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Please, J.K. Rowling, More Stories

Please, J.K. Rowling, More Stories

The current Harry Potter moviefest that I’m enjoying with my son has inspired me to make a request of J.K. Rowling. I love these stores – we’ve read all the books multiple times – because they give me hope. It’s just that simple. They give me hope.

So, I navigated over to her website at http://www.jkrowling.com and – sure, why not? – clicked on the contact link.

The Blair Partnership represents J.K. Rowling internationally and across all media. Please direct any queries to info@theblairpartnership.com and a member of the team will be in touch directly. J.K. Rowling very rarely does interviews or public speaking, and when she does they are usually around a new project or charitable commitment. Please note that she does not undertake fee-paying public speaking engagements. Because of the huge volume of requests coming in, J.K. Rowling also regrets she is unable to…

Yada yada yada. Well, ok, fair enough. I sent the following email, but just in case there isn’t any analysis or reporting of the communications, I’m also posting it here. You never know, maybe they do some version of web analytics, social media harvest, or even a Net Promoter Score (put me in the “I would definitively recommend” bucket).

To Whom it May Concern:

I am aware that the illustrious J.K. Rowling could not possibly respond to the billions of her readers, but I am hoping that you maintain some sort of thematic statistics for her.

If so, may I add to the numbers of those who pray that she considers creating more stories that work at multiple levels for children and adults alike? I pray for very few things.

There are so very few such nourishing narratives that do (or can) burst into our mainstream cultures as they exist today. In the Potter books (and films – one must include the films) human complexity is better grasped in these contexts that show how important existential choices are (whether or not someone has quite enough information, whether or not situations are fair, whether or not you think anything you do will make a difference to yourself or anyone else). The stories allow us to feel (with the very deepest of empathy and intuition) compassion and pity and courage and friendship and trust and even alienation. That they do so with a marvelous reinvention of all the long-standing traditions of literature, fairy tale, and even institutional satire gives incredible depth to the world she crafted and creates the speculative but nuanced expansion of imagination that used to be the basis of all liberal education.

In short, the Potter stories give me hope during what I consider to be rather dark times.

My son Ben (now 12) has grown up with the Potter story. It has given us so many opportunities to discuss life’s issues and mysteries in a common language. I can tell you – definitively – that navigating the terrain of the characters and story have made a significant difference to his own evolving character and intellectual/creative/spiritual development. He understands being true to himself, and the meaning of friendship, and the gifts of love, awareness, grace, support. He has internal reference points for things that are difficult to articulate, but can be recognized. And he doesn’t simplify into simple dualities and sound bites. He learns to ask better questions. Thank you for this gift to my son, and to me, and to all the others, everywhere.

I love the woman of her personal history and of her effects in the world, but please – more stories. The world so desperately needs them.

Reorienting into Your Own Path: Belief Self-Torment

Reorienting into Your Own Path: Belief Self-Torment

For a number of reasons, I haven’t posted anything about Jehovah’s Witnesses for a while. There have been some horrible events in the news, and all sorts of doctrinal and organizational changes, but I find myself more interested these days in some of the larger questions. I’ve been trying to write something about that, but nothing I wrote was satisfactory to me. It turns out that I needed a real question for my thoughts on this to spill out. In trying to help ease someone else’s suffering, the words ring true again. Thank you for being the messenger for this lesson! I preserve the questioner’s privacy, but you know who you are. Big hugs.

I seem to be struggling with my relationship with God. I find myself so confused about what to believe. I used to be absolutely convinced that the Bible was Truth. Is this normal for a person in my situation. Any input that you might have would be appreciated.

It is totally normal for you to feel as you do. I do have some thoughts on this in terms of biblical scholarship and the history of the religions of the book(s), but that’s not what will help you most right now because you need first to find your bearings, your balance, and the (for lack of a better phrase) direction of your attunement to God.

