this, that, and the Other

identity, alterity, and everything in between

Category: Blogging

There are No Good Men, No Not One

I’ve been having a fun little back and forth with a friend’s post over at the The Evangelical Outpost. You can find the whole of the post as well as my comments here. The gist of the article, which you should really read if you want more than my bad summation, is that it’s offensive to refer to men as boys or to treat them like boys. If a man is guilty of boyish behavior, one should treat him like a man, that is, address the responsibilities he is failing at, rather than resort to inaccurate name calling. My last comment summed up my position I thought pretty well, so just for the hell of it I thought I’d repost it here:
After some basic criticisms of this idea of a “man” and why I think self-identified “boys” or “bois” should be called what they want to be called (cause it’s nice), Nathan (the author) responded,

Whatever semantic labels you prefer, the fact is that people gain responsibilities as they age and sometimes they shirk those. I hope that in talking to people who turn away from responsibility we can show them that they do not have any semantic hiding places that will save them from what they are doing.

To which I wrote as follows [edited for spelling and grammatical error],

Yeah. I’m pretty sure I get the broader point about responsibility. And I agree about semantic cubbies and hiding places. But also semantics shapes the cubbies. It’s the mountains to the valley–complete with snowy peaks and potential landslides. It’s important to periodically stroll through and maybe close down an unsafe road or two.

It’s this correlation between being adult, masculine, strong, and virile with responsibility that I guess I was trying to push back against. Of course we give children responsibilities and we should be forgiving towards adults. If it’s a question of responsibility, all fine and dandy, but children have taught me a lot about responsibility and adults have at times been disappointingly repressed, irresponsible, and narcissistic. It’s not so much how to balance these two (adult/responsible with child/irresponsible) but more unlearning the ways we’ve been taught to privilege adults and trivialize children.

It seems like the source of frustration for you was this category “boy” and how it was implying you weren’t fit for or outside of certain responsibilities. I agree with you–it’s trivializing and dismissive. Yet it’s not just trivializing and dismissive to you, but to boys and children in general, while also assuming adults are way more secure and essential than they are. Just as the male who dismisses someone as a “boy” positions himself as a firm and solid “man,” so too joining in with calling all boys irresponsible positions you and I and all males into a comfortable category of “man.” It becomes this very sort of semantic hiding place–a means of coping by bullying those we’d like to think weaker and smaller than ourselves. It buttresses our own insecurities with a safe semantic and social shell, shirking responsibility of ourselves while scapegoating others.

So I guess my problem is a binary that’s so neat it pretends boys, and children in general, are irresponsible and men/adults are responsible. Like childhood is some bit of ash we must pass through to really, truly, finally be born. But children were born and are people and no less real. We give children responsibilities according to what they can and can’t do just like we do for adults. We expect them to follow through just as much. They have voices and stories worth telling and it’s nothing shy of narcissism to turn a deaf ear, thinking ourselves to have come much farther then they. After all, the kingdom belongs to such as these–a kingdom where there is no “man” or “woman.” I’d like to think St. Paul wasn’t just thinking about gender or birth-sex but birth, growth, maturity, aging, and dying. Ultimately, I think The City of God might be a little less “mature” and “civil” than we think, and just a bit more like Neverland.

Updates and “advice for a new you”

Hello one and all. Sorry for being mildly absent (aren’t we all?), but I am in the process of some serious editing before sending off poems to journals and magazines and the like. Also in the process of looking for an apartment among other things. Other things include: stressful conversations, money issues, mild car issues, coming out as queer/fluid/bisexual/WHATEVER/Just-josh to the fam, birthdays, weddings, and other things that actually seem like excuses now that I type them all out. Anyway one of the poems I am editing I thought I would share with you, the reading world. I wrote it in the midst of all the above mentioned things while also reading some Heather Christle, Judith Butler, Julia Serano, Suzanne Buffam, Ish Klein, among others. So I give it to you from this context and wash my hands of this context. Cheers and love.

advice for a new you

 

you were sorry

in a personal way. a

description of things like settling

rain, a description of umbrellas. don’t

tell me about the sky or the origin

of things. the light is what we

left behind. backdrop to

shadow. tomorrow the glorious will

come, spend its night, whisper

of dawn and the kingdom

that is in your breast. you have half

of everything already, the

rest: alarm. to find that inner

beauty they tell you about,

first bury yourself, wait

three days, then

make new friends

 

VIDEO SURPRISE

SO. I made a video. I hope you like it. I read some old poems and a new poem and chat too much but I was feeling chatty. I also started talking too soon. ENJOY.

BTDUBBS: I realize I said something weird about tallow coming from milk fat WHEN WE ALL KNOW it’s rendered beef fat. MY BAD. It also was and still is in some places used in feed. So like, cows are eating cow fat. Gross, I know.

