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Thursday, 24 June 2004

crisis of faith

Today Ellen asked rhetorically, "where do we go when we die?" damned if i know. I think i'm having a crisis of faith, which is interesting as i didn't think i beleived in anything. my cousin talked to dead people. she was heavily invested in the catholic cosmology, what with being a nun and all.

she was very left. very against opressive authority. the american embassy told her it was dangerous to join the catholic underground in prague, but she did it anyway. at the same time, she had taken vows as a nun. she subject herself to patriarchy. she resisted patriarchy. the underground in prague had a severe preist shortage and ordained at least one woman, who catherine knew. this woman priest was asked by the vatican not to say mass anymore after the wall fell. she obeyed but has written her biography. i don't know anything else.

Catherine was arrested protesting US-backed attrocities. She worked the WHO and the National Science Foundation. She was outside the system. She was inside the system.

She was intensely spiritual. She talked about God over martinis. She got involved with Zen meditation and came to see non-silent prayer as a distraction. She was able to quiet her mind. She told somebody a few weeks ago that she was happier than she had ever been. I have no doubt that reached nirvana. I think she got to be too happy to be alive anymore. She became pure energy or something. At her funeral, I learned that the other nuns were as mystified by her and in awe of her as I was. After the graveside service, John O'Grady turned to the woman standing next to him and said, "I just have to spend the rest of my life trying to follow her example." Sister Mary Eleizabeth agreed with him.

So how do I follow her example? I'm kind of radical right now. I avoid institutions that I see as corrupt as much as possible. So I avoid the catholic church because it's terribly conservative. And I avoid the HRC because they're too conservative. And I don't like giving money to charities that seek to help the deserving poor, like habitat for humanity, because the "undeserving" poor need housing just as much and elevating a few individuals to the position of being owning class does not solve the problem of homelessness and poverty, it just helps a few individuals and makes a bunch of donors feel good about themselves.

so what am I doing exactly? Obviously, there's a place inside the system to create change. Corporate Personhood, an issue I currently care about will not be overturned by street activists. It will be overturned by the courts after a lot of arguing by folks who have gone to law school, resisted indoctornation and passed the bar. I mean, with the help of street activists.

I've believed for a long time that radicals are important because they pull the debate towards themselves. They move the middle. The fringes don't convince the mainstream, they convince people near the fringe. Radical leftists create a left-pulling ripple effect. Without radicals, radical thoughts would never become a reality. If you want sopmething to happen, you can't sit around saying ti's impossible, you have to do something. So what am I doing?

On the other hand, working inside systems . . . . Man, I dunno. I'm on the board of an arts nonprofit. I beleive strongly in their goals of advancing new music. The government ought to support the arts. Patronage is a traditional role of government. Adam Smitch said that the arts shouldn't be traded like functional capitalist commodities because they were special and valuable and above the fray of supply and demand. But, oh well. And how does this help anything? I mean, radical ideas can come from radical artists. But isn't it elitist to set up a special class of people to do art while others toil for wage slavery? I mean, are artists some sort of vangaurd of the proletariat? Are John Cage's ideas about anarchy important because he wrote 4'33"?

I dunno. I dunno. where do we go when we die?


Crinis said...

We go to Fresno.

Not the most pleasant thought in the world, I know, but when you look at descriptions of heaven, Fresno seems to fit the bill.

Jean Sirius said...

i have a whole cosmology, as you know. i think our mortal lives are extremely complicated board games, except with "real" real estate and cash and so on. i think when we die we *get* whatever's the central joke of our lives. (like my mom, who's spent her entire life trying to be safe, will realize that that attempt made her much unhappier than confronting danger would've.) i think while we're dead we can watch the people who're alive, see how they're doing at the game. and then when we get tired of watching, we can forget what we know and go suit up in another body, and play another round.

Les said...

hahahaha fresno? ewwww. i'm staying alive as long as possible.

board game seems unsatisfying to me as an explination. i wouldn't suffer this much for the sake of entertainment. i mean, not that i'm a holy marytr or in great pain right now or anything, but i do walk away from board games when they annoy me. i wouldn't have agreed to play.

Jean Sirius said...

the "walking away" part is how i explain that suicide is not intrinsically evil. it deeply annoys those who are still taking the board game seriously, certainly.

as for what i would or wouldn't do if i were as bored as god ... i dunno. i think i'd play the game. i think we all would.

but, as homer says, reasonable men may differ.