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Do we have an internal voice anymore? An interior world that is our own? How many of us edit what is in our own journals so that we might project our best image, or a certain type of image, or please others, or not offend them with our real thoughts? When we have constant information and input flowing in (status updates, advertisements, music or muzak, tv, etc) how can we filter and develop an interior world?

And as women particularly is our interior world valued? Is it only valuable if other people like it? If we get so many 'likes' on Facebook, or some one pays us for our memoir? Our bodies are certainly picked apart. All of our parts must be approved by some external gaze - be it male or female. If a magazine tells us curvy is in then we can breathe a sigh of relief. We can defend our figures based on whatever health fad is in. Do we get to like our selves just because?

How can we embrace our bodies, our embodiedness (flesh, earthiness, corporeality, etc) without being only our bodies? Finding this blade thin balance feels impossible on days when I engage in mainstream media, but is only slightly more possible when I read philosophic or theological texts. Any wisdom gleaned is still problematic - all theory, all big words. And how do we find the razor thin line between personal and physical autonomy, still so necessary in our world, and communal participation, still so necessary in our world? Women especially still struggle in these areas. How can we embrace our desires and hopes, aspirations and ambitions, and also serve and care for others in a meaningful way?

The greatest mystery in life to me is finding the place of balance in all these questions. I think it is one of feminism's biggest challenges in the world. How do we embrace the myriad contradictions that make up our lives? To serve and be served? To love and be loved? To embrace power (such a problematic word in feminism) and yet not be crushed by it? To attain equality with men, but elevate that equality to something that provides freedom for women and men, for all people regardless of class, size, religion, sex, gender, race?

Ultimately, how do we become whole human beings?

Religiously and theologically I think the rise in paganisms and New Age movements speaks to many of these questions. I waver inbetween mono- and poly-theism. My personal practice is FAR more pagan than Christian. And yet to be honest I think that established religions, among them Christianity, have more tools, language, depth and nuance to tackle a lot of the questions. There is so much in the Christian tradition alone that is liberatory and radical, but church feels dead. How do we/I/you find personal meaning and depth and also have community?

The modern struggle of transience v permanence, individual v community, choice v duty, private and public, and so on. We never choose sides, it's always a negotiation. An ongoing negotiation until the day we die, I'm guessing.
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I've been having a long and interesting discussion about religion with a distant cousin. I make no claims to have any of the answers, though I do spend damn near all my waking hours engaged in religious thinking in some capacity or another. What's KILLING me is his inability to reason, while all the time trying to convince me that he's too logical and I'm too emotional. Now, I am very emotional: I get passionate, yes, sir. But in my engagement with him I've been very even handed, perhaps too even. But his refusal to understand that in the world of religion X *and* Y need to be considered not incompatible Truths but simultaneous truths, has me coming off as emotional to him. It's not out of some namby-pamby love-fest that I say this. It's because after practicing and studying religions and spending time with people who believe differently than I do, to assume that only Jesus is THE God is to basically tell 4.5 billion other people to fuck off and die. It's not saying Jesus is MY God, but Jesus is THE God. I know the vast majority of Christians don't see it that way, but that's how it is.

I have spend considerable time in Jewish communities and developing friendships with both cultural and religious Jews (which doesn't make me an expert, merely informed to some degree), I have never ever had a Jew tell me that their God was THE God and boy I'd be a lot better off if I argreed. If I want to join their party, many would welcome me (many would not, since I'm not ethnically Jewish), but the Jewish people are content to worship their god and go on their merry way. They don't need to convince the rest of the world of their religious superiority. I would love to know if the Jewish world sees their God as THE God, or merely as THEIR God - that's a huge difference.

I'm really fed up with the mainstream idea that logic means there can only be one big-T Truth. I fear that modern Western schooling has ruined the brains of generations who were taught to find Right Answers - there can be only One! - rather than to develop arguments and think critically. Unless you are in the hard sciences, there is rarely One Answer. I think this is why academics are stereotyped as elitists: because it's very difficult to talk with people for whom there is only One Right Answer. If I had to talk with people like my cousin (who's a Nice Guy) regularly I think my head would explode. This is why people like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin give America/politics/conservatives/Christianity such a bad name, because they don't reason. At all. Cuz reasoning and arguing is some Lefty Agenda out to confuse the Average Joe. Of course it confuses the Average Joe - because they went to school where there was only one right answer!! (Excuse me while I go stab out my eyes in the corner.)

