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Notes from Alvina Krause between 1957-1961 are posted at

Fiction about Indians at
Essays about Indians at

Saturday, April 19, 2014


Bernini  St. Therese

Much of human meaning comes from the psychological/physiological phenomenon of attachment, the first manifestation of which is literal and maternal -- the umbilical cord.  Throughout life one yearns for attachment, usually to another human being but sometimes to a surrogate (dog? institution?  art?), and -- in religious terms -- to God.  One of the main functions of portraying God as a person (regardless of factuality) is that it demonstrates attachment.  Call it love if you like.  

A specialized kind of love/attachment, physically erotic, is often expressed in words and music, love songs.  I’m appending a quiz that compares the attachment rhetoric of eroticism to the attachment rhetoric of spirituality when God is seen as a Person.  It was composed by a Christian homeschooler R.L. Stollar, and comes to me courtesy of  Don’t assume that everyone in the believing Christian community is stuffy and blind.  These people are not.  The category of the bands, I'm told, is "Christian Rock."  I’ll put the answers on the next post.

The co-opting of religious rhetoric in the service of S/M sex is a demonstration of how thin the wall between the two can be.  But also there’s something about defining a privileged meaning-community.  I think of the feminists in the Seventies busily “correcting” the UU hymnal lyrics which were Humanist but white male.  The claim was that male pronouns included people of every gender but that was demonstrably (if not very consciously) not true.  Of course, only a few decades earlier the Humanists had been scratching their heads to find words for the hymnal replacing Godtalk, even though the claim was that God could be considered an abstract principle, like “love” or “creativity” or “the Force.”  What is an one-syllable synonym for “man” that IS inclusive?  “Folk?”  (“Human” has man in it.)

The next twist on attachment is that if there is a God, then there is a Devil.  Isn’t the S/M lover in Shades of Gray just Lucifer with a bankroll?  The opposite of good is evil because they are both addictive, which is an extreme paradoxical attachment.  Ecstasy is almost painful.  Pain is almost ecstatic.  If there is addiction, the addiction is demonstrated by the withdrawal.  If the addiction is simultaneously to the “good” of bliss and the “bad” of suffering, then the addiction is twice as powerful -- maybe more, a synergy. (Like an abusive marriage.)  The other extreme of the detach/attach spectrum is fusion.  But then the relationship collapses: the two entities are the same.  

Indifference is the real opposite of attachment.  (I admit that I am addicted to the study of meanings, including that of attachment.  I am not indifferent.  But perhaps this is a protective addiction, a kind of methodone or antidote.)  Indifference/attachment is a spectrum, but a basic level of attachment is necessary for survival.  Doesn’t matter whether it’s good or evil.  Total meaninglessness is not evil but catatonia: numbness.

The ultimate meaning of meaning is survival and therefore attachment is a means of survival.  I ask all the time, what is the addiction UNDER addictions?  ALL addictions.  Of course, in the physical sense it is molecular responses in the brain, the triggers and plug-ins of various kinds.  But what connectome, what consciousness pattern?  

No one shoots up with “street serotonin.”  That can’t be the only key.  Meaning is historical.  Heroin has more of a history than serotonin.  It has glamour, wickedness.  (The root meaning of glamour is witchcraft, right?)  Every flame needs a chalice, every act of sex, religion or drug use needs its ceremony.  I’m sure folks out there can offer the rhetoric of drugs in songs, which will be close to those of God-worship and sex.  Every meaning needs its rhetoric and if the meaning is near to the core, that rhetoric will dwell in the lyrics of the songs.  

So here’s the quiz and I’ll put the answers in the next post.

1. Which of the following is a lyric from a Newsboys song?
a. Giving it over, I was flat on my back.
b. I come instantly
2. Which use of “hand” is from 50 Shades of Grey and not a CCM song?
a. You gentle your hand…
b. Gushing with surrender in your hands…
c. My hands are open, so take what you see…
3. Three of the following four lines are from Skillet songs. Which one is from 50 Shades of Grey?
a. Stretch me bigger….
b. An empty vessel to be filled at your whim…
c. I’m exploding like chemicals. I’m going crazy — can’t get enough!
d. It’s so urgent. It’s so desperate I can feel it in my bones.

