Marcela Speaks

KnightExcerpt from Chapter 14 of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Translation by Edith Grossman, transcribed from audio by Recorded Books 2003
(voice by George Guidall)

(As a character, Marcela gave one of the most lucid arguments I’ve ever read against the sexual objectification of women and coerced consent. This book, and by extension this mic-drop worthy monologue, was published in 1605.)

The Shepherdess by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1873)

The Shepherdess by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1873)

There will be no need to spend much time or waste many words to persuade discerning men of truth…

Heaven made me, as all of you say, so beautiful that you cannot resist my beauty and are compelled to love me. And because of the love you show me, you claim that I am obliged to love you in return. I know, with the natural understanding that God has given me, that everything beautiful is lovable—but I cannot grasp why, simply because it is loved, the thing loved for its beauty is obliged to love the one who loves it.

Further, the lover of the beautiful thing might be ugly, and since ugliness is worthy of being avoided, it is absurd for anyone to say, “I love you because you are beautiful! You must love me, even though I am ugly.” But in the event the two are equally beautiful, it does not mean that their desires are necessarily equal, for not all beauties fall in love. Some are a pleasure to the eye, but do not surrender their will, because if all beauties loved and surrendered, there would be a whirl of confused and misled wills, not knowing where they should stop. For since beautiful subjects are infinite, desires would have to be infinite, too.

According to what I have heard, true love is not divided—and must be voluntary, not forced. If this is true, as I believe it is, why do you want to force me to surrender my will? Obliged to do so, simply because you say you love me? But if this is not true, then tell me: If the Heaven that made me beautiful had made me ugly instead, would it be fair for me to complain that none of you loved me?

Moreover, you must consider that I did not choose the beauty I have, and, such as it is, Heaven gave it to me freely, without my requesting or choosing it. And just as the viper does not deserve to be blamed for its venom, although it kills, since it was given the venom by nature, I do not deserve to be reproved for being beautiful; for beauty in the chaste woman is like a distant fire or sharp-edged sword: They do not burn or cut the person who does not approach them.

Honor and virtue are adornments of the soul without which the body is not truly beautiful (even if it seems to be so.) And if chastity is one of the virtues that most adorn and beatify both body and soul…Why should a woman, loved for being beautiful, lose that virtue in order to satisfy the desire of a man who, for the sake of his pleasure, attempts with all of his might and main to have her lose it?

I was born free, and in order to live free, I chose the solitude of the countryside. The trees of these mountains are my companions. The clear waters of these streams, my mirrors. I communicate my thoughts and my beauty to the trees and to the waters. I am a distant fire and a far-off sword. Those whose eyes force them to fall in love with me, I have discouraged with my words. If desires feed on hopes, and since I have given no hope to Gristóstomo or to any other man regarding those desires, it is correct to say that his obstinacy, not my cruelty, is what killed him. And if you claim that his thoughts were virtuous, and for this reason I was obliged to respond to them, I say that when he revealed to me the virtue of his desire, on the very spot where his grave is now being dug, I told him that mine was to live perpetually alone and have only the earth enjoy the fruit of my seclusion and the spoils of my beauty. And if he, despite that discouragement, wished to persist against all hope, and sail into the wind…why be surprised if he drowned in the middle of the gulf of his folly?

If I had kept him by me, I would have been false. If I had gratified him, I would have gone against my own best intentions and purposes. He persisted though I discouraged him. He despaired, though I did not despise him. Tell me now if it is reasonable to blame me for his grief.

Let the one I deceived complain. Let the man despair to whom I did not grant a hope I had promised, or speak if I called to him, or boast if I accepted him! But no man can call me cruel or a murderer if I do not promise, deceive, call to, or accept him.

Until now, Heaven has not ordained that I love. And to think that I shall love of my own accord is to think the impossible. Let this general discouragement serve for each of those who solicit me for his own advantage. Let it be understood from this day forth that if anyone dies because of me, he does not die of jealousy or misfortune, because she who loves no one cannot make anyone jealous, and discouragement should not be taken for disdain.