I'm starting to wonder if there isn't some religious causation here. In the Protestant Christian world (which makes up the vast majority of America) there is one sacred text - the Bible. It is entirely correct. It is The Right Answer. Everything must be squared with it. There is One God. The Bible says X, so X it is. There is no tradition of critical engagement. No tradition of wrestling or questioning. No understanding that the Bible is a sacred text that grew up in certain times and places and is relevant to certain people. One billion Hindus grew up in a different time, place and culture with different sacred texts? Well, fuck them. They're Wrong. How mind-bogglingly ignorant and arrogant is it that?? Oh, says my cousin, truth is truth. Gahhhhh! Religion is not a hard science! The same rules do not apply as when we determine, say, that the earth rotates around sun.

I wonder too if perhaps (stereotypically) more Jews go into academia because of their tradition with engaging with texts. The Jewish tradition has a long and rich tradition of arguing and engaging with their sacred texts and teachers - Midrash and Talmud come immediately to mind. Perhaps there is less of a need for One Right Answer, and therefore the world of academia, where it's not about Right Answers but more about better and worse arguments, comes more naturally?*

I don't know. All I know right now is that mainstream reasoning seems to be dying a slow, disgraced death. Many people considered themselves religiously well educated if they made it through 5 years of Sunday school. It makes me want to hide under the bed and weep. Or just hole up with other people who can think, like the elitist I am.

*[livejournal.com profile] hraffntinna and [livejournal.com profile] msmidge please smack me upside the head if I'm full of shit.
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Feminism: totally relevant. Theology: can be totally relevant. Christianity: certain parts and strains of it can be very relevant. But a lot of times, when I look through the journal articles out there and the books that get published, I just shake my head and think "What the hell does this have to do with anything? Who cares anymore?" Do we really need yet another Protestant take on the Gospel of Matthew? I'm going to say no. I think for my own motivation I need to figure out a way to make my own arcane studies relevant to the greater world or risk boring myself with inanity.
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It’s not that nothing is happening in my world, it’s that it is all happening up in my head. Lampeter is a quiet place. In recent ‘excitement’ a couple of jack-asses destroyed over 40 graves at the cemetery two weeks ago. They’ve been arrested, thankfully. Desecrating graves? Not a wise idea. The Urdd Eisteddfod came and went. Now it’s World Cup. The University is a mess and the theology dept is imploding; the TRS building has long felt like a ghost town, but it feels that way even more so. The town doesn’t seem to be feeling this as far as I can see.

On a personal note, I’m all up in my head and Adam is dealing with Big Things. I really want to write about some of it, but that doesn't seem right since it’s not my stuff. For me, I’m having a great back and forth about religion and spirituality with one of my cousins on Facebook. I’m petitioning the Uni for all of my fees. I’m reading some mind-blowing stuff about Temple Judaism and its influence on Christianity. Basically, if she’s right, and her arguments appear really solid (though I’m no Biblical scholar and do not have any of the languages), it throws the conventional understanding of the Bible and Christianity on its ear. My brain hurts a little, I confess.

(I just posted a really long post about Barker's writing to my theology filter. If you're not on it and want to be, just let me know.)
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Most of my days are filled with thoughts about religion/spirituality/theology/practice/the Divine/etc/what have you. If I'm not reading about theology and the Virgin Mary, I'm reading about yoga or devotion or magic or some such. Or I'm doing yoga, or walking and praying and noticing and being. One of the many things that has been a blessing about being a mother is having to integrate my spiritual practice into my life in a more holistic way. I no longer have the luxury of huge blocks of time where I can do yoga for an hour and then seamlessly move into 30 minutes of meditation (I'm not sure I am physically able of that anymore!). Instead, I get ten minutes here, 5 minutes there, maybe 20 minutes if I'm lucky.

