Names: The Sam

This is the Sam-Cat. My Sam-Cat. I realized yesterday as I was writing about “Tailchaser’s Song” that he looks a lot like Tailchaser. I’ve had “thing” for ginger tabbies for a long time; it precedes my reading of the book by many years. I remember when we were picking Sam from the shelter, I wanted a specific kind of ginger tabby. Sam, in particular, is very vocal and communicative. He’s getting older; he well beyond kittenhood when he came to us, and he’s lived with us over fifteen years.

Sam is known to chase his tail.

You’ll notice that his tail is short. He lost part of it; we’re not sure how. A good twelve or thirteen years ago… I’ll check the pictures to be sure… he came home from his travels outside after losing the end of his tail. That was the last time he went outside. We went to the vet; she patched together what was left, and now Sam is quite happy with half a tail. Sometimes he seems to get phantom pains in that tail that is not there, and that’s when he chase his tail.

I don’t think it affected Sam’s name. He knows who he is; he knows how he relates to the rest of the world. He knows I’ll give him food and love and comfort. Sometimes I wish it was so simple for me.

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This morning at church one of the Bible passage around which the sermon was structured was the latter part of John 10:3, “… the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

I’ll admit that when I hear sermons on this passage, I’m always just a tiny bit disappointed. An important part of my theology is that God knows all of our names, just as he knows every star and every grain of sand. He knows that which makes us special and distinct. That was part of what we talked about this morning, though the speaker branched off to other valid angles.

But I always want to hear a sermon on names. In many cultures names are very important. Indeed, I just discovered last week that the first part of the Baptismal Covenant in the Prayer Book of the Anglican Church of Canada (1962; pg 544) asks a person’s name. Names mark us out of a crowd. They identify us as unique people. There is a depth to understanding our names that helps us to understand ourselves, an aspect that we sometimes forget.

I used to speak of names (and naming) with some of my friends at Moody. At one point my friend Laura gave me a book: turns out that it was Tad Willams’ first, called “Tailchaser’s Song” (1985). A fantasy book about feral cats and their perspective, in the mythology of the story each cat has three names: a heart name, a face name, and a tail name. (Tailchaser’s Song: Naming). Many human cultures reflect the same thing. There are a number of other references, in history, religion and pop culture, which refer to a person’s “true name”.

Part of my quest through my life has been to see different aspects of my name. I’ve been very fortunate to see glimpses here and there, though I’m still searching.




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Easter 2018

Hosios Loukas, Greece, 11th centuryEaster is traditionally a day I go out a bit; for lunch and for dinner and with friends. I went on a hike yesterday and I went out for coffee this afternoon. So I saw number of people this weekend, and it was a couple of bright, chilly spring days. Perhaps it’s because I’m getting to know people a little better in the city, but several of those friends asked what we had talked about at church. I have to admit I was a tiny bit surprised. There is really only one thing to talk about at Easter, at least at church. I realize that Easter has become much more secularized, with images of bunnies and eggs and flowers and spring. But those are only echoes of what Easter is all about.

Easter is ultimately recognition of Jesus and his resurrection: Jesus rising from the dead. It’s generally one of the few things that defines people who are Christians; we might fight about many things and have many denominations and many perspectives, but part of our central theme is the resurrection. We might not even celebrate Easter on the same day; the Eastern church sets it next week in 2018. But we all celebrate Jesus return from the dead..

Some of my more secular friends are surprised that I believe this so strongly. They think it’s silly superstition. But it is a core element of my faith. As it says in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” Because just as Jesus rose from the dead two thousand years ago, so we will all be resurrected after we die… given a new life and a new body that will be surprisingly much like what we know in this life, only better. Part of what I argue is that the next life will certainly be perfected, but we’ll be resurrected just like Jesus. We’ll have arms and legs and occupy space; we’ll touch and laugh and see and hear as we do today. We’ll even have feelings and attractions, we’ll just be able to deal with them better. Our next lives will be founded in love as was originally intended, but will also be very much what we know in our current selves.

