Nyssa's Hobbit Hole

Month: October 2018

Our church in schism: Russia vs. EP

I’ve waited to write about this as I gathered information on what it means, and as I waited for my priest to get his instructions on how to proceed.

The schism between the Russian Patriarch and the Ecumenical Patriarch is very grave.  While here in the Diaspora, we’re half a world away from this and have nothing to do with it, we still are affected by it.

There are many repercussions in America to being told that Russians can no longer commune or share any other sacraments with those under the Ecumenical Patriarch (EP; includes the Greeks in America).  The following is taken from how my priest explained it, along with my own thoughts:

Here, we are of a minority faith, so the members of all the different Orthodox jurisdictions come together.  Maybe we have Greek churches, Russian churches and the like, but we also have Pan-Orthodox churches and services, such as an annual Vesper service in this region.  And a Russian is welcome to come into a Greek church and commune, and vice versa.  Which is especially necessary because many communities have only one type of Orthodox church for miles around.  I read about churches which have members from all over the place: Russians, Greeks, Serbians, etc. etc.

The schism is not because of dogmatical differences, as my priest says, but because of two hierarchs disagreeing.  It’s the biggest schism since the Big One in 1054.  He sees it as a great tragedy.

The EP, from what I understand, has not broken communion with Russia, though Russia has with him.  My priest says that Russians are welcome in our church, even if they don’t take communion with us.

The trouble is that Russia has said that its members are not allowed to share any sacraments or even services at EP churches.   And ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia) supports the actions of the Russian patriarch and has also separated from the EP.

In my own church is someone from the Crimea who loves our church.  She’s too far from churches of her own jurisdiction to go there often.  A few weeks ago, she could come to our church without any hindrance or feeling like it’s a sin.  Now, she’s being told she can’t.  Not by US–we tell her we want her to keep coming, and Father will also let her keep coming–but by Russia.  And her mother.  Our church members told her this is men arguing, and that what matters is what’s in her heart.

And we’re just one church.  Just the thought of how many people this is going to affect, all the disruptions it will cause in the Diaspora, people who can no longer commune with their own families (ie, Russian married to Greek), people who no longer have a church to go to, breaking of Pan-Orthodox events…. When the split happened, I read on an Orthodox forum about someone who was supposed to be a godfather in a few days.  Now all of a sudden, he couldn’t do it.  Imagine the scramble to find a godparent, and after the parents had already decided they wanted him to do it!  Imagine the honor which was ripped out of his hands.

As one person said last week after the service: And they wonder why church attendance is dropping!

 

Black Forest Dream

I whipped up the following last week for our yearly Writer’s Club Halloween party.  For a couple of days I’ve thought about posting it here, since it got a good response.  Then I heard that another of our writers posted his story.  So that spurred me to get it done.  Here is the story:

 

I lay underneath a pine tree in the Black Forest, asleep.  I had hiked for so long, alone, that I thought a little nap would quickly refresh me for the walk home.

A bit of fiendish laughter woke me up–or so I thought.  All around was so dark that I couldn’t see who it came from. I sat up; something clanked against my chest.  I patted my chest with my hand until I found an amulet of some sort, shaped like a bat.

“What is this?” I cried.  Somebody giggled again, then scurried away, stirring up pine needles.  I got up to continue on my way home.

Was something watching me?  What could be here?  Those were just fairy tales, stories meant to scare children.  There were no ghosts or goblins or witches or fairies in the Black Forest.  Though an animal was a far more likely possibility, so I pushed my legs faster.

Till I tripped.  My backpack pulled me over and my ankle twisted.  I bent over and held onto it, hoping it was just a sprain that would be over with quickly.

What did I trip over?  That dratted giggling again!

“Show yourself!”

A mist, even darker than the blackness, swirled around the treetops, falling down ever faster toward me.  It leaped off the trunk right over my head, and landed on the ground in front of me.

“Let me help you with that,” it said.  “You are the one chosen by my goblin slave.  Very pretty–good choice!”

The mist dissolved into a black-clad human shape, a man, tall with black hair and slanted, onyx eyes.  He bent down and touched my ankle, which stopped hurting.

“Who are you?” I said.  Goblin king?  Vampire?

“I am–”

I awoke to a moth landing on my nose.  Dang it, right when I was about to find out!  I sighed and dragged myself up off the ground, resigned to finish my hike out of the forest.

Something clanked against my chest.  I looked down and found a bat-shaped amulet.

