Snowing outside—bright, glazed white porcelain snow glinting diagonal streaks across the dull, matte white, horizontal blinds. Warm inside, light grey steamy mists rising perpendicular to darker grey, vertical heating pipes. Cold sunlight crosses hot lamp light, casting a lace collar on the faded, ash-blonde wood floor. A chiaroscuro painting.
My black hair drifts in clumps to the floor—point, counterpoint, snippets alternating with the white, old man’s hair falling outside. A mulch-covering ritual of renewal.
Clip, clip, snip scissors, the shears shearing. A perfect haiku: white spring snow and me, thick, black hair on a diminutive Japanese girl. Or, thick, harsh snow burning a cold January day and me, tall, heavy-boned black woman, crimps of wiry hair, hair in glassy, black waves—an ocean tangling into the African ivory coastline. The snow’s cruel light gleams, thick and gagging, a chalky milkshake, threatening to choke and kill. Or, a dense, onerous snow trudging across the Russian Steppes, asphyxiating the land, crushing the houses, and me, moon-faced, unblinking—staunch. And inside I am warm, surrounded by tufts of hair, molting clumps from a stuffed Panda Bear.
I tenderly collect hair to braid into a rug, to cover with dust, cover with cat hair, cover as it covers—to be worn down back into the elements. Or, this gathering of hair, I will weave as the bottom of a wicker chair, supporting friends that come and go, supporting dust, supporting cat hair, supporting as it is supported. Thus start the years of collecting hair, hair constantly pruned short to fulfill such purposes.
I beg (steal) hair. Rescued from lovers, from friends, from strangers, …. swept from beauty parlors finely stained wood, from barbershops dust-covered, dull linoleum floors, from waste baskets in bathrooms, from brushes and combs patiently culled without breaking the knots and tangles. Workrooms deep in drifting, shifting color-spectrumnal hair—cotton white to Tupelo honey, Poppy red to the deep purple of ripe plums, leisurely loops to ringlets, electric shock waves to water flows. A wondrous fey-lock palette.
Space and history, I weave, time and emotion, I weave—shirts, jackets, dresses, pants…. Chiaroscuro body maps lined with purple amethyst Chinese silk. Hair-knittes huggings holding humans against the cold, the dirt, the outside that sometimes taps, sometimes scratches against my windows. My closests spill stories of dead cells shorn to be renewed, journeys of celebrations and mournings, of beginnings, changes, and ends—people I have never met, people I thought I knew, people I knew for only a while, and the very few I knew forever in the rhythm of their heartbeat. No, they never stay….. But I have their hair—and all that encompasses.
by Riki Mathews. Check out her blog at The Trickster Tells.
Here is a blog about the Colorado Coalition of Reasons 11 secular billboards by Splendid Elles, our honourary evil high school genius.
Joel, President of Metro State Atheists, was interviewed by for an article in the Rocky Mountain News regarding the the Colorado Coalition of Reasons secular billboards. The article, qouted below, was written by Bill Johnson.
The message is but eight words divided into two short sentences set against puffy white clouds on a blue and black background.
One of the men behind the billboard message says his life has been threatened because of it, which seems an odd thing since those doing the threatening all profess to be Christians.
Just eight words:
“Don’t believe in God?” the upper left of the billboard reads. “You are not alone,” the lower right says.
I have no idea how many times I have passed the sign in the days since it went up at Colfax Avenue and Quebec Street on Nov. 17, but I never noticed it until someone pointed it out the other day.
I don’t get the fuss. And yes, I appear to be alone in this.
The billboard is one of 11 in Denver and Colorado Springs paid for by a group that calls itself the Colorado Coalition of Reason, a self-described coalition of “freethinker, atheist and humanist” groups.
The sole purpose of the ads, the group maintains, is what it says: to let other freethinkers, atheists and humanists know there is a group out there for them.
Two of the 11 signs were supposed to go up in Fort Collins and Greeley, the group said. This was so until the moment the media company that owns the two billboards read the message.
The hate mail and nasty, threatening phone messages began almost immediately.
Much of it has been directed at Joel Guttormson, who mostly has been serving as a spokesman for COCORE, as they call it.
Twenty-two and a Metro State junior majoring in theoretical mathematics, Guttormson also is president of the Metro State Atheists, one of the 11 groups that make up COCORE.
“It’s been kind of wild, kind of outrageous,” he says of days since the billboards went up.
“It has been mostly Christians who’ve been calling and e-mailing,” Joel Guttormson said, “which is strange since the message is not directed at Christians or anyone from any religion.
“You know, if you see an ad for migraine medicine and you don’t have a migraine, why would you care?”
Almost all of the feedback, he said, has been from people who say the billboards denigrate Christians. He says he still has no idea how that is possible.
“We are not out to anger people,” Joel Guttormson said. “I don’t know why people think that. So much of it says we are evil and that we hate everybody.
“Have you seen the billboard? Tell me where any of them mentions evil or hate. Why is everyone so mad?”
John Matson, of Denver, was so mad after seeing the Santa Fe Drive sign that he dashed off an angry letter to the billboard’s owner.
“It is a despicable act to allow that sign,” the 60-year-old man said in an interview, “and for just a few pieces of silver.”
He went on COCORE’s Web site, and it made him even angrier, John Matson said. It is trying to gather, he said, “a constituency of what I call mob rule.”
“I know they’re atheists, and my opinion is they want others to believe the same thing. The billboard misrepresents their purpose,” he said. “Their agenda is wolf-in-sheep’s clothing political. Why don’t they just say it.”
Yes, he is a Christian, John Matson said.
“I also understand free speech. And I can also stand up and tell them that they are wrong.”
He has yet, he said, to hear back from the billboard company.
That is about the tone of much of what he has heard, Joel Guttormson said. He saves each call, files the e-mails in a folder.
“I read them, put them away and forget about it,” he says. “My sister keeps telling me I need to watch out for myself.”
He began investigating religion and faith early on, he said, and by high school he was a confirmed atheist.
People ostracized him. It is rare now that he even mentions it outside of his group, he said.
“I don’t tell people at work. I keep my mouth shut.”
Atheism, he said, scares people, the mere possibility that God doesn’t exist.
He remembers one woman running away from an event his group sponsored, “saying that if she listened to us, she would go to hell. I just sat there thinking, ‘Wow! We’re really that awful?’ ”
He is braced for the next few weeks. It is what he calls the radical Christians that are making the most noise, Joel Guttormson said.
“I’ll spend more time defending this than anything else,” he said. “I’ve already learned that anything we do is not going to satisfy them. Anything we do or say is only going to make them more angry.”
I had only one more question:
Have the billboards, which will remain up through Dec. 14, worked?
“We’ve gotten fairly good response from a lot of like-minded people, including some people from out of state who heard about what we are doing,” Joel Guttormson said.
“The cool thing is we’ve even had some Christians step up and defend us. They know our message is no more offensive than one that reads:
“Believe in God? You’re not alone.”
I recently had the displeasure of reading some essays by the revered G.K. Chesterton, a man whom only very nice things are typically said about — which is a troublesome circumstance that I’d like to do my part in mitigating. Chesterton makes an irritating habit of writing entirely too much in defense of the truth of Christianity, while forgetting to actually address the matter of the truth in Christianity. He occasionally seems like he is going to say something related to this weighty issue, but instead prates endlessly on topics that require the affected proposition to have already been settled. The overall effect seems to be that several of his readers, maybe more, forget that he never addressed the issue of truth, and in silent befuddlement, follow Chesterton to the conclusions of his baseless chatter; rather than insist he start from the beginning like an ordinary person.
Though it would be fun to go through all of his essays that I have here and rebuke each of the nasty things he says about scientists, naturalists, people living before Christianity, Pagans, philosophers, Orientals, and well, pretty much anyone who isn’t a Christian — I’m instead going to select one essay from the bunch, by virtue of it being as bad as any other, and look at it more closely than one would ordinarily want to; which is to say, from a moderate distance.
In “The Paradoxes of Christianity” Chesterton gives a heartwarming account of how he, too, was once a dirty agnostic who read atheistic pamphlets and really, just gave the whole anti-Christianity thing his best. All was going well, torches and fuel had been collected for his first midnight church burning, and it seemed as if Night’s sordid chores would be brought unto completion; until he began to realize that everything he had read against Christianity contradicted itself: “Now I found that I was to hate Christianity not for fighting too little, but for fighting too much. Christianity, it seemed, was the mother of wars. Christianity had deluged the world with blood. I had got thoroughly angry with the Christian, because he never was angry. And now I was told to be angry with him because his anger had been the most huge and horrible thing in human history; because his anger had soaked the earth and smoked to the sun. . . . It was the fault of poor old Christianity (somehow or other) both that Edward the Confessor did not fight and that Richard Coeur de Lion did.”
I believe this was the first point in this particular essay at which I had to stop and reflect: “Hmm, this guy is supposed to be brilliant? Well, he’s certainly not that; unless he’s dishonest — well, at least maybe he’s just dishonest. I mean, the writing itself is pretty, would be a shame if its author were a dullard. Maybe he’s just dishonest.” It doesn’t seem very difficult to me to conceive of Christianity being both at once overly violent and overly meek. Actually, it seems the simplest thing to conceive of — I had a very similar experience the other day: I held one hand to a block of ice and another to a flame, and both at once I became too hot and too cold. I didn’t even pause to think about the inherent paradox in the situation; for if something is too cold and too hot at once, it must be a cozy 72 degrees Fahrenheit in total. Nope, instead, like a sensible person, I quit trying to freeze part of me while burning the other and withdrew from flame and ice alike.
Rather than concern himself with the fact that he’s not actually saying anything here, Chesterton continues by giving lots and lots of other examples which function in exactly the same manner and are thereby completely devoid of content, though very poetic. “Or again, Christianity was reproached with its naked and hungry habits; with its sackcloth and dried peas. But the next minute Christianity was being reproached with its pomp and its ritualism; its shrines of porphyry and its robes of gold.” He apparently is capable of tiring of this, and at some point moves on to find a superficial hypocrisy in the anti-Christians: “But I found that anti-Christians themselves had a contempt for woman’s intellect; for it was their great sneer at the Church on the continent that ‘only women’ went to it.” I would put it beyond even Chesterton to make the mistake of interpreting “women” literally here. I doubt that he even interpreted it wrongly at all, as he appears to. Why, assuming the term “women” isn’t being used literally, should it be a reference to someone’s lack of intelligence rather than lack of manliness? Probably it’s just another case of dishonesty on the part of our morally superior (I bet he’d agree with this illative qualifier) Christian author.
Let me offer one more solution to Chesterton’s paradoxes and then move on. Perhaps, Christianity is capable of promoting violence along side meekness and wealth with poverty because it is a stratified institution. Those couched in shrines of porphyry and robes of gold at the high echelons may repose on the broken backs of their lesser brothers; their brothers who, from this dominated position, have become servile, and who at the whim of their betters may also become fierce or feeble.
All of these contradictions cause Chesterton to withdraw some from his church burning, not give it up completely mind you, but withdraw some, to think about things: “I wished to be quite fair then, and I wish to be quite fair now; and I did not conclude that the attack on Christianity was all wrong. I only concluded that if Christianity was wrong, it was very wrong indeed.” However, as he didn’t conclude that it was very wrong indeed but very right indeed instead, he must also have concluded that there was something to these illusive contradictions. Which leads me to conclude that he is simple. No, he didn’t give in to Christianity at this point, rather he was just disturbed by the implied “odd shape of the Christian religion” by the anti-Christian attackers.
Eventually Chesterton progresses from finding Christianity oddly shaped to, unexpectedly, finding its attackers themselves contorted. Now the apparent contradictions may not be contradictions after all (never mind that they never were); perhaps those describing conflicting errors were using relative terms to describe them. Christianity wasn’t ‘rich’, those who said it was were just too poor; it wasn’t ‘poor’, those who said it was were just too rich. “The modern man found the Church too simple exactly where modern life is too complex; he found the Church too gorgeous exactly where modern life is too dingy.” It would have been interesting if he’d tried this philosophy on some of the contradictions which it was supposed to sort out. For example, is the Church found too violent exactly where modern life is too peaceful? Let’s also witness here further dishonesty by our author: he acquits the anti-Christian attacks of their contradictions through his subsequent attack on the anti-Christians themselves; however, the acquittal is only implicit, and his reader is left feeling that the anti-Christians should still be mocked for what they have been forgiven.
Interestingly, Chesterton’s next move is to disregard what he’d said about the relative language of Christianity’s attackers to, instead, embrace their contradictions in a new cast: “Paganism declared that virtue was in a balance; Christianity declared it was in a conflict: the collision of two passions apparently opposite. Of course they were not really inconsistent; but they were such that it was hard to hold simultaneously.” He starts with an earnest search for truth that leads him away from Christianity, then closer back to it when its opponents ‘contradict’ each other, then closer still when the contradictions are found to be false, and then back securely home when the contradictions are termed otherwise: “Anyone might say, ‘Niether swaggor nor grovel'; and it would have been a limit. But to say, ‘Here you can swagger and there you can grovel’ — that was an emancipation.” Now the contradictions are the mother of balance and the Church’s greatest gift.
The whole journey is incoherent, and his description of it is dishonest if he actually possessed a tithe of the brilliance credited to him. I think he probably had the means for discovering the falsity of Christianity, but he was too emotionally attached. In his careless youth, he must have impetuously decided to consider his beliefs and ended up losing them. Only through much subsequent self-delusion was he able to construct elaborate enough excuses for a return to Christianity endorsed by his repressed rational mind. This is of course fine, and expected; it is in fact the only way faith could operate. The problem I see with the whole thing is that, aside from maybe C.S. Lewis, Chesterton is supposed to make the best arguments for Christianity. Instead, he makes a profound disappointment, and his attitude toward non-Christians is anything but exemplary.