Tuesday, 26 August 2014

What Exactly Was Jesus' Problem With the Pharisees, Anyway?

I was talking with Ruth, and she said how dumb she found it when school passion (Easter) plays, or movies or whatever, depict Jesus as what she calls "Valium Jesus."  With the blank face. Even when being tortured and killed.  Impassive.  I always tend to call him "Stoner Jesus."  You know?  People are afraid to imagine him with emotions, so he is just kind of...blank.
   Now the scriptures say he cried, they have him giving a number of challenging, wild, crazy-sounding speeches, they have him being scary enough to clear an entire marketplace worth of people and animals out of the temple at Jerusalem, and they have him expressing a lot of frustration as well.  And one thing that is pretty clear to me, upon reading the gospels, is that he treated Pharisees differently from how he treated anyone else.  Focused on them repeatedly.  Was harsher about them. What was all that about?
    Jesus of Nazareth has become nowadays, for many people, little more than the patron saint of serenity, and meek, mild tolerance and kindness.  "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild" is how a lot of people need to see him.  Some who said not to judge, and to nice to everyone.  The god of Nice.
   I think this is back to that "control" thing.  If he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, conventional modern Christian culture would tell him to cheer up, to rejoice, to get Prozac, to think on whatsoever things are good etc.  If he was angry or frustrated or impatient, he'd be once again told that he'd lost control of his holiness and to go fix it.
   Because, if he was Jesus, God become human to show how it ought to be done, and he cried, and shouted, got angry, frustrated, impatient and outraged and stuff like that, then wouldn't that mean either:

a) he wasn't perfect
or
b) that stuff didn't make him imperfect, though it doesn't sound terribly like controlling one's emotions?

As I've written before, this conundrum has folks scrambling to argue that he didn't really get angry, or certainly didn't ever lose his temper with anyone, or that because he was God, that this made it one of many things he could do, but we can't. Of course this effectively removes him as any kind of role model for us.
   Jesus was challenging to most people.  But there was one group he seemed to keep coming back to, over and over again.  It wasn't the half-Jewish Samaritans (He even made one the "star" of a story).  He didn't rant and rave against the Romans who occupied Israel at that point.  (He even praised the faith of a Roman soldier.  Contrasted the soldier with how faithless he felt the Jews were.)  It was the Pharisees, who were the Jewish religious elite, who he took aim at.  They got both barrels, over and over again.  There is no parable of the Good Pharisee.  And Saul of Tarsus had to stop being one and become a new person entirely, with a new name, before God got any use out of him.
   Jesus goes into Jerusalem, and in public places and in synagogues, quite unprovoked, warns the regular folk not to be like the Pharisees.  That they'd have to do better.  That their faith, their relationship with God had to run deeper.  And he uses a word for them that he just might have been the first person to ever use in quite that way.  It's the word that in English is "hypocrite." Hupokrit├ęs. That word means "actor."  Literally "someone performing under a mask."  Someone fake.  Plastic.  Putting on a piety show for the world. 
  I think it's safe to say that, along with "whitewashed sepulchres" and "offspring of vipers," that this word shows what Jesus' problem with them was.  Backstabbing, pious-seeming fakers, showing off their religion.  And Jesus never let them alone.  Actually walked into Jerusalem on a few occasions and went into the temple or the synagogue and provoked an argument with them.  Waited until they showed up, in one particular case.

The Christ's Complaint
Again, but in reverse order, it's clear that Jesus took exception to their venomous scheming and backbiting and treachery, in calling them "offspring of vipers" and asking them "why do you seek to kill me?" when they weren't admitting to that, but were looking to have him killed.  This is very in keeping with the Old Testament, which speaks out against people who are underhanded, who oppress the vulnerable, who delight in the downfall of others, and whose feet are "quick to shed blood."
   Next, the imagery of a tomb which is full of rotting bodies inside, but is painted gleaming white outside (along with the image of a bowl which is polished up bright and clear around the outside, but left filthy inside) shows that he's looking on their hearts, rather than their lifestyles.  He's seeing people who were extremely religiously pious in their lifestyles and habits, but inside, they were twisted, decaying and dark; just like behind you, they were apt to stick a knife in, for political reasons.  His only comment on their clothes is to disdain their attempts to look religious.  And he also disdains their need to sit in a special seat of honour in the synagogues.
   I think, just like today, in Jesus' time there were a whole lot of regular folks, who weren't terribly religious or terribly depraved, but who looked to the Pharisees and said "We average folks all do stuff we're not really supposed to.  We're not living quite how we ought.  If we lived how we were supposed to, we'd be living like the Pharisees. They're hardcore.  Those guys are doing it right!"
  And Jesus wanted to warn everyone who would listen, against that. They were to get well and get in touch with God and get the dented up, twisted, rusting parts of their psyches dealt with.  And they weren't ever going to succeed at that by letting Pharisees be "the religious ones" for them, nor by imitating them, and their focus on how they looked, and what others thought.
   Jesus was there, he was walking the walk, he was telling the truth, and the Pharisees, by contrast, were about looking religious and getting the chance to be the punishers of people caught looking less religious. About being seen to be giving money to charity, and going to synagogue and praying a lot and looking pious and so on.
  So they plotted to get him killed, offspring of vipers that they were.  Those vindictive, censoring, repressing, image-conscious hearts didn't get light shone into them and truth spoken into them either.  They got rid of Jesus, to silence his ideas.  For good, they thought.  (Didn't quite work out that way).

