It's the first of the month -- a great time to do a breast self-examination (BSE). BSEs save lives by helping women to discover breast cancer in its earlier stages -- when it's easier to cure. BSEs are easy to do. Here's how.
Come on, it only takes 10 or 15 minutes. I did mine today in the woods, grounded by an ancient maple tree, but you can do yours in the warmth and privacy of your bedroom. Just do it.
It's almost the end of the year. Got money in your cafeteria plan? Get a mammogram, get a consultation with a nurse practitioner who will show you how to do a BSE, get a few sessions with a nutritionist who will help you eat lots of cancer-fighters, get some Reiki to lower your stress levels and boost your immunity.
There's a fascinating article in today's NYT that suggests Nigerian fundamentalists may be faster learners than American fundamentalists:
Discussing the fact that it took less than a year for the populace to become disgusted with religious police, the article notes that:
The shift reflects the fact that religious law did not transform society. Indeed, some of the most ardent Shariah-promoting politicians now find themselves under investigation for embezzling millions of dollars. Many early proponents of Shariah feel duped by politicians who rode its popular wave but failed to live by its tenets, enriching themselves and neglecting to improve the lives of ordinary people.
“Politicians started seeing Shariah as a gateway to political power,” said Abba Adam Koki, a conservative cleric here who has criticized the local government’s application of Shariah. “But they were insincere. We have been disappointed and never got what we had hoped.”
The article continues:
Facing backlash from citizens and criticism from human rights groups at home and abroad, state governments that had swiftly enacted Shariah and embraced its harshest tenets are now shifting the emphasis from the punishments and prohibitions to a softer approach that emphasizes other tenets of Muslim law, like charity, women’s rights and the duty of Muslims to keep their environment clean.
“Shariah is not only about the cutting off of wrists,” said Muzammil Sani Hanga, a member of Kano State’s Shariah Commission and a legal expert who helped draft the state’s Islamic code. “It is a complete way of life.”
New programs have sprung up to encourage parents to send their daughters to hybrid public elementary schools that offer traditional Islamic education along with math and reading, in keeping with Islamic principles that call for the education of girls. In many of these classrooms, girls outnumber boys, and the United States Agency for International Development is so impressed with the potential of these programs that one third of the schools it supports across Nigeria are integrated Islamic and secular, according to officials at the agency.
State officials are using Islamic exhortations on cleanliness to encourage recycling of the plastic bags that choke landfills and gutters. One governor, citing the Islamic duty to care for the indigent, recently instituted a monthly stipend for disabled beggars.
“Our approach is a humane Shariah, not a punitive Shariah,” said Bala A. Muhammad, director of a state program in Kano called A Daidaita Sahu. The name, a Hausa commandment, means “straighten your rows,” a reference to the razor-sharp lines formed by Muslims as they line up to pray and a metaphor for the orderliness required in everyday life by the Koran.
Hundreds of yellow motorized rickshaws purchased by the state government make it easier for women, who had been barred from taking motorcycle taxis, to get around.
Maybe there's hope yet for American fundies, although I've seen little evidence that they're tired of being duped into voting for the Larry Craigs, David Vitters, Tom DeLays, and Rudy Guilianis. I've seen little evidence that they've realized that the Republlican party uses them and yet, even when in control of all three branches of government, somehow never manages to deliver on its promises to end abortion, kill all the queers, and round up all the immigrants. I guess they need to take lessons from their fellow fundies in Nigeria.
************************ Update: In comments at Eschaton, jwd points out this absolutely delicious diary at kos. After detailing all the reasons why Republicans are in trouble with voters this time around, (and I especially enjoy the Republicans' consternation that a Democratic victory in 2008 would probably also mean a national health-insurance program that would irrevocably expand government involvement in the economy and American life, and itself make voters less likely to turn toward conservatism in the future. In other words, if the Democrats get elected and give Americans what they really want, it will hurt Republicans. And the Republicans know it. The mind boggles.) the diary discusses Republican strategists' best hope for squeaking out another victory this fall:
"The most plausible path toward a renewed center-right majority involves consolidating and deepening the trend of the decades before 2006: holding on to as much of the existing conservative coalition as possible while adding more downscale voters who lean right on social issues."
There you have it. The grand Republican plan to return to their former glory is to hoodwink ever more poor folk into believing that the Republican Party has their best interests at heart. In Nigeria, nowadays, that wouldn't work. Poor American fundies! You're the Republicans' only hope! Show up and vote against your own health care in order to keep gays from getting married! Do it for Jebuz!
This weekend is a v. good time to spend time in nature, meditating, feeling the cold, staring at the bare branches of the trees, watching the cold sun finally come up in the desert, experiencing the cold waves washing up on the barren beach.
