Monday, June 29, 2015

Enlightenment: Women need not apply

"Just add a bra. He'd be a girl"
We all have heard of enlightenment. In most cultures, it is the highest achievement of the soul ... I mean a male soul. Of course, that is a ridiculous statement. Souls don't have gender, but like everything else the most talked about stories of reaching enlightenment or being enlightened belong to men. We have all heard of Buddha and Christ. We have heard of Siddhartha or Gautama Buddha leaving his wife and child and going on a path to liberate every other person . . . I mean guy. His precepts are primarily directed to men, and we are more likely to have heard of Buddhist monks than nuns. I am quite sure many women have reached enlightenment. Why their stories are not as popular, I have no idea. Why the face of temptation is a woman's for Christ (Mary Magdalene), Siddhartha (Mara) and others, I am not sure. Perhaps women are seen by men as the last attachment. Oddly the attachment is not at the heart but at the groin. These women always offer sexual temptation. Perhaps that speaks to the relationship these enlightened men have had with the women in their lives. It is one of lust and not love. This is not a very enlightened perspective.

It seems that on the way to rejecting all bodily desire, men run away, seeking isolation. They don't bring their wives or lovers.  They have what I like to call singular or single-sex enlightenment. Which is odd because many belief systems speak of duality, mostly letting the guys have all the good stuff and the girls get all the yucky, sticky, slow and bad attributes. That does not really seem enlightened, yet that is how the story goes. Alone, men seek the high ground and return to give the good news to men that the way to a good life is rejecting women and the world. These men do not see women as beings seeking enlightenment too. They see women as a bump in the road to enlightenment, an afterthought.

This leads me to question whether enlightenment is all that enlightened. I mean, sure, one should reach for the good and pure, but when it causes you to ignore more than half of the population in your quest, I start to wonder how good your enlightenment ears were listening. I cannot believe these men got the whole message. I think they heard what they wanted to hear or at the very least what was passed down to us is a skewed and incomplete message. As we know, truth does not do well on this plane of existence. It can hardly survive. So, I think the message is incomplete at best.

I have read many stories about enlightenment... I mean men's journeys to enlightenment from Augustine to The Alchemist.  According to Joseph Campbell, and other men, woman are temptresses in the Hero Cycle. Once again, woman is being viewed by the male penis eye and not as a human being with needs. Woman in men's psyches becomes the embodiment of the physical world which he must leave to ascend. How sick and sexist is that?

The Hero doesn't turn to the woman and say," I'm sick of this shit. How about you?" then takes her hand as they go off to seek spiritual peace together.

No. In literature women like to grovel in despair and evil, and we never learn. Women seem to always say, "No. Life is hell, but I like it this way. You go and get that thing called 'In light in mint' I'll stay here suffering. Go. Have fun."

So, the man goes and leaves the woman  and sometimes a child and reaches what I like to call "Callous enlightenment." This may be why these guys keep coming back or promising to return. I think they have something to learn about the true nature of everyone's soul. It is the same. Gender does not matter. All souls share the same desire for freedom. Yes, I know, no one can help another on the path of enlightenment. Sure. That's why men have so many helpers just waiting to aid and support him. He has signs and magical occurrences to keep him on the right path, but he can't give a sister a hint or hand up?  And when a man does get to that glowy stage, he returns at the journey's end to give sage advice to other men never a woman. We have to raise a hand or jump up and down to get his notice. Unfortunately our breasts bob up and down, and he gets tempted and walks away.

In a lot of literature, women seem to be the road upon which men seeking spirituality must tread. How come I never read a story where the woman says, "You know, I've been waiting and trying to figure a way out of this terrible life myself. You know this enlightenment crap sounds good. I think I'd like to try it. It's got to be better than what I have now. I'll just leave my kids and husband and find it." Oh yeah, I know why: because then everyone(man and woman) would hate her and say she was a despicable person who abandoned her responsibilities. Well, you've got to break a few rules to reach enlightenment. This is, of course, socially easier for guys than girls.

And even if a woman did try and go off with a man to find enlightenment, he would turn to her and say, "Sorry sister, this is a one man show, plus I am horny for you and enlightenment states you must give up the body, and I don't want to when I look at you."

Then she says, "That's okay I was faking it all the time. I'm ready for enlightenment."

"But I want sex and you remind me of it."

"I thought enlightenment meant you transcended all that. So, transcend."

"I can't with you looking like that," he says and goes away.

"Then you are not ready, Grasshopper," the woman yells,  then she goes into forest, listens to birds and trees and river, hears OM and transcends. Alone without writing a whole book about it, pounding her chest and saying how great she is and making people worship her.

There is, though, another side of the coin, one on which women are stamped as so good even our farts are enlightened.  In a few religions, it has been posited that women can stay home and stare at walls because we are perfect.  The Alchemist  also slings this type of hooey.  Basically,  just strap us in a chair as infants and then open the closet door twenty years later, and we will be perfectly normal and fully formed, no experience necessary.  We will be wise and helpful to a man in trouble and will hurl advice at him from the tent door as he goes on to have fun and find out what life is about while we sit at home waiting for him to come back and be a better man or forget to come back and be a better man.

