Category Archives: philosophy

No One Here Gets Out Alive

Published / by Robyn Jane / Leave a Comment

Hello, friends. Yes, it’s been a while. Between health issues, the collapse of my marriage, and Internet problems, I haven’t been up to writing.

But I’ve had a lot of time to think. And a lot of that thinking had a lot to do with life, death, and what really matters to me. February marked the first year since my father died, and it struck me, now that both of my parents are dead, that no one here gets out alive.

I first heard that phrase on a Doors album. The album was Waiting for the Sun, and the song was “Five to One.” Little did I understand at the time just how profound that statement is. No one here gets out alive. Or, as Paul Simon put it,

We’re working our jobs, collect our pay
Believe we’re gliding down the highway
When in fact we’re slip slidin’ away.

Maybe it’s the times we’re living in, or maybe it’s just my age, but I don’t think we’re focusing on the things that matter. We have our computers, and they’re connected to the Internet. We have instant access to more information than can be found in all of the libraries in the world, and what do we do with it? We post pictures of kittens on Facebook, or take pictures of our breakfast and beam them all around the world.

futuremen

Really? We have the ability to end world hunger, end all wars, eliminate poverty, and all we seem to be interested in is fluff. Bread and circuses, man. That’s what the Roman Empire offered its citizens to distract them from the fact that the Empire was crumbling from within.

And that’s what’s happening to the America Empire. It’s crumbling from within. Well, when you elect a clown, you’ve got to expect a circus.

Leonard Cohen sang, “Democracy is coming to the USA.” He was fortunate to die before the reality set in: Fascism is coming to the USA.

On Gods, Goddesses, and a Unifying Force

Published / by Robyn Jane / Leave a Comment

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, King James Version).

I was raised in a Christian household. Indeed, my father was a Lutheran minister, an Air Force Chaplain. I grew up accepting whatever I was taught, never questioning anything. It wasn’t until my senior year in high school—1967, to be exact—that I started to have doubts.

‘67 was a strange year.

1967 the continued presence of American troops increased further and a total of 475,000 were serving in Vietnam and the peace rallies were multiplying as the number of protesters against the war increased. The Boxer Muhammad Ali was stripped of his boxing world championship for refusing to be inducted into the US Army. In the middle east Israel also went to war with Syria, Egypt and Jordan in the six day war and when it was over Israel controlled and occupied a lot more territory than before the war. (See more here.)

The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band provided the soundtrack for most of my life in 1967 and 1968. John Lennon’s infamous quote—so often taken out of context—was true: the Beatles really were more popular than Christ. I say “taken out of context” advisedly: Lennon himself later explained that he wasn’t bragging; rather he was making a sad comment on society at that time.

Christianity no longer held the answers to my questions. “Thou shalt not kill” began to be replaced by bumper stickers exhorting us to “Kill A Commie For Christ.” Any questioning of our government’s foreign policy was countered with “America: Love It or Leave It.”

And I couldn’t reconcile the teachings of Christ wit my father’s chosen vocation of ministering to men and women who were dropping bombs on brown-skinned people thousands of miles away to protect us from invasion. (History has now shown that we were the invaders.)

The following fall when I left for college, I left my religion behind.

And yet….

There was still a part of me that wanted to believe. Over the next several decades I experimented with various religions and philosophies until I found The One True Faith®.

I stayed with the Baha’i Faith for almost 40 years. It wasn’t until I started my transition that its ban on same-sex relationships affected me personally, and I began to doubt the validity of yet another Abrahamic religion that wanted to control who I could and could not love.

So I told myself, “Screw it. There’s no religion capable of dealing justly with the way I was created, so to hell with them all. I’m a fucking atheist.”

Ironically, that was the same year my wife gave me a copy of Merlin Stone’s seminal work, When God Was A Woman. 

Here, archaeologically documented, is the story of the religion of the Goddess. Under her, women’s roles were far more prominent than in patriarchal Judeo-Christian cultures. Stone describes this ancient system and, with its disintegration, the decline in women’s status. Index, maps and illustrations. (Goodreads)

I still wasn’t ready to give up my disbelief and embrace goddess-worship. It all still seemed too us. v. them and divisive. I had long ago left behind any concept of an anthropomorphic deity, and I wasn’t about to go back to that ancient system.

And yet….

Quarks. Quasars. The Strong Nuclear Force. Gravity. Electromagnetism. Dark Matter. There seems to be something, some common thread, running through all creation and holding it all together.  And for lack of a common definition, various peoples at various times have put names to it, in order to be able to talk about it.

Some of those names are God, Allah (which translated from the Arabic means “God), Cosmic consciousness, The Force, or any one of thousands of other names of gods and  goddesses that have been used down through history. Even in the Mel Brooks/Carl Reiner comedy sketch, The 1,000 Year-Old Man, there was a strong, irresistible force. “We called him Phil.”

And while I reject any anthropomorphic object of veneration, I do believe that whatever we call whatever it is that binds us all together and keeps our atoms from flying apart, that force—creative in nature—is most likely feminine rather than masculine.

And so I worship no one. I adhere to my own private creed, and do not embrace any formal belief system. When I let go of religion, I let go of guilt, of trying (and failing) to measure up to any standards.

I sleep better at night.

