I was bumming around on YouTube several days ago and happened upon some reviews of knitting machines, and found out that the most recent version of the Singer knitting machine — which is made for kids at a price their parents can afford — doesn't suck nearly as much as its predecessor did. Indeed, you can't make anything actually *nice* with it, but you *can* make sock blanks which by their very nature don't need to look good since they're going to be dyed and then eventually unraveled when the yarn is used for making actual socks, or hats, or shawls, etc. So I broke down and bought one, since I knew that sock blanks are expensive and they don't come in the yarn you just spun yourself. (Yes, eventually, I'll start spinning again and will want to dye said yarn myself, sometimes in a hank and sometimes using the sock-blank method.)
I got the undyed silk yarn — which will arrive sometime in the coming week — from KnitPicks, since I was ordering a set of interchangeable knitting needles and needed to add something else to my cart to get the free shipping. It looks lustrously smooth and soft, so will knit up into a sock blank nicely.
Next I need to get some acid dyes from Dharma Trading Company to try out on the silk yarn, and if they turn out as expected, then I'll have a pretty good idea of which dyes produce what shades and can make a better guess before committing any yardage of the silk fabric I got back in November.
This evening at 6:30 p.m. I'm heading over to the Zen center for Thursday evening group meditation, then I'm planning to stay overnight at the Zen center through the whole retreat. So I'll be okay. But I'm not so sure about the teachers and other students being able to get there tomorrow morning.
See, the Zen center is near where I live, so I looked up the forecast according to the weather station nearest to this part of Seattle — Fairview Christian School, in case anyone is interested; I access them over an app called WeatherBug — and it said that it'll be getting down to freezing by 7 p.m., but the hourly forecast doesn't predict snow till after 10:00 p.m., after which, it's 40% likely to snow during that hour, then 80% likely to snow between 11:00 p.m. and midnight, and after that there's an even chance of snow till 1:00 a.m., followed by several hours of no precipitation at all.
The problem is, it's going to be at or below freezing till something like 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, by which time, it may already have started snowing again. And the Zen center is on a steep hill. Also, there's no sun in the forecast to help melt any snow, for the little help that might offer for sun-facing streets, or at least warm the air up more to help melt it off.
So I suspect my partner and probably most of the sangha who'd signed up for this retreat won't be able to attend for the morning if not the entire day. Which would suck for my partner, since I think he's only signed up for Friday (not totally sure about this).
Anyway, I'll be taking lots of warm comfy 💜silk💖 to bundle up in overnight. And iIrc, at the last retreat when we had that big storm scare — the storm that never showed (well, here at least; apparently Vancouver BC got the brunt of it instead of us) — everyone except people who were staying overnight at the Zen center left in the early afternoon to avoid being out on the road in case of falling trees and branches, and it ended up being very peaceful with just the few of us who were there.
So it could be worse.
And based on my understanding of history, on top of all the bs the English right wing extremists/UKIP&Co have been saying for years, the defunding of services for the Disabled accompanied by (mainly Tory) politicians talking like the Nazi purveyors of the T4 Plan, all the anti-Muslim and anti-Roma immigration talk over the past 18 months, this vote is just another indication of a trend.
And that trend terrifies me.
I think I'd prefer to use the “They” rather than “Xe” or “Ze”, since “They” has a connotation of gender indeterminacy.
The way I see it, use of any specifically non-binary pronoun like “Xe” could imply that G-d doesn't have “femaleness” nor “”maleness” but only has “non-binary-ness”. I think that could be just as bad as using “He”, given that “He” implies that G-d has only maleness to the exclusion of both femaleness and non-binary-ness. In other words, I think that G-d ought be considered to possess all genders, not just one type or set of genders to the exclusion of all others.
After all, the problem with defaulting to “He” for most of the past several thousand years of monotheistic religion, has been that it has supported cultural male-supremacy and patriarchy, with all the human rights abuses that come from those things.
So exchanging one gender-limiting pronoun for another in reference to G-d might serve to re-create similar problems: e.g.: if there someday were to develop a culture of non-binary-supremacy, where women and men alike might be considered somehow inferior, or even ranked lower. Yes, right now that idea might seem laughable, but we can't predict the future absolutely, so it is at least possible such a scenario could come about someday. That would be very sad, and probably not what Jesus or other great teachers would want to support by referring to G-d with pronouns inclusive of the genders of only a small part of the population.