END

Rapists apologizing–or not

I just read this article by Deborah Copaken.  She’d been raped 30 years ago, but didn’t tell anyone at first.  She then told the intake psychologist at her University Health Services, but was advised not to report it to the police, because of the irreparable damage it would do to her: She wouldn’t be able to live in Paris as she planned, and her sex life would be dredged up and judged during the trial.  She didn’t tell her parents till years later–and did it through a memoir, not to their faces.  Due to the Kavanaugh hearings, she finally got the courage to write to her rapist and confront him.  His response:

And do you know what this man did, less than half an hour later? He called me on the phone and said, “Oh, Deb. Oh my god. I’m so sorry. I had no idea. I’m filled with shame.”

We spoke for a long time, maybe 20 minutes. He had no recollection of raping me, just of the party where we’d met. He’d blacked out that night from excessive drinking and soon thereafter entered Alcoholics Anonymous. But that, he said, was no excuse. The fact that he’d done this to me and that I’d been living with the resulting trauma for 30 years was horrifying to him. He was so sorry, he said. He just kept repeating those words, “I’m so sorry,” over and over.

Suddenly, 30 years of pain and grief fell out of me. I cried. And I cried. And I kept crying for the next several hours, as I prepared for Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday of forgiveness. And then, suddenly, I was cleansed. Reborn. The trauma was gone. All because of a belated apology.

I also know someone who was accused of assault many decades after the fact.  He did not, could not remember ever doing such a thing.  But instead of denying it, he apologized anyway.

Contrast this to how Kavanaugh reacted to being accused, even though many witnesses have confirmed that he used to get blackout drunk when he was in high school/college.  Can’t he even consider that he might have done it and just doesn’t remember any of it?  Why can’t he apologize when others have done so for sexual crimes they don’t even remember?

I’ve also thought about–with all this going on, and #MeToo–finally confronting Phil and Shawn, all these years later.  But I wonder if it would do any good, because haven’t I already done this, with nothing good coming of it?

They were not drunk or on drugs when they did these things; they were fully conscious and remembered later.  But they did not apologize.

While Shawn did do a lot of pushing to get me to do things I was not initially comfortable with because of my upbringing, he didn’t go against my will.  That was not his transgression.  Rather, after all the pushing, I eventually began to want what he wanted to do, so I let him do it.

But then he blamed me for not saying no to him, for letting him do it, and I’d be subjected to HOURS of him scolding me (well into the wee hours of the morning, even 5am) for letting him do it.

I always let him take the lead, because of these scold sessions; I never, ever started things, out of respect for what he’d said the last time.  Yet he still blamed me for the things he did this time.

I never understood why he’d blame me.  I never could figure out how he could live with justifying himself like this by turning around on me what he himself had done.  It was definitely an abusive relationship, full of gaslighting and DARVO.  And like many abuse victims, I was too in love, and too involved in it to recognize it at first.  I finally went to the school counselor to help me break free of him.

But the words of Libby Anne and other bloggers are finally making it clear to me what was going on, how he could blame me for what he himself did:

While conservative evangelicals give lip service to boys and men, too, having an obligation to remain pure until marriage, the burden of saying “no” falls primarily on girls and women. Why was Dr. Ford at a party where there was underage drinking? Why did she go upstairs in a strange house, alone? She put herself in harm’s way—can a guy be blamed for asking what she was clearly offering? Or so the logic may go.

In evangelical circles, boys and men can be more easily forgiven for touching “loose” women than they can for touching godly virgins. In Proverbs, the “wayward woman” leads godly young men to the slaughter. In evangelical circles, girls can easily find themselves painted temptresses, and blamed for their own assaults. —White Evangelical Forgiveness Narratives, Brett Kavanaugh, and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford

Then there’s Phil.  Years later, I see his ex-fiancée posting on Facebook about how wonderful he is–so gentle, so sweet, wouldn’t hurt a fly–except there’s a “Bipolar Phil,” a guy with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, who takes over.  Yet I remember this episode, where I clearly said that what he did was rape, so he’s already been confronted:

But one night, what a horror!  In the middle of things he said, “Give me your backside.”

I kept saying, “No, not that way!” but he kept pressuring.

Before we finished, while still on top of me, he withdrew and moved down to my anus, not actually in but trying to get in.

I pleaded with him to move.

I clearly said no, and I also struggled, trying to push him away.

But he didn’t listen and didn’t move, and he ejaculated like that.  It got all over, and I got mad at him for not respecting my wishes.

At one point, as he sat hunched over on the side of the bed in the darkness, I said that rape could be grounds for divorce.

He said in a trembling, petulant, upset voice, “So are you going to divorce me now?”

