Tags: religion

Beneath the falling leaves.

Yikes, sorry! SPRING STUFF

Oh Jesus.

First of all, I've obviously been incredibly busy.

I finished my junior year of college (three semesters left because my major's requirements are more stringent than those of the university). I got Dean's List honours this term as well as last and a 3.65 GPA, which, I should point out, is considered remarkable in my major. Just finishing the UMass Japanese programme, assuming I do, is considered a minor feat of strength; I was surprised to learn how highly we're apparently regarded in my field. Anyway, more importantly, I firmed up some friendships this semester too. I had a fight with a friend on the weekend of Easter, which was also my birthday and Anime Boston, but that seems to have, finally, been resolved. I've been on various reading and watching binges. As one would expect I'm neck-deep in Korra right now and have outstanding commitments for various reasons to Heartcatch Precure, The Twelve Kingdoms, and Natsume Yuujin-chou.

I have an entirely unreasonable if not outright alarming degree of FEELINGS about The Prague Cemetery, mostly because it's genuinely terrifying. I had a perhaps more to be expected set about Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, which made me absolutely bawl.

I was also elected to public office! I'm a member of the Town Meeting of Amherst, Massachusetts, a quaint form of local government used in New England. I'm one of 246 members and I was pretty involved in some controversial zoning votes (our side won in that the terrible development ideas that we were being presented with won't go through this year; we won only by a few votes!). I can talk more about what these controversies were and what the experience in general has been like in the comments if anybody is interested.

A week ago from the day that it now technically is on my side of the International Date Line I was finally officially confirmed in the Episcopal Church. It was the last set of confirmations for Bishop Scruton, whom I'm going to miss a lot. I'm not sure what I think of his potential successors, on whom we have not yet voted.

This summer I'm going to spend some time in Amherst with my friends and also at home with my family, doing a lot of gardening actually. A few weeks ago I finished, at long, long last, the writing project I'd been working on for two and a half years, and I've got something new going on! I've also been working on translating from a Noir artbook that I got at Anime Boston.

I also have a tumblr now!

I'm so sorry about my prolonged absence! How has everybody been?
Saviour and saved both the same

(no subject)

Merry Christmas!

Since I'm in a somewhat pensive and thoughtful mood I'll link to this Umberto Eco essay about Christmas (it's unfortunate that the essay is in a right-wing British rag like the Telegraph, especially considering that Eco is firmly in the mainline [culturally-]Christian-Socialist centre-left of Italian politics himself). I'm having A Very Postmodern Christmas anyway, since I got AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE PRAGUE CEMETERY, a Vienna Teng album, a Warren Zevon album, and a book of bloodbath-y lesbian historical stories by Yoshiya Nobuko (among other things), as well as playing with my young cousins and their new kittens and tending my aunt and uncle's fireplace.

I've been on Cape Cod for two days now and I'm remembering how much I love being here and how it was silly of me not to visit my aunt's house for two and a half years. Things are less hectic than they were yesterday, obviously. Some of my cousins have drifted off from then. Over the past few days I've seen the end of Penguindrum and been to a church in South Yarmouth that I hadn't been to before, which were worryingly not-dissimilar experiences. I have a specific, minor-to-moderate problem with Penguindrum, which to people who have seen it and know me well should not be surprising, but given who made the show I'm more than willing to assume a good-faith dropping of the ball; it's definitely up there with Madoka, Eden of the East, and Spice and Wolf among the best television anime of the past few years.

The church was nice. It's St David's, a Cape-style building with mostly unpainted wood architecture and designs. The service was mostly fairly standard, old-ish Christmas fare; it wasn't quite as lovely as Lessons and Carols at Grace in Amherst with its mediaeval and baroque focus was. I guess I'd go again if I find myself again on Cape Cod on a holiday or important Sunday.

My uncle's dog is Galactus, and the new cats in my family are adorable.