Start with what you solidly know and experience for yourself. Be observant and pay attention and even “hold fast to what is fine.” That place where your mind and spirit and soul all connect in gratitude and admiration is where you start. Think of the qualities of the spirit – where do you see caring and forgiveness and love and thoughtfulness and creativity and all those things that you can just feel are *good* things? Let yourself be drawn into that world. Learn from and enjoy the presence of that “energy” in any moment where it happens. Even just noticing it changes you.

Then – and I resisted this one for a long time – think about service. Not big, cosmic service – just little bits of service. Be a little kinder, think of someone else’s feelings, do something nice for someone else, be a listening ear to a friend. Anything that puts your own needs to the side – even for a moment – changes you.

Think of things that you *truly* admire about people you know or have known or have read about or seen. Everyone is complicated, a mix of darkness and light, so you have to think of specific things, how someone made a good decision, how someone manifested an incredible skill, how someone calmed a situation. Those are things that speak to your inner self, to your inner directionality, and they are worth hearing.

For a while, move away from the questions of belief in this or that. That question will always be there for you, but that doesn’t mean you have to address it and be tormented by it right now. Come back to it when you are in a place of spiritual groundedness.

Your body can help you too, and in ways that you might not expect. Sit quietly and relax, listen to yourself breathe. When you are upset, take a few breaths and consciously let it go. Imagine blowing the seeds of an old dandelion into the wind. Self-torment seems to be part of the deal – but you can choose not to do it. Look again at these things when it isn’t self-punishment. Torturing yourself does nothing for you right now except prevent you from insight and focus your energy on everything that would overwhelm you. Love doesn’t want that, and you need to focus on that central thing. Open your heart and listen. Listen.

Try different body positions. Bow your head, raise your arms up to the sky, imagine your feet taking root in the ground, pretend to be blessed by the stars. Your body-imagination is always trying to help you. If you feel comfortable, reach out to the God *above* the God that is caricatured by the witnesses and ask for guidance in love.

Be authentic, be truthful, see beauty, learn when to trust and admire. Start there. In time, the beliefs will sort themselves out. The list of “I believe in this” and “I don’t believe in that” is really not the primary aspect of spiritual understanding. Assume, for a little while, that all the cosmos needs of you is that you pay attention and appreciate whatever you really, truly can. Go a little on that footpath, and see if you get reoriented.

I feel very strongly that each person’s spiritual path is their own, and cannot be regulated or mandated. This is about your own spirit and soul and heart and mind, and nobody else’s. And in that spirit, take what you find useful for you here – and disregard the rest. These are things I’ve learned for myself and from the experiences of others, so they may be very very helpful for you right now. Or not. You are the only you.

Benefits of Being a Former Jehovah’s Witness

Benefits of Being a Former Jehovah’s Witness

I was visited again this morning by a lovely Jehovah’s Witness. He seemed to be a very sweet person. I’m laughing like God(ess) was tickling me. In honor of that, this is a post about the benefits of no longer being a Jehovah’s Witness (beyond not having to go door-to-door on a blustery day like today).

I’d like to set the stage with a satirical treatment of the benefits of being a JW. An illuminating example is this post by the Theocratic Joker:

  1. Jehovah’s Witnesses can count the time they share their faith with nonbelievers door-to-door or with young children, thus proving to God, in actual hard numbers, how worthy they are to have everlasting life.
  2. Jehovah’s Witnesses are encouraged not to attend college, which promotes independent thinking and is controlled by demons. They are happy to get a good job as a janitor or a window washer.
  3. Jehovah’s Witnesses get to celebrate the birth of a child but not the anniversary of the birth. They also do not have to worry about birthdays, holidays and Christmas, all of which are pagan and controlled by demons.
  4. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not pass a collection plate at their meetings like the demonized churches do. Instead there are collections boxes in their Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls, and they are often reminded from the platform and in their literature not to forget to contribute. They are also urged to put in their wills that when they die, their house, CD’s, jewelery, life insurance, and cash go directly to the Watchtower Society. The end is fast approaching so their families really have no need for money that should rightfully go to them.
  5. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate holidays so they do not have to be with their families during these special times to enjoy each other’s company and eat the cookies, turkey, ham, pies, and other such food.
  6. Because Jehovah’s Witnesses are the only true Christians on earth, we do not have the problems that other churches have with broken families, adultery, fornication, pedophiles, over drinking, and gossip.
  7. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have to worry about giving food, shelter and clothing to the poor and needy in our community because we give them the Truth which will enable them to live forever in a paradise earth.
  8. Jehovah’s Witnesses are in close contact with God as he speaks to them through the Faithful and Discreet Slave and through the Watchtower.
  9. Jehovah’s Witnesses alone will live in Paradise where there will be no cars, TVs, computers, radios, theaters, washing machines, clothes dryers, refrigerators, stoves, airplanes, electric lights, or malls to buy or clothes. Just miles and miles of garden and lions to pet.
  10. Jehovah’s Witnesses go to a summer District Assembly vacation every year, at the same city every year and have a picnic at their seats during the sessions and then stay at the fine hotels that they are told to stay in.
  11. Jehovah’s Witnesses know the true meaning of the words soon, near, very soon, very near, so close, just around the corner, shortly, near future and rapidly approaching.
  12. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have to worry about getting old or having a retirement plan. See No. 11 above.

Hopefully, now you can understand the many benefits of being a Jehovah’s Witness.

Now, for the benefits of no longer being a Jehovah’s Witness, I would love it if former JWs would post on that topic and link it in the comments. My dear friend Richard Francis started this ball rolling, and I think it’s a good idea to revisit this from time to time – so as to keep remembering what has been gained, and to feel the sense of gratitude that such remembering can give.

The first link is Richard’s list. Reading it made me very happy. The second link includes a few of the lists made by others responding in kind. In the third link, the benefits of leaving are implicit rather than listed, but you can see some heartening trends across all of these.

When I think of the benefits of being freed from “the organization,” it’s pretty overwhelming. Much of it is very difficult to describe to someone who has not been through that kind of experience. However, there are a few major categories into which the benefits tend to fall for me. I’m probably missing some, but here is the best I can do today:

  • Freedom: As many of the posts suggest, this is the overarching category. All of the others assume this one, which has two movements – 1) Liberating freedom from the anti-loving beliefs and practices dictated by the Watchtower leadership – from totalitarian control and fear and arbitrary divisions of thinking and bad argument and small-minded judgments to the corrupting complicity with all of the above – and more. 2) Authentic freedom to grow and thrive and be a real adult in all ways: spiritual, intellectual, emotional, existential. That would encompass such things as thinking things through for one’s self, learning to discern who to respect and admire, being politically concerned and active, giving to charities of one’s choosing, fruitful experimentation with diverse spiritual ideas and practices, sharing authentic friendships with anyone of your choosing, paying attention to (and trusting) one’s own gifts and calling, and much, much, much, MUCH more.
  • Love – as in a Deeper Capacity for, and Ability to: When you view other people only in terms of their possibly contaminating effect on you or their potential as a new convert or as points on your service report, when you view them as about to be murdered by God and as inferior to yourself, and when you are threatened by and suspicious of their ideas and feelings, it is pretty difficult to care and to be kind and to trust and to enter into dialogue and relationship with them. If agape love is reserved for the members of a small in-group, your capacity to love others is very restricted. And if there is no kindness even there, it’s a very stark and cold kind of existence. The love I used to know was always, always conditional – but the spirit is all about love, and the more there is love, the more love there can be. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). No-one is perfect in love because no-one is perfect, but when you can love others without restriction and prejudice, your capacity for love… increaseth (grin). Another benefit of this is that when you learn to love, you also learn that there is much that is lovable about yourself – and this helps to undo the habitual self-loathing that seemed to go along with the self-righteousness training.
  • Spirituality: My spiritual life is much more authentic, more real, more attuned, more… spiritual. I could expand on this, but I’d rather take on that subject matter in terms of specific topics. Suffice to say that there are substantial qualitative differences in the questions I ask, the kinds of answers I consider, and a different perspective even on such things as the role of “I” on the path to God. My thoughts about who and what God might be are radically changed, and that has made a huge difference. I’ve also benefited from a range of spiritual practices that had been denied to me.
  • Ethics: Yes, it’s related. There is a kind of immature ethics that can only define right and wrong in terms of what authority figures dictate or in terms of what results in rewards and punishments. Such an ethics keeps you in an infantile sort of relationship with others. A rule-based ethics can never account for the actual realities of people’s lives. Another kind of ethics is based on kinship networks and group loyalties, but is limited to those groups. As a post-JW, it becomes possible to develop meta-principles and relational thinking that try to take everyone’s interest into account, not just those of a few. When you do not fear to hear a wide range of thoughts and testimonies, you can ethically evolve beyond a reliance on projection, scapegoating and appeals to authority. It also allows you – if you choose – to consider the cultural and socio-political contexts of ethical claims.
  • Laughter, Joy, Celebration: Enjoyment of all kinds, with only the restrictions of my own sense of ethics. I can laugh, be happy, and celebrate whatever I want to – large or small, in a manner conventional or eclectic. I love this.
  • Creativity: I no longer have to feel that weird semi-ashamed veil that was thrown over everything to do with imagination and creativity. I can write, and dance, and sing, and paint, and imagine, and have reveries and insights and all the rest. I can be curious, and investigate, and think, and see new connections between unlike things, finding and constructing new meanings – those mysterious shimmery bits of radiance that I value so highly.
  • Communities: Plural. It is an amazing thing to be able to participate at will in communities -groups of people that share something in common – anything! What an idea! Reading groups, political action groups, online groups, groups based on ideas or hobbies or anything! Wow! You can meet and form relationships with all kinds of interesting people you’d never have met otherwise. This one is a very special benefit, partially because when I realized that I could actually do this, it helped to counteract what was an initial skepticism toward all communities (once burned, twice shy). More than that, the sometimes-overlapping circles of my friends now mean so much to me that I can really compare it against how it once was and see what a difference my friends have made. I am thankful for true friends and for the occasional gift of a real spiritual brother or sister (in a sense that makes a caricature of the words as I used to use them).

Obviously, this post is written for former JWs (and the people who love them). I don’t really think there are a great many benefits associated with being a Jehovah’s Witness. If you are a current JW then you are also welcome to post real benefits that you feel as well, if you wish to do so, and link those in the comments. I have nothing against you, but only against the cruelties of the leadership. There are so many paths to God, and maybe – somehow – this is yours. God has a way of using everything, and I have no doubts about how the cosmos handles complexity.

One of the huge benefits of not being a JW is that I am no longer required to hate spiritual paths that are not identical to the one to which I am called. Nor do I have to fear you – or judge you to be worldly and/or evil – simply for the reason that you are not part of an organization to which I belong. That’s a really, really big benefit from my perspective – but of course there are many, many, many people from many religious traditions who do not agree (may they be blessed).

Christian Compassion is Out?

Christian Compassion is Out?

Among some Americans who call themselves christians, compassion is out. It’s not a big surprise, in a way, since there has been less and less evidence for it being valued among many of the conservative rightwingers.

I have to admit, however, that I’m more than a little taken aback by the seeming actual fact of compassion having being cast out of consideration as a Christian virtue among some communities. Humility seems to be gone too. Now, I’ve given up hope for a revival on the sin of usury, but really… Compassion? Caring? Caritas? Love? All gone, and in their place an addiction to signs and wonders, “casting out demons,” paranoia, hate/fear of others, self-aggrandizement. Does anyone really believe that mucking around in Daniel and Revelations (and all the rest of that tired old dance) it is going to give people guidance in the contemporary world? It seems as though every generation has to learn this particular lesson again.