This carving up of my focus is as frustrating as it has been transformative. With all the esoteric and theoretical reading I do it's good to focus on practice. The practice reminds me that in many ways all the theory and fine details don't mean as much as we academics and theoreticians believe. At the end of the day no matter what our beliefs most of us have to pay our bills, feed our kids, clean the kitchen, answer the phone. I'm reminded of the book title "After the ecstasy, the laundry." Most days I barely touch the ecstasy. Or at least, it's the kind of ecstasy that I might miss if I wasn't paying attention. The sweet, quiet kiss of warm breeze, the hum of the bees, the soaring of the red kites high above the houses, a little boy who is so excited by the rumbling of the loriau, the peace that surpasses understanding. Most days these are the things that open me up to the divinity that I know is present in our world. It makes me think that all our spiritual differences aren't as big we make them. When it comes down to it we all want clean water and happy children; we all need to pay our bills and be loved. Sometimes a smile and thank you feels more holy than all the prayers I've ever said.

I think of the Buddhists who are out there praying for us, that we all might be free of suffering - and I am grateful that my frustrations and fears are being prayed for. I think about my Jewish friends who light candles on Shabbat. I think of my friends singing in church on Sundays. I think of my non-religious friends who make art or pursue the science of this amazing world we live in. May we all be free, may we all be loved, may real transformation come to this world and each and every one of us, that we may no longer live in fear or pollution or discrimination or exile.
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I’m a little dismayed at how my last post (immigration and food politics) was derailed by the topic of abortion. However, all the big issues are intertwined and I’m sure we could find a link between abortion, food politics and immigration if we tried. All the comments, as well as another thread elsewhere, and my ‘at home’ reading got me thinking again about when ‘life begins.’

Two years ago I spent two days discussing abortion with tenth grade boys in a Catholic high school in California. It was a great experience – for everyone I think. I was 5 months pregnant at the time. In my preparation for the presentation I came across many differing ideas about when life begins. I think the discourse around this needs to be changed from ‘life’ to ‘personhood’, because we are not debating life, we are debating what makes a clump of cells – indisputably alive! - a sentient human entity. If life is what the abortion debate is about then the life of dividing cells, the life of a person-shaped squidlet with spine, eyes, heart and brain clump, is given a lot of weight and other creatures with similar characteristics need to be given the same consideration. This means no animal testing of any kind – rats and monkeys are easily more advanced beings than a fetus at 12 or 20 weeks gestation. This means that eating meat is murder of advanced forms of life. There are many anti-abortion* advocates who are vegetarians, but as a whole the movement needs to address the fact that what we are debating is personhood.

Personhood is more than about whether or not something is alive. Cancer cells are ‘alive,’ mosquitos are alive, that spider you squashed is alive, that chicken is alive. We are talking about placing a priority on human sentience. Now sentience is more than intelligence because I am not suggesting in any way, shape or form that the less intelligent, the developmentally disabled, the infirm, the insane, etc are less than human. So what exactly does being human mean? I would like to see the anti-abortion advocates address this issue. Is it potential for human life? In that case, male masturbation, female menstruation, birth control methods, and any sex that is not intended to procreate are hindering the potential for human life. (Hey! That’s the Roman Catholic position! At least they are consistent.) What about miscarriages? Approximately 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage – often women just experience a heavier period, not knowing that the egg had in fact been fertilized. What do we say to those women?** ‘Potential’ is such a tricky word.

Personhood is about more than ability or potential. Whatever definition of personhood we choose says something about what we believe about humanity and its/our role in the greater picture. Many theologians who delve into this issue of personhood (theological anthropology – an area I love) talk about dignity, particularly the Catholic theologians. I think this is also a murky word. If Catholics and Evangelical and other forms of Protestants (though, again, not all) believe that life begins at conception (a belief that is enabled by modern science!) what do others believe?

Muslims (broadly, as with any large group there are bound to be many exceptions) tend to see personhood as beginning at the first sign of quickening (the first movement felt by the mother). According to David Abrams in The Spell of the Sensuous, Australian Aboriginal cultures believe that the spirit of the baby is inserted into the womb at the first quickening as well. What’s interesting is that this is usually between the 4th and 5th month of pregnancy – after the risk of miscarriage, once pregnancy has firmly taken root. This makes so much sense to me. Some Jewish traditions do not consider the baby a person until its head is outside the womb. Until that moment it has the potential (that word again!) for personhood but isn’t considered a full member of humanity until it is born.

