I saw Pan's Labyrinth today and, oh my. It was complex, and dark, and wonderful, and magical in the dirty, rainy way that the real world is magical. And dark; did I mention dark?
It's "about" so many different things and it works on so many different levels. But what struck me immediately is that it tells a truth (as real fairy tales always do) about childhood that we're very reluctant to admit: children are really all on their own. The adults in their lives, even those who love them, won't/can't/don't help them -- not really. Adults are hostile, or powerless, or deluded, or just not capable of doing any better. They want children to be good, be quiet, be pretty. And even the forces of nature use them more often than they help them. (There is no fairy godmother providing magic carriages in this fairy tale. Pan is as scary and capricious as he is helpful.) And so, children, young, innocent children, just have to do the best that they can and try to cope with all sorts of powers, human powers and forces of nature, even though they lack much of the information that would help them to deal with those powers. Meanwhile, they have to sort of sneak in their "real" lives, their "real" work. It reminds me of a deep and scary poem by Mary Oliver.
The movie is also clearly "about" what's wrong with patriarchy, what's wrong with the way that men living in the patriarchy wound their sons and how that wound hurts everyone in the vicinity. Guillermo Del Toro says, using some lovely symbolism, that it's "time" for this passing on of the wound to "stop." In fact, once that wounding stops, our entire understanding of time can change, can become much more natural and less regimented. (Which, of course, is what magic requires in order to exist.) And it is, here, a peasant woman who says "No" to the passing on of the wound, who will not allow the wounded father to offer his son up to the love of machismo, war, intolerance, regulation, strict schedules. She says it before the wounded father can even finish his speech about ensuring that his son receives the wound of patriarchy. You believe her.
I also came away thinking how incredibly strong and vital the story structure of "perform three tasks" still is. I can't count the number of times that I've read that story, yet it still works. Three tasks before the moon is full. It works really well, here. Some say that there are really only two plots in the world: a stranger comes to town and someone goes on a journey. And, really, they're the same tale, told from two different perspectives. This movie is about a young girl going on a journey.
I'd read that Pan's Labyrinth could be considered a horror movie, and I admit that I'm not a big fan of horror movies. I didn't find it horrible. The scenes that I couldn't watch (I am a huge believer in closing my eyes; there are things I don't want to take away with me) were the scenes of torture and human cruelty, not the scenes with strange magical creatures. Still, it's not a movie for young children. They've got enough to deal with every day, as this movie reminded me.
The consensus seemed to be that if really large numbers of men were sent to storm the mountain, then enough might survive the rocks to take the citadel. This is essentially the basis of all military thinking.
~Terry Pratchett, Eric
Oy. Impeach now. We can send him to the Hague later.
And here is the problem with the big Man-God of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam: he creates the world of his own will, and very much alone. Where a great Goddess once generated the world . . . now a masculine "God" has taken her place. Why? Because this is a reflection of the opinions of the masculine powers that took charge of the first societies to suggest such a blatantly counter-intuitive thing: that a "God" could "create" things out of nothing. It's not a statement of reality; it's a statement of politics.
So this post, concerning fundie art and its use of sexual imagery, has been getting some attention on Pagan blogs. But what caught my eye was this statement: "A Mother's Love," as this painting is titled, shouldn't be expected to bear the standard of female eroticism.
Because there is something about becoming a mother that, in our society, renders a woman no longer sexual. How sick is that?
But does it serve the "needs" of the patriarchy? Absolutely. By making it "ok" for men who have impregnated one woman to go off and have sex with other women.
Why do you think they've promoted the whole madonna/whore insanity for so long?
I have, however, hope for the young people, who've made MILF a recognizable acronym.
My madly creative friend K. and I went to the protest at the White House last night. I was at the front edge of the crowd and it was difficult to estimate crowd size in the dark, but K. guessed that there were about two hundred people. The organizers said that our protest was one of almost 1,000 taking place last night.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee addressed us and said that the voice of the anti-war movement IS being heard on Capitol Hill, but that the people need to keep "the heat on the street."
