STEAM-powered software engineer・@firstgirlsonfire coach・all-around nerd・she/they
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My Heaven is a Republic

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I’m not a religious person. A huge reason why is my grandmother, a deeply critical woman who moved to Detroit during the Great Migration. She would often call out the Black churches in Detroit for their hypocrisy: always a poor congregation and a rich pastor. She was spiritual, though. She believed in God, and because of her I went to several Catholic elementary schools. And like many queer kids who went to religious schools, I left them as a self-proclaimed atheist, having experienced firsthand the disingenuousness of a religion that taught love and forgiveness but, in practice, hated difference. I was bullied mercilessly and had teachers who belittled me. I saw clearly that none of the lessons in chapel or religion class seemed to be practiced by anyone, save a few tender adults. 

Then I got older and noticed that queers and women were reviled by the people I knew who were church-going. I was the only teen in high school not in a church youth group, and the only one who spoke up loudly about reproductive rights, gay rights, and the dangers of capitalism.

It’s no wonder that I had my own spiritual texts. 

Parable of the Sower.jpg

The first was Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, which I read at 10 years old in a book club that my sister attended. We both loved reading, and as my mom was a comically neglectful parent, my sister looked after me, which is why I was the lone child at a book club of old Detroit radicals at Detroit’s Unitarian church. We both read Parable of the Sower in one night.

The book changed me. Detroit in the ’90s felt a little like the apocalyptic Oakland of the novel. Empty crumbling ruins. The yearly fear of homes ablaze on Devil’s Night. The puzzling undercurrent of why the suburbs had street lights but my neighborhood did not. 

For me, it was barely fantasy to imagine the world of Parable, a world of ecological and economic nightmares spun from greed and disregard of Black and brown neighborhoods. When Lauren, the main character, turns from her beloved father’s Christianity to a grassroots spiritual movement of her own, it struck a chord.

God is change

Pretentious little nerd that I was, I knew there was a reason people throughout history had religion. It could explain what happened around you, what happened to you, what happens after you die. As an anxious child, I fretted over death and the unknown. As a sensitive child, I fretted over the destruction of the rainforest, of the dwindling elephants killed for ivory. I knew that these were big feelings to grapple with, but also that saying it was God’s plan seemed like an empathy cop-out. I didn’t do drugs or drink as a teen (though I would later), but I deeply understand Marx’s assertion that “religion is the opium of the masses.” It’s so much easier to think that something or someone else will fix your woes and pain. Religion is a better drug than the shitty brick weed I smoked in college, but I imagine it results in the same numb feeling of “not my problem.” 

All that you touch

you change.

All that you change

changes you.

In high school, I was in a youth volunteer program that was heavily political. Because my sister attended, and she watched me and my brother, we would tag along. I owe my entire political education and radical mind frame to this time. I learned the history of my city and country, about the political power of art and gardening, about food and environmental justice, about gender and racial inequality. Nearly all the adults who ran the program were queer, as well as several of the older teens I admired. I started to notice homophobia more in the world, and was troubled. We were taught to be youth leaders, to advocate for social change, to think of a new way of living — as we saw all around us how capitalism failed my hometown, gutted its beauty and resources, mowed down its Black and Chinese neighborhoods to build freeways for white suburbanites to travel more easily through the city. Change is inevitable, and we learned to be the change we wished to see in the world. 

The only lasting truth 

is change

Empires fall. That’s what world history teaches us. What is perhaps less obvious is that change is slow. The US is still not post-segregation, post-lynching, or post-homophobia. It can be overwhelming, the cycle of two steps forward and one step back. But change happens regardless, it is constant, and, most importantly, it can be shaped communally and personally. 

I’m not immune to the fact that my other spiritual text — the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman, like Parable of the Sower — also interrogates Christian-based teachings. The books are dense with Western art and religious imagery, allusions, and symbolism, but the most impactful part for me happens on the last page of the last book, The Amber Spyglass:

“We have to be all those difficult things, like cheerful and curious and brave and kind and patient, and we’ve got to study and think and work hard, all of us, in our different worlds, and then we’ll build...the republic of heaven”

The-Amber-Spyglass-Audiobook-Free-Download.jpg

Lyra, the main character, is home from her adventure, having saved the multiverse. In doing so, she has preserved Dust, the physical manifestation of the intentional good things conscious beings create. Dust is not finite, it can be created, through hard work, through treating people kindly and patiently, through learning and growing. I use this as my moral (golden) compass to guide me every day. I maintain a calm, kind, public vibe, even when I'm angry or frustrated. I compliment people freely. I donate to strangers’ GoFundMes. I offer to drive for friends and coworkers. I practice active listening. I challenge people when they say fucked up things. I’ve become a Professional Mentally Ill Queer Weirdo through my podcast, The Gayly Prophet. This is hard work, especially for someone like me, with depression and anxiety, where it would be so very easy to be dismissive and apathetic and withdrawn from the world. But that’s not the kind of world I want other people to live in. I hear from listeners every day that my openness has changed their lives and their relationships with themselves — this is the kind of world I want to live in. 

I don’t do any of these things looking for some reward in a cartoon afterlife. The reason I try to live a moral and just life is that I believe the meaning of my life is to shape a better world. To build the republic of heaven.

We do not worship god.

We perceive and attend god.

With forethought and work

We shape god.

In the end, we yield to god.

We adopt and endure,

For we are Earthseed,

And god is change.



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astranoir
15 days ago
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The beanbag zone.

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Posted

A few days ago I watched a video by CGP Grey called Spaceship You. It’s well worth your time to watch it.

This is an article about how it’s effecting how I am using my home.



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astranoir
17 days ago
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Photo

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astranoir
34 days ago
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My RSS Reader Is Getting Dry

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If you’re still doing, or have recently returned to, the blogging thing, please drop me a note at warrenellis gmail com ?

I mean, if you’re all on lockdown at home anyway, why not consider it? May as well broadcast out into the wastelands, right?

Incidentally, if you’re into pens and notebooks, The Pen Addict has got you covered.

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astranoir
54 days ago
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jumpingjacktrash: dharmagun: cincosechzehn: agirlinjapan: anti...

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jumpingjacktrash:

dharmagun:

cincosechzehn:

agirlinjapan:

antifainternational:

mousezilla:

rhube:

fahrlight:

westsemiteblues:

returnofthejudai:

robowolves:

bemusedlybespectacled:

gdfalksen:

Chiune Sugihara. This man saved 6000 Jews. He was a Japanese diplomat in Lithuania. When the Nazis began rounding up Jews, Sugihara risked his life to start issuing unlawful travel visas to Jews. He hand-wrote them 18 hrs a day. The day his consulate closed and he had to evacuate, witnesses claim he was STILL writing visas and throwing from the train as he pulled away. He saved 6000 lives. The world didn’t know what he’d done until Israel honored him in 1985, the year before he died.

Why can’t we have a movie about him?

He was often called “Sempo”, an alternative reading of the characters of his first name, as that was easier for Westerners to pronounce.

His wife, Yukiko, was also a part of this; she is often credited with suggesting the plan. The Sugihara family was held in a Soviet POW camp for 18 months until the end of the war; within a year of returning home, Sugihara was asked to resign - officially due to downsizing, but most likely because the government disagreed with his actions.

He didn’t simply grant visas - he granted visas against direct orders, after attempting three times to receive permission from the Japanese Foreign Ministry and being turned down each time. He did not “misread” orders; he was in direct violation of them, with the encouragement and support of his wife.

He was honoured as Righteous Among the Nations in 1985, a year before he died in Kamakura; he and his descendants have also been granted permanent Israeli citizenship. He was also posthumously awarded the Life Saving Cross of Lithuania (1993); Commander’s Cross Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland (1996); and the Commander’s Cross with Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta (2007). Though not canonized, some Eastern Orthodox Christians recognize him as a saint.

Sugihara was born in Gifu on the first day of 1900, January 1. He achieved top marks in his schooling; his father wanted him to become a physician, but Sugihara wished to pursue learning English. He deliberately failed the exam by writing only his name and then entered Waseda, where he majored in English. He joined the Foreign Ministry after graduation and worked in the Manchurian Foreign Office in Harbin (where he learned Russian and German; he also converted to the Eastern Orthodox Church during this time). He resigned his post in protest over how the Japanese government treated the local Chinese citizens. He eventually married Yukiko Kikuchi, who would suggest and encourage his acts in Lithuania; they had four sons together. Chiune Sugihara passed away July 31, 1986, at the age of 86. Until her own passing in 2008, Yukiko continued as an ambassador of his legacy.

It is estimated that the Sugiharas saved between 6,000-10,000 Lithuanian and Polish Jewish people.

It’s a tragedy that the Sugiharas aren’t household names. They are among the greatest heroes of WWII. Is it because they were from an Axis Power? Is it because they aren’t European? I don’t know. But I’ve decided to always reblog them when they come across my dash. If I had the money, I would finance a movie about them.

He told an interviewer:

You want to know about my motivation, don’t you? Well. It is the kind of sentiments anyone would have when he actually sees refugees face to face, begging with tears in their eyes. He just cannot help but sympathize with them. Among the refugees were the elderly and women. They were so desperate that they went so far as to kiss my shoes, Yes, I actually witnessed such scenes with my own eyes. Also, I felt at that time, that the Japanese government did not have any uniform opinion in Tokyo. Some Japanese military leaders were just scared because of the pressure from the Nazis; while other officials in the Home Ministry were simply ambivalent.

People in Tokyo were not united. I felt it silly to deal with them. So, I made up my mind not to wait for their reply. I knew that somebody would surely complain about me in the future. But, I myself thought this would be the right thing to do. There is nothing wrong in saving many people’s lives….The spirit of humanity, philanthropy…neighborly friendship…with this spirit, I ventured to do what I did, confronting this most difficult situation—and because of this reason, I went ahead with redoubled courage.

He died in nearly complete obscurity in Japan. His neighbors were shocked when people from all over, including Israeli diplomatic personnel, showed up at quiet little Mr. Sugihara’s funeral.

I will forever reblog this, I wish more people would know about them!

I liked this before when it had way less information. Thank you, history-sharers.

Tucked away in a corner in L.A.’s Little Tokyo is a life-sized statue of Chiune, seated on a bench and smiling gently as he holds out a visa. 

The stone next to him bears a quote from the Talmud; “He who saves one life, saves the entire world.”  

I had no idea it existed until a few weeks ago, but it’s since become one of my favorite pieces of public art. 

Chiune Sugihara.  Original antifa.

PBS made a documentary about Chiune Sugihara in 2005. If you’re interested in him, it’s definitely worth checking out. (The PBS link above even has some interactive information to go along with the film.) Ask your local library if they have a copy/can order you one from another library. You won’t be disappointed!

kate beaton wasn’t kidding when she said look him up

i am going to find this and take him a present

always reblog mr sugihara

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astranoir
62 days ago
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Solution

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
You know, this turned out to be the exact right comic for today. Stay safe out there, geeks!


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hannahdraper
74 days ago
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Washington, DC
astranoir
75 days ago
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mkalus
75 days ago
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iPhone: 49.287476,-123.142136
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2 public comments
iaravps
72 days ago
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I'm in this picture and I don't like it
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
jlvanderzwan
75 days ago
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Ah, a penultimate panel comic about alcohol.
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