Tuesday, April 26, 2011

a great poem

‎The Best of It

However carved up
or pared down we get,
we keep on making
the best of it as though
it doesn’t matter that
our acre’s down to
a square foot. As
though our garden
could be one bean
and we’d rejoice if
it flourishes, as
though one bean
could nourish us.

- Kay Ryan

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Jesus was a Commie and Other Easter Thoughts

I may be a godless heathen who was converted to the practice of witchcraft due to early childhood exposure to Harry Potter, but Easter still means a lot to me and I still have a lot of annoying opinions about Jesus & Co. My father is the kind of Catholic that hates the Pope and eschews parochial school labor practices, then claims he's a Buddhist and doesn't hate anyone because Jesus didn't hate anyone.

My mother is Jewish and we celebrated both Passover and Easter in the house growing up. This year, due to Oberlin's academic calendar, I was unable to celebrate the former and unwilling to observe the latter, except in my own special way. I'm not a spiritual person and I'm not claiming that my "special way" was in any religious sense observant, but I spent a couple hours trying to watch "Jesus Christ, Superstar" on the internet and settling for clips on YouTube.

The truth is, as unobservant and unreligious as I am and work hard to be, I think there is value in the stories handed down through the generations. The Bible is not the only short story collection I think humanity can benefit from, but it is one of the most widely-read, and it seems the adult thing to do to come to terms with it.

Here's a short list of the things I gleaned from my parents, the HarperCollins Children's Bible I spent some time reading (and rereading) as a child, watching "Jesus Christ, Superstar" in its entirety every couple of years:

1. Jesus was a communist. Well, if not a communist, a radical anti-capitalist. And if not that, exactly, at least a supporter of unions, communal living, and a believer in fair pay for hard work. I am positive he would support welfare and living wage reform, and then cry into his hemp pillow that the rest of the world was so harsh these things are needed. The man was a carpenter (a manual laborer), and he lived in what was basically a prototype of a co-op with twelve other dudes and a hooker. Which leads me to

2. Jesus loved everyone, including sex workers. It's not some strange coincidence that Mary Magdalene is a prostitute.* I'm pretty sure she has her cameos in the Bible to make a certain few points, many of which Dan Brown can probably obscure for you. At the most basic and unassuming level, Jesus has love for sex workers. Whether or not that love extended to the physical and earthly desires is up for debate, much like whether or not Sam and Frodo of Lord of the Rings fame were getting it on in the Shire. But Jesus would probably have supported the rights of sex workers to health care, legal recognition, safety, and respect.

3. Jesus pushed aside the boulder to his resting-cave, popped out into the sun, and said something like, "Everyone can eat cheeseburgers." Thus is my understanding of the observance of Lent. Although

4. Jesus was probably vegan (excluding the honeyed locusts or whatever). Because he loved everyone, including goats and cows and chickens, and would have wept for humanity over global warming.

As we can see, my understanding of Jesus and the Bible pretty much precludes an understanding of the conservatives and fundamentalists who hijack this great work of human literature for their own nefarious gains. Have some Martin Luther King, Jr. for more persuasive intellectualizing on this point:

And have a happy Easter. WWJD? He'd probably laugh at the Peeps, pop a Cadbury egg, then cast his spell to make food multiply forever. And then give it to the children, of course.

* As a Christian friend of mine who I respect deeply pointed out to me on the Facebook, the Catholic Church made up that Mary M. was a prostitute. I had no idea. My understanding of her is predominantly informed by Dan Brown novels. My sincere apologies. Still makes the Church look hella bad to point it out, though, so I'm happy to.

Monday, April 4, 2011

What the Hell It Is I Think I'm Doing

I'm a writer. It's not a pretense, it's not a lifestyle choice. It's certainly not a career (yet-- a girl of 21 can still hope).

I'm a writer because I write. Constantly and compulsively, in a bunch of genres; so far without tangible success-- if success is determined by economics and renown. But I've gotten encouraged, and at the end of the day that's really what we need to keep dreams alive, don't we? To keep working towards our goals? And some people seem to manage just fine without any encouragement, so there's a life mystery for you.

I've written stand up, sketch comedy, criticism, straight plays, poetry, postcards, speeches, travel journalism, personal nonfiction, blogs, emails, love letters, political essays, petitions, syllabi, in a diary for five consecutive years and a few scattered others. I can't help it. It's what I do, who I am, and how I live. It's not my place to say what's utter garbage and what's not. That's for others to judge. All I can do is keep doing it. I virtually hemorrhage prose. Hey, no one promised it would be pretty. I'm admitting it's often not.

Years and years ago, as a silly fifteen-year-old keeping a Xanga (for those not in high school in the early 2000s: an old-school blog template we frequented in the days before Facebook) for middle school friends that partially and tragically revolved around my obsession with Harry Potter, I wrote a mock-Oscar acceptance speech for when I win the award for best original screenplay. (Hubris, thou art a fickle bedfellow.)

It was great. Great to think that big. Great to have that confidence. How many dozens of times a day can we be told our dreams outstrip our means? How often is an adolescent girl discouraged from pursuing jobs in the arts? The best part is that it was never an award for acting or modeling or fashion or teaching or journalism that I wanted. It wasn't what I was constantly told-- by well-meaning folks surrounding me, the media, my friends-- to want. Pretty girls act. Smart girls teach. Girls who want to write compete for magazine internships. Honey, get yourself a nice job where no one will hassle you for being a woman in a man's world. Work in a place where you do what you do well, and so what if you never leave your comfort zone?

The truth is, where I want to be isn't the friendliest place for a lady. Comedy? Writing? The sort of shows I want to work for-- The Daily Show, Community, Saturday Night Live-- are not run by women. Letterman is constantly mistreating his female staffers. Well-known and regarded journalists loudly and repeatedly claim women aren't funny. So what does an (over?) educated young women in her earliest twenties do upon leaving school?

She turns to other interests: traveling. Working in academia. She finds a fantastic job in another country for the year after graduation. She won't be paid well, but she'll tread the line between safe and adventurous. A little stability, a little security, new life experience. She fills out a work permit application. Gets passport photos. Applies for temporary residence. Searches desperately and so far unsuccessfully for an apartment in Copenhagen to lease for 13 months.

See, I get the next year and a half to hit pause. Maybe that's why I'm uncomfortable when my mother tells me she's proud of me: I feel a little like I've cheated. I'm sure I haven't. I'm sure everything is great. It's just a feeling that's a little hard to shake when you clarify for yourself what it is you want to do, and it has little to do with your actual plans.

The only solution I can think of is to write like a maniac. Write this lengthy blog post. Think on cyber paper for a little while. Ask friends, by way of posting this very entry, to weigh in.

And when the time comes-- because, after all, thirteen months is significant but not an eternity (less than celebrities usually spend in jail and rehab combined, let's be honest-- and working in another country is a huge privilege and stroke of immense luck)-- I can try harder. Take a risk. Move to Los Angeles or New York. Stop hiding behind other (admittedly fantastic) opportunities. Take myself someplace I'm scared to go, and chase the damned rainbow for as long as it doesn't depress the hell out of me to run.