I know there's some debate as to the value of protests. Maybe you've been to one or two big marches and, yet, here we are: waist deep in the big muddy while the big fool says to push on. But I think that protests are important. It's a way to physically put your body together with all the other bodies out there and say, "No. Not in my name. Not with my consent." It's like voting, in a way. You can tell yourself that your one vote won't matter. But you should still vote. And my spider sense tells me that the MSM may finally begin to cover protests seriously, for a change.
I noticed one thing different last night from almost all of the other protests that I've been to over the past several years. There were no counter-protesters last night, no one who stopped to argue with us. Of course, it was pretty cold.
Sen. Boxer Plans Climate Change Hearing Jan. 30; EPA Faces March 1 Review
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will conduct its first hearing on climate change on Jan. 30, focused on airing a wide range of opinions from colleagues that are designed to reduce man-made influences on the environment, Dow Jones Newswires reported.
Wrote the newswire: "There's no consensus on how to reduce emissions and several questions remain as to how and whether policymakers in Washington should implement a mandatory cap on carbon dioxide - thought to be the main global warming culprit - or institute a tax on the greenhouse gas. Either option would have a significant impact on electric utilities that rely heavily on coal. The fossil fuel releases substantial greenhouse gases when burned to generate electricity. Meanwhile, certain policies could boost nuclear energy, which is seen as an emissions-free way to produce power."
Boxer used a news conference to challenge the "Christmastime environmental massacre" approach that she says the EPA used to rollback several environmental standards associated with public health law. Boxer was quoted as saying: "We're going to shed the light of day on these rollbacks" and try to reverse them. "The days of these middle of the night rollbacks without scrutiny are over." A hearing on the EPA actions is set for March 1.
Dow Jones also noted that President Bush has again nominated Alex Beehler to serve as EPA's inspector general, Roger Martella to serve as an assistant EPA administrator and William Wehrum to serve as assistant EPA administrator of air policy. The nominations on all three were blocked by the Democratic minority last year, and Boxer signaled that she was displeased with the White House for failing to pick up on that signal. Dow Jones Newswires , Jan. 10.
In the fairy tale Twelve Wild Swans, Rose, the heroine, asked a million persistent questions, until she found out what she needed to know about her past and her own purpose. Once she found out what she needed to know, she walked out the door of her old castle, away from her old life, into the wild. . . . The disturbing dream, image, or sensation is your personal doorway out of the castle and into the wild, into the work of the Inner Path. . . . Something of ourselves has flown into the wild, through no fault of our own, We must search for it and pull it back into our human lives. . . . We choose to commit ourselves to our own healing, to our own wholeness, because a healthy priestess makes all things whole . . . .
If we set off on a path with nothing but courage, determination, and a kind heart, we will reach our goals no matter how impossible they may seem. [Fairy tales] promise that, in return for our greatheartedness, the universe will provide miraculous assistance that can bring about huge, impossible change for the better. . . . [E]ach and every story promises that we can become the main character in our own triumhant life story.
~Twelve Wild Swans by Starhawkand Hillary Valentine.
There are some things that I simply accept as a matter of course. I'm a bit odd -- I don't "feel" odd to me, but, if "odd" means different from most other folks, then I have to accept that I'm a bit odd. I really don't watch much tv at all and, for most of my life, I never have. But I sometimes fail to appreciate just how odd that makes me.
I had a long, leisurely lunch today with a bunch of the people that I work with, all lawyers and legal secretaries. At least half of the entire conversation was based on tv -- either sports or other tv shows. I was amazed at how many of these people, all really smart, well-educated people, spend what must be most of their non-work time watching tv shows. Amazed is the wrong word. The right word is: appalled. Their days begin with GMA, they return home from work to watch some weird "reality" (hah!) shows, and fall asleep to some sports event or another. All of them! I'm the only one sitting there thinking, "Yeah, I've heard of that show, but I've never seen it."
Good grief, people! Turn off the goddamn tv set. For the love of god! What if this IS your only chance to go around the wheel? What if this is your only ONE and precious life? Is this really how you want to spend it? Didn't you read 1984 and Brave New World? Stop it! Just stop it!
