Shame On You. Yeah, You. With The Body.

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Bodies. We’ve all got them. So why is there so much shame about the naked human form? The easy answer is: religion. Religion, usually concerning itself with non-corporeal forms of reality, has good reason to advocate the rejection of physicality and especially any pleasure derived from physical sensation. If you love the pleasures of this world so much, how can you ever hope to leave it behind for the spiritual world believed to exist after the flesh?

It makes sense, if you are of this belief, to reject those pleasures in preparation for the afterlife to come. You fast. You are chaste. You abstain from alcohol. You wear plain clothing, nothing too showy. If, then, you are a religious leader and wish to guide others in the ways of being all holy, you have to find a way to convince future devotees that they are on the right path and that all these sacrifices are necessary. So, naturally, you exaggerate! Some religious leaders don’t even realize they are overstating the case; these zealots believe wholeheartedly in every word they utter. Yes, your mortal soul is in danger. Yes, this is the only way to save yourself. Yep, your whole life is a sin, you grotesque hairless ape. How better to convince would-be followers than to introduce the element of fear?

Suddenly it’s not good enough for your hand-wringing brethren to avoid the pleasures of the flesh simply to prepare for a milquetoast existence in the next world. After all, it would be far too easy to stray from that path. A tiny taste of succulent wild cherry pie, a flash of honey-drizzled, sun-dappled skin and all too soon they’re enmeshed in a full-on, knock-down, drag-out orgy of epic proportions during which a mincing vermilion dandy with curling horns, spiked tail, goat ears and an animal skin loincloth shows up first to join in, then to drag you down into an icy pit of fiery torment where you’ll be forced to wear adult diapers and listen to Hall & Oates for THE REST OF ALL ETERNITY. Also, no Nutella. If you’re going to put them on the path to righteousness, you have to make them fear any intrusion, however slight, into their carefully constructed lives of piety.

Hence, shame of the human body. Oh, we give plenty of reasonable excuses for it. The naked form is immediately associated with the sex act, and why would you be naked in public anyway unless you’re a skeezy slutbag? (Thanks, religion.) What about ugly people and fat people? No one should have to see that, right? (We’re already incensed that we have to see them with their clothes on!) And how about those disgusting people who actually want to nurse their infants in public? The sight of an uncovered nipple would surely corrupt our children, even though most of them a) nursed as infants themselves, b) have a parent with breasts, c) will develop breasts in the future and may nurse their own children, or d) will enjoy seeing breasts in the future because, c’mon, who dun like titties? Why, a child might see an adult human being walking along with a boob hanging out and/or a penile erection and be damaged* for the whole history of forever!

Protip, prudes: by creating a taboo around something, you ensure excitement when that taboo is broken.

Frankly, I’m grossly offended by the notion that the human body is inherently evil, dirty or deserving of shame. Okay, yes, sometimes our bodies make gross sights, sounds and smells, but then all we have to be ashamed of is that we ate Taco Bell after a night of hard drinking.

I’m not an exhibitionist, but I do feel oppressed by societal expectations of perpetual clothedness. Lacking evidence, I conclude that this life is probably the only one I’ll get and I feel I should be able to live it fully in all the ways that please me yet do no harm to others. I’d like to go outside and feel the warm sunshine on my hindquarters without also fearing that neighbors are going to call the police because children might see me — oh, I don’t know — trimming my pot plants or juggling chainsaws or basking on a blanket…naked. I’d like to go naked in the world without the sure knowledge that some people will be offended or embarrassed by my nakedness despite my obvious magnificence and that some will likely take it upon themselves to inform me that I am fat or ugly or slutty. I’m not ashamed of my body, but it’s stressful to always be on guard for a hateful confrontation, no matter how truthful it might be. I’d like to be able to go out in skimpy clothing without the nagging feeling that I may be making myself more of a target for sexual assault, without meeting anyone who feels entitled to my body simply by virtue of the fact that I am there and scantily clad. I’m not asking for it unless I’m literally asking for it, clothes or no clothes.

The only reason nudity isn’t considered innocent is because so many people conspire to make it seem dirty. I wish humanity would knock that shit right the fuck off.

The Breath of God

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Is it sweet? Is it sour? A wise woman said it is all around us and inside us. It smells of All Things. It’s of fresh breezes off the ocean, smelling of salt and sea creatures and their secrets. In the breath of God one may perceive the tragedies of every wreck, the lost loves of those buried at sea and the mournful dirge they sing over the waves, will sing forever more. Gold doubloons, ropes and ropes of pearls, chests full of rubies; these all have a distinct aroma that may be enjoyed by the contemplative. And too, one hears the echoes of siren song from a thousand years ago, and the seductive odor of those lovely beasts. The delicious sea-shaped rocks, granules of sand, rotting kelp, jelly lumps of deceased medusa, these flavor the winds that comprise the breath of God. The ocean smells of sex and death, and that is God.

