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Aug. 28th, 2010

julia's snap

Dear Departing Lover

Dear Departing Lover,

You slipped the grip of my walled garden...Collapse )

May. 13th, 2010

julia's snap

Infrastructure and hope

A friend on Facebook asked what it meant that so much anti-oppression organizing is led by folks with a lot of privilege -- specifically, those who are white, cis, het, middle-class, or some combination thereof. Here's an expanded version of my reply.

Read more...Collapse )

Feb. 7th, 2010

julia's snap

Klein bottle

Pick a memory -- the week you spent at your grandparents' cottage, say, when you were twelve. The naptha lanterns were bright; everyone was sitting together, quiet, reading.

At the time, you perceived yourself as contained by such-and-such a space. And, for a short while, it was true. But for the rest of your life, it's the other way around: you will contain that space. You will find its hues flushing to the surface of your experience when the light is so (how?); when the covers of the book fall thusly against your thigh.

Feb. 3rd, 2010

julia's snap

Life algorithm tweak

Instead of going out for dinner with friends, insist that people come over to your place. Cook for them. Make too much. Now you have lunch for tomorrow. You've also saved, like, $12 for dinner and $6 for lunch, so let's say $20 when you figure in tip.


Nov. 9th, 2009

julia's snap

Buddhist Brainwrangling

Buddhism says that rather than rush headlong at difficult thought patterns --- GRRR! DIE, you HORRIBLE THOUGHT! --- you should instead treat them like complicated knots. Which is to say, get curious about what's going on, pay close attention, and then very gently tug at the points where the thought-pattern is weakest.

My interpretation: Any obsessive pattern contains long stretches of time where you have no control. It's like you're asleep. But there are these moments, these instants, where you can see what's going on; where, if you really wanted to, you could jump up and run to the door, grab your shoes and coat, and go for a walk; points where you could grab a phone and call your friends; points where you could grab a cheap novel and distract yourself. But these instants are vanishingly thin slices of time, and if you don't use them immediately, they're gone.

The continuity of the obsessive pattern ultimately hangs on you (a) not noticing these breakpoints, and (b) not having enough hope and faith to take advantage of them quickly if you see them. (Despair engenders a deadly sloth.) This is why Buddhism emphasizes (a) curiosity and (b) loving-kindness, as the former gets you noticing and the latter gives you the preconditions for hope, which is in turn what you need to act quickly enough to take advantage of the breakpoints you've noticed.

The feeling of being trapped in an obsession isn't false, and it applies to 99% of the time spent in the obsession. But, as Leonard Cohen put it, there's a crack in everything --- that's how the light gets in.

Oct. 11th, 2009

julia's snap

Atonement, redemption, fragments.

I told her that I didn't know if I could ever atone for the Forfeit. But I told her that I still even hoped to redeem it. I told her I was afraid that I'd only ever live on fragments, on shards of full personhood --- the sort you get from having lived your whole life, not just thirty-plus.

She told me that you can never finish atoning. Atonement is not something you can finish. Instead, it's how you live. Atonement is living your life in a way that makes the world better for others, so that that what happened to you won't happen to them. So there is no end to atonement, and thus one can never have atoned for a forfeit. The good news is that atonement feels good, it nourishes you, and that it brings joy.

She told me that redemption was harder --- that she hadn't redeemed her own forfeit yet, but that she hadn't given up hope. I asked if art was the only way, and she said no --- that activism could redeem as well, and other things besides.

She told me that I would always live on fragments, as does she. But that the fragments, too, would be a source of joy, and would catch me unexpectedly. And that, in one week's time, in unexpected ways, I would begin to heal.

Sep. 18th, 2009

julia's snap

Energy Efficiency and Buddhism: an analogy

The received tradition of happiness construction for European-originating cultures is about optimizing circumstances to provide the greatest possible number of opportunities for it to arise. So it maximizes conditions which, under normal conditions, tend to produce happiness in most people: i.e. ample food supply, ample consumer goods, travel, etc. These are all very important, but the problem is that happiness also requires that you take the opportunities provided. And in a context of plenty, it is unlikely that anyone will be motivated to get good at this.

