magnolia

trust yourself. you're really all you have.


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something’s always wrong

[soundtrack]

[caveat: i know that every single time i say things like this, everyone older than me is laughing at me to some degree or another. but i don't care. everyone comes to fundamental conclusions in their own time. just because the themes are universal doesn't make the individual discovery of said themes any less meaningful, or deeply unsettling. now then.]

my understanding of maturing into an adult was that, after a period of adolescent struggle, life would eventually reach a coasting neutral. there would be happy deviations and awful deviations – y’know, ups and downs, strikes and gutters, as the dude would say – but the mean would be kind of a relaxed peace with home, work, family, friends, etc.

that has not at all been the case.

what my maturity into adulthood has actually been is a series of long fights, capstone incidents (either victories or defeats), brief lulls and BOOM, on to the next fight. just when you think ok, we’re good – here comes the part where i can coast for awhile, something else swings around the bend to send you into fight mode again. it’s a never-ending series of struggle-struggle-struggle-breath-struggle. even when one area of life settles down – school, job, relationship, health, etc. – another area falls into chaos. it’s like some kind of tire fire must always be burning.

and it’s dumb. it’s tiring. there’s NO REASON for this.

i have always railed against the ridiculous american myth of redemptive suffering. i think it’s the height of stupid that pain is a necessary growth agent. redemptive suffering is the sucker-job the religionists laid on their congregants to keep them in the flock in spite of all the restrictive, repressive diktats they mandated. you must deny yourself anything good, pleasurable, or nice in this life, but it’s okay, because your reward is in heaven. if you ever want me to thoroughly distrust you, tell me my reward is in heaven. that’s a con job to make people comfortable with abuses and injustices.

so why the hell does life have to be so hard all the time? and yeah, it’s all first-world problems, another cute little snippet of language designed to shame people away from questioning challenges. i get that my life is better than a starving kid in a war-torn corner of the world. clearly. that doesn’t diminish the fact that everyone up and down the scope of privilege has pain and challenges. it’s supposed to be a badge of honor to be STRONG, TOUGH, BRAVE, WARRIOR, ROOOOAR. dude, whatever. i am not always tough. and that’s NORMAL. it’s not human to be completely fine all the time. you’re either lying to yourself or you’re a sociopath.

you have to have enough fortitude to get through your day and meet your responsibilities. but sometimes, it’s okay to be broken for a bit. even the man is guilty of this. he thinks it’s encouraging to say things like, we’re young, we’re healthy and we have each other; what else do we need to be happy? [nota bene: we are NOT that young anymore. the mid-thirties are here.] it’s a well-intentioned statement, but it ends up doing two things: a) diminishing whatever’s upsetting me as being ungrateful for the good things and b) engendering guilt for not being happy all the time. i call bull on both of those things.

look. resiliency is a good character trait to have – since hard times are a part of life, it’s good to bear them with grace. but i question why the hits just keep on coming in this life. and i have a good case. the whole thing is, you’re supposed to live right and things will fall into place for you, isn’t it? well then, what happens when you live right and they don’t? how long are you supposed to struggle before you start wondering why? or are you just supposed to bow your head and bear it?

i don’t know. i am just tired of struggles on struggles on struggles. it’s like a taunt – come on, a little closer, almost there, almost through it, LOLNOPE!!!!!! – that never ends. i don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect some level of security and peace in life after a certain point. i may be 100% alone in that feeling, but i doubt it. i am just ready for life to settle the hell down.


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empathy gap

i am fed up to my back teeth with about 99% of this country these days, and it can all be summed up in one sentence:

we forgot what empathy is.

there are so many attacks and assaults against the vulnerable, the disfranchised, the out-of-power in this country these days. the hand-selected supreme court, picked by george w. bush to shape policy in this country for a generation or more, continues to dismantle the tools given to regular people by the founders to stop oligarchs from stifling the actual will of the people. zealots and demagogues have unleashed a tidal wave of dominionist insanity based on apocalyptic psycho-christianity that views human life as pledgeship for a narrow, repressive version of “heaven.” the internet is crammed FULL of horrific racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, violent insanity, unleashed the second someone of a “lesser” class dares to step “out of line” and speak up.

