I posted the following yesterday on my Facebook just as a musing sort of post, and I got several really positive responses, so I’m sharing here where it’s more accessible to others:
Why do we think we have to follow the advice of others before checking in with ourselves? This is something that really needs to be explored because it affects so many different situations.
Why are we walking through our lives feeling like we don’t have confidence in our own perspective — that someone else’s perspective is better or more sound than our own take on things with respect to a situation they don’t fully understand (because they’re not going through it themselves)?
“I just nod and smile when given the dumb advice that I used to think I had to follow.”
^This is a common sort of response from mothers, who think they have to follow well-meaning advice from all and sundry when the first new baby comes and then they have their own experiences and realize that they’re the ones who know best after they have to figure it all out on their own. They learn what works for them and they have confidence in that.
I think when we feel like we have to take the advice of others even when it runs counter to our own wishes and desires, it can create situations where we end up feeling resentful and angry at the people whose advice we took. It appears to me to be symptomatic of a lack of self-worth and self-confidence, but also a lack of understanding that you are responsible for your own actions.
If I take someone’s advice, then I’m responsible for that decision whether that advice was appropriate to the situation or not. Holding the advice-giver responsible for choices you make is inappropriate.
You can be angry at feeling like you have no other choice but to take the advice of a supervisor or manager or professor or advisor or parent or doctor, but be angry at the situation and not at yourself or at the perceived authority figure who likely means well. Blaming them hurts you, too.
I don’t know… I think I’m just really confused with the whole notion of being “weak-willed” or not having a “strong personality.” I don’t really understand that phenomenon. I know life situations are far more complicated than that (because strong personalities get cowed in many situations for various reasons), but just taking it down to the idea of someone with a weak will of their own… I don’t understand that and don’t understand how that is a helpful thing to have.
It would be wonderful if we were all fairly confident in our own decision-making abilities that we wouldn’t fall prey to thinking we weren’t accountable for the decisions we make or that we wouldn’t be able to be so easily brainwashed as a species or as individuals.
How can we instil critical thinking skills from the get-go rather than having to wait until university? How can we instil confidence in our children so that we don’t have to do this later in life? How can we help each other get in touch with our own take on things and provide support rather than co-opting a situation and trying to get that friend or daughter or son of yours to do what you want them to do with their lives?
Ach, if I had time, I’d break it all down into talking about insecurities and egos and resentment and anxiety and fear (oh god the fear) and relationships with authority figures and responsibilities of authority figures and responsibilities we have to ourselves and to each other, but I don’t have time. So this is my shorthand soapbox.
I love how she just makes it seem so easy. Just get rid of all the bad stuff in your life because Gosh, it’s Hard. And Wow, wouldn’t it be better if everything were Easier? Wait. You know what? Everything should be easier. We weren’t designed to suffer! Yeah! That’s how life SHOULD Be! So just, y’know, make it better by pretending that it’s so easy and then just, like, ostrich the fuck out of life and live in denial of the complexities that exist therein.
Like, y’know, your job sucking the life out of you. Just quit! This works so well for all the stay-at-home parents who hate the job of parenting their kids, for which they’re not receiving any financial recompense. They should just quit. Wait, did you know that being a stay-at-home parent doesn’t look like June Cleaver? And that some people, even those who thought they would LOVE it, actually discover that they hate it, but they can’t quit because childcare is too expensive and the reality of their getting a job that pays well enough to afford proper childcare doesn’t look promising. And even though they hate it and it sucks the life out of them more often than not, they would still rather be at home with their kids than stuck in a job that doesn’t pay them what they need, while they worry that their kids aren’t getting enough quality time with people who love them.
Can we talk about all the privilege in this? Because, on the one hand, it’s a privilege to stay at home with your kids, even if it’s not the easiest thing in the world and even if it’s really not all that satisfying and you know it’s taking more from you than it’s giving (at least on the surface view of things). But on the other hand, the privilege of Just Quit, regardless of the job in question, is a MASSIVE privilege denied to many. To most people, actually. Because this economy is shite and has been for quite some time and Just Quit doesn’t pay the bills. And Just Quit doesn’t really work at all for some jobs, like parenting.
Or what if you’ve been at your job for 20+ years and it’s been fucking AMAZING even with a whole lotta bullshit to put up with and it is currently sucking the life out of you but you know it’s temporary-ish (you hope) and you also know that there is nothing out there that will ever provide you with the same level of soul-satisfaction that you have received at your job and you just really don’t want to give up that type of gut-level happiness even if it’s an utter and complete slog right now. Not to mention that paycheque.
“If it’s a person, cut them out.”
Because omg, your long-time close friend is going through a really rough patch right now and wow has she ever become a Negative Nancy. She just complains about all the hard things and you’re TYRING to stay POSITIVE but she just sucks the life out of you when you’re around her. So, y’know, fuck that 10-year investment of friendship and tell her to take a hike. By just not returning her phone calls, emails, or texts because you don’t want to have an icky sort of conversation that really just brings both of you down.
Or you’re caring for a parent who is dying and it’s draining you emotionally, physically, psychically, and possibly financially. But you’re TRYING to do the right thing. What IS the right thing in this situation? I mean, you have to care for yourself, right? Where does your duty lay?
Life is complex and full of hardship. How many of us have felt resentment at how easy the lives of the rich are? Because they have money, they don’t have to worry about anything and more money would just make everything better. At the same time, you get angry with them for being so superficial and unidimensional because everything comes so easily for them — they don’t have to struggle. You’ve had both of these conversations.
It’s funny how we can look at beautiful works of art — Michelangelo’s David or the Venus de Milo, or the exquisite Raffaele Monti’s Veiled Vestal Virgin shown here (because Sweet Jesus, he turned stone into diaphanous silk, ffs) — really any marble sculpture or other deconstructionist work of art, for that matter — and we can praise it, love it, appreciate the artistry that goes into it.
But imagine being a block of raw marble, being hacked away at, having pieces of you chipped away, whittled down, sanded, polished. Aye, there’s the rub. The pull at wanting to appreciate the end product but not wanting to experience the process of getting there. Like it or not, you are a block of marble and every single bump, bruise, cut and wound, every loving touch and feeling of being nurtured, every disappointment and ache of loneliness, every strain and drain, every single thing you experience creates the beautiful artistry of who you are.