Goddess help me, I agree with everything Sally Quinn has to say today. (It's still, as it always is, ALL ABOUT SALLY, and it provides some interesting insight into a woman who married a man much older than she is, but, beyond that, she's spot on.)
After regaling us with several paragraphs about (natch) herself, Quinn explains what she saw as a child on an army plane full of soldiers wounded in the Korean War:
The thing I remember most vividly is the soldiers screaming in pain and crying out for their mothers. My mother went up and down the aisles holding their hands, stroking their brows, giving them sips of water. My sister helped light their cigarettes. Many of them were amputees. Some had no stomachs, some had no faces.
The soldiers in the litters above and below me both died, blood dripping from their wounds. Many other soldiers died while we were in the air. We had to stop in Hawaii overnight to refuel and to leave the bodies.
Turning to the boyking's plans to defy his own father and escalate the war in Iraq, Quinn says: I hope that when President Bush discusses sending more troops to Iraq, knowing that we will have to pull out sooner rather than later, that the conversation comes around to the human suffering. Does anyone at the table ask about the personal anguish, the long-term effects, emotional, psychological and financial, on the families of those killed, wounded or permanently disabled?
When I hear about the surge, all I can think of is those young soldiers on the plane to Texas. We have already lost more than 3,000 soldiers, and many more have been wounded and disabled.
Quinn then makes what I think is an incredibly important and almost-always-overlooked (or at least unstated) point about the situation in Iraq: We have three choices here. All three are immoral. We can keep the status quo and gradually pull out; we can surge [and then, Quinn doesn't add, but I will, pull out]; or we can pull out now. You know --and I realize that this concept is anathema to religious fundamentalists and producers of Hollywood westerns, but -- there are many situations in life where we can find ourselves without any completely moral choices. They usually happen after we've backed ourselves (and sometimes others) into a bad situation. Sometimes the only choice left to us is to try and figure out how to select the lesser of several bad options. I've been there; I'm sure that you have once or twice, as well.
We, as a society, are going to be facing a lot of these situations over the next couple of decades. We've backed ourselves into corners on this war, on the environment, on our economy, on our relations with the rest of the world, on health care, on education, on the role of religion in public life, on the role of corporations in our society. We need to face up to this fact and start figuring out now how to deal with these issues.
In the end, Quinn comes to the correct conclusion: When I think about those young soldiers on that plane coming back from Japan years ago, I believe pulling out now is the least immoral choice.
People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch publishes some comments from unhappy wingnuts concerning 2007. Most amazing, to me, was this admission from Rick Santorum:
Perhaps the most pessimistic response came from defeated Senator Rick Santorum who appeared to be so despondent that he could barely muster a few vague platitudes about making “judicial activism” a bigger issue – and even that was overshadowed by his own apparent sense of hopelessness:
Conservatism, of course, will never be the political disposition of a majority of Americans. Conservative objectives, however, will from time to time find the support of such a majority; the success of the conservative movement depends in large part on leaders taking advantage of such moments.
Did Santorum just admit that most Americans aren't conservatives and that the only way for the conservatives to impose their minority will on the rest of us is to "take advantage" of scams to get most Americans behind some vague "conservative objectives" coughhatethegaycough???
I bet a quick Lexis search would find dozens of Santorum quotes about how liberals are "out of the mainstream," and how conservatives express "the values of the heartland."
I have to say that, since I realized that I was a witch, I've never had a Dark Night of the Soul. Maybe that's just how unevolved I am.
Nine years ago, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I did go through what I'd call a "general re-consideration of the purpose of existence." Heh.
I remember being in the metro station and thinking, "Well, shit. If all that happened was that I got to this point and then died, well, shit, what was it all for, any way?" And: Grace.
Standing there, underground, in the metro station, as clearly as if it had been written out in flaming letters in front of me, I knew. "It was all about what everything's about. It was all about what every life on earth, human and nonhuman, is, has been, and always will be about. It was all about Goddess finding out what it would be like to be Hecate Demetersdatter." And, somehow, that was enough. (I adamantly refuse to be one of those "cancer survivors" who proclaim cancer to be a "gift," (it sucks), but that realization has certainly become one of the bedrocks of my existence. Thanks. I'll take it w/o so much nausea next time, if it's all the same.)