4. One of these four is dirty talk. The other three are DC Talk. Which one is dirty?
a. You consume me like a burning flame.
b. Anytime, anyplace.
c. I am calling out your name.
d. Oh, you know that I surrender.

5. Which “you” is from a Sonicflood praise song? (The other two are about sex.)
a. God, I want you
b. I want to touch you.
c. I am in awe of you.

6. Can you figure out which is neither Rebecca St. James nor Audio Adrenaline?
a. Here I am. I will do as you say.
b. You’re pinning me to the wall.
c. I’m enslaved to what you say.

7. Different people handle pain differently. Which one is the 50 Shades of Grey way?
a. How can I scream when the pain is such a release?
b. The pain is such that I refuse to acknowledge it.
c. I do not deserve to be set free.

8. Once you experience something you really like, you usually want more. Which wanting more is not about God?
a. We’re going all the way.
b. I’ve never wanted more, until I met you.
c. I’ll be chasing you.
d. I wanna do it soon.

9. Which romantic exclamation is not about Jesus?
a. When I’m in your arms is when I feel the best.
b. My heart beats for you.
c. I want my world to start and end with you.
d. I can feel your power surging through the whole of me.

10. One of these is about a BDSM master/slave relationship. The other three are from Christian music.
a. Capture me, make me a slave.
b. I’m struggling to resist, but I’m drawn.
c. If I could only be your master.
d. You can have everything I am.


By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
Growing up evangelical, I listened to a lot of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). I never understood the whole “rock music causes demons to eat your brain” mentality. But I did understand — to some extent — their point that Christian rock music was just normal rock music with “Jesus” pasted on top. To my friends and I, that wasn’t actually an intelligent critique. It was more a joke, something we all laughed about.
Fact is, my peers and I often thought it was funny that many CCM songs appeared to be sexy romance songs where the “you” was just capitalized so it suddenly was about Jesus rather than a hot piece of man-flesh. And some CCM bands — Skillet, most of all — have lyrics that are so spiritually kinky, even actual kinksters might blush.
So to honor this humorous memory of CCM’s steamy lyricism, I decided to create a quiz where you must identify whether certain phrases are lines from the bestselling erotic BDSM novel 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James or lyrics from Contemporary Christian Music songs. So pull out a pen and paper and keep track of your answers; an answer key is provided after the quiz.
Make sure you don’t cheat. God is watching you. As Phil Joel says about God, “He’s gonna keep the night light on. He’s waiting there to receive you.”
Or was that something Anastasia Steele wrote in her diary about Christian Grey?

Friday, April 18, 2014


The book of Matthew is fond of the editing theory of how to have a good life.  Eliminate trouble by eliminating the "bad."  The advice of excision shows up in several places.  Here’s one version.  Matthew 5:29  And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.   This is social disciplinary metaphor, not realistic.  The medical advice of amputation or surgical removal is very close to torture methods.  Quarantine is defensible medical practice while shunning or excommunication is often a disciplinary method in churches.  I mean, this idea of plucking and casting is right on the edge between effective and evil.  It's bad enough as a social theory (eliminate all Jews, blacks, gays) but as a way to manage a family it really sucks.  (As those kids thrown into the street would put it.)

Maybe it’s the Scots outlander in me that considers banishment kind of attractive.  I almost court it.  But I have not wanted to be identified as a person who writes about Indians (who I am not) nor gays (who I am not) nor persons with HIV-AIDS (who I am not).  Maybe I’m just liberal or progressive or ornery or naturally inclined to stick up for the underdog, no matter what the justification for exclusion.  But it is clear to me that to pluck out an offending eye (maybe it’s really painful or malignant in situ) is different than draining out blood because it is diseased, though that was medical practice until surprisingly recently.  (It's how Robin Hood was killed, right?)