This makes sense in a less scientific world, with less advanced medical care. So why shouldn’t we advance our standards with science? Because I don’t think our lived human experience aligns with that of science. So we can now see a baby-shaped squidlet at 8 weeks. I admit, seeing that is deeply mysterious and profound. But it is a disembodied experience: my mostly still flat belly is rubbed around with a cold instrument (or at this early stage a desexualized dildo is inserted) that produces a blurry black and white digital image. But I still can’t feel the baby. It is still experientially abstract. Our brains know, but our lived experience doesn’t. Women still miscarry – something that is considered shameful. The older I get the more I realize how many women have miscarried and how few of them speak about it. Obviously there is something shameful about this experience if we cannot speak openly about it and comfort one another.


*I have just decided to quit using the term pro-life because I think it is a misnomer. The issue isn’t life – it’s personhood. Most ‘pro-life’ advocates eat meat and are in favor of the death penalty, both of these would fall under ‘against life’ in my logic. ‘Anti-abortion’ states clearly what the group is about. Pro-choice however is more an accurate fit as it indicates that this group is in favor of… choice. I personally would never choose to abort and I feel that I share some of the reasons and emotions of the anti-abortionists, but I believe very strongly in defending this choice.

**I would be really really sad if I thought I was pregnant and miscarried. Those who are trying to have a baby are (usually) saddened no matter when the miscarriage occurs – 3 weeks or 13 weeks. But miscarriages happen for all sorts of reasons, usually ones that do in fact support life. I firmly believe that life wants to perpetuate itself so if a pregnancy miscarries there is most likely a very good natural reason for it.
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We keep waiting for some one to save us. Some external force to sweep us off our feet, swoop down, legislate, give us a magic cure. A magic diet for our body issues, the True Love that will relieve us of our loneliness or dissatisfying relationships, the make over that reveals we were beautiful all along, the audience that confirms our brilliance, the Saviour that will come down from heaven and restore our Faith and Truth. But these are external forces of salvation. No one can make us feel beautiful, worthy, or powerful if we don't believe these things first. We have to realize those things on our own. No one can save the world if we don't. Who else is going to care for this earth if we don't? Who else is going to stop war, injustice, and grief if we don't?

We save ourselves and each other. THAT is what Jesus revealed (among a few other things). We are of worth. Matter and spirit are entwined. God is with/in us. He wasn't a substitution. We sacrifice ourselves all the time, just usually we are sacrificing our hope, our self-worth, our joy at the altar of deception and duality. What do I let deceive me? We save ourselves every time we embrace wholeness, every time we move from a place of love - not frilly fantasy love, but the Love of Self-worth and Joy.

This spring let us resurrect ourselves and one another from the constructs of our fear, our loneliness, the things that separate us from our fullness and one another. I love Easter/the Resurrection. If sin is the separation from God/Divinity, the Incarnation reveals to us that that separation is false. The image of God is inside each of us, so who are we not to be beautiful? Not to be loved? Not to be bold? Not to be powerful?
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Books read so far in 2010:
Kahuna Magic, by Brad Steiger - enh

The Virgin Mary, Monotheism and Sacrifice, by Cleo McNelly Kearns - Tedious intro and conclusion, but some very interesting biblical insights and comparison of Mary and Abraham

The Girl Who Played with Fire, by Steig Larsson - Not as good as the first book, too many characters, but the Salander is so fascinating I will follow her anywhere

The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, by Vladimir Lossky - I felt dumber having read this book. The section on energies vs essence in the hypostases of the Trinity especially, but the last sections did have some inspiring bits

The Messages of the Lady of All Nations, Ida Peerdeman - Messages of 20th Century aparitions
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Who wants in?

I'm going to set up a filter for thoughts that come up for me in this work, thoughts that don't necessarily have a place in my academic writing. I will do this for myself, even if no one else is interested. Expect it ramble all over the place. I may post some of my actual work, but we'll see. I'm not too comfortable posting anything that has potential to be used for Serious Academic Purposes to the internet.