it’s sick beyond reason. and why is it happening? lack of empathy. i practice empathy as the central driving force of my life, because it’s the only way to navigate in this world. it is incumbent upon each of us to make an attempt to understand, at the very least, the people with whom we must deal every day. even the angry, snappish, churlish jerks at my job are coming from some viewpoint. i don’t let them off the hook for being jerks, but understanding where they’re coming from helps me preserve myself and respond appropriately. like, if i know that this dude is yelling at me because he’s severely underperforming and is terrified for his own job, i know that a) he’s not a threat to me and b) i don’t have to take his rage-spasms seriously. i can let him scream and holler like he’s a two-year-old who dropped his cookie, then when he’s done, i can repeat the question as if the tantrum never happened and proceed accordingly.

but beyond daily life, i truly believe that empathy is VITAL to the success of a free society. how the hell can we say that america is free and equal when a) it’s patently clear that we are NOT equal in standing, even at a fundamental level, in this society; and b) if you mention that point to someone with privilege, all discourse shuts down in favor of people hollering HOW DARE YOU ACCUSE ME OF THIS I’M NOT PRIVILEGED I HAVE TROUBLE YOU’RE THE [RACIST/SEXIST/BIGOT/ETC.] AND YOU’RE BEING HATEFUL. (and that’s the best outcome – a lot of times, it shuts down in favor of people hollering rape/violence/death threats.)

and that is no way to run a railroad. seems to me that many people, when presented with a different kind of person or a different set of circumstances, shut down and refuse to consider what that life could be like. people REFUSE to consider that, yes, my life might be hard, but someone else’s life might be harder than mine. people REFUSE to consider that, hey, i might have it easier that other folks because of my gender, or my race, or whatever. and hey, that might not be fair. and hey, maybe i should do what i can to help that. and hey, maybe i shouldn’t be a jerk when someone points out something i’ve said that hurts them.

ugh. it’s so easy, and NO ONE DOES IT. my god. just listen. hear people. stop applying your lens to everything. take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of the other person. like, really think about it. what must it be like to be, say, a trans person? imagine it for a second? you look like a guy, so everyone assumes that you’re going to “act like a guy.” the set of stereotypical values that “traditional society” hangs on “guy” are applied to you in every way. you need to be tough, athletic, virile, etc. but every fiber of your being is screaming at you I AM A WOMAN, NOT A MAN. you grow up with this crossed-signal message. if you dare to present in a way that contravenes “tradition,” you are ostracized. unless you’re very lucky, you meet resistance at every turn. even if you get to transition so that your outsides match your insides, you run the risk of being “othered,” exposed, at any turn.

i can never know what that’s like. but i can spend a few minutes trying. and i can listen to the person living that life present how things are. i can understand what they’re saying. and i can ask them, what can i do to help? just… be a nice person. if your first response to “there are real limits to my ability to live in this culture because of who i am” is “FUCK YOU WORK HARDER AND DON’T CALL ME A BIGOT LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH,” you are hurting society.

we will never get anywhere in this life without people learning how to get past their own limits and lines and coexist. not “tolerate” other people. you tolerate a loud noise at work when they’re building out the floor above. you have to – HAVE TO – accept the fact that:

– people are different.
– america has a long, long history of placing real legal restrictions on people because of arbitrary differences.
– america also has a long history of claiming that this isn’t true.
– some legal restrictions have lifted; others have not.
– even when legal restrictions have lifted, the mindset that created the restrictions sometimes has not. [example: my racist grandmother.]
– because of these restrictions, life is easier for the “preferred” group.
– people can belong to the “preferred” group in some instances and the non-preferred group in others.
– preferred groups in 2014, still: white > non-white; male > female; cis > trans; straight > gay; rich > poor; christian > jewish > eastern religions > muslim > atheist.

and the only way out of this is: listen. think. empathize. and ACT ACCORDINGLY.

be a human being. we’re all dependent on it.