Let him who calls me ‘savage basilisk’ avoid me as he would something harmful and evil; let him who calls me ‘ungrateful’ not serve me, ‘unapproachable’ not approach me, ‘cruel’ not follow me! Let him not seek me out, serve, approach or follow in any way this savage, ungrateful, cruel, unapproachable basilisk! For if his impatience and rash desire killed Gristóstomo, why should my virtuous behavior and reserve be blamed?

If I preserve my purity in the company of trees, why should a man want me to lose it if he wants me to keep it in the company of men?

As you know, I have wealth of my own and do not desire anyone else’s. I am free and do not care to submit to another. I do not love or despise anyone. I do not deceive this one or solicit that one. I do not mock one or amuse myself with another. The honest conversation of the shepherdesses from these hamlets, and tending to my goats, are my entertainment. The limits of my desires are these mountains, and if they go beyond here, it is to contemplate the beauty of Heaven, and the steps whereby the soul travels to its first home.

Don Quixote by Gustav Dore

Don Quixote by Gustav Dore

Let no person, whatever his circumstance or condition, dare to follow the beautiful Marcela lest he fall victim to my fury and outrage.

Discernment, Defense, and Dickweed Indigenous Fae

The following entry may contain triggering material.

After an entry about santol fruit, I wanted to write up a local myth about the taro plant. Taro is best-known as a root crop that may or may not be purple, although I know a recipe that stews the very green leaves into mulch. (Dioscoria alata is definitely purple and a root crop, but called something else.) My research, which in this case means Wikipedia, suggests that taro is one of the earliest cultivated plants, its origins being Malaysian although cultivation has spread as far as the New World since then, whether by trade routes in Oceania long Before the Common Era, or because colonial masters said so.

It could be interesting to consider, because the story I know has an Engkanto in it, and I’m not entirely certain that’s an indigenous folkloric being. Neither do I know how strong the connection ought to be between the story about the plant and the corporeal plant itself. If this is a Philippine myth about a Malaysian plant, and Malaysia is like right there, why is this story so Spanish?

In the version of the story that I picked up by osmosis, the taro plant is known as gabi because of a girl named Gabriella whose nickname was Gabi. The stress is on the wrong syllable to suggest any association with the evening (gabi) which has more Austronesian vowels than Indo-European etymology anyway. An Engkanto tried to flirt and seduce Gabi into the otherworld to be his wife, and she said something like, “no thanks”. So, the Engkanto cursed her into a plant. Her toes became underground tubers so that she could never move from where she’d been cursed, and also they’re maybe sometimes purple? The plant’s leaves would be heart-shaped so that the whole world would know what her heart was like. The rain would fall upon the leaves and roll off, like his rain of love and attention upon this shrewish soul-eating harpy who couldn’t appreciate it. When her heart softens to him, Gabi can become human again. Obviously, it hasn’t happened yet. But how can this curse not have already been broken? Hasn’t this otherworldly suitor been so charming???

Seriously though, there is no story I know about Engkantos that tells of them being anything other than total dickweeds.

Gabi_Plant_th

I think this is a gabi plant but they’re not usually so large.

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Sandoricum Season

The following entry may contain triggering material.

Excerpt
An excerpt from Natural History Drawings, The Complete William Farquhar Collection: Malay Peninsula (1803-1818)

Sentul / Sentul / Sandoricum koetjape

Native to Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia, the sentul is widely distributed as a backyard plant in tropical Asia. it is a semi-deciduous tree reaching up to 45 m. The fruits are large round berries that become bright yellow when ripe. These are eaten fresh or made into chutney or jam. The plant is also used in traditional medicine. Sentul, also known as kecapi, is an endangered species in Singapore.

Unlike with the durian, I don’t know a myth about this fruit off the top of my head. I do have a story, or more of an anecdote. A memory of the santol tree in my grade school campus serves as the marker for a scape I named Erstvale:

PIC_1638

The tree didn’t corporeally have a door at the root, the rest of this Scape is not from my grade school, and I have no idea where the pine trees on the left side came from. There should be a bamboo grove there instead.