So, I think it makes the best sense to use the indeterminate “They” when referring to G-d or Oneness.
But I'd hate the idea of killing it, and anyway it'd be so much better just knowing that spending time in this body while it were awake would only be a *part* of my day-to-day life.
I would imagine it would be a matter of living in the two bodies simultaneously: each an appendage of the whole. So, in my robot body I'd take care of the household chores, food preparation, and other tasks this bio body can't do (or can't do well), while in the bio body eat, sleep, exercise, meditate, and spend time with my partner silking and ealying in ealy lovable soft comfy 💜silk💖.
Effectively, this would mean this body would have its ideal care-giver in the form of me-in-my-robot body, and when this body were sleeping, I'd get a several hour break from the dysphoria and be able to do things like study, write, dance, do music, arts and crafts, and activism — all things I pretty much can't do in this body — and of course spend time with friends as *me*.
Naturally, part of my day in my robot body would also involve robot maintenance — stuff that amounts to the robot-equivalent of sleep, eating, exercising, and hygiene — and that stuff could be managed while my bio body were awake doing things like exercise, meditation, and other body-self-care, too.
And I'd probably go to the Zen center in both bodies, since meditation is good for robot brains as well as for bio brains. It would probably be a little hard for people to get used to the idea of a person who has two bodies, but I would imagine people would eventually get used to seeing the two bodies doing zazen next to each other. At the gym, it'd just look like “some pale blond lady getting coached by a guy with long black curly hair and a dark tan”, but in actuality, it would be the robot body spotting the bio body through each exercise, so the bio body wouldn't have to use up too many spoons on the cognitive aspects of working out.
And there would be times where I'd want to hang out with friends when the bio body wouldn't happen to be sleeping, so I'd probably end up communicating mostly through my robot body while my bio body would sit there quietly as if just listening to the conversation. Naturally, this wouldn't be ideal, since all the while the bio body would be awake, it would constantly be fielding sensory overload, physical pain, and other things that would be distracting to me as a whole, even if my robot brain were able to deal with the influx of discomfort coming from the bio brain, and this would make socializing less than ideal.
Also, there'd be the distraction of having my bio body sitting there and — especially if the social occasion involved spending time with family — having people look at the bio body instead of the robot body when addressing me. It would feel like a bit of a rejection of the real me (that is best represented by my robot body), and that would suck. I have a feeling my parents and sister would never accept the real me. And there'd be some people who, having known me for many years, would also be very reluctant to accept the robot body as really being me and my bio body as never having been a good fit for me.
But I'm sure most of my current close friends would accept the change — the acquisition of a robot body that fits the real me way better than my bio body does — without much difficulty at all, and I could finally start relating to people and to the rest of the world (to nature, to my spirituality, to my vocation, etc.) in a way I haven't been able to in all the decades of living in this bio body. And that would be awesome, in the original meaning of that word. 😊
I've made a resolution, pending me finding accessible materials to study: I'm going to do my best to start keeping up the weekly parsha — weekly Torah portion — each week. I fell off trying to keep up with this years ago when my eye strain became unmanageable, and I became caught up in doing other things (particularly activism, which I've stepped away from in this past year).
But now that I've committed myself to taking it easy and living within my body's energy limits, and now that technology has advanced to the point that surely there must be electronic resources out there for Blind and/or dyslexic people to study Torah by ear (or at least large print) it's time I returned — “(turn and) return” (from teshuvah done during the month prior to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) — to Torah study.
Also, since I mis using my voice, I hope there's finally an OS X version of Trope Trainer (assuming that still exists).
[This individual post is part of the Crusade Against Hate — Why I #BoycottAutismSpeaks flashblog started by Boycott Autism Speaks.]