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lent

yes friends – the atheist does lent.

when you grow up on the upper gulf coast, in the mardi gras belt, winter is different than it is here in virginia. christmas gives way to new year’s, then twelfth night, then mardi gras. after mardi gras comes lent, then it’s all capped off with easter. it’s a cycle of joyous fun, solemn reflection and sacrifice, and joyous fun again as spring appears. and yeah, it’s 110% catholic/episcopalian. you’d think that i’d do everything i could to run as far away from that sort of mindset as possible. but growing up, i never saw this as part of a religious adoration cycle. it’s just what everyone in mobile did (except the baptists, who never did anything fun or interesting in my estimation and were mad, dour and judgmental all the time).

but if you strip out the god from the gulf-coast winter and look at it from a secular life perspective, the celebration-reflection-celebration season makes a lot of sense. mardi gras/carnival season brings fun and joy to a dark, cold part of the calendar. and once you’ve spent january and sometimes february blowing the doors off and having fun, lent gives you a season of reflection, focus, recovery, and yes, even sacrifice. a built-in period of examination and editing is great. it’s good for writers – lord knows i read everything i write a thousand times over before i submit it, and even a few times after. but it’s also good for humans.

2014 in america is about excess. and i don’t mean OMG rock and roll and licentiousness. i mean the 24/7/365 intensity of information overload, the constant demands of work, and the realization that, though we think we’ve solved so many large problems, we have SO much work to do to make society just and equal. we are expected to be everything all the time, and what that “everything” is shifts so fast we don’t have time to keep up with the latest impossible-to-attain standard. and it’s painful, and it wears us down, and it’s not healthy. lent, to the secularist, is a nice excuse to voluntarily check out of things that don’t work. it’s a time to take a slow, solemn inventory of one’s life, find the places that are hurting, and take the sometimes-challenging steps to right the ship.

so yes, i do lent. i have since i was a teenager. in 12th grade, a friend and i gave up fast food cold turkey. for 40 days, nary an ounce of fast food passed the lips of a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old. (best BELIEVE i had a big mac extra value meal super-sized on easter sunday, though.) and it was great. it did wonders for my sense of willpower and achievement. it was a clue that i could do something challenging that wasn’t easy and comfortable, but that was good for me. now, 16 years later, i’m starting another lenten sacrifice.

globally, the sacrifice i am making is fussy complacency. as i’ve alluded to before, 2013 was rough on my body. i finished gaining all the weight i’d lost in law school, which made me feel sluggish and down on myself. i worked so damn much in 2013 that i next-to-never saw the sun or went outside, going from the apartment to the garage at home to the garage at work to the office and back again. then in september, my compressed disc situation came to a head. i had to go through physical therapy and a series of very tight controls on what i could and couldn’t do. it was really the first time in my life that i had to face a series of physical limitations. and i did not handle it well. i got sulky, and sad, and kinda resigned myself to well, that’s it; i’m done. i won’t be able to move right ever again.

two weeks ago, i got a physical for the first time since my mid-20s. the doctor is a kind, patient, low-key woman who gently but firmly reminded me that a large portion of the recovery process from this injury is doing my part. she gently instructed me that i have to go outside and get some sun to correct my very low vitamin D levels. she noted that my back injury is aggravated by carrying weight around my midsection, so it’d be best to lose some. and she assured me that exercise will actually help me stop hurting, not hurt me further.

so lenten sacrifice means exercising instead of sitting. it means eating quality foods at snacktime instead of eating candy. it means taking a full inventory of my behavior and emotions to strip out the hurtful things (hurtful both to myself and to others). and it’s about facing the fact that getting older means being mindful. and at the end of 40 days, if i work this program properly, i will hopefully have the happy results of feeling better, hurting less and being a nicer person to be around. and as it happens, if a change yields happy results, it tends to perpetuate itself.

i am not advocating scrapping everything “bad” in your life and replacing it with everything “good.” that in and of itself is the type of excess that i believe a lenten-style sacrifice should avoid like the plague. lent is supposed to be thoughtful, careful, modest, and humble. you’re supposed to think holistically and act carefully. little tweaks, made in context, are the point. and you’re not supposed to brag about it either; just do it because it’s good for you. then, when the season ends, you’ve made some growth and can celebrate a hard-earned victory over the stuff that was dragging you down. you can do anything hard/good for you for 40 days.

so that’s my $0.02 re: lent. i think it’s healthy, provided you don’t take it to crazy self-abnegating extremes of penitence and harm. i think it’s good to take stock and enforce some changes, especially at a time when a lot of people you know are doing the same sort of thing and can offer you support. so here’s to lent, everybody, sincerely. go get some happy.


