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Grief for a View of the God-Character

Grief for a View of the God-Character

I remember the primal anguish that is born out of the belief that God is the source of both love and pain.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve observed that the feeling toward the universe it engendered is very similar to that of a hostage, a victim of abuse, a prisoner. Instead of creating a subjectivity of love in freedom, of caritas and kindness, and peace, it seemed to create an obsessive and paradoxical longing and fear that felt so meaningful that it was difficult to release.

The first stage of exit was pure rage, in my case perhaps only because of some hard-wired sense of self-preservation. If I hadn’t become angry enough, I never would have left. Yes, I also wouldn’t have spent years in college, or racked up student loans, or seen my career path veer off into something I never expected, but I also wouldn’t have had anywhere to stand, wouldn’t have slowly reconstructed a space in which I could live.

I’ve been thinking about the pathological aspects of religion for many years now. Talking with others who left the Jehovah’s Witnesses has been very healing, and I’m so very happy that such discussions have been made available. I was alone, it seemed, at first. As much as our conversations mutually heal, there are still times when the raw feelings burst through. Yes, even now when it seems that early experience shouldn’t matter anymore, I look around at our cultural landscape and see all the similarities to the dynamics that I felt way back then. The stated arguments, then the cruelties beneath them. It’s part of the reason that I follow politics so closely.

When you’ve lived in a space where justice is proclaimed, but unkindness rules, you feel things. I’ve always been too sensitive to that difference, to the unfairness, and it’s only expanded into more understanding of structural, institutionalized unfairness. For that reason, I was never able to reach that enlightenment space that some highly-evolved religious people sometimes reach, where you’re in tune with the love of the cosmos and shine out in peace and love because of that.

I am amazed at people who first question God because of logical arguments – it’s why I was first interested in philosophy and theology. I never expected answers, I was just fascinated that anyone could ever manage to think clearly about an embedded belief system. For me, the questions just keep getting better and better.

But first, I had to step away from the thing that felt so inherent to my soul. It helped and hurt that I was a woman, and one gifted with both imagination and intelligence. I was rewriting stories all the time.

Throwback moments are still powerful because I still recognize them. If they ring true, they can almost call me back. Some versions of religion look nice, but they don’t address this hard-core total involvement of the person. The pathological edges of religion do – and this, I think is both their advantage and their biggest threat. They encourage power distortions – masochism and sadism, entwined, enthrallment and rebellion, entwined. Fanaticism has incredible payoffs. I understand.

When I saw the song below performed, I didn’t know the words. I didn’t have to know them, although they do fit (a bit strangely so).

What I saw was a priestess exorcising her demon. It was so powerful that I was shaken for the rest of the night.

Every time I hear it, like I accidentally did over my morning coffee, I feel it punch the solar plexus of my soul. I cry every time, and I always remember, I remember how it felt.

This was how I felt about God.

Although I haven’t been in that particular space for many years, it still has a power, and as much as I remind myself of the path of forgiveness and kindness and peace, as much as I am more lovingly attuned now, I still lack the total transformation that would make this song just a song like any other.

Music is a personal thing. Everyone projects onto music to some extent. This is not meant to be a song about God, but it resonates there for me.

For you. In remembrance, in grief. To sing, to exorcise your demons, and perhaps to be able to voice some aspect of the experience that conversation can’t really ever address. But, lovelies, sing something sweet afterward… If you can grok it, this one takes strength to hear.