( long post is long; to paraphrase Blaise Pascal: alas I didn't have time — well really the spoons and cognitive wherewithal — to write a shorter post )
This is partly to do with Seattle's recent heat wave, which finally broke over Thursday night. We had 15 days straight of heat over 80°F/27°C, which given my dysautonomia and that practically nobody in Seattle has AC, was miserable for me. My executive function took a major hit during that time and I couldn't keep track of much at all, and it was as if Zen wasn't even part of my life: I couldn't maintain attention for long enough to meditate for more than a breath or two before completely forgetting that I was meant to be in meditation, and I'd be off to do something else instead, not realizing till several minutes-to-a-few-hours later that I'd been in the middle of meditating and gotten distracted with something and never remembered to go back to it. *sigh*
I would love to say that given the much lower temperatures, I've been able, finally, to return to regular meditation, but alas, I find myself so sleepy — probably because I never got really good sleep over the two weeks of excessive heat — that when I sit down to meditate, I end up just falling asleep, which is not much of an improvement over getting distracted.
My partner and I mean to attend group meditation at the Zen center tomorrow morning, so if my tummy lets me get away with it, I may try ingesting some cold cocoa and a chocolate-coffee brownie for breakfast to help me stay awake.
Last night, my bff Eric and I attended our first retreat-related dharma talk at BHZC. Due to not seeing that there was to be a retreat on the schedule and thus not knowing about it till two nights ago, my Eric and I both already had time commitments on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, this weekend, so we were only able to attend last night's sit and dharma talk. [We'd hoped to make it to this evening's sit and dharma talk, but something came up just now and my Eric won't be able to make it.]
Friday evening's talk was mainly about the Three Doors of Liberation: Emptiness, Signlessness, and Aimlessness.
While I have long had a strong association of Emptiness with this thing that happens with my qi after it opens up in my heart and then my throat and solar plexus followed by my abdomen and third eye and finally my crown and root, where I am eventually no longer attached to my body but still reside fully in it and experience all sensory input to it with wakeful detachment, I had not considered that of course this emptiness I experience can and does render the sense of “me” as expansive, unbounded, not limited to this body, but inclusive of All — or as many of my online and activist friends might say inclusive of “all the things” — people, plants, animals, rocks, mountains, the oceans and, well, all the things. :D (big grin)
I wish I could remember exactly what Eric Nord, our teacher last night, said but Emptiness seems to have something to do not only with the above physical experience I have while meditating, reading about Zen (and even while writing this blog post), and sometimes while chanting, he also said it had something to do with the sangha — or perhaps any group of people one belongs to? — a sense of the greater “I” rather than the little “I”? That “I” is like Omega (but without the angst) at the end of time including all beings? I shall have to do more reading/listening on this subject.
I googled the Three Doors of Liberation, where I found a long talk by Thich Nhat Hanh that touches on the subject of the Three Doors of Liberation. I haven't listened to it yet, but will over the next few days.
The concept of Signlessness was interesting to me because it seems to be about how, despite a thing's form, it is made of the same underlying substance as any other thing. This is a more ancient concept than that of electrons, protons, and neutrons which make up all the atoms in the Universe, and in a way goes beyond present physics understanding, since it alludes to something even more fundamental than leptons, quarks, and neutrinos, something out of which all these elementary particles are made.
Our teacher talked about aging in this context: the common laments people in our society utter at such things as the loss of hair, the appearance of new wrinkles and so forth, and how the underlying person whose body ages and changes with time, that person is still the same person. This got me to thinking about being trans and how my body does not look like “me”, or the concept I have of myself, my ideal visage and ideal set of abilities. Further, I thought about how I have known for many years that I am the same person now as I was when I was three in this incarnation, yet I am taller, have a different set of teeth, have scars, have somewhat darker hair, etc. But I am still me.
Of course, this body's appearance and set of physical, cognitive, and sensory limitations have chafed me constantly since my earliest memories in the way that transgender people's bodies often do (body dysphoria), but I have learned to accept — to stop struggling against — that form of suffering and make peace with the body I have at this time and place in my multi-incarnational life. This makes sense: learning to accept whatever vessel happens to hold me at any point in time will serve me well into illness and death and into the emotional pitfalls of growing up in a new incarnation. Again, I am sure I shall have much more to learn about Signlessness over time.
