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Posts Tagged ‘Janet Mason author’

 

Today is Pentecost in the Christian tradition. There was a time, when the word “Pentecost” just conjured little white churches in central Pennslytucky that I knew with a shudder that I should avoid. (Even driving by on the turnpike was a hazard.) But I am now past that. I am really am curious.  I researched the Christian holiday of Pentecost a while ago for my novel The Unicorn, The Mystery (being published later this year by Adelaide Books) and found that doves were routinely shoved through a little hole in the ceilings of cathedrals in the Middle Ages. (Doves represented the Holy Sprit and before that they were associated with Aphrodite.)  Perhaps there really is nothing new.

The minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church I attend (now digitally) is from a Christian-background and mentioned that today was the holiday of Pentecost in his background. Then he went on to talk about the events of the day which truly are grim.

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Later,  I received two comments online relating to Pentecost. The first comment was from a colleague I’m friendly with. She quoted a passage from what I assume is the Acts chapter in the New Testament. The quote ended with: “ever with the cross that turns not back.”

I approached this Bible verse like a riddle. To me, not turning back is persistence. 

The second comment I received was from a not so friendly source. It was written in response to my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders. He told me that Christ demands the complete and full surrender of self. Then he said, “This not only includes acting upon same sex attraction but all sin.”

I have to confess to being raised secular— something that I have always considered a blessing — so I may have missed something. But I think I was just insulted.

I’m a practicing Buddhist.  That’s my root religion in my Unitarian Universalist faith. As such, I rarely comment on anything personal about my harassers. But I looked at this guy’s Twitter profile and saw that he looked more than a little light in his loafers. He is young looking and rather effeminate. In fact, if he hadn’t just insulted me, I’d think we both played for the same team.

He described himself as a “Catholic who’s doing his best and discerning the priesthood.” Now I don’t know what the latter part of that means. But I do understand the first part. The question is what is he doing his best at? Does he mean that he’s doing his best in his avoidance of same sex attraction? If so, what is his best? Does he act on his same sex attractions now and then?

I hear that thinking you’re engaging in a sinful act might make things seem forbidden, and therefore “hotter.” But to me, it’s easier to believe that there is no such thing as “sin.”  I’ve heard it said that Jesus never said one word about “homosexuality” being a sin.

I’ve come to understand that Jesus is about justice.

In my research today about the holiday of Pentecost, I learned that the holiday is often called White Sunday or WhitSun. And I learned that the wearing of red is customary.

If it is White Sunday — then it is time for white people to stand up for justice. And this time — as in too many instances — it’s about racial justice. As a practicing Buddhist, I try to stay away from anger. But people have a right to their anger and often when it starts, it can’t be stopped. It’s perfectly understandable.

The senseless murder of George Floyd is an outrage. Thinking of yourself as above the law or as the law — is a mindset that has to be stopped. 

The golden rule of ethics (included in the New Testament) of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, is a creed that we live by.

It’s time for justice.

“…. ever with the cross that turns not back.”

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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This piece is airing worldwide this week on This Way Out (TWO), the syndicated LGBT radio show.  Click here to listen to the entire show.

(TWO is the first international LGBTQ radio news magazine.)

 

Beautiful Aliens

A Steve Abbott Reader

Edited by Jamie Townsend

“Will We Survive the Eighties” is the hypothetical question that titles an essay written by Steve Abbott, a gay man and a leading figure in the 1980s avant-garde literary community based in San Francisco.

In 1992, when attending Naropa University’s creative writing program. I was scheduled to have a one on one critique session with Steve Abbott – but he wasn’t there. He had attended the program and had given a reading and a workshop but had to leave early because he was sick with full blown AIDS.

Nearly three decades later, in 2019, Beautiful Aliens, A Steve Abbott Reader edited by Jamie Townsend was published by Nightboat Books in New York.

Abbott survived the 1980s but just barely. He died in 1992 when he was forty-eight.

