28 August, 2009

Hating the sin, loving the hypocrite

This is scary to post because it's going to tick some people off, but here goes.

(I don't *want* to offend, but this is an issue I've had with many different religious orientations, not just Christianity. I hope you will hear me out and I trust that you will come to your own conclusions intelligently; my intention is to explain my own feelings with full knowledge that I will change nobody's mind).
First I should say that I do believe there is a god of some kind, and that I've rejected Catholicism, and I respect a lot of traditions and myths as necessary and beautiful - they foster family and social connections and can lead to spiritual growth and joy. I deeply believe in the Golden Rule (which shows up as a thread in most cultures). I feel that people should be allowed to practice their own religions in peace as long as
1) they harm no one (define harm? well... does it hurt? did you bleed? did you have a choice? Were you coerced?)
2) and do not try to impose their religions on others. Since some religions have conversion and population expansion built-in as part of the plan, this is a real problem for me, since our planet is imploding under the weight of our never-ending greed for resources).

I think that everyone, even the most "fundamental" believer, picks and chooses what they will believe and what makes sense to them. The possible exception would be those few who are beaten or brainwashed into parroting whatever they are told. Whether they believe what they espouse is questionable. But they will, by the nature of their own abuse, turn around and abuse others, and blame it on their religion. Or they may reject the doctrine outright and go do something different, if they can escape alive.

Religious texts contain varied and often conflicting information. This is how we get one group focusing on transubstantiation, one group focusing on converting others, one group focusing on the interpretation of individual letters / words / phrases / passages. Cast your seed on the ground or take multiple wives? Beat your wife and screw your slaves or follow the golden rule? Take an eye or turn the cheek? Did Jesus have blue eyes or brown, or did he even exist at all, and if so, was he an avatar or just a nice guy who got nailed to a board? Free choice, God's will, fate, or random acts? Do what you will - or harm no one? Is the wine sacred or profane? "Yes, God hates you, the Upanishads told me so. Now make your virgins plow naked in the moonlight for three nights and maybe I'll send you a rainstorm." This really happened. In India. This summer.
Damn right I'm judgmental about it. I bet somebody enjoyed the show, a few "useless" daughters got married off, and I'm sure that when rain comes (as someday it will) they'll congratulate themselves on a job well done.

I think it's hypocritical to blame one's judgments on one's religion instead of taking responsibility for them. I think it's a way to pass the buck in favor of one's own unexamined fears and prejudices. We support this or we refute that, based not on what a book tells us or what a god tells us, but what we choose to believe will give us a better outcome (heaven, rain, true love, success in battle, parking spaces...).

If it's God's will, why did God will that others would believe ideas diametrically opposed to our own? To make us more stalwart? In that case, do we choose to be more stalwart, or are we little Pavlovian dogs barking at infidels? Did God just decide that anyone who disagrees with us is accursed?

We say we can't help believing what we believe. If we have free will, don't we choose what we are looking for, what we focus on? Consciously, we pin our beliefs and ideas partially on whatever religion or faith or lack of it we have, but the truth is that it's backwards: we keep or drop a religious belief based on what feels right to us. So it *is* possible for me to be a hypocrite if I say "hate the sin but love the sinner" - when I am the one deciding what the sin is, not god. For instance: I like certain kinds of sex. In some cultures, it is considered sinful for people to have sex except for procreation. Sinful. Evil. I am a sinner. I also love the sin. In fact I don't think it's a sin at all (between consenting adult humans), and I bet 99.9% of the people reading this list don't either. But the gray areas of what I do with my own parts, and others' parts, make for a world of judgments. Sex is not a cardboard box, but many want to treat it that way: Slot A can only work with Tab B. Can slot A accept tab B instead of tab A? It might not be structurally practical, but in some cultures, that's a sin. Then we go to having two Slot A's in the same toolbox, being all slotty with each other. That's a really sinny sin. With regard to New Testament Christianity, the "sin" of homosexuality was never even mentioned in the gospels (unless it was removed; there was a lot snipped out - and believe me, if he'd spoken negatively about it, they would have left it in). Jesus obviously talked about a lot more than was recorded in the Gospels. If, in the thousands of words he must have said, he never even bothered to address it or make it an important talking point, maybe it's because in his infinite love and wisdom, it was a non-issue. Maybe he didn't care because homosexuality isn't a sin. Loving thy neighbor: good. Casting the first stone: sin.

If I commit "sins" according to a given doctrine, and expect to be accepted for it, while I simultaneously hold another perceived "sinner" in judgment simply for wanting to be who they are, that's not devout or unconditionally loving. That's hypocritical. I'm doing it right now, damn me, because I really don't want to be judgmental but I really am. I'm judgmental toward people who want to deprive others of the right to marry for love "because I'm a christian and homosexuality is a sin". I'm really mad that people use religion to "prove" they are on higher moral ground, when they're just using the religious equivalent of "because I said so" and hiding behind religion so people will "respect their beliefs". But I have no way to prove that my moral ground is actually higher than theirs. Which makes ME smug and self-righteous. What a mindfuck. oh, dear. I bet that's a sin in somebody's book. Mmm, nice slippery mind... where was I?

Maybe humanity really is doomed. But, if God wanted to save humanity, wouldn't he send a bunch of really nice people who DON'T automatically make babies when they have sex?