I said no, but our reconciliation was probably painful.  It felt like a rape.  I still think of it as one.  He did to me sexually what I didn’t want him to do, despite my pleas.  The trouble is, in a situation like this, how would you even prove it in court?

….

[O]ral sex…was another point of contention: It was gross, no matter who did it to whom.  I didn’t want him to kiss me afterwards, but he would whine that none of his other girlfriends said that.

I didn’t want to do it to him, didn’t want to put anything like that in my mouth, did not like the taste, would not do it long enough to get him to ejaculate, because it was absolutely disgusting.

But he kept trying to get me to do it.  (His “subconscious” tried to ease me into it.  More on that later.)  But I got no pleasure from it, was grossed out by the whole thing.

I may have been traumatized by this and the constant coercion: When the cafeteria served okra that fall, I couldn’t eat it, because it was slimy and reminded me of oral sex.

Ever since then, I have never engaged in this disgusting practice again, and have been blessed with a husband who also finds it gross and wants nothing to do with it.

Late summer, during sex, Phil sometimes tried to turn me over to do my backside–with a petulant, angry, stern look on his face, like he wanted to control me and I’d better do what he wanted or else.  I would refuse and resist his hands, and push myself back down.

…In September, he broke off the marriage and spent a couple of weeks psychologically abusing me.  Then he came back to me.  I thought he wanted to be married again, but he just wanted sex and a submissive puppet.

By now, my will was broken, and I was desperate to do whatever he wanted, just to keep him from leaving again.

If I didn’t want to do something he wanted to do, it meant I didn’t care like I said I did.

I felt like I was walking on eggshells, and the slightest thing might push him away.  I felt I had to align all my opinions with his, do things exactly as he wanted even though I couldn’t read his mind, or he’d divorce me.

He seemed like a different person.  After he broke up with me, I was a broken, submissive person who was desperate to do whatever he wanted, just to keep him from leaving again.  That meant even oral sex:

One day, when he got me alone, before I had a chance to even talk to him, and without a word, he pulled down his pants.

He got a strange, angry, stern look on his face, and pushed my head down–forced, really, since I couldn’t move my head whether I wanted to or not.

I didn’t want to–it was smelly, I didn’t know if he had washed it recently, and I never liked doing this–but I did anyway, because of the unspoken but well-understood threat that he would divorce me if I didn’t. —Described here

This was a man in full possession of his faculties who knew exactly what he was doing.  This was a man who–when I used the word “rape”–became petulant rather than apologetic.

Now I hear about the bipolar Phil, the FAS Phil, and that he’s fighting for his life due to chemical imbalances that have damaged his brain and made him suicidal.  Since I already confronted him years ago, I wonder if it’s even worth bringing it up again.  I feel like maybe I shouldn’t poke the bear and dredge it all up again.  I wonder if he even remembers, given his brain damage.  I wonder if it’s all due to the FAS and bipolar and a couple of other diagnoses–which his fiancée has alluded to, without naming them.  I wonder if bringing it up again would be the last straw that would lead to him killing himself.

So I stay silent.  I think it’s best.  But still, the memories keep getting triggered, thanks to our president and his praising of Kavanaugh, along with the many defenses of Kavanaugh that have been coming from conservatives lately.

But I guess we’re just snowflakes accusing an innocent man.

 

Holocaust Historian calls McConnell the Gravedigger of American Democracy

I can only hope that either this historian is wrong about the direction our country is heading–or that we will truly stop the progress of fascism in its tracks by a supposed “Blue Wave.”

The appointment of Kavanaugh despite huge and intense opposition has exposed yet more of the massive corruption in the GOP: Kavanaugh is a puppet, chosen for his ability to help Trump defy prosecution, while, at the 11th hour, Mitch McConnell threatened Collins into voting for him.  The FBI was forced by the White House to ignore some 40 corroborating witnesses in a merely nominal “investigation” for the sake of appearance, while we now have e-mail exchanges proving that Kavanaugh tried to keep his old classmates quiet.

We’ve been seeing these dirty politics and massive corruption for years in Wisconsin, ever since Walker got voted in, and now it’s happening at the federal level with the Trump regime.  Yet Christians have been duped into thinking the fat cats are somehow the “Christian” party, that the Democrats are the party of God-hating atheists.

A Holocaust historian, Christopher R. Browning, has written The Suffocation of Democracy, an essay for The New York Review of Books.  He compares our current political, economic, and cultural situation to that of the US and Germany between the world wars.

