I was in the car with the Spotted Opossum recently and out of nowhere she said "Daddy, you know how your wish came true?"
"Some of my wishes have come true, Honey. Which one do you mean?"
"When I was still in my Mommy's tummy, you wished that I would be a girl. You remember that?"
"Yeah, I remember that. I thought it would be fun to have a girl." I really did kinda hope for a daughter, but of course I wouldn't have been upset if it had gone the other way. I told her I had wanted a girl one day when she was talking about how much she prefered girls to boys. She's really opposed to boys right now, with a few exceptions. Boys are too rowdyand rough and don't follow the rules the way they should and they have little or no appreciation for cartoon ponies.
"Well, my wish came true, too, because you're my Daddy."
I teased some clarification out about that statement and what it came to was that, before she was born, when she was still with God, she wished that I would be her Daddy and her wish came true. I am her Daddy. She says things like that occasionally, incredibly touching and loving statements that make my heart swell and give me the ability to tolerate countless tantrums, fits and random bouts of obstinance. I'm sure all parents have stories about when their brats said amazingly sweet and endearing things.
The notion of a crowd of babies hanging out in Heaven waiting to be born is one we're all aware of, whether we actually believe in it or not. I don't know where it came from, certainly not the Bible. The Judeo-Christian tradition, which includes Islam, holds that all individuals exist in the mind of God before they are created, but there's no Biblical evidence that those individuals have any way of determining or influencing where, when or to whom they will be born. No before-life existence is postulated: the soul enters the body at the same time the sperm penetrates the egg, the individual lives for as long as they live and then go wherever God decides they should go, according to His Divine Judgement, which seems kinda arbitrary and harsh at times. I don't know where we got the idea of a Heavenly nursery filled with baby souls waiting to be born, but it seems to be associated, in my mind at least, with storks.
Eastern religions, of course, do offer a before-life existence. Hinuism, Buddhism and all their various tangents and offshoots postulate reincarnation. Souls, or monads, pass through physical bodies repeatedly. One's actions in any given lifetime determine the circumstances one will be born in next time, a theory known as karma. This is generally presented as a system of justice: if you're and asshole in this incarnation, you'll come back as a dung beetle, so be nice. John Lennon was using that idea with "Instant Karma". It's slightly better than the idea that you're going to burn in Hell forever and ever and ever for consensual sodomy or picking up sticks on the Sabbath, but only slightly. I personally find it hard to believe that the Universe turns according to such a petty little reward/punishment mentality. Reward and punishment are educational tools, not ends in themselves. I reward my daughter for good behavior and punish her for bad behavior because I'm trying to teach her certain values.Kicking people when you don't get your way is wrong because it hurts the other person, not because it results in no dessert. My goal is to instill in my daughter the idea that hurting other people is wrong in itself. Withholding dessert is a way of getting her attention and illustrating that actions yield consequences. The Law of Causality is one that Hinduism and Buddhism establish first and transcend later. I'll do what I can to help the grrrl transcend the cause/effect dichotomy when she gets to that stage, but first she's gonna have to stop kicking me when I say she can't watch just one more episode of "My Little Ponies".
Karma is an impersonal force like gravity. Karma isn’t doing anything to us. Karma just is. We can learn from karma, but first we have to think of it as a thing we learn from, as opposed to a Thing that punishes or rewards us according to some Celestial Code of Conduct.
I like the idea that we have some choice regarding our education, that there is a period between incarnations when we are at one with the One – Brahma, God, Wakan Tanka, or as a friend of mine says, the Great Whatever – when we are freed from our temporal attachments and concerns and can look at our progress without bias, when we can look with “eternal eyes” if you will. Seeing ourselves and our growth from this perspective, we can evaluate what we’ve learned and decide what we need yet to learn. I see the period between incarnations as a break between college semesters when we can sit down, look over the classes being offered and figure out what options would best educate us.
Accordingly, I choose to believe that when I was last between incarnations, I chose to be reborn as a white male, mostly heterosexual (I confess to having a slight crush on Daryl Dixon, the redneck character in The Walking Dead, though that might be because I like to think I’d be that much of a badass in the Zombiepocolypse), in 1969, to certain parents, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, USA, with a predisposition toward drug and alcohol addiction and a uni-polar depressive disorder. I chose this life because it offered me the best opportunities to get the education that my eternal Self knew it needed. The fact that that could be a steaming load of happy horseshit doesn’t change the fact that holding that belief gives me a sense of control over the circumstances of my birth and encourages me to look for the lessons, the growth opportunities in my life. Life doesn’t give me lemons. I chose a life that includes some lemons for reasons that I do not presently understand, but I did choose it. And I chose education for the sake of education, not because it was a means to an end. That’s where the idea of incarnations as college semesters breaks down. Most college students are in college to get degrees that will lead to jobs, not because they want to learn, an unfortunate result of living in a goal-oriented, materialist culture, but the metaphor still has value.
