Category Archives: State of the ProcrastiNATION

The Voice From The Whirlwind: Some thoughts on Faith, Tragedy, and Politics

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Seriously?

I’ve been reading a lot of Facebook posts and articles calling for change in the wake of the Sandy Hook murders.  Many of them revolve around the need for changes in mental healthcare and gun laws (both ends of the spectrum, from banning guns to supplying all teachers with conceal-and-carry permits).  Some of them are about our culture of violence, some of them revolve around the race, class, and sex of spree killers, some of them are about putting up protections everywhere. I hope these conversations continue and lead to lasting reform.  But there’s one conversation I really wish would stop: blaming disasters or tragedies on the quality of peoples’ faith in God.

These talks pop up every single time something horrible happens- no matter if the cause is natural or man made.  And they’ve been happening in some form for thousands of years, from the earthquake/tsunami in Japan to the Salem Witch Trials to the Crusades and on backward.  Misfortune is the fault of witches, or secularism, or Jews, or gays, or whatever scapegoat the religious majority is afraid of.  I’m no theologian or archaeologist, but I think it’s safe to say this goes back to the birth of the concept of religion.  I guess this means my post won’t make many waves, but I might as well throw in my two cents.  This post is going to (obviously) focus on religion and my own journey, so no judgement if you don’t want to continue.  This post is also more raw and of-the-moment.  I want to speak before I chicken out, so my prose isn’t going to be as eloquent as I’d like. Oh yeah, and I refer to God as “He” for purposes of this discussion, but my personal belief is that God is beyond concepts like gender.  But that discussion is for another day. Anyway, enough excuses and explanations.  Here goes:

Around my senior year of High School my English class read The Book of Job, and it really disturbed me.  The Job story confused me as a younger kid, but it wasn’t until I was made to sit and reflect on it for hours per day that this story wheedled its way into my subconscious.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, Job is an Old Testament story about a prosperous and pious man named Job who is seemingly punished by God.  He loses his possessions and children in a deadly accident, and he and his wife are struck with illness and sores.   After debating with his wife and his friends about who is really at fault for this tragedy Job  breaks down and yells his anger to God.  God quickly responds through the voice of a whirlwind, chastising Job for questioning him, then gives Job more children and more wealth.  As a kid with a strong sense of fairness and justice, this didn’t jibe with me.  The God I believed in was kind and merciful; sure he was angry and would smite people, but those people had done something wrong and God either needed to wipe the slate clean and start over (like the tower of Babel, or Sodom and Gomorrah  or the people in Noah’s time period) or he provided harsh lessons to teach them (like Jonah).  But to destroy someone’s life for no reason, to yell at someone who had the nerve to break down and ask why he suffered?  And to then give him another wealth store and different children, and treat it as if this makes up for all his previous pain?  That wasn’t the God I thought I knew.  That wasn’t a God I wanted to be around.

This was around the start of a rough period in my life- multiple close family members became very ill; some of them died. The day before my aunt died I remember praying to God, asking if her sickness was punishment for people taking her for granted. “Okay, God.” I said. “I think we understand now. You can fix her.” But God doesn’t work like that. I saw my parents suffering and prayed: “OK, God. I’ll be a better kid for them. Will that win your favor and stop their pain?” But God doesn’t work that way. My depression and anxiety, at that time undiagnosed, became harder and harder to manage.  I was growing up and learning more and more about how hard life was for many people, how hard life would be for me as a woman of color with little money or clout.  During this period I prayed, I sang to God, I begged Him to smite me and spare the ones I loved, I got angry and shouted at Him,  I thought about leaving school, leaving Catholicism, thought about killing myself.  I couldn’t understand why God would hurt such good people; why he would cause such pain and suffering to fall upon others while I remained physically whole but emotionally scarred. We patched up our relationship after I was diagnosed with bipolar II, but I was still wary.  After I moved to New York my faith was shaken again (I’d rather not talk about that part), and while I love God and talk to him regularly, some part of me still hasn’t made peace with my religion and my politics.  But during all that time, during the times when I sobbed in my friends’ arms and yelled at how angry I was at God, do you think He ever left my side for a minute?  The God who makes the rain, the grass, the animals and the elements?  He who makes every atom and quark; He who makes all genders and sexualities and hearts and minds? He, my heavenly Father?  No- my God never left me, just as my mother and father would never leave me, even if (and when) I’m angry at them or forget to call.  Even when I make them angry, they are still my parents and they still love me no matter what happens to me.