We construct categories, then stigmatize them, then assign people to them in ways that are not even accurate.  As long as HIV-AIDS was still considered to be directly caused by anal intercourse, then maybe it made sense to wall off everyone who did that, esp. if it was thought that only gay men did it.  But then it turned out that HIV is a blood disease.  And then it turned out that a lot more people, both male and female, straight and kinky, were having anal intercourse.  When mainstream magazine articles begin to discuss better orgasms through rear entry, it’s clear that the category is useless as an indicator of perversion.

HIV-AIDS is a blood disease.  We cannot expect people to go around with no blood.  It has to be treated as though it were any other infection of the body.  But that’s not all I want to talk about.  The category of “gay men” has also been pretty much destroyed by increased knowledge.  It is not a medical or anatomical category (though it may be genetic or epigenetic).  The single defining criterion is men who desire sexual relations with other men.  Desire is a reflex response located in the autonomic nervous system, all THREE branches.  (Until recently no one knew about the third "enteric" (guts) branch, which is sometimes called a "second brain.")  You can't see it on any instrument we have, just the response to it.  Like a slightly swollen upper lip and dilated eyes.

Medical categories are based on appearance and function.  A man might have a penis the size of a thimble.  I’m realizing that decades ago when that woman called animal control to complain about her husband who would only have sex with the family cat, it may not have been so unlikely as we thought.  Scott O’Hara, who won size contests, was eloquent on the subject of how-you-use-it being more important that what-you’ve-got.  But some people have tabs, some people have slots, and some people have both, or neither, or some modification or mixture of the two.  I'm saying "gay" is about desire, not equipment.  And desire is only one aspect of a person's identity.

Fourth grade is a turning point year for kids in our school systems.  Usually classes begin to go from one teacher to another because presumably they’ve got the basics down and are ready for specialization, which means teachers with special training.  Most kids are about eight, which in medieval and frontier times would have been old enough to begin working for a living, because all you needed then were the basics.  How much math do you need to clean a chimney?  How much literature do you need to string an industrial loom?

When I was in the fourth grade, we still believed in the humanities, so one of the special classes was art.  I remember quite clearly that when the teacher was out of the room, two boys explained that anyone who wore yellow on Thursday was “gay.”  This, like the disloyalty of not wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day, meant you were entitled to pinch them, hit them, and slander them.  No one quite realized that it was connected to sexual preference because we hadn’t hit puberty yet.  Only a few of us understood heterosexual practices or that some people had three orifices down there -- counting the boys’ all-important pipi.  It was something about being a sissy, which is why girls couldn’t be gay even if they wore yellow on Thursday because girls can’t be sissies because that would be redundant.

Only recently has it occurred to me that the two dignified and graceful women across the street who were good friends of my family -- let alone my several high school teachers who lived with same-sex partners (all women) -- could be considered lesbian.  Not that they went around waving dildos -- they were all at least sixty.  Nor did it occur to me that my closest friend’s elegant “bachelor” uncle who took us to the ballet would be recognized as “gay” today.

In college I was in theatre and it was -- now it turns out -- to be an exceptionally gay-friendly theatre department.  I’m not sure that even the gay guys were conscious of it.  We were all wrestling with issues like finding the spine of a character, summoning up the sensory world of Cleopatra and Caesar, or surviving period underwear.  In some ways we were slow maturing, even with “Tea and Sympathy” as the “Brokeback Mountain” of our time.  One friend called me “Deborah Kerr” and that role stuck with me.  There’s not that much difference between coming out as a Gay and coming out as a proud "half-breed" Indian or consorting with a grandpa.  Defying stigma rules.

Once in seminary I was asked to identify a key primal “script” for my life.  To the professor’s dismay, I chose “The Princess and the Goblin,” a Tolkien-lite story about a little girl who lived in a chateau on top of a mountain but was close friends with a boy miner who understood the catacombs and labyrinths within the mountain.  She also was given a ring by her many-times-great grandmother who lived in the top of the highest tower of the chateau and was on good terms with the Holy Spirit in the form of doves.  This ring was attached to a filament or thread that the girl could use as a guide for the right direction for her life to take.  Just what was needed for going with Curdie (that was the miner boy’s name -- was it short for Courage?) through the lightless passages to keep the goblins (trolls?) under control.  (One stamped on their tender feet.)  

