...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Saturday, February 26, 2005

My uterus is all askew

A quotation from R. Frederic Marvin, women's health professor, as recorded in Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America by Ann Braude, assigned for my Women in American Religious History class:

"The angle at which the womb is suspended in the pelvis frequently settles the whole question of sanity or insanity. Tilt the organ a little forward--introvert it, and immediately the patient forsakes her home, embraces some strong ultraism--Mormonism, Mesmerism, Fourierism, Socialism, oftener Spiritualism. She becomes possessed of the idea that she has some startling mission in the world. She forsakes her home, her children, her duty, to mount the rostrum and proclaim the peculiar virtues of free-love, elective affinity, or the reincarnation of souls."

Man, what I wouldn't give for that quote on a t-shirt!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Them's fightin' words, Gershom G. Scholem

An exerpt from Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, assigned for my Intro to Judaism class (emphasis mine):

"One final observation should be made on the general character of Kabbalism as distinct from other, non-Jewish forms of mysticism. Both historically and metaphysically it is a masculine doctrine, made for men and by men. The long history of Jewish mysticism shows no trace of feminine influence. There have been no women Kabbalists; Rab'i'a of early Islamic mysticism, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Juliana of Norwich, Theresa de Jesus, and the many other feminine representatives of Christian mysticism have no counterparts in the history of Kabbalism. The latter, therefore, lacks the element of feminine emotion which has played so large a part in the development of non-Jewish mysticism, but it also remained comparatively free from the dangers entailed by the tendency towards hysterical extravagance which follows in the wake of this influence."

So, feminine spirituality tends towards "hysterical extravagance"? I do believe I take offense at that, Gershom G. Scholem. What! Do you want me to throw myself off this ferry? DO YOU?

All joking aside, I see where he's coming from; Santa Teresa de Avila, a medieval Spanish Christian mystic, envisioned Christ as a lover who carries her down to the wine cellars and makes passionate love to her, and I guess you could see that kind of thing as "hysterical extravagance." But...that's mysticism, you know? At least in the Jamesian tradition, as laid out in the The Varieties of Religious Experience by 18th-century psychologist William James, mysticism entails an ineffable, noetic, highly sensual experience of the Divine.

Speaking of James (and I should warn you, there is extreme Religious Studies Nerdiness ahead), I was thinking the other day about his yes/no factors. James had this idea that we all are capable of and primed for mystical experiences, yet the impulse towards them is overpowered by the "no" factor that tells us that such experiences are irrational and meaningless. In other words, it's like God's standing at the doorstep, but you've got the music turned up and can't hear the doorbell ringing. James argues that by taking drugs, the "no" factor is reduced and the "yes" factor increases, opening people's eyes to the Divine. Drugs, then, don't cause mystical experiences, they simply allow us to experience the Divine that already surrounds us. I think there's something to that, although I think as an argument it's historically been abused and used to defend recreational drug use. Hi, I'm from Eugene, Hippieville USA.

This week in Judaism we're talking about Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, and the Zohar, or Book of Splendors. On Wednesday we read a section from the Book of Ezekiel out of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, in which the prophet describes a vision of God's chariot and there're a lot of colors and animals and four-headed beasts and dragons and stuff. Because of the general unexplainability of the text, there was a lot of exegetical writing about it, including in the Zohar and in later mystical works, as well as a polemic against it by medieval Jewish philosophers, who were absolutely opposed to the anthropomorphism of God. After we read it, one girl in the class remarked, "This reminds me of when my father met God...when he was on drugs in the seventies." That got me thinking again about James and the "no" factor, and now I've forgotten where I was going with this, so...and then I found ten dollars and died!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Fight, flight, or sit tight

Last night, returning to the dorm from Casino Night, Ryan and I passed by the lounge, where a passel of people were watching Alien vs. Predator. We started out standing slightly outside the lounge, making fun of the movie and speculating on why we anthropomorphize aliens and always make them all slimy and stuff, all Mystery Science Theater 3000, but eventually got sucked into the vortex and ended up watching the last 50 minutes or so. As we watched, I came to an important realization about myself: if faced with a situation in which an alien or a dinosaur or a deranged hook-handed serial killer was chasing me, I would probably just give up.