It was the very moment in which I really understood that, as I say every morning in my daily prayer: I am a manifestation of the Goddess. There's really only one Consciousness; it simply enjoys -- maybe that's the wrong verb, maybe "needs to" is a better verb -- experiencing existence in as many different manifestations as possible. It's a good idea for me to enjoy being the particular facet on this diamond-- which is all, and yet, which is everything -- that I am. And to do that as much in MY OWN WAY as I can. Otherwise, the "point of it all" is defeated.
Beyond that, I've had no Dark Nights. I've never doubted that divinity has a feminine face and that my purpose was to manifest and to worship that face. I've never doubted that magic exists --how could I? I've done magics large and small for lo these many years and, well, my magic works. I've never doubted that duality was the biggest lie they ever told me and that "yield who will to their separation, my goal in living is to unite, my avocation and my vocation, as my two eyes are one in sight."
When I was a teenager, though, raised catholic, I had a Dark Night of the Soul. The thing that made me unsuited for catholicism is that I took them seriously (won the Religion award, every year, to the consternation of several Christophers, I assure you). I assumed that they meant what they said and that sainthood was the (completely possible) goal. Reminds me of a great line from Thomas Merton that I once copied into my journal about there not being too many true believers in the monastery.
I became a catholic pentacostal -- of course: my sun is in Pisces. I developed an amazing prayer life and then: bam. I crashed into a wall. I hit my Dark Night of the Soul. There was an impenetrable marble ceiling between me and the deity in "heaven" to whom I was praying. I was, Goddess guard me, 16. The priests that I talked to about it couldn't help me; they told me to keep praying. My pentacostal advisors told me not to take myself so seriously. I decided to start having sex, which provided, on a basis that I wasn't ready to understand, some ecstacy, which is, really, nothing more than connection with divinity.
I can, again, so clearly, remember being in the bathtub trying to pray, hitting the slab of marble above me, and saying, "Well, fine. You're a full-of-shit god if I ever saw one. I'm trying to pray and this is how it works? Fuck you; that's a shitty way, in the words of St. Theresa, to treat your friends. No wonder you have so few." And, surprisingly, Deity answered me. Diety said to me: "I will surprise you."
And, for about 15 years or so, that was it. "I will surprise you."
I'd try to go back to church, or to pray, or I'd read something about deity, and, again, all I'd hear, although I'd hear it loud and clear, was: "I will surprise you."
For a few years, I won some middle ground by thinking of deity as a juggler who juggled the sun every morning with just as much difficulty and work and desire and care and uncertainty as I juggled being a single mother, teacher, student, young woman, writer, "wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving." I'd spend time with trees and wonder, "Does it matter to deity that we appreciate creation?" But, still, if I delved any deeper than that, all that I'd hear was: "I will surprise you."
Having been raised catholic, with a mother and several nuns who kept telling me that I was "destined for the religious life," I thought I knew what that meant. I thought it meant that I was convent-bound, although I couldn't figure out what or why or how I'd ever wind up in a convent, bitter as I'd become towards xians and their anti-woman ways. I even, and this is how dense I was, read several books by Zimmer-Bradley about ancient priestesses with the words "I WILL SURPRISE YOU" literally ringing in my ears, without figuring it out.
And then, just like that, a year or two later, having figured out, I imagine, just how dense I truly was, Deity surprised me.
By being cunt-blessed like me. By being womb-blessed like me. By lactating like me. By being a mother like me, a writer like me, a teacher like me, a learner like me, a lawyer like me, by being, biggest surprise of all, like me. By being a woman, like me. Diety surprised me, as promised so many times, by being feminine -- the one thing, the very ONE thing, that, catholic-raised as I was, I could NEVER have imagined.
Since then, I've been discouraged, thinking that I'd never find a coven to work with. I've been disappointed, usually in my own abilities, my own attempts to know myself, my own need for almost daily transcendence. But Dark Night of the Soul? No.