There is VALUE in the hard experiences you have. They can teach you to endure; they can teach you how strong you actually are and show you the stamina you thought you lacked; they can teach you what you want and can teach you what you don’t want. The bottom line, though, with hard experiences, is that they teach you to evolve. Running from them at the drop of a hat, as this quote ostensibly suggests, does little to strengthen your sense of inner resilience.
I’m not suggesting that we all become masochists, but maybe you need to stick out that friendship that feels like it’s turned sour and learn to gently confront your own discomfort with the situation in a way that works to preserve your connection with your friend and honour the compassion that you have for her. Maybe you need to learn how to begin to release old hurts when you are called on to care for an ailing parent with whom you’ve had a difficult relationship your whole life. Or maybe you need to learn how to take charge of your life, in a way that honours where you’re at with the situations in which you find yourself, while not being a flake and leaving people in the lurch.
Running from your problems doesn’t help you, but learning to face them does, whether sticking it out and seeing it through or understanding when you’ve reached a breaking point and can finally say enough is enough. We spend a LOT of our lives feeling helplessly knocked about by Life’s circumstances, feeling, effectively, victimized by Life. Does that perspective serve you? Who is in charge of your life?
So there is Truth in what the author writes above: you’re the one in the driver’s seat, but what is written above MUST be balanced with the complexities of the Reality of your life, juxtaposed against and reconciled with the acknowledgment that hard is not necessarily bad and easy is not necessarily good. As it is written here in this red box, this quote from Sue Fitzmorris is pat and tidy and excruciatingly simplistic. It is utterly ungrounded in the realities of our lived experience.
Stress puts you to the test. Distressing situations then magnify the raw, tender, hurt, angry spots in our character. These amplifications are there to help you understand where you need work, where you need to focus your attention. What you do with that information, however, how you approach it, and the attitude you take with respect to it will show you a lot about yourself, too. Being mindful about your responses and your reactions to any given situation means you look at yourself with compassion, not with judgment. And you alone decide what’s worth the effort.
I’ve always liked Caroline Myss. Her attitude of frustration and chastisement make me laugh. People get so upset when they hear her speak because they can’t handle that she doesn’t adhere to their preconceived notions of what a mystic or healer should be like. Reading the comments on any of her youtube videos are a fancy trip through the land of shattered expectations.
People read her books or hear of her reputation and then, when they listen to her CDs or watch her recorded workshops and interviews, they are severely put off by her at-times-gruff and -impatient attitude towards others who aren’t on the same page as her – those who are, in fact, several pages or a book or so away from her, so to speak.
I love her for what she has to offer and what she has to share. I particularly love how human her impatience and frustration are. She is not the mighty alfather counterpart: the palpable and obvious embodiment of a nurturing and compassionate mystic almother. She’s prickly and brooks absolutely no bullshit. In short, she’s… *gasp* …imperfect.
People can’t handle that.
People certainly can’t handle that so-called imperfection in someone who has been positioned as being a teacher of healing and spiritual wisdom.
After all, isn’t she supposed to follow her own teachings consistently and flawlessly? How can she so judgmentally and arrogantly call people ‘stupid’ when elsewhere she espouses not judging people? And then those same people become dismissive of what she has to share, missing out on the meat of the message. They would rather spend their energy shooting the messenger than to look at themselves and discern and discover why they have a problem with how Myss relays her message.
There is a logical fallacy called ‘ad hominem’, wherein you attack your opponent’s character in order to undermine their argument without having to engage with it. And while those critics may believe that they are engaging with Myss’s teachings by applying them to her own way of being, they’re failing to engage with it in a way that shows they’re applying her teachings to their own way of being, as well. They would rather focus on the one finger pointing at her rather than the three pointing back at them. How convenient. How safe for them.
This is what is happening with respect to Caroline Myss and any other in-the-trenches mystic and teacher. Really, it happens with anyone in any capacity. People Want Integrity And Honour. We need it. We crave it. But we keep looking outside ourselves for it, feeling like we need to see it in others before we can embody it ourselves, rather than doing the work to get ourselves where we wish others to be. And if anyone, who otherwise has amazing wisdom to share, shows any hint of a lack of honour or integrity (or any other perceived-as-negative human quality like impatience or frustration), then we knock them off their pedestal and crap-talk them in a flurry of disappointment because they failed to meet our (unrealistic) expectations of what a Saviour is supposed to be. And then we walk away in a huff, consoling our bruised egos with vows to forever never listen to that person again because what a sham they are tsk tsk.
We want so badly to be saved from our woes that we put so much hope and faith into the teachers. Never mind that the teachers themselves are still learning and are telling us to focus on having faith in ourselves. We however continue, collectively, to put our faith in someone outside ourselves. And then we get upset and disillusioned and angry and frustrated and embittered when that person fails to uphold the unspoken agreement of being absolutely flawless and perfect.
In this interview with Lilou Mace, Myss is plainly herself as she always is.
whiteangel7777777 shares in the comments: “I am surprised by her attitude, she comes off being hard and very judgmental, and bitter. I just finished her video on Why people don’t heal, and in it she is saying not to judge people or say negative things about others because it drains your energy and here this is what she is doing almost on every subject Lilou asks about. Was not expecting this…from Caroline Myss.”
whiteangel7777777 appears not to be able to handle Myss’s realness. That is, the reality of her own humanity. She plainly states that she wasn’t expecting this from Myss, phrasing and textually articulating it with the ellipses in such a way as to put Myss on a pedestal while simultaneously knocking her off it.
Ruben Haro comments: “Despite her wisdom, she STILL has a lot of SHADOWS. Beautiful nonetheless, but another intellectual, lineal minded interview.”
He writes as though having SHADOWS is a bad thing. The truth of the matter is that we all have shadows. Part of what we need to do during this lifetime is embrace our shadow side and make peace with it. Suppressing it or attempting to get rid of it only strengthens it. Owning that part of yourself is one of the most humbling, freeing, and important things you can do.
I admit to wondering if any of these people have ever read anything that Myss has written or if their only experience of her is via youtube. I wonder this because she has written about being a modern-day mystic in the real world and not being a traditional, cloistered mystic, segregated and sequestered from society as a whole. Mystics who work and live in this world have far more to balance than those sequestered and cloistered. Instead of the silence afforded them by nature or church or cell, they have to deal with traffic and the onslaught of news and being around the emotional noise of the rest of the world. This grates and rubs. They are confronted with far more opportunities to address their ‘negative’ aspects than the holy hermit mystic who is protected from the stimuli of mundane modernity. And we chastise them for not being the image of perfection that we demand them to be, rather than having a sense of gratitude for the wisdom that they share and a sense of compassion for the challenges they face. When we take this attitude of frustration, we show how much empathy we lack… and we mirror the behaviour that we criticize.