Some of the older kids taught me to throw a basketball at the boughs to knock the fruits down. I’d been so taken up by the sheer novelty of eating fruit from a tree (instead of from a grocery) that I would never notice that it wasn’t entirely ripe. Most would be so tart that my gums went numb after the third or fourth santol, but I’d kept eating anyway. The end.

Pictures of fruit under the read more tag, because it’s currently santol season. The fruit segments are like chewing a damp, maybe half-felted cotton ball soaked in fruit juice. When they’re really ripe, the sugar seeps into the skin, so even that can be spooned out and eaten. Being slightly more tart than the fruit segments, it goes well with chili salt or soy sauce.

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Foxglove and Stitches

The following entry may contain triggering material.

In the corporeal world, I attended Catholic mass. It was at a smaller church, more like a giant gazebo. I sat at the periphery, with the lattice-wall at my back. The homily was about a pet parrot of a priest’s friend. The parrot had been trained to say a specific prayer depending on which claw someone pulled. When the priest wondered aloud which prayer the parrot would say if they pulled both claws, (I think it went) the parrot responded: “I’d fall without anything to perch on, you dolt.”

The point was that even a parrot can pray. Human churchgoing Catholics should pray with meaning in their hearts, and with a mind to community and humility rather than bargaining with a cosmic God for selfish purposes. The Paternoster goes “give us this day our daily bread, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” and “thy will be done” not me and mine.

I want to say that Catholicism is complex, not inconsistent or contradictory, because so is life and the universe and everything. Still, it strikes me as suspiciously convenient to couch attractive and advantageous offers in terms of this religion—and then that anyone can cut down what they don’t like, also in the terms of this religion. Whether someone has the real goodness of the One True God in their heart and live the One Truly Proper Way, or if someone’s being led astray by the Adversary, becomes most obviously (to me, anyway) a matter of “yuh-huh” and “nuh-uh” back and forth into infinity about every little thing and big thing.

Such conduct is not unique to Catholicism, of course, but while the homily set up some no-nonsense structures (say what you mean, mean what you say, and have a care!) I kind of flinch inwardly at external attempts to fiddle with internals, because some days I don’t even know if I’m really myself or if I’m just a collage of what people have done to me. A break from that would be nice. Conforming to normalcy and the concept of a United Front have only ever been used to shut me up about things that were killing me (I exaggerate, of course—eating disorders and suicide don’t count as real death, as my family kept implying, it’s just a rude inconvenience by attention-seeking brats) and that sort of abuse has always been justified in terms of this religion. That might not have been what this priest meant to reinforce, but I don’t think it’s in me to be more than a cultural Catholic. Hey, culture is a lot—It's why we're the only country in the world where divorce isn't legal, we technically have Straight Pride Parades that shame even straight people, and atheists get put in jail (well, that one protest cosplayer, who in my opinion was out of line, no accounting for style.)

If I could decide, I should pull a Joan of Arc and protest against the cultural effects based on guidance from living half in Christian otherworlds, not play to cultural and bureaucratic stigma while half living in fairyland.

But it’s time I mentioned fairy pirate captain Foxglove, who stood outside the lattice looking out, as everyone else in the gazebo-church began singing Don Moen’s “Two Hands, One Heart”: “Two hands, one heart / One life to offer You / Two hands, one heart / That’s what I give to You…”

“I don’t like this song!” Foxglove exclaimed, raising both his arms (both starting from the shoulders, one ended in a hand and the other in a hook prosthetic.)

*

He probably has a point, but that doesn’t mean he’s not also melodramatic, and I hate dismissing anything as “just drama” because I have had some very real suffering treated that way, and feel as though that horrid phrase should never ever be possible to pronounce or spell. Then some abusive corporeal offline people I used to know really tempt me to say it, and the internal fracturing of my principles get me rocking back and forth while humming the theme from Galavant to soothe the turmoil. And after I’m soothed, I still don’t know right thing to do.

