Saturday, January 31, 2009

excerpt from the familial realm

tonight i wrote an email response to one of my aunts who had contacted me a few weeks ago. she was expressing concern about my life and it's direction. i assume because she thought it was going the wrong direction, they don't usually write things like this otherwise. i appreciate her concern, and i encourage any other family members who are holding their tongues to speak up, let's have it out, i'm ready for ya. do you think i'm in dire straits? or more of a twisted sister? haha. anyway, i'm posting my response for you all to enjoy, laugh at, disdain, or whatever.

aloha _____,
i'm finally ready to put this email together, i've been thinking about it all week. you've tapped into an ocean of memories, beliefs, and experiences that have shaped me into who i am today. i will answer your questions as honestly and completely as i can, and i appreciate this chance to get to know you.

you wrote,
"One thing I have wanted to ask you for a while is - What are you running from? I cannot say that I know the environment in which you grew up in. I know your family and their beliefs, their convictions but only you know the impact your childhood had on you. We each have a perception of things we have been through. My view of my childhood is going to be somewhat different than my brother or my sister. What is yours?"

first, i am not running from anything. i am right here, living my life like any other person, i don't really know what you mean by this. do you mean to ask why i don't live near my family? i love them all very much and enjoy the time we spend together, but it's better for me not to live in central PA, i find it depressing and boring. i prefer a life of adventure, traveling has always been a passion of mine, and i want to live in and experience as many places on the globe as possible. that's why i'm not physically there with them. there are also spiritual differences, though i see them more as societal differences because i have no problem with jesus, i rather like him, but the culture of christianity in this country is irritating to me. most of my christian family has subscribed to a collection of so-called spiritual beliefs that i find absurd. there seems to be much less to do with the actual experience of god's presence and much more to do with constructing beliefs about what other people should be doing. 'spreading the gospel' is more about condemning peoples rituals, actions and choices than about the teachings of jesus, and i find that very off-putting.
second, my experience of childhood was altogether enjoyable. my parents taught me the important lessons of honesty, trustworthiness, fairness, and independence, and i think they are proud of me now. sure, we had some rough patches, but that's normal. they always did their best and stood their ground based on what they believed, and i respect them immensely for that. i gather from your email that you had a very different experience of childhood and i'm sorry for that, i'm glad you found your way into my family, they are nothing if not safe and reliable. and i admit, if my beliefs lined up more closely with yours, i'm sure we'd be closer, but something about my family's set of beliefs makes it impossible for them to accept someone who doesn't believe the same things. they are constantly trying to convince me that they are right and therefore everyone who doesn't believe that way is wrong and frankly i'm tired of it. i've been through enough ridicule and shaming and it's not healthy for me to subject myself to it anymore. i know you'll find that hard to believe, but you don't have to believe it. that's the difference with me, i'm willing to accept that we can't meet eye to eye. the experience of being human is varied, and that's what makes it wonderful. we were not all born to be christians, or muslims, or jews. we are all here on different paths and that's what makes the intricate web of life on earth so fascinating.

you wrote,
"I had actually feared rejection from them in the beginning since I was such a horrible person. They loved me and accepted me. They didn't like our lifestyle but they loved us."

this is not the experience i've had with my parents. when i have been honest with them about my life i have been met with rejection, sorrow and being cut-off from them in many ways. i've decided not to share the details of my life anymore because of this. i want to spend the time we have on earth together in harmony, enjoying the things we have in common, not quarreling about our differences. i knew i wasn't a 'horrible person', i was just not cut from the same cloth. i think your experience was due to the fact that you fell into the range of acceptability by the time they met you--you were straight, loved their son (brother) who had been living on the edge, and were moving in the direction of marriage. i'm happy that you feel comfortable in my family, and now that you're a christian, there's no reason for you not to.

you wrote
"I am telling you all of this to say that everything is your life has happened for a purpose. Nothing has happend by chance or mistake. God has allowed you to experience all that you have experienced for a reason."

i know. i'm not a stranger to god's plan for my life. god speaks to me everyday, it's not some mystical experience, it's all right here right now. just because i don't worship the way you do or call god by the same names, doesn't make me any further from her. i don't believe god has a gender, and calling god 'she' is helpful to break that illusion. i don't like to talk about my experience of god with my parents because they would probably tell me i was doing it wrong. exactly what i don't need someone telling me when i'm sharing the deepest experiences of my life.

you wrote
"God has a purpose and a plan for my life that required me to experience the good and the bad. The same is true for you."

again, i know. it's not news that bad exists in equal proportion to good. it's a law of physics applied to the metaphysical realm.

you wrote
"God has made my passion women and teens. To be able to reach out the the hurting and to understand what they are going through. I have truly been there. I can relate.
I don't know what your view of God is or Christianity but I kinda get that you are turned off by it. I am sure there are good reasons for it. I just know that your pursuit of happiness is leaving you empty."