The hope of Easter is not just the rebirth of this world that we see every year. The hope is that we will be reborn in the next life, and perfected. It will be in a way that is not just a completion of this life, but will be a joyful extension.

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I’m in a class this week on project management; in specific, the agile approach to project management. I’ve been looking in to different ways to organize my various projects for several years, and it happens that more traditional ways don’t really work for me. Defining objectives at the outset is nice, but I invariably find that contexts change and situations shift… so quickly often that by the time the project is even developed, the product is out of date. Agile seems to be different, so I chose to take this class.

I was enormously surprised when the instructor was talking about strategies for organization and management… and he mentioned servant leadership. It’s a term that I haven’t heard for decades: it was big when I was in Bible College, but that was now over 30 years ago. And I’d never heard it used in a secular context. I know that I’ve used it as one of my basic strategies since I was tech manager in Arkansas, but I always assumed it had been superseded by newer and flashier styles. Interestingly, it is one of the references in the book that I’m working on, and that was the only reason I’d even approached the subject in recent years.

Though I will admit I use it a lot. In the context of this series, it’s one of my basic approaches to friendship. As I develop a friend over time, such an experience is generally in the context of getting to understand each other, and I’m always considering how I might be able to help them. Sure I’m attracted to a lot of my male friends, but that’s really not important for the most part. At least I try to minimize it. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, but as long as I’m looking to build them up as much as I can, I figure it’s hard to go wrong.


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Family Day: Stories

Yesterday we celebrated our “Family Day”. It’s a new holiday. I was thinking about this the other day, and I recognized that most of our holidays have stories associated with them. Christmas certainly; even “Die Hard” is a Christmas story, and “Gremlins” from my distant past. Easter has its stories, as does Halloween; and each of our respective country’s “national” holidays in July.

Family Day has few such stories. I think we should build some more. And not just about “traditional” family; but about families as we define them. For me that is some of the joy of Family Day. This year I spent some time alone, writing: I need that on my days off, my chance to recoup. And I always spend part of the day with my “expected” family. I had breakfast with my husband and went to visit my brother in the afternoon. But the high point of the day was a hike with a friend… someone whom I consider part of my “extended”, or “self-defined” family. We went to the Oak Ridges trail, and managed to fit in a great walk before the rain started. Well, mostly. By the time we got back to the cars, we were a little damp, and Skye (Damien’s dog) smelled decidedly of wet puppy. It may not be the kind of story that touches everyone, but it helps to define the Day for me.

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My Peterson Rant

As you might have noticed, I’ve had a bit of a rant the last few days against Jordan Peterson and his stand against Trans people, refusing to use their pronoun of choice. All his arguments about these being “made up words” and such rather leave me cold; I find them a bit childish. He should know that language is fundamentally malleable and fluid, and that (quite literally) every word in the English language was “made up” by someone… including more recent ones like “hangry” and “face-palm”, and even “gaydar” or “jackass professor”. Just because Peterson didn’t do the “making up” does not mean they’re any less valid. English has fewer pronouns than many languages; I realize it takes extra energy to be considerate toward people who aren’t like him, but I’d give Mr. Peterson the same advice he likes to give young men.

Buck up and deal with it.

Clean your proverbial room.

Giving respect to people you don’t like is one of the qualities that makes our society “civilized”.

But even I was a bit surprised by how strongly I felt about the subject. I rarely go on this kind of “rant”, but this time I almost couldn’t avoid it. I really do want to get back on the idea of how fear impacted my sexuality from an early age, but this got in the way. A little thought and I realized why. As I said yesterday, Peterson is a reflection of the anti-queer perspectives of 35 years ago. He likes to speak about archetypes; Peterson likes to think of himself as the fount of wisdom, the archetypal oracle. Trouble is, he speaks for the majority, the dominant, the straight and the cis. Classically my impression is that oracles spoke with a bit of a surprise, from a perspective that was accurate and wise, but just not what the leaders of the day (mostly men) expected. In this respect, Peterson is the anti-oracle. He speaks to the popular, to the powerful. He speaks to young, straight men. There is nothing surprising in his words.