Baby, the beginning and the end happen all the time – they are always already in process.

I really hope that the “visions” that L (someone I care a great deal for) are having are simply hysterical self-narratives and not real hallucinations. There are levels of self-delusion, and I hope he’s not gone past the limits. Please. Please. I’m really concerned, and worried, and frightened for the future of this very special person.

So I was accused by him (among other things – ouch) of having a compassion-based sense of religion. Accused! Very, very strange. I know that the rather mystical/theoretical weights of my spiritual side don’t mesh well with delusions of grandeur, but attunement with the cosmos doesn’t tend to make you feel too terribly important (except occasionally in the nice feeling that comes with the service that you might be able to offer to others). And I suppose I take seriously the idea that I may be judged as I judge others.

This kicked off a whole train of thought that I’ve been trying to work through for some time now.

Just about everyone that I respect and model myself after in terms of spiritual things is loving, open, encouraging and kind. That’s such a touchstone for me that it is very difficult to think of any kind of spiritual insight at all that could be gained through hate, greed, lust for power, or cruelty – the antonyms of compassion and caring and kindness. Isn’t self-righteousness nearly always hypocritical?

One thing that bugs me a lot is that when you’re really focused on compassion and love, it seems as though things should work out “for the best in this best of all possible worlds.” “They” say (the ubiquitous They) that all’s fair in love, but it’s not. You have to give more than you think you can, and you have to let go of more than seems possible.

It hurts that love doesn’t always make a difference. It hurts that you can’t heal everything with love. It hurts when love is met with ridicule or disinterest or cruelty. And if you really, really love, I guess you learn to transcend the ego-aspects of that – but it’s not easy.

Maybe that’s one reason there are all those iconic images about of Jesus with the bleeding heart (not to mention the “bleeding-heart liberal,” right?) But the blood is also a rose. The sacrifice sometimes means that you feel suffering – you feel the suffering of others, and you (keenly, keenly) feel your own suffering too. I have all sorts of little methods for letting go, but they seem to work episodically if at all. Maybe Buddhism still has something to say to me, but I can’t seem to get to that enlightened place where the love can be at the same time entirely disinterested, without attachment. It doesn’t seem right to me – there is something there I cannot yet comprehend or feel to be true.

I still believe that it’s better to feel than to be numb, or to be entirely protected, but I can be too thin-skinned sometimes too. Sometimes I feel that love should be like a shield – but it’s not. Love is not a spell that allows you to change anything at all about reality or another person. Walking in the spirit of love really involves letting go of more of ego and wishes and desires than I’ve been able to do much of the time. I don’t love everyone except in the most general sense of human decency. The ones that I love truly, I tend also to love fiercely.

One thing that’s difficult for me is to forgive myself for not meeting my own standards, and to believe that God – whatever God may be – loves me for my own unique flawed self. At one time, it was impossible for me to even think a thought like that. Having Ben helped a lot with that, and losing people helped with that, too. Don’t you end up loving all the little things that make someone who they are the very most of all? The universe is so complex, and we are so very small, but we’re still all a part of the incredible diversity that is constructed and destroyed and constructed again with every heartbeat.

I can’t help but believe that loving is better for the soul’s journey, too – that if you speak from love, you can still be wrong or it may not make any real difference, but you’ve at least accepted the being-there (or the there-being, if you like Heidegger) of the love. Love isn’t always there, and it’s certainly not always a motivating force, but when it is maybe it’s just a kind of gift in itself, even if the gift takes its sacrificial tax as well.