Sensible Voices
I think it's very interesting that Jesus' main problem with the Pharisees (them living "for show" lives) expressed in the word "hypocrite" has been utterly subverted today.  Now that's a bit too handy.  Convenient.  Now we use the word to mean that someone is "inconsistent" in their lifestyle.  Not strict enough.  That what they're preaching is stricter than what they're actually living.  Like, one should be a more hardcore Pharisee if one is to avoid being called a hypocrite.  That's totally backwards.
  I think it's clear that whether a Pharisee followed his rules or not, Jesus' problem with him was that he wasn't living an authentic life.  He was a "performer under a mask."  It wasn't like if some of the Pharisees were doing exactly what they said and were following all of the rules, (getting all of their lines and blocking perfect) that Jesus wouldn't have thought of those Pharisees as hypocrites.  It was the "for show" life that earned them that insult.  Playing to an audience.  Looking for acknowledgement as a religious person with exemplary self-control.  (back to control again)
   Growing up, we always knew that some Christians were more, "legal" we called it, not knowing the word "legalism" or "legalistic."  And we felt maybe we should, but didn't really want to, live just like them.  Assumed that God wished we were more like those guys.  But no one ever said in any sermon I ever sat under that the key problem with the Pharisees was legalism. That legalism will keep you from Jesus.  And your legalism will keep other people away from Jesus, too.  So I'm saying that right now.  Because it will.
   In fact, the gospel seems to be utterly at odds with the Pharisee message of placing one's hope for daily life in using careful self-control to keep ourselves from doing bad things.  It isn't about that.  The root problem involves us not only doing bad things, but also not doing good things.  Because at root, it's not about us just doing bad things, but being bad things.  It's not just that we don't do enough good things, it's that we aren't enough good things.
  It seems to me that being able to accept a Jesus who's come to say that everyone's been getting God and religion all wrong, is directly threatened by what the bible calls "the leaven of the Pharisees."  If you've got that puffing up, pride-swelling, shame-based religious yeast fermenting and rotting away in the darkness, you can't let the light of Jesus shine in, or you'll lose all that.  You've got to keep relying on self-control and what things look like rather than what they are, if you want to keep growing that.  Candy shell on a turd.  And that will seem sensible to you.  Like it's the only real option, Jesus not being seen as a viable one.  Not a choice by someone getting real and being sensible.
   Because Jesus wasn't well received by "sensible" people.  In fact, the whole bible is full of stories with "sensible" people who don't have a clue.  Who have missed the point.  Whom God has little to do with, in His work.  
  • The priest Eli expressing his concern to the weeping, babbling, praying Hannah that maybe she was drunk and shouldn't be at the temple, 
  • David's older brother Eliab expressing his concern over what looked to him like a brash teenager who just wanted attention and shouldn't be hanging around,  
  • King David's wife Michal expressing embarrassment and concern about his subjects seeing David's undignified, unkingly dancing and thinking he shouldn't be doing that, 
  • Job's "comforting" friends assuming that they knew what was going on between Job and God and it just had to involve Job being secretly sinful and needing to repent, 
  • Judas Iscariot expressing concern over Mary wasting expensive ointment by pouring it on Jesus (shouldn't have done that!) rather than selling it and giving money to the poor, 
  • the prodigal son's elder brother expressing his concern that prodigal behaviour shouldn't be rewarded,  
  • Jesus' brothers warning him he shouldn't go into Jerusalem to fight with Pharisees, 
  • people expressing concern to Jesus over how unpious it looked for his disciples to be picking grain to eat when they were hungry on the Sabbath, so they shouldn't do that,
  • people asking whether the blind man or his parents sinned, 
  • people expressing concern about Jesus healing people on the Sabbath, because you shouldn't do that,
  • people expressing concern over Jewish Christians eating with gentile Christians, because they shouldn't do that,
  • people expressing concern that gentile Christians weren't being required to get circumcised (sans anaesthesia), because clearly they should be made to do that,
  • people expressing concern over Christians possibly buying meat that MIGHT have been part of a pagan ritual before being sold afterward and you shouldn't do that.  
It goes on and on.  Sensible voices "expressing concerns."  Over how things looked.  Over the appearance of propriety.  Over purely imagined harm or entirely made-up disaster scenarios.  Making things worse in the name of keeping things from getting worse.  Disrupting good by claiming to speak for good, and interfering with someone who's doing the Real Deal.  Doing nothing but being careful about everything.  Being concerned only with being concerned.

Modern Pharisees
All of this speaks pretty strongly to me, because I grew up with this.  Of course we heard read aloud at church every word that Jesus is recorded saying to and about Pharisees.  And of course we applied it all to other Christians, and in particular to people who "said one thing and did another" rather than to religious playactors.  To Catholics, rather than to us.  To people who weren't strict, like us.  Who one could see were clearly less legalistic than we were.
   And a lot of us were pretty fake.  Performers under masks.  Our life decisions were being made solely on how things might look. We really fussed over how Christians talked, and what kind of shirts they should not wear, and what shouldn't give them any joy.
   When I was a teenager, one summer I signed an electric bass guitar out of the music room.  So, I had a new instrument to try out, all summer long.  And that kind of thing was very good for me in a time when not much in my life was terribly happy.  And I was happily plugging it in and trying it out and my mother stood looking at me for a minute, troubled, and then said "Imagine if Mrs. Hayhoe could see you right now."  Life was like that.  When I went to my first movie at 21, I drove an hour away so no one would see me pop that cinematic cherry, even though I knew that my going to see Star Trek 6 was a good thing that God had no problem with at all. (We'd talked about it for an embarrassing period of time).
  By that point in time I was no longer afraid that God would make me smash my car if I went to Star Trek 6.  That superstitious fear had dried up and died, very slowly.  But I was afraid my close Brethren friends and relatives would draw away from me, after "expressing concerns" at my worldliness/lack of legalism, and that I would soon be kicked out of the church, banned globally from social events and taking communion.
  And all of that happened, of course.  But I can't say "It all started with going to see Star Trek 6 and not hiding it."  Because that isn't true.  By the time I was 21 and had gone and seen it, all of that Pharisee-style ecclesiastical vengeance was more or less a forgone conclusion and had already started happening to a large degree.  I had Brethren friends who were getting the same treatment too.
   But all that's trivial.  Here's the worst part:
We had our first local division in 1991, and we kept more than our share of Pharisees.  We lost the lion's share of the teens, twentysomethings and thirtysomethings.  We wouldn't so much as let them use a 20th century translation of the bible.  Add hymns more recent than 1881 to our hymnbook.  Pray without using "thee" and "thou."  We wouldn't give them anything.  We smothered them with expressed concerns and punished any and all lapses in legalism.  And we were gearing up to have another division once the glow of the first one fully wore off.  We were spoiling for it.
  And all through the 90s?  Young people kept dying.  Car wrecks.  Suicide.  Murder.  That kind of thing.  And there were near drownings and things too.  For a long stretch there, leading right up into the 2003 division, we were losing someone young every single year.  A couple years, it was more than one.  When my friend Doug shot himself fourteen years ago today, one of my first thoughts was "When is this going to end?"
   And there were sensible voices droning on through all of this young death, of course.  They looked at the young people and said things like "Well, she dated quite a few boys" or "I heard he was into drinking alcohol" or "she was getting pretty worldly..."  And then they said something that I think could not be more Pharisee:

"The Lord is speaking..."  