Alanis Morissette, “Sympathetic Character”

I was afraid you’d hit me if I’d spoken up
I was afraid of your physical strength
I was afraid you’d hit below the belt
I was afraid of your sucker punch
I was afraid of your reducing me
I was afraid of your alcohol breath
I was afraid of your complete disregard for me
I was afraid of your temper
I was afraid of handles being flown off of
I was afraid of holes being punched into walls
I was afraid of your testosterone

I have as much rage as you have
I have as much pain as you do
I’ve lived as much hell as you have
and I’ve kept mine bubbling under for you

You were my best friend
You were my lover
You were my mentor
You were my brother
You were my partner
You were my teacher
You were my very own sympathetic character

I was afraid of verbal daggers
I was afraid of the calm before the storm
I was afraid for my own bones
I was afraid of your seduction
I was afraid of your coercion
I was afraid of your rejection
I was afraid of your intimidation
I was afraid of your punishment
I was afraid of your icy silences
I was afraid of your volume
I was afraid of your manipulation
I was afraid of your explosions
I have as much rage as you have
I have as much pain as you do
I’ve lived as much hell as you have
and I’ve kept mine bubbling under for you
(repeat 2 x)

You were my keeper
You were my anchor
You were my family
You were my saviour
and therein lay the issue
and therein lay the problem

Michael Jackson, Child Abuse, and JW Apologist Firpo Carr

Michael Jackson, Child Abuse, and JW Apologist Firpo Carr

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” – William James

Recently, I participated in an online discussion in the comments of an article written by a prominent friend/adviser to the late Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson & Jehovah’s Witnesses, by Firpo Carr

The Michael Jackson case and the issue of child abuse are both important to me, but I didn’t really know who Firpo Carr was when I made my first comment. I’d run into his name before, but I was a little under-prepared for his particular style of debate. I felt pretty battered by the end of it, much like what happens when I try to have a political discussion with someone who has already been stirred up by their favorite propaganda machine.

His back and forth with Jerry Bergman is illuminating and true to form.

A sampling of Carr’s other L.A. Sentinel articles for you to chew on:

One article on money and priorities took an argument that was very familiar to me from JW days, and made it much more compelling and interesting. He’s clearly a smart guy, but something….

I hadn’t really thought about this very much before, but there might be a serious educational problem with a dependence on some forms of long-distance learning, especially at the upper levels in the humanities. Potential scholars may simply lose too much by not participating on-site at their universities. There is a sort of human osmosis effect that can only be learned by being there. It’s important to have both peers that are interacting with you and trustworthy mentors that can call attention to your blind spots without attacking you as a person. It may be more difficult to absorb the values and norms of dialogue and debate if you’re not part of the ebb and flow of discussion.

On campus, you become part of a network of friendship that includes worthy adversaries, and you develop different skills as you learn how to respect people independently of whether or not you have disagreements. Constant exposure to a wide range of scholarship and discussion not only helps the scholar to develop an ethical sense of discernment, but also models the qualities that they admire (or reject!) in a teacher. At its best, university life at the graduate level is amazingly liberating, intellectually stimulating, and fulfilling.

It’s not just the “immorality” (sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll) of university life that JWs object to, it’s the training in strong interpretations and critical thinking, along with the ethics of scholarship, that would be dangerous for them to condone in their followers. Independent thinking is against their religion.

Firpo Carr has written a fair number of books. Good for him for being so prolific! However, some supplemental reading might be helpful. Start with a selection from my page of reading recommendations for former JWs. To that, add:

Why? Because this latter list contains non-JW-influenced resources for understanding some aspects of the mindset that can lead people to be manipulated – and possibly continue the chain.

To stick to the topic at hand, though, readers should be aware that child abuse among Jehovah’s Witnesses is a systemic problem, one that is reinforced by setting unreachable standards of perfection, demonizing “worldly authorities,” defending questionable biblical interpretations with out-of-context snippets, defending the two-witness rule for any accusation of foul play, subordinating women, presenting an almost comical style of discourse and argument, hours of weekly meetings for repetition and reinforcement, the paucity of choices for a mate, the fear of disfellowshipping and abandonment by friends and family, the threat of demonic possession, the undermining of kindness, and the almost complete lack of pastoral care.