It is right and good, therefore, that I embrace the lessons my life offers, whether they are easy or difficult, comfortable or painful. Most assuredly, I do not enjoy every lesson. When I was in college, I liked some classes and hated others. Abnormal Psyche was lots of fun; Introduction to Statistics sucked. I have liked some teachers and hated others. I have had to repeat some courses many times. Fortunately, I got Pell grants for college and there is no tuition for life. I have not used my degree professionally – I’m not even sure where my diploma is at this moment - but the process of getting it did have profound effects on how I live my life. Some of the information I got at college has come in handy: anybody who intends to become a parent should learn a bit about childhood development and behavior modification. Mostly though, the three years I spent getting a two-year degree changed my perceptions of myself and my abilities, altering my life trajectory in profound ways that I do not yet fully comprehend. It’s important to remember that one doesn’t have to fully comprehend the educational process for it to work.
Remember The Karate Kid? What’s-his-name had to wax all Mr. Miyagi’s cars in order to learn how to block a punch. That’s classic Japanese-style education. You do what the teacher says even though you don’t see what it has to do with the education. Later, it all makes sense.
The problems that I face right now are lemons that I have to wax. I don’t know what I’m going to learn in the process, but I have reason to believe I’ll learn something. I always have.
It follows then that my daughter, who I consider a more advanced monad than myself, chose to be enrolled in a semester of life as a white female, of as-yet-undetermined sexual orientation, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, USA, with me as her Daddy. Her statement about “wishing” to have me as her Daddy meshes perfectly with my own beliefs about incarnation as education and I have no reason to doubt her. That I frequently doubt my own fitness for the job means that I am a person who frequently doubts his own fitness for anything. Beneath that temporal insecurity, deep down at the eternal core, I must know that I am exactly fit for the task. She knows it too.
I still have to study and work, of course. I still have to try hard to do well. I do believe that my actions will yield results on some level. A friend – another recovering alcoholic – once said that alcoholics who die drunk come back as dung beetles. I replied that alcoholics who die drunk come back as alcoholics until they finally learn to stay sober, which my friend agreed was a harder lesson.
I want to enter every learning situation with a positive attitude. It doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes I get frustrated with my apparent lack of progress. Sometimes other people get frustrated when I haven’t learned things they think I should’ve learned – that happened at work last night. I try not to be too hard on myself because I find it doesn’t help. Obviously, it behooves me to extend that attitude to other people. The person who scolded me for fucking up at work last night was working with incomplete information – the fault was not all mine – but she was partially correct, so rather than argue with her about how somebody else’s fuck-up fucked me up, I just accepted what she said. Some of the fault was mine and I need to work on that.
I’m going to go get the Spotted Opossum from school in a bit. We will not be watching My Little Ponies today. I’d be okay with watching one episode, but I don’t want to deal with the fit that will happen when she wants to watch a second one and I say “no” so I’m just going to nix the whole Ponyville gang entirely. She’ll be cranky, but hey, she’s the one who picked me to be her Daddy.
I am not now, nor have I ever been, a ladies' man, rake or playa. Nevertheless, I have had some experience with women and I've encountered a variety of pubic hairstyles. The majority of the females I've known had the standard triangle. Some were shaved, some were thickly furred. I had one long-termer who shaved occasionally for variety and one who was a compulsive hair-plucker, a trichotillomaniac. I never really thought about women's pubic hair much.
A few years back, I was working in a different restaurant and the subject came up in conversation. I don't know how pubic hair came up in conversation. Restaurants are like that. There you are dicing onions and then you're having a conversation with the nineteen-year-old server about pubic hair. A bartender came back to the kitchen and put her two cents in. By the end of the shift, I had learned that bare-down-there had become normal, that natural pubic hair was "disgusting" and that electrolysis of the pubes was a thing people did. I haven't conducted any surveys since then - questioning women regarding their pubic hair seems a mite awkward - but I have no reason to suspect that my former coworkers were anomalies. The women who I'm close enough with to discuss such matters assure me that total defibulation is the norm.
I was watching E. Elias Merhige's Begotten with a female friend, a smart,competent, confident young woman who has many accomplishments to her credit. She found the disturbing imagery disturbing, appropriately, but was especially critical of the female characters' bush. I explained that the woman in the movie represented Mother Nature. She replied that "Mother Nature needs to trim that shit". We've had plenty of discussions about feminist issues - and I've tried to get her to pose naked for cover art with no success - and she knows better, but her "vagina shame" is still there and still strong.