New Poem and Disclosure

Readers!

Forgive my lack of posting. I’ve wrapped up grad apps (the rejection letters should begin coming in) and been editing a rather long (collection of?) poem(s), all while of course working and just having moved to a new place. So. Been busy but far from unbearably so.

Given the edit edit editing I took a small break to toss this poem out–which is nothing really at all like the poem(s) I’m editing. I hope you enjoy it though and have all been having much love and peaches and hugs and flowers and oh such loveliness.

 

 

what the net leaves behind

 

 

Maybe it begins with a rustling—

you in your top hat and me

 

smaller, beside, your grand

father’s racquet in my hand. He

 

played a game so well, turning

to walk away, you’d cry. What of

 

the pieces of photo of him in the

cabinet, under last night’s toothbrush

 

and paste? Sometimes it’s developing

that’s backwards: and there’s a burning.

 

I do not want this bowl of cherries.

I did not ask for your glass eye. Some

 

day I’ll stuff these crayons down my

throat, lick the bowl, shit a rainbow.

A Personal Note to my Readers: on Lethargy

It’s one of those days where life seems to be a crisis. This is of course hyperbolic and I suppose what I really mean is life is a state of emergency, or at least that is what I would like to think, because emergency is related to emergence which sounds constructive and creative and nice—at least when alongside the word crisis and its connotation of mid-life crisis and Dante and missed opportunity. Dante of course was given to such feelings of crisis and in turn wrote a three-piece epic poem to a woman he never fucked and chances are was married anyway, but such is the Petrarchan tradition. There is an old box of Emergen-C in my cupboard and I can’t help but think that conceiving of my life as an emergency deludes me into thinking I’m being preventative, formulaic, pro-biotic. Emergency also sounds like urgency and I think—if only for a moment—my desire to be doing something with “my life” is synonymous with actually doing something with “my life.”

But it quickly occurs to me that this is illusory and someone somewhere is reading Sherwood Forest or a/s/l or any number of books of poems I *ought* to be reading. Of course I add them to my aptly titled Amazon wishlist “poesy” and congratulate myself for at some point in the near future reading them. First I must of course read the stack of books surrounding my bed and maybe trudge through Loba or more Heidegger and maybe workshop or read some poems publicly. Suddenly now this feels like a chore, a burden, a beast of burden, an animal, a cow, and I long for animal-urges which I connote with fucking probably because both the animal and fucking are misconstrued as aggressive. I realize now how fully I resonate with Dante—only I can’t write so well.

The correlation between animals and fucking and aggression is longstanding and I don’t really know where it begins but one imagines Adam and Eve and the snake played no small part. The Gospel of Eve was said to be declared heresy because the Gnostics who read it really liked oral sex. I wonder how differently Christianity and it’s relation to fucking and aggression would be if the Gospel of Eve was canonical. Between not including the Gospel of Eve or the Book of Judith we get a pretty clear picture of Protestant America’s view of women. When one thinks of non-human animal-sex and how rarely rape plays a role one should realize how its correlation with aggression is a gross misapplication and it’s really humans who are the aggressive ones.  Really we should equate the “animal” with consensuality, sensitivity, and wisdom. This is after all the traditional Buddhist depiction of the bull.

The bull is serene, powerful, and, to paraphrase the Tao Te Ching, keeps all its weapons hid. Of course it still has weapons. Somehow this seems related to America and masculinity and the correlation between men and bulls and women and the cow. Suffice it to say the ice cream brand Skinny Cow manages to be sizist, speciesist, and sexist which is no small feat. I keep a copy of the Tao Te Ching here at work which is where I am now as I type this. I leave it out in the open to be ironic. It makes a lot of claims about “the world” which is something I’ve been trying to refrain from cause, god, I mean, what the hell does that mean, but it’s the Tao so I guess it can get away with shit like that. Religion excuses a lot.

One of the excuses of religion within Protestantism is that masculinity includes aggression, fucking, and a strong work ethic. This may also contribute to my crisis and approach to fucking but who knows. Once I pass through the stage of work ethic, guilt, general horniness and such I tend to emerge into a stage of general lethargy. Perhaps that’s a better word for it: lethargic. I like how it sounds clinical. Also, it sounds like Lethe which aside from Styx is the only river in hell people seem to remember. It’s funny when they can only remember Styx though.

Like Dante too the lethargy usually is followed by climbing a mountain of both learning to respect the self combined with penance. This strikes me as paradoxical which would bother Dante but at any rate we both agree we feel better when at the top of the mountain. Few people make mention of the fact that Dante punishes fat people more than people who really really like sex who are the closest to heaven. Maybe this is why I doubt Paradiso and it’s my least favorite of Dante’s trilogy, but still, I appreciate Dante putting me at the top of the mountain at least. If I had written the Comedy I would’ve put him in limbo.