Firpo Carr can of course believe what he likes and project what he needs to – his path is none of my concern – but it’s a very odd position from which to deny or rationalize child abuse. Even more so now, I wish that I had followed my instincts while Michael was still alive. Michael Jackson describes some of the abuse he and his siblings suffered at the hands of his father in this video.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mc8HjdK7kJ8[/youtube]

Watch that, then read our discussion. Remember that Firpo Carr says he was Michael’s friend. I’m sorry, but I have serious doubts that Firpo Carr brought much of spiritual value to the friendship. Now he says that Michael Jackson took him aside and told him that he wished his children to be brought up as Jehovah’s Witnesses – and to have them study with Carr!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnAhcHMgR_8[/youtube]

I wonder if Michael said that to anyone else, or (shall I be this cynical?) if he said it to anyone at all.

In related news – some new documentation on the Watchtower child sexual abuse settlement. It’s not hearsay – it’s signed, sealed with gag orders, wrapped up in lies, and delivered:

“Documents show that the church knew for years that some prominent members were sexually abusing children and did little.”

The Watchtower PR department issued a statement. “For the sake of the victims in these cases, we are pleased that a settlement has been reached.” Sigh. It’s not for the sake of the victims, or their policies would be different.

This is the way they protect known predators. Imagine how they handle psychological and physical child abuse, and then start Googling for the testimonies…

Here’s a sweet sad Monty Python/Michael Jackson mashup. Maybe it will start to express the inexpressible value of caring and kindness.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1Z04RssKWI[/youtube]

For a while, Michael was able to redefine and transform his experience. He created music that brought fun – and even joy – to people all over the world.

I will remember him that way.

Arabic Name Tags

Arabic Name Tags

Would you like to see your name written in beautiful Arabic letters? The author of My Name in Arabic is offering framed tags for free. I’ve reduced them 50% for display here, but I’ve got the originals for email signatures.

PLEASE stop requesting me to do these for you! I don’t know Arabic – click on the above link for requests.

Here is the simple image for “Heidi”: Heidi in Arabic

Heidi has no equivalent I know of in Arabic. However, it’s funny how it sounds like some other words. In Lebanese Arabic, ‘Heidi’ means ‘this’ or ‘that’. In Berber, like Tashelhit spoken in North Africa, ‘Heidi’ means ‘here is the dog’, ‘aydi’ meaning a ‘dog, and ‘ha’ used as a demonstrative pronoun. I thought it would be funny for you to know about that.

Yeah, funny. Makes me think of all the German Shepherds I have met who shared my name.*

Here is the transliteration of my first (and last name) in a beautiful frame.

Heidi N* in Arabic About my last name:

G has no equivalent in Arabic, so we use a close letter to it, that sounds like French R.

He (or she?) was very generous, and also translated VirusHead. This wasn’t transliterated by sound, because it’s not really a name but rather two translatable words mushed together.

VirusHead in Arabic

‘Virus” is the same, and “head” is “ra’as.” In Arabic, “head” comes first, so it would be “the head of the virus.”

“Head of the virus” evokes very different meanings for me than “VirusHead.”

I’m thinking of some structure not unlike …um …. let’s say a tadpole.

Or maybe a being with superpowers over viral colonies – the Virus Queen? Heh-heh

Actually, when I was thinking about viruses day and night, I sometimes felt that they resisted – as though the abyss began to stare back at me. There were enough coincidences and even synchronicities to make me toy with magical thinking. When you’re thinking about one kind of thing most of the time, I think it’s natural to start seeing all kinds of connections – even to start projecting them. We are creatures of pattern recognition. I never thought of myself as controlling viruses, but rather felt at times as though they were playing with me. I tended to anthropomorphize, as did many of the authors. I had to keep reminding myself, especially when I was states of information overload, that viruses have no agency. They don’t intend anything. They don’t have a brain, and they don’t think. We’re not even sure about whether or not they are technically alive – at the very least, we’ve had to rethink the definitions of life.

This kind of gonzo scholarship produced insights, though – especially for the AIDS chapter and the chapter on vampires and communion. If the Ph.D. is meant to celebrate mastery over one very small specialization, I guess I could claim to be the “head” of the virus. However, it also reminds me of some of the biblical interpretations of headship, such as the husband’s power over the wife. Sometimes people forget that even in the most literal interpretations, the individual man is given power over his wife only on the condition that he love her as himself.

