Sunday, November 28, 2010

On my Mind

Last night I watched War Dance, a beautiful documentary about children in Northern Uganda, on a recommendation from a dear friend. I know a little bit about Uganda from a blog I read, "the Journey", but I had no idea how gorgeous the landscape is. Both the movie and the blog start with pretty simple ideas: children from the war zone preparing for a dance competition, a missionary taking in abandoned girls and forming a family through adoption. But the messages of hope, resilience, love and strength that pour out of both are astounding.

I also got my alumnae magazine in the mail over the Thanksgiving holiday. One of the features was on the recent conference that was held there: "Heritage and Hope: Women's Education in a Global Context". Reading the article, the speakers all seemed to have some good things to say. And then I came to the highlights from Nicholas Kristof's Keynote:
Kristof expressed his distress over the political polarization between US Christian evangelicals and secular feminists, particularly in the area of reproductive health that prevents them from joining forces to combat such abuses as human trafficking.
"There are a lot of Christian evangelical groups in Sudan and Congo that have done fabulous work," he said. "At the end of the day, everybody believes passionately that 14-year-old girls should not be kidnapped and locked up in brothels."
Squeamishness over talking about sexuality also concerns him. "One of the impediments to girls' staying in high school that most people have learned about only in the last decade is the difficulty of managing menstruation," he said. "Girls never raised it with school authorities or aid workers before because the subject was taboo. If you can keep a girl in high school by providing her with sanitary pads, that is such a cheap intervention." pg 25, Alumnae Bulletin, November, 2010
That stopped me cold. He is SO RIGHT. I feel that polarization a lot. As a liberal Christian, I can see both sides of each coin. And meanwhile, there is work that all of us could be doing. We can't do everything, perhaps, but we could do something, instead of arguing amongst ourselves. Right? What can I do? What can we do? What do you think?

P.S. There are [of course] a bunch of non-profit organizations that have sprung out of the above-mentioned projects. Half the Sky, out of Nicholas Kristof's work, Shine Global which supported War Dance, and Amazima Ministries which grew out of "the Journey". Go check them out, and see if they appeal to you. Maybe these groups are the way forward for action.

Monday, November 15, 2010

P.S. on Vampire Post

P.S. I had a thought after writing the vampire post that maybe the whole deal with vampires is they are focused on satisfying their own desires, completely independent from others. [In Twilight, one of the things that makes the Cullens so unusual is that they have formed a "family". And also, they do not kill and drink the blood of humans, only animals.] They live in isolation and from gratification.

I think the idea of vampires has taken hold and taken off at the same time that people have pulled back from religion, or a spiritual life that is outward-focused. Instead of trying to work for something greater than themselves, people are fixated with their own needs and wants.

Need time to mull.....

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Vampires & Christianity

A Facebook friend just asked for opinions on this WashPo article. I had to take some time to collect my thoughts - it's been a busy day - and I felt like Arnold Horshack ["OOoooh, Oooohhhh!!!] I have a lot of ideas about vampires.

The gist of the article is that vampires are the mirror image of Christianity, and the subtext is that Mormons are in the thick of it (I'll get to that in a minute).

I agree. Here's how I see it in the breakdown, Christianity vs. the vampire myth:

Blood: First things first. Christians "drink Jesus' blood" every time they participate in communion (the ritualized remembrance that Jesus gave his life for us, to redeem our sins, and to show God's enduring love for the world.) Through this blood, we humans are given everlasting life.
Vampires drink blood to survive - it is the only nourishment they can handle. They can never get enough, and must feed. Some vampires are called immortal, some "undead." Only through death/killing* are able to drink blood. To become a vampire, they need to share blood, or be bitten by another vampire, often, it seems, through trickery. [To me, this "shared blood" imagery has always reminded me of AIDS, "Share the love, don't share the needle."]

Love/Lust: Love is important to Christians (as it is to most religions), but we are explicitly told that through Christ's blood we have proof of God's love. We must "‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your strength and with all your mind.’(Deuteronomy 6:5) And, ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself." Luke 10:25-28. This is a chaste love, or a love that encourages us to help others (feed the poor, help the sick, etc.) It is not carnal love; lust is considered a sin.
But for vampires, lust is a great tool. Like the image above, a succubus is similar to a vampire - seducing humans to (spiritually) weaken them. Vampires use lust to lure their prey and feed. The opening scene from The Hunger [nsfw], one of my favorite movies of all time, shows this. I thought Twilight handled teenage desire so well. I mean, the books are terribly written, but you get it! And I thought the first movie was excellent at showing lust: [sigh], Edward.

Human Weakness/Vampire Strength: Humans are weak. We struggle, especially with lust, and generally with things we desire.
Vampires use lust and our other desires to ensnare, but they also have "super-human strength."

Light/Dark: Christians talk about "seeing the light." Each of us "has the light of God within us."
Vampires move in the dark, and can't go out into the light. In some vampire stories they will be burned if they go out into sunlight, or will turn to stone. In Twilight, they sparkle. What can I say there, other than the author, like me, grew up in the age of Disco?

* Which brings me to Twilight. I was not aware of the specific reference to Mormonism in vampire lore that is described in the WashPo article, but it does make Stephanie Meyer's take a little more interesting.

Edward Cullen is her vampire hero. He turns most of the dichotomies I've described above on their heads. He's a "vegetarian" vampire, meaning, like "Louis" in Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, he feeds only on animals, not humans. Edward inspires terminal lust in Bella Swan, but refuses to let her act on her wild desires. He begs her to reconsider her wish to "become like him" because he is "concerned for her soul." He believes he is damned to hell for his undead state. The Cullens, like all vampires, have incredible speed and strength, and some of them even have "super powers." Edward's is that he can read other people's and vampires' thoughts - all except Bella's. And lastly, yes, he sparkles in daylight, but he also wants to help humans. He's one of the good guys.

I usually agree with Jung, and I think that vampires do "embody aspects of ourselves that we reject, hide or are ashamed to confront." But now, with Edward being so darned good, what are we to do with this myth?

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Fractal Escape

As a way to escape all my disbelief about the political spin and general ridiculousness that surrounds us in our pop culture, I have turned to Math.

Surprised? Me too. But, with the recent death of Benoît B. Mandelbrot, the man who "discovered" fractals (or at least was the most recent person in modern memory to be able to cogently describe the difficulty of measuring non-straight lines.)

HERE is a great way to make your own fractal images, and wow is it fun!

Enjoy! Thanks BoingBoing for the link.