Monday, September 15, 2014

When It's Bad To Be The Favorite

WARNING: Occupying Myself blog entries may be triggering to some readers. At times I address the abuse in my childhood with humor, irony and sarcasm; this may offend many. Comments will be read and moderated. 

Anyone who can coerce another adult will find it easy to manipulate children. Grooming is the term used to encompass all non-threatening forms of psychological coercion. A predator punctuates a string of gifts, shared secrets and preferential treatment with demands for sexual favors.This advantage-taking preys on the child-brain's inability to understand autonomy or foresee consequences. The already-understood rules of reciprocity are clear: you've been taking, so now you have to give back.

Psychologically grooming a child to participate in exploitative activities seems like a good strategy in theory. Grooming streamlines approaching a child for on-the-spot gratification of narcissistic impulses. Favoritism creates sufficient confusion and ambivalence in a child's mind so that the predatory adult never feels rejected or in danger of being made accountable. In short: psychological grooming is employed by a predatory adult to make a child see itself as 1) a subject of preferential status, 2) a willing participant in exploitation, and therefore 3) someone who deserves to be victimized.

You might think that an abuser who gives such preferential treatment to his victim would feel a correspondingly special responsibility toward that child. But, true to popular mythology (and to the fact that there exists no actual 'relationship'), it is this 'favorite' child that must be sacrificed to preserve the abuser's public image and their culture's status quo.

A child living in a predatory environment becomes a hostage. Because the abusing adult cannot risk disclosures (direct or indirect) of their secret. Not only is a sexually abused child taught an entirely false concept of self and relationships, they are also systematically isolated from normal-living peers and pro-social adults.

When I was about 18 months old, I developed pneumonia with a dangerously high fever. My mother spent the night putting the child her husband had made out of her misplaced trust in and out of an ice bath. He slept undisturbed, and, in the morning, got up, took the one family car and went to work.

Leaving Mom to desperately call through the phone book until a doctor agreed to come to the house. This practitioner also went to a pharmacy and returned with life-saving prescriptions.

That was the same year an ambulance was called to attend my infant sister the day she stopped breathing. You see, it wasn't that Mom didn't know how to recognize an emergency and get qualified help. But you can't hand a child living at the center of a secret over to professionally nosy people.

The specialness of staying up late to watch TV, bathing together, sitting together in church: all window dressing. And, under certain circumstances, a disaster waiting to happen. When it came right down to it, I had become expendable. Subsequent medical near misses were handled with the same disconnected denial.

These incongruous events littering the landscape of my past raise more questions than they answer. Who would I be today if I had not been specially-and-preciously made-and-chosen to be Dr. Frankenstein's favorite creation? (And should I even 'be' at all?) How did a primate species that evolved on the same side of the Congo River as bonobos begin to behave with each other like chimpanzees and baboons? Why did the Indo-Europeans leave the Caucuses obsessed with violence and ownership? Why do people continue to insist that that's the genome a god sanctioned to administer the planet? How many toddlers are having a near miss today?

Be well - your Westie loves you!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Occupying Myself: Inconceivable - St. Valentine's Massacre

 WARNING: Occupying Myself blog entries may be triggering to some readers. At times I address the abuse in my childhood with humor, irony and sarcasm; this may offend many. Comments will be read and moderated. 

My body was conceived on Valentine’s Day night, nineteen hundred and *mumble mumble*.

Sounds romantic. Most people take it that way. After they get over the Huh?What? of learning something about me that they don’t want to know about themselves. Visitors to the World of West find this quirky factoid in keeping with the general theme of Me, celebrating in a fun, love-child-worshipping way.

I’d like to tell you what really happened.

Kid #1 was one year and one month old. Mom wanted more children. Just not another pregnancy, labor, delivery and nursling right away. She had been prescribed a diaphragm; she used it without fail to protect herself.

The man she married, trusted, and for whom she gave up any number of career paths her three university degrees might have netted, decided to trick her. Trick her into a pregnancy he knew she wanted to put off.
He planned a night of hour-on-end entertainment. Starting with a big meal at an expensive restaurant. Ending with maneuvering her to the bedroom. No pit stops. No diaphragm. And, as surely as I’m here today, he got her onto her back and kept her there past the point of no return.

I know that this was all planned because that is the unequivocal way the story has ever been told. Not two young people carried away by romance and passion: one person getting over on another to get his way. No one bothers to tell what he thought when he first looked down on that newborn body he had engineered. A body which his religiously-based culture gave him ownership over. Which some glitch in his psycho-sexual development caused him to crave.

I’d gladly have supported Mom exercising autonomy after the fact. Ending the body-building process before anyone else got hurt. Which, at the time, men did not permit women to do legally, privately or safely.

