Why Organized Religion Fails Me

“As a scientist, I’d much rather have questions I can’t answer than answers I can’t question.” – Max Tegmark

When I Googled this quote to ascertain his surname (It flashed across the SciChannel screen pretty quickly after the statement was made. I guessed Mark Rugmuth, haha!), I found that he plagiarized, er, restated another scientist, Richard Feynman.

Either way, me too. I like to say, “I dance in the question mark!” In truth, some unknowable things vex me, like Black Holes. I cannot be made to understand them, so they irritate me. Even worse are Dark Matter and Dark Energy. I DON’T GET IT!

Just dance, girl. Dance!

P.S. A young scientist, like, totally captured the image of a Black Hole today. She decided in high school that’s what she’d do, so she wrote an algorithm in grad school, and did just that. Today, she’s 29 years old. I don’t know how old she was when she invented brand-new technology that changed the world.

katie bouman
“Watching in disbelief as the first image I ever made of a black hole was in the process of being reconstructed.” -Katie Bouman on Twitter
richard feynman

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Progress Report

I’m a girl who appreciates her gold stars. Okay, I’m the girl who needs her gold stars. Okay, okay, I’m the girl who demands them.

“I want my gold star!”

So I’m giving myself one.

Last night, my group Ala performed at the Samba Queen Competition. We rehearsed backstage before the show. One girl took the lead and put us on our respective sides, but she was wrong and put each group in the opposite place. This would require agreement with everyone sharing the stage. Do we switch sides in formation to compensate for the reversal in our starting positions? Or will we all navigate brand new pathways – LIVE in performance – to get to our originally rehearsed positions?

Here’s the answer. Make the quick correction to match what we set in rehearsal. No onstage collisions in the forecast.

She wouldn’t budge. It was interesting. We didn’t conflict at all. No energetic frustration, just disagreement and discussion. Suddenly, it didn’t matter to me. She was mistaken, but she was sure. And she had taken charge. I wasn’t rebuffed. I wasn’t ruffled. I was right, and feeling no need, urge, or pressure to “fix” or force anything.

I realized, that’s kinda why I do this stuff. I’m a rigid person who has spent most of my life controlling outcomes, and failing. As she directed us, wrongly, I practiced flexing a new muscle: Flexibility itself.

The group was in a state of confusion. From time to time, I’d restate that we were now on opposite sides. Discussion would follow, and the woman who took the lead, whom I like and enjoy a great deal in class, continued in charge and in the wrong.

Several other women came to me during and after, saying, “You know, I think you’re right? I did start on the other side in class.”

“Yeah, we did.”

We worked it out. One way or another, the performance would begin and end. We’d all get there somehow. I actually rolled with it.

Another woman said proudly of the collaboration, “That was very democratic of us.”

“It was!” I was proud, too.

“You know how it is. Women can sometimes get catty with each other.”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “We just don’t have that kind of group.”

I’m a right fighter. I’m often technically correct. I’m very exact. I know my mark, and I know yours. Theatre suits my brain, because it’s reliable. X marks the spot.

I will lose to be right. Last night, I didn’t. It felt good to win in a new way!

Yay, Christie! Good job! Gold star!

I’m so behind in my rudimentary life skills. Better late than never, truly.

I will say, this Samba thing I’m doing is so powerful. I truly believe it calls on the best of us, and all of the women I’m studying and growing friendships with are examples of feminine power applied outside of the patriarchal dichotomy. What that means for me is an acute awareness of how my strong female voice has spent itself SCREAMING my entire life, using masculine energy, because that’s the only model we’ve had.

Until now.

The world is changing. Flux is catastrophic and devastating, but it’s growth and it’s time. My belief is – my prayer is – that we will see the other side of this upheaval with more voices at the table and a new, initially unsteady alliance gaining its footing and making healthier strides for the benefit of the world.

Female power doesn’t wish to supplant male power. We want to cooperate. But we have to fight like hell first to get a seat and a voice. That’s what’s happening now. Better is to come. I believe it.

That’s what Samba teaches me.

Oh, and last night, a girl in the group chickened out of her position front and center. We have simple dresses in red, orange, or yellow, and we’d organized ourselves to avoid color clumping onstage. Like this dancer, I was in a red dress and had to take her place.

My friends were in the audience. They congratulated me after the performance. “You were the leader!”