 

Robyn Jane

It’s The Most…SOMETHING…Time Of The Year

Published / by Robyn Jane / Leave a Comment

If it’s true, as Ol’ Possum claimed, that April is indeed the cruelest month, then the end of summer in Rochester is the most schizoid time of year. A time when you turn the heat up on your way to work, and run the air conditioner on the way home. A time when I still leave the bedroom window open at night for fresh air, but when I also add blankets to stay warm.

I turned off the bedroom fan earlier this week, and I’ll most likely put it back in the closet until next year. The one in the living room is still on, though, because the morning sun tends to keep that part of the house warm.

And I’ve started to think more and more about baking bread again. In the summer, when it’s 90ºF/32ºC, the last thing I want to do is to turn on the oven. But now that things are starting to cool off a bit (it’s only supposed to reach 63ºF/17ºC today), the thought of a nice slice of bread fresh from the oven, slathered with butter, or a warm slab of cheddar-onion-jalapeño cornbread, dripping with honey, seems more and more appetizing.

Even my wardrobe is changing. Fewer skirts and more jeans are the order of the day, and I’ve taken to wearing a shirt over my tank tops and camisoles.

When I lived in Northern California, autumn meant The Crush. No, this wasn’t some punk band, but rather the time of year when the grapes were harvested and crushed as the beginning steps of making wine in Sonoma County and Napa and Alexander Valleys. The Crush left the air redolent of crushed grapes, a heady, almost intoxicating scent that lasted for days.

Rochester has no grapes, and so no Crush. And even though we’re not that far from the Finger Lakes wine region, we’re too poor to afford the gas to get us there…even if we did fill the truck yesterday for less than $30.00–something we’ve not done in years.

But what we do have are deciduous trees, and deciduous trees mean glorious displays of color as the the leaves begin to die. And our displays in the city aren’t nearly as famous as those of, say, New Hampshire or Vermont, they certainly outshine those of Napa Valley.

A Time For Remembering

For me, the end of summer and beginning of autumn also are times for reminiscing. One of the first songs I learned on the guitar had the lines

“And now a quarter of my life is almost past
I think I’ve come to see myself at last.
And I see that the time spent confused
Was the time that I spent without you.”
John Sebastian, My Darling Be Home Soon

Now, at 65 years of age, I think I can safely say that two-thirds of my life have probably passed, and that as a trans woman, I’ve finally come to be myself at last. And I see that the time spent confused was just that: time spent confused. It wasn’t time wasted and it wasn’t (as I used to think) time spent fucked up: it just was.

I once swore I’d never make philosophy jokes, and I’ve tried to hold myself to that promise—but I Kant. If by philosophy we mean a love of knowledge, then I can honestly claim not just to be a philosopher, but to have been one for my entire life—despite my early school years and their attempts to destroy that love of knowledge.

“When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school
It’s a wonder I can think at all
And though my lack of education hasn’t hurt me none,
I can read the writing on the wall.”
Paul Simon, Kodachrome

Three Remarkable Women

If I seem to be better-educated or more well-read than other people, I credit three people in particular for instilling in me my life-long love of learning: my mother, her sister, and my 12th grade English teacher.

I rarely saw my mother relax without a book in her hand. With the benefit of hindsight (which is always 20-20) I realize that it was her favorite leisure time activity. My father, himself no intellectual slouch, once told me that my mother was the smartest person he had ever met.

Her sister, my Aunt Louise, is now a retired high school English teacher. Christmas and birthday gifts from her were always books or records (for you younger readers, “records” were vinyl long-playing albums). She also taught me critical thinking. I still remember the time I described someone as “fascist” and she called me out for not knowing what the word meant. So now I am always sure to look up the meaning of an unknown word, although some words were hard to look up before the advent of the Internet. Let’s face it, Webster’s New Abridged didn’t have an entry for motherfucker.

Aunt Louise was also in awe of my mother’s intellect.

So even before I was a teen, these two women instilled a lifelong love of reading.

Mrs. Alberti was one of only two teachers who actually taught me anything new in my last two years of high school. (The other was Mr. Cardwell, my Texas History instructor who told us that the real reason for the revolt at the Alamo was not liberty but the fact that Mexico had outlawed slavery, and the Anglo citizens of its northernmost territory wanted to keep theirs in bondage.) Mrs. Alberti was the only teacher I ever had who admitted she was wrong and I was right on an essay I wrote for her class.

She was also responsible for getting me assigned to an advance-placement English class my freshman year in college. Her teachings and lessons cemented my love of learning.

A Final Influence

“You gotta move
You gotta move
You gotta move, child
You gotta move
Oh, when the Lord gets ready
You gotta move”
Mississippi Fred McDowell, You Gotta Move

Over the years I have come to understand what part Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) has played in my life. While the hyperactivity has lessened over the years, as a toddler it was so bad that my mother had to put me in one of those chest-harness/leash outfits to keep me safe. It still manifests in my need to get up and walk around whenever I’m writing and need to clear my head.

The way it affects my thought processes is it allows me to make the connection from A to E without consciously being aware of B, C, and D. A professor I once had said it was like watching lightning: it travels all over the place, but finally reaches its target.

And it’s also how we started out with the end of summer and finished with ADD.