Any takers?

Good times

Jun. 4th, 2008 09:45 pm
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Last night Adam and I went on a date. We went to eat a new-ish Italian place in downtown Berkeley, a sort of local chain sit down place. I was hesitant because I tend to hate chains and "midscale" dining places, but the food was really good! Finally, a good Italian place in the East Bay that doesn't cost a fortune.

Then we went and saw Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Sweet, not entirely formulaic for a formulaic genre film and completely laugh out loud funny, which was just what we needed.

In some ways it was the day that should be tomorrow: tomorrow is my 33rd birthday. I don't normally celebrate my birthday and don't really care much, but this year..... it's really gonna be a drag. I'll go in for my normal day shift at the hospital, then come home and then I'm going in for a night shift - the attending physician suggested it. I still don't completely understand why, but hell - a doctor suggested I spend more time with Benn, so what am I going to say? No?

Still, hope springs eternal. I have begun breaking my own theological "rules" - I've begun praying for specific outcomes. Always a dangerous game and theologically unwise. I am not yet free from the lust of results.
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Today was the day I went in to two of my friend D's 10th grade theology classes at an all boys' Catholic high school and talked about abortion in a social justice context. I was nervous. It's been years since I've been in the classroom, I haven't been sleeping well, I just wasn't as prepared as I normally would like to be, and well... it's a Catholic high school.

My friend D: we met at grad school, his undergrad is in Latin and Greek, his master's is in Patristics (early Church fathers), he's an Eastern Orthodox convert, and he's goofy and brilliant too! I am very honored that he asked me to come in and talk to his students. Before I go into what I said (I know some of you will be very interested, others not so much), I want to say that I was soimpressed with the school and the students. Who knew that a classroom of 15 yr old boys could be engaged and respectful in such a discussion?? They never once mocked each other for their opinions or ideas. Of course, not everyone seemed enthused or contributed - I mean, they are 15. But in comparison to my two years spent working primarily with 15 yr old boys in a public school, I was beyond impressed.

Personally, I have some issues with private school. But over the course of the morning I found myself thinking, "Wow, I would totally send my son here!" The grounds are nice, the faculty I met were open and friendly, the school's motto is "A De la Salle graduate is a man of faith, integrity and scholarship" - character traits I can get behind. The Catholic order that runs the school focuses on social justice. Catholicism, while not my favorite partly because of their strong adherence to dogma, is a very broad denomination. Some orders, like the Jesuits, focus on teaching, some on serving the poor, some on priestly duties; there is a whole array of emphases and attitudes in the Catholic Church. D had told me a little about this particular school and that the 10th grade theology curriculum was all focused around social justice. I think this is unbelievably cool. So while the official Catholic Church stance on abortion is unequivocally "NO, and no birth control either!" the curriculum for this unit encourages broader discussion about the issue. I can only dream that public schools would allow this sort of discussion around the topic!

So what did I talk about? )

Overall, it was a really successful and enjoyable day. I'm going back next Thursday to speak to D's third theology class. I look forward to it.
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February is nearly over! Its insanity trickles over into the first week of March, with continued work hoo-ha. But it's almost done.

Tomorrow and Saturday Adam and I are completely moving house - down the hall to a bigger apartment. The extra room will be nice, as will moving to the back of the building, where it's much quieter. However, I'm sad to say good bye to our current kitchen. It's bright and spacious, with built-ins and a lovely arch, which made a wonderful spot for my kitchen altar. Alas, the new kitchen is more boxy, not as light, shorter on storage and has no good spot for an altar. I have found that my kitchen altar gets more play than other altars I might create, so I'm not sure what I'm going to do.

Sunday is an all day work day for me and Adam. Our nonprofit puts on these Jewish biblical learning conferences several times a year around the Bay Area. They're really great, if you're into that sort of thing. Our keynote speaker for this one is Judith Plaskow, pioneering lesbian feminist theologian. Plus, having met her in the fall I can also say she is approachable and enjoyable to talk with. Adam and I get to have dinner with her on Saturday night. I'm really excited!!