There are some places where I might not want to pray aloud- that’s fine, I know how to pray silently or in a quiet moment I take for myself.  Does the Christian God require over-loud worship as long as whatever worship we provide is sincere?  Does He abandon our children because of the perceived or actual sins of society?  Does he always allow or cause disaster to punish us? People all over the world pray in mosques synagogues and temples and churches – some
devote their entire lives to helping the poor or sick, or to serving a higher power. And yet some of them-yes, pious traditional Christians too- are cut down before their prime in horrific ways in their very houses of peace and worship.  I mean, Job was pretty perfect and look what happened to him.

Here is God’s response to Job, taken from the KJV.  It’s beautiful, and powerful, and very very long, and the first time I read it I thought  God was avoiding Job’s questions, basically pulling a “Because I’m your dad and I can do all this stuff you can’t imagine, and also because I said so!”  Which, I admit, he kind of is.  After I moved to New York, though, my reading of the text changed.  It happened after I went to my friend’s performance of Song of Job 9:11, a musical convocation by Danny Ashkenasi.  It combines true stories and voices from the World Trade Center bombings with the biblical story of Job, and it’s all on youtube if you want to listen (my friend Holland Hamilton and her mom Anita Hollander are the gorgeous ladies immediately right of center).  Before that concert I didn’t fully grasp both the immense trauma of 9/11 victims, nor did I grasp the story of Job in anything but a negative light.  But listening to the musical arrangement of God’s words to Job I was filled with emotion, and I understood:  God was providing comfort to Job, and to all who suffer.  God names all of the creatures and things he takes care of, asks Job who is he to question God, his power, or plan.  God reminds Job “yo, I’m God.  I got all this- you think I ain’t got you too?  You don’t comprehend it, but I got everything, babe.”

Sometimes we don’t know why bad things happen.  Sometimes we will never know.  We can ask ourselves what God asked Job: who are we to question God?  Job’s friends and wife are quick to point fingers at either Job’s misdeeds or to God, but God will have none of it.  In times of misfortune and strife, the people who are saying that God has deserted us or punished us are acting the same way.  Who are we to say these things?  Were we around to know the big plan?  Can we understand every action and reason there are obstacles and potholes in our path?

There is a way to make change, however.  God provides it to us, just as he provided it to Job:

And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold. 12So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning:   

Job 42:11-12  (forgive me if my biblical citation skills suck)

In times like I ask everyone to gather around the sufferers, just as Job’s family gathered around him.   We should comfort them, help them, and thus we shall increase their fortunes.  Nothing we can do can bring back the dead- not placing blame, not social change, not religious squabbling.  The best we can do is to help our fellow humans, in this way we can bless the latter end of our time on earth more than our beginning.  The debates on gun control and mental healthcare and society and public saftey are some of the many ways we can do that.  Blaming abortion, prayer in schools, or LGBTQ people for indirectly causing God to turn his back on the slaughter of 20 kids and 7 adults?  Not a good way to do that.  Not to mention a bit victim-blamey.

There, that’s my two cents.  You can put yours in the comments below, but please note that while I encourage discussion I’ll delete any hate-speech, or comments putting down others’ religions or lack thereof.

The Cheesecake Express: Mieko “Reads” Fiddey Shades!

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50 Shades was originally a Twilight fanfic, but even Kristen Stewart can’t believe it.

Ok, so I love love love reading cheesecake books.