(and there'd be that ominous pause at the end and a refusal to admit what was really being said: that God killed that girl.  For going to the movies and dating a Pentecostal.  And He wanted us all to know how unhappy He was with our lapses in legalism.)

The Lord is Speaking...
I think that when you try to escape a Pharisee Christian lifestyle and mindset, there are things that want to eat you.  Which are guarding that Phariseeland threshold to keep everyone in.  "Seven [things] worse than the first" things the Phariseeland lifestyle promised to rid you of.  And I think when older people talk about death and injury as predictable, sensible, loving divine responses to young people having wine with supper, they are almost giving permission to calamity, or taking a side.  With the things.
   So, we were, many of us living pretty fake, "for show" lives filled with superstitious prohibitions and an almost total focus upon lifestyle, dress and outer appearance.  We weren't seen without our masks on.  We had no Christian liberty because we'd been burdened with the yoke of "not letting our side down" by ever failing to look like a peculiar people who abstained from certain things, much like Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and Muslims do, and we were more than willing, in unceasing political infighting, to cut our own brothers loose if they refused to see things our way.  We silenced people who didn't take a hard stance against alcohol and live entertainment.  And we taught people that their feelings weren't them, but rather, something to not wear, like red socks.  People were (or were meant to be, anyway) self-control.  Non-selves.  That's it.
  We were lucky to have anyone under sixty years old left, and yet we had some, and they had a horrible time.  And then, each year, what would happen as we geared up for our upcoming division, with all of the rumblings and boycotted bible conferences that went along with that, was that suddenly some young person would die.  And that utterly validated some very Pharisee people's very Pharisee view of how God dealt with Christians.  The Lord was speaking.  And as we well know, He mainly spoke through calamity and death.  To warn about people whose legalism was slipping.  Whose feelings were showing.

When Is It Going To End?
Was the Lord speaking?  I think He was. But not to that now-dead young person, taken so suddenly and often quite without any sort of warning.  I think when people tut tutted over the outer appearance, the lifestyles, the clothing and hairstyle choices and patterns of speech of young people who were starving spiritually, given no voice at all, who were in a dog-eat-dog, biting and devouring piety carnagefest, they showed no awareness of what had just happened.
  Some of these Christian young people were lost, in terms of having people to talk to, Christians they could trust, who'd connect them with God instead of saying they had to stop going to movies if they wanted to earn His Ear again.  Open-hearted Christians who knew anything at all about how to love someone who was slightly different or who wasn't sure about all the stuff we had to be sure of.
   So, were older people shocked and saddened when some young guy who'd been known to go to NHL games and maybe have a beer there suddenly died?  I think so.  They didn't feel it like us who were the same age and under the same stressors, though, I really don't think.  And to suggest that the Lord had killed this young guy or girl to scare others into stopping going to NHL games or drinking Coors Lite at the cottage or whatever?  Told me more than I wanted to know.  About everything.
   I recently found out that a young Brethren guy who an awful lot of people loved, who I never knew as an adult, mostly because of not being allowed to attend Brethren stuff since the 90s, died tragically last week.  And people are shocked and sad right now.  Particularly the young people roughly his age and in roughly his situation.  The ones who actually knew and loved him.  
   I know nothing about him except we knew a lot of people in common.  People I love.  And when I heard that in 2014, sensible Job-comforter, Judas-to-Mary voices have been literally heard actually saying "The Lord is speaking..."?  It made me wonder "When is this going to end?"
   What if when we die, a key way in which our value will be seen will involve not how pious and abstinent we are remembered to have been, or how Christian we seemed, but how much of a hole we leave.  How many people we loved.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Rites of Passage

I've been watching a series of lectures by University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson again.  Peterson is very unusual, because his thinking seems to be a mishmash of a large number of different academic disciplines.  which don't normally work terribly closely together. (Developmental theory, behaviourism, anthropology and mythological symbology, psychoanalytic theory, evolutionary theories, neuroscience and other stuff.)  Most "experts" want to follow just one or two of those, as a discipline, and see what it talks about, and ignore what it doesn't hit upon.
  Peterson is making strange stuff out of bits and pieces cobbled together from all of it.  He draws apparently abritrary, but research-supported conclusions, like the idea that right-wing thinking increases proportionately with one's inability to deal with clutter.  He thinks the ancients were pursuing vital, real, human experiences, concerns and challenges that we have lost sight of.  Problems we have stopped wrestling with, though they are deeply important and utterly unsolved.  He thinks the world is about meaning, not matter.  Objectives, not objects.  And that the idea that the latter things are "real" and the former ones are just subjective made up stuff?  The idea that the former stuff will somehow become handleable and understood eventually, through extensive cataloguing of the latter?  Ridiculous. (Irresponsible, even.)
   He looks a lot at commonality.  Stuff that's the same over centuries and across cultural divides.  Things that all animals and human beings have in common, in terms of stages of development, instinctual responses to millennia of danger situations, and so on.  So, he points to the fact that dominance hierarchies (pecking orders) are deeply ingrained in not only human brain development in "patriarchal, western socieity," but in all animals, pretty much forever.  We can't, he doesn't feel, simply decide to be less focused on status.  He thinks our brain is literally wired to navigate those concerns.  Has built in "response circuits" which read the situation in those terms.
   Bad news for people complaining about our patriarchal status-based society, he says.  You can't make it less status-focused, because it's been like that for millennia, and it's because of the physical construction of our brains.  That's too ancient and deep to fix with a campaign.   You can change how you engage in status seeking, though.  You can broaden who can contend for it, and how it is measured and acquired.   The game stays.  But maybe more people can play, and there are a few new rules or pieces of equipment.

