Sunstone this year left me delighted, exhausted and emotionally raw. I bled three panel presentations out of myself, slept an average of 4 fitful hours each night and met wonderful, wonderful people and then had to leave them a short time later with no clue when we’ll meet again. I worried about Jana until she barely and painfully made it. Finally, we dropped off two of my best friends (GameBoy and CatGirl) for two weeks with grandma.
That said, I feel revitalized. My creative and spiritual batteries are restored. I feel inspired by the incredible people, new friends and old, with whom I had a chance to mingle. I’ve regained my energy and enthusiasm for supporting the feminist cause in the LDS context and for ministering to the struggling agnostics and atheists in church settings. Even my commitment to Quakerism was strengthened by a chat I had with Susan Skoor, Apostle in the Community of Christ. When I mentioned the similarities between the two religions, she said that they were inspired to become a peace church, following the examples of the Quakers, Mennonites, and the Brethren (i.e., the Historic Peace Churches).
To top it all off, Jana continues to heal quickly, though the weekend certainly took its toll. Her leg may be a bit stressed, but the whole person is certainly in a better state for having participated.
Delivered at the Sunstone Symposium on August 9th, 2008. A portion of this appeared in an earlier post.
I believe in the power of storytelling. Specifically, I believe that I have the ability to shape my relationship to the universe and insert beauty into my world through the life narrative I co-opt and create.
Once upon a time, on a lovely spring morning, a young farm boy went into the woods to pray. He fought off the devil and spoke with shining heavenly personages. He returned a prophet.
When I heard this story as a teen investigator, I was thrilled to insert myself into Joseph Smith’s grand vision. My life had a beginning in God’s presence as the child of a Heavenly Mother and Father, a middle in the struggle of this mortal existence, and with every good choice—receiving baptism and the priesthood, serving a mission, getting married in the temple, bringing up children in the Gospel, I was writing my way to a glorious conclusion.
Then came a series of crises. Five little girls suffocated in the trunk of a car as a mother drove it through the neighborhood, praying desperately to find them. Tsunamis drowned and earthquakes crushed hundreds of thousands more. Random nature reigned, and God retreated, tearing the pages of his story out of my hands.
This story of an absent, deadbeat heavenly dad dominated my life for several years.
I can’t remember whose death was involved–it might have been a relative, or the body of an animal we discovered outside. All I know is that my little son and daughter had met death in one of its dark forms, and as their father I had to shield them from the full force of that encounter.
I was tempted to fall back on old Mormon tale that we can live forever in God’s presence with those who are dear to us, but it wasn’t mine to tell anymore. Did I have anything to offer?
Then it came pouring out from me. I explained that when we die, our bodies return to the earth. All the bits decompose, feeding other life, which in turn feed other life. We are part of an ancient cycle of nourishment that sustained countless generations of species upon this unique life-rich planet. I continued, telling them that the elements which make up our bodies—carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and more—were formed in the furnaces of stellar forges and that mighty supernova scatter this life-bearing seed throughout the universe. Drawing inspiration from Carl Sagan, I told them that we were made of star stuff, and that long after we died our material might return to the stars to burn brightly in someone’s night sky.
When I was done, my children sat with eyes wide and began peppering me with questions. Sometimes, when my own sense of mortality strikes, I remember this telling and feel that I am still part of a grand story full of wonder and glory–a tiny, insignificant part, to be sure, and the ending is perhaps messier and bleaker than some would like, but it’s my story—and as I weave it into other narratives, it fills my life with beauty and purpose.
I don’t really feel that I’ve been pulling my feminist weight around here recently (and that big long post about American Gladiators really rose from my husband’s comment; I expanded it because I wasn’t certain all our dear readers knew what AG was). And that really also means I’ve not been pulling my blogging weight around here, either. Part of that is busyness and part of that is intimidation. John has all these grand schemes for the future of MoF and keeps posting these great posts…I’m feeling a little out of my league.
So, instead of coming up with my own words, I’d like to give y’all a round up of my favorite recent feminist posts, in no real order, with a few religion posts thrown in for good measure and well-roundedness.
I’m starting off with Penelope Trunk, a favorite source for business (and, sometimes, feminism). She tackles Five Things People Say About Christmas That Drive [Her] Nuts in a very accessible (as always) manner. She also brings up some great come backs that atheists and agnostics can use (she is Jewish) against rabid Christmasers.
California NOW, which I keep giving another chance to get their blog off the ground, floats a little higher with a very brief discussion of the importance of words in framing a debate. In this case, the use of pronouns when we talk about the next president, and how being able to imagine it as a role for a person (without specifying a gender) is, in itself, progress. The post could be longer, more in depth, and less like a Twitter thought, but it’s still a good thought.
A blog I’ve never heard of before but was linked to by someone gives us an update on the state of women’s hockey gear. As a woman who just went shopping for her favorite sport-gear and found her choices to be lacking, I sympathize. Do I want gender-neutral clothing? Yes. Do I also want color choices? Yes. I picked out a lovely teal-and-ivory set that I hope conveys Snow Goddess to all who gaze upon me and then was given 160s and hideous red poles by the rental lady. I shall bring my own (black, just like the ones she gave my husband) poles next time. Do I think polka dots will build confidence? No. But I also believe that, as my sister once said about a football team whose name never mattered to me enough to remember, “If you look good, you feel good. And if you feel good, you play good.” So here’s to playing good: whether you’re male or female; and to looking good doing it. Preferably without polka dots or purple, two crimes against vision.
Feministe has an awesome list of questions for prolifers, you know, the ones who claim that conception is the start of life (which makes me wonder if I’m 9 months older than I think I am). She takes their arguments to their logical conclusions (not even extremes, although some of them are) to point out their absurdity. She brings up the point that doctors count a pregnancy not from its fertilization but from its implantation, since you can’t measure the former and many fertilized eggs get expelled. Which is sorta true, since it’s been my (limited) experience that doctors track it from the last time a woman was not pregnant (her period), since they don’t actually know when it was implanted. But I digress. Go, read it. And read the comments, they continue the discussion.
Ah, Feministing, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…first off, you continue my discussion of looking good and feeling good with a recommendation to read Trappings, which I shall now have to do. Another good one for comments. Leave your own, or leave it here (or both): what makes you feel powerful? (Men, too, are invited to join the discussion about clothes.)
And then you continue with a story again about men owning their daughters. Makes me glad again that my husband did not ask permission: and also that my father, though a (wing)nut, is not a psychopath.
Another blog I’ve never heard of has an awesome list of Republican candidates and which Buffy villain they most represent. SciFiPolitics, a new genre!
Pandagon has a book review about how bizarre it is to treat virginity as anything other than something made up to keep women in line: “even in the moment of ‘giving’ a man your virginity, you’re more technically presenting him with an opportunity to destroy something that doesn’t exist except as a cultural concept that’s not easily defined”. Hear, hear.
Finally, an awesome religion-feminism post from our own dear Jana over at Sunstone: a visit to a Bat Mitzvah. John told me that they had been invited to a Bat Mitzvah, but this was the first I’d heard of that actually involved a shawl & reading from the Torah. I think I’d've cried, too.
That’s all for now, folks, but I’m back in the game. Go read those great stories while I cook up some of my own.