I used to read submissions to a publishing agency, and I once bought The Legend of Rah and the Muggles (That book that one lady sued JK Rowling over) just so I could laugh at it.  Many a high school night was spent giggling over the 25 cent novels my best friend lent me.

Lately I’ve been lusting after the libre-du-jour by E.L James, 50 Shades of Grey (The little fanfic that could), but as a responsible adult with a budget and reputation I can’t bring myself to buy it, and the local library has a waiting list over 1,000 patrons long.  Luckily I have found this- Kyle reads Fifty Shades of Grey- in which a brave soul reads all chapters  aloud for your youtubing pleasure (at your youtubing liesure).

I have chosen to undertake this task for you, dear readers.  Along the way I will discuss such things as:

  • How could E.L. James make one-million dollars per week?
  • Why does this outsell Harry Potter in UK paperback???
  • What is Christian Grey’s appeal?
  • What parallels can we draw between this and Twilight, as well as other works of classic fiction?
  • Is it feminist?

….Or at least we’ll be able to properly snark.

Why I love Avatar Korra (and you should too): An Introduction

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I have a new love in my life- and her name is Avatar Korra.

For those of you who don’t know, here’s a snip from wikipedia:

Avatar: The Last Airbender (Avatar: The Legend of Aang in Europe) is an American animated television series that aired for three seasons onNickelodeon from 2005 to 2008. The series was created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, who served as executive producers along with Aaron EhaszAvatar: The Last Airbender is set in an Asian-influenced world[1] wherein some are able to manipulate theclassical elements by use of psychokinetic variants of Chinese martial arts known as “bending.” The show combined the styles of anime andAmerican cartoons, and relied for imagery upon various East-Asian, Inuit, Indian and South-American societies.[2]

And the background on the sequel:

 Reincarnating in turn among the world’s four nations, [the Avatar] is responsible for maintaining the balance in the world. Korra, the series’ 17-year-old protagonist, is the incarnation of the Avatar after the death of Aang of Avatar: The Last Airbender.[7] Set seventy years after the first series in Republic City, a metropolis that recalls a fictionalized 1920s Manhattan and Shanghai,[8] the series follows Korra as she learns airbending and faces an anti-bender revolutionary group, the “Equalists”, led by the masked Amon.[7]

The season is done for now, and sadly won’t return until next year, but you can watch all the episodes online either at nick.com or elsewhere if you’re internet savvy.

The original Avatar series is near and dear to me; the controversy surrounding the whitewash of the film led me to the social justice blogosphere, which is how I procrastinate   spend most of my time these days.  The creators of the original series have been praised for their creative world building, their sophisticated and complex character and plot-lines, and their cross-generational humor as well as their ability to take cultures not their own and appropriate them respectfully.

This new series continues in the vein of the first Avatar but features a hero who is a strong, intelligent, brown woman- something you really don’t see in US media.  The show deals with relationships, revolution, familial ties, geopolitics.  It’s feminist, anti-racist, and thought provoking, yet somehow while it’s popular among children and many sets of the nerd community the social justice blogosphere has been pretty quiet.  If I’m wrong please let me know, but coverage pales in comparison to the praise of Hunger Games or Brave – both of which have strong heroines and are geared towards children.

I don’t know if you guys can tell by now, but for me Avatar Korra is the greatest thing since Harry Potter.  And I love Harry Potter with a fiery hot passion, you best believe.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be geeking out exploring the awesomeness that is the Korra series, specifically how the show is groundbreaking in its race, color, gender, and sociopolitical discussion.  This will, of course, be peppered with my favorite Korra gifs.

Let’s get this party started.

State of the ProcrastiNATION episode 1(million): Preparing for the Zombie Apocolypse

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So, I have one more paper to do before finals are over and a huge case of senioritis writers block, so I decided why not inform all my cyber-friends of the newest developments in Zombie preparedness studies.  I figured this will be especially important information as the rapture is only 3 days away (save the date!), and the threat of zombie apocalypse is becoming more and more real:

1.)The CDC has finally acknowledged the growing zombie threat, and is outlining its containment strategies appropriately.  I’m serious.  The U.S. GOVERNMENT’S CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL.