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400 lux

[soundtrack]

we’re never done with killing time
can i kill it with you? …
we come around here all the time
got a lot to not do
let me kill it with you…

my friends in high school were nearly universally born in 1980. more specifically, i have a high concentration of friends and classmates who were born in june of 1980. i really can’t imagine what kind of event could have occurred in september of 1979 that could have led to such a mini-baby boom, but there you go. thus, in the summer of 1996, our clique received the greatest gift of all: a number of licensed drivers. and just like that, the universe opened wide for us.

you pick me up and take me home again…
i love these roads where the houses don’t change (and i like you)
where we can talk like there’s something to say…

the nights would all start off the same. because this was before instantaneous and constant telecommunication, because I AM AN OLD, all of these plans would be made in advance, with no ability to call audibles. we would all meet up at someone’s house, the mall, the movies, the park, etc. someone would have to stop on the way and pick me up; i wasn’t 16 until the summer of 1997, so i spent 11th grade as the perpetual passenger. my friends were gracious about this, mainly because they knew that i’d be so damned eager to drive that they could spend all of 12th grade collecting on the favors they gave me. after i was collected, we’d amass at the appointed location at the appointed time, be relatively well-behaved but knuckle-headed and loud for a few hours, then disperse in time to meet our curfews.

of all of us, the man had the nicest car. on the other side of all of this, having the understanding of his family and their approach to finances that i do now, i am not as shocked as i used to be. but at the time, his basically-brand-new mercury mystique was stunningly excessive and glorious. he had leather seats, a moonroof and a 10-CD changer in the trunk. because of this, he was nearly always appointed to drive us around. (that and, until we started dating, he would never, ever, ever, ever, EVER let me drive, EVER.) he and i also had the good fortune to have the most liberal curfews of our entire peer group: i could stay out until 12, later with good reason and a phone number my dad could call to check on me at any time; he had no curfew, and really a lot of the time i don’t think his parents knew or cared where the all-holy hell he was.

so ANYWAY, the man would come pick me up for our nights out low-key carousing. this resulted in a lot of time driving around aimlessly. often, when other people were busy, we’d go out by ourselves. even when he was dating one of our friends, he and i managed to get in our buddy time. and we had these long-ranging and VERY IMPORTANT DISCUSSIONS while we drove. these were the kinds of conversations that usually happen in college when all the participants are either drunk or stoned, but we were so precocious that we did it younger and sober.

[in retrospect, it's no wonder we got married; we are the only potential romantic mates for one another. we are weird, y'all.]

now we’re wearing long sleeves and the heating comes on
you buy me orange juice
we’re getting good at this

our parents always insisted that we were dating, even when we weren’t. his mother would rather colorfully criticize his girlfriends in front of me, like she thought that i’d snap my head up and go, OH WELL, SINCE YOU SAID SUCH UNBELIEVABLY HORRID THINGS ABOUT HER, LET ME BREAK THEM UP AND SAVE YOUR PRECIOUS CHILD FROM THAT HARRIDAN. but until i was divorced, we were not a couple. [and to the mother-in-law's credit, she's, to my knowledge, held her tongue on criticizing me. the father-in-law is different, but we're not going there.] we were just well-suited to one another’s habits and needs.

in high school, the world was equally very tiny and very large. we got to the point where we had every road in the city memorized, but we would ride around at night as if those two lanes could take us anywhere. intellectually, we knew that “anywhere” was gautier, mississippi (long story; don’t ask), but it felt broader, more expansive than that. the worst part of adulthood is that you start to see the limits that, though they were always there, adolescence hides from you. i desperately miss the ability to climb into the car on a saturday night and feel like the tree-lined streets would eventually transform, hinge outward and open, revealing some new, mysterious possibility we’d never considered.

the man and i were – and are – very good at this deep, companionate friendship. and the first bricks of our fortress were laid in the summer of 1996, rolling around the streets of our hometown when we didn’t know we could be stopped. sometimes i look at him, sitting on the other end of our couch reading his ipad, and i feel the way i felt back then. it’s a nice feeling, and i’m glad i have an anchor to the years when i was free. adults are rarely free. but with him, i can grasp back to it, if only for a moment.

i’d like it if you stayed…


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you’ve got a friend

the word “ally” used to be a label that a person who is not a member of a disadvantaged group, but who supports that group and wants to help advance that group’s cause, could use to show that support. but, as with many formerly useful things, that’s no longer the case. in 2014, the word “ally” is totally, rightfully, completely dead. and the more i think about it, the more i realize that this death is a good thing.