Maybe love doesn’t prevent bad things from happening, and maybe it doesn’t heal anything, and maybe it isn’t even heard, much less accepted – but I still think that what you do in and through authentic love and caring and empathy and concern is never wasted, even if there never is any communion at the borders. Maybe it works on soundlessly, transforming things on some other level.

Maybe there’s even a formula for what happens to the love-energy, or maybe that’s just what I wish to be true. But somehow, unreasonably, I have faith there is never too much love .

I just don’t comprehend how authentic spirituality (of all kinds) could not be centered on the compassionate love that seems to be the ideal state of all spiritual seekers ever.

If compassion and caring are rejected, how do you “feel-with” anyone? What is any relationship – with God or the cosmos or humans, or even animals – without it? Can someone even have imagination without compassion? If you can never tolerate the otherness of the other, aren’t you forever in a prison of the same?

Becoming caring, encouraging, forgiving, and less ego-centric are what I think of as the fruits of the spirit, the revelations of grace, the signs that you are starting to learn what you need to learn. And in a way, that’s all the more the case for christians.

If that’s not what you are about, can you really claim to be christian? Can you even claim to be a spiritual being?

Thoughts?

The Golden Compass – What’s so Terrible?

The Golden Compass – What’s so Terrible?

Many Americans have so confused power with spirituality that they can no longer tolerate fictional explorations on some of the very topics that religious communities ought to be considering.

I have received a number of whisper-campaign communications, all based on the idea that the film The Golden Compass is evil and atheistic and horrible and we all need to boycott it and keep our children away from it and all sorts of other nonsense.

I have to admit that it was partly because of this pseudo-religious campaign that I made a special point to take my seven-year old son to the film. I wanted Ben’s thoughts on the movie. He’s a bright kid.

Ben enjoyed it. He liked “the girl” (the central character Lyra) best of all, and he really liked the daemons too. His only criticism was that the fighting scene near the end went on too long. For comparison – he wasn’t that keen on the Harry Potter series, and he found the Narnia movie disturbing because of the portrayal of the death of Aslan (the Jesus Lion).

The Golden Compass is a movie that prioritizes caring and freedom and love and the human spirit over monolithic imperial power structures that manipulate and control others in the name of religion.

I guess that’s pretty threatening to some people.

This is a fantasy work about a different world in which people’s souls walk beside them as animals. I think they made a mistake in pronouncing daemon as “demon,” but it’s a charming concept. When you are a child, your daemon changes – like your spirit/soul that is developing, changing. Once you grow up, your daemon solidifies into a shape that stays unchanged. The daemon expresses the spirit, the soul. Cosmic dust of some kind – a beautiful thing, like a visualization of the spirit of love – moves in a current through the daemon to the human being. There is a powerful image near the beginning of the film that shows the dust as it flows into an older, very joyful looking man through his daemon. It was like the aurora borealis, and I’ve seen religious paintings with that same kind of feel. The daemon mediates, like the Christ – close and personal, the expression of spirit. (I did their daemon quiz before the movie came out. My daemon is named Aeschylus. He’s been a butterfly and a spider and all sorts of other things, so I guess I’m still not settled into my spiritual form – hee hee.)

The Magisterium, a structure of authority without the spirit of love, wants to interfere with this arrangement in which everyone participates in the dust of the cosmos through the mediation of their own spirit, their own soul. Why? Because they are the “Authority” and this undermines their power. They look a lot like the most nightmarish Crusades version of the Catholic church, or like the structure of the Empire in the Star Wars movies. Draw your own connections.

I would think that many Christians (especially Protestants) would be inclined to feel that the church, if it is only an idol – a power structure that serves ultimately to be worshiped for itself – is against Christian doctrine in the first place. The “Authority” for Christians is God, not an institution that exists solely for command and control. Moreover, this Magisterium wants to control all the parallel worlds, not just the one in the story. Christopher Lee and Derek Jacobi are fantastic.