The filament, an "Ariadne's thread, named for the legend of Ariadne, is the solving of a problem with multiple apparent means of proceeding - such as a physical maze, a logic puzzle or an ethical dilemma."  If you try to go backwards it disappears.  In the myth it is provided by an inspired woman to an heroic man who must fight the Minotaur, the half-bull.  My professor, who earlier had sighed over my characterization of the universe as a copper scouring pad that wears you down to your core, was not impressed.  He liked the former physics professor in the previous class who talked about the distortion of the gravity plenum being like a ball-bearing on a rubber sheet.  I didn’t see the diff.

The point is that in my world the goal is not bigger and better orgasms or high status relationships.  It is a metaphysical justice problem with the goal being survival.  It has no concern for genital variation, genomic interweaving, or gender culture roles.  It’s about what will get you through the maze and slay the minotaur, which I take to be violence, war, plague, famine, and so on.  

Not that I’m against using force.  But I don’t see why a gay guy can’t be an excellent swordsman.  It occurs to me that “Arya” in “Game of Thrones” is probably named for Ariadne.  George R.R. Martin messes around with the stuff all the time.  But he’s nothing like the Reverend George MacDonald, who was a Universalist (“God will save everyone.”)  clergyman with too many kids and an attitude far too inclusive to suit his superiors.  He was more of the spirit than the blood.   Institutional Christianity is blood-centered.  They think they are in charge of blood.  At some points of their history they have demanded the blood of others be spilled.  Then there's Communion.  But maybe Christianity as a concept, a category, is also disintegrating.  Certainly, the Universalist aspect of it seems to be neglected.  This is the url of a "saving remnant" in Washington, D.C.  Good location for building an ark!

Thursday, April 17, 2014


The most recent neuroresearch has been so startling but so convincing that philosophers, writers, and speculators have been stampeding to catch up.  I love Barbara Ehrenreich’s writing, but it DOES give me a twinge to see her out there exploring what I thought was MY “wilderness.”  (“Living with a Wild God.”)  It’s worse that I will probably agree with her, once I catch up with the book.  Though I do NOT believe in personalizing some unknown singularity/unity/force.  But there’s no sense in hiding my cards now.

This is what’s in my hand at the moment.  First, a growing understanding of brain structure and function that came out of trying to understand what was going on with my brother and father when they had traumatic damage to their prefrontal lobe cortex that left them seemingly functional, but somehow empty.  

Second, an endorsed appreciation of the importance of the bodily sensorium, the raw intake of the WHOLE body which may in the end amount to a hundred different senses, not even counting the combined/blended senses like smell/taste.  (You know they’ve added a sense to taste?  Umami -- “yumminess.”)  The muscles are recording and sending, internal organs are recording and sending, gamma rays are shooting through us -- all this stuff goes on and we don’t even know we’re recording it: day length, for instance, and yet all creatures react to the sum and interaction of this information.

Third, the brain is not a bowl of jello.  Substructures, arranged in order of evolution, and specialized cells, imperceptible until recently, make a network with specialized organelles that connect through threads and by varying the chemicals in solution throughout the brain and into the blood.  We grow neurons, we form new nodes, we destroy old ones, in response to the sensorium which underlies and orders thinking through the use of sense memory, just as the Method acting coaches said.  We “grow” an internal world which is like a theatre with many different sets, depending on whether the action is opera, mystery, political speech, or intimacy.  

Some sophisticated “explainers” will teach the main structure of the brain by using a fist as a mnemonic device.  