Fighting Lobsters
Peterson points to the fact that male lobsters (with such simple brains that crustaceans are, compared to humans, barely sentient) continually fight each other to occupy the top of the status pyramid.  He says that all creatures, including humans, predictably, statistically tend to die "from the bottom" of such status pyramids, upward.  The lobster or CFO or 5 star General at the top generally is least likely to die on any given day, even though everyone's fighting for his position.  Good reason to want that position.
   Peterson cites research relating to how, when a male lobster loses a status fight, he crawls into a hole and "sulks" until he once again is ready to fight.  He won't budge until he once again believes or feels he is ready to win.  Peterson said that while a male lobster is sulking, he will withdraw from any fights he is challenged to, and won't even respond if poked with a stick, except to hide deeper in his hole.
  BUT: if a male lobster who has lost a fight is given anti-depressants (serotonin uptake disrupters, primarily) he will instantly fight and pick fights, without needing to sulk at all.  It's like you can disrupt his brain's need to deal with failure altogether.  The brain can no longer even interpret failure as failure, nor deal with the experience of failure as evidence that failure is likely in future, without some kind of new tactic.  The lobster fights on and continues to lose.
   Peterson uses this research to indicate the universality of the human experience of handling (bouncing back from) setbacks that adversely affect one's status.  The attempt, the failure, the retreat and re-evaluation and possible future attempt.  Lobsters do it.  We do it.  We always have done it.  With something so universal and so ancient, he argues, we can't simply stop thinking that way, or stop letting it affect us, (without artificially altering how our brain works.)
   He points out that ancient people used drugs not to daily shut out the fear and chaos, but to give themselves artificially intense and accelerated (often one-time) experiences of just those very things.  There's a reason, he argues, why mushrooms in fairytale drawings so frequently have exactly the same red colour (with white dots) as the very strain of hallucinogenic mushrooms commonly used by the ancient to bring on visions in order to confront the stuff they felt sane people were hiding from and unable to gaze upon.
   And I can't help but notice that God speaks in the bible, not of stopping the Status Game, but of making the first, last and the last, first.  Changing how status is gained, but maintaining the status hierarchy.  Just as if the game, as it is played on earth, rewards the wrong characteristics and results in the wrong people ending up holding power. The ones who can be least trusted.

People Who Fail To Be Normal/Fail To Ignore The Unusual
Peterson thinks that ancient alchemists, artists, shamans, scientists and religious theologians were all trying to discover important things about the world, and that the relatively recent decision to view the whole world in terms of matter and energy only, and to dismiss all other considerations, no matter how vital our need to understand them may be, is dangerous and irresponsible.
   So, Peterson thinks that when people get into a real struggle, as to their mental health, as to their psychological and spiritual development, that there are things going on that we just really don't know anything about, really.  Things that ancient drawings and stories and rituals (and mushrooms) were attempts to engage with, explore and help.  Things that are not really permanently helped by trying to drug the person so you could make their ability to try to deal with it stop.  Things that were no doubt made instantly hellish by giving the person hallucinogens to allow that chaos to flood in uncontrollably, in an attempt to deal with it all, once and for all.
   I was watching Peterson describe various cultures' shared observations about wise men, prophets or shamans.  Now, the descriptions of what they went through (wandering off into the forest a lot, not eating, hearing voices, seeing things, engaging in self-harm, oddities in sleeping habits, odd connections to geography and nature, and eventually coming back into society hugely changed, as if they'd become a whole different person) sounded like:

a) biblical stories of demon possession
b) modern stories of schizophrenia/psychotic breaks
c) biblical stories of people who interacted with God in really any direct way.

The view seems to be, fairly universally, that human communities are predominately made up of people who are able to accept what their society deals with and not worry about much else.  Most people can successfully avoid thinking about the mysterious, the unsolvable, the stuff that the society itself really doesn't seem to have sorted out.
   Societies are not perfect, and they focus upon a few things and recommend people not engage with all the other things.  Cultures decide what is known and under control, and they focus upon that, and carefully avoid looking at what they decide isn't known and isn't even predictable. To focus upon what can be explained and planned for.  Handled.  Orderly.  What isn't known is chaos.  Unpredictable.  You can't plan for it.    Stay out of the woods.  Don't go outside at night.
   Peterson mentions Sleeping Beauty, and how, because the witch wasn't included in the infant's preparation for life, her revenge is that she will be part of the young princess' life in a very big way. By the end, she's a dragon.   And the princess will be asleep.  Some people, Peterson explains, cannot be, or a purposely not shielded from the choas that can happen.  And they can't stay asleep, or ignore it.  They find they have to deal with it instead.
   Because there always seem to be people who can't escape dealing with Everything Else.  With the stuff that the society can't quite explain.  They can't look away.  They see things others want to deny the existence of, or forbid discussion about.  These are people who have urges and thoughts that aren't what everyone's expecting, and which their community can't deal with.  People who seem destined to become lunatics or wise men and women.  Experts.  Artists.
   Of course, some people just have stuff wrong with their brains and the chemicals flowing in and out of them, and that's very sad.  But other people have brains that are more complicated, or differently constructed than the regular folk, and quickly demonstrate special needs, special interests, special weaknesses and special strengths.  And mostly, the latter group tends to get locked up and medicated with the former.

A Dark Journey of Rebirth
And for these kinds of people who fail to fit, there's obviously a "dealing" process they are inevitably going to have to try to go through.  A readjusting of their expectations and orientation to life.  Because society has not prepared normal people for this.  Now, their society might even have a special system in place to help people like them, a support group of others who have gone through the tough time that invariably arrives for people like that, when they're first trying to live as functioning adults. Or more often it may just cast such people out, burn them at the stake, mark them and warn against them, throw them off a mountain or chase them out of the region.  Or medicate them to make their brains stop wrestling with these matters.
   From Harry Potter through The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings and earlier, one can trace an unbroken lineage of stories back farther than we can measure.   Joseph Campbell called it "the hero cycle" but people in it don't feel like, and don't always end up acting like, heroes.  These are stories of someone who, like Jonah, has an insight, a message, a role he or she absolutely must fulfil.  There's no one else.  He or she is uniquely made for that one job.  But doing that job, playing that role, isn't something for normal people.  And he or she invariably tries to be normal, tries to fit in, tries to hide, tries to run away, tries to not use the Ring, not cause magic, not hear what the animals say, not hear the voice of the Lord outlining his dissatisfaction with Ninevah, not see the burning bush, or whatever.
  And he or she usually can't, and then starts really losing it.  And flees his or her destiny.  Flees who he or she is.  And ends up, like Jonah, in the belly of a monster/dragon/fish/cave.  In the eye of Chaos.  Alone.  A place where everything one has learned, everything one does out of habit, everything one was prepared for and expects, suddenly have completely random and chaotic, unpredictable effects instead of just working.
   If he or she can survive, can hold it together, he or she does it, ironically by symbolicly dying, in terms of ceasing to be merely that person who couldn't deal, and is born again. A new person.
   In shamanic tradition, the symbology was that you would die, having your flesh stripped down to the bone, and then "them dry bones" would be resurrected.  Would generate a new body, and one more suited to dealing with what had destroyed the previous one.
   Peterson thinks, in terms of evolution, of a species of animal, and how ones with traits that aren't working die off, and ones with special traits that help, continue.  And connects an animal species adapting, to an individual adapting.  Some ways to be dying off because they don't work, and some ways to be continuing on, or springing up as adaptations to external dangers and needs.
  In most ways, really, the "reborn"  person in the story has become someone who has somehow found a way to come to terms with the very real chaos.  With having a special role.  With not being able to "do normal" and having some idea about and intentions toward doing Something Else.  The person doesn't learn that the world isn't, after all, chaotic and scary. The person learns to become more than he or she was, and to deal with the world, as it really is.  And in the real world, there be dragons.  And they will eat your sanity.  Addictions will burn you and take your gold.  Stress kills.  Literally.
   These stories resonate strongly with people who become paraplegics, who kick addictions, who have some kind of emotional breakdown, who leave their birth culture and who remake themselves/are remade into people who can deal. Orthodox Jews who've moved to Ohio and "gone native."  Lesbian Sikhs.  Muslims who write books critical of Islam and survive fatwas.  Heroin addicts who open treatment centres.  Amputees who train for wheelchair basketball teams and become captain. War veterans who try to express the horrors of needless death in poetry or painting.
   The one thing all these stories have in common is that it's absolute chaotic, terrifying, unprecedented hell while in the belly of the monster.  You can't see in there.  Can't breathe.  Everything has changed.  Nothing works anymore.  So, it's chaos. While learning that one's life is going to be different now.  While contemplating that one is going to be born again and in many ways live a new life. And no one's going to understand.  What one might need is simply to talk to others who've been through the closest one can find to "pretty much sort of the same kind of thing."  To be less alone.  To be not the only one.
 

