Tuesday, September 30, 2008

the end of marriage

Oh no. I have to get a divorce now. Ellen and Portia got gay married. How can my marriage possibly mean anything if just anyone can go and get married? I am so totally affected by someone else's marriage that I can't possibly be happy in my own life and relationship unless I'm judging and controlling everyone else.

No, I’m sorry, my marriage is not defined by anyone else’s and it is certainly not endangered by other loving couples pledging to devote themselves to one another, regardless of the sex of those other couples. And neither is yours.

Andy’s always telling people not to get married. Mostly for humor’s sake, and mostly because he doesn’t want to lose friends to marriage and children and all that nonsense, but he’s also partially serious. Not because our marriage is particularly horrible (this is my hope, anyway!), but I think he does it out of concern that too many people get married for all the wrong reasons and never stop to think about whether they really want to or whether they should.

As a matter of fact, the idea of marriage is far more threatened when a man and woman are forced to marry because they have found themselves pregnant (especially when they were denied the means or understanding of how to protect themselves from just such an occurrence and then forced into a union they do not want, not to mention quite possibly a lifetime of unhappiness and regret).
My marriage is insulted by a man who allows himself to be badgered into proposing to and marrying his girlfriend simply because that is what society (and her friends and their coworkers) expects of him, regardless of the fact that he doesn’t want to marry anyone and probably doesn’t even really like her that much, let alone love her.
My marriage is undermined by people who get married for the sake of getting married, expecting a fairy tale, expecting everything to suddenly be miraculously magically perfect even though it wasn’t before, because they don’t understand what a marriage is about.
My marriage is slighted by people who demand to get married and throw a ridiculous wedding they cannot afford because it’s been their dream since childhood, and find themselves suddenly further in debt when they couldn’t pay their bills to begin with.
My marriage is affronted by such phrases as “bridezilla” and “diamonds are forever” and “postnuptial depression.”
My marriage is mocked by those who think having a baby or getting a pet will somehow make their relationship better, by couples who can’t communicate their needs and wants to each other in anything other than sarcasm and screaming, by people who have to take medication just to be decent to each other, by people who honestly believe their partner is a fool and yet feel obligated to stay with them because it’s “the right thing” or “the expected thing.”
Everyone’s marriage is diminished by multi-million dollar celebrity weddings and by the split-second Hollywood nuptials of people like Britney Spears and Nicholas Cage, the multiple marriages of people like Mickey Rooney and Zsa Zsa Gabor and Billy Bob Thornton -not to mention Jessica Simpson and Shanna Barker and Carmen Electra (note to self: never agree to a reality television show starring my marriage).

Now, these are the things that and the people who shame and disgrace marriage. This is what shows marriage in a bad light. This is what will be the "downfall of society," as they anti-gay-marriagers like to claim about getting gay married. Well, maybe we should spend a little more time looking inward and deciding what is wrong with our own lives and our own relationships that makes them so fragile as to be threatened by two consensual adults professing their love for one another in a way that is recognized by the state.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Wait, I DO want a child!

Not just any child, mind you. A ghost child. I was watching a recent episode of “Ghost Hunters” (a guilty pleasure if ever there was one), and they were supposedly interacting with the ghost of a nine-year-old boy who was killed while working in a mill in the 1800’s. He likes to play games and tricks on people and is lonely (so they said). One of the ghost hunters invited the boy to come home with him because he already had a bunch of kids and there was plenty of fun to be had, etc., and it got me thinking. How awesome would it be to have a ghost child? I mean, you don’t have to feed it or take it to the doctor or get a babysitter for it, you always have someone to guard your house when you’re gone, you can strike a deal where you let him ‘live’ there and he doesn’t mess with you, but can mess with friends who come over... I mean, we’ve got plenty of toys for when my sister-in-law’s kids come over, he could play all the time! And if I have to watch The Muppet Show once in a while, that’s really no sacrifice.

So yeah, I’ve decided, if I ever do come to regret my decision and find that I want a child of my very own, Ghost Boy it is!

...That said, I have really got to stop watching Ghost Hunters. Somebody save me from myself!

Friday, September 26, 2008

voters I can respect

A good voter is an informed voter and I believe it is the responsibility of everyone to do their research and decide for themselves who they think is the best candidate. I cannot respect a person who votes based on trivial things, like race or sex or parenthood status. You have to find the candidate whose values and statements best match your own, and don’t allow yourself to be mislead by sensational media stories or blatantly false e-mail forwards.