Abbott was many things – a poet, critic, novelist, and poetic cartoonist – but as his daughter Alysia Abbott (the author of Fairyland, a memoir about her relationship with her father), writes in the afterward of Beautiful Aliens:

“…his work was about building community. It was about hand-illustrating posters for the readings he organized…..It was about going out and engaging young men and women in classrooms but also in the cafes, bars, and bookstores around San Francisco, sharing his vast knowledge and encouraging them to add their voices to queer culture, in whatever way they could, even if that culture wasn’t getting mainstream attention. He knew how important it was to support voices on the edge, writers that were pushing boundaries and weren’t interested in keeping their readers comfortable.”

I found Beautiful Aliens, a selection of Abbott’s writings, mesmerizing.  For one thing, there were so many overlapping areas that we had in common – queer writing conferences that were important to me, and favorite poets and writers such as the lesbian icon Judy Grahn.

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I also found that Abbott was a writer who, in so many ways, was ahead of his time, and still has much to tell us.  In his prescient essay “Will We Survive the Eighties,” Abbott writes:

“It is clear that what we are doing now … is killing us all. And as we project these attitudes onto other species and towards the Earth’s ecological system, we are jeopardizing our very planet. I would argue that we can no longer afford to see anything – not even ‘gay liberation’ or our survival — as a separate issue needing a separate cultural or a political or a spiritual agenda.

This does not mean I intend to renounce my sexual orientation, far from it. Even in times of sadness or loneliness, it remains my greatest source of strength and joy.”

 

I found Beautiful Aliens, A Steve Abbott Reader edited by Jamie Townsend, published by Nightboat Books in New York to be that rare thing – a voice from the past that addresses the present.

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

 

THEY Scottie

 

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A friend lent me The Library Book by Susan Orlean and I have been savoring it. It reminds me of the Before Times — right before. This friend had joined my partner and me for a vegan lunch and it was one of the last times we went out.

One of the last places I thought of going was to our local library. I had reserved a book and it was waiting for me.  I never went. A day later the library closed its doors as we slid into quarantine.

So in this week that is National Library Week, I am reading The Library Book, and remembering what safe and holy places I have always found libraries to be.  As a practicing Buddhist, I am good at staying in the moment, but I have to admit I miss being able to go the library. It is an introvert’s dream, perhaps, being surrounded by silence and books.

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I learned a few things from the book that totally made sense — like the fact that libraries have a long history of being burned (the author found that the Nazis, among others, were known to burn books before they burned people). I also learned that  libraries have long been centers of refuge in various ways during a crisis.

I read in my library’s email, that there are many library services still available. You can go to your library’s website to find out what you can do online.  I use Hoopla — which is a national library service available through your local library — for ebooks, audiobooks and some movies and find it to be an excellent resource.

So this week and every week, remember that you don’t have to go to the library to use the library. Stay home, stay safe and keep your mind free.

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon),click here.

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We all have a story to tell.  And telling that story requires you to take yourself seriously as a writer.  That is the name of the class that I am teaching through the Mt. Airy Learning Tree. Previously when I taught at a physical location, the class was limited to those who lived in the area. Now I am offering the class via Zoom (an online video chat), so you can take the class from where ever you are. You need a computer and a webcam. A webcam can be purchased separately and attached to your computer — if there isn’t one already installed in your computer or tablet.


For more information on the class (Taking Yourself Seriously as a Writer) which is very reasonably priced and starts next Thursday on April 23rd, you can go to this link.

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To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

 

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Here’s links to two funny videos addressing the current crisis. I’m posting them in order of hilarity. The first is an Italian grandma offering us her pearls of wisdom and the second is a song parody by Randy Rainbow.

 

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To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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I have been rather amazed at the resilience of people in my many communities — particularly in my queer community. Perhaps it is because we have been through this before.  The AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s left its devastating mark on entire communities; it was global; and we were at first not sure how it was spread. It’s important to remember that queer people fell in love and partnered in that era — including my partner and myself.