So, women are either nasty god-forsaken sex tempters or angelic wise women? Nope, we are just like every other person, flawed, wise, stupid, silly, brave, cowardly, and enlightened.  You want to know what a woman is? Go look in the mirror and because then you'll see a person and that is what a woman is. We need to go out, fall down, get scars, pick ourselves up, change our minds, and most importantly we need to have our own heroic experiences, so we can grow just like anybody else!

We will all  know when men and the world have finally truly become enlightened when there are just as many popular stories about women reaching enlightenment or even couples transcending together. It may shock many people but couples who are truly in love, love beyond the physical body and have a love that is transcendent and beyond life, death or the changes of the material world. That is real enlightenment.

Candice Raquel Lee
Author of  The Innocent: A Love Story  

and Effed Up: An Abnormal Romance

Monday, June 22, 2015

I am a Cultural Chimera

This is a poem about being mixed-race in America.

I am a cultural chimera.

A bit monstrous to the plain folks with their similar parts all in a row.
I have a leg from Spain, 
an eye from Italy,
a tongue from India,
a hip from Greece, 
a heart that is Native American,
a laugh from Africa. 
My tail is quite Asian. 
My wings have a European flap. 
My neck is long like an African Giraffe. 
I speak like a sphinx.
She was my mentor before Oedipus’ twisted fate undid her. 
I can still see the confusion and fear on his face
before he took her life.
It is the same look one-way folk study me and my parts 
that flash, yet are dull, 
wet and yet dry, cultured and yet wild, 
deep and yet foolish in their eyes. 
They cannot make head or tail of me.
I am a mythic creature.
I really don’t exist.
I can’t.
Quite illogical. 
Why does she not fit into our definitions,
our boxes, 
our squares
with such pretty names like
white and black and red
or European, African and Asian?
Everything else goes but her. 

"You really must forgive me. I have tried, when I was smaller, to put my paw, excuse me, foot into your boxes, but oddly, it would not stay but leapt out and away quivering like it had padded, I mean, walked into acid. Your boxes are for you, and thank you so much for trying to share them with me, but you see, I just don’t fit."

Candice Raquel Lee
Author of  The Innocent: A Love Story  

and Effed Up: An Abnormal Romance

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Is Imitation the Sincerest Form of Flattery? The Rachel Dolezal question

In the aftermath of Rachel Dolezal's controversial self-identification as black, the question has arisen of who can and should be called "black." I have been asking this for a long time now because of its relevance to me. I am a real mixed-race person like Ms.Dolezal had claimed to be, but unlike her, I have never been so sure of my racial designation. I am genetically and with documentation (yes, one does have to say that these days) part Native American, (Wampanoag, Cheyenne and more), African, European (French, Spanish, Irish, Scottish, English, German, and a few more) and Jewish. I consider myself tri-racial. In America, I am often considered black by both European and African-Americans without any thought to the rich complexity of American and world history that had to come about to create someone like me.

African, European and Native women who make up me.

Unlike Dolezal, who is, in her mind, black without even a nod to her "fictitious" mixed genetic inheritance (Native American and European), I have not been able to reject the other branches of my family tree so entirely. Maybe it is because she hates her parents and rejects them out of hand, or because she is white and has never known what it is like to be mixed-race or more importantly mixed-cultured, that she feels she can jump on the one-race bus with both feet. Maybe it is because she has never stood in a mirror like I have and wondered where she got those almond eyes or high cheekbones, or wondered who she laughs like or why her hair comes out of her head in s-shaped curls.

Dolezal, as a European American, knows her family history. She probably heard from her parents about her relatives that were Czech and German and why she has that funny nose and freckles.  I had to dig through silence, slavery, shame and to find out why I looked the way I did. I had to take DNA tests to discover what part of Africa my family came from. I had to look through census after census until I found those that proved I had Wamponoag ancestors because supposedly no Native Americans and Africans ever got married and had kids together. I had to go through spitting in vials to find out I was Jewish on both sides of my family. I had to look through historical documents to find out I was part Scottish and German. I had to fight for years and pierce through a tragic family history, lies of my mother, secrets of her mother, and stories of my father's grandmother to find out who I was. So, I am not settling for just black like Ms. Dolezal can because she never had to struggle with identity and racism. She knew she was white and hated it or her parents. I don't have family stories to throw away or a family bible to burn that tells me who I am related to or where I came from. I didn't have the privilege of  turning my back on my past since it was a shut and locked door I had to take a crow-bar to just to open it and peek inside.

Musty old book that holds my rich  history.

Ms. Dolezal has her own psychological problems. She decided to solve them by changing race, becoming the fairest of them all, and ruling in the NAACP. She has said everything the NAACP hierarchy wanted to hear: "Though I am fair, I only identify as black. I don't care about that other parts of me," and she was rewarded with a high position. She told a lie that I as a real mixed-race person will not tell. She told a fairy-tale about race, color, and culture and made a simple and very neat choice. For me, a real person who is mixed-race (and my family has been for hundreds of years), it is not so simple. I do not go one way or another when it comes to race. I can't because all of that is who I am, and I feel lucky to know it. Neither I nor my family members have been rewarded for our differences. My uncle shaved off his straight hair and kept it short all his life so not to get his ass kicked for looking too white.  My father had to fight white and black boys who wanted to beat him up because he looked too much and too little like each race.  I have been called the "N" word by whites. I have experienced reverse racism from black people because they think since I am lighter-skinned,  I get more privileges, and they want to make sure I suffer like them (for all you who think that way, be contented, I have suffered, but thanks, it's made me stronger.)