Fist for a Brain
  1. Extend both arms with palms open facing down and lock your thumbs. 
  2. Curl your fingers to make two fists. 
  3. Turn your fists inward and connect your hands until the knuckles
  4. Cross over your thumbs. 
  5. While the fists are touching, pull both toward your chest until you
    are looking down on your knuckles. This is the approximate size of your brain! Not as big as you thought? Most brains are 2% of your total body weight, about 3 pounds and the size of a small grapefruit. It’s not the size that matters, and they do not get larger with a larger person. What matters is the numbers of connections in neurons, and the number of deep crevasses or folds in the brain structure. Those connections form when stimuli result in learning. The thumbs are the front and are crossed to remind us that the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, and the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body. The knuckles and outside part of the hands represent the cerebrum, or thinking part of the brain. 
  6. Spread your palms apart and keep your knuckles touching. Look at the tips of your fingers, which represent the limbic system or emotional area. Note how this area is buried deep within the brain, and how the fingers are mirror imaged. This reminds us that most of the structures of the limbic system are duplicated in each hemisphere. 
  7. The wrists are the brainstem where vital body functions (such as body temperature, heart beat, blood pressure) are controlled. Rotating your hands shows how the brain can move on top of the spinal column, which is represented by your forearms. 

Here’s another version on video with a little different detail.  This is Daniel Siegel’s main schtick, the basis for “Mindsight.”  It’s a good gig.  And he added something new that I’ve never resolved, which is community.

Fourth:  Behind the forehead are cells that specialize in empathy: knowing how other people feel.  It’s a sense that is unconscious -- you can’t taste it or feel it -- but it is the loss of that sense that crippled and hollowed my father and brother.  Besides the connectome in the skull responding/comprising the various mind-modes of the brain, we need also to be able to connect to the other people around us -- a community connectome.  THIS is the basis of audiences and congregations, choirs and orchestras, dance troupes and athletic teams, even writers and their readers.

Some of our groups, like our families and lovers, reach deep into us.  Some groups are pretty impersonal -- riding the bus.  Some are chosen (friends), and some are imposed (boot camp).  Teachers, preachers, judges and lovers -- all propose for us a relational connectome.  How to act, esp. in regard to others.  What our social obligations might be.  Ways to survive.  Some people are gregarious and need to be in the midst of community; others are introverts who need a lot of time alone.

I feel privileged to write alone in a small town with few real-life interactions in person.  I’m also privileged to have the kind of education that makes my print people (like email) very close, very vivid, very different from each other.  So I write to them when I write this blog.  They would shock each other and actively avoid each other in person.  

Once (when considering the ministry but wondering whether I weren’t just reacting to the UU community and the PNWD’s exceptionally charismatic set of ministers in the Seventies) I was working with a counselor and we were discussing how very different people can be from each other and yet seem so intimate and meaningful to just oneself.  She said she once threw a party for all her closest friends.  They were so different from each other that they all got into a terrible row.  What I had in common with her was an appreciation of every sort of friend -- what perplexed us was that they refused to value anyone not like themselves.  This dynamic goes lethal.  

When I was a little Presbyterian, I went happily off to St. Andrews with my classmate.  Then I invited her to come to my church, but it was forbidden.  When I was a big retired UU minister, a couple was killed in a car accident.  The Methodist minister and I attended the funeral mass of the one who was Catholic.  The priest for the other person couldn’t attend the funeral for the one who was Methodist.  Hardened boundaries between the two denominations have plagued the Blackfeet for centuries.

My original UU minister, Alan Deale, used to tell a joke about a Methodist church and a Catholic church that were next door to each other.  They felt ecumenical about it and often cooperated to do good deeds.  When the Catholics had a fund drive for a new roof, the Methodists kicked in a generous donation.  Then the Methodists became prosperous enough and were growing fast enough to build a new church, but they didn’t have enough for a new lot, so they would have to demolish the old church.  They began fund-raising and went to the Catholics.  The old priest said,  “The church rules stipulate that I can’t ever help a Protestant church grow.  But I could help destroy one.”  Then he handed over a generous check for demolishing the old church building.  His name might have been Francis.

Clear away the outdated rules and fences, the institutional underbrush, so we can see the thalweg.  The point is that these religious bodies recognized that they were part of the same community, that they had connection which is a kind of communion, that they respected their differences, and they could even hear each other’s religious music when the windows were open.

Human brains start with the molecules of the world; develop sensoria;  then form thought patterns moving through nodes in the connectome of the brain; enact actions and ideas; share in community.  You know that little child’s hand-game?  “This is the church, this is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people.”  It’s the next step in the brain-as-a-fist metaphor.  In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a kid doing it.

Where’s the next step after that?  Hands UP!  Twinkle, twinkle, little star.  Cosmic connection.  Maybe Ehrenreich is already there.  Take my hand.

On a predawn walk in Lone Pine, California, Ehrenreich recalls, she encountered “something alive” which she describes as nothing short of a “cataclysmic experience” when “the world flamed into life.”
No visual hallucination, no prophetic voices; rather, the world opened up and was “rushing out to” her. Ehrenreich writes: “Something poured into me and I poured out into it…. a furious encounter with a living substance.” 


Wednesday, April 16, 2014


There must be a little nexus in the brain about narratives that is especially suited to reading comics, though I suppose in the beginning it evolved to be about petroglyphs -- those stick figures on rocks.  In the good old days my father used to read us kids the comics on Sunday and some of those characters were more vivid to me than some actual people today.  Take Denny Dimwit, for instance, with whom I empathized.  I must not have been the only one, because when I googled, I came up with a LOT of stuff, including a little figurine of Denny.

Denny Dimwit was a member of the RinkyDinks, a boy "gang," one of whom was Perry Winkle, who sort of took over the strip.  He was a boy who rather resented being "improved" by a family that adopted him and he needed the services of a "fairy godfather," a tough and practical character something like Tyrion Lannister -- boy-sized, wearing a derby and smoking a cigar.  He had wings but more like insect wings than angel wings.  When I was in deep distress during my hospital chaplaincy training, the Fairy Godfather showed up in my dreams.  I was flattened in a dark and rainy alley when I smelled cigar smoke and there he was.

The issues of that time, as well as the economic conditions of the time, are eerily like our own.  Bullying, economic status, women who must work, schools that don't get it.  Boys trying to cope.

Sue, my friend in Calgary, is good at finding terrific stuff.  Like me, she loves comics, so she really scored a gold mine when she found a website for online comics.  No more suffering through some newspaper nerd’s idea of which comics to read.  Here’s the link.  (This post is going to be a bit of a link farm.)

She started me off with this inspired comic strip.  Surely Francis I is the first Pope to have his own comic strip!  

You don’t have to draw well to create a comic strip, because often it’s the caption that really makes it work.  In fact, this whole strip below is simply schmaltzy old Victorian art with new captions.  This one seems timely, since I’m watching “Game of Thrones” (which operates on something like the same idea -- that is, fabulous tableaux with new dialogue.)

Orestes pursued by the Furies after leaving the toilet seat up.

This next one depends on good drawing and is pretty brainy, often referring to our shared memories of popular TV series and billed as the "wordiest comic."  (I hope you can "enbiggen" these enough to read.)

There's also a book of these strips to help you cope with life: is good to know about when the prissy regional papers refuse to print something.  Like Doonesbury or something.

But what if the comic is just inscrutable?

This is from "Cyanide and Happiness."  I think.

And this one is from "Dark Side of the Horse"

Both are taken from a blog called "comics I don't understand."  People send comments explaining the very dry humor.  Sometimes the comments are stranger and more inscrutable than the original comic strip. I particularly like this strip about a horse and I know Sue probably does, too.  We share our love of horses.

Native American comics continue the association with thrillers and fantasy.  Some of these strips are supposed to become movies.  I don't know how much these really have to do with Indians.  The local political cartoonist has gone silent -- maybe too hot to comment.

Comics Alliance is quite a bit more edgy than gocomics.  If you're a plugger, you might want to stick with gocomics.

How about ordering a book of comic strips from Amazon?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014



What if I looked back over my own life with the same level of analysis as I’ve used on the rez and on Valier?  These are “time-line” reflections.  There are two main ways that the time-line matters:  one is the forces that came to bear on the creation of one’s physical genome and family heritage and the other is the sequence of macro-micro experiences that a person has lived through.  Some of them are universal or historic.  It's not a matter of pride or blame.  Just  "is."

So here’s this Scots/Irish person, female, first-born of what I thought was two first-born late-marrying people. (It turned out that my father had an older brother who was premature and died after 17 days, information that was hidden).  I was soon joined by two brothers.  The parents were both raised rural, my mother in the generous but slightly hill-billy environment of the southern end of the Oregon Willamette Valley, and my father on potato farms, first-plantings on virgin prairie in Dakota and Manitoba.  Both families were poor by today’s standards, though they were rather successful on their own terms -- which were mostly that surviving at all was a success.

My grandfather and the residue of living on moose meat.

My father’s life was dominated by his birth family.  Lifelong he made it a point to stay connected to cousins and friends from early life.  My mother’s family was much influenced by a third family line because her sisters and cousin married brothers and cousin for security (they owned a LOT of land) and insisted that their boys stay on the ranch (sheep) while their pretty and popular girls married "up."  (Very Jane Austen.  The third family was English and overwhelmed the Irish strand -- except for my mother.)  The contrast between my parents’ take on life had major consequence:  my father believed women are princesses, my mother believed women were workhorses who must save men.  This separates me from my female cousins on my father's side, though we are all readers.  They have not had the lives of princesses, but they're good at pretending.

My father received his MS with his proud parents attending.

Both parents believed in education.  They just had limited ideas about what it was.  My father’s Master’s was in potato economics just before the Depression.  My mother’s Bachelor's was in teaching, just after the Korean War -- her classmates were veterans on the GI Bill.  Both got a job, clung to it tightly with no intention of promotion, accepting the cramped income, staying in the same house from marriage to death.  During WWII was the only time my father couldn’t travel.  (We never figured out what he did while traveling besides his job.  My mother wondered if there were a second family.)  Everything changed again in 1948 because he was in a car accident that did prefrontal cortex damage.  From then on he was volatile, had no patience with his children, bullied us.  He grew very fat and clowned to compensate.  Both parents knew something was askew but didn’t know what to do about it.  They read a lot of pop psych, but never talked about such matters.

The Depression had pulled my mother out of college halfway through.  Her father had objected to her marriage and cut her off.  (When her younger sister had been killed in a car accident with an older sister driving -- they were in high school -- the father had coped with it by denying it.  He was a powerless controller whose schemes never quite worked out, which made him mean.) My grandmother had been dying of cancer in the early years of the marriage and my mother had been blamed for it.  My mother’s sister had been finishing a nursing degree in Portland at the time and had shared her education with my mother.  They were stoics, impressed with the idea of service to others, mostly female support of males, who were then supposed to protect the females and children.  WWII had reinforced this.

My father’s default religious position was secular progressivism and prairie humanism, but he secretly flirted with Unitarianism.  My mother was raised Presbyterian and raised her children that way.  I went along until college.  All of my cousins on both sides, except for one atypical male, are secular.  They do not smoke, they are faithful, they pay their bills and do well at work, they do not drink to excess, they have never been arrested, they don’t use bad language and they don’t read porn.  But their children are haywire.

Life mostly happened to me while I was busy reading books -- not paying attention.  School was high achievement but high stress.  I took on a lot but mostly got it all done, but was always at the bottom of the top and not quite in sync with the prescriptions of the time.  A semi-finalist for a National Merit Scholarship, a semi-finalist for a National Honor Society Scholarship, but not a finalist for either.  I didn’t date.  I had a pleated Pendleton skirt bought at the factory outlet and a Pendleton jacket that my mother made.  I never got the blouse-under-sweater thing right because I was too generic: never the right kind of collar, never the right kind of circle pin.  But I tried.  Then I’d add one of my father’s plaid ties because I was pretending to be an English school girl.

Dramatics was my thing.  I went to Northwestern University because it was my teacher’s alma mater.  (I was on full tuition NU scholarship.  My mother paid the rest because that's what should have happened to her.) Recently I was surprised to discover that acting classmates had been as interested in religion as I was, taking serious study-of-religion classes from people like Paul Schilpp, a major humanist thinker.  Yet we had never joined congregations.  We just approached theatre as if it were a formal institutional religion, as taught by Alvina Krause.  This turned out to be a major handicap for a high school drama teacher.  I take it much too seriously.  Theatre was everything.  One of my classmates recently expressed indignation because he was a professional actor working with a local community theatre where the others didn’t bother to learn their lines.  I smiled.

Teaching was my ticket to another culture, the Blackfeet, which in the Sixties was mixed with whites, Cree, fugitives from the law, hippies, and alcoholic geniuses.  No blacks, no Latinos, no Asians.  Falling in with Bob Scriver was a destiny I could not have predicted but certainly recognized.  It lasted a decade and then I was stuck about what to do.  Back in Portland I began the strange process of job-hunting and resorted to Civil Service, intending to take night courses in psych, which I did.

The day job was animal control, which was just then trying to be progressive so was in transition between the regime of a handsome Portuguese sexist son-in-law of a commissioner, a tricky guy who also ran a riding academy (which I always suspected was a front for trafficking girls) and a big vital Welshman who had been a California cop.  I was the entering edge of a social transition, which transformed AC just as later I was part of a widening wedge in the UU ministry.  That is, I was suited because I could work like a man on men’s terms, but then the occupation began to include so many women that it changed:  therapy, “making nice”, personal relationships, and then -- more and more -- money raising.  It was no longer a “learned ministry.”  I became unsuited because I refused to change.  I thought.

By the time I finished Div School, all I wanted to do was return to Montana.  The three years of circuit-riding in my forties -- acting like a twenty-year-old in a time when twenty-year-olds scorned such a job -- I proved something, but I’m still not sure what.  Finally it came to a choice between “Indians” and conformity and I chose Indians.  Who threw me out.  I was not what they thought a white person should be and anyway, they wanted all whites to leave.  Most did.  (1988-91)  Much of this was the political impact of half-digested post-modern French theory (1776 returns!) and much of it was simply coming of age.  The buffalo Indians were gone and their greatgrandchildren were AIM.  That is not finished.

When I went back to Portland this time, it took eight months to find work.  Resorting to Civil Service again, I took a clerical job, but this time instead of taking classes I “attended” Powells bookstore every evening.  By this time my father was long dead and my youngest brother was the one with frontal neocortex damage from a fall.  My mother had begun to die from a blood cancer, possibly because by now both were chain smokers.  My other brother left after college and never really returned.  The “third family” and even my father’s family were no longer in touch or in sync.  When my mother died, one-third of her house -- my inheritance -- was enough to get me back to the edge of the rez in 1999.  Here I am.

I am still equipped with willingness to risk, which I got from animal control when I walked into danger all the time and from driving Montana winter highways, and a much greater resourcefulness in thinking, thanks to the Div School.  They have not surrendered the insistence on logic, precedent, and method.  My denominational school has been feminized and trivialized.  (That is not a compliment, but it is probably their route to survival.)  In the fourteen years since I’ve been back here, history of half-a-century has given me a major advantage, as did the abiding friendships of people here -- who have been dying over the past few years.

But now I think global, the macro-patterns of the planet that come from the mini-patterns of a trillion lives stretching back through not just millennia, but aeons, aeons, aeons -- from the first one-celled “animals” that managed to become creatures and plants.  This Consciousness has swallowed religion, swallowed humans, swallowed time, and is gaping wide to eat the Cosmos, which will soon eat me and redistribute my elements.

Oh, did I say that I write?  I’m getting better.  It’s my religious practice.  A religion that is not enacted is not a religion.  Neither is it theatre.  It is participation.