I also admit to wondering whether these critics are aware of their own judgmental responses and whether they know anything about the hardships that mystics tend to face in their own personal lives, in addition to the noise of everyday life.
What I loved most about this particular interview between Caroline Myss and Lilou Mace was that Lilou asked Caroline about her own hardships and, at first, she refused to talk about them, saying that she didn’t know how that could possibly help anyone. But then she started talking about the seizures she’d had and how terrifying the unpredictability of the condition was, and I found it to be the most important part of this whole interview – possibly one of the most important elements of any online interview or workshop I’ve yet seen from her. She was human enough to want to withhold that information because her experiences were hard and humbling and it’s not fun to revisit those experiences because doing so calls up a sense of powerlessness that makes us feel extremely uncomfortable, no matter the level of faith we have. But I am deeply deeply grateful for what she shared. It helped me frame my own experiences of being in the trenches and learning to navigate some fairly grueling and out-of-the-ordinary experiences.
All of this reminds me of how judgmental I have been in the past with other wisdom-sharers. There is an extremely talented person with whom I have had the pleasure of working, who is well-regarded in her field and very adept at what she does. And she smokes. And I find that hard to reconcile still, even though I have a far better understanding of why I have that judgment there. I have, in the past, thought to myself: “How can she be so skilled and so talented and still not be able to beat a nicotine addiction? How can I respect that? So many other people have quit. Why can’t she? How can she be powerful at all and still have this fault? How can I possibly believe anything she has to say if she can’t get it together and stop smoking?”
We demand integrity of others and when people whose teachings we respect appear to fall short of our expectations, we tar and feather them. But rarely do we ever look at them with compassion, nor do we look at ourselves to determine if we show as much integrity as we wish those “disappointing” teachers demonstrated.
We are still looking outside ourselves for Saviours, instead of looking to ourselves. When we do this, we fail to see the value in the faults of others and what they can show us about ourselves. When we see imperfection in those whom we expect to be perfect and then chastise and admonish them that imperfection, it shows us how critical, judgmental, and unforgiving we are with regard to our own imperfections, flaws, and faults.
None of us are perfect and being intuitive does not mean that we are automatically spiritual. Myss plainly says that it doesn’t take anything particularly special to be intuitive – that gamblers are some of the most intuitive people she knows. Gamblers are not known for their integrity or their compassion. Accompanying this assertion is the reality of the juxtaposition of positivity and negativity/integrity and hypocrisy/honesty and falsehood contained within a single person, whether gambler or mystic. It brings forth a more realistic perspective of the multidimensionality of each of us. The “both…and” of existence.
“There is nothing about intuition that you should associate with a good person. ‘Oh, I’m intuitive.’ The implication from a lot of people is, ‘I’m holy. I’m special.’ Oh for God’s sake. Some of the most intuitive people I know are gamblers. You don’t think criminals are good intuitives?! Are you crazy?! Why haven’t they been caught? What do you think the Wall Street guys are, if not damn good intuitives? Snap out of it! You can’t afford these mythologies that allow you to think this nonsense – that this is a high-voltage spiritual skill or that eating cucumbers and tomatoes somehow or other makes you a better person – and pinenuts and powerbars (yech!) – than if you ate a steak. What makes you a better person is having integrity and not betraying yourself or someone else. I’d take someone who ate catfood and I knew was honest than someone who ate all that organic junk but couldn’t ever say an honest thing. Gimme a catfood person with integrity any day of the week.” 15:58-17:34, Caroline Myss- Medical Intuition: An Exploration into the science and art of healing – 2014
It is our shadow self that makes us believe that we have a free pass in criticizing another person by pointing out their perceived flaws. It is our shadow self that dismisses what another person has to say because they don’t like the packaging it comes in. It is our shadow self that refuses to look at our own flaws because it is afraid of what might be there. It is our shadow self that inflates the ego and idealizes ourselves over others. Coming to terms with that means eschewing the holier-than-thou ad hominem attacks in favour of the more truly holy attitude of forgiving people their faults and showing them the compassion you would want them to show you when you face your own challenges.
This is coming to terms with our shadow self.
When we are able to do that, we are able to get more out of life because we are free to see more of the picture. It’s much like climbing a mountain. The people farther up the mountain see a different view than those who haven’t made it that far. But the ones who’ve climbed farther aren’t any better than anyone else for having done the climbing. They are no more worthy of respect and dignity and honour than the person at the corner store who was crabby to you because she was having a bad day, or the person who is homeless because they lost their job and became too overwhelmed to be able to keep things together.
We’re all human, after all. And if the person who has a wider perspective on life wants you to see what she sees and is frustrated that you aren’t willing or ready to see it and can see all the collective hardships that come from not being able to see certain parts of the overall picture, then she’s frustrated and that’s normal and human and an aspect of her shadow self. Getting angry with your friend because she’s so excited for you to come visit her a few miles up ahead but omg you’re taking forEVER to get there and she can see what you’re doing and wishes you would see things her way so that you can get to see the cool things she’s seeing… well… that’s all normal, too, and an aspect of the shadow self.
I’m not going to defend the frustration or harshness that Myss can and has embodied in her talks and interviews, but neither will I defend the criticism of those who refuse to take a look at their own lives to see if they’re living up to the standards they expect her to live up to. However, I will say that I understand both sides of the situation and feel for both sides. Neither side is wrong and both perspectives deserve validation and acknowledgement.
The trek is arduous, my friends. It is arduous and amazing, challenging, and very dark at times. The vistas can be so stunningly and breathtakingly beautiful, though. Be soft in your judgments, kind with yourself and with others and work very diligently to be unabashedly and courageously honest with yourself about who you are and how you move through this world. You’ve already come so far.
Many people prefer the word “survivor” to “victim” because “survivor” feels strong and proactive. I understand that, as that is precisely how I felt for a long time also, but I am starting to think that we need to honor and embrace weakness, vulnerability, and passivity as well, or else we end up blaming and invalidating victims (including myself) who do not feel strong some or most of the times.