God damn, I can’t avoid being in charge, even when I try!

samba queen ala performance

photographer Rudy van Bree

nennette and me at samba queen

 

Mixed Metaphor

When I painted my first Tree of Life, right away I saw a goddess in there. And here she is!
eve
16″ on wood frame with mallet
3.10.17
$200

As I was drawing leaves, it came to me to make one an apple, which really makes no sense. Did Eve eat the apple, or is she the tree? Is Mother Earth, in fact, Ursula?

What’s important, though, really, is my cat. Obviously.

Sweat Lodge

I was so gratified to meet the woman I wrote about last week. I had failed at Thanksgiving not to respond to the hate-mongering chatter that accompanies every family gathering, and I felt it: Failure.

Meeting hostility with anger is useless and stupid, but what the hell am I supposed to do? I asked politely. I teased. I asked again. I got mad.

This woman explained the difference between suffering in complicit silence, and going within to meet hatred with love. I’ve been trying for 15 minutes to capture the epiphany I had in a 2-minute conversation, but it was almost funny how simple it seemed.

Of course, the practice of it will be a different story, marked by many failings, to be sure, but it moved from theoretical and seemingly-impossible to entirely practical and doable. There’s a huge difference between angrily holding one’s tongue, and actively holding a space of “non-duality,” she called it. The silence of love is not the silence of restraint. That’s a game-changer for me!

I talk about energy all the time. Everyone knows what it is to walk in a room and feel it. The silence she described isn’t passive at all. It’s energized! It’s silly now that it seemed such a unattainable concept, when, really, it’s a straight-forward product of choice and action. It can’t be mistaken for tacit approval.

Suddenly, my need to act as standard bearer seemed silly, too. It’s not as if my family doesn’t know me. If any of my nieces or nephews is different, in any way, they know there’s a safe place for them. I don’t need to do that anymore.

I’m ready to graduate!

It does hurt that I don’t matter in my family. At best, I’m a joke. My point of view is the minority, so it’s dismissed. No one cares that that hurts me. They know. They continue.

And I’m strong enough.

“I will love, even here. How can I love, even here?” I trust Spirit to answer, if I truly commit to trying a new way, and I’m ready.

(Whoa! I just got really scared again!)

I AM READY.
non-duality

****

I brought a new, blank drum inside the lodge, which was borrowed by a leader and praised by her for its tone. That felt great! It was plenty soggy and bleak-sounding by the end of 4 long rounds, but bounced right back in the cold night air.

[I also made a killer leftover-turkey casserole for the pot luck following the lodge. It went like gangbusters! Jax is teaching me how to cook. We take Mormon comfort food – primarily based on Cream of Chicken Soup – and turn it out! This dish contained organic, home-grown tomato puree and chili powder. And cheese. Lots of cheese.]

My personal drum stayed out on the altar by the fire, to soak up and sing with our prayers and come home to bless me when I dance and meditate. So far, it’s attended a Love Rally and this prayer for Standing Rock, for water, the earth, and all of us. I love my drum!

Here’s my most recent. (So much detail is missing in this grainy shot!)drum-5
13″ on wood frame with mallet
$200
Nov. 23, 2016

I have a few more color incarnations to realize before I’m finished with this design, and more drums than I can paint right now (including 2 with rawhide lacing).

****

This was the first lodge that I didn’t really go into a trance-like state. Usually, when the heat starts to rise, I’m transported to the plains in a covered wagon. I don’t know that any of my ancestors came across in a covered wagon, but that imagery is powerful for Mormons, and it would be a no-brainer for my ancestors to get my attention in that way, to signal very clearly who it was I was feeling. The first time it happened was one of the most alarming and powerful visions I’ve ever experienced. I saw the faces of the Native people my ancestors would have encountered, and recognized that they were the brown-skinned ancestors of the the people I was praying with! Then, “Oh my god, they call the stones ‘The Ancestors.’ Our ancestors are here!” It was overwhelming.

I try not to expect repeat performances of my experiences. I try to be in the now, and learn what new thing is available from each event. But it was hard not to hope for that impression again when I went to my second lodge. And they came. Again and again and again. It was the same wagon journey into Spirit at every lodge, except this one.

Abigail, my favorite pioneer ancestor, did pop to mind in the 3rd round. I smiled. I love her. I thanked her for being with me since we “met” when I was ten, and then I had a thought of Sarah, who doesn’t come to me often. I don’t feel her strongly, but I have had a sense of her quiet, and it would make sense for me not to get it. What’s quiet? I truly don’t understand quiet. In fact, quiet people scare me. I think they hate me.