End Result?
And then, if one survives all of it?  A curious role.  People come to seek one out as to trouble that their society doesn't seem able to deal with.  But one is forever "outside" the village.  Maybe documenting it, looking in on it, celebrating and also seeing the flaws in it.  Trying to be a "catcher in the rye" for children who wander outside it and don't know what to do, who aren't ready for what dangers lie outside.
   A true prophet, shaman, wise woman, seer, journalist or scholar?  Is outside looking in.  Outside where one isn't supposed to go.  One foot in societal order and the other in the chaos.  Outside on the edge where visitors will only come out of desperation, because Society On Autopilot doesn't seem to be handling something Unknown that is starting to get downright chaotic sounding.  When the tides of chaos seem to be up past one's chest. When someone saw a sheep get burned and eaten by a dragon, and the King says there're no such things as dragons.
    But if you're been in the belly or the cave of the dragon, you know they exist.  Then people like you become uniquely important.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

My Conscience

Two things happened which, in my head anyway, seem quite connected.  The first thing happened right after Robin Williams died.  I saw Christian Facebook statuses divided sharply down the traditional two lines, over something Matt Walsh, Christian blogger extraordinaire, blogged about the matter.  Matt Walsh was mad/concerned/troubled/offended/whatever, over this:
Robin Williams, who made so many of us so happy so many times in so many ways, was sad and he took his own life, and this made a whole lot of us more sad than we ever imagined it could.  It was like a support we didn't know we had, suddenly shifted without warning, and made us feel how uncertain things are.  Shook us.
   And in the wake of it, people did various things.  This image was, I think, one way of trying to mourn Robin Williams, with, however, a rather dubious bit of "genie trapped in a lamp" imagery, and an equating of death with "freedom."  The image itself reminded me of what they did way back when Walt Disney died:
And when Jim Henson died:
These images are, to me, pretty heartbreaking.  Now, I'd been repeatedly told by my culture that the entertainment achievements of these men weren't important. Were, in fact, an enticing trap.  That their art was something we should sacrifice for God, that it was "of this world" and that we'd do best to steer clear of it all.  Entertaining, sure, but not edifying.  Not fit for us to waste time on.  Not for people like us.  The important thing, they told us, was where these men were going to spend Eternity.  Had they made a profession of faith?  Had they made their choice for Christ?  How awesome would it have been if Jim Henson had converted to preachy Christianity and had "used his talents for Christ" and had made Kermit deliver a Clear Gospel Message right on TV?  Right?
   And that stuff made me a tiny bit disgusted.  When Wayne Gretzky broke some important hockey record back in the day, and when various celebrities died, the next Sunday evening when we trooped out to Gospel meeting, I would listen to see if they'd get a Gospel Namecheck.  Often they did.  
   "Thousands cheered when Wayne Gretzky made that shot.  We know this is true.  But there is joy in HEAVEN each time one sinner repenteth.  We know from scripture that this is true as well.  And how much better than the human, temporary, fleeting efforts of Wayne Gretzky. Rejoicing in Heaven! Could that be you, tonight?"  
   "Foolish people used to pay to laugh at this man's jokes about Hell.  Well, he's not laughing now.  If he didn't accept the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal saviour between making the jokes and dying in that crash, he's experiencing hell right now.  (What a solemn thought which isn't in any way filling me with giggling delight!)"  
   And I felt like it was a cheap form of pandering that both made them look bad, and also vaguely impugned the importance of the record broken, of the art and life of the human being who'd died.
   I didn't read Matt Walsh's whole blog.  I read a few out-of-context quotes from it and didn't want to.  I understood that, while we were kind of reeling with the shock of how much we suddenly cared that Robin Williams would no more be doing stuff to make us feel good, that Matt Walsh disapproved of the genie image.  Wanted to clarify that suicide was a choice (a wrong choice).  Didn't like pairing the word "free" with death.
    I understood his objections.  But I didn't like him blogging right then.  (When I read a followup young woman linked me to, and found out that he'd gotten death threats over the blog, I dialled back my dislike of his blogging significantly, and just felt sorry that this had happened to him.)  I felt like Christians "correct" or "one-up" everyone and everything too much.  It makes us look like assholes.  (Too good to say "assholes," but certainly not above acting in a way that can really only be adequately conveyed using that very word and that word only.)
  I felt like the scripture tells us to weep with them that weep, and rejoice with them that rejoice. This requires being able to be touched by the feelings of others.  And I think, just as the prodigal's elder brother in the Prodigal Son story is unable to rejoice with his family that his brother has returned, safe and sound, having been thought dead, but is being a jerk instead and trying to "correct" the rejoicing Father, we also sometimes suck at weeping with them that weep.  And in my own, far removed small way, Robin Williams taking his own life was quite upsetting to me.  And I didn't want to argue with anyone over how best to deal with it.  I just wanted people to deal with being sad however they needed to.
   I said this on Facebook.  That I didn't like Matt Walsh blogging this, though I agreed with his points.  Just shut up, I thought.  At least for now.  And then a bunch of twenty and thirty-somethings who don't normally take an interest in anything I do on Facebook all posted their support of the "Matt Walsh, please wait a week, and weep with them that weep before 'correcting' the merits of the language used while they wept" message in my Facebook status.  So I felt, as one does, supported and agreed with.  There was no arguing.
   Then one of the authors of the division that resulted in my parents having to leave/being kicked out of their church this spring posted on my Robin Williams status.  Trying to "correct" my "correcting" of Matt Walsh's "correcting" of the genie image above.  And I didn't want to talk about it.  Had to tell him that a few times. Thwarted in his mission to fight with me over it, he kinda left me then with the message "Have fun supporting unbelievers!" (which I couldn't help but picture him saying in a whiny, bitchy voice) and moved on with only a couple of additional loving comments tossed over his shoulder.  Seemed to be positively spoiling for a fight and I really didn't want to give him one.  He can go work on the next division and leave me and my parents alone.  Can see to kicking someone else out for pointing out things that aren't in the bible.
   I've often felt that of all the things we brethren people screw up, we actually do pretty well with death.  Funerals we do well at.  I have been to many funerals that were nothing less than the reason for thousands of formerly or differently Brethren people to get in the same room again and get along and care about each other.  I sometimes think that Brethren people never behave more like warm, nuanced, empathetic human beings than at a funeral.  We're actually better people.
  What on Earth could induce me, people who kicked me out of my church, my mother, my aunt and all kinds of various Brethren and ex-Brethren people to all gather in the same room to eat together, in the Missionary Alliance Church in Ottawa, (which isn't, I must point, a Brethren church)?  Someone we cared about, dying.  A funeral.
  So, we "do" funerals pretty well, I always thought.  We kind of enjoy them, I suspect.  They tend to validate our whole view of the pointlessness and brevity of human life on earth.  Provides a reason for a kind of low-key, food-centred celebration we can handle.  Or something. 