(Dominion. If I remember correctly, the meaning of the Hebrew word (rdh or radah) is better translated as something like “stewardship” or “guardianship” – which puts a man in the position of guardianship and care – the responsibility to care for and protect. Even in strong instances of its use, the implication is that of a benevolent rule where the ability to direct is linked to the requirement of the ruler to care for his subjects. Adam was put into the Garden to serve it and till it (‘abad) and to guard and preserve it (shamar). There is also a pun between the meanings of Adam and ground – humans are made from and part of the earth, not lords over it. Our “radah” relationship to creation is to represent God back to it, to develop and refine and beautify it. Our ‘radah’ is to be, not for our own sake, but for the sake of the other. In that sense, it is a form of service, not mastery. It reverses the harm done by exploitation, and models righteousness.

A steward is someone who looks after property, farm – crops and animals – you know, husbandry – while the lord is away. All very evocative. The steward does not own the land, you know, just as we do not own the earth. When the lord returns, there is an accounting of how well the steward cared for the lord’s interests… I guess if we destroy the planet, the cockroaches shall then have “dominion.”)

In any case, I have no dominion over actual viruses (the -es form is incorrect, but customary and much less awkward in English), nor do I have mastery over the complex bio-chemical transactions of the virus. But perhaps I could imagine myself as an emissary of the mute and mostly invisible virus, a representative to the court of human imaginaries. Something like that. I do not see a crown/head of power in that – nor the phallus/head of domination. But I do hold in stewardship a set of ideas and connections regarding viral forms, figures, associations, and family resemblances. More like the poet, translator, word-painter – or the one who arranges family picnics. Did you know that matrix is Latin for womb? I am alert to, let’s say, pregnant viral moments of replication/mutation, contagion, interconnection, networked lines of association – tracing out the emergent discourse of the viral, seeing that the discourse itself shows viral characteristics and tendencies. I think of the shimmering stories of Jorge Luis Borges – and I always felt as though I were softly, tentatively exploring the garden of forking paths – or the library of Babel.

* from above: In personality, I’m not so much like a German Shepherd myself, but am closer to a Canaan or Bernese Mountain Dog – at least according to these blog quizzes.

Which breed of dog is most like you?
Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dog (Bernese Sennenhund) – No bones about it, you’re a good-hearted, people-loving Bernese Mountain Dog. Down-to-earth and loyal, no one works or plays harder than you do. You put your nose to the grindstone when it really counts, but you never neglect your social calendar. Simultaneously strong and sweet, you’re very tuned-in to the feelings and needs of the other dogs you run with. Without having to be asked, you always have a helping paw to lend and a sympathetic shoulder to lean on. “Communication” is your middle name, and when that’s paired with your unswerving devotion, you get a breed that everyone respects and trusts. Woof!

Is it ever wrong to terminate a pregnancy?

Is it ever wrong to terminate a pregnancy?

I ended up writing such a long reply to a question posed on a previous post that I’m posting it as well.

Vance from Meditations on an Eyeball asked:

Heidi, as a “pragmatic contextual ethicist with a spiritual sensibility” do you think there are situations where it would be wrong for a woman to choose to terminate her pregnancy? I am assuming that you do not reject the concepts of right and wrong because in my understanding those notions are central to the work of an ethicist. I am not expecting you to generate a black and white decision matrix, but I would be interested in your shades of grey.

It’s a strange question. I am no fan of abortion per se, and I wish that all women were in a position to welcome their pregnancies. In my desire and fantasies, the world would be a happy place, full of joy and laughter and friendship and love. I wish a lot of things, but this is the reality in which we exist.