Break away from everything that's "expected" of you. Our culture will NEVER give you time to visit the underworld. It's an act of radical revolution, especially for women, to declare that you are worth it, the underworld is worth it, the dark, in this society that crams the dark into Shadow, is worth it. Walk away. Walk away from the "need" to shop, to bake a billion xmas cookies, to "make a perfect holiday for your family" to sew and wrap and party and hang greenery and plan. Walk away, walk into the dark and the cold and the place where you can be alone with nature. You, silence, the cold, your own thoughts, your own Shadows.
Carry only a few things with you. Your journal. A gift of food for the birds. Your warmest cape. Silence. Curiosity. Peace. By next weekend, the moon will be dark, it will be time to begin new things. But here, now, when the moon is in balance, find balance for yourself in the silent dark, now, before the holiday madness claims all.
Later, in the evening activist, scholar, and writer Riane Eisler arrived and spoke to us after dinner about her philosophy of changing the language from domination to partnership. Riane also generously donated her book The Real Wealth of Nations. She gave us the gift of the tool of knowledge to put forth to action. Riane told us that with our creative and active group she hoped she could contribute through inspiring future actions and would love to hear about them if she did. The group all engaged in a lively conversation following her talk.
My circle sister N. and I debated going to this potluck and decided we were too busy. I would chew off my left arm to meet Eisler, who is one of my true heras.
Shit. I cannot believe that I missed the chance to meet her! Shit!
It's probably just me, and it's likely a sign of incipient old age, but I spend a fair amount of time thinking about why Paganism, which, IMHO is supposed to be an ecstatic religion, so often -- isn't. There are lots of easy answers. We don't train people from their earliest ages to expect, experience, handle, and prepare for ecstasy. Instead, we're very busy training young children to eschew ecstasy, to follow instructions, to get in line, to accept boredom and constraint as natural states. Makes them good workers. Women, especially, are taught that ecstasy is dangerous, to be avoided, an enemy. Makes them good slaves.
But also, and I think about this a lot, we don't, as Pagans, structure our lives in such a way as to allow time for ecstasy. And, although occasionally, as a wild gift of the Mama, ecstasy comes upon us suddenly, uncalled-for and unawares, in general, ecstasy takes time. It takes time to prepare for, it takes time to build up to, it takes time to experience, it takes time to come down from, and it takes time to recover from (this last, especially as we grow old. My body takes longer to recover at 52 than it did, Goddess bless it, at 25).
Yule is one of the times when the women in my circle give ourselves the gift of time for ecstasy. Yule, for us, is always an overnight affair, a night spent sitting through the long dark with other women, eating, drinking, singing, telling stories, (briefly) sleeping together, and ending in a cacophony of whistles, tambourines, drums, spoons on pots, yelling, clapping, and broken shot glasses made of ice in the morning when the Sun hauls its sleepy self out of bed and begins staying up longer and longer each day. Yule ends, when we do things right, in ecstasy.
And then we go out for breakfast. Which is, I've learned, a v. good way to begin to ground again after being ecstatic. Especially, in my case, if grits are involved.
This year, we're planning a bit of interesting political action, mixed in with our pursuit of ecstatic states. But it seems to me that going into the dark, as we've all been doing since last June, and which culminates on Yule, ought, if it has any point at all, to lead to ecstasy. The very act of having returned from the underworld ought to inspire ecstasy, the knowledge -- hard-won in the underworld -- ought to inspire ecstasy, the realization that the sun is still getting up, the bonfires are still burning, the holly is still green: that has to inspire ecstasy or you might as well be dead.
It may be only as more of us start to grow up into the realisation that we are deeply responsible, each of us, for our creations, that we may begin to stand outside of ourselves-outside of our wants and perceived needs, outside of our drives to power over and oblivion from,that we can begin to be what we shaped ourselves to be originally- the universe in mortal consciousness, feeling our connection to each other and to all with every fibre of our beings, waking and sleeping in the surety that whatever befalls our brother befalls ourselves, and knowing beyond a shadow of doubt that we all belong here.
I think that she gets this exactly right and that's in spite of a bias that I generally have against the notion, often expressed in both Wiccan and New Age circles, that we have to "work on ourselves," "perfect ourselves," etc. before we can look for real change in the world at large, especially the world of politics. I worry, when I read stuff like that, that it's an excuse to ignore the very real and very necessary struggle to work for peace, and justice, and environmental security and to retreat into a narcissistic focus on "self." Rousseau was very right when he wrote that we must all tend our gardens, but he was very wrong when he implied that retreat into our own gardens was "enough."