Ice, Ice, Baby
And happening at the same time Robin Williams' face was all over the Internet, something else was all over the Internet.  The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  It was entertaining.  It was fun.  George W. Bush did it and challenged Bill Clinton to do it.
  It was clearly fun, but I think most who see the videos still don't really know what ALS does, or what needs to be done or can be done about it. Is much money being donated? (And yes, there's that whole white guy "throw money at everything" solution to everything bad  thing going on, here as usual.)
  But I didn't post a Facebook status saying anything about it.  I want it to continue.  But I have this thing, working in a high school as I do, about kids thinking there's nothing left to do once they've "raised awareness" by wearing a rubber wristband, or a t-shirt or something.  I tend to think it trivializes the issue and declares "the world is now a better place, thanks to all we've done" without us having really done much.  Much besides making ourselves feel like we did something when maybe, really, we didn't do much.
   But I didn't post anything on Facebook.  I've often said what I think of the wrist bands and so on.  When you give money to those less fortunate than you with your right hand, even your left hand shouldn't "be informed" as to your charity work, let alone all of your Facebook friends.  Pray in your closet.  And so on.  Stuff Jesus cared enough to say.  Stuff I've gone on about before. 
   But then a Facebook friend whose beloved grandma died of ALS did a status.  She didn't say she was against the Ice Bucket Challenge. She did ask, though, if people really were coming out of the Challenge knowing anything more about ALS, or if any money was really going anywhere good about it.  Like, they should do the Challenge, but do more.  With more information.  And I commented on her status in some more detail about this old topic of mine. The "raising awareness doesn't do much but raise people's awareness that we want to raise their awareness that we have done something totally insignificant in order to supposedly raise awareness" thing.
   And then my conscience tapped me on the shoulder.  Wanted a word.  Thought that I was missing something.  As usual, I was.   It came down to this:
   When there is something "negative" (unpleasant) like a death or a funeral, I am all over supporting that, and attending the funeral, and wanting people to shut up if they say stuff that isn't, to my mind, appropriate.  Stuff that is "correcting" expressions of grief rather than weeping with them that weep.  So I want people like Matt Walsh, "correcting" an expression of grief, to shut up.  At least for a week or so.
  So why, my conscience asked, when someone is doing something "positive" (pleasant) like a fun, viral video, Internet, awareness-raising fundraiser, do I feel free to "correct" that wonderful activity? Isn't that a double-standard?
   Yes. It is. Mea culpa.
   And then my conscience pointed out that really, all my blog does is raise awareness.  And that that's worthwhile.



Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Kinds of Families

I have often written about the things that were missing from my childhood due to us sacrificing them for God.  Joy-things like music and TV and movies and dancing and alcohol and so on.  Also Christmas, Halloween and Easter.  
   But there's a whole other angle on that that I haven't really written about before.  I'm having a look at it by identifying three kinds of Brethren families.
(Of course every family is utterly unique and doesn't appreciate being put into a category.  But how you going to learn about families in general without generalizing?  Huh?  How? And who knew there was more than one kind?)

Family Style #1: Ours
Sure, our family and the other Brethren families in our area were all editing out these joy-things together, to varying degrees.  But there were these other, special Brethren families of which mine was not one.  We lived on a hobby farm, and my Dad believed that all the free time we had, due to the no socializing, television-watching, sports and going to see live entertainment?  He felt, as did some other families (many with bigger, more actual farms) that free time should all be filled with "work." Because there was "work" to do, and what kind of person didn't do it? 
   My dad grew up on a farm and clearly thought, as did many of his relatives and neighbours, that a boy who was useless on a farm was a useless person who should shut up.  It's pretty rural around here.  My father had no respect for a man who didn't change his own oil and filters.  Or who couldn't toss firewood or haybales in the July heat for a day without complaint.  Or for a woman who didn't know how to make a loaf of bread, starting from flour.  Or for kids who didn't work about as hard as their parents.
   On a hobby farm, almost as much as on a real farm, there's always something one can be doing outside at all times. "Work." There's always heavy stuff to move from one place to another place. There is always animal feed and water, for instance, to attend to.  There is always hay.  Dealing with keeping the house stocked with firewood for the winter was a year-round, never-ending job, too.  (And I never got to use the chainsaw.  I did split my share of wood in my time, first with an axe when I was big enough, and then with a hydraulic thingie when we got one of those.)
  Most importantly, on a farm of any size, it goes without saying, there is crap.  Always lots and lots of crap.  It needs to be moved from one place to another.  And there is endless lawn to mow and hay to see to and a giant garden to pick weeds and rocks out of, to spray for bugs and water if it gets dry.  Work.  In all the decades I've known my parents, there has never not been more work than any five people could do, at which they're never making any headway, but at which they are reluctant to accept any help.  It's just there, calling to all good, useful people to step up and do their duty.  It can be very, very mindless.
    My parents followed our cultural leading and removed almost every bit of joy or fun from our lives, and they filled in the empty space with "work."  This does not appear to have been a recipe for happiness for any of us. 