How was everybody else's holiday?
Save one person

Balm of Renunciation; or, Why Yun is My Role Model

Watching Simoun, one of the characters one will come across is Yun, who among most people who have seen the show seems to engender a tremendous amount of affection and respect. It's interesting that this should be the case for a character who was created essentially to plug a gap in a minor aspect of the plot of an early episode and ended up with a storyline most of which was intended for somebody else (which is lucky, since if Rodoreamon had in fact ended up with what became Yun's storyline as well as what became her own she probably would have to an extent dominated the show). It's especially interesting for a person whose decision-making process, one of the things that people seem to admire the most about her, is so removed from normal modern Western secular sane-person standards.

People have referred to Yun as deontologically inclined, which makes a certain degree of sense; she definitely believes in absolute moral laws and attempts to act accordingly, and spends a lot of the show in the classic deontological despair of conflicting absolutes (pacifism versus remembrance of and respect for the dead). The problem is that while it may correlate closely to this, formal deontological conceptions are almost certainly not why Yun cares. If one asked Yun (and Yun is smart, probably the smartest character in the show other than Dominura and maybe Limone when she's older) she would probably articulate some form of Divine-command morality and describe her watchword as whatever equivalent her religion has of the Christian concept of 'grace' (and there is very obviously an equivalent there that informs what she does).

This becomes deontological in practise, because Yun unlike many of the other characters is entirely willing and indeed eager to take her faith's strictures seriously and follow them to their end points, regardless of convenience. It is meet and right to pay respects to those who died in the service of God, so she opposes what she sees as the desecration of the corpse of a religious suicide bomber from an enemy country. Even so, even if one can forgive and pay respects to the people involved, violence, battle, and murder are always wrong, so her ideal end for the war in which she is fighting in order to pay respects to her dead friends does not involve her own happiness--indeed, it involves her death, which she sees as the only natural or acceptable outcome. She believes so strongly in her religion's eschatological concept, the Eternal Maiden, that when she happens upon a person who has tried to embody the Eternal Maiden, failed, and undergone severe punishment for it, she completely accepts her, completely forgives her, and tells her that she is beautiful before taking on that role for herself. Not even the existing fact that this eschaton has fallen and pursuing it in this particular way (other characters pursue the same ideal with greater success) leads to theoretically endless suffering will prevent Yun from admiring, loving, and wanting to save and forgive and free a person who has striven for what she believes is the right end to the world.

To an extent there are elements of conscious performance in Yun's behaviour: It's more than possible that she sees herself not so much as an agent as an instrument by which an Agent works in the world. Divine commands for her work on a partially reciprocal basis: Yearning for death as the natural end of remembering the already-dead, taking on the liminal role of the failed, 'stuck' Eternal Maiden as appropriation of her predecessor's failure, accepting the proprietorship of the relics of a transcendent martyr to symbolise the incompleteness and loneliness of her own martyrhood and to accept a role as a bridge between the world or the real (Rodoreamon, who is still alive and takes a position of what seems to be political power--interestingly, this is technically under Yun, though I cannot imagine Yun being particularly active as a temporal theocrat) and the otherworld or the superreal (Mamiina, and the braid that seems to dissolve into or fuse with the sacred water and light of the Blue Spring). It is undeniable that to an extent, in some ways a very great one, Yun is a fanatic and, indeed, a fundamentalist--but she knows exactly what faith, horrific and necessary, demands of her, in her complete lack of complacency with herself. She tries for quite some time to put up a complete cordon sanitaire between herself and the world, which she is most comfortable dealing with in the abstract. Even her grammar is deliberately rough and shocking. In the end this falls. Since she is able to do the will of her God and change the world even if only in small ways (see icon keyword), she finally finds a place where she can be.

For the truly faithful, for the truly fanatical in the sense of carrying Divine love into the world regardless of the cost or situation, that's balm of Gilead enough for a renewed eternity of aching.
Not a mistake

My chuch's sermon this Easter, first given by St John Chrysostom, in Greek, circa AD 400.

Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!

Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!

If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.

To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!

First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!

Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.

Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.

Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.

Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.

Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!

Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
Not a mistake

Confession for the day

I don't ENJOY identifying as progressive/liberal. I really don't. I have very serious and basic disagreements with the fundamental view/views of existence (secular, rationalistic, et cetera) on which most people who share my policy positions seem to base them. I'm lonely.