So too it smells of fresh breezes from the hills, from vast fields of waving grasses and dense forests dark with the hearts of craggy spirits and bright with the scent of jeweled berries ripening, bursting with juices, crushed underfoot. Oak leaves crunched down into the black earth, bruised leaves of nettle and dandelion and all bitter things, mistletoe hanging down to tease kisses. Far back in a meadow in a thicket, the body of a hart lies decomposing, the arrow still in his neck and that is on the breath of God. God smells of the fecundity of all growing things and the leavings of when they die. When we die. The alchemical workshops of fox and polecat produce the fecal prima materia within which other life shall cling with tenacity.

So too the breath of God is the noxious fumes of burning tire at a vast dump of human waste. God’s breath must reek of devastating poverty, unwashed bodies, leathery sun-soaked bodies with the ribs poking out. Spoiled milk and sulphorous egg. God’s breath is an abattoir, a charnel house of burning flesh. One must take care to remember that God’s breath is not only the nice smells of jade and amber, of river water flowing over rounded rocks, of grottoes bedecked with moss and ivy and ancient statuary stained with time. The smell of the latrine is as much the smell of God as is the scent of a lover’s body after coitus or a peach pie cooling on a windowsill.  The drunk, smelling of cigarettes and cheap booze, smells of God’s breath as does the bleeding, weeping membranes and shameful secretions of the raped. A child’s tears or a child’s vomit. It’s all God and it is all holy.

We are holy, veiled in the exhalations of the divine and sublime.

Immersion Theatre

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In my dream, I had just learned that our servers were down at work so everyone would go home early. I suspect this reflects the fact I had left work early due to illness. As I walked out into the street (in downtown Portland), I encountered some kind of grand macabre parade. It was both practical joke and advertisement for an event that would occur later that night — a sort of haunted house immersion theatre. I met the two men who were responsible for the event and they seemed to feel that it would not be a success because not many people had bought tickets. (The tickets were $24.95 each.) “It was going to be so good,” they said emphatically. I felt great sympathy for them. They asked if I had bought a ticket and I pulled a huge sheet of them out of my bag, remembering that earlier I had been given these tickets by a madman who was roaming through the nearby streets shouting strange things. The two friends seemed concerned that so many tickets were being given away.

I decided I had to attend the event to show support and felt I could help make their endeavor a success. So I entered the huge mansion that housed the event — it belonged to one of the two friends through inheritance — and began to interact with the characters inside.

This part of the dream is hazy in my memory. I don’t remember exactly what happened in which order. There were all sorts of people inside, some seemed obviously to be actors and others to be audience members, but those lines also blurred. Everything was a trick. I remember entering the mansion several times, each from a different door so as to get a better sense of the entirety of the affair. One time I was led to a set of stairs leading to a basement room. I was told to go down the stairs, but when I looked, I had the distinct feeling that whatever was going on down there was not really part of the event and was taking place without the knowledge of the organizers. Something somewhat sinister…

The Paracosmist

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I am currently working on a paracosm that has been with me since my teens years. I’ve worked on it off and on, abandoned it many times, but it keeps coming back into my head and demanding that its story be told.

A paracosm is a detailed fantasy of an alternate world or reality. It often starts in early childhood and often as a coping mechanism. I began my first paracosm when I was perhaps…eleven? I don’t quite remember. What I do remember is that it involved a boarding school for exceptionally gifted girls and I worked on it sometimes obsessively.

I had lists of names. I knew which girls were roommates, which were friends, which were enemies. I knew their personalities and what their talents were. They were writers and dancers and models and musicians and scientists. I even designed curricula for them.

My current paracosm is a different planet altogether. The genre is definitely speculative fiction; it contains elements both of fantasy and of science fiction. I see a great span of history involving three important characters. They are called madonnas because they are the mothers of different eras and aspects of the culture of their country and their people. The science fiction part comes in to explain some of the fantasy elements. The madonnas are god-emissaries of the players of a grand game. But they don’t even know that.

I talk to my characters a lot. They tell me about their world. History, politics, religion, botany, climate, geology. They occupy my thoughts a great deal of the time. If you see my staring off into space, it is quite likely I am thinking of them.

I believe the story of the first madonna may become my first novel. It is the most insistent of my many, many stories. So watch for that sometime in the somewhat distant future. :-)

Hi, How Are You?

