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Sunday, 8 March 2009

Goodbye, and Thank You

It's time for me to end this blog -- I think for good. The flimsiness of its anonymity has always felt like a liability, and the truth is I simply don't feel like posting any more.

Stuff is happening in my life at the moment. A lot of the groundwork for that stuff was laid with some help from this blog, which was a sounding board, a creative outlet, and a means to connect with some wise and wonderful people. Not for the first time, I'd like to thank C. L. Hanson for some unconventional common sense on sex and feminism, and the Exterminator for some encouragingly useful poetry feedback. I thank L. L. Barkat for her open friendliness and a window into a different viewpoint, and the chaplain for commenting sometimes when no-one else did. And Ebonmuse -- dare I say that you enriched my life gratuitously? I didn't need your blog, I just happened upon it and couldn't stop drinking it up (I think I'm still responsible for a couple of hits per day, even though I don't comment as much). Then I must thank Joffan and Eshu, who I remember engaging with in the comment section, and of course all the Nonbelieving Literati contributors -- and I must thank and apologise to everyone else who I have neglected to mention. Although I've stopped writing, I haven't stopped reading, so you may find me commenting now and again.

Sorry, this is sounding like an Oscar acceptance speech, but it's heartfelt. I have gained so much from all of you.

Now, I always meant to blog about this clip from Doctor Who, and by luck the BBC have put it on Youtube almost exactly as I wanted it. Regrettably, it cannot be embedded, so if you wish to watch it, please disregard the youtube title. It is in fact the creation of the Earth, not the Universe, and it's a wonderful exposition of humanist philosophy, too.

No, but that's what you do, the human race. Make sense out of chaos! Marking it out with weddings and Christmas and calendars!

Yes. Yes, and blog posts. This blog has helped me to mark out a few things, but now its time is done. Goodbye, and thank you all.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Eliot, Woolf, Plath, Mitchell...

I live and exist through art.

The older I get, and the further I get from my rebellious pre-teen years, the more it seems like my identity and existence are defined through my interactions with others. To be a thing, I must communicate, and no meaningful self can be communicated without artistry.

Further complications arise both from my liberal upbringing and from the near-proverbial "changing times" in which we live. In a conservative society, the basics of identity come from ideas which are well-known to all and easy to communicate: gender, religion, social class, familial relationships. By contrast, in a more liberal society, such things must always be in a state of flux.

Personally, I find that it's the changing status of women that affects me most. Partly this is due to being a woman in a male-dominated field, but mostly I would like to cantankerously blame it on the fact that nearly every notion of feminine sexuality out there either stinks or doesn't suit me. Creativity is clearly called for.

I look back gratefully to the strident feminists who fought for space, who took principled stands and rejected all that came before. Yet I must also bow before the artists who filled that space, borrowing from the culture that feminists repudiated even as they showed how it was flawed or how it might be changed. I'm thinking of George Eliot, whose women accepted the social order and yet you could always see how it was wrong for them. I'm thinking of Virginia Woolf, who could sneak female sexual desire in behind literary curtains. Sylvia Plath, whose self-absorption preserved a somewhat unconventional femininity that others might borrow from if they wished. All three of them had skills that took them far beyond the subject of femininity, yet all three of them could fold in their womanhood as they understood it. For all three of them, that womanhood was cutting edge.

In the past five decades, novelists and singer-songwriters have pasted cutting-edge pictures of womanhood all over the map. I admire Joni Mitchell, who has an unquestioned strength behind her self-questioning. Then there's k. d. lang, who was, I think, my first introduction to the way the queer movement completely redefined sex. The women in many of Anne McCaffrey's novels seem to be inhabiting a different universe (funnily enough...). Sometimes I wish I lived there.

None of what has gone before me is enough. I have a task to do; I believe that every woman does. Perhaps every man does, too. But I look on in awe at the creativity and courage of men and women, past and present. They are my inspiration and my light.