I'm serious. I don't mean that I would just offer myself up to the dinosaur/alien/killer, but all that running and screaming and confusion and dirtiness? No. I would probably twist my ankles, for one thing, and I don't really like to run, or deal with a lot of noise or confusion, and I know I would feel all grimy and gross. And for what? At least 5/7 of all research teams are eventually killed by whatever it is they come upon, and I just don't see myself as one of the plucky survivors. I'm pretty sure that I would try to find a small room with no windows and a lockable door where I could esconce myself and then just sit tight, make my peace with God, and reconcile myself to the fact that I might die. Plus, that way I wouldn't have to get my hands dirty.

On an unrelated note, Friday was my 20th birthday, and it was fun, although I still haven't quite reconciled myself to the fact that I'm officially "in my twenties." I spent the afternoon after Intro to Judaism with my mom, who was on her way up to Seattle, and reading; in the evening a group of thirteen of us went out to dinner at Typhoon, the Thai restaurant downtown on Broadway. Unfortunately, we had to split up at the restaurant, since there were too many of us: Simran, Riana, Anna, Rose, Peggy, Hillary, and Simran's prospective student Whitney sat at one table, while Chris, Ryan, their prospies Cameron and Bryan, Masha, and I sat at the other. My favorite thing we ordered was the Drunken Noodles with beef, although maybe Masha and I had a little too much, since she tried to wash her hands with the mouth wash and I almost mouth-washed with the hand lotion in the very swank women's room after dinner. Afterwards, most of the girls headed back to campus, and we (the people at my table) went ice skating at the Lloyd Center. It was a lot of fun, and I didn't even fall down this time! We fortuitously ran into Clay and Laurel, whose birthday it also was, back at Pioneer Square and took a bunch of pictures all together. After getting back to the dorm, we played several games of Mafia with the group and ate cake. So, all in all, a fun birthday and a great weekend overall. The only downside is that I did almost no homework, which right now is coming back to bite me. Oh well!

Oh, and a great quote of the day:

Ryan: "I haven't started my period yet."

Friday, February 18, 2005

You say it's your birthday

I've been twenty for exactly thirteen minutes. Just FYI.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Walking with Etty

The following is from the most influential book I've ever read, An Interrupted Life, the journals of Etty Hillesum, a young, brilliant, deeply spiritual Jewish woman living in Amsterdam during World War II. You can consider it a follow-up to my Valentine's Day post. Thank you to Peggy,, Ryan, and DeAnn; your comments meant a lot to me.

Etty loved Rilke, too.

Friday morning, nine o'clock. "Right now I feel like someone recovering from a serious illness. Light in the head and a bit shaky on the legs. It really was a bit much yesterday. The fact is I don't lead a simple enough inner life. I indulge in excesses, bacchanalia of the spirit. Perhaps I identify too much with everything I read and study. Someone like Dostoyevsky still shatters me. I really must become a bit simpler. Let myself live a bit more. Not always insist on the results straightaway. I know what the remedy is, though: just to crouch huddled up on the ground in a corner and listen to what is going on inside me. Thinking gets you nowhere. It may be a fine and noble aid in academic studies, but you can't think your way out of emotional difficulties. That takes something altogether different. You have to make yourself passive then, and just listen. Reestablish contact with a slice of eternity.