The society views victimhood as something that must be overcome. When we are victimized, we are (sometimes) afforded a small allowance of time, space, and resources in order to recover–limited and conditional exemptions from normal societal expectations and responsibilities–and are given a different set of expectations and responsibilities that we must live up to (mainly focused around getting help, taking care of ourselves, and recovering). “Healing” is not optional, but is a mandatory process by which a “victim” is transformed into a “survivor”; the failure to successfully complete this transformation results in victim-blaming and sanctions.
This is the so-called “victim role,” an extension of sociologist Talcott Parsons’ theory of “sick role.” The society needs victims to quickly transition out of victimhood into survivorship so that we can return to our previous positions in the heteronormative and capitalist social and economic arrangements. That, I believe, is the source of this immense pressure to become survivors rather than victims, a cultural attitude that even many feminist groups have internalized.
I have to be careful, lest I quote the whole essay because it’s all worth reading. So go read it.
The ONE issue I have with it that really needs to be addressed is in her final paragraph:
I argue that feminist anti-violence movements and communities must embrace unproductive whining and complaining as legitimate means of survival in a world that cannot be made just by simply changing our individual mentalities. We must acknowledge that weakness, vulnerability, and passivity are every bit as creative and resilient as strength and activeness.
A hearty and grand hear-hear to acknowledging the importance of weakness, vulnerability, and passivity. It is the idea, however, that whining and complaining are unproductive that needs to be addressed.
I argue that whining and complaining ARE productive. They ARE legitimate and important forms of emotional self-expression. Yes, people can seem to get stuck there for longer than we’d like, sometimes for longer than they’d like, sometimes they can be stuck there for the rest of their lives. BUT this essay is not about that; it’s about everyone else around them.
The problem with whining and complaining being seen as unproductive is that it shows that the listeners, the supporters, are NOT dealing with their own discomfort and are not taking ownership over their own feelings. What happens is that they then either blame the victim by telling the victim to stop whining and complaining because the victim is making them uncomfortable and that no one wants to hear it, telling the victim that it’s unproductive and that she needs to pull out of it and move on, or they begin avoiding the “complainer”, instead of doing the courageous thing of owning up to their own discomfort. Avoidance isolates the victim. Poorly handling your discomfort isolates the victim.
When we do not own up to our own feelings of discomfort and openly share where our own boundaries are, we do a great disservice to our friends (or clients) and to ourselves.
“I know you need to express where you’re at emotionally and I don’t want to silence you. I want to support you. I need to share that I’m having a difficult time with what I perceive as being whining and complaining and I’m stuck between wanting to tell you to stop and wanting to not be around you. I don’t want you to feel like you can’t talk to me and I also don’t want to abandon you. I don’t really know what to do about this, except to share where I’m at emotionally with what you’re sharing with me.”
Diligent care needs to be taken in situations like these because even in owning your feelings, you may come up against a response from your friend wherein she feels that your emotional expression is passive aggressive manipulation or blackmail or she feels shut down because you have a problem with how she is expressing her situation. There is no easy answer to this. There aren’t any magical formulas. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t own where you are. Please keep in mind, though, that owning where you are and expressing that to your friend-in-need are two different things. Ownership is recognition and acknowledgement that you feel a certain way because that’s how you feel, rather than putting the onus on others not to make you feel a certain way. No one has control over how you feel. Likewise, you cannot control how others feel.
When we fail to have good boundaries and when we fail to engage in the self-care of owning our own discomfort, we end up victim-blaming, isolating, and abandoning our friends who are looking to us for much-needed support.
They already feel the weight of shame and anger and violation and fear/terror and a host of other things they have a hard time dealing with. Do not dump your issues on them and make them contend with your stuff AND their stuff.
How not to say the wrong thing by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman shows how to deal with your own issues when tending to a friend in a hard situation: It works in all kinds of crises — medical, legal, even existential. It’s the ‘Ring Theory’ of kvetching. The first rule is comfort in, dump out. Read it. Deal with your own stuff as related to your friend’s difficult situation so it doesn’t make things worse for your friend. Take care of your own needs.
Why is it important to deal with your own discomfort? Because in whining and complaining, a victim is expressing and vocalizing her emotional perspective. When you tell her to move on or to stop being a victim, when you tell her to stop her “unproductive” complaining because you don’t want to hear it, because “no one wants to hear it”, you are contributing to her victimization by silencing her. Don’t do this. Victims are so often deprived of their voice. Be supportive as they work to take it back.
“Wesolowski is the first Vatican official to be arrested within the city state on charges of pedophilia.” Needless to say, I am happy that this man has been arrested.
Anytime I read a story like this, I think of Hildegard von Bingen’s vision of the Birth of the Antichrist as depicted below. The female figure on the left represents The Church and the Antichrist is born of her.
But I keep remembering the image differently and perhaps tellingly. I keep remembering it as the Church having genitalia that had become a devouring monster.
At the end of the 9th Doctor’s tenure, in the episode The Parting of the Ways, when Rose Tyler is in the chip shop telling her mother that the Doctor is dying right now in a place located1 200,000 years in the future, a very interesting concept is brought centre-stage for that one brief moment:
Rose: Two hundred thousand years in the future, he’s dying and there’s nothing I can do.
Jackie: Well like you said, two hundred thousand years. It’s way off.
Rose: But it’s not! It’s now. That fight is happening right now. And he’s fighting for us and the whole planet and I’m just sitting here eating chips.
Not only is it typically really challenging to even entertain, let alone grasp, such a seemingly impossible situation of an event in the far distant future happening simultaneous to the present moment, it usually proves impossible. I’ve come to conclude this from several attempts at exploring this concept in philosophical conversations with friends. But those conversations didn’t take place within the context of discussing Doctor Who; they occurred within the context of discussing the Buddhist concept of the Eternal Now.
Over the course of these conversations, I’ve shared two different interpretations of what is meant by the Eternal Now. The first has to do with the understanding that there really is only the present moment – this is where our bodies are, our senses, our experiences, be they thoughts, feelings, or physical actions and sensations. When we think of our future, we are, by definition, not engaging in the present moment. Likewise, with the past, we leave our bodies behind and focus on memories. “Be in the Here and Now” is a common philosophical cliché bandied about in New-Age and Self-Help communities, but it has currency (if you’ll pardon the word play). It’s important to fully engage or engage as fully as possible with the here and now – to be present with our current physical circumstances, to be present with whatever emotions arise from whatever it is we’re experiencing.