I left Foxglove out of this entry. I never know what’s going to be a Significant Otherworldly Exploration Discovery Event Development and what’s just zany and goes nowhere. He was there, around that same time, but all sighs and “We Shan’t Meet Again Because You Need Me No Longer, Yet I Remain Always In Your Heart…”

And I was like, “Yeah, right…”

Because I don’t want to put out there that I don’t believe it if someone says we’re over and done with.

But after that I wandered into Quartermaster Camshaft’s cabin and found Camshaft in pieces, and Foxglove shook my shoulders and shouted a lot at me to, “Get it together!”

But after that I lay in bleak and speechless conviction of my uselessness in a probably godless world anyway, and Foxglove kept prodding my head with a finger and saying that the high seas, at least, were his if they were anyone’s, and if I went on some paracosmic adventure right now then real-life Neo-Imperial China would quit the shenanigans in international waters.

“Stop giving me delusions of grandeur,” I’d muttered.

“At least take a shower,” he’d replied, with another prod. (By complete coincidence and not because he told me to while prodding my head, I pushed myself up and ambled over to the shower.)

But after that he stood outside church during mass and criticized the choir’s song selection. He doesn’t even usually go to church with me in what I call the otherreal. He doesn’t even have a corporeal human body, let alone a consistent disability to complain pointedly about. He is such a drrgrrargh!

***

Last night I felt a hollow pain in my chest. It’s a cliché for reasons of being a common human experience (probably? I’d say…) but clichés are bad for reasons. What if it’s only a common human experience because people who haven’t experienced it just keep saying the phrase, so people start thinking in that phrase, and use it upon feeling something “close enough” or to elicit an expression of empathy from whoever we say it to, so we’ve convinced ourselves that we feel it when we don’t actually or otherwise wouldn’t have? (Holy hearts, what sort of gullible and disingenuous person am I, that this would even be a pragmatic and intuitive distinction to make?)

What if the constructed associated meanings are misleading? I have felt what I describe to be a hollow pain in my chest when I tried to go vegan: It was a vitamin deficiency. I have also felt a hollow pain in my chest related to emotion. They’re both hollow pains in the chest, but they’re different hollow pains in the chest in ways I don’t have more words to explain right now.

This time, I intuited it to have some otherworldly overlap, so I went there in my mind and reached around and took the pain-thing out of my fetch’s chest.

It looked and felt like a sheep’s heart I dissected in biology class once, except the incisions came down from the big top end and met at the ventral node-tip part. They hung like a cartoon octopus’ tentacles, and flopped fleshily like flat noodles.

Well, I thought, It’s better than the black-gray goop that I usually get!

library

So, I went to my library, because it seemed the likeliest place to find a stapler, rather than Erstvale or Foxglove’s ship. I didn’t draw the furniture above because I don’t always know exactly what’s in my own sort of Surreal Save Point. One time it was zombies. My therapist thinks it Means Something. This time, there was a conference table between the door to the inside of the crescent bookshelf and the door to outside the library (as there usually is.) A chess set rested on the round table by the window in front of the mezzanine stairs, although their players had gone a long time ago. Up on the mezzanine were more bookshelves, a fireplace and armchairs, and a glass casket containing an ostentatiously ugly gown.

No staplers.

So then, I went through the crescent bookshelf door and into the poop cabin on Foxglove’s ship (that door doesn’t always lead to the same scape, but usually to the scapes that press up against the door like they’re eavesdropping). I shouldn’t be surprised that he was there, but I was, so I held up the heart and said, “I think I broke it. Have you got a stapler?”

The poop deck had maps, pencils, calligraphy brushes, sextants, astrolabes, pocket watches, Victorian keys, for some reason a weather vane and an orrery—but no stapler that I could see, and Foxglove wasn’t even looking for one. He just kicked over a trap door to another cabin and dropped through. I followed. He found a sewing needle and a bit of yellow-beige fluff in one of the caskets.

I sat on the table and waited as he got out a bit of paper card. With one hand, he began to twist the fluff into thread and I groaned. His hook had no trouble catching more fluff, and eventually the card was covered in a spool of looping thread. Eventually. Very eventually.