you just explained how your life was so different than mine and now you say you've 'been there'? been where? to my life? no, i don't think you have, but that's not a concern. you are trying to reach out to me and i respect that, but don't try to turn me into a victim who has been hurt by life. i'm in good shape, and i'm deeply enjoying the pursuit of happiness. no, everyday is not an absolute miracle of joy, but who's life is? yours? that would seem to contradict the 'experience the good and the bad' aspect of life. or do you propose that once one finds god, there is no more bad? i found this part of your email to be a bit contrived, why do you think i am 'empty'? because i don't believe the way you do? that's an old psychological trick (one that's surely been played on you too) to make someone believe they need something that they don't. tell them they are not complete without -fill in the blank-. this is precisely why i am distant from my christian family. they can't believe, in fact it goes against the very nature of their version of christianity to believe that someone can be whole without 'christ'. i don't lack christ, i don't lack anything, i am a whole human being, loved and cared for by the same natural forces that love and care for you, i just don't believe the same myths you do.

i don't mean to be harsh, but this is a tired subject for me. i am not offended by what you wrote, and despite what you may have heard, i am not adverse to having an intelligent conversation about religion, i believe we've just had one. i respect where you are coming from and i hope you can at least accept my position.

i hope to have a fun visit with you when you come to hawaii, and i'll try to post pictures soon, my camera doesn't work right now. it's incredibly beautiful here in the tropical rainforest, as usual i guess!

all the best,
stranger

14 comments:

Lucas said...

I think you'll find that you misread some of that letter.

Heather said...

This doesn't have a whole lot to do with the letter or the letter writer more just the attitude some people have. Why is it when a person makes an unconventional choice people instantly throw God at you? Or try to tell you what the right path is for you. Why can’t people just accept that you’ve made the choice that’s right for you and not judge? Do we as humans have so little to do that we must try to fix everyone else and not focus on our own issues? And ironically for me it’s mostly strangers.

I have never once thought to my self “Gee I wonder what Stranger is running from?” I’ve always thought of you as a nomadic free spirit that must follow her own bliss. You may have issues (I’m sure you do) but they are yours to deal with. You will go “home” when you need to.

carrot quinn said...

Dude, that person is totally jels. Simple as that. They're jels because they're too scared to run off and follow their dreams like you have. And if they can get over their own self-hatred, they might one day come to respect and admire you, instead of trying to tear you down to the sad, pathetic place where they are.

stranger in a strange van said...

lucas,
will you stop hiding behind your intellectualism and come out and actually say something? what do you think i misread? do you think my point of view is skewed? set me straight why don't you! i know the letter was sent with good intent, our family is all about good intent, but i'm responding to what i read, based on how i choose to live my life. you do the same thing, it just so happens that you fit in better than i do. imagine if you didn't, what would it be like if you were going to be a pagan priest instead of an anglican priest?

heather,
thanks for thinking the best of me, you are a true friend.

carrot,
you may be right, but she's my aunt, and a sweet person too. it's sad because i want to be close to her and the rest of my fam, but they can't accept that i'm living my life 'right' unless i'm a christian like them. it's the same problem i've been dealing with my whole life. i will never be what they want me to be.

chrisharne said...

You put a lot of work into that letter. I bet your response looks like gobbledy-gook to her, just like her initial contact looks like gobbledy-gook to me. What are all these words?

Dude, she's total jels. Might as well just tell her "Wooooo! Luvin' island life! It's amazing to be alive! We're all spiritual in our own ways!" Period. She's not gonna get it. Contention is born out of long explanations until you can be screaming the same words in disagreement.

I could tell that your parents love you. They seem sweet. It's nobody else's business.

Maitreya said...

I know many Christians and I have always found it ironic how few of them actually live their lives in accord with the intent of Christ.
Do unto others as you would be done by, judge not lest you be judged, love your brothers (and sisters, and the ALL)
These are 'Christian' principles that guide me in life but I do not call myself a Christian.
I have a very deep, personal and present relationship with god. I now just laugh and shake my head when I am confronted with someone's very limited concept of god.
"God does not live in mansions of brick or stone. Lift a rock and you will find me. Split a piece of wood and I am there."
God is Love. It's such a shame so much blood is spilled and ill will spread, all in the name of "God"
chrisharne is probably right, but thanks for sharing your letter. Some of us 'get it'.

Anonymous said...