see, over the last 12 months or so, a lot of people who claim to be “allies” have done awful, self-serving, disgusting things that actively undermine their self-appointed status as allies. the latest and greatest (heh) example of this is how completely pig-headedly awful piers morgan was to janet mock (who is one of my favorite people – such a gifted way with words, and so freaking STRONG in the face of so much unbelievable stupidity). and with each incident where someone abuses the very people they claim to support, then berates that community for daring to take umbrage at someone who IS CLEARLY AN ALLY SO SHUT UP I SUPPORT YOU AND YOU HAVE TO TAKE WHATEVER I GIVE YOU, it chips away at the soul of society. when people like this talk, i hear kanye west snarling “my presence is a present – kiss my ass!” in the lyrics to “monster.”

this is not support. this is not helpful. and i am officially seceding from the “ally” community because of it.

i mean, really. when you’re an outsider who supports a group of people, why in the world would you want to be such a self-righteous jerk? unless of course your true motivation is to prove to the world that you’re a “good person” at the expense of everyone around you. there are a lot of people with saviour mentality, great-white-hope mentality, rescuer mentality, missionary mentality, etc., ad infinitum, ad astra, forever and ever amen. and it’s sick, and it’s stupid, and it’s WRONG. the aim of social change movements is to effect social change, not to become a great shining star because of it.

so i’m not an “ally” anymore. it’s a useless term. i’m choosing to be a “friend” instead. i think it’s a much better mindset for a person in the privileged, advantaged group who wants to offer support to the disadvantaged, un-privileged group. what do you do for your friends when they’re in trouble? you listen, you support, and you don’t steamroll. if you’re a good friend, you empathize. empathy is so sorely lacking in a lot of privileged people, and it’s so vital to understanding how to be a supportive part of a social-change movement. it’s getting outside of yourself and your narrow experience to take the wide view of the world. the real, painful plight of others is not a platform for me to launch my notoriety off of. the pain of other human beings is to be erased and mitigated by any means necessary, and if you have to do a lot of hard work without getting pats on the back, gold stars, or external validation, so freaking be it. the “reward” for helping others is that others feel better, not that you win something for yourself.

jerry seinfeld probably considers himself a progressive. but he just popped off his mouth to say that it’s irrelevant to discuss whether women and people of color are represented in “mainstream” comedy. and that is a really un-progressive way to think. after all, “funny is funny” only applies when all people are allowed to get in front of the arbiters of funny and have an equal shot at getting heard. until people are allowed to live, to achieve, to TRY, these things matter. and you are not a helpful friend to the people getting shut out if you can’t quietly empathize and offer help as it is requested.

so put a stake in the heart of being an ally. it’s no longer productive, to say the absolute least. if you’re in the privileged group and you want to help, try being a friend. once we get all of the self-important, grandstanding “allies” out of the way and limit the pool of activists to the friends of the world, we may actually stand a chance of getting something done.


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unbelievers

[soundtrack]

so last night, bill nye debated the creator of the “creation museum,” whatever kind of foolishness that is, regarding evolution vs. creationism. i go back and forth on whether or not this was an awesome display of the power of the mind over braindead slavishness to a fairy-story view of the world, or whether it was an exercise in futility because no one involved will ever switch sides. but every time someone eloquently advocates for logic and reason over mysticism and delusion, i am happy.

i am an atheist. an out-in-the-open, full-on, will-bring-it-up-as-small-talk atheist. i am not a polemicist, usually; i am way more hemant mehta than i am sam harris. but i read atheist blogs. i attended the reason rally two years back when it happened and was OVERJOYED to be in a happy, welcoming crew of fellow non-believers. i am married to a non-believer as well, and we are planning to raise our future progeny in a big ol’ warm friendly atheist family.

i was not always like this. once, in high school, a friend of my mom’s encouraged me to think about starting a free-thinker club in high school. the kids at my high school were pretty noncommittal on such things – they were either protestant-ish or catholic-ish, unless they were part of the super-christian clique. but unlike a lot of stereotypical bible-belt cliches, even the christian kids weren’t super-dominating. it was easy to breathe. but it might’ve also been easy to breathe because, aside from refusing to say “under god” as part of the pledge, i didn’t ruffle feathers on the religion thing. (i rabble-roused against things like the dress code instead.)

when i met my ex-husband in college, he was a good little hippie-granola indigo-girls-style episcopalian. he carried a small metal cross in his pocket, for the love of god. (ha.) when we got together, he was still very interested in christianity. four weeks or so before we all moved into our dorms, he had completed a summer of camp-counseling at a sleepaway hippie-granola episcopalian camp at which many choruses of “michael row your boat ashore” and whatnot were sung. so when he went to the christian group at school, i said, what the hell, i’ll go too. it appears to be important to him.