The Buddhist tradition seems to be more about exploiting the opportunities already present. Rightly or wrongly, it suggests that even the most meagre life has an abundance of such opportunities, if you know how to process the experience efficiently. While I'm skeptical that any human life has such abundance (it's easy to imagine horrible, barren lives that are barren for reasons having nothing to do with the affect-processing acumen of the subject) it's profoundly true that most of us could be a lot more efficient at how we use the opportunities for happiness that are indigenous to our current lived experience.

Analogously, think of the diverging approaches to handling our dwindling energy supply. You can either increase the supply --- somehow --- or you can remember to wear a sweater,  take the bus, buy local, and a host of other tactics. Back when oil seemed infinite, who among us bothered to make a habit of all of these? Of any of these?

Sep. 12th, 2009

julia's snap

Sketch of a trans ethics/philosophy paper idea

In those close to our pretransitional selves, transition often causes intense feelings of mourning and loss. It is often felt that the transitioning person is 'disappearing' her or his pretransitional self. Trans advocates usually dismiss these intuition-reports, claiming instead that the transitioner's 'true' nature is just now appearing, and that family and friends should be celebrating, not mourning. They often go on to claim that transphobia, not true loss, is behind the reported feelings of mourning and loss.

I'd like to concentrate on the notion of a 'true' self. Heidegger talked about truth as 'alethia', or a-lethe -- 'unforgetting', 'unconcealing'. The catch, however, is that every revealing is also a concealing, and vice versa. Without importing anything from Heidegger's metaphysics, I'd like to say that something analogous to 'alethia' may hold in the case of true selves: that the self revealed in transition conceals the previous self, and this is what is mourned by one's parents. But this is intuitively obvious, and I don't just want to say this. I also want to say that the revealment/concealment of transition actually occurs by a sort of exchange between nonfictional and fictional narratives. What happens, often to the horror of one's loved ones, is that the previous self is ficitionalized, i.e. is revealed as fiction, and concealed as fact. Meanwhile, the new or target self is facticalized, if you'll excuse the neologism. This process occurs not just in the present and future, but retroactively as well. A counterfactual nearby-possible-world trans woman who never transitions is always male, just as an actual trans woman has always been female. Transitioning not only disappears a self, but makes it so that he never really was. No wonder our parents mourn.

Transition is a speech act that can change the past. It is time travel. Magic. Dangerous, wonderful stuff.

Aug. 17th, 2009

julia's snap

*NOORMS*.....*NORRMSS!* *agarggh*

Transitioning is like being in a reverse zombie movie.

One minute you and everyone else is a transphobic zombie wandering around with outstretched arms, looking for gender conventions and expectations to reinforce.  The next, you're like, holy shit, I'm not a zombie, I'm a woman, and then suddenly all the zombies go running at you, trying to bite and reinfect you.

The only solution is to get enough surgery to pass as a zombie.

Aug. 8th, 2009

julia's snap

Unstable mirror

One of the things that began hapening this past fall during the first Bad Stretch was an inability to occupy the space I was living in. I didn't unpack; I didn't buy furniture. I kept living out of suitcases, expecting trouble and flight.
Here I am, three apartments (and no little trouble and flight) later, doing the same thing. Sure it's been adaptive, but I need to stop. It's helping perpetuate a hair-trigger mindset. What is it that keeps me from being able to oh, I don't know, buy a cheap couch on craigslist? Or move belongings out of boxes? Money is tight, but not that tight. Well, OK, after I left $100 on top of the ATM last night, it's pretty tight through Saturday. But then I could let myself buy furniture, right? Right? 

Admittedly, lot of the stuff in the pic on the right is Amy's, and only showed up last weekend. But her stuff merely complements the boxes and suitcases already dotting the apartment. I now live in a warehouse.

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