I listened to men like Peterson when I was young. It was because of men like him that I could not accept myself as gay, that I was insecure in my affections. It was, and is, because of men like Peterson that I am doubtful about my friends who are male even today, and some of them are amazing. He is, for me, the archetype of the dry oracle, the “wise” man who cannot see beyond himself. I take complete responsibility for my actions (and in fact am precisely who I am because of them) but it was because of men like Peterson that I went through counselling to try to change my orientation. Men like Peterson stained the perception of who I am for years.

Words and communities have changed, but bigotry has not.

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Peterson & Gender Identity

Yes, I’ve listened to Jordan B. Peterson. And much though he tries to disassociate himself with conservatives, he sounds very much like the kinds of men I’ve heard disparaging queer perspectives for decades. Thirty five years ago, the discussion was whether or not different sexual orientations actually existed, or whether they were just a warping and distortion of “regular” heterosexuality. Even in “civilized” spaces, queer people were jailed and hospitalized. It was popular back then because it reflected the average person, it encouraged the majority and standardization. It was quite successful at making people like me feel like misfits, even if we never pursued our desires.

Mr. Peterson is on the same bandwagon, taking advantage of “the old ways of doing things”. Today we’ve accepted the reality of different sexualities, based on the testimony of men and women like me; now the “question” is whether gender identities really vary differently from one’s chromosomes. Mr. Peterson denies the testimony of thousands of trans men and women, relegating them back to darkness and closets.

I just wanted to comment on one of the short blurbs of him speaking, as recorded on the National Post. I think I’m quoting him accurately.

“[Bill C-16] risks criminalizing discussion about aspects of human sexuality that we need to discuss.” I think Mr. Peterson is here putting words in people’s mouths, exactly as he accuses them of deliberately misunderstanding what he is saying. I think what he actually meant are discussions of gender identity rather than “human sexuality”; but I won’t harp on that. The two should not be seen as equivalent (but I don’t what to put words in his mouth). More importantly, I don’t think anyone wants to criminalize the discussion of gender or sexuality; at least I certainly don’t. What Bill C-16 does do is to extend protections to people of varying gender identities against “discrimination” and “hate propaganda”. Which has nothing to do with civil “discussion”.

“Now that doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions… in 98% of cases, if you’re biologically male then your gender identity is male… so that’s a pretty tight linkage.” Ummm… yeah? “Tight” maybe, but it’s not perfect. 2% is still… well, 2%. Those “exceptions” are exactly what we’re talking about. In a city the size of Toronto, that means over 50,000 people whose gender identity does not align with their biological makeup (all of whom Peterson has managed to piss off). So in spite of his argument (I think) that gender identity and biology don’t vary independently, here he admits that it does happen in 2% of cases. Isn’t that what even the most ardent activist is saying? I don’t argue it’s any more. Those 2% might be small in number, but they are still people with different experiences who have known discrimination. The Family Research Council claimed in 2002 (and maintain today) that only 2-3% of people are gay or bisexual (Gallup), yet gay people are still protected by the same legislation Mr. Peterson is up in arms against.

I would say here that he seems to be arguing that if a discriminated portion of the community is small enough (<= 2%) then they don’t need to be protected. They’re not really people; they’re “exceptions”.

But I don’t want to put words in his mouth.

I find much of his speaking to be the same. He’s a straight, cis, powerful male who reflects the limitations of his upbringing and encourages those like him at the expense of those who are different. That’s why his books sell. That’s why people support him… and those with more progressive perspectives don’t. Because he’s dragging us back to the world of the 1950s.

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