Anti-autonomists like to argue their oppressive position by praising their own mother’s acquiescence. As though what they worship needs help. Or is insufficient to provide more than one way into the world. Their deity seems, in fact, so confoundable that men must engage in coercion to insure our species’ survival.

But I say again that I would gladly have given up this vehicle of existence, would have rather waited for another opportunity to open into this world. Because what happened as a result of the loss of one woman’s agency was the sustained suffering of one hapless child. Mom deserved respect. Failing that, she deserved the autonomy to correct the disrespecting.

Yeah, I’m over evangelicals and other “social conservatives” (who do only what they can to damage our species’ social constructs) distracting everyone with the tired trope that abortions stop intended babies from being born. What makes ME alive cannot be hindered or thwarted. Those of us who mean to be here will arise. And those of us arising as female mammals (and some large-brained birds) are gifted with the genetic code to manage tough fertility issues. Including code for engaging in infanticide when absolutely necessary. Which in our species can fortunately be managed before a living offspring’s suffering ever begins.

It is only the facts about nature, religion, and agency that can restore some balance to the frantic public and private discussions about female identity, autonomy and birth control. It is only silence that propagates abuse of women and their children. The bad people are counting on the silence.

I sincerely hope and urge that my friends go on telling their version of the Story of Me in their zany-factoid fashion. ‘Cause I like their story and their love better than those I grew up with. 

Be well – your Westie loves you!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Evolution of Belief: Crossover Event - Occupying Myself

WARNING: Occupying Myself blog entries may be triggering to some readers. At times I address the abuse in my childhood with humor, irony and sarcasm; this may offend many. Comments will be read and moderated. 

We've been having a lot of fun watching the dogs pray. So does your Westie pray to an object of reverence?

The most likely Original Deity of our species would have been an archetypical version of Mitochondrial Eve. But our Greatest Grandmother, the First Of Us All, is dead. She cannot hear or respond to requests. She does not require that anyone admire Her glorious qualities, or rehash their personal failings. Indeed, since She lived long before spoken language developed in our species, words are pretty much pointless. To revere Her is to be minus the luxury of Objective, Live, Listening Presence.

But, similar to the followers of the various sky-gods, I can frame myself in reference to a psychological projection. I can  compare my fortitude to the courage of a Woman entirely unique among Her people. She knew Aloneness more pure than any isolation felt since. She would have been acquainted, like we all are, with every physical discomfort and lack; every instinct and impulse; pleasure and disappointment.

I can see what there is of Her in Me. If that's prayer, then I do pray. And it feels more natural and safe to engage in these meditations without conversation.

As a child, any time I asked a sky-god for anything, as I had been coached to do, I received the opposite. When I found myself needing relief from unbearable circumstances, Conversational Prayer yielded...more circumstance.

Did a lack of positive response prove that sky-gods do not exist? Not exactly. But it was confusing, to say the least, that sincere, respectful prayer netted me red-hot, angry scorpions.* The great Masculinized Collective Psychological Projection seemed always in a mood to smack me back into the arms of bad people and painful circumstances. My wisest course of action lay in leaving off drawing attention to myself.

I sank into Silence. Watched my feelings, thoughts and wants arise, drift about and dissipate. Oppressive and painful circumstances revealed themselves to be in flux with beauty and aspiration. Everyone receives circumstances, rising or falling with them. Filtering random experiences through a cyclic, generative female body domesticated my terror and encouraged me to seek the meaning behind pain messages. It took many cycles to reunite with that awesome, circumstance-mangled body, my teacher. My home.

The Sheness of our origins ultimately exited me from the widely-accepted, abusive Way. Onto this narrow road where I move forward through circumstances one step at a time, all on my own.**

Some people employ prayer as a means of adhering to prescribed behavioral codes and prohibitions. Many use it as an affordable and ever-handy way of contacting archetypes and subtle ego projections (i.e., therapy). And some few slip in-and-out of tangible nothingness just long enough to verify the singularity of their journey. A metaphysical glance left and right to prevent them drifting into someone else's lane.

Be well - your Westie loves you!

 *Luke 11.1-13
**Matthew 7.13-14

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Evolution of Belief: Calling All Consciousness

Some time around 7000 B.C.E., mankind  began to deify thunder storms. To the modern mind, this seems strange and incomprehensible. Storms only possess the energy they passively acquire according to laws of physics. They neither create nor direct anything actively or sentiently. Yet people very quickly began to treat them as though they do, and continually tried opening reasonable dialog with these sky-gods.

I'd like to suggest that our relationship with wild and domesticated canids had a great deal to contribute to this conversation. These species may well have started the whole thing.