I highly recommend Project Vote Smart, where you can read candidate platforms, decisions, backgrounds, speeches, endorsements, issue positions and voting records, as well as those of their running mates, as available.
Also, VA Joe Candidate Calculator and Vote Help Candidate Calculator are invaluable resources for help determining which candidate most closely matches your positions.

Granted, I am highly biased and firmly entrenched in my decision for this year's election, but I still think it's essential for everyone to look at the information and come to his or her own conclusions.

When I hear that people are voting for McCain based only on the sex of his VP nominee, that "she's a mother and I'm a mother so she must understand me," that "I like Alaska so I like her," etc. that, to me, is missing the point. Whether or not a person is suited for public office is not based on their ability to conceive (or over-conceive) or the color of their skin. It is their background and experience, their platform, their values, their stance on the issues, their ability to comprehend science, their ability to separate their religion from their politics.

This is a very important election at a very important time in our country and I cannot fathom that there are people who do not feel strongly one way or another about the outcome. While I do not understand people who are on the "other side of the aisle," I can respect their decision if they are voting based on their understanding of the issues involved and they truly feel that the other candidate is really the better choice. However, I cannot respect the decision, while people certainly do have this choice, not to vote. How can you not be outraged, one way or the other? What has our system of politics in this country come to when there are people now, today, in this climate, who are actually ambivalent about the candidates? How can you not be completely appalled?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I am a bad pagan.

Yesterday was the autumnal equinox, when light and dark are again equal as the nights get longer and the days get shorter and shorter until the “sun is reborn” at Yule, the Winter Solstice, which is the darkest night of the year -at which time the days start getting longer again. The autumn equinox, also called Mabon, is one of the eight sabbats celebrated by most pagans, along with Samhain (Halloween), Yule, Imbolc (Candlemas), Ostara, Beltane (May Day), Litha (Midsummer) and Lughnassadh (Lammas). The sabbats are based on the changing seasons, the turn of the sun wheel, while esbats (full, new and dark moon celebrations) occur more frequently and are based around the moon. This is a time of thanksgiving, as we celebrate the manifestation of our labors and give thanks for the harvest that will sustain us through the dark months. The energies for this time are of balance, consideration, fruitful partnerships, and the promise of rebirth. Now is the time to prepare the spirit for an interval of introspection and growth. Mabon themes are: harvest, reaping, thankfulness, reflection, preparation for the dark times, and conservation.

There is something steadying and comforting about ritual. A group of like-minded people coming together to perform an action designed to send good things out into the universe, an individual going through familiar motions on a regular basis to commune with nature or deity… I understand all of this, and I have attended many an open circle and sabbat ritual in my day. I am interested in the history of different cultures and have read books from many religions, but mostly I’ve focused on the pagan traditions because their beliefs most closely align with mine (do no harm, respect for self, respect for nature, respect for others, no baby-eating…). For a long time I considered myself a pagan witch, because the pagan belief system made sense to me and I was comfortable with it. As I get on in years, though, I haven’t been as drawn to the ritual and ceremony as I once was. I am also not comfortable pretending to believe in deity, including deity in my rituals and attending rituals where deities are summoned or addressed. Perhaps the emphasis on god(s) and goddess(es) overwhelms what comfort I might draw from the familiarity of ritual (unless, of course, we are worshipping the god/desses Godiva, Ghirardelli and Sara Lee).

Maybe the real turning point came when I took a class about “Ancient Languages and the 2012 Prophecies” (possibly the last class I didn’t quit after one session). I was just interested to see what the different cultures say about the supposed 2012 doomsday, but the class was more focused on showing us a lot of different ancient languages and telling us why the prophecies can’t really be understood anyway because we look at them from the wrong perspective. The teacher did impress upon us the importance of critical thinking, which I thought was good, and that we shouldn’t take prophecies on face value (especially supposed Native American prophecies where the earliest know teller is a white Christian preacher man -hmmm…) without doing more research about them -which is true of just about anything, of course. But I didn’t want to do the research, I just wanted to be taught about them, that’s why I took the class.
However, the point is: we watched a History Channel program (“Doomsday: 2012” was the name, I’m pretty sure) which featured, among other people, Dr. Michael Shermer (Executive Director of the Skeptics Society). As soon as he appeared on the screen, the other women in my group immediately sucked in their breath and rolled their eyes and pretty much shut down, refusing to listen until he was no longer talking.