He compares Mitch McConnell to Paul Von Hindenburg, the president of Weimar Germany who made Hitler the chancellor.

He notes our similarities and differences to pre-Nazi Germany, but even the differences are alarming.  For example:

Upon his appointment as chancellor, Hitler immediately created a new Ministry of People’s Enlightenment and Propaganda under Joseph Goebbels, who remained one of his closest political advisers.

In Trump’s presidency, those functions have effectively been privatized in the form of Fox News and Sean Hannity. Fox faithfully trumpets the “alternative facts” of the Trump version of events, and in turn Trump frequently finds inspiration for his tweets and fantasy-filled statements from his daily monitoring of Fox commentators and his late-night phone calls with Hannity.

The result is the creation of a “Trump bubble” for his base to inhabit that is unrecognizable to viewers of PBSCNN, and MSNBC and readers of The Washington Post and The New York Times.

The highly critical free media not only provide no effective check on Trump’s ability to be a serial liar without political penalty; on the contrary, they provide yet another enemy around which to mobilize the grievances and resentments of his base. A free press does not have to be repressed when it can be rendered irrelevant and even exploited for political gain.

 

For another example, we have free elections and a Constitution, but the machinations of the GOP in Congress, gerrymandering, and voter suppression, have been making it practically impossible for Democrats to be elected or to get anything they want, no matter how much the voters protest, call, and write letters.  As I’ve noted repeatedly, if we write to a Republican Congressperson, we’ll probably be ignored with some form letter version of “Sorry, but you’re wrong and we’re doing what we want,” since they’re only concerned with their rich donors and constituents who agree with them.  As Browning writes:

If the US has someone whom historians will look back on as the gravedigger of American democracy, it is Mitch McConnell. He stoked the hyperpolarization of American politics to make the Obama presidency as dysfunctional and paralyzed as he possibly could.

As with parliamentary gridlock in Weimar, congressional gridlock in the US has diminished respect for democratic norms, allowing McConnell to trample them even more.

Nowhere is this vicious circle clearer than in the obliteration of traditional precedents concerning judicial appointments. Systematic obstruction of nominations in Obama’s first term provoked Democrats to scrap the filibuster for all but Supreme Court nominations.

Then McConnell’s unprecedented blocking of the Merrick Garland nomination required him in turn to scrap the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations in order to complete the “steal” of Antonin Scalia’s seat and confirm Neil Gorsuch. The extreme politicization of the judicial nomination process is once again on display in the current Kavanaugh hearings.

One can predict that henceforth no significant judicial appointments will be made when the presidency and the Senate are not controlled by the same party. McConnell and our dysfunctional and disrespected Congress have now ensured an increasingly dysfunctional and disrespected judiciary, and the constitutional balance of powers among the three branches of government is in peril.

Just as I’ve been doing for two years, Browning compares the conservatives of Hitler’s day to the conservatives of ours, riding the popularity of a charismatic candidate into power–and hoping to use him and keep him under control while in office.

Browning hesitates to call Trump “Hitler” or the GOP Nazis, and doesn’t see them carrying out genocide etc.  But he notes how easy it would be for them to get us into wars, the massive damage that is being done to our democracy and our climate, and how our polarization will keep getting worse.

Read more here.

My own additional thoughts:

You’ll also note how Walker and now McConnell have declared themselves “unintimidated” by protests–effectively making protesters into mobs that must be suppressed, rather than American citizens exercising their rights.  And this is being cemented over the weekend by Trump and Republicans who’ve been declaring us Democrats an angry, unruly mob that doesn’t understand law and order, that must be put down.

Our legitimate concerns and reasons for objecting to Kavanaugh are, once again, being reduced to being upset that we “didn’t get our way.”  Our protests are being called “mobs.”

In other words, we’re being called another enemy of the people.  Just as Trump has been labeling the press.  Trump’s base, along with other Republicans, are being stoked into thinking they must fight us and put us down, for the sake of Murica.  This is dangerous, the kind of rhetoric that leads to concentration camps and genocide.  We’ve seen it over and over again–not just Hitler, but over and over throughout history and into the present time.

The GOP doesn’t seem to realize that they’re legitimizing the arguments of the Antifa, who say that only violence can change things.  The more the GOP ignores the constitutionally-protected protests of citizens, the more those citizens may start turning to the Antifa, out of desperation.  We’ve already seen fighting in the streets between the Antifa and Alt-Right, just like Weimar Germany saw street fighting between Communists and Nazis.

How do you think dictators get into power?  By declaring their opponents enemies of the people.  By suppressing their voices so they no longer have any say in the governing of their own country.