One of the ways that my partner and I are getting through this crisis is by staying connected to our faith based community. Kudos to our minister Reverend McKinley Sims (Kin) who went immediately to a digital format.  The Unitarian Univeralist Church of the Restoration (in Philadelphia) already had a live-streaming platform which has been strengthened and the minister also did the service via Zoom so we could hear people’s joys and concerns. Kin gave a rousing sermon and opened with a pre-recorded rendition of “I just want to celebrate another day of living.” Hope was inspired. I’m sure that was intended.  There was also excellent live music, with the musicians maintaining the new social distance in the church that was empty of the congregation.

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photo by Gloria Rohlfs

 

Another way that I am dealing with this period is by understanding the scientific history of this pandemic. Plant Based News just posted an excellent video (which you can see on YouTube). It featured a 2015 talk by Dr. Greger who is an important author, plant-based diet advocate and a physician with a background in infectious disease. His talk was spell-binding. Not only did he predict the current pandemic, but he connected the history of infectious diseases to the history of the domestication of animals for human consumption. In particular, he connects the spread of influenzas to the factory farming of chickens. I took away that if the Corona Virus hadn’t spread from wet markets in a region in China that it would have spread a different way. It still might. It’s up to us to change and stop providing a market for diseased chicken — or any chicken.

 

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This morning, I helped with a Unitarian Universalist service based on theme of International Pig Day.

The YouTube video of my talk  is below. The complete text of my talk is below that.  The service took place at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration on Stenton Ave. in Philadelphia.

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.” – Wilbur, the pig, talking about Charlotte, the spider, in Charlotte’s Web, the classic by E.B. White.

I was very excited when I learned that today is national pig day. National Pig Day was started in Texas – in fact it was started by Reverend McKinley’s art teacher, Ellen Stanley. Now it is an international holiday to honor the uniqueness of the pig.

I’ve always been drawn to pigs. Perhaps, it is their innate intelligence made obvious to me at a young age when I read Charlotte’s Web.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons that it was so easy for me to move to a plant-based diet last fall which I did for health reasons. This means that I only eat plants and cut out all animal products.

My partner Barbara and I had been moving toward a plant-based diet for several years prior to this because of compassion for the animals and concerns for our own now and future health.

So, when I started seeing an acupuncturist and she emailed me a link to a YouTube video of a physician talking about how a low-protein plant-based diet is the best way to avoid kidney stones, I was right there. The universe must have heard me, because the minute I gave up dairy, the muse descended in the form of a talking dairy cow.

For two and a half months, I wrote — almost without stopping — a novel titled Cinnamon: a dairy cow’s path (and her farmer’s) to freedom. And while I am still in the revision mode, this is the fastest I ever wrote the first draft of a novel. The larger arc of this pro-cow, pro-farmer novel is about the possibility of change.

Call it quantum physics or magic, everything around me seemed to line up for the writing. We had been visiting the cows, the pigs, the sheep and their offspring, the lambs, at Saul agricultural high school on nearby Henry Avenue for several years.  I never anticipated, however, that I would be writing a novel with a talking dairy cow as a narrator. The other narrator is a female dairy farmer.  The farmer and the cow, who she named Cinnamon, become friends which leads to a happy ending – something that is happening all over the world.

The writing of this novel was very intense. I knew that the dairy cows didn’t have an easy time of it – to say the least.  But I learned so much that I went through a period of consciousness raising. In spiritual terms, I began to see the beingness of the farm animals reflected back to me.  I could especially see this in their eyes.

I did write a novel – meaning it is fiction, which loosely interpreted means I made things up. But my farmer narrator, like me, has health issues that lead her to a plant-based diet.  Also, like me, she is lucky enough to have a partner who loves to cook for her. Like me, she starts to get better. And in the meantime, she becomes more connected to the farm animals. Like others who went to a plant-based diet, I became more compassionate – and that compassion extends to the animals, to myself and to the world.