Family Style #2: Active Families
But there were these other Brethren families.  I didn't really like them.  They had a bit of money, compared to us.  Dressed all preppy.  Had nice cars.  And they were active.  They were outside a whole lot, and they never worked, most of them.  Not that I saw, anyway.  Other people cut their lawns for them, often.  The neighbour kid got paid a few bucks to shovel their walks, too.   They didn't change their own oil or filters.  They had a cottage or something like that. Some of them had a pool table, air hockey, basketball courts, hockey rinks in the back yard, ski boats and waterskis, cross country or snow skis and all manner of that stuff.  It helped to have a bit of money.  It helped to have parents who didn't mind you playing with other kids, even if they didn't go to our church.  It helped if you had a whole lot of siblings to play with.
    Well, our family didn't really go in for all of that.  I don't really know why.  I had the one sister and we didn't play together.  Can't imagine being our own little kid's club with rec facilities.  Would have been quite different.  I surmise that, even if Mom won't let you watch TV, if she often takes you out cross-country skiing or hiking or swimming, or to hockey or basketball, then probably you don't sit around thinking too much, unenriched.  You probably thrive more.  You probably introspect less.  You probably don't mind the rules nearly as much, because there's other stuff you do instead.  
    But our family didn't do things, generally.  Each of us was alone, most of the time.  Mom puttered away, ostensibly cleaning and cooking, to no apparent effect, for no particular purpose or event.  And after twelve, I insisted on cooking my own food and doing my own laundry anyway.  Dad worked outside, getting dirty and sweaty and oftentimes bloody, serving purposes known only to himself.  Increasingly, the two of them conspired to avoid having any "company" whatsoever over to disrupt their careful routines, which (not too coincidentally) didn't require them to be anywhere near each other.  Invitations for me to go to other people's houses or for family meals increasingly got turned down for increasingly odd reasons.  We were, all of us, very alone most of the time, yet just within shouting distance of one another.  And the prospect of going out into crowded social settings, or letting people flood into our sterile, silent setting?  Seemed pretty daunting.
   My memories of childhood involve my mother, seemingly always in the kitchen and/or vacuuming and dusting things, and my father seemingly always outside "fixing" and building and tearing down stuff.  My memories involve knowing that the other kids from Active Families with a bit more money were no doubt playing hockey or volleyball or waterskiing or something.  And knowing that I didn't know anything about all that stuff, and wasn't remotely interested in doing it or hanging out with them either.  And trying to stay inside so I could read or something, yet inevitably being made to go outside, always to go off by myself and do some utterly pointless work that involved getting a sunburn and having every allergy I possessed get tripped, for nothing that seemed terribly vital.  
   And my dad was a gym teacher.  What that meant, in case you never thought about it, was that every single time I had a day off school, he always had that whole day off too.  So he was always there, trying to make me stop being "useless on a farm" by sending me off to do things, hoping I wouldn't need any direction from him.  When I finally got my allergies tested to see what exactly it was that made my head leak so badly, I ended up being allergic to (cutting) grass, (tossing) hay, (carrying and stacking bits of) trees, (cleaning up to get rid of) dust and dust mites and mold and fungus.  And nothing else.
    It was like I developed an allergy to everything my father wanted me to do, to such a degree that the nurse doing the test needed no background knowledge at all in order to basically label me "allergic to what Dad does."  And the thing is?  I think I get those allergies from him.  I think he's allergic to all of those things too and just "works" right through it, hawking up phlegm and having a running nose and eyes like me while he does it, coughing and wheezing.  I think he just accepts it as part of how work works.  He's tough like that.
   I think it's safe to say that my summer and Christmas and spring vacations were about my father desperately fighting me, head-to-head, to make me stop being "useless on a farm," and me fighting to be useless enough that he'd give up and let me read things and play with computer programming and electronic and music and recording stuff.  He, quite naturally, feared all this was evidence I was gay.  (And he wouldn't let me help him with his spelling or what bible words meant.  And he needed some help with all of that. Years later, he's learned a lot.  On his own.)
   And I think I'd get no argument at all that, after a long hard battle, by the time I got my first job at age 16, I had won.  I was and am, useless on a farm.  I know very well exactly how to change my own oil and filters, and yet I let the ten year old girls at Mr. Lube do it for me. The only skills I come out of the experience with are animals liking me and me liking them, being able to split firewood with an axe, and being able to also use the axe to cut the heads off protesting chickens and turkeys.  Nowadays, I seldom have need of an axe.  I make a point of not having one in my classroom.  But no doubt that head-to-head struggle to try to force children not to be useless (in reading and writing) is something my students would recognize.  But they only have to deal with me for an hour a day.  And not on holidays, evenings and weekends.

Family Style #3 Activist Families
But I eventually learned there was a whole third type of Brethren family too.  I didn't quite believe they existed or were really true for the longest time.  We didn't have that kind of family around here, really.  Often they moved to remote parts of the planet.  Their parents tended to be missionaries or similar.  They edited out all the joy-stuff just like we did, but they filled it in with actually trying to do good for the world.  "Charity work."  Some of them got medals for it.
   But most of us didn't do it at all.   Thing is, we'd all been raised to believe that the world was evil and dangerous and beyond saving.  It was going to burn.  Any day now. Spontaneous global warming/combustion.  Trying to help was condescendingly called "painting deck chairs on the Titanic."
    If people came to our door asking for money, we often gave them a bit, though we didn't have a lot.  But we certainly never fundraised or did charities.  We let other people do all that.  After all, we could just donate money and old clothes to other churches like the Salvation Army so they could go and do it for us.
   But we ourselves didn't go do that stuff.   We wouldn't have known where to begin.  Might have involved actually learning who the needy people in our town were, and who under heaven thought that would be a good idea? So we never got to look someone in the eye and give them stuff that they needed.  So as a kid, my old clothes and a bit of our family money here and there just...disappeared.  And that was that.  Charity without feeling charitable.
   This summer I proof-read a doctoral thesis which makes the point that this "the world's soon gonna burn!" attitude goes hand in hand with a "why not throw your trash all over it and rip it the frack up to get whatever we want out of it as fast as we can?" one.  I wonder a whole lot right now what my emotional and spiritual development would have been like if my church and my family had given me the experience of helping actual people with actual stuff they needed help with.
   But as it is, we viewed with suspicion any work that brought one into too much contact with "the children of this world."  We needed to remember the blessed truth of separation.  Heads were shaken and tuts were tutted over people who had neighbour kids into their house in an attempt to try to get them to come to church, and ended up with neighbour kids dating their daughters.  How foolish!  (more than one neighbourhood kid ended up at church because they thought the Brethren girls were hot.  And they were. They had to look good even without makeup and sexy clothes.)
The doctoral thesis that I edited also spoke of:
a) Christians who try to make the world better only by preaching at it and giving out pamphlets (which soon become litter in a landfill), 
b) Christians who at least pretend to be doing charity work, but are mainly using it as a cover story while they REALLY are simply planning to evangelise, 
and 
c) Christians who actually want to make a difference and care and therefore do the charity work so hard that it works, rather than just to be seen doing it, and get a "gospel message" in.

