30 March 2007

Your own private little deity

In my previous life, I was an Anthropologist. And then, well, bcs in a life previous to that one I must have been an along-the-kitchen-counters-viscous-fluid-dragging cockroach, which would also account for my disgust for and avoidance of them since no one would willingly sleep with a cousin, karma struck in the form of vet school in Portugal.

[Operative words being, of course, in Portugal. If I had an Euro for every time I want to sob convulsively when someone tells me But I've never heard of students sitting these many exams, how is it possible I'd have long since been able to afford a set of boobs that would in the future allow me to always bring my own personalised instrument table along and make me an extremely mobile and wealthy vet. Have mammaries, will travel. One can dream.]

Back in those ages when papers were still handwritten there was a new sort of Anthropology on its way to being recognised and acclaimed, the Closet Under The Stairs Anthropology - that's what my professors used to call it to my eternal gratitude bcs this makes us all Harry Potters! [*Bows and dedicates herself to a bit of avoda zara*] And it will surprise no-one that I was particularly attracted to the CUSA bcs it is basically abt the Underdog and the Outsider, and hallo, welcome to the mothership. Besides, there's not one saint or procession to be found in their midst - and if you were born without a single ethnographic bone in your body [shoot me now] you'll know how absolutely vital that is. This is how it came to be that I wrote my thesis about a comic character, Mafalda, LONG SHALL SHE LIVE, a 5-year-old girl and her friends who were, for the most part, absolutely precocious, political and hysterical. These were children who in real life would not have lived to see their 10th birthday bcs the parents would have throttled them.

The Closet under The Stairs Anthropology supporters also advised us to do eavesdrop on bus conversations to get a glimpse into The Other's mind [now, saints AND no car, those were hard days]. I would much rather read and could be found doing exactly that on said bus but every so often the natives' pearls of wisdom pierced through my armour, leading me to conclude that the only way I could ever, EVER be a functional cultural Anthropologist, not that it truly crossed my mind [*barf*], would be to be fully armed and 007-ed. I still believe in my fellowmen but it's so much easier to love them when they're silent. Maybe it's simply something that pertains to ample Portie women with tiny-curls perms and flirty moustaches [all right, the moustaches bit is mostly to keep Brazilian prejudice alive. Oh, and they're all called Maria and our men are all called Manel. And we cook using open fire and cauldrons, only since the 1974 revolution we're allowed to call them pots. Honestly.]. Our nation women can be frighteningly vicious and petty. Maybe it's hipoxia, maybe Portugal would be a more productive and colourful country if our eldest burnt their girdles and discovered the blessings of oxygen. I was often struck by how petty our species can be, how whining, how self-enamoured - navelitis as a national hobby, minute and proud.

When I was younger I went through a period of metaphysical doubts, one in particular. It astonished me that I could not be absolutely certain that people and things existed when I didn't see them. For all I knew, they didn't. It's not that I felt all that powerful or self-centred, it was simply that I entertained the idea that we could all be dependent upon every one else's existence to exist in the most literal and parallel-universey way. I later read a book abt a man who lives in a planet so overpopulated that people are assigned special days to exist and kept asleep through the rest of the week, though they don't know it. He was a Thursday, I think, and was mistakenly awoken on a Wednesday and well, what ensued wasn't pretty. And that's what I meant.

I was an adolescent and therefore in the throes of angst and pathos. But what about adults, what is their justification? So many people act and sound as though they, and only they and their kin, somehow experience trouble, tragedy and aggravation. These are the people that can be found measuring their aches against others' and winning every time bcs no one else could possibly have such a hard past and present. These are the people who know that in life pain is unavoidable, suffering is optional, and could I have three of those please. These are the people who will not sign petitions for the creation of natural reserves bcs WHAT ABT PEOPLE, aren't people important as well, but they can't be bothered to think abt Darfur or anything really bcs it's so unpleasant and wouldn't recognise a Human Right unless deprived of it, and even then it would be a Personal Right. These are the people who complain abt pollution and the ever-increasing cost of water and fuel but are too mean to give the voluntary firefighters a cent and are too busy to open the lid of the rubbish bin or recycle. These are the people who wring their hands when a country goes up in flames even as they throw their lit ciggie butts on the ground in the woods (and for that they too should burn. Literally. Please.) Above all, these are the people whose ability to ignore the forest and systematically piss on their very own acid-worn trees is unparalleled.