And the last, Aimlessness, seems to be about becoming detached from feelings of having to be somewhere or do something in life in order to feel like one has “arrived”. I think this is something I am right in the middle of learning: I've spent the past two years reading blog posts, articles, and conversations all on the subject of the value of Disabled lives. That we are just as human and just as possessing of agency and mind as any (temporarily) abled person and we have just as much right to exist in this world as anyone else, regardless of whether or how well we can produce things and regardless of how much assistance we may need to accomplish day-to-day tasks (what are sometimes called “activities of daily living” or ADLs). And if our disabilities get in the way of having a career or even of obtaining an education, it is important to learn to see ourselves as valuable people even without such things.
Of course, this is distinct from learning to live with the feelings of missing activities one would very much enjoy doing, but can't or can't anymore. Knowing there is no “should” about having accomplishments (Aimlessness) and knowing there is no loss of identity in not having accomplished certain things/having the ability to accomplish things (Signlessness) are distinct from the grieving process associated with not being able to do something you love, that you long to do.
I'm sure there must be a Buddhist concept I'll eventually learn about regarding the grieving process around not being able to live the kind of life one longs to live. I've just been muddling along sometimes nursing a great sadness, sometimes mild anger, and sometimes acceptance; I've mostly managed to stop bargaining and stop being in denial about the loss of anything resembling my ideal life, but the sadness and occasional anger still haunt me when I'm not filled with that heart-centered qi feeling I described at the beginning of this blog.
Our teacher also briefly discussed the Middle Way, the Buddhist concept of non-duality or of living mainly in the in-between, moderation, neither all Yin nor all Yang. He mentioned this in the context of the “third cure” from the title of a book by Peter Coyote which is a reference to a song lyric about a choice between two cures — one a very materialist and capitalist “cure” represented by “railroad gin” and the other a loving but somewhat nihilistic and escapist “cure” represented by “Texas medicine” (taken to be something like peyote). That is, that there is another way, not that of surrendering to the existing power structures in this world and not that of spending as much time away from this world as possible, but a way to find happiness in this world, being both present and just in ones actions.
Alas, the Zen Center has us dawn these robes on top of our regular clothes, and I just know as the warmer weather comes along, I'm going to completely melt under them unless I arrive in only a tank top and bike shorts and leave my socks in my shoes (rather than walk around the center in my socks). But we'll cross that bridge when we get there.
Meanwhile, I have a list of books to check out — I hope at least a few of them are in audiobook format — and my bff and I have committed to doing daily meditations on our own during the week between our once-a-week treks to the ZC.
April 18, 2015 ETA: I am retroactively dedicating this blog post to Steven Allen, JDPSN, who was my bff's and my teacher at the Introduction to Zen Practice we attended the day before I wrote the above.
— me, paraphrasing Alan Rickman
(I rephrased this partially because I couldn't conquer my inner style-editor and partially because he used an anti-intellectual-disability-ism that was better rephrased as “a selfish and uncaring elite”. TW minor ableism if you click on Rickman's name.)
When I was in high school, I rode the short bus, and amazingly, it wasn’t a bad experience. I happened to live near two group homes where there lived several students who had Down syndrome, and the driver was a wonderful person.
I was the only person on that bus who didn’t have Down’s. The ostensible reason for me being there was that I was legally blind, hence I was assigned to a school up quite far north from where I lived at the time. I had been used to long bus rides to school ever since kindergarten because the Seattle School District concentrated us Disabled students into one or two schools per age group. This meant that all the students with Downs, all the students who used wheelchairs or other mobility devices, all the Blind students, and all the students with learning disabilities — in fact all Disabled high school students, except, oddly, for the Deaf students — went to my high school. (I still have no idea what school someone who was both Deaf and a wheelchair user, would have gone to, but I digress…)
But as I said, on my bus, my short bus, I was the only student who didn’t have Down’s and thus was the only student who didn’t have intellectual disability. Which meant given my internalized and cross-disability ableism that I was board out of my mind, since I didn’t think I had anyone to talk to. I would have read a book, but because of my very limited eyesight and learning disability (severe dyslexia), I couldn’t read at all, as the motion of the bus made the text appear to bounce around before my eyes.
