity gives you hope and makes daily life meaningful and filled with wonder; for this I am glad.

But I'm telling you, this is not the case for everyone.

Christianity is a symbol set, a storyverse, which can be used in many ways and for many purposes. Yes, it is unfair to characterize the whole storyverse in terms of the negative and destructive interpretations laid on it by some controlling or narrowminded individuals. Or by the negative perspective of it that I, for example, grew up with, through a combination of circumstantial confusion, blurring of emotional value loads, the occasional unconsciously malicious individual, and good old-fashioned "failure to communicate."

Nonetheless the wicked "false" Christianity is my default, and the one rooted deep in my unconscious mind. Any other version comes up just as artificial, contrived, ineffectual, as any other organized-religious symbol set. And even moreso contrived and less effectual than any symbol set I've made for myself and tried out in practice.

The "believe, and you will see" dictum applies with equal efficacy to any well-constructed eidolon (definition 2). Meaning, an ideal which has been given form in the mind to the extent that one can interact with it as one would the memory-reconstituted presence of a human being not physically present.

I am not interested in an eidolon to which I give the name Christ. As for other deconverts, I cannot speak for them, though I suspect many would agree with this description.

To me it is more hopeful to say, "I suspect, I deduce, I imagine, but I do not know" than to cobble together an answer out of a much-disputed document and thunder "I know!" This brash certainty, with only the textev and the otherworldly pipings of my pet eidolon to back it up. This is how I see it. I would rather be a naked fool than a fool dressed up in that.

like many of those hardened infidels she's taken up with, are simply whiners that didn't get what they thought they should have, so, now they're mad, and they're taking their ball and going home.

Oh, the emotionally charged language you use. It makes me think you are reacting emotionally, based upon your experiences with those bloody-minded people who refuse to re-convert. Even beyond a certain person repeatedly banninating you, you must have been ill-treated elsewhere as well, to be so angry. You have my sympathy. (yes! I can do that!)

I am curious. I must inquire. What is it that, in your perception, the "hardened infidels" believe they should have gotten, that we have fled the faith because we did not receive?

For me--and my experience is by no means characteristic!--it began with deliverance from demons, and continued with relief from self-loathing and constant panic. These things I obtained over the course of a mere decade or so, after a paltry half-decade or so of prayers did not provide noticeable relief.

But ah! that is another story, and by no means all of my own little story, which again is entirely non-representative. So let us leave it for now, and go on to more pertinent matters.

(Yes. This is how I talk when I'm tipsy. In person, as well.)

So, to return to the topic at hand. As you see it, deconverts in general are merely selfish and immature. We are persons who demanded a particular response from God or from then-fellow Christians in a time of crisis. And, having failed to receive the response we desired, we have with petulance and spite decided to quit the faith and become its enemies.

It reminds me of C.S. Lewis, something he wrote in "The Problem of Pain." I do not recall it exactly, but the sense of the passage was this:

Some people wish to hold the universe hostage to their own unhappiness. Everything--time, seasons, the grace of God--must cease, until their private hurts are soothed and their objections answered. But instead of bringing the rest of the world to a halt, these people exile only themselves. They become prisoners of their own selfishness, cut off from all love and all hope because they refuse to receive it.

I didn't put that paragraph in quotes because, as I said, I don't recall the passage exactly and it is an extreme paraphrase. But it does seem to sum up the Christian view of why most deconverts leave the Christianity. And more specifically, the way that you, Gideon, seem to me to perceive the deconverts with whom you have thus far had conversation.

It is of course a narrative viewpoint. A metaphor, which can only be answered with other metaphors. Equally powerless to un-convince the convinced. But I will try to explain nonetheless.

It was like trying to divide numbers by first converting them all into fractions, before I knew how to do long division.

It was like trying to assemble a mechanical device using instructions poorly translated through Korean from Japanese, by persons who barely spoke either Japanese or English. (Both of which are notoriously idiomatic and difficult to learn!)

It was like driving a stick shift, when one only knows how to use automatic, down an icy road in winter, when one's car had a trailer which is not securely attached to the rear of one's vehicle.

It just seemed like a bunch of effort wasted on a thing which had no purpose, except to give other human beings a convenient lever by which one could be steered into directions of their choosing.

There was no God in it, except in the sense that there is "divinity" in any endeavor worth pursuing.

Perhaps that is petty, selfish, shallow. I am very happy to say that I guess, I deduce, I choose to believe for the purposes of hope and meaning in everyday life--but I do not know.

In case they or you or anyone hasn't noticed, there isn't any "evolution" going on in society, in fact, society's going down the head rather quickly! So much for this progression that humanists are always barking about. Oh, sure, now and then some little ray of light shines through, in some individual act of benevolence or kindness, but, overall, this world is surfing downward in ever-tightening spirals.