You see, animals live in a world where SOUND = LIFE. Something rustles in the thicket: it's either something stalking you as lunch, or it's something hiding from you, and worth pursuing as a potential meal.

When wolves are left by their parents for a period of time, the reply of their mother across the valley reassures them that She Still Lives. No reply to a midnight howl? Evidence that She may have ceased to be. When this evidence reaches a critical level, grief begins.

Domesticated dogs cry for their family members (if they learn the language as youngsters), and can hear sounds of insect life in the walls of their houses long before their human companions detect visible symptoms of infestation.

Here on the hillside, we have a few poopsies (notably, Followers) who talk back to the weather. All the while displaying ambivalence: is the approaching thunder something to hide from or defy (confront/attack)? They remain indifferent to lightening strikes, ignoring the visible (and actual) danger they pose. Animal consciousness finds its likeness through sound.

Did our Bronze Age ancestors, confused by their experience of global warming and atmospheric volatility, take a cue from dogs? If it makes a sound, it lives. If it lives, it has measurable power, is independently motivated, and can be engaged on its own terms.

In a very short time, historically speaking, we managed to ascribe infinite power to a select few sky-gods, dismissed the mind's right to question their motivations and have made no real progress as far as negotiations are concerned. Which may be to say: we've made no progress at all from the primordial declaration of BOOM-WOOF.

Did we domesticate wolves in an attempt to horn in on their cosmic chit-chat? I know we all feel fancier saying we wanted to use dogs as sentinels and garbage disposals, but I'm beginning to suspect that that is all a lie.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Evolution of Belief: The Dog Door Swings Both Ways

Winter is taking its sweet time coming this year, trash on both neighbors' lawns being a clue that Great Bear is still awake. I thank Her sincerely for leaving us a more subtle "gift" (harboring mystery plants that Spring will reveal). And so I've found myself awake and in the mood to keep on about getting to the bottom of this whole G~d/D~g situation.

In equal measure as our poopsies adore and serve us, pet owners in the U.S. bow down and tithe to them (1% of our annual household budgets, on average). As much as they look to us for direction and mystical cues about how to behave, we defer to our canine darlings' facial expressions and attention-seeking behaviors. We employ ceremony to groom and feed them, organize family schedules around their needs, and gaze into their eyes with genuine love and longing for soul communion.

That we engineer our pets as worshipful followers is not hard to understand. Human narcissism is boundless in its pursuit to stamp an icon onto every object of worth. But what if we're obsessed with dog breeding - lavishing praise and attention on the results - for some deeper purpose?

Having discovered long ago that domesticated dogs can be made to resemble us in various ways, we now use their fur-covered mirror images to adore ourselves. Tell ourselves how Pretty, Sweet and Courageous we are. Call ourselves Loyal Best Friend. What makes us so worthy of our own (secret) reverence?

Indo-European blood has taken over the whole earth. Still we fight on, pretending we're not Family. We unleash war, oppression, usury and every form of meanness on anyone capriciously labeled OTHER. But these behaviors, and their polar opposites, arise and subside in constant flux. The same person who spits on a homeless teenager on the street may tenderly care for a sick child upon returning home. Our G-dliness must be somehow separate from our situationally expressed genome, something more fundamental and enduring than the ego-binding macro-bodies we inherit from our near relatives.

What do we all possess which changes not - or changes only minimally - over time?

Mitochondrial DNA.

Each cell in our bodies is powered by mitochondria which refuse to forget that all races of humans have come from a single Source: our First Mother, the Great Ancestress.

The first female who stood on the earth as WOMAN, the only person who could lay claim to true Isolation and Loneliness, was holding us all deep within. She survived. She honored her fertility. And now we carry her with us wherever we go. She is IN us each from our very beginnings, accompanies us through our lives, and will lie with us on our death beds. No remote sky-god has ever been able to duplicate these truths. Indeed, Jesus himself had to pass through a woman's body in order to become Emmanuel ("G-d with us").

Dogs held a prominent place in the G~ddess iconography of prehistorical Mediterranean and "Old European" peoples. Canine figurines and images likely represented the Life-Ending/Recycling virtue of the Sacred Female (dogs will make a meal of most anything, including their own scat). Dogs proved easy to domesticate and assimilate, affording them a unique religious-and-social significance. Despite "modern" religious rules against keeping dogs in a household, our two species have proved inseparable.

Are dogs the enduring High Priestesses of our Mitochondrial Genome, reminding us to not leave First Mother standing on the earth alone? Let's take a few minutes to practice Down-Facing Dog while we meditate on this...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Evolution of Belief: When Dogs Pray Part II

Ah. Where was I? Oh yeah: how I became the Supreme, All-Knowing, Beneficent G-ddess of All Dogs (review Part I here).