Lately, a huge chunk of conservative Christians have been treating Trump as the Messiah when he actually could be an Antichrist of our age.  Antichrists are not a one-time end-of-the-world phenomenon; they pop up throughout history.  Putin appears to be another Antichrist, along with other dictators of our time.

They’re working against Christ by violating His commands to love, to help the poor and needy, to do good.  While proclaiming abortion and gay rights the anathemas that must be suppressed no matter what, and making themselves the victims, Christians have sold their souls to the Devil while claiming to speak for God.

But there still is something we can do: Show up at the polls in November.  Don’t sit at home thinking a Blue Wave is assured.  Start voting every time there’s an election, even a primary.  Even a city council election is important.

 

 

 

Detail: To each his own

I am a great admirer of the writing of Diana Gabaldon.  I can lose myself in her descriptions of her characters and of her settings, and of her scenes.  I can “see” everything because of the rich detail–not just of scenes, clothes, appearance, etc., but of body language.

I love the various characters coming in and out; I love it even better as the series progresses and Claire’s family begins to grow while she and Jamie age; I love reading how she deals with various dilemmas.  I love the storylines/plots.

I love the little details, such as Jamie reading a romance novel and laughing, or the family abandoning Samuel Richardson’s Pamela at various points.  (I’ve read the first volume and part of the second, so I know why they abandon it.)  Even her sex scenes are better than most (usually I skip sex scenes, feeling like a voyeur).

In short, she makes me feel terribly inadequate as a writer.

In working on my own novel, I feel there’s no way I can measure up, yet this seems to be what modern writing is like: richly detailed, well-researched.  This is why so many books since I came of age, have been hundreds of pages long.  This seems to be what readers expect.

Last night, I discovered that this is not necessarily the case: Apparently quite a lot of people think that Gabaldon’s writing is amateurish, way too detailed, boring, with little story/plot.

Of course, many people also think Jane Austen’s work is way too boring, with little story/plot.  Yet I’ve read Austen’s books several times over, and find them page-turning, with lots of story/plot.

I tend to read more literary-style books, often the old classics they forced on us in high school (I loved them all), but also modern classics.  I’m used to books that are hundreds of pages long.  I read writing books in the 80s that told us to add body language detail and to make the scene “pop” with all the senses.  I came of age reading the books that were popular in the 80s/90s, 1000-page tomes rich with detail about caveman days, or Cleopatra, or 1740s Scotland.

So I get a bit confused by the modern tendency to want shorter books and less detail.  But on the other hand, it’s actually a bonus for a writer like me: As an NVLDer, I don’t really “see” scenes very well.  Some people see movies in their heads; except for books as detailed as Gabaldon’s, I see shadow figures moving in mist, where the only things that come in clearly are objects that are used at that moment.

Paragraphs full of rich detail are also hard for me to read and picture, because I’m picturing one thing at a time, not all at once.  I can’t “hold” the details in my head for very long, so I keep having to go back and re-read the paragraphs.  So I’ll end up taking several minutes on one such paragraph alone, making my reading speed very slow.

So it’s hard for me to write details into scenes, the body language, the scenery, that sort of thing.  I don’t “see” it myself, after all.  I don’t know the little tics people get while talking, because eye contact is so hard for me.

But I get conflicting criticism when I workshop parts of my book.  Some people want richer detail so they can “see” the scene better, “taste” the soup, etc.  (That person  was new and didn’t know I’d already described the cell and the soup several scenes back.)  But then I find all sorts of information on the Net that readers tend to skip over all those rich details to get to the action.  That it’s not just me getting bogged down in it.

Yet, ironically, Gabaldon’s writing is an exception for me.  Yes, it still takes me a long time to get through the paragraphs of detail, but her scenes are so full of emotion and body language that I have a more vivid picture in my head.  For example, it’s not just a dress somebody found for her wedding, but it’s a dress that smells of the previous owner.  It’s not just a sex scene, but two people who love each other shyly exploring each other for the first time.

Yet, for many people, all that detail is actually a turnoff.

So I’m reassured that I don’t have to feel inadequate anymore, that I don’t have to strive to measure up to writers such as Gabaldon, because lots of people don’t like that style of writing anyway.

So instead I can concentrate on how to make the characters real, and going into their heads to satisfy readers like me, without turning off readers who don’t like so much of that.  And not worry so much about infusing scenes with lots of body language or paragraphs of sensory details.  The occasional details should be enough.

This post was cross-posted here; please comment on my writing blog.

 

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