"I really ought to be simpler and less grandiloquent in my work, as well. When I do a simple Russian translation, the whole of Russia spreads out before my mind's eye and I feel I must write another Brothers Karamazov, at the very least. I make very high demands on myself and in inspired moments consider myself quite capable of meeting them, but inspiration doesn't last forever, and in my more mundane moods I am filled with sudden fears that I might not fulfill the promise of those 'exalted' moments. But why do I have to achieve things? All I need to do is 'be,' to live and to try to be a little bit human. One can't control everything with the brain; must allow one's emotions and intuitions free play as well. Knowledge is power, and that's probably why I accumulate knowledge, out of a desire to be important. I don't really know. But Lord, give me wisdom, not knowledge. Or rather the knowledge that leads to wisdom and true happiness and not the kind that leads to power. A little peace, a lot of kindness, and a little wisdom--whenever I have these inside me I feel I am doing well. That's why I was so hurt when the sculptress, Fri Heil, said to S. that she found me a real Tartar and that all I needed was a wild horse to carry me through the steppes. Human beings don't know much about themselves, do they?"

Monday, February 14, 2005

It's a Rilke kind of day

The First Elegy from Duino Elegies, by Rainier Maria Rilke

And if I cried, who'd listen to me in those angelic
orders? Even if one of them suddenly held me
to his heart, I'd vanish in his overwhelming
presence. Because beauty's nothing
but the start of terror we can heardly bear,
and we adore it because of the serene scorn
it could kill us with. Every angel's terrifying.

So I control myself and choke back the lure
of my dark cry. Ah, who can we turn to,
then? Neither angels nor men,
and the animals already know by instict
we're not comfortably at home
in our translated world. Maybe what's left
for us is some tree on a hillside we can look at
day after day, one of yesterday's streets,
and the perverse affection of a habit
that liked us so much it never let go.

And the night, oh the night when the wind
full of outer space gnaws at our faces; that wished for,
gentle, deceptive one waiting painfully for the lonely
heart--she'd stay on for anyone. Is she easier on lovers?
But they use each other to hide their fate.

You
still don't understand? Throw the emptiness in
your arms out into that space we breathe; maybe birds
will feel the air thinning as they fly deeper into themselves.


I would be lying if I said I weren't depressed this evening. I thought that I wouldn't be--that I shouldn't be, that I'm lucky to have good friends and people who care about me and a family that loves me and to be healthy and relatively happy and that Valentine's Day was just commercialized by the greeting card companies and the candy manufacturers and Damn The Man! But. Here I sit, crying just a little bit and reading Rilke and listening to Janis Joplin's I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again, Mama!

I'm okay.

I will be okay.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Facebook is dangerous

Can't...stop...searching...for...people...from...high...school...

Edited an hour later:: That's it, the weekend can only go downhill from here, because I have just seen the highlight: a totally shitfaced Clay, returning from the MUN party at Landon's. Clay and I have drunk...in...drank...whatever...together before, at Mayu's that one time and then on election night, but I've never seen him so drunk--all "Hey, wazzzUP?" and flopping around the lounge and salsa dancing with Simran and crawling inside a huge cardboard box and expounding on Zen philosophy. Oh, it was funny. My kingdom for a digital camera!

Clay: "NOW I MUST ROLL LIKE AN EGG ACROSS THE FLOOR!"

Oh, drunken escapades of college students and self-referential angst. Does this make my blog the biggest cliché ever? A couple months there was an article in the Utne Reader about blogging culture that said something like, "If you've ever wondered about the drinking habits of articulate twenty-somethings..." But then again, I won't be a "twenty-something" for another week. Take that, Utne Reader!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

So that's why I don't get mail

I just had another run in with my doppelganger, Jessica Joh----, at the mailboxes. I was kneeling down by my mailbox, trying to remember my combination, when she came up behind me:

She: "Hi!"
I: "Oh, hi!"
She: "You're Jessica Job----, right?" (mispronouncing it in a common way)
I: "Yeah, it's actually Job----."
She: "Oh, I totally said it wrong. I bet you get that a lot."
I: "Yeah, I've heard everything. Jobanovich, even."
She: "I bet you get my mail a lot, too."
I: "Well, I did get your birthday card that one time."
She: "Ha! I remember that. I always like to blame you, though, when I don't get anything. I say, 'Oh, it's probably in Jessica Job----'s box.'"