My answer is less than systematic, but I opted out of systematic theology/philosophy when I discovered how heartless it could be. I am not an absolutist, but rather a contextual (some would say “situational”) ethicist. I believe in thoughtful analysis, including all the factors that affect the choice in a specific instance, and in ranking relative priorities – including religious beliefs, community standards, material realities, and the like. For each person, in each community, at each point in history, these might be reflected differently. We each speak from where we stand, and we are in some sense projects “under construction” for our entire lives. Although complexity and some amount of ambiguity are very anxiety-provoking for some, I find in them a source of hope. It’s not “wishy-washy” to admit that life is a complicated matter at times, and that major decisions are worth thinking through in the context through which they have arisen.

So:

Yes, there are situations in which I believe it is ethically wrong for a woman to terminate a pregnancy. This is not an issue with easy answers. Abortion is not an easy decision to make, nor should it be. Abortion is a controversial subject for a reason.

My concern has more to do with the power of that decision – which is each woman’s to make – being taken from her. Perhaps it is unfair, but I can’t help believing sometimes that if men were the ones who got pregnant, the whole debate would be framed somewhat differently.

My own judgment is that the longer one waits – or has to wait – to terminate a pregnancy, the more problematic it becomes to do so. I would rather see an abortion done at 8-10 weeks than later. I would rather see a late-term abortion than a baby in a dumpster.

I do not approve of woman using abortion as a form of birth control, or being irresponsible about family planning in general (although men share in that responsibility, it more often than not is left up to the woman).

I do have problems with gender selection as a reason for abortion. If that is the only reason, it does not seem sufficient to me.

I have issues with women who use abortion as a way of punishing men – that’s not often discussed, but I don’t idealize people.

I wish that I could think of some way to preserve the rights of the father, but I can’t. Ultimately, the woman is the one who pays the price – with her body, with her life – and so she has to be the one who makes the decision. I think that most women involve the man who got them pregnant if they can. Sometimes a woman fears to bring a baby into the world because she doesn’t want to subject her own child to the abuse that she hasn’t been capable of escaping.

Having (like many women) been the victim of rape, it is difficult to imagine the strength that would be required to carry such a baby to term. Some people can choose to do that, and redeem the situation – for others it would be like being raped again. And then, what about the welfare of that child, born into that situation (especially if it was also an incestuous rape)?

Then there are other situations – abject poverty, drug addiction, psychologically disturbed women or those in a state of denial about whether they’ve even had sex, etc. When you are familiar with some of the seamier aspects of human existence, there are no end of examples of situations where, when you look at the entire set of circumstances, you can see the reasons why abortion might be the better choice. At the least, there should be provision for psychological and medical consultation for all pregnant woman – not to push a decision either way, but to help her make her own decision in a timely manner.

I count as friends a couple who were so opposed to abortion that they refused to do any prenatal testing – why would it matter if they weren’t going to consider terminating? (My own choice would always be to have all the available information – even if one chooses to go forward, it’s better to know in advance, and line up resources and so on. But that’s me.) Their little girl was born with what turned out to be a very serious, even fatal genetic defect. Yes, they enjoyed her, but not for very long. I don’t think they regretted their decision (although it would be difficult to admit to anyone if they did), but everyone should have a choice on whether or not to continue a pregnancy that will have disastrous consequences.

In my preliminary research on a doctor that I was referred to once, I discovered that there was a case in which he didn’t tell client that there was something wrong with the pregnancy. He was Catholic and evidently suspected that she would abort, so he simply withheld the information – effectively depriving her of the choice. The baby had a very short, painful life – and the parents found that there was nothing that they could charge him with – they tried “wrongful death” but of course it didn’t work. This same doctor chose to inform a girlfriend of mine that he was aware of her feminist political activity while he had her up in stirrups. Incidentally, as a result of a surgery he did on her, she had to have a hysterectomy. No, I don’t think I’ll go to a doctor like that – but where is the oversight?

In my own case, I had a pregnancy where there was no heartbeat at 8-9 weeks. It was an unexpected pregnancy, but not an unwelcome one. I went through a number of tests to make absolutely sure that the pregnancy was not viable, then – on the advice of my doctor – had a D&C when the miscarriage wasn’t happening. Earlier that year, I had an ectopic pregnancy that very nearly took my life and my medical team didn’t want to see me in the emergency room again, especially not so soon. They were concerned about my health. You see, my health counts too.