“I’ve got an REM cycle to catch,” I said, as he took a threader out of the casket. He shrugged and grasped the needle in his teeth. I said, “Maybe it’ll be faster if I did it—” because my fetch had two hands.

He shot me a disdainful expression and threaded the needle, then held his hook out for the heart. I hung the heart on it by an artery. He started to sew.

Having watched a pet kitten get stitches at the vet’s office after a bad fight with another cat, I did get the idea that sewing up flesh was different from sewing up fabric: each stitch is separate, so pulling one stitch wouldn’t pull the others along with it in a continuous running line.

I asked, “What does it mean if your heart feels hollow?”

Foxglove answered, “Of course it’s going to be hollow, there’s got to be room for the blood to go through.”

“That’s awfully literal!”

After swinging my legs over the edge of the table for a while, I glanced over at how Foxglove was sewing, and saw that he was embroidering long stitches so close together that they looked like hatch-shading.

“Quests were more fun when you were teaching me how to swordfight,” I remarked. “And I don’t even like combat at all.”

“Mm. Are archery lessons going well?”

“Under Marigold, it’s one of the more lenient levels of my personal Hell.”

“What did happen to Heartwrench?”

I didn’t want to tell him. I don’t even want to tell you right now. So we lapsed into a silence awkward to me, but I think Foxglove already knew because he had this smug grin all the rest of the while he continued sewing.

Eventually I got bored enough to flop down on the table and bounce my head against the wood.

Then Foxglove paused to take out his broken pocket watch, then made a face of dramatically exaggerated shock at what the unticking clock’s own face showed the time of. Then he politely left the cabin, and the heart half unsewed on the table.

I rummaged about the caskets and found a large blue stapler in one of them, and just used that on the rest of it, which was sooooo much quicker than sewing, Foxglove, you are such a troll. Then I put it back in my chest (the heart with the staples, not the stapler itself.)

And I felt better, so there.

*

I really never know what’s going to be a Significant Otherworldly Exploration Discovery Event Development and what’s just zany and goes nowhere, but this did seem like it would be an entertaining anecdote, so here it is.

Almost Feel Like You’ve Been Here Before

The following entry may contain triggering material and spoilers for Discworld.

The volcano erupted. Apparently, it does that on occasion still, and…the city’s still standing, the cane fields unrazed, nobody evacuated, there wasn’t even an earthquake. It was more like an ash burp. I was still sorry not to have seen it, because there didn’t seem to be any other way to know that it had happened, except by word of mouth of new friends I made in this city…who might have, on second thought, been joking.

One good thing about living so nearby an active volcano: hot springs. They were a half hour’s drive past the edge of the city, through the definitely-horizontal sugar cane fields, then past rice paddies terraced to keep up with the incline of the mountain—if we can say that a volcano is just a mountain with extra geothermal activity—and through the semi-domesticated jungle that the volcano dressed up in. The venue was like a park, with several families strolling down the cobblestone paths, sometimes in swimsuits. Bamboo fences divided and hid the hot spring pools (access to which pools varied in price depending on the temperature or mineral concentration of the water.) It was like sitting in a mossy stone bath tub of warm broth, under the light and chill mountain rain. I toweled off and came out feeling deeply juvenated, if smelling a shade fartlike.

One tall bamboo fence, topped by a vast netted tent, turned out to be a butterfly sanctuary and flower garden. The rest of the area were mostly more cobblestone paths and cold boulder-rivers, some plots of grassy turf and other plots of semi-domesticated jungle, a hiking trail upwards to adventure, and a hiking trail downwards to an eatery.

We had grilled garlic scallops in the half shell for lunch. I can’t get seafood this fresh at mountains of the same altitude up north, maybe due to less competent urban planning, or maybe due to the capital being on a bigger island with far more distance between the mountains and beaches, or maybe due to the belligerent introversion of the mountains themselves. I also had the fried chicken, and while this town has a signature chicken recipe that isn’t fried, there’s something about the chickens here that taste more like chicken no matter what the recipe. I wonder if it’s something in the feed.