Women's bodies are not their own. Women - in this culture - grow up in the spotlight, constantly examined, critiqued, criticized and dictated to. Entire industries depend on women hating their bodies and being willing to spend billions of dollars "correcting' their "flaws". The body-shaming never ends. Men are subjected to some body-shaming, but that's nothing compared to what women endure. The majority of it is directed at parts of womens' bodies that anyone can see: their faces, legs, hair. A woman doesn't have to be naked for anyone to know how her body is shaped. Pubic hair, conversely, is private, which is why it's even more disturbing that the shaming has gotten there. Sex workers might have professional reasons to shave, but the average woman's pubis is only seen by herself and her lover(s). The fact that total hair removal has become the norm indictates that our culture's degradation of women has reached into their most intimate places. I'm not going to go into labiaplasty or anal bleaching.
Symbolically, women are linked with nature and the Earth. Mother Nature is a mother for a reason. Men are related to society, to laws and organization.Our society has abdicated all authority over nature. We have collectively given our planet to corporations, to do with as they please. Corporations have no symbolic standing because they're too recent. Myth offers no examples of heroes or heroines venturing forth to slay corporations. Myth does provide many stories of individuals fighting evil tyrants who seek total dominion over the land and everyone on it, which I would suggest is what corporations are.
Begotten, by the way, is a phenomenal piece of work. I got my copy from a friend who was really into fucked-up films and went into thinking that's what it was. I figured out what was happening halfway through. If it had ended differently, I would've been pissed, but Merhige got it right. It's brutal, disturbing and 100% spot on. It tells the story exactly right and Mother Nature's pussy is hairy for the right reasons. Kudos, Mr. Merhige.
So I decided to organize a various artists compilation, to be titled My Goddess Has A Crazy Bush. The whole point of the comp is not not not to promote a fetish for hairy pussy. I spent hours searching the web for the right picture to go with this thing, a search which paid off rather delightfully, I might add, but which entailed looking at a lot of images of hairy pussies. Fetishizing pubic hair is just the flip side of fetishizing no pubic hair and not what I'm after. I've gotten some responses from musicians who are really into the fur and I'm totally okay with that, but the end goal is that pubic hair is natural and fine. There's nothing wrong with trimming it if you don't want it curling out of your bathing suit or shaving it if that seems fun, but allowing some massive corporation to shame you into believing that your body, in it's natural state, is disgusting or dirty or unsightly is giving up too much. Our bodies belong to us. We should decide what to do with them and if our prospective sexual partners don't like our pubic 'dos, let 'em find some other lover.
My contact list consists mostly of experimental, noise, weird punk and drone musicians. Most of them are male. I think there is some value in males saying they're happy with women's natural bodies - many women do care what the men in their lives think about their bodies. For us to say "Hey, you don't have to shave to make us happy" is a positive thing, but I'm not trying to organize a sausage party. I've gone pretty far out of my way to throw this thing at female musicians and haven't gotten any responses. I've also sought diverse musical forms and have no reason to think any of the old-time bands I've contacted will be sending tracks. If you know any radical, banjo-pickin' femmes who might like to get in on this, send 'em a link.
Pubic hair is just an example, of course. What this thing is really about is the unnatural and unattainable images women are presented with and told they must conform to. I'm pretty happy to have plenty of hippie chicks in my life who don't shave anything, avoid make-up like the plague and wear comfortable, functional clothes. They listen to terrible music, of course, and none of 'em wanna jam with BDSR, but I'm happy to have 'em around, reminding me of how female human beings actually look. I'll take a hairy hippie chick in jeans and workboots over a made-up college girl anyday.
Relating it back to nature, I'm all for nature. I'm all for the woman/earth symbolism. Women and our planet can look good and fun when gussied up a bit - I like Japanese gardens and I know some punks who rock the Siouxsie Sioux heavy-make-up look pretty hard - but wild, lush and untamed is always preferable.
So, send in your tracks, let your big muff roar and get out to the national forest as soon as you can. Goddess bless.
Okay, so there's this little girl, one of my daughter's classmates. She's an adorable moppet, brown hair, huge brown eyes, and as sweet as a four-year-old girl can be. Her family comes to the restaurant where I work pretty regularly and we've goten together for a couple playdates. I've established a casual rapport with her, her brother and her parents. They're all fine and good people.
Tonight, when I got to work, they were there eating. The kids came over to talk with me. The dad came over. The kids got distracted by something, leaving me and the dad standing there chatting. He asked me how I was doing with getting a big farmhouse out in the country. This was a reference to an earlier conversation - the first time he saw me working at the restaurant,a few months back, he asked me about it and I said I was putting some money aside, saving up to get a place out in the country. It was true - I would like to have a place in the country and I was putting money into a savings account at that point. So I wasn't lying, but I was presenting a rosy picture. I knew that my other job, housepainting, wasn't going to last through the winter and I'd need work - that's why I got the restaurant job. There were other reasons, of course: I like restaurant work, I thought I might want to become one of the worker/owners, I wanted to build a better history with a place that had some negative associations &c. But the need for a paycheck through the winter was the biggest.