This is not to say that there is no value in considering the future or in analyzing the past. As a historian and archaeologist-of-the-self who thrives on digging up and examining things from the past (both my own and our collective past), I can attest wholeheartedly that there is enormous value in reflecting on the past.
However, you cannot make your home there. Neither can you live in the future. Our bodies mediate everything we experience, and our bodies exist only in the present moment. So many of us forget to live our lives because we’re so busy worrying about the future or reliving the past.
Reliving the past is a way of bringing the past into the now, which you can do any time you like, as suggested above, and even sometimes when you don’t like, in the case of PTSD flashbacks. It is not so much that we’re going backwards in time but rather bringing the past forward into present physical embodiment.
The other definition that the phrase “Infinite Now” or “Eternal Now” calls to mind is that everything – past, present, and future, all that is, was, and ever will be, is unfolding and occurring at this very moment. This is a much harder concept to grasp than the initial interpretation of the Eternal Now because we understand time from a linear perspective. It seems absolutely impossible for everything to be happening Now. Linear time is how we can even have a “past” that we remember and a “future” that we believe we have not yet experienced. This definition – this simultaneous, singular NOW moment – is what the Doctor Who scene illustrates with the events 200,000 years in the future occurring at the same time as Rose, Jackie, and Mickey in the chip shop in 21st century London.
On the Eternal Now site I linked to above, there is the following text:
The only time we can live is here and now in the moment. We live eternal now. We call it now is now. When next moment comes, we call that moment is now. Past is gone and future is not yet here. The only time we can live is now. Awakened ones live in eternal now. This is quality you can tell whether they are awakened or not.
In Mel Brooks’ movie, Spaceballs, there’s a scene where Dark Helmet and Colonel Sandurz are trying to locate Lone Starr, Barf, Vespa, and Dot. Colonel Sandurz has the brilliant idea of using the new “instant cassette” technology to assist in their quest. Instant Cassettes being, of course, VHS video cassettes that are available before the movie is even completed. Here’s the segment from youtube with relevant dialogue:
HELMET What the hell am I looking at? When does this happen in the movie?
SANDURZ Now. You’re looking at now, sir. Everything that happens now, is happening now.
HELMET What happened to then?
SANDURZ We passed then?
SANDURZ Just now. We’re at now, now.
HELMET Go back to then.
SANDURZ I can’t.
SANDURZ We missed it.
SANDURZ Just now.
HELMET When will then be now?
In this absolutely dizzying exchange, the characters are caught in a mise-en-abyme infinite recursion. YouTube commenters suggest that the Fourth Wall is shattered beyond repair and that, somewhere, Doctor Who is attempting to correct the time paradox that was just made.
Everything that happens now, is happening now. It carries a distinct Keanu Reeves aura of “whoa”. It is a slippery blending of the two different takes on the Eternal Now. If it is true, as it is suggested on the buddhist website, that the only time we can live is now, then all nows happen now.
DH: Go back to then.
CS: I can’t.
CS: We missed it.
DH: When will then be now?
Now then, a digression from the Eternal Now, this section of dialogue plays on the multiple meanings of ‘then’: past then and future then, but as no distinction is made within the dialogue, it creates a further recursion of past becoming future becoming now. Additionally, in order to find the information they’re looking for, the Corporal rewinds the tape to earlier in the movie: the past becomes the now.
Because we experience time linearly and have a memory of the past but no memory of the future and because we can bring the past to life through memory, recall, and recreation, it seems like it would be easier for us to grasp that events in the past can happen simultaneously to what is unfolding for us in our current Now state. Even as I write it out like it, it seems far-fetched and way out in left field, but re-embodying an event that happened in our past, which we do automatically — recalling that experience in the body, feeling and sensing our emotional state as we play out the past again — makes aspects of our past very real in this Now moment.
The idea that something in the future is happening simultaneous to what is happening right now in our lives is an idea that is, as I stated earlier, usually really challenging to wrap our minds around. But in the Doctor Who chip-shop scene, we get it. We understand exactly what Rose is getting at and, through this connection, we become more in touch with the extant multidimensionality of the universe. Jackie remains trapped within the linear frame of reference and has a more difficult time jumping out of that ingrained rut.
To jump topics a bit, with respect to the linearity of time, talking of past, present, and future, we almost always will talk of “past lives” when we speak of the concept of reincarnation. However, that’s not always going to be the case.
At the very end of the 1970 movie, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever2, the audiences are treated to a mind-boggling twist. The premise of the movie, based on the 1965 Broadway musical, is that of a woman with ESP who wants to stop smoking and turns to a psychiatrist for help via hypnosis. The psychiatrist discovers that he has inadvertently regressed her into previous lives – that is, lives in our linear past that she has already lived. The end, however, turns everything we think we understand about reincarnation and the time-space continuum on its nose. Dr. Chabot hypnotizes Daisy once more because he wants to know whether they had any previous lives together. She begins talking about a life she had in Virginia with him. He asks her what year it is and she responds with “two thousand thirty-eight”.
While this isn’t a real life anecdote, there is a book called Past Lives, Future Lives by Jenny Cockell, in which she explores her past lives and possible future lives.3 There are also plenty of visionaries tapping into some sort of potential future timeline. Nostradamus, for instance. Hildegard von Bingen. Could these visions possibly happen if the Future was not also happening Now? And those visions that do not manifest in our reality, could they have manifested in a parallel reality?
Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, now a century old (see what I did there?), introduced to modern physics the idea of Time Dilation:
In the theory of relativity, time dilation is an actual difference of elapsed time between two events as measured by observers either moving relative to each other or differently situated from gravitational masses.
An accurate clock at rest with respect to one observer may be measured to tick at a different rate when compared to a second observer’s own equally accurate clocks. This effect arises neither from technical aspects of the clocks nor from the fact that signals need time to propagate, but from the nature of spacetime itself.
Clocks on the Space Shuttle run slightly slower than reference clocks on Earth, while clocks on GPS and Galileo satellites run slightly faster. Such time dilation has been repeatedly demonstrated (see experimental confirmation below), for instance by small disparities in atomic clocks on Earth and in space, even though both clocks work perfectly (it is not a mechanical malfunction). The laws of nature are such that time itself (i.e. spacetime) will bend due to differences in either gravity or velocity – each of which affects time in different ways. [x]
What this illustrates is that time is a malleable construct, rather than something linearly concrete. It moves at different rates, rather than at a constant, consistent, and universal rate and both speed and gravity have an effect on this. It is, indeed, like a big ball of wibbly wobbly… timey wimey… stuff.