["it's important to the man in my life, so i'll try to learn to like it" is a central tenet of my life as a partner to the various boys and men i've partnered with. i believe that learning to pleasantly tolerate things that are major-league important to your partner is vital to at least try to do in order to ensure a healthy relationship. we'll unpack it another time, but just go with it for now. but i digress.]

and for several years thereafter, i tried to be christian. we gave up on the christian group in short order because it was a little too “hands UP for god!” for us (as one of my friends in high school described charismatic worship). but for a number of years, i soldiered through and pretended that the deeply satisfying christianity that my ex enjoyed was satisfying to me too. but friends, it was really, really not. prayer never worked. church was nice sometimes, but i never felt anything. i thought, well, maybe religion comes with practice. hell, my mom was a presbyterian from the word jump and she seemed pretty comfortable in her faith. maybe it just takes time.

and then, on february 3, 2008, my mom died.

one of my principal complaints with religion, christianity in particular, is its inability to explain the purpose of tragedy and suffering. the final 15 years or so of my mother’s life was riddled with mental illness and a continuous degradation of quality of life as a result. she’d wrestled with mental illness, which she self-medicated through alcohol that led to an addiction she battled with varying success throughout her life. and then, once she’d finally got into treatment (after a remand to a live-in program by the state of florida), she died of a massive stroke. and you know what religion says about this?

“god has a plan.”

yeah, you know what? NOT ADEQUATE. my mother’s death unlocked a lot of things in me, some of which i am only just now starting to understand six years later. but the second thing that smacked me in the face in the aftermath, right behind “i refuse to settle for ANYTHING that does not work for me anymore,” is “i don’t think there’s a god.” and with that, the pretense dropped, and i was not a christian anymore, not even in name only.

giving up religion was such a phenomenally great decision for me. it was the most intellectually freeing experience i have ever had. i was no longer beholden to the myth of redemptive suffering. i was no longer tied to the construction that this life is merely an antechamber for the eternity awaiting after death. i could fully embrace doubt, mystery and uncertainty. logic and reason, things that law school had already started refining in me, became the underlying theme in my life in a way they just weren’t when i was pretending at religion.

and strangely enough, i gained a much more intense appreciation for and respect for the finite bounds of human life. i see anti-choice zealots screeching about the culture of life. i have met one – ONE – person who is anti-choice and completely consistent about his dedication to what he views as the completeness of respect for “life.” on the day when anti-choice zealots spent their time lining the sidewalks of women’s health centers yelling hostile threats at women exercising their right to medical care, this man posted a request on facebook for prayer for the soul of a man condemned to execution by the state of texas. i have a disagreement with this friend about the starting point and ending point of life, but he consistently applies his principles. i give him a TON of credit for that.

but generally speaking, people who profess dedication to the “culture of life” for religious reasons have the cheapest, chintziest view of human life that i can ever imagine. these people are SO OBSESSED with zygotes and fetuses, and that obsession with life ends at the moment of birth. these folks then lose all interest in temporal reality, viewing it as merely pledgeship. after all, how many times have you heard a devout believer say, “oh, your reward’s in heaven!” these people literally do not care about improving human existence, because it’s just a test to see if you qualify to get into the great country club in the sky.

my atheism has taught me that there is nothing more precious than the time you have. after all, it’s all we have. life begins, life ends. it is a closed universe. because of this, we owe it to ourselves to take care of the earth and our fellow humans. we are all we have. there is no watchmaker/caretaker/angry daddy watching over us and pulling strings. we are it.