Another good thing about living so nearby an active volcano: previous explosions can make some of the most fertile ground for farming, and that residual fertility can last for generations.

*

To Corporeal Cecilia, the volcano is personified but not anthropomorphized. He (the volcano, not Corporeal Cecilia) just looms there and grumps. My source for the personification-anthropomorphization was J. A. Macculloch’s The Religion of the Ancient Celts (“In early thought everything was a person, in the loose meaning then possessed by personality, and […] this led later to more complete personification”) although Cecilia, who is currently taking anthropology classes, knows this as an unfashionable anthropological theory wielded to justify colonialism. (Ahem, “more complete” personification?)

The volcano does have a story, as Cecilia told me. There was a seven-headed dragon (that’s the volcano, zoomorphized…or should that be cryptozoomorphized?) and some legendary heroic figure that dueled the dragon, and the townsfolk were so happy this hero won that they named the volcano Laon after the hero. Which could get confusing, because the dragon was the volcano?

*

My proto-source for personification and anthropomorphism was Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. There’s a faithful film adaptation of Hogfather somewhere out there that probably best shows Discworld theology, the Hogfather being the Discworld’s equivalent of Santa Claus. Sir Pratchett peppers a fair few books with Anthropomorphic Personification, by those words, with Capitalization.

What gets less brightly highlighted, though, is Discworld’s sort of Animism, probably because it’s never called that, let alone with Capitalization. Discworld has a natural phenomenon known as the Narrative Imperative. This prevents heroes from dying off before the villains, and also allows the medieval fantasy battle party to get very meta about everything. I think that could be one example. Another could be the idea introduced in the Tiffany Aching quintet, about how witches awaken to their abilities depending on the geology of their home. Granny Weatherwax’s power grew from the granite mountains of Lancre (or, according to a fellow witch in-world, from having a mild inborn predisposition to witch-ing which may or may not be genetic…and then working bloody hard at it.) Tiffany’s power grew from the chalk hills, which age-peer witches give her flack for, and one old witch who meant well but couldn’t help being flabbergasted. Older and wiser witches know the bones of the chalk hills are flint, which is more acceptably rocklike, but most of the big magic that Tiffany does calls to the oceanic origins of her land and name.

My concept of sea witches grew out of that sort of animism, how the coral bones call to the fetch, and the salts turn to fluid crystals and liquid rock. Beaches are edges, too—liminal spaces between sea and earth, and even whitecaps on the high seas a liminality of sea and sky.

What about volcanic witches? Far less explosive and destructive than stereotyped, I gathered, at least around this volcano. How does one capital-w Work with an animistic grump dressed like some plant goddess of mountain-jungles and fields (who does good, but really doesn’t know or care or try to do it, or take thanks for it because he’s that much of a grump)? Or an adversarial dragon named after the hero who slew him?

I can still feel the warmth of the scalding, sulphuric waters. That’s all that grounds me on this subject, really, and walking around in Volcano Country, and eating stuff grown in Volcano Country, and catching conversations and stories in and of Volcano Country, and breathing the air. What do I make of this all, with folklore and pop culture and passé anthropological jargon, and why? (This is neither rhetorical nor curious. I’m just settling into an approach, or honing a perception.)

A Capital Idea!

The following entry and links may contain triggering material.

The other day, I caught an amusing status update that described capital-p Pagan and Polytheism movements making too much noise about the next thing threatening it/these that…really doesn’t “threaten” at all. The ensuing discussion described picking on l’il-p pop culture paganism as two years out of vogue (hurrah!) but pitting pagan-inspired esotericism against by-the-reconstructionist-approved-book practices never goes out of style (un-hurrah.)

Now it’s capital-p Politics. Identity politics, and cultural dynamics, I think that’s dicey to say religion keeps itself in some hermetically sealed jar and never has any influence on that, or has never been influenced by that. Then again, my corporeal roommate is taking anthropology classes, and information is contagious.