Some right-wingers would consider both of these scenarios to be abortions. Some right-wingers want to see to it that doctors are not trained even to perform these very necessary procedures.

When a baby is wanted and welcomed into the world, there is no greater experience. I loved being pregnant and I love being a mom to our son. I also still grieve my two losses. I was incredibly comforted when I learned that there is no brain activity that early in pregnancy. That’s one of the reasons that I feel that if an abortion felt to be the better choice, then it should be done as soon as possible. Sometimes that’s possible, and sometimes it’s not.

There are women who have had abortions or have given their child up for adoption, and have profound regrets about having done so. Their experiences count, too, and they should be heard. However, their experiences should not be generalized onto everyone. There are many, many women who are grateful that they were able to terminate a pregnancy early and safely. For them, even living with their regrets (and I think regret and grief are entirely appropriate) they made the choice they felt they had to make.

I would like to see a process – that wasn’t tilted to either side – to help women make decisions like this. In some cases, the choices on all sides are so difficult. Generally speaking, Americans seem to be a bit undereducated on how to make ethical decisions. Listen to the experiences of others, look at rules and traditions, ask yourself how your decision might be affected if the situation were altered, how you might feel about it in a year, in five years, in twenty years, etc. List out the pros and cons of all available options to you, and rank them according to their importance. Site quietly and ask yourself, in your deepest authentic self, what the answer is for you. We tend to simplify too easily. Sometimes the question of whether something is right or wrong needs a few more steps of consideration than we are willing to give it. We allow others to do our thinking for us, far too easily and too often.

The point is that there is a wide range of situations, attitudes, and realities to consider.

I would not be so opposed to this (stacked, divided) Supreme Court decision if it had included provisions for the mother’s health and for medical judgment to override the general rule. I would not be so opposed to it if family planning centers and education were not being cut, if women (and young or poor women especially) had the care they needed to make decisions earlier. Third trimester abortions are very problematic, but I still feel that it is out of place for the government to intervene in medical decisions or to step in to override the woman’s choice. There is some question as well about the extension of abortion bans across the board – even to early pregnancy.

People opposed to abortion are free to choose not to have one.

The thought of mandatory abortions fills us with horror. Then we feel the intrusion. Because we are so divided, because abortion is such a complicated, controversial and difficult topic, I think the government oversteps its bounds here. They’ve been eroding Roe v Wade for some time, even using a murdered pregnant woman to establish a new status for the fetus – one that didn’t even exist in the religious world (as I found out when I tried to find rituals or symbols to deal with my own grief).

As I pointed out in the post, it is the height of hypocrisy to oppose abortion while promoting abstinence-only sex education and enforcing a global gag rule (in countries where HIV/AIDS is rampant, opposing condom use could be considered genocidal). It’s pretty clear that the domestic agenda is to control women (as the religious right has no problem acknowledging) and to get votes from their somewhat manipulated base. Whatever their own personal views on abortion, American women – and men too – ought to be appalled to see women’s bodies and rights used as a playing card.

Hatred is not Religious

Hatred is not Religious

Peace be in you. Peace be through you.

I feel a great urge for peace today. I am thinking about some of the wise and kind people that I have met, and the way I felt when I was near them. There are people of the book(s). There are people of people, so to speak. There are people of the cosmos. Each have their strengths and blind spots, but they share some things in common.

Such people seem to leave sparkles of light wherever they go. And some of them don’t even know it.

Caring and love are much better than hatred and fear, creating a better world for everyone.

It seems so bizarre to me to feel the need to restate what I would think should be blindingly obvious: The lust for power (with all its accompanying hatred, violence, fear, and greed) is not a religious virtue.