You see, I feed the dogs. In ritualized fashion, three times a day they line up and each receive from my hand what I decide is the exact-right amount of food. What might make FOOD the key that unlocks a dog's Religion DNA?

When a mother dog is ready to stop nursing her pups, she brings her litter their first solid foods in her stomach. Puppies continue being fed directly from their Archetypical Earth Mother * during a developmental period involving self-awareness, other-awareness and hierarchical learning. Learning to beg for food may be the canine analog of a baby learning her first prayer, "Ma!".

*There are few human cultures remaining where infants are fed and weaned in this way, but they do still exist. And all the ego-scientific crap about animals not having psyches and cultures? Thankfully that blither has all but disappeared from serious discussions involving our antecedent and contemporary Others. As for anthropomorphic falacy: you'll just have to trust that being raised by dogs has qualified me to understand their motives. (wink, wink)

Solicitation for food seems to be the ground water from which doggie-style ritual and superstition have sprung, at least on the hillside. Ignore the Appointed Time to feed them or take them outside? Plan to leave the house (gasp of horror)? They pray.

They pray, they dance, they cry out. A few sing (most badly, two beautifully). They throw themselves at my feet. They rehearse fertility rituals, bring me all the best chew toys, show willingness to slay the Evil Doers, and they chant:

"Feed us! Feed us! Are you listening? Did you stop caring? What do you want from us? How can we get 
your love back? Why is it still raining? Who should we blame for this? If you want me to kill my brother to prove my devotion, I will. Don't leave! Come back! Love me, love me, love me!"

More assertive individuals watch me closely to catch any slight coincidental link between their behaviors and mine. Random, free-form frantic activity evolves into ritualized movement and vocalization which is repeated over time by individuals and telegraphed to all the "follower" personality types. Indeed, it is the less assertive dogs who are most enthusiastic and emotional in their prayers and certainty that I will be moved to act as a consequence. True to current human modeling, Leader dogs egg on Follower dogs, encouraging them to believe-and-pray harder.

Sound familiar? Yeah, I'm G-d.

I'd tell you how I feel about all this, but one of the big guys is organizing a sacrifice of one the wee poopsies as a way to entreat me to get his favorite tennis ball from under the sofa.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Evolution of Belief: When Dogs Pray Part I

Be kind when you pray - to Whomever or Whatever you worship. It's not easy being G-d. I know this by personal experience.

I've lived with dogs my whole life: Siblings, Babysitters, Guardians, Confessors, Friends. And now it seems I've been given a promotion. Not to Sister or Leader, but to DEITY, FIRST CLASS. H. sapiens sapiens is apparently not the only species we should suspect of having DNA code for religious Belief .

Humanity's Belief genes themselves, if we find them, are probably quite complex and variable. Not all people Believe the same things in exactly the same ways. Some people may be incapable of Belief, despite repeated, sincere, systematic efforts of Total Believers. All genes act in concert with other genes, and are subject to environmental influences.

Complicating any one person's spiritual journey is the fact that religious ideals and practices are vigorously presented to children before the age of eight years, before critical thinking can be used to reject unlikely or inconsistent precepts. Is this manipulation of the "magical" child mind the bedrock of Fundamentalism? Adults espousing extremist ethics use over-simplified, childish language and reasoning.

Hafta think about that some more.

Fundamentalist fakery aside, I have been present during several instances of genuine religious conversion: dramatic readjustments of mind and life strategy in people from diverse cultures following their exercise of Belief. Just as though a switch was turned ON. They Believe and begin to live differently, naturally, in accord with their new perspective.

Myself, I cannot make a fairy come back to life by clapping my hands. I've never gotten the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart just by singing about it. My wide and fulfilling spiritual practice is not the product of any single, profound revelation. Rather, it is an unending series of plateaus leading to increasingly open vistas which words cannot attain. My truest spiritual moments consist of Silence and Wonder. Western Belief models do little to support this experience.

I digress. A lot. You've been warned.

Dogs don't give their young religious instruction. They teach them (by example) to be careful, respectful and sensitive members of their immediate social group. In wild conditions, they'd further teach pups to forage and fend for themselves. What meaning is (or is not) assigned to life stages and experiences is left entirely to each individual's interpretation. Dogs don't preach, proselytize, apologize or attempt exegesis.

It would be a mistake, however, to assume that dogs are merely Behavioral in their function and outlook. Canids are very keen to detect intention, suffering and other Essential qualities in living beings around them.

We've selected our canine companions over tens of thousands of years to "fit in" with us more and more. We've suited a great variety of breeds to a great variety of functions. Have we also been selecting them for their potential to Worship?