So I talked with the driver most of the time. She was an interesting person, a cancer survivor, one of the first people in my state to advocate for the legalization of medical pot. And she was kind to me and to the other students in the bus. Something I wish I had picked up on and emulated much earlier in life.
It’s not that I was ever deliberately unkind to the other students on the bus or when I saw them in the halls at school — in fact I even stood up for some of my bus mates on occasion when I witnessed their teacher verbally abusing them, which, alas, he did all to often in the classroom — but that I still felt insulted when abled people assumed my intelligence to be roughly the same as that of someone with Down’s and as a result of that assumption either patronized me or treated me with contempt. And that my heart wasn’t open to the students with Down syndrome as fellow human beings in the same way it was for my other classmates. It would never have occurred to me that any one with Down’s could be a good friend to me in a genuinely meaningful way.
Then one day I was in tears while riding home from a particularly emotional day at school; a day full of the usual reasons for teenage angst. I was trying to explain the problem to the driver, with whom I’d become quite good friends by this point, but nothing she said consoled me at all. And then Jennifer, the young woman who always sat behind me on the bus, gently reached over the back of my seat, touched my shoulder, and said “it’ll be okay”, and somehow I knew she was right.
Now, ordinarily, there is no way another person can say whether something will (eventually) be okay for another person, so it wasn’t her words that convinced me. It was something about her tone. She knew how to say it so that I felt both loved and very reassured. That’s a kind of social subtlety that I have longed to master ever since, but never have.
I wish I could say we became friends after that, but alas, it was only possible for my heart to be cracked open a tiny bit at that point in my life, and it wouldn’t be till decades later that I would receive the full impact of that experience. In fact, I imagine that the full impact will still be making itself felt for the rest of my life.
In my spiritual practice and beliefs, there is that of G-d in all of us, or in more Atheistic terms, there is that fully human spark in all of us. Either way, there is commonality in all people, or at least it is best for my psychological growth to assume that of everyone I meet. I’ve known this in principle since I began my spiritual journey when I was in my early teens, but like many spiritual truths, it is one thing to hear such words, it is another thing to internalize them. The former took an instant; the latter has taken decades.
Since Vlad Drăculea is indeed my authentic name — not only is this the name I had in a well known past incarnation, but nearly everyone I know knows me by this name, including my family (who also know me by my given name) — I would very much like to demonstrate this to facebook, but I can’t because for the past several years I have been hunted by a tenacious stalker with a very long memory.
So far, I’ve been lucky: my stalker hasn’t figured out to try looking me up under this name. From the little he ever knew about me and about my personal beliefs, I think he would find my use of this name to be quite a non sequitur. And I want to keep it that way. Hence I won’t try to prove my identity to facebook, given that none of the methods of identification facebook will accept from me would be safe for me to use, since they either involve changing my name legally to this name (thus leaving a neat paper trail for my stalker to follow), or connecting my name with my street-address (since I can’t afford a P.O. box and couldn’t get to the post office often enough to check on it due to chronic illness), and I don’t want to endanger a friend by using their address.
As a result, I’m now asking those of you that are able to leave facebook to join me on Diaspora and/or Ello from now on. Facebook’s ridiculous and often discriminatory policies make it unsafe for stalking victims, and were there no other social networks, would utterly isolate us from the online activity of family and friends. So please join me on one or more of these platforms:
YouTube, (though I haven't made more than one ancient video on it because no spoons for transcription and video descriptions): https://www.youtube.com/user/
There's this blog, of course: http://vladdraculea.dreamwidth.org;
And my very much-neglected Twitter: https://twitter.com/VladIIIDraculea.
I suggest both Diaspora and Ello as good replacements for facebook. While Google+ might be a better platform at this time, I suspect it'll be overtaken by either or both of the first mentioned sites eventually, so I'm not bothering much with it these days. Update: I found a safe way to get my account back that didn't involve me changing my name.
Update: I found a safe way to get my account back that didn't involve me changing my name.
So I'm putting this here in the hope that in the days to come, I will be able to find the words to express how I feel about what's going on in the world, particularly in disability rights activism and Autistic Pride, among other things that I've been involved with over the past year.