A sub-branch of the Magisterium has been kidnapping children (by attacking their daemons – whatever the daemon feels, the person does too) and bringing them to a horrible place in the north. Part lab, part camp – the installation is there to “help the children grow up.” Ultimately, it exists to cut the thread between the daemon and the child, thus cutting them off from the dust (the communion of the cosmos) so that they may be more easily controlled.

That the power figures in the Magisterium know that this is wrong is clear in every facial gesture of the main characters. Nicole Kidman is an amazing villain in this film (and it cracks me up that the name is “Mrs. Coulter” – who is her husband? We don’t know, but it’s possible that she is also Lyra’s mother). When Lyra is mistakenly put into the “machine,” Mrs. Coulter throws herself at it – in a total panic – to stop the “cut” from happening. Despite a room full of switches and tubes and chemicals, the machine is really nothing more than a cage made of the kind of metal fencing that you will find everywhere in a ghetto. The visual dissonance between the cage and the rest of the room is arresting, and suggestive.

An electrical charge slowly moves down the metal edge until the “cut” is made. The one child bereft of his daemon that we see is so traumatized that he would never be the same – and you won’t have missed that he had been the one to question a nurse-like monitor on the truthfulness of the letter that they were asked to write. It comes across as torture.

Lyra is a delightful character. Her name reminds me of the constellation that inspired the musical instrument. Interesting, too is that lyres were associated with Apollonian virtues of moderation and equilibrium – as opposed to the Dionysian pipes which represented ecstasy and celebration. Maybe that’s why her daemon is named Pan – and is often shown as a ferret… ferreting out the truth between the ideologies? For me, she was a bit like a tougher version of the girl in The Secret Garden – except that she is also a hero in her own right. She is helped by the cosmos every time that she acts with empathy and kindness, every time that she stands up to evil. It doesn’t hurt that she is self-directed and clever, either.

One thing that struck me is that the characters in the film seem taken from a wide variety of literary genres – futuristic sci-fi, a Mark Twain-like cowboy/pilot figure, a 40s film star, armored bears, children straight from a Dickens novel, pirates, beautiful flying witches, all sorts of things. I particularly liked the Gyptians – seafaring Egyptian Romani perhaps? The acting was great, and it’s clear that everyone had a good time making this movie. The characters of Sam Elliott and Eva Green will resonate with me for a long time.

The major problem I could see would be with the use of the alethiometer – the “compass” that can read the dust and which reveals truth to one who learns how to read it – some literal-minded people might see that as a form of divination, I suppose – but it’s a small point and I haven’t seen anything that even talked about that.

The larger story of the film is one in which an authentic spirituality – full of caring and curiosity and all sorts of other qualities – is threatened by absolute power. For some people, this power might be the institution of the church. That’s how it is imagined here. But it’s really about the grasping for power in itself – the kind of power that kills all possibility of human happiness, self-determination, community, and truth.

The books are written by a “secular humanist” – so what? Many religious values and questions are still very active within the hearts of people who do not believe in the God that is described to us by the institutions of our time. I don’t care what the beliefs of an author might be. Great literature has always wrestled with religious questions from a variety of perspectives. The secular humanist, the atheist, and the pious can certainly share the value judgment in which power used to manipulate people is wrong. Jesus spoke against the religious power structure of his time, after all. People are confusing goodness with loyalty to an institution if they feel that this film is morally wrong for their children to see. Authentic spirituality cannot come from ignorance or from blind obedience to the institutions of men.

The message of the film is a good one. You could even do a religious reading here – Lyra as a savior figure, the Magisterium as the control of the planet by satanic forces. Religion as corrupted by power is attacked – as it should be! A little girl protects and defends her friends. Good prevails over evil – at least for the time being.

The movie is not a masterpiece, but it’s a fun movie and we enjoyed it.

The movement against the movie is a symptom of the deep pathology of some of our “religious” communities.

Care. Love. Laugh. Think.

I redid the Daemon Chooser. Now it chooses Pereus (a tiger) for me.