I know if I have to sit through anymore apocalyptic movie trailers I'm gonna just shoot myself. So I'm gonna go pretend the end is not near and have an ice cream cone. Just don't watch me lick it, that's a sin in some places.

For what it's worth, it's my two - or three - bits.


19 August, 2009

Post-Vivum: notes on my first art show (Art Attack)

I usually find that I learn better from experiences by writing about them -
so here are some notes from my first art show, and I hope others may find it of
help as they explore the joys and terrors of putting their hearts on their figurative

The art show went much better than I
expected; I think some people wandered out rolling their eye but
that's fine with me. It was too last-minute for most of my friends to
come, but one of my oldest friends was able to make it with her
family, so that was lovely. Overall I'd say about 30 guests came
through, including 2 kids. I made a few connections in terms of people
really looking at and liking my work, and got a possible professional
connection from a graphic artist who needs occasional illustration,
along with several folks interesting in face painting. I was surprised
at the mix of people: about 1/3 who were actually artists, 1/3 people
who were longing to do art but aren't able to, and 1/3 people who
called themselves art-lovers but were non-artists (I asked). Don't
know what that means but I found it very interesting. It was so nice
to be able to say "If I can do it, you can!" Got to paint a beautiful
percussionist/artist with gorgeous skin and bone structure and
copper-colored hair. That was really satisfying.

I need to organize better (of course!) in terms of: unfinished stuff,
finished stuff, "fine art" (definition up for debate), illustration,
and cartooning (I do a lot of stuff with ironic, visual pun, or
editorial content although I rarely post them). And here's the bugaboo:
framing. I hate framing, I hate frames, I hate mattes - unless they are
an integral part of the art. I need to look at why, but I haven't yet.

Notes to self:
• Do not buy or serve cheap italian wine if you can't read the
bottle. The bottle is a pretty blue glass,
but the "dry white" wine was some sort of sparkling thing.
Apparently it was pretty vile.
Happy to say I didn't even think of trying it.
• Buy less cheese (originally I had thought of doing fondue, but
Charlie has been to a lot more gallery openings than me and said -
kindly omitting his first though which was probably ARE YOU OUT OF
YOUR MIND??? - "You're going to drive yourself crazy maintaining that
and cheese goo is going to get everywhere. Just get some cheese and
slice it up." Wise, wise man! We went with sliced cheese and
sourdough, it was fine. I got compliments on my fine taste in
schnackies. Trader Joe's ROCKS.
• I found it helpful for my own nervousness to talk up the place and
the studio rather than my art. Charlie thought I need to talk up my
art more, but I'm not there yet - it was hard for me to verbally be
accepting of my art where it is, and that starts to sound like
excuses. That's my ego in the middle of it all (I need to do more
writing and meditation about the nature of pride and ego in creating
art and sharing art... ooh, I've never really done much in the way of
artshares aside from classroom critiques. Wish we had an ARTS meeting
around here). I did have one nice discussion about a piece that
really made itself; a lady admired it and I said without thinking
"Isn't that cool? It had me up all night, giggling, while I did it."
She lit up and nodded, so she'd clearly been there herself. It's not
about pride although I guess it might look like pride. Those pieces
are treasures because they come from a place of mystery, we just try
to get out of their way and watch them unfold.
• Wear my knee brace and supportive shoes! I spent a lot of time on
my feet today and my leg is *REALLY* hurting me!

Overall, I feel I accomplished what I needed to do - putting myself
out there, warts and all. If this inspired a couple of artists, and if
a few people got that I have something to offer as an artist, that is
a huge gift.

Funny, a week or so ago I asked for a change, and for things
to start shaking loose. Then the car broke down and the cat died, and I got the last-minute OK to open the studio for this show.
That scared me (a lot, actually), but I've also had some
extraordinarily good things happen too, by trying to create forward
momentum. I don't know where it will all take me, if anywhere, but
it's an interesting journey. Minko!

The Door is Open

I took this phrase from two sources:
the U2 song "Gloria", and my favorite Rumi poem:

"The Breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you
Don't go back to sleep
you must ask for what you really want
Don't go back to sleep
People are going back and forth
Across the doorway where the two worlds touch
The door is round, and open
Don't go back to sleep"

I have spent a fair amount of my life wide awake and dreaming, other times sleeping where my dreams were so vivid I wanted to go back and figure out how to make them real. How do I bring dreams into the waking world - dreams of creativity, of joy, of peace, of fun? How to take the shadow of my psyche and use it to heal myself and others instead of hurt?

I have eclectic taste - possibly insane taste - ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. I like silly humor more than I like sarcasm. I have a lifelong interest in why the heck the world is the way it is... cause and effect? G/d/s? Quarks? Who knows. Even if I thought I knew, that would be faith. The intersection between faith and knowledge - a dangerous and blurry place.

As the Firesign Theater states ".... a force that can only be used for good... or evillllll..." but I don't remember what they were talking about, was it a time machine?

I'm blessed with brilliant and creative friends; you'll find links to their blogs, art and ideas here. I'll add my own art and interests as time permits. Daring to put ourselves out there is one of the greatest challenges many artists face. Creating is easy, sometimes it happens all by itself. Communicating... hard.