I was delighted to learn that the Unitarian Universalist Association has an Animal Ministry. You may have seen the ad in UU World with a plate at the top with two eggs for eyes and a turned down piece of bacon under that – making a frowny face. A quote on the ad reads, “The United Nations says that a global shift to a plant-based diet is crucial to save the planet and to feed the growing population.” The website quotes the prominent Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh who has said, “Making the transition to a plant-based diet may be the most effective way an individual can stop climate change.”

This quote from Tich Nhat Hanh bears repeating:

“Making the transition to a plant-based diet may be the most effective way an individual can stop climate change.”

As my acupuncturist says, “By moving to a plant-based diet you are improving your health, helping the animals, and the planet as well. It seems like a no brainer.”

I would agree. We have plenty of prominent activists who espouse plant-based diets. These include noted activist Greta Thunberg and actor/activist Leonardo di Caprio. And we have the actor Joaquin Phoenix who, in his acceptance speech at the Academy Awards, talked about how we have descended into an egocentric world view and about the fact that everything is connected – including human rights, animal rights, and the future of the planet.

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If you are interested in learning more, I recommend Plant Based News which has videos on You Tube — many of them featuring the noted cardiologist Dr. Neal Barnard.

In my novel, the dairy farmer feels very guilty that she sold her pig – who at the time was the size of a small adult human. She sold the pig to pay taxes on the land, which has been in her family for generations. Eventually, when she figures out that she can do things differently – by creating a farm animal sanctuary on her land where her animals can live out their natural lives – she adopts a new pig and names him Wilbur.

Like any writer, I did my research. Pigs and their lineages can be very complex. But here’s some interesting and fun facts that I learned about pigs: Farm animal pigs are direct descendants of wild boars which I understand can be very dangerous.  A boar is an uncastrated male domestic pig, but a boar can also mean a wild pig of any gender.

Pigs are known to be very intelligent. They are considered the fifth most intelligent animal in the world. Some say they are even more intelligent than dogs.

So, in this season of Lent, whether you identify as a Christian or not, consider being kind to your arteries as well as to pigs, by giving up pig products for a while – and see how you feel.

In doing so, you might reflect on the seventh Unitarian Universalist Principle:.Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

 

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To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

 

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C903602C-5D7B-4D09-B3C0-7B16D466C828Happy fat (vegan) Tuesday!

After a vegan lunch (at Malelani’s Cafe on Germantown Avenue) we stopped at a newish bakery (The Frosted Fox also on Germantown Ave.) to see if they had vegan cookies. They do carry a small selection but they were sold out.  That they carry vegan cookies at all was something that I took as good news. However, no vegan cookies were available for us.  But the vegan lunch at Malelani’s Cafe was wonderful.  Malelani’s is a Greek restaurant with healthy food and several vegan options.

Since going to a plant-based diet last fall for health reasons, I’ve taken off about twenty pounds, feel great, and always feel full.  Weight loss was a side benefit for me as were a number of other conditions that magically went away  I also wrote a novel with a talking dairy cow as a narrator. (More about that later.)

In researching Fat Tuesday I found that it has religious origins — the feast in preparation of the fasting period called lent that Christians celebrate. (I suspect that before that, it was a tradition the pagans celebrated.)

Everything is reinvented.

So happy vegan Fat Tuesday!

 

 

 

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When I first read the announcement of the Church of England saying that sex was okay only for married heterosexual couples and those in same sex couples — including clergy — are expected to abstain, I sucked in my breath.

I am a Unitarian Universalist with a root “religion” or practice of Buddhism. I was raised secular and Buddhism feels the most natural to me and I do have a practice, so I check that box.