And, if I had one, well, I no longer deal in dualities, as that 16-year-old did so long ago. So how would I know? Trips to the underground, honorary recreations of Innana's long journey to the meat hooks: those wouldn't upset me any more. They'd simply be yet another way for Goddess to find out what it's like to be Hecate Demetersdatter in THIS situation.
I've been having too much fun finding out.
But that doesn't mean that there isn't a Dark Night of the Soul (I was raised catholic; I know that it was St. John of the Cross who coined this phrase) patiently waiting out there to surprise me.
But the words of Mary Olive sustain me:
Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith
Every summer I listen and look under the sun's brass and even into the moonlight, but I can't hear
anything, I can't see anything -- not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up, nor the leaves deepening their damp pleats,
nor the tassels making, nor the shucks, nor the cobs. And still, every day,
the leafy fields grow taller and thicker -- green gowns lofting up in the night, showered with silk.
And so, every summer, I fail as a witness, seeing nothing -- I am deaf too to the tick of the leaves,
the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet -- all of it happening beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.
And, therefore, let the immeasurable come. Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine. Let the wind turn in the trees, and the mystery hidden in the dirt
swing through the air. How could I look at anything in this world and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart? What should I fear?
One morning in the leafy green ocean the honeycomb of the corn's beautiful body is sure to be there.
From West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems, by Mary Oliver. Published by Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. Copyright 1997 by Mary Oliver.
So, this is what I say to the Dark Night of the Soul:
Let the immeasurable come. Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine. Let the wind turn in the trees, and the mystery hidden in the dirt
swing through the air. How could I look at anything in this world and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart? What should I fear?
One morning in the leafy green ocean the honeycomb of the corn's beautiful body is sure to be there.
The Goddess taught me this. She taught me this on the day that she surprised me, as she'd promised me that she would do. I've worked hard at learning the meaning of that surprise. It's what Divinity wanted to learn in this incarnation, this time around. So mote it be. May it be so for you.
[Leading consultant to Karl Rove and one of the most influential advisors on U.S. policy in the Middle East, Michael Leeden] wrote that "Creative destruction is our middle name. . . We do it automatically." he speaks of "exporting the democratic [sic] revolution," which can be done through a process called "total war," best described by his colleague Adam Mersereau:
"By 'total' war, I mean the kind of warfare that not only destroys the enemy's military forces, but also brings the enemy society to an extremely personal point of decision, so that they are willing to accept a reversal of the cultural trends that spawned the war in the first place. A total-war strategy does not have to include the intentional targeting of civilians, but the sparing of civilian lives cannot be its first priority . . . ."
[Leeden also says that]: "Societies with a majority of good people are rare and are constantly threatened by the evil-minded world outside. . . . Since we want peace, we must win the war. Since our enemies are inclined to do evil, we must win decisively and then impose virtue on their survivors, so that they can't do any more evil to us. . . . The only important thing is winning or losing. Don't worry about how the world will judge your strategy. Just worry about winning. Machiavelli tells us that if you win, everyone will judge your methods to have been appropriate."
No way should we give these people even one more American soldier to throw at their evil, disgusting, immoral, and completely unrelated-to-reality insanity. No way.
I'm sure Leeden's final sentence is what Bush has based his entire junta on, starting with the theft of the 2000 election. He thinks that if he "wins" -- whatever the fuck that means -- everyone will say that what he did was ok.
I won't. What they are doing is evil. They shouldn't be given more soldiers; they should be put somewhere quiet, and soothing, and safe, with padded walls and nice, friendly doctors to talk to. For their rest of their lives.
You swim up from the past, of all our set the one most rosy, elegant, and tall. Any your transparent profile -- how it sways through carriage windows! Why does memory insist? Angel or bird -- we argued which you were. The poet said you were his girl of straw. Through the black lashes of your Georgian eyes Affection flowed on everyone around. O shadow! Forgive me, but the clement weather, Flaubert, insomnia, the smell of lilacs have turned my thoughts to you, as if that day could bloom again, cloudless and languishing . . . your day, beauty of the year '13. But I am troubled by such memories, O shadow!
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."