On the one hand, we can feel completely befuddled by this notion of the malleability of time. On the other hand, we actually get it: “Time flies when you’re having fun.” And “time seems to drag on” when you’re not. Where we are in time, that is, where we are emotionally and psychologically, affect how we perceive time. When you feel light and joyful and fully in the moment, fully in the flow of things, time can seem to disappear completely for the duration of that emotional state. When you are weighed down by the gravity of worry, anxiety, grief, regret, and impatience, in particular, time moves more slowly.
What Doctor Who (and so many other pop culture examples) does is give us a full-colour, vicariously experiential illustration of the malleability of time and space using situations that are emotionally potent. When we bring a situation to life in such a way that we’re pulled in emotionally, we’re drawn in far more extensively than we would be were we listening to a university lecture or a TED Talk. Within this ‘drawing in,’ a much smoother transitional understanding is created for us, thereby providing us with a non-threatening frame of reference because it occurs as a seemingly logical element to a story line we’re invested in following, rather than as a discreet, distinct, academic, esoteric philosophy that confuses our system and pushes us too far out of our comfort zone (hence my use of the phrase ‘non-threatening’). When we’re pushed too far out of our comfort zone, we become dismissive. When we’re push out of our comfort zone in a way that opens up ideas and concepts in a safe way, we become more intrigued. By creating safe, fun, entertaining, story elements, Doctor Who, et al., makes these sorts of concepts far more accessible to a far wider audience than they otherwise would be in a different, more traditional context. In doing so, we are provided with tools to help us better understand the machinations of the universe. Truth, they say, is stranger than fiction.
1. I use the word ‘located’ very purposefully here as a nod to ‘space-time’ rather than maintaining a definition of them as two separate entities. Location in space is location in time and location in time is location in space. When time-travelling into the past, you’re not just going back in time, you’re going back to a specific location as well. Same with the future. Same with parallel realities. These three short videos from CERN scientists provide a simplified explanation of space-time, but they leave out time-travel. Because CERN, not Doctor Who.
2. Even the title of the movie hints at the simultaneity of time. The word ‘forever’ is a time-based rather than spatial-based word. If you can see forever, then you’re able to see the past, the present, the future, as well asall parallel realities in all directions. This really is only possible if everything is being played out simultaneously within the Eternal Now. And while the movie only deals with past, present and future, Doctor Who brings parallel realities into play.
3. For more information on reincarnation, please refer to the case studies of Dr. Ian Stevenson. For a Jewish perspective, Reincarnation and the Holocaust.
Facebook provides me with an infinite supply of material on which to comment. This gem of an image showed up this morning provoking some seriously reactive vitriol from me, which I have turned into a blog post for all of you lovely readers who don’t have enough swearing in your day. So let’s break this image down a little bit. Just a little bit. Because I could easily turn this into a 10-20-page, fully-cited research paper. And as a note, I’m writing the following to an audience who passes this graphic around as though it’s a good thing. If that’s you, then that’s you. If that’s not, then it’s not. And here we go:
[A drawing of corpulent Ronald McDonald sitting, smugly eating a hamburger with a grinning sneer on his face. There is an Arches M on his left breast rotated and altered to appear like an F. Under Ronald is the text, “Junk food is engineered to addict you to chemical ingredients” In the upper left-hand corner of the image is an inset photo of a hamburger with upside down golden arches superimposed on top of it. Underneath of which is the text, “i’m dying ‘cos of it”.]
Scientific support of the claim made by the text aside, the imagery associated with these words perpetuates the knee-jerk assumption that fat is bad, that fat is caused by overeating, and that fat is caused by being addicted to junk food. In effect, it’s fat shaming and fat phobic. Did you know that there are wonderfully fit fat people in this world who eat a diet that is truly healthy for their needs and who still happen to be fat? There are fat nutritionists, fat vegans, fat athletes at the top of their game.* I am very frustrated by this association of bad food = fat bodies. What’s actually happening, though, is the sort of the reverse — that there is the assumption that fatness is solely caused by diet, and it’s not. Capitalism, environmental issues, emotional states, mental states, genetics, disability, etc. are implicated in the causes of obesity. We want the world to be simple and it’s not. It’s exceedingly complex and we are lazily-but-incessantly circling ONE factor and ignoring all the others.
If we separate body size from the health aspect, we clarify matters and bring the issue of health into the foreground, leaving behind our mass cultural fixation on body size. Why is this important to do? 1. Because there are So Many unhealthy people of All Sizes. Health is not simply a physical issue (e.g. mental health, emotional health), and body size does not indicate levels of fitness. 2. We think body size indicates levels of fitness, and we discriminate with wanton liberty against fat people. Did you know that fat people have lower rates of mortality than people of “normal weight”? Yet we say “fat” like it’s a bad thing and then we act accordingly. Then again, if we separate body size from matters of health, it doesn’t give health fanatics the easy, go-to imagery of a corpulent Ronald McDonald in order to make their point. Which is what, exactly? What’s he wearing the F on his left breast for? F as a grade or F for fat? The upside-down M turned W for What.. Weight? *disgusted sigh*
The text explicitly addresses addiction and the addictive quality of junk food, with imagery referencing McDonald’s as the primary source of junk food. On a social level, addiction means no self-control and we believe, socioculturally, that fat people are fat because they lack self-control. You literally have no idea how much self-control a fat-bodied person may or may not have. You may still be breathing because of how much self-control they have.
*And when I referenced healthy fat people earlier, don’t let this make you think that only healthy fat people should be given the time of day. Every person, regardless of their size, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Let’s say that again because it bears repeating over and over and over: Every person, regardless of their size, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. The only thing you know about a random fat person is that they’re fat and that they’re doing whatever they’re doing in the exact moment you see them. You see them inside a fast food restaurant? A) what are you doing there? B) are you making an assumption about their lifestyle? C) why the fuck do you care? Ohhhh, because of their heeaaallllth. This is called Concern Trolling. Stop it. Just fucking stop it. [Want a clear definition of a Concern Troll? This site has the best definition I’ve come across so far.]