But Sarah did come to mind, and I had the thought to pray around her voice. “Please come as a signal for when it’s appropriate to act differently. Help me discern between the time to speak and the time to turn inward and LOVE, even here. Come in when it’s time for me to honor the place of neither right nor wrong, and just love, fiercely, quietly.”

I’m excited to see if I recognize her as I begin to practice non-duality. I think I might. I have recognized her energy. It’s harder, but she has a distinct feeling, and I’m excited to imagine I might a foster a relationship with her. Especially if it leads to healing. Especially for my mother’s family. Sarah is my mother’s family.

not-the-end

Not The End, by Julie Rogers, depicts my ancestor, Sarah Ann, on one of her 32 crossings of the icy North Platte River to carry Saints to safety.

Tell My Story gives a detailed account of this episode of the Martin Handcart Company’s ill-fated journey to Salt Lake City. I’m really proud of Sarah. Scroll down and enjoy!

One Big Union

one big union.jpg

So excited to see this show today! Joe Hill was a labor activist and musician who was executed 100 years ago for a murder he may or may not have committed. This Plan-B Theatre original play contains Hill’s own songs, recently released to the public domain, and also highlights his work with Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who visited him in jail here in Salt Lake, and went on to co-found the ACLU.

rebel-girl

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was the inspiration for this 1915 battle hymn.

Plan-B is the only theater in the United States that produces entire seasons of original works by local playwrights, with emphasis on socially conscious themes and issues. It’s owned by one of my dearest friends and his husband. http://planbtheatre.org/

It’s a relevant stage experience, following a week that has seen boys at a local football game chanting, “Grab her by the p*ssy!” and a white van trolling Rose Park, a Salt Lake City neighborhood rich with immigrants, screaming, “Trump is President! Build the wall!”

Don’t mourn… ORGANIZE!
joe-hill

*****

It was amazing! Very emotional at times, as they were describing precisely what we’ve been living with this week and for the last 18 months.

I have to go to more shows at Plan-B! I’m so cheap. I always say, “Next time,” and next time never comes. If nothing else, I should be supporting my friends. The real reason, of course, is that theater transforms us! It makes us think, laugh. It gives us a break from everyday and all that that entails, but it can also light the fire of our own creativity. Above all, theater connects us. This was wonderful.organize

All Strong Women Are Called Bitch

nasty-womanI woke up Friday morning, suddenly aware that my belief that election stress hadn’t gotten to me was, in fact, a coping strategy to hide from what now feels very much like trauma! It broke my heart to see how disconnected I’d become from my emotions just to survive this shit. It was alarming, because I try to look honestly at myself and what my feelings are telling me. I was hiding from pain!

Post-election is going to be ugly, too. There will be no ideal reconciliation, or even real workability, but thank god this part is OVER. The longest, most vitriolic election in modern history. I feel like I’ve been beaten.

I ached again for the little girl who grew up in a violent home, who developed that coping mechanism just so she could breathe. I read once that Depression isn’t merely a pervasive low feeling, but the absence of all feeling, eventually the inability to feel. A person crying “the tears of the damned,” I call them, will do anything not to feel them. Not to feel. They stop being able to feel at all, even the good stuff. It’s horrible, and it comes from hiding from pain.

I would have thought that I had a special radar for noticing when that technique was creeping into my life. I didn’t see it at all! You hear the buzz words “election anxiety” everywhere, and I had perched myself above it, in very much the same way I would leave my body during violence that I thought would kill me. When I saw it – her – I ached, and went in again to be the grown-up I needed when I was a terrified little girl.

I decided that I will no longer watch any news or footage of any kind until Wednesday, and I haven’t. Of course, it’s everywhere. You can’t get away from it. But I’m not permitting the sound bytes into my life anymore. I’ll know tomorrow what happens tonight.

At one point Friday, I was praying and dancing – with my new beautiful mandala hand drum – and putting peace and healing into the meditation/energy bubble I’ve described before. I had this vision of Hillary Clinton ushering in a reconciliation era. I felt almost elated! I danced and celebrated, and put all of my love into that vision.

The next day, I woke up feeling like such an idiot! I’m so stupid! Hillary won’t be permitted to lead our national recovery. They’re going to eviscerate her! They are going to make her pay so hard! They will never stop trying to SILENCE THE WOMAN. And they want the rest of us to witness what happens when we dare to speak.

I felt like crying. I felt hopeless.