Still, I look forward to unscheduled weekends.
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I had dinner last night with a wonderful friend, a guy I met while in grad school. We don't see each other much, mostly because he's a flake with scheduling and partly because he teaches high school two towns over. But he's wonderful, brilliant and one of the few people I unreservedly dork out with over Christian theology.

He teaches theology and Latin at an all boys Catholic high school. This semester his theology classes are focusing on social justice. He is planning to do a unit in February on abortion and he's asked me to come in and present. He thinks a male teacher in a room full of boys needs a woman's perspective on this issue. I agree, and I am honored that he's asked me.

I have about three weeks to prepare. Of course, this is not health or sex ed. A feminist perspective is vital, but must be carefully trod as this is not my classroom and the boys don't have any feminist theory under them. So I ask you (and particularly [livejournal.com profile] queen_of_wands) for any suggestions - on material, presentation techniques, places to mine for info, etc. My plan is talk for no more than 20 minutes and then do some discussion.

Just so you know, I am not required - and my friend doesn't want me - to just parrot the Catholic Church's view that all abortion is bad. The aim is to get the boys to think about how the issue is interconnected with other issues, to see the decision with some compassion, and to see beyond the black and white language that the abortion "debate" is couched in.
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I am reading (still) Sarah Boss, my adviser's book Empress and Handmaid, on nature and gender in the cult of the Virgin Mary. The chapter on the Immaculate Conception is a revelation to me. I have so much to learn! Most of my understanding of traditional views of original sin come from the Augustinian view point: that thanks to concupiscence (lust, essentially) no conception is pure and all flesh is tainted with sin. Anselm (1033-1109), an important Catholic theologian who I am mostly unfamiliar with, "taught that original sin was the absence of the original justice with which the world was created". I can't parse exactly what the nuances of this are yet, but it jives a whole hell of lot more with I perceive sin to be. And, according to my adviser, it was this view of creation that inspired the doctrine of Immaculate Conception; it was out of a desire to preserve the goodness and integrity of creation and flesh as exemplified in Mary that the Immaculate Conception was first discussed.

This is a big shift for my brain. I have long railed against the Immac. Conc. and the idea of original sin. I loathed the idea that Mary needed to be preserved from the foulness of the flesh. She has always been to me an example of true unity of spirit and flesh/creation. Like the Buddhists reaching Nirvana and becoming one in spirit with the great Void, Mary is an example of uniting the distracted human spirit embodied in created flesh with the Divinity of God, while still living on this earth. I have considered this a sign that life is not as depraved as so many strains of Christianity would have us believe, that sin (pick your definition) isn't so insurmountable, and that creation and flesh are not incompatible with union with God. And that is possible for us humans and possibly in this lifetime. At the very least, we can touch and taste the sweetness evidenced by all the saints that go before us. (I do not limit only Christian saints in this example. I'm quite pluralistic.)

This is why I study theology. For every week that I feel shrouded in the dark frustrations of maddening theologies (or, annoyed and dismayed by stupid old white men spouting off conclusions that make me feel like I'm wasting my time and killing my faith), there are days where goodness, truth and beauty shine out and I feel like I'm not crazy, or alone.

Thank god

Sep. 27th, 2007 02:56 pm
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Thank the good lord for:
*FINALLY getting all of my paperwork sorted out and completed. The only thing left to do is get a library card.
*Fast computers in the student computer lab that I can now use.
*Not being 18 anymore.
*Clear sunny skies and bright green land with fresh air and no advertisting around.
*Scones with jam and cream. REAL British scones with thick clotted cream. Not some pansy ass coolwhip "substitute" or those triangular doorstops Americans try to pass off as scones.
*A cafe that serves food made from actual vegetables. Not mushy broccoli in bland sauce, which seems to be the norm.

And, it turns out that even though I applied to the MPhil program I am accepted as a PhD student! Every postgrad is assigned to the MPhil for one year (sort of as probabtion) to weed out those not capable of actual PhD work. This changes my life plan considerably.

Lastly, it looks like my dissertation is headed in the direction of looking at Mary as Co-Redemptrix and the implications of that for the Trinity - which will encompass feminist and cosmological theologies, Mary's adaptation and cooption of pre-Christian Divine Feminine symbols, and a healthy evaluation of the impacts on and implications for the three branches of Christianity.