Let's talk abt God. You all know I'm not the most patient person alive and that my threshold for imbecils is alarmingly low. That, coupled with my perfected Sarcastic Humour As A Defense strategy, means I often have to stop myself from speaking bcs seriously, some people could NOT get encephalitis if they rolled in a cesspool. But, easy as I am, not many things can get my blood boiling as that dreaded God had abandoned me, I no longer am a believer.

Personally, if I cared any less abt whether you believe in God I would be plastered on the floor. I really don't care - and even though I believe in my own notion of God, neither do I think that it's a sacred, taboo thing. I have never in my life equated faith with having morals and you know why? Bcs I was born to my parents and I pay attention. Bcs I talk to people, I listen to them, I read books, I listen to the news. It's a very easy conclusion to draw: people are as different as they could possibly be and and horrid things happen every day to all sorts of people, good and bad. [That is why I only listen to the news in my car now, I have stopped watching them and can assure you I'm a much less anguished insomniac now.] So to hear someone say After my child/wife/mother/cat was killed I could no longer believe in God makes me absolutely furious. GAHHHHHHHHH!!! This
It tolls for me only when it tolls for me, this sudden repudiation of God bcs something has finally affected them in a terrible manner is so dismissive of others as to be almost criminal, for have they been asleep? As much pain as they may now be in, have they been living in a bloody vacuum?? Were they not aware that tragedies happen to millions of people every day across the world? Were they not aware that some people's lives are tragic from birth till death and the interval between the two is mostly unacceptably small? But unaware they were, apparently, and it makes sense if Others, all those Others, populate their lives only if they choose them to - and they choose not to validate any other existence, nothing but emptiness without and within. This poem by Niemöller says it beautifully:
First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.
Oy. Animals are always easier on the soul.

[Hag Pessach sameach!]

PS: I've just found out that
Niemöller, a former Nazi, once said I would rather burn his church to the ground, than to preach the Nazi trinity of ‘race, blood, and soil.’ I reckon sometimes people are not that heavy. And now it feels a bit more like Pessach and deliverance.

13 furballs:

Aurelia said...

Ahhh the passionate Lioness, my dear I learn so MUCH from you. Did you know that I am the living version of Mafalda? I had no idea until I read about your thesis!

But on a more serious note, this is very very good theology (as my husband would say), and wonderful philosophy. Saying that God does these things, really does let humanity off the hook for our own screw ups, doesn't it?

It's like Oprah and her "God has a plan for you" crap. What, so God planned for bad things to happen to the world? Puh-leeze...

Unfortunately, this is exactly what we hear so often when we lose babies, from family, from Priests, from Rabbis, and we begin to believe it. And it makes us hate God...and let people off the hook.

Happy Passover Lioness!

Panda said...

You and Monkey Boy in the same room will make black holes come into existence, I am convinced.

Yes yes and YES....and you know that I am related to some of THOSE people. *shudder*

brooksba said...

You always write with such passion and make such wonderful points. I don't agree with those who blame a higher power for the problems in their lives (in a serious way). To those who blame a higher power for a problem but then state they don't believe, I question the logic behind their decision. How can one blame someone/thing that does not exist?

But, I'm not going to hop on a soapbox. I'll let you ROAR.

Miss you!

CarpeDM said...

Oh, yeah. Knew this woman who once looked me right in the face and said "I don't believe in God because, if there was a God, I would still be with my ex-husband (who was quite the piece of work, mind you, cheated on her and verbally abused her but oh, he was just perfect). I wanted to smack her. If you believe or not believe, that's your business. I'm okay with your personal choice. But please don't tell me your decision was based on something bad happening to you when there are millions of other people in this world who have suffered tragedy as well and still managed to keep their faith. And he was a JERK! It's not even like he was that great of a loss. Sorry. Off on a tangent.

I love it when you ROAR. It is awesome. And I wish I was there so you could make me some vegetables and try to tempt me with fruit. I would eat fruit for you. Well, pineapple.

Beijos, dahling.

Lilian said...