What a very cynical and depressing view of human life! Please, allow me to quote my big sister Amber, as quoted by my little sister Pearl on her Myspace:

"I live in a time when I don't have to worry about being shot with a poisoned arrow or raped six to eight times a year! My food is kept at the temperature I want in a box in my house! I have indoor f@*#ing plumbing! By the standards of most of human history I am a queen!"

This is not progress? This is not "evolution of society"? Trade increases, and war becomes increasingly distant from the lives of individuals! Yes, there are many places in the world--such as Afghanistan or the Sudan--where such progress has yet to take place. But it is no longer universal. There are, in many many places in the world, "salt and pepper on every table, and none account the cost." Salt--necessity, what humans need in order to live. Pepper--luxury, what humans desire in order to make the necessary things of life more enjoyable.

I do not share your view that humanity is gradually becoming more depraved, more ruled by instinct, less able to live in civilized society. In contrast, I think humanity in general is developing higher standards of behavior. By the measures we use today, yes, many actions by currently living persons seem barbaric and intolerable, which in previous centuries would have been "business as usual." But the fact is that now we have our modern standards for comparison. You and I presume, for example, that rape of any person for any reason is morally reprehensible. That the killing of any person, whether of one's tribe or social class or belief system or otherwise, who does not present an immediate threat to life and safety, is murder and thus unacceptable.

These and other comparable things are relatively new concepts for humans. We are just now as a culture, to say nothing of the species, getting used to them. I look at murder statistics for Chicago, which represent something like reality, and see a present triumph. How many times in human history have there been so many cities with so little violent death, and that so well accounted for? I look at shows like Law & Order and see a triumph of ideas. If this flawed but very human thing is the ideal towards which our system of justice strives, then perhaps it will become more effective as time goes on, prevent more needless suffering, deter more human evils.

I am not entirely surprised that you, who believe the doctrine of Original Sin, can look at humanity in its present condition and see only hopelessness. But I sympathize, because there are a lot of things which are still totally messed up, and a lot of people who are doing horrible things to other people and getting away with it. Still, I am glad your religion provides you with hopes. Because I see ample cause for hope in the supposedly bleak outlines of my everyday, "impoverished" life.

I have nothing to sell, friend Gideon. You get what you pay for, in this life or any other which may or may not exist, for certain values of the term "exist". And the only coinage that matters in any of them is attention--the hardest thing to pay. As Robert Ruark said, "Do not give up something of value unless you have something of value with which to replace it."

Thus, if you want to pay attention to the Christian story and the shape it gives to your life, do it! If you want to pay attention to something else, do that! By no means should you abandon anything that is working for you merely on my say-so.

I ask only the same consideration.

oh, and some content

I am almost drunk enough to go make chocolate chip cookies. In the meantime, though, I'm'a play some KoL turns and post this fragmenary bit of content. Thank you, by the way, Amber and Lorena, for your kind words about my sonnet and such! I like to think I am not losing my touch.

This thing will be a song, but so far I have only the first verse and chorus. Slight inaccuracies in scansion are covered over by vocal show-offery which, alas, you cannot hear yet:

can't get me moving
unless I'm dragged up by the chains of duty
but if I stand still
I can't wave my hand and call forth beauty
gotta find what's left of me
at the end of the live-long day
gotta hope it's enough
enough, enough to give away

I'm in the middle of it
I'm in the middle of it
come get some, come get some from it

she slices, she dices...she is finally blue-collar

On my last day off, which was Thursday, I went up to my old college to try and get the last bits of paperwork done which were keeping me from my degree. Mom stepped in like a champion, got leave from her work to go visit their plant up in the area so she could give me a ride there, and even paid the last couple little fees I had on my account at college, though she could ill afford to do so. I am greatly in her debt!

Tomorrow, however, is my second off day in this week, so I can afford to spend a little time blogging. Ah, the comfort of the written word. Even generating 3000 words in five hours did not sate me. I must write more, for the peace of my mind. So I write.

These days I am reminded of Idle Theory, a concept delineated by a fellow named Chris Davis as one of the factors in determining evolutionary fitness. I wish I could find his original page, which had some nice diagrams and such, but I will explain briefly. Idleness is the amount of time and energy which an organism has left over after it has satisfied the basic requirements of immediate survival--food, sleep, etc. Think of it as the profit margin of effort. Organisms with a very small amount of idleness are vulnerable to environmental changes. A small change in the requirements for immediate survival can mean the difference between life and death for something living on the edge. In contrast, living things with high levels of idleness can afford to spend their extra time and effort seeking out interesting mates, scouting out new territories, playing internet games, et cetera. Societies, which are themselves organisms in a sense, also change their behaviors based on idleness. Societies with low idleness tend to emphasize virtues such as hard work, thrift and rule-following--because if those virtues are not practiced by most individuals most of the time, that society will burn through its "profit margin" of available effort and collapse.