'People may not believe it but I advise you all to check your Bibles more closely. God mandates this [radical redistribution of wealth] in Amos and most of the minor Prophets, as well as by implication in Jeremiah, in the Synoptic Gospels, and even in Leviticus 25. It was good for Paul and Silas and it is good enough for me. It is good enough for America, too.'

This is how I debate with radical libertarians.

'God is Love and Love is Justice. Justice entails dealing fairly in human affairs, not denying people the rights that you would not have them deny you. Love is so fundamental that the right to civil recognition of romantic commitment regardless of sex (as civil recognition of familial and professional commitment pays no regard to sex) can be counted a basic human right. And ‘to turn aside human rights before the face of the Most High, to subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not’ (Lamentations 3.35-6). God is Love, God is the source of love, God is concurrent to love, and any love that does not destroy the lovers flows from God and is with Divine blessings. If it is love, and if it is beautiful, is all that matters. In love the moral becomes the aesthetic, the aesthetic the moral. God did not institute the fact of love for some brute material teleology like sex and reproduction. God instituted the fact of love because He is Love. In the end nobody is free from experience; all our experiences are the same, so please don't be cruel.'

This is how I explain my support for gay marriage.

It's not always easy to hold what is fundamentally an un-Enlightenment (not anti-Enlightenment, simply un-) view of the world in a political culture that still thinks that John Locke was a pretty swell guy (and not one of the founding fathers of the Atlantic Slave Trade and an all-around bastard who got off on the thought of genocide in the name of white people's so-called 'private property' rights). In fact it's typically extremely difficult whenever discussion turns from policy issues to the underlying philosophy. I don't know what to do. I'm starting to think that because I'm in a minority therefore I must be wrong.
Not a mistake

A new thought on religion

I realised recently that I feel genuinely torn between Christianity and Mahayana. Because I've been betrayed by people, but never by places, I trust place and concept a lot more than people. Thus, I trust Heaven and Love more than God. I believe in God; I believe that He exists; but I have a hard time making that sort of person, at least the Father rather than the much more accessible risen Christ, the focus of my energies and attention. So, my religious thought is mostly geographical and at times almost architectural in the sort of metaphorical thought processes involved. Much less personal and relationship-based. So that makes me an arguably slightly bad Christian; meanwhile, my belief in deities and explicit eternal worlds makes me an absolutely horrible 'primitive' Buddhist, but maybe an okay Japanese-style Buddhist.

I just...I really want both church bells and temple bells in my life. If I'm ever going to meet the risen Christ I'd really love it if it could be through the Eightfold Noble Path. I don't know. I really want both of these things in my life. But I don't want either of these communities to turn against me. I'm not afraid of being 'impure' somehow; but I'm afraid of being looked at that way.
A veil of snow

A confession.

Sometimes, I have visions of things going on beneath the surface of the world.

The stones of Grace Church. They have in them a series of spirits of a stone feeling, as it were an army safeguarding a stronghold of some more martial God--but not martial. Soft. The spirits yield because the stones do not and allow a human to be comfortable in the church. The stones are allies of humanity and they communicate this by softening themselves with and into a sense of community of an odd and rare kind. There is evil in the Garden of Eden but there is also good in the Valley of Dry Bones, so they say.

A particular part of New York in between the Bronx and the border with Connecticut. I hate this part. It is a mix of water and fen and suburb and forest in no order, not even an order-of-disorder, thrown together just short of even some broken plan or pattern. It is profoundly disturbing. The entire place has a somewhat unreal quality about it, because I'm not sure if the spirits of wood and water are there or not so I feel them as dying. In the process of dying. It makes me feel a little ill.

The oak tree behind my house. It is at least three hundred years old and I suspect that an old woody consciousness from when the whole land was virgin forest has taken up residence within it. For the small densely-packed town that it is I get very distinctly the feelings of forests and ancientness and wildness, yet welcome, from my back yard. When the summer fireflies dance around it this existence underneath the skin of the universe comes out and uses them to demonstrate what it is, one of so many whirling points of light in the current of the world that throws up 'reality' like a shadow play.