Recovering JWs Mailbox

Recovering JWs Mailbox

From N in Australia

just saying hello and showing appreciation for your website, especially the section for ex-jw’s. i am an eighteen-year old female from australia and have not been to a meeting for a couple of years, since my mother got disfellowshipped.

i was hurt and disgusted by the way these ‘christians’, whom i had grown up believing were the best and only friends i would ever have, treated this beautiful, good-hearted, hardworking woman who continually gave everything she had for members of the congregation who were in need, for jehovah himself, for the harmony of her family and the wellbeing of her children. she lived patiently under one roof with the ‘family head’ who is an emotionally dead, selfish workaholic, who constantly put religion and prestige within the congregation before family. (one of his first questions on an early study with a brother: ‘so when do i become an elder?’) seventeen years later and my father is currently a ministerial servant and perhaps well on his way to being an elder, which will mean further lack of appearances in the family home. good luck to him, may he sleep at night.

i am losing my very best friend, a lovely boheme with a beautiful nature and some of my most beloved memories. we met when i moved south and went to the first meeting in the new area, we were thirteen. i have visited her every year since i left the area, and every year she sees how i have ‘strayed’ – i never excommunicated myself nor was i disfellowshipped, just stopped going to meetings. last time i got a tearful lecture about how i have to be there in the end, and if i dont make time for jehovah he wont make time for me. she seemed shocked by my offhand self-pity and i could feel her withdrawing emotionally as we spoke. i think about her every day, and miss her as one does such an influential and lovely part of their childhood.
these days i have regained most of my self-worth. i guess being young and resilient helps.

i understand that a god who is love cannot intend for his one true organization to plague earnest followers with guilt all their waking human hours. i understand that god cannot be love and at the same time influence an organization to punish good people by depriving them of fellowship, respect, and the basic human dignity of a polite ‘hello’ from old, old friends. i no longer feel anger when my mother averts her eyes or leaves a shop without explanation, but pity the misguided people on the other end of the stern, self-righteous glances. i can look them in the eye and smile with warmth instead of insolence.

because i have a wonderful boyfriend of three years, a younger brother who i am assisting in his recovery, a divorced, spurned and broken but growing mother who i will always look after and love; and all they have is a household full of tension and lies. ‘stumble’ that. – N

Once you’ve recognized the disconnect between the words and the lack of kindness that’s really there, it’s hard to ignore ever again.

It’s funny how we can put up with all sorts of things aimed at ourselves, but when people we love are hurt, that’s when it really hits home.

Since you won’t hear it elsewhere (unless you are very very fortunate), I would like to praise you for rallying your heart to the defense of others, for supporting and helping your brother, and especially for being there for your mom. You have work to do. This is a different kind of service – it’s all about caring.

We see the results of control by fear… that capacity for care and compassion and love gradually ebbs away. You can’t live in fear and continue to build a house of love – fear always leads to – and I think is a part of – hate.

With you, I reject the notion that a god of love would have intended that. JWs don’t talk much about grace (loving-kindness?) and they don’t talk about Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness, seeing god in the face of the other – even prostitutes and – eek! – tax collectors.

Like many of the neo-conservative right wingers here in the US, JWs rely on the texts concerning the tribal war god YHWH. And they don’t do it very well, as any rabbi could tell you.

I am proud of you for stepping out, for seeking the unique path and set of questions that have everything to do with the way you fit into the cosmos and nothing to do with the free sales force of a publishing empire based in Brooklyn New York.

By their own dogma, they are bloodguilty. They have been a stumbling block to the faithful.

Even more important, really – you have already grown spiritually to the point where you can smile with warmth, modelling the behavior that is better, feeling the difference deep inside. I know you feel the difference.

Sometimes it helps so much just to know that other people out there “get it.” Feel free to write to me anytime. Please give your mother and brother a few extra hugs. As you’ve learned, caring matters.

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