I might have to reappropriate that excuse for my own purposes. She's nice, though. I think I'll friend her on Facebook.

By the way, a longer post is coming later. But until then, here's a thought to leave off with: what the hell is up with the nipples on the Sak's 5th Avenue female mannequins? Good God, you could put your eye out on one of those things.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

I always knew it

Edit: The html from the Which America-Hating Minority Are You? quiz was screwing up my template and pushing my info bar to the bottom of the page. However, if you're interested, my result was the same as Clay's, which he has posted here. In case you're curious, I am an intellectual America-hater.

Man, was the finale of The Amazing Race a disappointment, or what? Kris and Jon will always be the winners in my heart. Looks like next season (three weeks!) they go to Peru or maybe Ecuador, and Boston Rob and Amber are going to be on! I'm not sure how I feel about that--the trans-show mixing of reality contestants. I'll be watching, in any case. I hope there's not so much bunching this time 'round, because fuck.

As I sit here at the computer pounding my head against the desk and blogging rather than work on this dumb-ass essay about critiquing scholars' approaches to analyzing popular/folk/institutional religion viz a vis this one case study of witchcraft in medieval Italy for my religion seminar, I leave you all with this remarkably prescient quote from Laura:

"I swear, by the time I graduate, the department is going to be perfectly partitioned into people who think i'm a lame-ass whiner bad-study-habits girl and people who think I'm a great and energetic and dedicated promising undergrad. Interestingly enough, that's exactly the people who have seen my problem sets and the people who haven't."

Oh, and Donna's driving Matt and me to the Multnomah County Democrats meeting tomorrow at 6:15. Anyone interested? We should be back in time for The Apprentice.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Put the milk in the bag

Or, as I say it, "Put the melk in the beg." Seriously, what is up with that? At least six people have told me this year, on separate occasions and independently of each other, that I speak as though I were from the Midwest. Today, it came up as Matt and I were leaving church and he was looking for a recycling bin for a flier:

Jessica: "Well, if you don't want to carry it, I'll put it in my bag."
Matt: "Wait a minute. What did you just say?"
Jessica: "I'll put it in my bag."
Matt: "Did you say beg or baaaag?"
Jessica: "Beg."
Matt: "Are you from Minnesota or something?"

But the thing is, I've lived my entire life in Oregon--Eugene until high school graduation, then Portland. I'm pretty sure I've said this word the same way my entire life, so why is everyone suddenly convinced that I've just stepped out of Fargo? Don't get me wrong, I'm not mad, just kind of bemused and bewildered.

Maybe I should start a Facebook group: "I say 'beg,' dammit!"

But oh! Quotes:

Peggy, to Ryan: "You make me feel like less of a heinous bitch."

Matt: "Oh, that's totally a book I would read, if I read books."

Peggy: "See, the problem is that I have no balls."
Ryan: "Maybe we can be your balls."

Jessica: "Well, who in Akin likes boffing? Wait..."

Friday, February 04, 2005

Oh, it's such a perfect day / I'm glad I spent it with you...

If "today" includes the time period between 8:00pm Thursday and about 9:15pm tonight, then it's hard to imagine a more perfect day. Going to the gym was good and felt fantastic, and I enjoyed watching The Apprentice with Amy and talking with Jeff for about an hour afterwards. I got a lot of work done and had a good time at Chris and Ryan's (I'll link to you guys after you start updating your blogs!) and even managed to read a little Kundera before I went to sleep around 3:30am.