And then I didn’t. Immediately, I thanked her again. She is the only woman who could break this final fucking ceiling. Whatever you think of Hillary Clinton, SHE has opened the door at last for women to be taken seriously in U.S. Presidential races.

The United States hates women as much as it hates black people. It’s shameful that it’s taken so long for a woman to break through that insistent wall of fear and desperation. Germany has Angela Merkel. England has Theresa May, and the Iron Lady was taken seriously decades ago. Israel had Golda Meir a lifetime ago! She was born in 1898!

But not here. Never here. Here, they don’t want to hear. SHUT UP, said white male privilege to every woman and every person of color. “It is the existential fear of displacement from a world that has slowly – too slowly, for too long – been chipping away at white male supremacy.” -Rolling Stone

Hillary Clinton was the woman to break through that blockade, not because her place in history is that of a peacekeeper. That woman is a warrior! She’s strong enough to take anything they say and do to her. And only that woman can handle what’s coming after she’s elected. She’s a battering ram! And she’s willing to do it.

So I’m grateful. I don’t love her perfectly. That’s a childish world view. Politics is messy business. No one is 100% happy 100% of the time. That’s dictatorship. But Hillary Clinton has accomplished things across both sides of the aisle, that make the world a better place. Deal with it.

Unfortunately, I doubt we’ll see any of that ever again. This bipartisan bullshit is an attempt by the Republican party to bring down everyone if they can’t have their way, exactly as they want  it. It’s so dangerous. It breaks my heart.

I can’t get bogged down by the futility of it all. I just have to believe in my ridiculous mystical bubble – and I do – and send all of my love into it. I can imagine myself into real visions of peace and cooperation, and when that sight takes the pain from my heart, I pray and pray and pray. “Let the world feel this, NOW. Let everyone who sees this in their heart send the power of their healing into the bubble, too, and make it grow!”

It goes in the bin with the other shit hippie chicks say, but it can’t hurt.

“Do the best you can until you know better. When you know better, do better.”
-Maya Angelou

drum

Tonight, I will go to a belly dance class, and come home to work on my next mandala. In this way, I’ll hear none of the nonsense that I don’t need. It’s done.

I’ve found that the repetition of each rotation brings on a trance state, where the mind forgets its being-ness, and what’s inside comes up. I’ve caught myself putting hatred and anger into these beautiful lines and curves, but I catch myself and stop. That’s huge. I’m developing the ability to watch my thoughts!

I want to pour love, joy, healing, humor, and everything beautiful about my inner nugget into these drums I’ve come to love so much. They contain prayers and magic!

Kumbaya, bitches!

womens-suffrage

I Needed That

new-moonI finally made it to a New Moon Sister Circle. It was just what I needed to snap out of it! We discussed what the new moon in Virgo might look and feel like, and my friend Bonnie said, “I’m just glad Mars is out of retrograde!”

“Is that what’s been going on?” I asked.

All of the women laughed and exclaimed. Everyone, it seemed, had an example of how she was either contrary or useless.

I’ll take it! I’m content to chalk it up to the stars and let it go. I’ve been beating myself up trying to demystify and define that months-long funk, but now I don’t feel so much pressure to learn something from it. It’s done. I’m fine.

The next day, I went to my niece’s wedding and had such a lovely visit with my family in Idaho. The reception was at my sister’s house. It was a dream country wedding, with hay bale couches covered in denim comforters, kids running everywhere, and chickens clucking and crowing in the background. I can’t think of a more pleasant time I’ve shared with my family. I got to hold my first grandniece, all of 2 weeks old and only 6 lbs!

My roommate and I went back to his ranch for Labor Day. It was a wonderful follow-up to my own family visit. His family made me feel right at home, and we spent the evening singing Broadway hits, old classics, and camp-style rounds.

Yesterday, we went to the Mountain Man Rendezvous in Ft. Bridger, Wyoming. Today, we canoed, rode horses, and I chopped wood.

Oh, and I finished my drum!mandala

on casper

Casper the Friendly Horse got a little feisty, especially when Bella kicked in front of us!

riding horseschopping wood 4

Aug. 28th, we climbed to Timpanogos Cave National Monument.stalagtitesdripping rust

Here’s one from my hippie-artist niece’s Blessingway on Aug. 12th. blessingway
5 days later, Violet arrived! ~ August 17, 2016 ~violet
On Sept. 2nd, my sporty niece married a fellow marathoner.kolten-and-em