There is a kind of mirroring between the radical pseudo-Christians of dominionism and the radical Islamicists. Both groups of hardline zealots appear – almost paradoxically – damaged, hurt and fearful. They don’t have the courage to accept others for what they are and let God be the judge. The very capacity for compassion and respectful relations with others seems stunted. Perhaps they fight to ward off fear, or in desperation, or simply from a lack of better models and leaders. Perhaps they are angry about real experiences, and perhaps some of them have valid complaints that should be discussed more openly in the public sphere.

But they claim God’s judgment for their own, and that is not a virtue in either Islam or Christianity.

Both political movements (let’s just admit that they are more political than religious, shall we?) seem very interested in earthly power, even to the point of murder and war. They have national interests. They seem very comfortable believing that they have an exclusive connection to God, and that they can speak with God’s authority.

They practice domination… and I think that pretty much explains why the big fight for the Christian (de-)”con”structionists (it can’t be “Reconstruction” if you think about it) is to display the ten commandments instead of, say, the sermon on the mount. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

I’m not someone who relies on scriptural texts for my sense of ethics or for my relationship with God (there are many reasons for that, and perhaps I’ll explain my reasoning on another occasion).

Nonetheless, there are lots and lots and lots of people who feel that their sacred books are vitally, even supremely, important. These cousins – Jews, Christians, and Muslims – are collectively “the people of the book.”

So let’s review some points from some of their sacred texts.

Pick your own translation – and sure, your in-group’s interpretation if you know it – and chew on some of this.

The Qur’an (also known by the spelling Koran)

Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors.
(2:190)

Do not say to one who offers you peace, “You are not a believer,” seeking the spoils of this life. For God has abundant treasure. You used to be like them, after all, and then God blessed you.
(4:94)

Oh you who believe, stand up firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even if it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor; for God can best protect both. Do not follow any passion, lest you not be just. And if you distort or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that you do.’
(4:135)

If it had been thy Lord’s Will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! Wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!
(10:99)

Those who act kindly in this world will have kindness.
(39.10)

Goodness and evil are not equal. Repel evil with what is better. Then that person with whom there was hatred, may become your intimate friend! And no one will be granted such goodness
except those who exercise patience and self-restraint, none but people of the greatest good fortune.
(41:34-35)

It may be that God will grant love (and friendship) between you and those whom ye (now) hold as enemies. For God has power (over all things), and God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. God does not forbid you, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for God loves those who are just.
(60:7-8)

Our Lord! Perfect our light for us and forgive us our sins, for verily You have power over all things.
(66:8)

The Prophet once saw a funeral procession passing by a street in Madina. The Prophet was seated at that time. On seeing the funeral, the Prophet stood up in respect. At this one of his companions said: ‘O Prophet, it was the funeral of a Jew (not a Muslim).’ The Prophet replied: ‘Was he not a human being?’

Peace be upon you.

The Bible: The Christian Scriptures (under the new law of the Christ)

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
(John 15:12,17)

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
(Matthew 7:1)

And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and the disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those
who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’
(Matthew 9:10-13)

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
(Matthew 25:31-46)

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. Ad if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
(Luke 6:32-36)

An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.’
(Luke 9:46-48)

And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’ But Jesus turned and rebuked them, And he said, ‘You do not know what kind of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.’ And they went to another village.
(Luke 9:54-56)

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!’
(John 2.13-16)

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.’
(Luke 16:10-14)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(Romans 12:21)

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
(Ephesians 2:14-22)

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
(James 1:26-27)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:8-9)

Peace be with you.

The Bible: The Hebrew Scriptures (under the law of the Convenant)

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty and the terrible God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.
(Deuteronomy 10:17-18)

May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
(Numbers 6:26)

My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain.
(Ezekiel 33:31)

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.
(Psalm 145:8-9)

My son, if sinners entice you,
do not consent.
If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood,
let us wantonly ambush the innocent;
like Sheol let us swallow them alive
and whole, like those who go down to the Pit;
we shall find all precious goods,
we shall fill our houses with spoil;
throw in your lot among us,
we will all have one purse”–
my son, do not walk in the way with them,
hold back your foot from their paths;
for their feet run to evil,
and they make haste to shed blood.
(Proverbs 1.10-16)

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.’
(Numbers 6:24-26)

He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken. All the nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.
(Micah 4:3-5)

Shalom.