Today after class, a long nap, and lunch with friends, I headed downtown to deposit some checks. It was such a beautiful day that after hitting the bank (which I love; the US Bank downtown is so ornate and old-fashioned that I feel like I'm in Mary Poppins or something) I decided to walk up to Powell's. I took a slightly different route this time, walking up Oak I think instead of Burnside, and I stumbled across this little independent feminist magazine shop. It carried all manner of literary journals, zines, feminist and punk and gay/lesbian magazines, as well as some cool calendars and stationary. I didn't want to spend too much money, but I ended up getting the latest edition of Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, one of my favorite magazines; Heeb, which looks to a magazine for young, subversive-ish Jewish women (which I'm not, but I was attracted by the article about celebrity Kabbalah); and a copy of the East Village Inky, a zine by a woman who has a regular column in Bust (For Women With Something to Get off their Chests). I walked out of the store feeling all independent and savvy and kick-ass; the sun was shining and I felt virtuous for supporting an independent feminist establishment, and doing it all with great-looking hair.

After leaving the magazine shop, I was going to finish walking up to Powell's but was immediately side-tracked by a funky little coffee-shop that I had never seen before. I got a cappuccino and looked through some of the zines and alternative magazines they had laying out on the counters; when I left I could feel the caffeine surging through my veins. As I walked down the street, I looked at the people, and I felt as though I could see right through them to their ultimate reality, their core of goodness and humanity, and I had nothing but love for them. I felt so good that I hardly cared when I missed the shuttle back to school and had to wait for an hour at the Starbuck's in Pioneer Square. I read and listened to Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead on my iPod and people-watched, radiating goodwill towards humanity.

When I got back to campus, I went straight to a Religious Studies presentation given by Prof. Morril; she's currently a Visiting Professor and is interviewing for the tenure-track position. As part of the interview process, she presented her research today to the rest of the Religious Studies faculty and any interested students. Her work has focused on women in American religion and specifically Mormon women, and even more specifically how Mormon women create their own theologies through the nature and flower imagery in their poetry. Afterwords, the other professors asked her questions, and I loved it. I absolutely love seeing my professors interact as scholars, discussing their research and posing these intense theoretical and theological questions to each other and challenging each other. It's both daunting and inspiring. Alan Cole, the professor of Asian religions, speaks like a Jedi knight. After dinner I went downtown to hear John Dominic Crossan, a very prominent Biblical and historical Jesus/Paul scholar, give a lecture at the Center for Spiritual Development,, which was also very interesting.

Oh, it was a good day. I thought nothing could bring me down, but then something kind of did, but then it turned out to maybe not be so big a deal. So.

The title of this entry comes from the song "Perfect Day", by the Velvet Underground. I hope you all--everyone who is reading this--have your own perfect days soon. Maybe even this weekend.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

They're basically the same thing, aren't they?

Monday night, this one guy I know who's a senior psychology major told me that he thinks I have obsessive personality disorder. Today my Judaism professor told me that I have a "Talmudic mind."

Coincidence? YOU BE THE JUDGE!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I can't stand the excitement

Remember how in the last entry I said I was looking forward to writing a "thick description" of my dorm room for Qual? Well, I take it back, because that paper was the most tedious thing I've ever written. Here's just an example to give you an idea of the tedium:

A standard twin-size bed stands directly across the room from the door, its long side pushed flush against the wall with the back wall (with the window) so that the head of the bed fits into the northwest corner of the room, with its foot reaching about halfway down the middle segment of the window. The bed stands about two and a half feet of the ground, at neither the highest nor the lowest setting possible. The school-issued mattress is covered with dark blue fitted sheet, the elastic corners of which do not quite fit around the corners of the mattress. Rather than layers of lighter blankets or sheets, above the fitted sheet there is only a cream-colored down comforter. The comforter is folded twice on the bed, as it was designed for a queen-size, and several yellow and pink stains where a hi-lighter has bled into it are visible. At the head of the bed are two pillows, one in a dark blue case that matches the fitted sheet and the other in a patterned cover of flowers and vines on a white background.

And that's just my BED. Imagine writing five pages like that. Now imagine doing it at one in the morning.