Have you had food knocked out of your hand “for your own good”? Have you had people grab things from your shopping cart and put them back while they make “helpful” sizeist commentary? Have you been lectured by strangers about your health just because of your size? Check yourself before you open your mouth. Everyone has a right to exist in the body they’re in. If you’re uncomfortable with the appearance of that person’s body, Guess What! That’s YOUR problem. Don’t make it everyone else’s. Take responsibility for your own feelings.
But what if it’s your friend and you’re worried about her? Concern trolling your friend… Hrm… Did she ASK you for your opinion? If she did, that’s one thing. If she didn’t, fuck off. No, seriously. Fuck right off. She didn’t ask, so it’s not your place to say any damned thing. Support your friend by not being a judgmental asshole. Let her live her life however she wants to live it and be there to support her when she asks you to. If you offer that you have advice, give her the option of saying she’s not interested and leave it at that. Be respectful.
Getting back to the above image, let’s look at the inset text: “i’m dying ‘cos of it” Really? Guess what! We’re ALL GONNA DIE! We’re all going to die. Life is a terminal condition, my lovelies. No one gets out alive. This is concern trolling because the maker of this graphic probably just really wants you to live! rather than being in the throes of all the gloom and doom that ill-health brings, while failing to recognize the complex, multidimensionality of what certain types of challenges can bring for people. Enjoy life however you can and let fat people enjoy their food without shaming them for it. They’re people. PEOPLE!!! Actual real human beings with real, valid feelings. They have the right to eat whatever the hell they want and so do you. If you don’t want people judging you mercilessly and openly over every morsel you consume, do not do it to other people. Check your assumptions and check them thoroughly because your assumptions are doing a lot more harm than you realize. Listen to your internal talk and stop shaming yourself for what you ‘sneak’ or ‘cheat’ on. And stop feeling so smug about ‘eating clean’. Be grateful that You Have Food.
Speaking of shame, it really makes me wonder if the emotional state of the eater affects how much nutrition they gain from their food. Like, if you eat and feel guilty for it, do you retain more of the negative nutritive aspects of the food than the positive? What if there were no guilty pleasures? What if there were just pleasures? What if we took the guilt right out of it and all enjoyed our food so fully and so gratefully that there was no hand-wringing concern about the nutritive quality of it because we just got so much emotional benefit from the taste and the pleasure around guilt-free eating that it didn’t even matter? What if we stopped shaming people for what they ate? What sort of world would that be? It’d be a lot freer. Probably a lot happier.
Digressing from the health aspect here for a moment, I want to draw attention to the fact that there is classism tied up in this, as well. Like 69 cents for a hamburger (or however much it is these days) versus how much for a salad? Combos are cheaper than buying just burger and fries separately? Fast food being FAST because you’re working two maybe three jobs to make ends meet and possibly care for a family so y’all don’t starve? Why not attack THAT genre of injustice before you go around fat shaming pretending to be concerned about the quality of food, hmmmm? Why, because it’s easier to victim blame than to tackle an entire system of oppression, classism being just one aspect of it and sizeism another?
Gimme a break.
If you want to sign onto this campaign advertised by the above image about junk food and fast food having addictive qualities to it, then you had better be prepared to take a closer look at all aspects of the issue: the societal addiction to fat phobia and fat discrimination, the classism that is woven throughout junk food accessibility, how urban planning and addiction to the car adversely affects accessibility, the addiction we have to shaming ourselves for eating food we think tastes good or that is convenient (OMG, you can’t enjoy your food! that’s so hedonistic and ungodly and unPuritanical. How dare you engage in sensual pleasures! you disgust me. *raises eyebrow*), the discomfort we feel with our own internal emotional state which we then unconsciously project onto other people (e.g. “I’m afraid that my being the slightest bit overweight or out of shape might make someone reject me, so I will distance myself vocally from people fatter than me in order to make me feel more accepted socially, and I will do this by focusing on how well I eat and whether I get exercise.” This is the typical thought process we attribute to the oh-so-prevalent phenomenon called bullying, btw. We do it internally and externally. Check that shit, loves.).
Also be prepared to take a look at how you’re contributing to the oppression of a growing number of people on this planet by your privilege-based, concern-trolling attitude because you’re too lazy to look at the heart of the matter. If you want to be part of the solution, then work towards actually being part of the solution instead of adding to the problem. Think critically. Because the problem is Not obesity or being fat. The problem is our attitude about it. The problem is our own shortsightedness and narrow-mindedness about body size and what it may or may not mean about a person’s worth. The problem is our own issues with self-acceptance. The problem is our fear of rejection. The problem is our issue with purity, which the taint of engineered junk food chemicals threatens, as well as the taints of overeating, lack of self-control, addiction, leading to the worst of all: the ‘taint’ of being fat.
In a matter of about 5 minutes on Facebook, I came across two gut-wrenching, rage-inducing links. The first was about Purity Balls in the States and the second about the mothers of some 200 girls who went missing from a Nigerian physics classroom staging a protest. I clicked on them in reverse order…
This is heartbreaking: Yesterday, the Mothers of the 234 missing school girls staged a protest, demanding that their children be brought back home. The protest was held after news broke that many of the girls are reportedly being married in mass ceremonies and sold to Boko Haram officials for just 2,000 naira ($12 USD). When officials gave parents almost no comfort or assurances about their efforts to retrieve the children, many of the Mothers broke down in tears, literally throwing themselves to the ground. Something has to be done, people. Something has to be done. http://face2faceafrica.com/article/nigerian-missing-girls-protest-chibok
“The protest was held after news broke that many of the girls are reportedly being married in mass ceremonies and sold…”
married and sold. stolen from a physics classroom, married and sold.The fact that “just 2,000 naira” $12 USD is the going price doesn’t fucking matter to me. These girls’ lives are priceless. You can buy into the story of OMG, TWELVE DOLLARS? but that’s just a diversionary tactic that supposedly shows how worthless a girl’s life is. The reality, though, is that you cannot monetize a life. You just can’t. Slavery attempts to. Capitalism tries to all the time. Healthcare tries to all the time. It doesn’t really work that way, though. If these girls really were worthless, then why were they stolen at all? These girls are precious and those men know it. The money exchanged is just a part of a propagandist story that attempts to reinforce the worthlessness of women. Except that the joke’s on all of us because it’s not true. Women are far from worthless. You can sell me and treat me like a piece of furniture, but if I know my own worth, then your actions only show how blind you are, how off the mark you are.
