Friday, June 18, 2004

Death and Gratitude

I went to sleep thinking about death, and woke up early with a dream about death, leaving me unable to return to sleep. Here in Portland, I am outraged that two people died for being guilty of driving while black. In Upside Down, Galeano makes me aware that in Latin America, thousands of people die in one city, for being poor. Here, the homeless are made illegal for existing through camping ordinances and drug free zones, there, they are hunted and killed. Little differences that make me somewhat grateful. But that wasn't what I was thinking about.

I was thinking about someone close to me dying and the devastating grief I would feel. My husband calls that a negative fantasy. I was slow to get to sleep. I woke up early aware of a dream of my own death, the details quickly chased away, disintegrating into shreds and dissolving. Here is where I was trying to get to regarding gratitude, something that eluded me in the light of day, but raised its Freddy Krueger-esque head during those vulnerable dream states of mind.

We are all going to die. Getting real (or unreal) with that fact is the primary purpose of religions. It is the fundamental question of this life. Rich or poor, oppressor or oppressed, comfortable or not, we all will die. The question becomes then, how do we live, to be ready for our death? This notion hovers around the Buddhist meal verse. For whatever karmic reason, we are placed in the lives we are placed. If we have the luxury of comfortable sustenance, that is an opportunity to experience enlightenment. Do we deserve that offering? Who does? The wisdom of the Bodhisattva is always to turn it over, turn it over, turn it over to the weal of the world. There's nothing that says the Bodhisattva can't or shouldn't play, enjoy, and turn that over too.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Books and Movies

Immobilized by tendinitis in my foot, I've been sitting back a whole lot with my foot up, doing a lot of reading and movie watching. Some would say it's about time I got these things back to the library. Like many library workers, I keep renewing them until the system won't let me, then I rush through them, and return them late. (Yes, I still have to pay fines.)

Book: I'm going to have to return The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness, mostly unread. Karen Armstrong has written histories of religions and biographies such as Buddha (which I hear is rather good for a Penguin book). Her experience as a postulant and novice Catholic nun struck me as so similar to the stories I have heard about our Buddhist monks going through. I have to wonder if our founding mother Jiyu Kennett wasn't influenced by Catholicism in England in all that. All the ways they are treated are designed to extinguish the ego. In Armstrong's case the purpose of those rules and rituals were to make her a vessel for God's purpose. Perhaps someday I can get back to this, but right now the hold list is a mile long.

Documentary: There are certain things that need to be seen, heard, or read by all European Americans occupying North America. Incident at Oglala: The Leonard Peltier Story is one of them. I grew up where the prevailing (racist) opinion was that those Indians should accept that they live in America, and should live by the laws Americans have to live by, i.e. they shouldn't get special hunting and fishing rights. Naturally any news coverage of AIM back then portrayed them as violent extremists. Not only does this film reveal the racist circumstances of Leonard Peltier's trial (and that he didn't do it), it sheds some light on those dramatic AIM incidents in the mid 70s. Perhaps because it was not central to the theme, the documentary did not explore the federal government's complicity in native on native crime. The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation was a war zone between traditionalists helped by AIM and contemporary natives that dominated tribal government. Goon squads, quasi deputies, targetted the traditionalists and AIM, yet their murderous activities did not receive the federal attention that AIM's did. Sadly, such an incident as that at Oglala looks inevitable considering the tension and fear that existed on the reservation at that time. It occurs to me that Leonard Peltier symbolically holds the karma of his people, and does so rather gracefully. No matter what transpired that day, he is a political prisoner. This gets an A.

Movie: Did Christian Slater always look old? I thought he appeared a little old to play a teenager in Pump Up the Volume, but it turns out he was only around twenty at the time. This is a movie for every outcast (like me) who lived through some painful teen years. It also tells a compelling story about the way free speech is gnawed away by fear and denial. As teen movies go it gets an A, but otherwise, a B-.

