Nov. 30th, 2013

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(Content note: Talking about abusive religion, sexual abuse, and homophobia. Also being tired and miffed and rambling. We're feeling really out of it after the last few days.)

If you go to (or have gone to) church, how hard would it be (or have been) for you to leave it? How much would you be asked to justify yourself? Is "thanks, but this isn't for me" okay for them? Do they wish you well with wherever life takes you?

The Mormon church, which I used to be in, has a special word for people who leave it: apostate. It basically means "someone who turned their back on the truth, even though they still know that it's true." And they tell stories about people who left their church early on over what are made out to be really petty reasons, like having their name misspelled or a disagreement over how much cream they were allowed to take from a cow's milking.

The anecdotes don't bear much resemblance to these people's actual exit stories. But what's more disturbing, to me, is the fact that Mormons (and the same goes for people in other abusive religions or belief systems) don't consider these reasons good enough to leave.

Read more... )

jewelfox: A portrait of a female anthropomorphic fox, with a pink jewelled pendant and a cute overbite. (Default)

A few years ago, an elderly relative of mine died, and I ended up staying in their house -- an old house that had been in the family for ages -- to help sort out their possessions.

I did not hear any voices, or see any apparitions while staying there. But I felt these presences all around me, watching me over my shoulder, looking down on me and judging me. It felt like being under a spotlight in a darkened room, while all around you people are whispering disapprovingly about you. And all you can hear is the hissing of their voices, and the judgmental tone they are taking.

What were they so upset about? Well, here I was, surrounded by fine furniture and The Classics, and what was I doing in my free time while I was there? Writing Digimon fanfic in a $0.99 notebook, and playing video games on a gaudy white plastic box that I'd hooked up to their television. Plus, I was young, and I occasionally thought about sex. The horror!

The religion I was part of at the time, Mormonism, was in some ways an ancestor cult. Their meetinghouses have "Family History" libraries, where many members spend hours looking up genealogy. Once they have enough records on someone, they can take their name to the temple and have "baptisms for the dead" and other ordinances done on their behalf, so that this person can have the chance to accept Mormonism in the next life. Some report having experiences where their ancestors or other people came to them, sometimes in dreams, asking for their temple work to be done.

I think that these expectations can be self-fulfilling, in that they cause people to have these experiences. When I was really young, for instance, doing proxy baptisms and confirmations for the first time, I interpreted the feelings I had -- of sacredness, cleanliness, and being accepted by other people -- as the approval of the people that the work was being done for. I thought they must be smiling on me, just like I'd been told they would.

But I don't think all demons and spirits are created by "religion." Sometimes, I think, it's the other way around. Some spirits are already there, and traditions start when people find ways of dealing with them. Whether they're healthy traditions or not depends less on whether they start for the "right" reasons, IMO, and more on how they help people deal with the real experiences that they have.

I also came down with bronchitis while I was there, in my relative's old dusty house. I'm glad for modern medicine, and for the fact that I had access to it back then, because it meant people understood what had caused it and could give me some pills to help cure it.

But understanding what caused it didn't make my lungs any less sensitive, or the house any less dusty. Likewise, my "testimony" of temple work didn't help me deal with the feeling of being judged, any more than a "rational" understanding would have. Because what I didn't need, right then, was a clear and definite answer to the question of whether I was dealing with the spirits of my dead ancestors, or my own impressions of how they would have felt about me.

What I needed was permission to flip them the bird, and to live my life as though their feelings didn't matter. Whether that meant changing the way I related to them, or getting the heck out of a haunted house.

jewelfox: A portrait of a female anthropomorphic fox, with a pink jewelled pendant and a cute overbite. (Default)

Reading about Bitcoin, it occurred to me that these people are in many ways the same as the ones who started the financial crisis. Their lives are devoted to making value from nothing, which is really taking value from the rest of society without giving back anything in return. They're "cheating the system," so to speak.

I keep thinking about how I should be focused on doing the same, because that's what so much of the advice I get says. You do what you have to do, they say, in order to make a living. But realizing that this is what they're doing -- and that the system I'm cheating has women, minors, otherkin, and people of colour in it, and they are the ones who will be hurt the most by my cheating -- gives me pause.

I think I want to make sure that I'm giving fair value to them. Not to an employer; international capitalism can kiss my tailfeathers. Not to a deity; Inari asks only that I be myself. To the people (human and nonhuman alike) and environments which are affected by my attempts at making money, "making a living," or simply surviving, none of which are the same thing.

I feel like I do my best work -- and therefore maximize my chances of doing all the above -- if I act as though there's no consideration besides making things that ought to exist, for people who ought to have them. I feel like this isn't the only reason Apple is taking over, but it's one of the big ones, that they're so idealistic about who will be using their products and what they'll be doing with them.

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This is what I tried to explain to my family of origin, years ago, when I said why I wanted to work on the Internet doing things that I cared about instead of frantically applying for jobs, any jobs. And though I ended up writing for a content farm, I feel like I mostly preserved my integrity, by writing about things I felt people ought to know. Even though I now disagree with much of what I wrote, and even though I sometimes wrote paid advertorials for big companies, and even though ads for people I disagreed with often appeared next to my writing, I tried my best to at least be entertaining. To make the world at least a little better and more humane for my having been in it.

Not because of a corporate mandate, or a divine imperative in the traditional sense, but because that's the kind of person I am.

Inari, to me, is all-encompassing love. She hears everyone's prayers which are directed to her, and even many that aren't, like in my case. If she can't answer them all, or answer them all in the way that we'd want her to, she at least does what she can. Not because anyone's making her, but because that's the kind of person she is.

For me as Taryn, as one of Inari's tails / foxes / selves / avatars, being like her isn't an act of self-sacrifice, but one of self-actualization. And if my idealism led me to be blind to how my efforts were just enriching people who didn't deserve it, that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with being idealistic so much as being too credulous, of people who don't deserve it. And putting abstract principles, like "the truthfulness of the Gospel" or "the Free Software movement," over everyone and everything else, including the people that they are supposed to help.

Including myself.

The fact that I was betrayed isn't my fault, and it isn't a flaw with the entire world that makes the whole thing irredeemable. It's because I was raised to lack a self, and to find it only in being subsumed in rich people's interests. Whether they run Google, Red Hat, the Mozilla Corporation, or the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The answer isn't to become completely selfish and self-serving, as though it were possible for me (or Rei or Claire) to shut off my empathy.

The answer is to make better friends, and call better people my family.

The answer is to get excited about things I like, and not things others tell me to get excited about.

The answer is to trust myself to do what's right, what comes naturally from being passionate about people and things that I love, while listening to them and empathizing with them and respecting them for who and what they are. Instead of constantly having to check my passion with concerns imposed on me by self-serving, powerful people, about money or others' ideals. Which isn't to say those will never come up, but that insofar as is possible I should be living my life, with the people I care about, instead of living the life global capitalism and its religious and pseudo-religious leaders want me to live.

I am, was, and will be a part of a goddess of wealth and abundance. I want everyone to have what they need and long for, and even some of their frivolous wants. And while I've learned that I have to start with myself, I can't end there. I can't even get started at all if I know in advance that I'll be ending there.

EDIT: And while I tie this into my otherkin identity, I don't feel that I'm unique in being like this.

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~ Fox | Gem | Rei ~

We tell stories, paint minis, collect identity words, and share them all with our readers. If something we write helps you, let us know.

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