For me, personally, this is the lowest level of idleness I've ever attempted on an ongoing basis. Oh, I had some worse period at Aigre Doux (now defunct, Clarissa tells me, so I suppose I can use its name!), but those were periodic, not continuous. Let me show you some deli-counter-worker math:

8 hours per day at work
3 hours per day in transit (1.5hr train + walk time)
8 hours per day sleeping
6 hours per workday for other activity.

See, at the office-type jobs I've had in the past, internet access was part of worktime, to a limited extent. I could play my KoL turns, make the occasional blog post (in bits and pieces, by keeping the window open behind other work), and read random stuff to keep my imagination sizzling. I sat on my butt and typed and talked on the phone and spoke a lot of doublespeak.

Now my day is spent on my feet. I lift meats and cheeses out of the counter, on and off the slicers, work the slicers with hitherto-unused arm, shoulder and back muscles. I often lean my entire torso into the cold salad case to carefully scoop out, say, potato salad, without smearing tuna salad or curry on my apron or elbows in the process. It is like a combination of contortionism, spelunking, constructing a stone wall out of smallish rocks, and playing an endless game of tug-of-war with a gaggle of children. And I haven't even been on the café side and learned to make sandwiches or fry chicken in super-hot grease yet!

The thing is, though--I am happy. I feel like the guy at the end of Office Space. I'm doing something constructive and real. So what if my back feels like it has a knife stuck in it between the hours of seven and nine pm most nights? So what if the customers ask me to thin-shave a full pound of our messiest, juiciest meat at 8:45pm when I'm supposed to be disassembling and cleaning the slicers and sweeping the floor, when the auto-slicer is done for the night and I must do it by hand? I can hack that. That is no frickin problem. I sing while I slice, I banter with customers, I try to convince the nice ladies from the café side of the counter to teach me Bosnian. I've only been here a couple weeks, but I can weigh by the quarter-pound with either hand now and I know half the item codes by heart. And apparently all my coworkers like me, because I like them and think they're cool, and I'm sunny and polite and work like a fiend and sing.

For some reason, my day-to-day sense of identity is tied up in my work to a fairly large extent. Maybe it's because so much of how I remain socialized is a conscious process; the personas I use in daily life are assembled "by hand" rather than by instinct. And much of my consciousness is swept up in the self-check routines by which I create and assure my continued sanity, functionality. So there's not a whole lot of tolerance in me for identity concepts not directly supported by incoming data.

Oh, there is a residue. Life events and decisions leave a mark, little permanent records which say "you rose to X challenge to Y extent. you reacted to A crisis with B level of competence." Each little possible area of life I am able to approach with what I deem to be honor and nobility, by that increment is my heart eased and my childhood certainty weakened--the certainty that I am useless and without value. Not sure where it came from. Perhaps that knowledge is down in my spaghetti memory somewhere, safe to recall only when its poison is nullified.

Nobility is being equally comfortable, confident, competent, equally able to belong, in all places and all circumstances. Heinlein has a quote about it, a quote which I don't recall verbatim that ends "specialization is for insects." Honor is integrity in action: that you behave at all times and in all ways so that the world you wish to experience is the world which your actions make more possible.

In previous jobs, then, I have demonstrated to myself that I can be white-collar, that I can be an egghead amongst eggheads. That I can type numbers into a screen all day and night and still have the wherewithal to go to altavista's babelfish and crib enough Spanish to tell the dishwasher that his money was direct-deposited to his bank account and he should have it within three business days. That I can research the doings of a city which I have never visited, through news clippings and random statistical journals, well enough that my supervisor can go to that city's government and ask the right pointed questions about how they handle their finances. That I can shout down an aged building owner, whose concept of how business is done was cemented in the fifties, in a vain attempt convince him to pay for renovations required by fire safety regulations passed into law in the nineties. All these things I know about myself.

But now, now if I can keep this job for enough months to satisfy myself, I will have proved to myself that I can put in eight hours of real work, like a real person. Oh, the mad mad lengths to which we go for self-respect. It is worth it.

Besides, my unemployment was about to run out. There is some irony, as this back-aching job pays only $8.20 an hour, and thus nets me per week exactly the same amount as I used to get from unemployment, for doing nothing.

Still. I am happier, because even in a time of extremely low idleness, I am happier doing something than nothing.