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I’m still here! Life got crazy, my laptop started overheating and crashing everytime I tried to do anything on it, we bought a house (!), etc. Right now I am busily working on an abandoned paracosm that I started when I was sixteen or so. Eventually I might actually write the whole story in narrative form for publication of some sort. More details to follow. Hopefully I can make a habit of updating here more frequently now that things have calmed down…a little. :-)

Shaping The Invisible

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I have several seldom-used outlets haunting the web:

I don’t know what to do with them. How to salvage what they once meant to me. They stand testament to who I’ve been and maybe a glimpse of the Essential Me, if such a thing exists. I’ve been wistful and I’ve been ecstatic in turns, in spades.

Why…can’t I…hold…all these…ghosts?

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Butterfly Song

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I’ve promised myself I will post one text post for every video post so as not to be tempted to only post videos of lovely things. This is my current song obsession. Butterfly Song by Jocelyn Pook from the Untold Things CD. I love Jocelyn Pook’s work with a passion. She is an amazing composer and deserves way more recognition than she seems to get.

And here is her lovely face:

Jocelyn Pook

Jocelyn Pook

100 Things To Do In 2013

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This is an idea I heard about from a friend of a friend who introduced me to Leonie Dawson‘s 2013 Create Your Incredible Year Planner. (Arwen’s review is here on Youtube. Hi Arwen! You’re a doll!) While I ultimately decided that the planner was not my cup of gin, I did find a heck of a lot of appeal and inspiration in the concept of making the list. It’s like a bucket list for your year, as opposed to “maybe someday down the road, hopefully before I bite it.” Arwen’s review gave me the impression that the list should be about things you will do for yourself, but should not be naggy or shaming.

An example from my list is “Keep working on barefoot running – every bit helps” instead of “Lose ten pounds by March, lardbutt.”

The focus here is on health and doing something I enjoy, not on chiding myself for failing to do something I know I should be doing; positive reinforcement rather than continuing a cycle of shame that only leads to more unproductive negative emotions. (Not to say that they never have their place, but that is a topic for another time.)

Coming up with one hundred things can be a challenge. At first I thought there were only fifteen or twenty things I would care about accomplishing in a whole year. I wanted to give myself reasonable goals I knew I could achieve. But then I realized that I was short-changing myself, that my expectations of my ability to manifest were were waaaaay too low (I’m a fucking Wizard, dammit!) and that it is totally okay to DREAM BIG. Maybe even to be ridiculous. The point is to admit to yourself that you want to have a certain experience, however impractical, and then move toward that experience. Be silly and grandiose. Why not?

Here’s another sparkly thing about the list. You have to be okay with not achieving some of the things on your list. It’s totally okay not to get to them all this year. You can transfer them to your list for next year! Or you can decide that you’ve grown and changed and that you want to go in a different direction and discard some or all of the items you didn’t get to. Instead of feeling disappointed by the things you didn’t get to, think about all the things you were able to achieve. Think of how you might get closer to manifesting your desires in the coming year. Most importantly, forgive yourself and move on.

The list is a tool for focusing on what you want to get out of life and encouraging yourself to go toward those things. You might not get to have a gallery opening, but in the process of going toward that goal, you will probably have made some art and some contacts. Every bit accrues. You get more experience. You spiral ever closer to that which you desire.

Below are some of the things from my list! I hope they will inspire you to dream of doing great things, but even the little things are wonderful and a necessary part of the process. I haven’t made it to 100 yet, but I’m putting “finishing this list” on the list right now!

  1. Read as many classics as possible.
  2. Start using my sewing machine!
  3. Do the Five Tibetan Rites as often as possible.
  4. Float in an isolation tank.
  5. Go to a kava place.
  6. Try Chartreuse! (This will likely be my birthday present to myself this year.)
  7. Smile genuinely at strangers more often.
  8. Make eye contact more often.
  9. Write more opinion pieces.
  10. Make more YouTube videos.
  11. Write short stories to publish. (Because dammit, my brain makes beautiful stories!)
  12. Make melomel or metheglin.
  13. Work on learning a language. (Preferably Swedish if I can get Rosetta Stone to work again. Ja!)
  14. Host an unusual theme party. (Lady Gaga poker night, anyone?)
  15. Go to BizarroCon, if they have one this year.
  16. Flirt with girls more often.
  17. Cross dress and use the men’s room. (Scandalous!)
  18. Try dim sum.
  19. Get first aid & CPR cards. (I feel a great need to be qualified to help should an emergency arise.)
  20. Take Portland’s WomanStrength free self defense course.

Guess what else is on my list? Updating my damn blog! CHECK. Some of the things are my list are much more silly or much more risqué than anything here, but you get the idea. Just because it’s silly doesn’t mean I shouldn’t acknowledge my desire and move forward. One of my most-used mantras is: Positive Forward Motion. Always, always. Okay, stop reading this post and go make your list!

And again: thank you, thank you, thank you, Arwen!

Love love love,

Kara Rae