Boko Haram means “Western education is sinful” and they’re a militant Islamic jihadist terrorist organization in northeast Nigeria. “Western education is sinful” really calls to mind the Taliban in Afghanistan and in Pakistan. It really calls to mind Malala Yousafzai. She writes in her biography, I am Malala:
“Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow. Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human.”
To sin means to miss the target. The etymology of the word ‘sin’ is misleading, so don’t go by that. Go back to the original source and check which word got translated into the English word, ‘sin’: khata. Aramaic. It’s apparently an archery term that means to miss the target. To be off the mark.
If education is education, as Yousafzai states, then Boko Haram is completely missing the mark. Their actions are so beyond ironic as to be self-parodic without even realizing it. And once again, women and girls are paying the price. Also ironic since it was the girls who were sold for a pittance.
Nothing about this makes any fucking sense, and I feel absolutely devastated. There’s a Change.org Petition available to sign to help push the Nigerian president into actually making an effort to find the girls and return them to their families.
The next link I came across on Purity Balls was one that I skimmed over, since it was just a bunch of photos. But creepy freaking photos they were:
“…it’s ironic that the method they’ve chosen to combat the hypersexualization of girlhood is, well, the hypersexualization of girlhood.
When you get down to it, Purity Balls are literally all about sex. If your worth as a human being is invariably tied to what you do with the parts between your legs, who you are becomes defined by your sexuality; you’re either pure, or impure.”
The Facebook tagline for the article reads, “You’re married to the Lord and your father is your boyfriend.”
You’re married to the Lord AND YOUR FATHER IS YOUR BOYFRIEND. Let’s push the bounds of father-daughter relationships right towards incest, shall we? Let’s overtly tinge that relationship with sex. Yes. Let’s. That’s totally the way to create healthy boundaries and a solid sense of selfhood, agency, and self-determination.
When I was looking up sin and khata for this post, I came across this beautifully apt quote from the Bible: “What goes into the man from outside cannot defile him.” (Mark 7:18) It’s a really potent quote. What goes into the woman from the outside cannot defile her, either. Yes, in context, Jesus was talking about food and how food only touches the stomach and not the heart, so it is eliminated, leaving you untouched. HOWEVER, the greater meaning here is that when our heart — our core — is pure, then we are not defiled. If we have a strong sense of self, then we cannot be defiled. We cannot be tainted by someone else.
If we are purely ourselves rather than trying to be someone else in order to please another, be accepted by another, be loved by another, then we value ourselves for who we are rather than who we can pretend to be. And like the notion of selling the Nigerian girls to Boko Haram officials, this whole concept of a lack of sex making someone pure and the presence of sex making someone impure is yet another ridiculous piece of propagandist bullshit from the patriarchy.
Sex is how we get onto this planet. But we’re born pure? How can we be pure if we got here by supposedly impure means? And where are the virginal boys and the Purity Balls for them?
Really, between the stolen girls in Nigeria and the Purity Balls in the States, I’m feeling really flattened. Did we just travel back in time several hundred years? Because that’s what this feels like. It feels like we’re dredging all this shit up from the Collective Unconscious. All our sociocultural skeletons just fell right out of the damned closet and we’re staring at them all, aghast. Bad Family Secrets right out there in the open. So here’s an idea: Let’s just throw all the shit on the table so that we can actually deal with it.
Which means we have to actually Deal With It.
You cannot stick your head in the sand any longer. There’s too much bad in this world. So if you’re going to LA LA LA CAN’T HEAR YOU, then you’re totally part of the problem and I really have no time for your shit. Doesn’t mean I don’t have time for YOU. It means that I have no time for your bullshit and neither do you.
Men, if you can’t step up as allies and unlearn all the bullshit society has taught you, then fuck off. Get off my goddamned lawn. Women, unlearn that shit, too. It’s not about a goddamned ring — marriage, purity ball or otherwise. It’s not about sex. It’s not about money. IT’S ABOUT VALUING WHO YOU ARE AS A PERSON. NOT WHO YOU CAN MOLD YOURSELF TO BE IN ORDER TO BE LOVED AND ACCEPTED.
Value women. Value them for who they are on an individual level. Not for what they can do for you. If you value them, truly value them, then you will support their own agency. You will support their autonomy and grant them full self-determination. None of this paternalistic crap of telling them what they’re allowed to learn or how they’re allowed to use their bodies. Show them that they are valued no matter what they do. They ain’t here to serve you men and your overblown ideas of what has value.
All of these skeletons that we harbour are getting pulled out for us to examine. These practices of Purity Balls and kidnapping girls from school, selling them off to be married against their will are still acceptable because women are not yet valued as people. Do the hard work of valuing who you are. We are always unfolding and transforming. We are a work in progress and loving that is also a work in progress. But it’s really goddamned important work that will serve every person on this planet. Help others value who they are as people. Accept how awesome you are. Accept that you still need work. Accept that it’s TOTALLY OK because it damn well IS. Ain’t nobody perfect. And everybody’s shit stinks. That’s realism. And that’s what makes it fabulous.
Throw that shit on the table and deal with it. This is how we purify ourselves. This is how we remember that we are already undefiled. This is how we return to ourselves, men and women both.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I think I’m doing both. On the surface, this is a hilarious uptake of the original video for women. …but it’s just *headdesk*
This is the exact opposite of what we should be doing. Putting this much emphasis on testicles and their size, appearance, and the supposed importance thereof diminishes the multifaceted nature of who men are. It’s not just about the size of their cocks or the potency of their balls. When we make it all about that, then too many men feel the need to prove their manhood and their masculinity by imposing it on others. Imposing it on others.
“You don’t have to think very hard to realize that our dread of both relationships and loneliness … has to do with angst about death, the recognition that I’m going to die, and die very much alone, and the rest of the world is going to go merrily on without me.”
It’s from David Foster Wallace on writing, death, and redemption, and I sat there staring at it in disbelief. I vehemently disagree with this quote, as it is written. And now I will write an essay in reaction to how it is written without actually looking at the rest of the article. Without giving it context.
Dread of relationships and loneliness have very little to do with the understanding that we’re going to die. What we’re afraid of, though, is never fully living. We’re afraid of being the walking dead — dead before we die. Rotting from the inside out because we’re not getting the connection from others.