Saturday, 17 January 2009


Dear Orchid,

I didn't know what it was you needed. In fact, I still don't. Did I give you too much water, or too little? Is the controlled environment indoors too warm at night? Do you need sunlight on the windowsill rather than artificial light, or would the sunlight fry you? Was the statement on your packaging about fertilizer a command rather than a suggestion?

I realise, of course, that it's probably too late by now. I should not have kept thinking your remaining leaves would save you. I guess now all I can do is hope that you don't turn into a metaphor for something more important.




Dear Blog,

We've been limping along for a while now, haven't we? I was considering just resurrecting you for the Nonbelieving Literati, but then LL made that cool suggestion, so I kind of had to do that, too.

I guess we're still friends, funny old blog.




Dear Readers,

This post from Ebonmuse made me feel really guilty, a while back. My blog is a shambles. I'm not going to tidy it, either. All I can say is this: I appreciate you dropping by, occasionally, and when I'm not here there's a fair chance I'm over at your place, reading very quietly and commenting if I've got something to say.

I wish you all a happy new year.


Monday, 12 January 2009


Currently the Nonbelieving Literati are writing posts about, or in response to, The Postman by David Brin.

The Postman takes place in a post-apocalyptic dystopia. After wars and famines and the breakdown of civilisation, people have -- yes, I'll say the word -- they have lost faith. They don't believe in their fellow human beings any more. People band into groups whose attitude to outsiders varies from apathetic to completely ruthless. The social contract has broken down. There's no point in showing compassion to a stranger who might never be able to repay -- who might, in fact, be much more likely to simply take advantage of your weakness to steal the things that you need to survive and leave you to die. So Gordon Krantz struggles across America as a sort of wandering minstrel, trading scraps of half-remembered Shakespeare for small things where he can and trying to survive off food found in the wilderness and valuables salvaged from the shattered cities, and finds himself, as the book begins, just about to enter Oregon.

Perhaps because of its distance from the major trouble spots in the war, or perhaps just because enough time has passed since the destruction, Oregon is the most civilised place that Gordon has seen. It's a borderland. Times are harsh, but the potential for civilisation bubbles around the edges. It only takes one thing to make a big bubble of civilisation.

All it takes is a lie.

Gordon's lie is initially inadvertant. He's found an old postman's uniform and he needs the clothing. Stopping at a little village he finds that the people there are nice to him because of it. He offers a nice reminder of the old world they miss. They give him food, a soft bed, even sex. They also give him letters.

Gordon Krantz, in his small way, has been trying to peddle hope for a while now. Maybe that's why he's chosen to try to survive through a little one-man show, through art. He doesn't like lying, but hey, the next village is rougher and the people are nastier and he starts to feel like maybe lying to people like that would be justified. So he blazes right in as an official of the Restored United States. It's a scam. But he has the letters to prove it, and by life-saving luck, one of the ones from the previous village is to an old relative, now living in this village.

Soon Gordon has convinced others to become postal officials of this 'Restored United States' (It's too far off to communicate with us, just take the existence on faith. After all, I'm here, aren't I?). There's a whole chain of post offices, restoring communications between people who thought they'd lost each other and bringing the hope of civilisation wherever they go.

Then Gordon discovers that his lie is not the only one. There's a whole other civilisation further along, based on the hope of technology -- and on a big lie supporting that hope.

Partway through the book, Gordon starts to wonder if America was a lie to begin with. "We hold these truths to be self-evident . . . " Really? Are you sure about that?

Is justice a lie? Are we lying to ourselves when we think that there exists a true notion of justice? Mercy, charity, morality -- are these lies? If so, then they are lies which make all our lives better and happier and more worthwhile, and my commitment to the truth must be hampered by my love and respect for such notions. But perhaps they are not lies. Perhaps we can say that morality and charity and justice exist because we believe in them. They are ideas, and ideas exist only in the human mind as a matter of course.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing is not that the Restored United States is a lie, but that the mere idea of such a thing can cause so many true and good things to spring up. It's a sort of stone soup. The real substance is given by the people themselves.

What will save us? We will. But do we need to be lied to in order for that to happen?