Ganesha the Viking
15 November 2012 @ 10:40 am
I've been slowly re-integrating my altar and chanting into my life. I wouldn't go so far as to call myself a theist, but knowing that there is some proven science behind chanting helps further me into using it in my life. It gives me something to concentrate on, divine powers or no. I adore using the gods I find in Hindu and Norse and all the rest of the mythologies to help personify ideas, obstacles, and positive notions. It's like a shorthand for life's troubles and if a placebo works, why knock it?

I also just got a second job, at a nearby-ish salon, and my fiancée and a mutual friend have all filled out an application for an apartment! Money will be tight at first but I anticipate working pretty much full-time, by hook or by crook, come January or February. I've giving my current jobs some time to give me more hours and if not, I'll just get a third job at a coffee shop or a petstore to fill my downtime with some minimum wage - it's better than nothing, and I think I can handle twenty hours a week of bad bosses and bad customers if I have massage to look forward to outside of that. It should keep me grounded and feeling like I have a purpose, instead of the uphill struggle that it was to work at Dunkin Donuts 35 hours a week, without a car, and still try to set up interviews for jobs I couldn't even drive myself to. Life is a lot better now, even if it's more expensive, and I wouldn't go back to my childhood if someone paid me anyway.

It's looking good, I just have to stay motivated and strong.
Current Music: Patti Smith → Gloria
Current Mood: determined
Ganesha the Viking
03 May 2012 @ 11:48 am
I got into a long "discussion" with my sister yesterday/last night, because she posted a video of Stephen Fry talking about how belief in the afterlife impedes your ability to live a good this-life. (It actually wasn't as condescending as I had imagined it to be initially, though.)

Playing the mediator card as I so often do, especially about something I'm as passionate about as religious studies, I just tried to debunk some of the generalizations I was seeing. I'd also lent my sister, per her request, my copy of the Bhagavad Gita: As It Is (so the translation by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada), and she had started texting me how "Christianity totally ripped off Hinduism". I agreed that a lot of cultures have similar things in their religions (otherwise how would we even know to call it "religion" if not reoccuring themes?) and asked her what SHE found to be similar. When she replied with "dogma" and the forcing of strict relgious practices on practitioners, I tried to explain that the Bhagavad Gita is, while the more modern Hindu epic text, not the end-all of religious authority. First there was the rigidity of fire sacrifice told about in the Vedas, then the more philosophical turn of the Upanishads, then the epic tales of the Ramayana and Mahabharata (the Bhagavad Gita is a book inside the Mahabharata). And nowadays, the people who identify as Hindu are generally just practitioners of Bhakti Yoga, which is what the Bhagavad Gita kinda kicked off anyway. Basically, they're simply devoted to a god of their choosing and that's...their religion. Individual practices are based on what country/area they're from and level of devoutness, etc.

So I was trying to get across that just because she's now finally read one of the "Hindu" texts, it doesn't mean that it's viewed the way Christians view their Bible - it doesn't tell them exactly what to do, but provided a starting point for a cultural/religious shift.

Well, my sister hates being argued with and apparently decided I was calling her stupid by "telling her things [she] already knows" and even went so far as to decide that calling me "butthurt" was a good way to reassure me that she was perfectly calm in this discussion.

Obviously I'm done responding to her if she's being so ridiculous, but it was pretty trying for me to have her be insulting huge swaths of cultures and religions and simply hand-waving the facts I was trying to show her as "Oh you just think you're smarter than me because you've read more than me, but I know more than you about religion because I've been interested in it longer and I wanted to study religion in college at one point!". Uhm, no. This isn't a contest about who knows more, this is about learning to respect other cultures and not just assume that everyone who identifies as a certain religion practices in the same way.

But of course, my sister thinks she can do no wrong and that if you try to correct her or show her new information, that what you're really saying is "I'm smarter than you". I realise I'm not perfect and perhaps my tone wasn't as neutral as I can hope it was, but it's frustrating when she immediately feels cornered and starts getting insultingly self-defensive.