But I think that Aquila ka Hecate is correct: we need to, as she says, "grow up into the realisation that we are deeply responsible, each of us, for our creations." And that means our political and social creations as well. George Bush didn't just spring, full-blown like Athena, from the brow of Zeus. We created him. I created him. I am responsible for not preventing him from all the evil that he does. I'm responsible for allowing his war to continue. You're responsible. And we need to deal with that.
And, in the end, political work, work for social justice, work to save the environment -- these are excellent ways for us to, in Aquila ka Hecate's beautiful words, "begin to stand outside of ourselves-outside of our wants and perceived needs, outside of our drives to power over and oblivion from,[and] begin to be what we shaped ourselves to be originally. . . ."
This religion is all about understanding that the world -- matter, stuff, cells, creation -- is what's divine. Unlike some xian sects, we don't see Earth as a "vale of tears" to be lived though on the way to Heaven, nor, like some Buddhist sects, do we regard it as "maya," illlusion to be "transcended." And, so, I think that the secret to this time of year, when it's dark when you wake up and dark by 4:30 in the afternoon, is to go into it, to welcome the dark, to agree to hibernate, which, if you are at all like me, is what your soft animal body really wants.
Dream some important dreams during those long dark nights that you wouldn't have time to dream during a shorter sleep. Wake up in the dark and write the dream down in your journal. Stop at lunch and daydream a different ending to the dream. One of my "regular and perpetual" dreams has me trying to find my way somewhere, but getting constantly sidetracked, lost, way-layed. And so, in this period of dark, I go back into the dream while I'm "awake" and bend down to retrieve a map that shows me just how to get to the big city. I look around and recognize the good and helpful stranger who will give me directions that I can understand, and then I thank her, and then I follow them. I sprout angel wings, as black as the black irises that i grow in the Spring, and I fly up high enough about the plains to see which direction I need to travel to reach the ice-cold spring of wonderful water.
The EEI newsletter has an interesting article concerning the impact of the East Coast drought on energy production:
Georgia Power's Hydro Generation Slumps Due to Drought
Georgia Power officials said hydro generation was down 51 percent this year because of Georgia's severe drought, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported. To make up for the shortfall, the company was forced to buy $33.3 million worth of coal and oil to fuel power plants.
Lake Lanier, whose waters power several hydro facilities in the western part of the state, is down 16 feet below normal and is expected to drop another six feet by mid-December. David Stooksbury, a University of Georgia professor called this the "worst drought since the mid-1920s" and expressed his concern for the year ahead. Stooksbury said: "But my real concern is for next summer. The consequences for Georgia's economy could be dire if we don't receive adequate recharge." Atlanta Business Chronicle , Nov. 19.
The drought is causing power companies to produce more power from coal and oil -- both of which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Hydro has its own problems -- a lot of them -- but it doesn't emit carbon the way that coal and oil do. We're also starting to see competition over water -- people who need it to drink or to water their crops are less than amused to see it being used to make electricity. (There are some ways around that, but they require, ironically, energy.)
I sure do hope we get rain next Spring and Summer.
I want a women’s revolution like a lover. I lust for it, I want so much this freedom, this end to struggle and fear and lies we all exhale, that I could die just with the passionate uttering of that desire…
Oh mother, I am tired and sick “How do you stop from going crazy?” No way, sister, no way. May we go mad together, my sisters. May our labor agony in bringing forth this revolution be the death of all pain. May we comprehend that we cannot be stopped. May I learn how to survive until my part is finished. May I realize that I am a monster. I am a monster. I am a monster. And I am proud.
Post Office Department, Washington D.C. In the Matter of the Loyalty of Harriet M. Pierce Seattle, Washington Loyalty Case Number 6
Executive Order 9835, March 21, 1948 established a Federal Employees Loyalty Program to see that disloyal civilian officers or employees are not retained.
As the result of a recent investigation made of you as an employee of the Post Office
information has been received which indicates you have been and that you are affiliated or sympathetic with
an organization, association, movement, group or combination of persons designated as subversive
and on the basis of this evidence grounds exist for belief that you are disloyal to the Government of the United States
2. Holding the Line
We have lists of those who stepped across that line to join us. A piece of paper. A simple list of our party, movement, association, group, and combination of persons. The names are the names of those who stepped across that line to join us. We stand in lines that stretch beyond the law. We march and are arrested. We do not let the right wing break our lines. We say we have the right to freedom of speech to freedom of silence. We say what we know to be truth for the record. We refuse to name names. Subversive we shove back. Loyal, we hold in trust each name given. It is that difficult and that simple.
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 . . . ."