2.) Dame Judy Dench and Sir Ian Mckellan have also become spokespeople for the undead-defense cause:  They are to star in a period zombie film, The Curse of the Buxom Strumpet, an extended version of the short film E’gad, Zombies!  Also joining the celebrity defense league is Hugh Laury, aka House.  Please read up on the founder of the celeb-zombie defense league: Night of the Living Dead’s Duane Jones (proof that in some horror movies being black doesn’t mean you die first).

3.) The Undead stoop to new lows:  They have corrupted our youth into their ranks!  Beware of deceptively adorable zombie children.  They are not lonely, they do not want friends, they want to eat your brains.  Remember this.

4.) To protect your children from corruption, make sure they read this updated version of Pat the Bunny.  Or, if you are feeling particularly proactive/sadistic, run a zombie defense drill.  But beware:  not only may you scar your kids for life, but you may scar yourselves as well (my cousin Soloman would have totally done this to little me, btw).

For other important tips, please visit Zombiedefense.org  or http://zombiecrisis.org/

Random holiday traditions from around the world

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I stumbled upon these interesting cultural traditions, and thought I’d share.

First up, one of my favorite holiday websites:

Sketchy Santas has tons of pics of the oddest Santa Clauses and the funniest crying kids.  Ahh Schadenfreude, making your holidays merry and bright.

You want WHAT for christmas?!

While perusing said website I found this:

Jesus thinks I'm #1, even when I #2.

It’s called a Caganer, or pooper, and is popular in parts of Catalonia, Spain, Italy, Germany, Holland, and France.  You hide one of these little guys in your nativity scene each year, and it’s a great treat for children to…sniff him out, if you will.  Sort of like a Where’s Waldo for the scatalogically inclined.  Wikipedia figures that it started as a humorous way to break up the idealized stateliness  of a traditional nativity, but also represents how a) we’re all equal in God’s eyes.  As the book says, everybody poops b) Jesus can come at any time, and we mean any time.

Recently more modern versions of caganers have become popular.  A quick google search shows you the Pope, the Dalai Lama, Michael Jackson, Barack Obama, famous soccer players, the queen of England, Einstein, even Spiderman doing their duty (tee hee) for the Christmas spirit.

Caganers are such a part of the culture that in 2005 when Barcelona decided one year to nix the caganer from its public display- they had recently (only recently?!) outlawed public defecation and urination and thought the caganer was a bad influence- the townspeople protested until they got it back.   I can only imagine the type of spirited debate that would happen if someone decided to put a caganer on their lawn in the U.S.  It’s not that much different from the peeing fountain kid though, right?

Through the wonders of wiki I also found this little cutie, also from Catalonia and surrounding areas.  The Tio de Nadal:

someone's cruisin' for a bruisin'

If you’re wondering why these adorable children are attacking these defenseless log-people, it’s because this is a long-drawn out Christmas mugging.

Starting December 8th, mom and dad will pull out their old friend Tio, and the kids will fawn all over it.  They “feed” the log every night and put a warm blanket over it so it doesn’t get cold.  The log thinks “hey, sweet deal!”…until Christmas morning, that is.  The children, all bright eyed, rush downstairs and to the warm, fat Tio.  They stick him near their fireplace, then they order him to poop.

When Tio doesn’t poop (because who poops on command?) the happy little children grab their sticks and whack him over and over, singing songs about how much they want to literally beat the sh*t out of him.  When poor Tio does finally drop a load, turns out it’s a load of candy and other goodies placed there by the adults, and the little darlings cheer and sing and beat Tio again until each kid has their sweet.  Then this piñata-esque log is shoved into the closet until next year! Yay!!!

I’ll look up more random holiday traditions and post them as they come.  If anyone has any they know, feel free to include them in the comments section.  Happy Holidays everyone! (and no offense meant to Catalonia or its people, feel free to make fun of Santa Claus and Black Friday if you’d like).

-Mieko