Wait a minute! Wasn’t the class supposed to be about objective viewpoints and getting all of the information before making snap judgments? Who better to provide an example of critical thinking than Dr. Shermer? And aren’t pagans as a whole supposed to be an understanding, accepting and tolerant sort? When we close our minds to others’ points of view, especially if they diverge from the way we want to see the world, we are being just the same as those we purport to differ from!

I was attracted to paganism because I liked the tolerance that pagans (usually) have for one another and for the world. I like the caring and the feeling of community. I like that pagans are nice and generous and compassionate. Sadly, I don’t see much of that from other religions, and increasingly I find that just beneath the surface of many pagans lies the snarky holier-than-thou attitude I find rampant throughout religious belief.

I remain interested in nature, environmentally and ecologically, and am still in agreement with the sound morals and principles held by most pagans, but I find it difficult to mesh my logical scientific side with a faith path that is so influenced by deity. More and more I am drawn to the rational science put out by people like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Phil Plait and P.Z. Myers, and the ethical principals espoused by Paul Kurtz’s secular humanism -all the good and happy and realism that I liked about paganism, but without the deity.

Too many people go blindly into the night, following the belief path they think they should without ever stopping to determine whether it is right for them. Too many people open their mouths and let unsubstantiated nonsense spew out (or, often worse, forward it via the internet) without stopping to think that maybe what they’re saying and posting isn’t completely true and that maybe they ought to do some of their own research on the matter to get a better understanding of the real situation.

I went along for a time seeing deity as a metaphor, using terms like “Great Cosmic Universe” and “Cosmic Feminine” and “Masculine Principle” to refer to aspects generally covered by one god or goddess or another, but more and more I realize that I just can’t pretend to understand what people mean when they think there is a literal Goddess looking out for them and caring for them. I don’t believe in the Christian God, don’t believe that He directs or influences anything or even exists, why would I suspend rational thought for the pagan deities?

So I don’t. My beliefs are more tangible and rational and easier to meld without a deity of any sort (Christian or pagan, literal or metaphorical) involved. Unless there is some sort of atheistic pagan path out there (and if there isn’t a Facebook Group for it, it can’t exist, right?), then I’m going to have to start correcting people from now on when they call me a witch [I’m not a witch, I’m your wife! But after what you just said, I’m not even sure I want to be that anymore! -sorry, couldn’t be helped]. Sorry, guys, I’m just not feeling it anymore.

Not sure what label fits me best (atheist? secular humanist? critical thinker? bright? non-religious? irreligious? faith-free? rationalist? planetary ethicist? reality-based?) at the moment (though apparently I’ve been dubbed an “Avon wife” without my knowledge or consent), so I’ll have to get back to you on that and in the meantime leave you to question why we really need faith/unfaith labels anyway -can’t we all just be nice to each other?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Oh, should I introduce myself?

If you're reading this, you probably know me and so need no introduction. But maybe you stumbled across it randomly on the inter-web and are fascinated and enamored with the brilliance that is me and want to know just who is me.

Well, this is me, taken directly from my Facebook page because I don't feel like being inventive right now:
What is there to talk about? I should write more than I do, drink less than I do, eat differently than I do, talk nicelier and more eloquently than I do, watch TV less than I do, be more politically active than I do, commune with nature more often than I do, believe in myself more than I do, try harder than I do, sit on the couch less than I do, grow more in my garden than I do... About me? I am far less and far more and far meaner and far lazier than I should be. Blessed be.

I'm child-free, pet-free, pro-choice, bleeding-heart liberal, atheist-ish, college educated, incredibly opinionated, passionate... I subscribe to the theory of evolution (much as I subscribe to the theory of gravity) and equality and kindness and patience and sex ed and science and free choice ...I'm also hateful and spiteful and ridiculous. But it's part of my charm.

Friday, September 19, 2008

say hey mister driver man...

This has bothered me for the last three days and now that I have a place to randomly wax rage-fully about it, you get it full blast.