At any rate I am still making the low and slow climb, heavy robes of guilt upon my shoulders, and muttering crazy things underneath my breath. Inferno strikes me as the most productive phase of writing and contemplation but maybe this is because it’s the phase wherein I think I’m the shit. Purgatorio is humbler but unambitious. It’s a stage appropriate for January and for drinking oneself to sleep. It’s the cure for lethargy really.

Top 5 things I hate being asked in a bar; OR: on the frustration of labels

Forgive the lack of blogging recently—I’ve had yet another occurrence of strep throat (a somewhat common relapse for me) plus was writing a piece of music for a new music concert (the piece is called Things arise and she lets them come—catch the Tao reference, huh? huh?), and thus was a little out of the blogging loop. That being said, I finished the piece (feel free to shoot me an e-mail or post a comment or whathaveyou and I can send you a copy) and am getting over the strep.

So. In order to ease my way back into the comfort ability that is my blog, I thought I’d post a list of the top five things I get super frustrated at when asked at a bar (and by super frustrated I mean answer with a smile and no noticeable difference until I wake up steeped in depression or frustration the next day).

Number 5: Are you a vegan for health or ethical reasons? The answer, of course, is YES. This question was really annoying back when I smoked, because it often took the form, “WAIT, you’re vegan??? BUT YOU SMOKE??? THAT’S FUNNY!!! HAHAHA” etc. Like. YES. I get the irony that smoking causes cancer and that red meat increases the risk of cancer but you know, that’s not the ONLY reason for being vegan. Like. There’s that whole commercialization and reduction of life to a commodity. You know. That part. Of course when I would tell the person this, upon hearing the word ‘commodity’ used in a non-positive way the person instantly would go through this thought process: “commodity, huh? sounds like Marx… therefore communism.. therefore Stalinism… therefore fascism.. therefore some offensive analogy involving Hitler!” If the person is nice, however, they usually list all the positive things about veganism and why they *can’t possibly* be vegan. This ranges from being allergic to soy, gluten intolerance, anemia, and other such reasons that if you know something about veganism aren’t very good excuses at all.

Number 4: Some demeaning question about being a poet. This one can take a few different forms, but it typically rides off of being asked where I plan on going to grad school or what I plan on studying. It usually is followed by the other person proceeding to tell me how they really loved poetry in junior high and wrote some great ‘haikus’ (‘haiku’ is plural, damn it!) and got one published in the school paper and it was swell and they wish they could’ve followed their dreams of being a professional haiku-ist but then they had to get like a real job and start earning money and being a real member of society. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone give me a compliment for trying to take my poetry seriously without being extraordinarily patronizing or demeaning. One annoying aspect about being asked about my poetry is it tends to lead to the other four annoying questions, i.e. “oh what are your poems about?” “Well, it’s often me processing through ecological, personal, and sexual issues by taking up the metaphors of each, so, like seeing what sort of ideas and images arise when we put queer theory and say animal rights into a poetic blender and see what comes out.” Blank stare, slightly confused and disgusted face upon hearing the words ‘queer,’ ‘animal,’ and ‘blender’ in succession. “Ummm… animal rights… uhhh… so are you vegan (if so, for health or ethical reasons?)” ETC.

Number 3: Music composition grad? So… are you in a band??? This question can also take the form of, “Composition… huh…. so… what instruments does that mean you play?” or “Oh yeah! Like John Williams” or “oh wow—I play guitar!” Now. I love music. And I love talking about music. But for some reason people feel the need to categorize and label everything about someone when in a bar, and most people don’t know the labels ‘concert music,’ ‘art music,’ ‘contemporary classical,’ or a host of any others. Which causes the confusion of thinking I write film music. Let’s get one thing straight—I. DON’T. WRITE. FILM. SCORES. I have loads of respect for people who do, but, as should become obvious at this point in the conversation (people normally have blazed through a couple of these questions before this one), I DON’T WANT TO WORK FOR DISNEY. I’M NOT A HUGE FAN OF CAPITALISM. I don’t know how this could not be excruciatingly obvious by this point.