Despite not expecting that much from the patriarchy, I keep expecting more from religion. Admittedly, I know very little about the Church of England apart from what I just searched on the internet. But I do know that it is Episcopalian. I have an English background and my forward thinking feminist mother thumbed her nose at this religion when she left, burned her bibles and became a card carrying atheist.

I expect lots of people will be leaving the Church of England after this announcement.

So, my first Buddhist prayer is for the children of people who stay in this religion, who come out (because you never know) and in some way internalize the message that they are less than. And sadly, these children may internalize self hatred in ways that cause harm to harm themselves. In the past, plenty of LGBTQ youth have taken their own lives.  But we live in a different world now and my hope is that being in that world helps these young people.

My second Buddhist prayer is for the people who stay in the church.  It is a Buddhist philosophy that the person who hurts others, hurts himself or herself. My hope is that the people who stay in this religion can change it so that it is not oppressive to others and to themselves.

My third Buddhist prayer is for the institution of this religion. This is a hard prayer because it’s easy to be angry and to say the Church of England deserves what it has coming. So it’s time for me to step back and to truly have compassion for the institution.

Like the government, religion is meant to serve the people (not the opposite). Religion is not meant to serve institutions — including churches and seminary schools. When religion does not serve people they are free to leave and form community elsewhere. This is why so many churches have gone out of business. So my hope for the religious institutions is that they understand this before it is too late.

I came to religion later in life. When I look back on my religious journey on the past five years or so,  I realize that I have been searching for the answer of what exactly religion is. This morning, with the help of the new minister — a smart young man who is a real natural — I realized the answer. Religion is designed for us to realize that everyone is sacred. This includes LGBTQ people, our families and our allies.

DCA0522F-70DE-4A90-9802-D500AEF27DFAReligion is captured spirituality and it is available to everyone.  So on my walk this afternoon, I thought and felt the words of Native American poet — and the U.S. poet laureate—

 

 

 

To pray, you open your whole self

To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon,

To one whole voice that is you.

…. “Eagle Poem” by Joy Harjo

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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This piece is airing worldwide this week on This Way Out (TWO), the syndicated LGBT radio show.  Click here to listen to the entire show.

(TWO is the first international LGBTQ radio news magazine.)

When I began reading Have You Seen This Man? The Castro Poems of Karl Tierney (2019 Sibling Rivalry Press), I thought the poems of Karl Tierney might be tragic, but instead found them tragically funny – in a way that often makes the soul snicker. I thought the poetry might be tragic because they were brought to us by tragic circumstances.  The editor was friend and literary executor of the author Karl Tierney who in 1994 became sick with AIDs and took his own life in 1995 when he was 39-years old.  The editor, Jim Cory, is a noted poet and essayist in his own right.

Tierney never had a book published during his lifetime, but his poems were published in auspicious places such as the American Poetry Review and Exquisite Corpse.

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Karl Tierney as a poet also had his serious side. In the poem “Gertrude Stein to Alice B. Toklas,” he adopts Gertrude’s voice and writes in part of the poem:

 

Our car is …beautiful and blue

and we are beautiful and not blue

and we are fast driving

and do not feel a bit dangerous or dirty.

We have the radio on…

 

In his poems about gay life in San Francisco where he lived, Karl turned his keen poetic observations on life around him.  In “Adonis At The Swimming Pool,” Karl starts with:

“Who dances his thighs across the pool’s water,

spread on a mattress bloated from his breath.

Whose ripe-with-sun skin cuts through the spray

With the alingual grace of a kiss to my brow.”….

And ends with:

“Whose wet curls stroke the evening’s earliest gasp

into naughty tones and murmurs of lust.

Who would have me discussed in seedy cafés

and ruin me since I’m deaf to this hiss

behind the teeth in that insipid smile.”

From Tierney’s take on “lipstick lesbians,” MacDonna, and gay life in the Castro at a certain point in time, I found Have You Seen This Man? The Castro Poems of Karl Tierney (from Sibling Rivalry Press) to be a page-turner of a good read.

 

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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