Why is it that parents feel the need to DRIVE their children to the BUS STOP?? I can understand accompanying a small child to the bus stop, especially for the first few days, to ensure they actually make it to the stop and get on the bus without falling in a storm grate of something and heck, some schools even require a parental wave before letting the kids off the bus after school, but there is a difference between accompanying your child, and BEING SUCH A LAZY ASS THAT YOU ACTUALLY START THE CAR AND DRIVE HALF A BLOCK TO THE BUS STOP, and then you have the nerve to sit there in the car with the WINDOWS CLOSED AND THE ENGINE RUNNING talking on your cell phone and probably wearing Crocs or flip flops or some hideous mutant combination of the two while you wait for the bus in the sixty degree weather!!! I mean, come on, it’s NICE out! Walk the little urchin down to the bus stop of it can’t get there by itself. I can understand the car thing if it’s, like, twenty below, but in that case maybe if you have all this time to sit around at the bus stop anyway with your car running, you might as well just drive the damn kid all the way to school!

Seriously, child-rearing requires patience and dedication and determination and hard work (or, at least, it should), but it shouldn’t require coddling and stifling your child in a closed-up van because you’re just too damn lazy to walk your dumb ass down to the corner, thereby setting a good example, burning a calorie or two and diminishing your carbon footprint.

So, like, knock it off.

A little late to the party.

Okay, fine. I give up. I give in. Whatever. Everyone else is doing it, so why can’t I? And if everyone else jumped off a bridge, Lauren, would you do that, too? Probably. It’d be damn lonely on this planet without anyone else about (or, abuut, as our neighbors to the north so charmingly say). So yeah, I’d jump off the bridge. But I’d read all the books first. And eat all the chocolate. And then I’d jump.

And so, I jump. Headlong, footloose, fancy-free (insert cute descriptor here) into the dreaded and long-avoided world of blogging.

Weeks ago, post-pointless rant about the stupids on the internet, Andy says to me (he says), “maybe you should just write a blog.” And you know what? He was right. I should just. And then yesterday Sarah said I would “do well with a blog,” and that I was the right about of smart and angry for it. Well, thanks. More angry than smart, no doubt, but we have Ross for the smart. And I’m not running for office so I don’t so much need smarts. Or maybe smarts aren’t actually a prerequisite? Ah, more on (moron?) that later.

I am an angry person. I don’t deny that. Stupid people make me angry -and there are a lot stupid people out there these days. (What keeps me going, really, is the hope that for every stupid person rattling off about nonsense they don’t actually understand, there are two or three smart people with sense enough to stay quiet.)

I consider myself a smart person. Sort of smart, anyway. But not smart enough to stay quiet, I guess. And when I find myself posting witty diatribes about how the educated voter is a good voter and that maybe two men getting married to each other doesn’t actually threaten you or your relationship or your little insular world in any way, I am personally attacked and derided for daring to have an opinion. Well, screw that. I need a place to spew my anger, where I can pretend I’m having an impact, but where no one can contradict me.

Even though I consider myself a writer (majored in it, creatively, in high school; worked for the newspaper in college; still eek out the occasional sorry excuse for a poem now and then -have you seen my Good Reads page?), I have long avoided the world of the blog (blogosphere? is that it?). Maybe because I didn’t figure anyone would be interested in what I have to say. But then, probably 90% of the bloggers out there have nothing to say and yet they keep saying it. Maybe because my first blog experience was from a ‘friend’ who pretty much posted her diary on-line for the world to see, and I’m just not comfortable sharing that sort of information. Who wants to know what I had for breakfast (although this morning I had Chocolate Underground yogurt and I have to repeat in case you haven’t heard: it’s 220 calories of AWESOME!!!!) or that I forgot to put in earrings or that I’m having a deeply personal issue that I really shouldn’t share publicly or that we’re out of bacon or that I’m sad because my sandwich is soggy? No one, that’s who.

Was it Mark Twain or Abraham Lincoln who said the thing about keeping silent and being thought a fool rather than speak and remove all doubt? Well, I like to think I’m not a fool but there are so many other fools speaking, I might as well add my voice to the clatter. Especially since I know the difference between “bread” and “breed.” Besides, “Who can protest and does not, is an accomplice in the act.” So this lady is going to protest. Maybe too much, but so it goes.

And so here it is: Lauren’s belated entrance to blogging.