It is commonplace in the academic study of religion to observe that the word “religion” is manifestly conditioned by the history of its use and that it is deeply problematic, epistemologically and politically, to generalize across the very wide range of human cultural goings-on that are now included in this capacious term.

That sentence is capacious.

To speak of religion is to elide and conceal much that is critical to understanding the deeply embedded ways of being often denoted by the short-hand term “religion(s).” Rather than begin by asking what religion is as an autonomous object in the world, or as a distinctive human phenomenon, and therefore how best to define it know it when we see it

Alynah’s Ears, can we please just know it when we see it? I don’t care anymore what philosophical distinction structures the Rather you have—

the better to explain it and its relations with other objects—it is more cautious to start the question: What has religion been for anthropology?

Okay. That’s pretty cool. What was I blogging about again? Not anthropology. Politics? Oh, right. Capital-p Politics, the laws and military and international relations…getting in the way of religion? Aristotle taught me that gods can only be arsed to take notice of the highborn. I don’t believe the lesson, but that doesn’t make the opposite true, that religion is apolitical.

I take anthropology to be a particular tradition of enquiry, a long conversation

With such capacious sentences, it would be a long conversation. I’m guilty of this, though, so I shouldn’t snark. Where’s this even from?

—”A Companion to the Anthropology of Religion” by Janice Boddy, Michael Lambek, and Treebeard the Ent

*

What makes religion apolitical to me personally is that, while my belief system might become categorically religious, I…haven’t navigated the political climate of where I live as well as that (not well enough for a consistent metaphor, anyway.) My corporeal friend of a friend, let’s name her Saeyong, told me over dinner about her worries for her home country because some politician over there seemed very likely to win on the platform of removing everyone’s online privacy…and monitoring offline spaces, as a public service. Dinner ended with her shaking my shoulders and exclaiming, “You have to vote! Or the worst will happen!”

But the only platforms I could glean from each candidate was, ‘No, your father was a womanizer!’ And I watched the debates. There didn’t seem to be any actual arguing. If someone comes up and says that sustainable poverty alleviation could only happen if legislation that affects businesses quit being so easily intimidated by vested interests, and the general answer is that poverty alleviation is always a noble goal that will involve balancing vested interests consistently…I still won’t know who to vote for.

“Binay bought our votes,” droned my corporeal friend Anjie. “He said it himself that even if he loses, he’ll win.”

“Are you sure he didn’t mean that even if nobody likes him, he’ll still be a winner in his heart?” I asked.

Anjie was very sure.

As it went, Anjie was wrong and Saeyong was right. We inaugurated this guy. Shaping up the police force to military standards! Encouraging vigilante justice among civilians! Dead bodies have turned up, mummified in masking tape with some paper note saying not to feel sorry for them, because they were drug pushers…which is hardly Procedure.

Alleged purse snatchers have been given the same treatment.

Purse snatchers. Alleged purse snatchers. Murdered, or “executed” but either way death is involved…for purse snatching. Not only is that not Procedure, but I’m just not sensing how exactly that dismantles the systemic economic injustices that turns purse-snatching into an attractive career in the first place. I’m not even saying that purse snatchers are a boon to society or unsung heroes or some bullshit: there’s a time in my life where I lived out of one bag, one unlucky encounter and yeah I would probably have wanted that thief dead. But I believe there’s a lot in between that might involve some actual justice maybe.

Anyway, who’s next up for masking tape mummification? Prostitutes? Jaywalkers? Litterbugs? Truant orphaned street children? Growing up in middle class luxury, I was always told those kids were pawns of organized crime syndicates. It stands to reason that now is the golden age of this nation, for vigilantes can sentence the kids to death for skipping class and breaking child labor laws.

In cheerier news, the United Nations asked China very nicely to cut it out with setting up military outposts and destroying corals to create artificial islands in areas that aren’t theirs, that is…the Philippines. (I’ve overheard some rumors about unfortunate Vietnamese fishing boats in the same area whose crews might not have made it out alive, but overhearing rumors is hardly proper citation.)