Movie: Hollywood stars try to show how real they are in The Anniversary Party. They do that, but somehow something is missing. Maybe they are too close to it. But mmmm, Phoebe Cates was delicious (and real). I dunno, maybe it doesn't work for me because they're all just too skinny, or maybe because it was more like an acting exercise than a movie with a Hollywood plot. Still, I sorta liked it. C

Movie: Amy's O. I thought it was going to be about sex. Instead it was all about a Jewish girl dispensing love advice who is afraid of intimacy and who falls for a movie version of Howard Stern who (surprise surprise, how Hollywood) is not so sexist after all. Gets a C. Now Secretary, which I saw awhile back, was about sex, and gets an A!

Movie: So it's an evil corporation, but I like the movies! Disney's Summer of the Monkeys has all the requisites of a good kid's movie: cute animals, siblings watching out for each other and growing up, a grandpa that helps the kid get through it all, and parents that recognize the adult emerging in the child. Oh yeah, and an irascible hermit. But did they have to go with Wilford Brimley for the grandpa? B.

Still reading: Published in 1998, Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World by Eduardo Galeano is packed with facts about U.S. and corporate pirating of the world's labor and resources. This takes awhile, but is another required US citizen read. Most of us americanos del norte enjoy a standard of living that can only exist because somewhere else, and even somewhere here, someone suffers. I think we need to face that, and be humble. Still, it's rather depressing, and I am inclined to read it a little at a time and put it down.

The friend who recommended Galeano tells me he has mixed feelings about enjoying something distinctly American, considering the racist and classist history of domination that brought this country its riches. At times like this I have to remember the Buddhist meal verse, and apply it to all the things of this rich life I enjoy:

This meal is the labor of countless beings,
let us remember their toil.
Defilements are many and exertions weak,
do we deserve this off’ring?
Gluttony stems from greed,
let us be moderate.
Our lives are sustained by this offering,
let us be grateful.
We take this food to attain the Buddha Way.

Whether the offering was given freely, or it was forced from the world's poor through violence and exploitation, I have received this offering. Circumstances put me in this position. The least I can do is remember the countless beings that have suffered for my sake, be moderate in my consumption, and do what good I can because I am able. This is only the beginning of a thought...I'm sure I'll return to this theme.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Life Happens

Life happens, and a month and a half goes by!

I finished this book: Pucker Up: A Hands-on Guide to Ecstatic Sex by Tristan Taormino. Taormino does a regular column for the Village Voice on sexuality. I love this book. I read it on my palm, usually while on the bus, so I've started to get turned on by riding transit! If there was any doubt in my mind, I now know I have strong submissive tendencies. (mmmm, the section on spanking and flogging) Taormino writes from a compassionate view of helping individuals and people in relationships explore their fantasies and inclinations. No judgement, either from the prudish end, or the kinky end (like assuming everyone's a top or bottom.) She writes with a sensitivity for the shyness people can feel about their hidden inclinations. She gives tips on how to broach the subject of fantasies with a possibly reluctant lover.

I went to Fat Girl Speaks, and wrote this poem while still drunk from the many drinks I imbibed with my husband, his girlfriend, and her friends:

i went to 'fat girl speaks' tonight.
and wowed
steve's girlfriend's girl friends.
(they said i'm 'good people')
and got
so fucking turned on
by all the sexy
fat girls
struttin their stuff.

so fuckin incredible
to see fat women
dancing burlesque
and stripping
without that
tentative fat girl
'may i exist?'
body apology.

so fuckin sexy
they were on stage
and sexy
(and there were so many lesbians there,
why didn't i get any phone numbers?)

3 versions of 'fat-bottomed girls'
oooooo yeeeaaahh
that's ok
it did not get old

Other things that happened this month:

The new Central Seattle Public Library opened, and I must go see it. I cannot fathom this building until I experience it in person, it's so different.

My husband's birthday came and went. He, his girlfriend, and I went out to dinner at a fabulous restaurant.

My birthday came and went. I got my birthday spanking early at the Masturbate-athon. I organized the cloakroom volunteers and planned the party games, more volunteering than I've done for a Darklady party before. Several of us were quite happy to play Spin the Bottle, having missed our chance when kids. Truth or dare was a hit. My husband and I went to another pretty damn good restaurant on the day of my birthday.

Writing on my novel has taken a back seat to the work behind Change Your Mind Day in Portland. After all that work, I'm hoping a lot of people show up, and I'm nervous that they won't.