This guy, the moppet's dad, is a nice guy. He's from one of the northern-European socialist-democracies, I dunno which. He has some kind of administrative job at the local university. He's friendly and decent and he doesn't intentionally tap into my feelings of inadequacy about my income. It just happens.
He asked how my plan to get a big farmhouse out in the country was going. I certainly did not say "big farmhouse" when I talked with him before. I might've said "house", more likely "place". The rural domicile that I envision when I bother to envision anything of the sort would more likely be called a "cabin", if not a "shack". Big farmhouses require a lot of upkeep and firewood. I'm much more interested in low maintainence and lots of trees. Being able to sit on my porch naked in the summertime seems desirable.
Anyway, I said I was working on it, that it was a kinda vague thing, and started talking about location. I picture this shanty in the northwest corner of Rockingham county, right up against the George Washington National Forest. It's beautiful up there and only a short trip to town. I really do want to move up there eventually.
Whatever money I had saved when we talked before is gone now. I pissed it away on rent, utilities, food, gas and other frivilous shit. If anything, I'm deeper in the hole than I was.
I don't know why I feel like I should be making more money when I talk with this guy. It's not him - he's not doing it. There was another guy a couple years ago, another father of a girl my daughter played with. That guy definitely tried to make me feel like he was better than me in several different ways, including income. I wasn't bothered at all. He was an asshole. I have plenty of experience dealing with assholes. It helped that I knew he had a drinking problem and his wife, who also drank like a pig, was cheating on him. Their daughter was cute as a button. It sucks that she's got them for parents, but not much can be done about that. They moved across the country and good riddance.
But this guy, the moppet's dad, he's not an asshole. He's just making conversation and has no idea that when he asks about my stated goal of getting a place out in the country he's rubbing up against a raw spot that I'm embarrassed to admit I have. I mean, I'm poor on purpose. I make no more money than I need to - a little less, actually - because I have made deliberate and considered decisions. I do not believe in having more than barely enough. I have chosen to be poor. I would take a million dollars if someone wanted to give it to me, of course, because then I'd be able to give it away. If I wanted to make more, I'm pretty sure I could.
Being poor isn't always fun. Then again, living in a temperate zone isn't always fun. Lately, it's been cold as Hell, but I'm not planning on moving to Florida. At least the cold is outside this year. I've spent a few winters in places where the toilet water froze overnight. No shit.
This feeling of financial inadequacy that I get when I talk with the northern-European dad of the moppet sucks. It makes it impossible for me to be comfortable with him. It's a stupid, petty little thing and I wish I was above it. I could just explain to the moppet's dad that I'm dirt-poor on purpose and that I have a different definition of success, but that would be weird and awkward and time-consuming. There's no reason to drag this guy into some long monologue about the spiritual rewards of austerity as opposed to the fundamentally flawed pursuit of material wealth. I'd almost ceratinly end up throwing out a bunch of examples of my own non-financial "successes" which would be nothing more than boasts about my artistic accomplishments or - even worse - holier-than-thou-isms. Might as well wander around in sackcloth and ashes if I do that.
It ain't about him anyway. It's about me being okay with who and what I am. I don't need to justify my choices to anybody. I do need to take responsibility for my choices, my actions and my feelings, especially when they're stupid, petty and I wish I was above them. Owning up to being flawed is essential to making spiritual progress.
While I've been writing this, I've been listening to this thing I'm working on - a collaboration with another musician. He sent me a forty-minute drone piece. I put the post-title narration from Snake People, a delightfully bad B-movie, at the beginning and a drum loop through the whole thing. I don't know what else to do with it. It seems like it's done, but it also seems too easy. The other musician spent a lot of time on his part. Somehow it seems like I should work on it for hours and hours and really break a sweat over it, but I'll be damned if I can figure out what else it wants. I could slather a bunch of fuzzy guitar all over it, I guess. Dunno if that would make it any better. I've been perfectly content to have it playing the whole time I've been at this, so it's apparently good enough for me and I am the only audience I really need to please. If anything, I'm gonna remove the intro. It doesn't quite fit and I can use it someplace else.
I have people I talk with who help me when I get jammed up in my head about shit, people who help me work things out. They know me well, good and bad. When I talk with them, I can just lay out the facts - sometimes I feel financially inadequate. I don't feel any need or desire to brag about the musicians who want to work with me or the labels that want to release stuff. I'll talk with them and they'll tell me what I already know - that I'm suffering from a case of ego, that I'm judging my insides against someone else's outsides, that God, by whatever name, is in charge and that I'm not. The fact that I know the answers doesn't mean I don't need to hear them. More important than the answers is the humility required to admit to having the feeling.
"Humility" doesn't look right. I thought there should be a "b" in there - "humbility" - so I checked. No "b".
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.