According to China, though, the Philippines is in China.

*

Scratch all that.

What makes religion apolitical to me personally is that I haven’t got a hashtagging prayer.

Jung On Active Imagination

When it comes to Jungian psychology, I tend to just like the ideas because they applied well, and they felt like they fit with…whatever I was going through, or dealing with, that I’d get all Jungian about. I’d take it as a given that Jung was a child of the times, being a Swiss dude who worked between the 1910s to 1960s. I considered Active Imagination an inevitable outcome of his research into dream symbolism and the relation thereof to the mental state of his patients. I also picked up somewhere that Freudian psychology and Jungian psychology branched off when their respective founders disagreed; and just a cursory look at Freudian psychology revealed some reductive, harmful ideas disguised as intellectual rigor. Jungian psychology still has its problems, but started off with a pluralistic enough view of the human condition to…remain relevant.

So, I thought of it coldly, in terms of “irreconcilable philosophical difference.” It made sense that they would split.

Joan Chodorow’s compilation and commentary of Jung’s writings on the Active Imagination method of therapy gave the context I lacked. By the read of it, the ‘breakup’ with Freud had outright traumatized Jung. He found himself subject to fatigue and terrors, and unable to write. So, now technically without peers in his field, he turned to the theories he developed about his own mind. There had to be some way that he could heal the psychological damage from within.

Several years later, Jung could be caught walking in the garden, having lively conversations with an invisible man named like a Pokémon. That’s what it sometimes looks like when this therapy is working well. Jung’s first essay on this topic was entitled “The Transcendental Function”, begun in 1916 and finally published in 1958. Now that’s a bad case of writer’s block.

A fantasy is more or less your own invention, and remains on the surface of personal things and conscious expectations. But active imagination, as the term denotes, means that the images have a life of their own and that the symbolic events develop according to their own logic – that is, of course, if your conscious reason does not interfere. You begin by concentrating on a starting point (…) when you concentrate on a mental picture, it begins to stir, the image becomes enriched by details, it moves and develops. Each time, naturally, you mistrust it and have the idea that you have just made it up, that it is merely your own invention. But you have to overcome that doubt, because it is not true.

We can really produce precious little by our conscious mind. All the time we are dependent upon the things that literally fall into our consciousness; therefore in German we call them Einfälle. For instance, if my unconscious should prefer not to give me ideas, I could not proceed with my lecture, because I could not invent the next step.

You all know the experience when you want to mention a name or a word which you know quite well, and it simply does not present itself; but some time later it drops into your memory. We depend entirely upon the benevolent cooperation of our unconscious. If it does not cooperate, we are completely lost. Therefore I am convinced that we cannot do much in the way of conscious invention; we over-estimate the power of intention and the will. And so when we concentrate on an inner picture and when we are careful not to interrupt the natural flow of events, our unconscious will produce a series of images which will make a complete story.

I have tried that method with many patients and for many years, and possess a large collection of such ‘opera.’

Joan Chodorow comments:

In the spontaneous dramatic play of childhood, upsetting life situations are enacted symbolically, but this time the child is in control.

(…)

The major danger of the method [of active imagination] involves being overwhelmed by the powerful effects, impulses and images of the unconscious. It should be attempted only by psychologically mature individuals who are capable of withstanding a powerful confrontation with the unconscious. A well developed ego standpoint is needed so that conscious and unconscious may encounter each other as equals.

Those are some conflicting messages, whether to set out on active imaginings with a mature and controlling attitude, or more immersive playful symbolism. Jung’s writings of his own meditative journeys in The Red Book were almost never purely descriptive. Everything had to mean something in this system of symbols and archetypes. This was, Jung maintained early on in Chodorow’s compilation, the difference between art therapy (enactments of this active imagination) and artistry (which produced the same things, not exactly the same things, but still through the mind). Artists who were Jung’s contemporaries might have what I call a sidereal intention, but didn’t have the skills to psychoanalyze themselves—according to Jung. Considering that Jung was codifying those very skills, though, that was an uncharacteristically dickweedish thing to say.