Hot damn. Nobody steal this for their own dissertation, now.

Off to: get library card, go check out the town's bazaar on being a post-oil community, and hopefully grab a drink with [livejournal.com profile] chiv. I could use a stiff drink.
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A lot has been brewing lately. God )
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Last night Adam and I watched An Inconvenient Truth. The information presented wasn't entirely new to me, but I thought the presentation of the material was engaging. Who knew Al Gore was funny? Or charming? Or so wicked smart? I was choked up, naturally, by the beautiful shots of our glorious world. Anything arctic hit me in the gut especially hard. I think about my beloved glacier in my home town dwindling down to a shadow of its former self, an anorexic behemoth. I think about parts of Alaska I've never been to withering as the permafrost melts. Bah! I can't write about this without getting upset. And I know I preach to the choir here....

Most of my weekend was spent doing theology - taking another one of those classes at the GTU that meet one weekend a month for the semester. I was a little disappointed that the first weekend was rather weak. I find it frustrating to discuss Augustine's (or anyone else's) ideas about anything if we're not given primary sources. The teacher distilled certified genius's ideas to two lines and we were supposed to say educated things about them. At the very least give us a handout with a couple of pages of original source material (in translation, please) to read during lunch or something. Plus, everyone in the class, from what I can tell, are classical theists and the teacher's bias definitely comes out, even though she is an Eastern Orthodox and I thought they were a little more accepting of panentheism, which I align myself with.

Anyway, it's great to get my juices going. I have written up my thoughts below the cut. They're not my notes for the class, but rather stuff that I was thinking while class was going on. This is rough and posted mostly to get it out of my actual notebook. No editing or further thought has occurred. If theology doesn't interest you or makes your belly queasy (I know who you are) then stay away. Otherwise, dive )

Having gone through these thoughts they seem so elementary and redundant. They are the same questions and thoughts that people have had since the beginning of religion. Still it's nice to get thinking again.
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I need to remember to leave my office during the day. I am right across the street from UC Berkeley, one of the loveliest campuses I have ever been to. Winter here is extended autumn, so the trees are all orange and yellow, when they're not pine trees or eucalypti. There is one circle of pine trees near a fountain, with one large eucalyptus standing center. No pavement underfoot. A wooden bench sits in the middle. It is a delightful place to sit. I used to eat lunch out there, but have forgotten to get up and leave these last few months. Eating at my desk is rather unsatisfying.

In other news, I am so excited about upcoming nerdy things. I just today asked to audit a course at my old graduate school. It's taught through the Orthodox Institute there (they've been good to me). The course is called Trinity: East and West. The description is as follows:

This course will explore the origins, development, and contemporary philosophical and theological expressions of the doctrine of the Trinity as articulated from both eastern and western perspectives. Topics will include: questions about the nature of God, the limitations of language, the development of the Creeds, the Cappadocian Fathers in comparison to Augustine, the Filioque, the "immanent" vs. "economic" views of the Trinity, and divine Personhood or "being as communion" as a model for human personhood. The approach will be primarily historical and systematic, viewed through the work of selected contemporary theologians in both Orthodox and western Christian traditions.

Oh my goodness, I'm giddy at the thought of taking this course. This is yet another reminder that my priorities do not involve admin, but rather are theology, singing and yoga. Probably in that order, with singing and theology occasionally fighting it out for first place, and yoga a distant third.
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This spring I audited a theology class at the GTU called Gender in Greek Patristic Thought. Something like that. It ended last weekend. Basically, we looked at what major Eastern theologians in the early centuries of Christianity had to say about gender. We ignored Augustine, thank god, because he's part of the Western church tradition. This course consistently challenged me and got me all worked up theologically. Just when I feel like throwing in the towel on Christianity, I read some theology and discuss with thoughtful people and I come to realize that there's much to cling to in the Christian faith. I am especially indebted to the teacher of this course, a feminist Greek Orthodox woman, and the brilliant and thoughtful Byzantine Rite monk fellow student.

Here are some of my thoughts after the last class. )

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October 2010

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