I think part of the issue is that you didn't show both sides of the story. Only how you viewed it. You have my permission to post the whole letter. When I wrote this letter it was to show you who I was and who I am today. In my belief, by the power and grace of God. My intentions were not to attack you or you choices or your lifestyle. I am guilty of not expressing myself properly or coming off as critical and judgmental. That is definitely not who I want to be. I am sorry that I offended you. This was never meant to be a public matter but you chose to make it one. This will not ruin our chance to get to know one another but it did show me things that I need to change.
Love, your Aunt

Lucas said...

Check it. No one is 'shaming' you or trying to cause you 'sorrow'.Even if they were, so what? You're 30. You can do what you want.

In my view, you like to feel put upon and oppressed so that you can feel like you are overcoming the oppressors by 'emerging from your cocoon', 'learning how to be you', or whatever hackneyed expression you choose to use. You've always been contrarian, and I can somewhat sympathize since I too lean in that direction. But you should know that simply being contrary means that you allow your life to be just as determined by the 'oppressors' as being obedient. I know you'll probably say 'I'm not being contrary, this is just ME.' It just so happens that the 'real you' chooses paganism or wiccan(ism?)? Both of which are essentially the antitheses of Christianity. And you go to a pagan holiday event only days after denouncing the 'absurd myths' of Christianity? It's almost laughably transparent.

Furthermore, I can't just imagine being a pagan priest instead of a Christian one, because they are in no ways similar. I think you are of the opinion that 'spirituality' is some segment of one's personality which can be filled in by any number of different creeds. I must insist that pagan spirituality and Christian spirituality are not as interchangable as you imply with your predicate swapping. One finds its center in bacchanalian festivals and superstitious ritual. The other finds its center in the selfless service of others and God. Like masturbation vs sex.

I think I have more to say, but I have to go. Love you Yidia.

P.S. - I don't think you should have published someone's private correspondence with you. I think it was disrespectful. But knowing that you like to live out here in the open on the blogosphere, and that I might be put on here anyway... here I am.

stranger in a strange van said...

hmm. interesting family of mine--i do not feel oppressed by you, i love you. i am not a pagan, i am not a christian, i am not an anything. it is not my intention to subscribe to one world view, i'm just here. just living here. i don't want to be contrary, and i don't feel contrary, but always there is someone in the family who wants to 'minister' to me, and when i decline to engage i'm seen as contrary. when i post a reply, i'm seen as disrespectful. i don't know how to disagree without seeming contrary i guess. everyone is justified in believing what they believe, i'm not here to change minds, but i am tired of being seen as the one who doesn't get it. and you should know by now that if you want a conversation to stay off my blog, you should ask. i wouldn't violate that request, but this is MY forum for my process, so yeah, i post things here. and even if i don't post an excerpt from a letter, i may post my thoughts on the exchange, that's what this blog is for! i'm into the transparency right now, even though it makes me extremely uncomfortable. i think it is teaching me something.
and luke, you don't really know what i was talking about with the whole shame and sorrow thing, and of course i can do what i want, but that's not the point. i shouldn't have to endure ridicule from you or anyone who 'loves' me. if that's love, then i don't want any. i'm amazed that after 24 years of knowing me you've been able to reduce me down to a two dimensional contrarian who lives her life by hackneyed expressions full of new agey bullshit.
as far as paganism being the antithesis of christianity, i think not. there is nothing i've ever read in any pagan/wiccan literature that denies the validity or warns against christianity. you may be thinking of 'satanism' or some kind of evil based belief, but that would only apply to a very obscure and small group of people i know nothing about. christianity superimposed new holidays on the old pagan ones, with similar meanings behind them. christmas=birth of christ=birth of light=winter solstice, easter=resurrection of christ=resurrection of life=spring equinox, it goes on and on. i have christian friends who celebrate pagan holidays because they are simply celebrations of the seasons. perhaps you should do some research beyond what your christian professors told you in christian college, i think you may be a bit lopsided.
'bacchanalian' is not the word i'd use to describe the ritual i went to, it was rather heartfelt, celebratory in a good clean and quiet way, much like any church function with a potluck afterward. superstitious? i looked it up on wiki and it says this: Superstition (Latin superstitio, literally "standing over"; derived perhaps from standing in awe;[1] used in Latin as an unreasonable or excessive belief in fear or magic, especially foreign or fantastical ideas, and thus came to mean a "cult" in the Roman empire)[2][3] is a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge. The word is often used pejoratively to refer to supposedly irrational beliefs of others, and its precise meaning is therefore subjective. It is commonly applied to beliefs and practices surrounding luck, prophecy and spiritual beings, particularly the irrational belief that future events can be influenced or foretold by specific, unrelated behaviours or occurrences.