Most of the folks in our area churches did none of those three things.  Our family certainly didn't, and we didn't really know anyone who was much different.  Mostly, people who want to do stuff soon left our church.  Our church had a way of filtering them out.  Or they were on the other side of the globe.  We sent a few odd, old guys to go do our preaching for us, mostly as far away from our area as we could afford to send them.   We had guys in African and Indian and Brazilian and Columbian metropolises the likes of which our country knew nothing, trying to hand out our gospel pamphlets to Catholics, Methodists and Baptists there.
   But I never tried to achieve any sectual reproduction on the sidewalk.  I never played on a team.  I was never part of cubs or boyscouts.  I never took lessons.  I never raised money for charity.  I never felt like I was helping.  And I think I would be a better person today if I had done more of those things.  As it is, I don't play well with others.
   This is important: you can show your kids that they can help solve problems, or you can show your kids that you think they are a problem, and little else.  I think that all those rules and all of that pious sacrificing of joy-stuff wouldn't have hurt many of us so much if we'd actually done some good for the world while we were busy not doing all of that fun stuff.  I really do.
  

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Words

I talk a lot.  The bible says that "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh."  I imagine that anyone hearing me speakething can tell a lot about my heart.  I wear it, mostly, in my words, though some parts get kept back when I lack the mechanism for expressing them.  And some parts of the heart are really only expressed in touch, which I don't do.
    It should be obvious that I don't think things in general are quite the way they ought to be, and that this matters to me a great deal.  It should be obvious that I don't think enough people mean what they say or say what they mean.  It should be obvious that I don't predict success in most ventures planned by more than about two people, expecting it to become about personalities and committees and titles and funding and credit and "say" rather than...whatever the original goal was.  It should be obvious that I don't have much belief in the mythic powers of secrecy to keep me safe from the disrespect of others.  It should be obvious that I was raised to be "special/better than normal people."  All so that I could make the world a better place by kindly not judging lesser people, and by being a good example to them as to how superior/special/Christian lives worked.
   So, whenever I screw up big-time and am just normal, more or less like everyone else, I feel like a huge failure, which is to say crappy.  Because to people raised like me, normal's not nearly good enough.  To us, the illusion of perfect is supposed to be "normal" for us.  And just coming off as "normal" is utter "failure."  (And it goes without saying that we don't even have a way of looking at ourselves if we should slip below "normal" in some way.  We don't have problems, you see, because we have Jesus.)
   But words and stories have always been very important to me.  My childhood, in many ways, could be looked at as a time when the stories and songs I longed for were being shut out of my life by the keepers of religious stories and songs.  To "protect me" from them.  I suspect they didn't trust their own stories and songs to stand up to, say The A-Team or "Beat It" in winning young hearts and challenging us and expressing what was inside us, and about to blossom.  (Joy, for instance.) There were human, living, breathing things that were daily, routinely shut out of their stories and songs (quite apart from in the bible, of course.  Lots of stuff that can be in the bible can never be in a "Christian" well... anything at all) and I was wanting to go after these stories and songs, these words, and was being denied all of it.  And it made me very unhappy.
   Thing is: if you're forbidden the majority of stories and songs, if you're lucky you can just make your own.  So, many of us did that.  And then when you grow up, you can go ahead and read Doctor Who books if you want to.  Or puzzle over Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen lyrics.  You can even enjoy time with friends, while having a drink, and listening to or singing a song about enjoying time with friends.  After all, it's what we're going to do in heaven, surely?  Eat?  Drink?  Celebrate?  According to the bible, anyway.  If that matters to anyone.
   But one thing you soon know, if you dabble in words at all: words don't quite cut it.  They do a lot, but they fall short.  So, fresh out of university, I wrote a poem/song that was intended to show words trying, but failing, to express what was in my heart.  Contradictions.  The ebb and flow of the tumultuous tides of young emotion.  It wasn't wonderful, but it made me feel better, which is why it was written:

Words Cannot Express
----------------------------

Remorse wrapped in rage kindles the grey ashes 
Of the pale black fire that on your white shore smashes 
Hurt and aching hunger fill the empty place 
Left by all the anger that's twisting on your face 
Uncomprehending glances take a careful look 
Then retreat back by the eye-trail that to you they took 
Unexpressed opinions hang in the dead air 
Soft and anguished, beating, they strain but do not dare

            Words can't tell the story
            No matter how we rage
            But to tell the story
            Words are all we have

Confused retreat to solitude, need to be alone 
To think out some solutions to the problems that you own 
But they are all feelings and they obey no laws 
Cutting through cold logic with white-hot argent claws

All this troubled turmoil of feelings with no reason 
With no reason will be gone, return another season 
Words cannot express and logic can't contain 
The recurring feelings that wake in you such pain 

Words cannot encompass, can't convey the sorrow 
You can live because the mood might not be here tomorrow 
All this feeling is the work of a child in a foul rage 
He lives in me and lives on me because I am his cage


I even tried to record a particularly ambitious version of this song, but was unable to make the pieces quite come together and work smoothly.  Various old computers conspired to help ensure each instrument was slightly out of time with each other and the voice.  Very disjointed.  But there are whales in there.  Also a backward-masked sermon about the dangers of backward masking in modern music.  And a monster baby crying.