This sort of reminds me of the time she told me that all Muslims follow the Quran to the letter and are prejudiced and violent. I mean, literally said to me that their religion is terrible and inherently all about killing people who disagree with you, and that anyone who identifies as Muslim but might NOT feel that way just isn't a true Muslim. I just... Hopefully she doesn't say stuff like that in public, I guess?
Ganesha the Viking
10 April 2012 @ 09:16 am
As I post and read more on online forums, I'm re-seeing the same arguments I witnessed when I was younger and on the same forums. It's really interesting seeing my growth over time based on my changing views on all these familiar subjects.

In fact, filling something out today about which Myer-Briggs Type I am sort of sums it up, even if it over-simplifies (as all personality tests do, but they're still fun!). I used to score as an INTP, an introverted thinker with bad social skills. I was proud of this, that I used logic above all else. I also remember feeling profoundly unfulfilled, lonely and unable to alter it, and my self-confidence was nonexistant on all matters except my intellect. This was during middle school and the beginning of my high school, when I hid myself in baggy clothes and long hair and got into arguments online about how stupid religious people (by which I meant "Christians") were for deluding themselves about ideas on their Sky Creator.

I remember starting to, as most teenagers do, self-diagnosis my issues and so I turned to databases not of mood disorders, but of personality ones - I took tests for Schizoid and scored high and was fairly certain I had it, or at least that it functioned as an apt description of me. I've also had genuine issues with something called dissociation since I was young, which websites tell me is usually due to childhood trauma and bad coping mechanisms and with which I (and my past therapist) agree.

After my first significant other entered my life, however, I felt a bit of a change. It's not as though my ex-boyfriend and I were particularly close (emotionally) - we had few things in common except enjoying each other's physical company and rarely did more than just talk about inane things, watch movies, or make out. I never once considered the idea of being with him long-term, and in fact the entire latter half of our short relationship was rocky and strained due to him dumping me, then us getting back together and clearly not working out but being too nervous to actually do anything about it and leave ourselves alone. there, I think, is where I first started allowing myself to really feel things. It felt like I was "waking up".

I've always worried it sounds incredibly ridiculous and dramatic to talk about this, so I never do, not to anyone except myself. In fact I have pages of journal entries and hoards of unpublished files on my computer about how I felt I was waking up and finally feeling things, how having intimate physical contact and having to be so raw around someone (and deal with the societal/friend issues that come up when you're a teenager in a relationship) seemed to be doing something, for better or for worse. I was miserable but alive, and I recall exercising obsessively in that time period as an outlet.

Somewhere between that (my freshman/sophomore years) and meeting Kat and now, I've finally started learning how to deal with really feeling things. My dissociation/depersonalization is generally something that only happens rarely, at random, instead of being constantly triggered by any negative thought. I haven't self-harmed at all in something like a year, and I haven't consistently be self-harming in well over two. I stopped taking my anti-depressants about six months after beginning them, in my junior year, because of the side-effects, and I've stopped going to therapy. While the experience of GOING to a therapist was very re-affirming and all, it's just not for me - or at the very least that particular lady was not.

I'm the sort of person that others will blow off as a "hippie" or, god forbid, "hipster" now, because of my huge interest in diet and exercise and its impact on my life. I've found eating better and exercising even moderately more helps both my mood and all the bodily aches I tend to have. And if something works solely on "placebo effect", scientifically speaking, that bothers me not one bit - just because it's a placebo doesn't mean it doesn't work. It means you're controlling your mind by tricking it into doing what you want, and from there it's just semantics as to whether or not that counts as "working".

Back to something vaguely related to my opening paragraph (holy crap I can ramble!), after being raised as an atheist with a disdain for religion - something my father especially impressed upon me - I've gotten over my repulsion of it. I started getting really interested in Paganism, and then Eastern philosophy, some time ago, but I was always afraid to really broadcast it. It seems that in online culture, white people who are interested in other religions/cultures are presumed to only be in it for the exoticism/'hipster'-ness of it, and that's been endlessly frustrating to me. But I seem to have finally found my niche in Hinduism, and I am constantly looking for books on religion. I'm reading one right now that I'm absolutely in love with, and knowing more facts has absolutely transformed my views on the Judeo-Christian-Islamic faiths. I own a (Christian) Bible, the Mahabharata and a seperate, second translation of the Bhagavad Gita, a selection of other Hindu stories, as well as several composite books on religion/philosophy and you know what? It's lost is scariness. I can deal with the occasional religious person online who may turn up their nose at other faiths/atheists/agnostics because I focus on the religions as a whole and they're fascinating.