To medieval scholars the word was applied to and beliefs outside of or in opposition to Christianity; today it is applied to conceptions without foundation in, or in contravention of, scientific and logical knowledge.[4]

Many extant superstitions are said to have originated during the plagues that swept through Europe. According to legend, during the time of a plague, Saint Gregory I the Great ordered that people say "God bless you" when somebody sneezed, to prevent the spread of the disease.[5]

i think you've misused the word in this case. yes, many 'new age' ideas fall in this category, but not paganism. and paganism is not new age, actually, it's old age. i in no way subscribe to 'paganism' or any other 'ism', but i'm very tired of christians denouncing 'witches' and calling all non-christians 'evil', come on, this ain't the middle ages.

the real service you could do to people and God would be to stop living a fear based life. it's ok, we're all ok.

as far as masturbation vs. sex analogy, i think you misspoke. you would think from that analogy that you'd tried both and found one more satisfying, but i think you've always been a christian, and always will be, therefore, you can't know what it's like to not be. it may serve your interests to believe that you know everything that isn't christianity based, and have found it lacking, but that would be far from the actual truth of the matter. i envy you, i wish i was more like you, it would be much easier, and i wouldn't be so 'contrary'.

thank you for your contribution to the madness that is my blog, your condescension has been taken in stride, and i won't hold it against you. if i squish my memories of you into two dimensions, you always did enjoy being self-righteous know-it-all.

Lucas said...

Have you ever noticed how our brother (or some of our aunts and uncles) never gets hassled for what he does or does not believe? Why do you suppose you are hassled? Of course it couldn't be related to you're contrary attitude... Remember veganism at thanksgiving? How about dinners with your girlfriend (when as far as I know we have NEVER eaten with a boyfriend of yours who wasn't from our hometown). Etc. Etc.

I don't think you're two-dimensional, I only mentioned two dimensions. Sorry I didn't give a comprehensive character summary.

Re: paganism. Something doesn't have to state that it is in opposition to something else In order to be, in principle, in opposition. I was trying to say that it is about the pleasure and connectedness of oneself. Hence the masturbation analogy. In that sense I think all self-centered spirituality is masturbatory. Satanism isn't about Satan, it's about the self. Christianity isn't about superstition or fear, it's in direct opposition to those things. Christians felt free to take over pagan festivals because they knew they were dedicated to impotent gods (same reason they could eat meat sacrificed to idols, etc) and they knew people wouldn't take kindly to losing a party. This doesn't imply some kind of ancient symmetry between all religions.

I resent the implication that we exclusively sat around and read the bible in university. I read good philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and so forth just like every other over-privileged humanities twat in college. I'm more familiar with Nietzsche than any early church father. Though I'm sure your dance classes and massage courses give you much better insight into the interworkings of history, religion, and philosophy. So please cut me some slack.

Lastly, by your logic, we can't make value judgments on anything outside our immediate experience. I am amazed that I even have to argue about this. I guess we can't know that radical Islam or self-mutilation are less than ideal without suicide bombing and cutting for ourselves. I mean some people swear by these practices, so we should just accept their validity alongside all non-violent practices.

Re: self-righteous know it all. Touche. Again I think that applies to you (remember th dog rescuing post?) at least as much as contrarian applies to Me (now you're 3-D!). Though I don't intend to display my own righteousness. I just want to point to someone far more righteous than I will ever be. My guess is he would be so smarmy in his replies, but what can I say? You can still push my buttons I guess.

Maitreya said...

"Do as ye will, an ye harm none."
I know a Christian/Pagan priestess who sees no contradiction between the two beliefs.
What gives any human the right to judge another's experience of God? Isn't that God's job?
Burn me at the stake if you will, but the first rule of Wicca is basically live and let live.

Akasha said...

I love the discussion between you and your brother. Too funny! You guys are both sharp and engaging. Thanks! To me, Lydia writes with a lot less ego than Lucas. Why do you even bother defending yourself so much, Lyd? If you understand why the sex/wiccan analogy is ridiculous, why bother explaining it to someone who doesn't want to know why?

"Check it. No one is 'shaming' you or trying to cause you 'sorrow'.Even if they were, so what? You're 30. You can do what you want."

I hope you address your congregation with more compassion, Lucas, but I think its kinda true for you Lyd. I do kinda hear this victimized tone throughout your blog sometimes and I felt like Lucas called you on it right here.

That said, your response to your aunt's letter sounded like it helped her out judging from the comment she left you. Maybe that's why you feel like you need to defend yourself, to help other people :)

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kari said...

what a fascinating brother and sister exchange. like someone else commented, you are both sharp as rapiers. i think the word christian has lost almost all meaning in this present age and there are many who call themselves such that i frankly do not want any association with. but i am devoted to christ and call him lord. have you read any cs lewis? maybe give 'mere christianity' a try if you are interested in exploring further. or 'miracles'. he was an amazing man.

anyway i found your blog because i'm in the process of building out a van so, cheers for the interesting read. i wish you all the best in life.