and no, i don’t know how we got here. i’m not sure that answer can ever be known. but i know this: you are not gonna find these answers in any book of mythology currently being propagated as a constitutionally-protected tax shelter (otherwise known as a “religion”). atheism allows you the freedom to say, “i don’t know, and that’s okay; some things haven’t been discovered yet.” doubt is okay. chaos is a real thing. suffering is not magically redemptive. you are not guaranteed eternal comfort for bowing your head and obediently taking the abuses the powerful lump upon you in the name of the sky-daddy.

so yes, being a non-believer is amazing. i highly recommend it. the kind of liberation i have experienced in owning my atheism has given me the comfort to make my life – this life, my one shot at existence – as grand and wonderful as possible. i act without fear, without limits. and when chaos overwhelms me, i understand that it is a cyclical part of living. i do not pray harder or give more money to a man in a nice suit. i just embrace it and move forward.

free.


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like a fish needs a bicycle

oh, friends. why is it that, right when i think things are bopping along at a nice, even clip, there’s a giant insane conflagration just around the curve?

of all things, this is best explained by the angst j.k. rowling just caused a lot of y’all. now, i am not a harry potter reader. never read a word of the series, not a single one.

[waits for outrage to die down before continuing]

but i have picked up enough about the series from being around all of y’all that the girl doesn’t take up with harry potter at the end of things. she takes up with their other friend instead. and apparently, j.k. rowling just rocked everyone’s world from here to next thursday when she said she wished she’d had harry get the girl. which spawned a river of upset-ness into the internet. that part i get – i have been seriously in love with creative works enough to understand why that would bend a fan’s mind.

but then today, a comedian named gaby dunn posted on twitter a long tirade about how “hermione doesn’t need a man to be free.” leaving aside the weird fan-fiction aspects of an assertion like this (sorry folks; i think fan fiction is odd, and i always will), the twitter-er goes on to expound at length about how hermione should be allowed to take lovers and be fully actualized. this ends with “hermione comes home to her clean, big apartment, pours some wine, and reads with her cat. she is perfectly satisfied without a man. the end.” and i sighed deeply.

one of the patriarchy’s more subtle points of attempted division among women is this whole “you’re only fully realized [with/without] a man” debate. oh lord above, deliver me from this one. deliver me from the sanctimony of the coupled, the ones who make the lot of us look awful by saying the most hideous garbage to single women. you know this spiel: the raft of condescending left-handed slaps, the implication that if you’re not wearing a diamond ring by age 25 that you may as well fling yourself off of a cliff because you are WORTHLESS, the cult of domesticity. god, it’s atrocious.

in reaction to this horrorshow, however, an equally sanctimonious counterforce has developed, and that’s what ms. dunn invokes in defense of the autonomy of a fictional teenage [i think? do they grow to adulthood? i don't even know] wizard. this is the one where, if you decide to get married or have a family, especially if you do so at a young age, you have somehow sold out the cause of feminism. you’re a throwback. you’re never going to be a “real person” because you’re too busy “subsuming” yourself to the will of your family. after all, the only true self-actualization there is happens when you are single. oh, and by the way, you must be defiantly, sparklingly happy about your single-ness at all times, because if you show any weakness, you’re failing all women everywhere forever. if you aren’t flaunting your independence in the face of all those weak, spineless, defeated half-women chained to men and children at all times, you are just as bad as those limp fake people are.

and look at that: we’re all too busy arguing about our romantic choices, or lack thereof, to notice that louisiana tried to require a 30-day waiting period for abortions last month. boy, that works out well for them, doesn’t it?

god, this is dumb. wil wheaton developed what i think is a great rule for personal conduct, and that is the “don’t be a dick” rule. and in the single/not single debate, pretty much everyone involved is being a dick to the other side. and i want it to freaking stop already. i want the world to spend more time on issues of importance outside of the four walls of a bedroom. the only marriage debate i want to hear about is whether we can get the 33 states that deny equal protection to their citizens based on orientation to stop doing that. once the equal rights of all are secured, i no longer give a flying tinker’s damn whether or not people avail themselves of the institution. whether you are single or married is irrelevant to your standing as a human. there are nice people and assholes in both camps.

you are not incomplete without a spouse. you are also not incomplete with one. you are you regardless of your marital/dating status or lack thereof. you do not need a man, nor do you need a man like a fish needs a bicycle. you need what you need. and it’s cool with me. and it should be cool with everyone. period.

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