Number 2: So you went to Biola/a Calvary Chapel High School, so you’re a Christian then? This means one of two things. Either the person is about to list everything about contemporary evangelical Christianity I hate as the greatest thing since sliced bread (I LOVE CHRISTIAN ROCK!!1!!—this tends to lead to, WAIT, YOU WRITE MUSIC, ARE YOU IN A CHRISTIAN ROCK GROUP  ❤ !!1!), or they are about to preach to me all the woes that Christians have tragically done to certain people groups at times and places. I wish saying, ‘No no, I’m not like them—I’m ANGLICAN/EPISCOPELIAN’ was a valid excuse, but, you know, like Anglicans can be pretty evangelical and the whole fact that the Church of England was killing Quakers and Puritans and such was sort of how that whole colonization/conquest of the Americas kinda got underway doesn’t help either. And I wish saying I was a liberal or secular or materialist or even atheist Christian clarified. But. This usually results in *more* hostility seeing as the other person most likely hates organized religion, but is a quasi-Cartesian dualist (but the kind that would even make Descartes twinge), who loves talking about ‘soul-mates’ and a ‘feeling of the beyond.’ When I say I think ‘soul’ is just another means of talking about the body and concerning oneself with doing good in order to be rewarded in an afterlife is ressentiment, you shouldn’t *need* a reward in order to be nice, AND I think liturgy and prayer and meditation are great, well… it doesn’t always go over super well.

Number 1: So you like boys, right? OR: So you like girls, right? One. NO. I happen to like consenting adults, thank you very much. Secondly, WHY WHY WHY do you feel entitled to ask me who and why and when and how I have sex? Is that anyone’s business other than my own and the people involved? Seriously, people. I have told people I’m straight, bisexual, pansexual, queer, questioning, and demisexual all while at bars—all only kind of true—mostly false and just a means to avoid conversation. People want a simple label. And it frustrates me to no end that I can’t share a drink with someone, chat maybe, without them feeling like they ought to label and appropriate my entire sexual identity into a neat little category so as to prevent them having to adjust their worldview (usually a neat homo/hetero binary). I don’t exactly feel like going into my entire psychical and sexual history with someone I don’t know in order for us to drink together—and the few times I have it hasn’t exactly gone well (‘ahhh… so you’re in the closet!’; ‘but you *would* sleep with so-and-so’; ‘so you mean you’re bi? Yeah—me too! I kissed a boy/girl once!’; ‘well, I only ask because my friend thinks you’re *really cute*’ etc).

All this is to say I’m kind of sick of going out and having to squirm into other people’s categories or feel like I have to deconstruct everyone else’s worldview when all I want to do is have a drink.[rant and self-pity therein concluded thusly].

100 Posts

My last post was my 100th post.

This doesn’t mean anything.

I thought I’d mention it anyways.

Tim DeChristopher Sentenced

We will not be intimidatedWe will not sit idly by as our government uses Tim DeChristopher as an example to deter other activists. We will not compromise when it comes to defending our right to a healthy and just world.”

Yesterday, Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in prison, being guilty on two counts of felony for non-violent, civil disobedience of an illegal auction of Utah national park land to oil and gas companies. If you didn’t catch that, yes, it was an illegal auction.

For those of you who haven’t been following Tim’s story, you can read up on it more here. A good summation of the sentencing can be found over at GreenIsTheNewRed here.

Tim’s address to the court and judge can be found here. It feels appropriate to end with an excerpt:

“If the government is going to refuse to step up to that responsibility to defend a livable future, I believe that creates a moral imperative for me and other citizens.  My future, and the future of everyone I care about, is being traded for short term profits.  I take that very personally.  Until our leaders take seriously their responsibility to pass on a healthy and just world to the next generation, I will continue this fight.”

One Year of Blogging

As of a handful a days ago, I have hit the one year mark of blogging.

I took this as an opportunity to reread some of my bad bad Heidegger posts which are incoherently silly or self-evident at worst or clunky at best. I think I can comfortably say I’ve improved in presenting ideas. I hope.

I also fumbled through old poetry and, god, I was didactic. I mean. REALLY DIDACTIC. That being said it wasn’t all terrible and there were a few good lines that stood out even.

Thanks for following–and here’s to another year.

LINKS LINKS LINKS

Apparently losing your 4 year-old son due to a drunk hit-and-run driver can get you convicted of vehicular homicide. Seriously.

Say hello to the Meat Eater’s Guide. Includes a helpful break down of the GHGs (greenhouse gas emissions) of twenty common foods. Big surprise–meat production shipping and packaging is really bad for the environment (but not as bad as lamb). But potatoes are nigh four times as bad as milk (!). So there you go.

The beautiful cover of this last issue of the New Yorker. Just felt like sharing.

Now, I’m no fan of propaganda laden, lie spreading, incoherent babbling, nor the endorsing of rankly homophobic policies, so it will come as no surprise that I don’t really like Michele Bachmann. That being said, over at Feminist Philosophers there is a great post on the ridiculous undercurrent of ableism and sexism in the media’s treatment of Bachmann’s so-called headache “scandal.”

To counteract the aforementioned Michele, hopefully how amazingly awesome Michelle Obama is (and to California no less) will make you feel better.

Also, I really like this song: