Monday, April 29, 2013

Heaven can wait...forever.

My mother's life, apparently, has been hell. She confided this to me--or actually it was to my husband in my presence, because apparently I was already aware of this information. She said it in reference to the unending stream of afflictions she has had to endure in her lifetime. Frankly, from my perspective, she hasn't had it that bad. Making it to 83 with no more major surgery than a hysterectomy seems pretty reasonable to me. Even lucky. But, alas, my long-suffering mother doesn't see it that way. She has been enduring her trials here on earth because the true joy is yet to heaven.

I have been hearing her Heaven stories for as long as I can remember. She hunted down every book, every magazine article, anything she could lay her hands on that told of the coming glory. I was subjected to an unending series of tales of souls who had made it to the other side for a visit with Jesus before being allowed to return to Earth in order to share their story. I remember stories of iridescent mansions with living roses growing in the walls. Of endless singing and souls infused with light. Even as a child I remember thinking it all sounded beautiful...albeit a bit dull. But even so it was seductive enough that even at the age of five I remember wishing quite vividly that I could die soon so I could be a part of all that beauty. Fortunately for me, that sentiment didn't take hold. I can't say the same for my mother.

She has spent her entire life waiting for paradise. Following the rules and denying herself pleasures, all the while storing up treasures in heaven. I do find it ironic that she admits now to having something of a miserable life, despite the fact that she's spent her life nestled in the palm of Jesus and secure in the bosom of the church. But maybe all the Bible studies weren't as much fun as they appeared to be.

So now, at 85, recovering from open heart surgery and just not feelin' as spry as she thinks she should, she is basically waiting to die. Frankly has been her entire life. And I'd say I expect she's going to be very disappointed but unfortunately I suspect she won't have the chance to be. And I find that very sad. What's even more sad is the fact that she is not alone. Many with similar convictions have the same hopes and dreams and have thrown away a life of opportunity on the gamble that the next life will be risk free.

One story that she told me has stuck with me for years. It was a story of some young child who--ostensibly--succumbed to injuries and made a brief trip to heaven before being relegated back to the world of mortals. In this story the child sat at Jesus' feet and looked down on Earth and asked why some of the poor souls walked with heads high and seemed to shine with colour while others plodded along, their aura gray and their posture hunched as if weighed down by an invisible burden. Jesus told the child that those gray people were weighed down by sin and the gay, colourful people had become free in Jesus. It wasn't too many years later that I realized Jesus had gotten it backwards. He should have recognized the Pride colours even then.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

What the FUCK?!

Fuck. I love that word. I know that may sound strange coming from one as intellectual and cultured as myself <snort> but it's true. The word FUCK was a landmark in my journey towards enlightenment vividly remember the day I allowed myself to say it. That was the day it ceased to have power over me.

Words have a lot of power. The person who coined the phrase, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me," was an idiot. Words are the most powerful tools--and weapons--we possess. But it is true, to a certain degree, that they only have as much power as we allow them to have. As we perceive them to have.

As children, we are particularly vulnerable because we haven't had the years of self discovery and affirmation that is needed to build up a solid self image--and image of the world. It is this perception of reality that serves as our armor. That allows us to filter the words and ideas we hear and not allow them to chip away at the fragile self image and confidence that we've honed. That is why bullies are so dangerous and have so much power  in the schoolyard. Those jibes and insults have virtually direct access to the heart of a child. They get in there, lodging themselves like a sliver, working their way deeper and deeper until it takes a form of psychological open heart surgery to dislodge them.

But insults and compliments aren't the only words that have power over us. As a child I was so wary of "bad words"--words that could too easily slip out of my mouth and anger my god. Words that not only could cause me to sin but that were a sin in and of themselves. Words that caused me to label myself as a unworthy or even evil. There were two big offenders on that list for me. "Taking the name of the lord in vain," was probably the worst, just because it was such an easy one to slip on. The words, "Oh my God," slipped out far too easily. And the euphemisms never sat well with me. Everybody knew that gosh and golly, were just "nicknames," for God, and everybody knew what you were trying so hard not to say. Jeepers Creepers seemed safe for a time until some sage soul informed me that it was a euphemism for Jesus Christ. No matter what the word of choice, I would often let it slip, and then feel guilty for days after saying it. Repenting in prayer repeatedly until I was reasonably certain my sin had been washed away with the blood of them lamb.

FUCK was different. As a kid, growing up, fuck was a word that I heard rarely. It was never uttered at home or among my devout Mennonite friends. I would hear it only rarely on the school ground or highschool campus or on television of course. And for years I didn't even know what it meant. I just knew fuck was a very evil word that Jesus didn't like and was sure to somehow taint my soul for eternity.

But it's strange how the process of hearing a word repeatedly, in certain contexts, takes the sharp edges off of it. It becomes easier to hear--and to think. And then I started questioning my faith, and reading and writing explicit sexual material, and was almost required to put the word to paper, and it began to take on a will of its own. I began to realize the box I had built for myself. A box of acceptable words, that restricted my access not only to a whole world of "unsavoury" words, but also ideas. Because words are, in essence, ideas in solid form. So, in a very real way, my mother was right. Because saying certain words allows certain ideas to take hold. And this process had a very direct impact on my decision to shed my faith.

The day I allowed myself to say "Oh my God," without fear of reprisals from my invisible friend was one moment of freedom.  But the day I allowed myself to say the word, FUCK--and not just quietly under my breath, but loudly with gusto and real conviction--was a day of true emancipation. It was a day that I broke free of the shackles of propriety and sexual repression and allowed myself to think and feel things without care for who it would upset or offend. And then I heard myself say, "JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!!" and knew my release was complete.

So, do I say it every day? Well...probably. And I probably say it too much. But I have a lot of years of repression to make up for! I do understand that there are times and places that it is less acceptable than others. I understand that it can get me in trouble at work, so I keep a lid on it there, and I try to watch it around my parents and in-laws just because they are very old and have no concept of where I am intellectually. And to a certain degree out of respect. And no, I don't like to hear it in a steady stream of conversation where FUCK is inserted as every second word. Any word used like that becomes so dilute as to completely lose meaning...and FUCK is just too valuable to abuse like that. No. Fuck should be used discriminatingly and with respect.

There are still certain words that I won't tolerate in my house. But those are words of hate and prejudice. Words like "gay" but only when used as an insult or in a derogatory manner is one example. Because I acknowledge that some words still have a power that goes along with a history of abuse, and we need to change that.

The next set of words that have a bad rap and that need some serious renovations are those associated with female prejudices and oppression: "slut", "whore" and...well....BITCH! I don't wanna do away with them, but they need an overhaul so that they're no longer insults, but affirmations of a woman's rights over her own body and her own sexuality...and her own LIFE!