The choice to accept all our colors and refuse to deny the truth about ourselves and history has led to us being ostracized, called liars, laughed at and ridiculed for not stating "I am black " but stating  "I am a person of many colors and cultures."  To be multi-racial is for me to be an outsider, always trying to find where I fit. In my life, I find at times I fit everywhere and nowhere. I am a cultural chimera.

My Chimera-self. Scared yet?

I would not be anything else. In fact, I refuse to be less than what I am to make anyone happy or make my life easier and more successful like Ms. Dolezal. If she wants to be mixed-race,  wants to be Native, African and European like me and wants to imitate me, then I will tell her what my history has taught me, grow a pair, and accept who she is really and be proud of that. I know I am.

Me and my German Valkyrie ancestresses!

Candice Raquel Lee
Author of  The Innocent: A Love Story  

and Effed Up: An Abnormal Romance

Monday, June 8, 2015

My Messy Purse: Or How I avoided being robbed by Gypsies even when one got her hand in my purse.

I'm on vacation on Spain, specifically in Madrid and Seville. In both places, I was accosted by Gypsies. Both times they were "selling" tiny sprigs of some kind of evergreen, which was not worth shit. Seriously, they looked like they were plucked from the bushes nearby. Now, I am a very charitable person, and I don't mind giving money to the poor or not so poor who crowd the doors of churches and huddle with their dogs on sidewalks. I don't even mind if they take my money and go home to a nice house. I'm a realist. While in Italy, I was told by our guide that the old mama selling prayer papers in front of the church got picked up by her son at the end of the day in a Maserati. So, I don't care. I will give away my hard-earned money to those I deem in need.

What I do not like is being robbed of my wallet or taken advantage of. That is why I take many precautions, which have saved me from being robbed. I am from New York,  so I am quite cautious and aware of my surroundings.

1. I keep the zipper of my purse turned so it is in front of  me. Thieves cannot easily open it from behind. I even rest my hand on it.
2. I keep my bag under my arm.
3. I do not carry anything that is recognizable to the hand as a wallet.

Number three has saved me from being robbed even when I forgot to turn my bag forward.
Gypsies love to rob my  Francesco-Biasia Bag
On my birthday, my husband and I were looking over a lovely lake in Madrid's Parque del Retiro, when a gypsy came up and landed on me. I mean this literally. Her body was pressed up to mine on my right as she waved a sprig of green in  my face to the left to distract me from the fact that she had her hand in my purse. I carry a lot of crap in my bag. I do this on purpose. A neat bag has never done anything but helped a mugger out. I have tissues, plastic bags, combs, brushes  and all kinds of stuff in my purse. You would need a map to find anything in there. It's like a labyrinth.

(I have done this since I was a girl. I had a cold  once and loaded by purse with individual tissues. I was on a bus and felt a bump. I turned around and saw a pickpocket with my blue tissue in his hand smiling sheepishly at me, but I still had my wallet). So, the gypsy  kept waving the sprig in our faces to get time to investigate my bag.  Finally, we walked away. I found my bag open but nothing missing. I had hidden my credit cards in a zip pocket. She had not found my wallet because I had none to find.

I only need one or two credit cards during a day.  It put them with my room key in the zip pocket. Gypsies are not looking for loose cards. As for cash, I  toss it loose in my bag or put in in my tissue pack.  Muggers are looking for a specific wallet feel in my bag, not a plastic tissue wrapper  with tissues and cash. Sometimes I clip my wallet to the key-ring if I have one attached inside the bag. I also put my change on the bottom. It's messy, but I was not pickpocketed.

My husband and I were accosted two more times by Gypsies so far on this trip. The second time, one shoved a flower into my husband's bag. My husband, who is a gentleman, tried to return it. The woman laughed and kept moving away. He  relented and took out some change (later, we discussed it, and I told him to just toss the flower on the ground even though we do not like being rude). He was going to give her a euro. She said "no," that she wanted foreign money. My husband had none. While this was going on, I noticed the second woman who had been selling flowers coming closer and closer to me and my purse.  I took the flower shoved it back in the other woman's  pocket and walked away.

The third time, I was walking down the street and a sprig seller bumped into me, waving the plant in my face. I felt her hand moving up and down my side as she looked for my handbag. I was not carrying it, so she felt nothing and just walked away.

I have never been accosted so many times, but neither have I carried a nice bag while travelling before either. I usually carry one of those ugly blue mugger-resistant bags. I will probably go back to wearing that since I can't take being humped by gypsies every two seconds.

Candice Raquel Lee
Author of  The Innocent: A Metaphysical Love Story  

and Effed Up: An Abnormal Romance