Intolerance lies at the core of evil.
Not the intolerance that results from any threat or danger.
But intolerance of another being who dares to exist.
Intolerance without cause. It is so deep within us,
because every human being secretly desires
the entire universe to himself.
Our only way out is to learn
compassion without cause. To care for each other
simple because that ‘other’ exists.
– Rabbi Menachem Mendle

Peace be in you. Peace be through you.

Language is a Virus

Language is a Virus

I was looking at my dissertation today, wondering if I can yet make a readable book out of it. Now that I’ve got a little distance from what was an agonizing process (at least until the last bit, when I actually started enjoying it), it seems better than I thought at the time. Today I’m posting a very select few of the quotations I used as a kind of shorthand that helps me remember the train of thought that’s at the back of a novel I’m writing. Between mommy-brain and constant distractions, it might be helpful to keep this here – as a touchstone of sorts.

My general theory since 1971 has been that the word is literally a virus, and that it has not been recognised as such because it has achieved a state of relatively stable symbiosis with its human host; that is to say, the word virus (the Other Half) has established itself so firmly as an accepted part of the human organism that it can now sneer at gangster viruses like smallpox and turn them in to the Pasteur Institute.
– William Burroughs

This Snow Crash thing–is it a virus, a drug, or a religion?”
Juanita shrugs. “What’s the difference?
– Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash

How does Gemüt, the mind, speak, how does the heart speak, how does the voice of the blood speak in the time of AIDS? Does the virus expose this voice to a cacophony, a cacophony that does not even form a negative unity within which it still resonates? How is such exposure possible? Can the voice of the blood recognize itself in the cacophony caused by the virus?
– Alexander Garcia Duttman

About all, we need to resist, at all costs, the luxury of listening to the thousands of language tapes playing in our heads, laden with prior discourse, that tell us with compelling certainty and dizzying contradiction what AIDS really means.
– Paula Treichler

Discourse, alas, is the only defense with which we can counteract discourse, and there is no available discourse on AIDS that is not itself diseased.
– Lee Edelman

If Amanda had cancer or a brain tumor, they’d be bringing her casseroles and cakes.
– Alice Hoffman

Sh*t, do you realize that only about a tenth of infected Americans can get these new drugs? It kind of makes you wonder about the other thirty million people on this planet with HIV. I mean, how many people in Africa or Asia do you think are able to get any of these cocktails?
– R.D. Zimmerman, Hostage

The brain works like a collection of viruses, the Consensus said one hundred and fifty years later, when viruses were difficult to avoid.
– Geoff Ryman, The Child Garden

For each illness that doctors cure with medicine, they provoke ten in healthy people by inoculating them with the virus that is a thousand times more powerful than any microbe: the idea that one is ill.
– Marcel Proust

The life of the flesh is in the blood.
– Leviticus 17:11

But you must strictly refrain from eating the blood, because the blood is the life; you must not eat the life with the flesh.
– Deuteronomy 12:23

Drink from it, all of you. For this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.
– Matthew 26:28-29

Think on the nature of this great invisible thing which animates each one of us, and every blood drinker who has ever walked. We are as receptors for the energy of this being; as radios are receptors for the invisible waves that bring sound. Our bodies are no more than shells for this energy.
– Anne Rice, Queen of the Damned

It is along the frontier of blood – on the red line between pure and impure – that the inexhaustible drama between the sacred and the profane is played out: between the history of the divine, and the history of the human element that would struggle free of the human.
– Piero Camporesi

Medicine is magical and magical is art
The Boy in the Bubble
And the baby with the baboon heart
. . .
These are the days of miracle and wonder
And don’t cry baby don’t cry
Don’t cry
– Paul Simon, The Boy in the Bubble, 1986

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