I wouldn't call myself religious, but I'm certainly spiritual and it means quite a lot to me now. Nothing has ever stopped an anxiety attack for me as well as chanting Ganesha mantras and just breathing has. And reading the Bhagavad Gita in full, despite the prejudiced translation and notes by the "author", provided me a lot of time to mull over things and self-reflect.

I used to read quotes online mocking "liberals" and "open-minded" people who judge close-minded people for being that way, and I finally understand that argument. And I feel that I'm finally at the point in my life where, as long as someone isn't trying to infringe on others' rights because of their beliefs, I am perfectly okay with people having opinions that differ from my own, even radically different or prejudiced or offensive ones. Now of course unfortunately, generally people with extreme views want to push them on others, but that aside, I'm honestly content to live and let live. Why does it matter? Usually it wouldn't, unless you're the sort to flip off or cuss out people you meet in real life that you don't like. No one would ever know your true feelings on them unless you told them, so why bother being open-minded? To me it's about accepting humanity as it is, about allowing everyone else the same respect I was finally able to allow myself despite having anti-spiritual dogma thrown at me during childhood.

It also helps keep my blood pressure down when reading blogs or reading the news. ;) Oh, and for anyone curious, I now score as an INFP - the "T for thinking" has changed to an "F for feeling", and it's a grade I'm willing to live with despite the judgments others may have. xD
Current Music: Kimbra → Call Me
Current Mood: contemplative
Ganesha the Viking
I just recently bought a book entitled "Ganesha Goes to Lunch (Classics From Mystic India)" by Kamla K. Kapur, and it's really, really been sucking me in. I read the entire Bhagavad-Gita: As It Is over the course of a couple months, as I wanted to really understand each section I read before continuing onto the next. For those who aren't familiar with translations of Hindu lore/literature, it's the incredibly long-winded version by Bhaktivedanta (founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness/ISKCON/the "Hare Krishnas"), and I read at least half of the purports he included, and I have to admit that while some of the text was incredibly interesting or exciting to read - it either made sense, was incredibly poetic, or echoed some views of mine that I had been worried I would never see etched out by any religious text - it was, for long intervening parts, incredibly dull and often, in the same breath, incredibly offensive, as far as his purports were concerned. This is of course in part due to Bhaktivedanta's translation itself, as he was a man with a specific agenda that I personally hold in contempt. I have no problem with members of ISKCON who are peaceful members of their faith, but Bhaktivedanta had a lot of views of misogyny, racism (in my readings, against blacks specifically) and strangely specific ideas about the human body which had no basis whatsoever in scientific research (that humans need only four hours of sleep, that women's brains are a certain miniscule size, etc). In fact I found one gem of a quote to really sum up my point for me:

"Ah, yes. So these English people, they were very expert in making propaganda. They killed Hitler by propaganda. I don’t think Hitler was so bad man." -source

I'd go on a conversation about what my views are exactly on each of his bastardizations of Hindu principles and what should be the simple guiding thoughts of reasonable people, but I actually started off intending to talk solely about how much I've been enjoying Ganesha Goes to Lunch and so I'll leave this with his own personal invocation of Godwin's Law and call it a day on that subject.

Anyway, this book's preface/jacket/back (Ganesha Goes to Lunch) specifically mention two interesting things. One, that the author is relating a lot of these stories, not directly from other written sources, but from oral stories she was told from a variety of different people, some of whom also only received the story from another's mouth. And two, that she is consciously modernizing the stories.

This means that she's taken a lot of "liberties", it feels like, with telling the stories, but it's in a way that I think is almost completely helpful. For stories as old as ones from Hinduism, a lot of things were implied rather than stated and even the stating of that could lack in a certain art form (at least in the English sources I have found). Kapur tells everything as if she were actually authoring a short story and artfully, I feel, she manages to convey more human emotion from the characters. I've often noted that recaps of certain aspects of the gods are very brief and to-the-point, meant to simply inform the reader what happened to get from point A to point B. In this book, though, it's novelised and it honestly makes a world of difference. I didn't realise this sort of "translation" of things existed and I actually stayed up late last night early morning reading, it was just so enthralling.

This is the happiest I've been with a book purchase in a while, I'm so glad I took the chance. ♥
Current Mood: impressed