Wow... I love your roaring. It's just so brilliant and profound (I don't like that word in English, actually. "Deep" it pretty bad too, profundo is so much more beautiful and poetic, but I digress, of course and, to make a stupid Brazilian kind of joke, I do it because my name is "Prolix" and my last name "Digression" [originally would be "porque meu nome é trabalho e meu sobrenome hora extra" ou algo do tipo] -- stupid, really stupid, but I kind of enjoy making a fool of myself under special circumstances, like writing blog comments).

Anyway, "retomando" your roaring so brilliant and "profundo" that leaves me in awe. WOW, Mafalda, BTW, is great stuff. I learned about her from this very prolix and digressive Chilean/Brazilian friend of mine. He adored her, of course also because she was Chilean :). So, I think your thesis must be fascinating to read. So, you have a degree in Anthropology then? Wow?

Oh... and sorry about our Brazilian prejudices toward the "mother nation"... it's sad, very sad. I actually hate jokes of all kinds, if you must know, though. I think humor is a great thing and I wish I could be a funnier person, but I just hate it that most jokes are based on prejudice, on putting down other peoples, ethnicities, etc etc...

See, I'm getting inflamed by your awesome rhetoric here. Oh, and it's no rhetoric, it's "truth," yes, 'cause these are words that really mean something and not just "say it" in an empty way.

And now I'm starting to sound all rhetorical and that's not what I want, so I'll stop. I totally get it, though, I do. And I agree. Thanks for the musings. You of the brilliant mind. ;)

(oh, and I just remembered something, I wonder what you'll think of these words. I'm far from brilliant, but I like to think that "eu tenho uma mente buliçosa" -- I have a kind of a "busy" mind -- but more peculiarly so than what it means in English ... if you know what I mean) :)

Kath said...

Dear Lioness, that was so well put. I've often had that thought about people rejecting their faith because of a personal misfortune -- you mean you've gone through life with your eyes open and seen unspeakable suffering, but only when it hit you did it shatter your worldview?? Very odd indeed, very depressing. People are fundamentally self-centered.

I just went off to read some more about Niemöller -- I had forgotten that he had been a Nazi sympathizer. What a strange thought.

I'm so sorry I've been away from here so long -- particularly as I was so very touched at your instructions to swim over from Madeira. You put such a smile on my face. And then I went and missed your birthday, too -- I'm a loser. I hope you had a happy one, and I hope you forgive me.

(P.S. The local equivalent of "yeah, buddy?" Why, I thought you knew! Hee hee)

Diana said...

Just 'yes'.
And 'yes', again.

And: "I still believe in my fellowmen but it's so much easier to love them when they're silent." will bring a sardonic smile to my face again and again over the years.

Oh bloody Yes!

Are the peoples from my corner of the world all descended from the Porties? Blonde, buxom Swiss and German and Polish and Norweigen Porties? Or are we all so very much the same under the self-absorbed skin? Gah.

(I only listen to the news in the car, too. We seem to lose fewer TV screens that way.)

Sarah said...

So lovely.

(PS. As the real Portuguese in my household can't get any time off, I am tentatively going to kidnap my child and bring her to the motherland solo in August so that her great grandmother can meet her before she turns from a squishy little baby into a walking, non-cuddling person...Will you be there in August?)

JoeinVegas said...

You don't believe in God?

Manuela said...


I wrote a big long comment here the other day... and now I see... sniff... it's GONE!

Kirkjerk said...

I think the problem is certain... I dunno, overhype of God.

I don't know how things are presented in other countries and other faiths. But the problem of reconciling a hurtful Universe and a caring God is diminished if you don't go in for the whole "ALL knowing, ALL powerful, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Sees all in the past present and future" model. In making God Transcendent, Abrahamaic faiths have forgotten that "they got some 'splainin to do!" -- you can't explain all this damn badness away by saying its an unfortunate side effect of the blessing of Free Will, or God "testing" us.

Belizegial said...


I stumbled onto your blog today and I am glad to have done so.
My daughter, Joanne, who is a high schooler over here in the tropics is considering taking up veterinary science as a career option.

Do you have an e-mail address where she can correspond with you about this? Her direct e-mail address is belizegial64@yahoo.com
She would be thrilled to hear from you.

from Belize City

Anonymous said...

Where are you? Come back to us!

- The Viscondessa

PS In Minou's and Hum's honor, the word verification's choice for the day is "gfuzy." Which I read as "Fuzzy." Indeed. (Insert loud purring sounds here.)