Friday, December 25, 2015

Thanks, Gram(s).

I recently read that the reverberations of life experiences can be passed from generation to generation.  That the effects of traumas suffered by recent ancestors can rear up in your own life, can explain subtle lingering tendencies, anxieties, fears and problems.  The abuse or sufferings of the great-grandparent can apparently manifest in the 21st century descendant, but how?  In what ways.

It seems so fascinating, shocking, yet obvious.  It's a scientific confirmation of something we've always sensed - that nothing is ever really forgotten, as much as we wish it to be, and that each experience lives on in a new form.

I hate that.  A deeply self-conscious person for most of my life, the only comfort that I could ever accept was that no one would remember the interactions or experiences I regretted.  And maybe they won't.  But those childhood pangs and young adult anguish could live in the strands of my being for the rest of my life, and in the psyche of a child.

But that's a terrible example.  Consider the shadow that may live on behind the eyes of the grandchildren of holocaust survivors, of any victim of a cruel and unimaginable violation or torture. Imagine the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of slaves.  How are their lives affected by the pain and struggles of the people who came before them? How are their experiences unintuitively informed by the experiences of their greats and their great-greats?

I scanned back through the last few sets of my ancestors and could think of nothing so extreme.  Most of my great-great grandparents dealt with the stress and upheaval of a transatlantic voyage, of leaving their homeland and their native language for a land of commercial brutality.  But everything worked out in the end and they all experienced some prosperity and safety within their lifetimes as a reward for their courage.  Bad marriages, dead children, economic strife, it could all be in there in the cords of my DNA, but how does that compare to what they carried themselves, from their own ancestors?  Starvation and true poverty, uncountable generations spent in subsistence in the mud of some crevice of Europe, now known by another name.  Poor Irish, Italian peasants, German laborers.  Uneducated people linked by twining strands of bad experiences bound together through generation after generation like held hands.

If the experiences do carry through, how long do they last?  Long enough for you to create one for your own descendants?  Do the stains of the far flung past fade or remain, diluted but carrying potential, waiting for their activation?

Conversely, the positives do carry forward as well.  Perhaps these are easier to see.  The tender upbringing, the positive home environment, the lack of desperation can all make for more stable grandchildren.  In my family, going back to a time when it wasn't so easily attained, there was an inclination to formal or autodidactic education.  When my great-aunt led me on a tour of the farmhouse my grandma was born in, she took us down the stairs to a dank basement and clapped her hand on an old chalkboard.  She said my great-grandfather brought this home when the local schoolhouse upgraded to a bigger one.  On it, he taught his children, boys and girls, basic arithmetic to reinforce what they learned in the classic one room schoolhouse of Percival.  It was long enough ago that it was uncommon to educate daughters, because there was no point - she didn't need to know the rivers of the world to raise a baby adequately.

I know those things matter.  And I know they carry forward from generation to generation.  I'll spare the tender examples, but my grandmother spent her entire life in the casual pursuit of knowledge and so has my dad.  And their examples and teachings have led me to do the same.  I think much of this is an innate desire, but is it really?  If an example isn't made, do you know the option is there?  I've known many naturally sharp people who lack completely the intellectual spirit of the pursuit of knowledge for pleasure.  They have the raw material, but it's never quite realized into something coherent or refined enough to do much with.  Is that a shitty qualification of the various types of intelligence?  Probably.  Call the police.

Although the beginning of this thought seems fucking depressing - that we are possibly saddled with the residue of our ancestors' experiences, isn't that somewhat of a comfort?  It either explains heretofore inexplicable tendencies, or it lends some gravity to the things prior generations experienced.  Because isn't it kind of disgusting that generations of your predecessors had to spend their lives fumbling in the dirt so that you could drop pizza on yourself on the couch while proclaiming that today is the worst day in history because the Seahawks lost?

You know?  (I tried to use an example outside of myself for fun. Did it work? My example would be "because Matthew died on Downton Abbey" or something. SPOILER, but as I always say: if you found out after me, you're on your own)

Isn't it terrifying that we don't really know what even happened 50 years ago, not to mention 350 years ago?  The hardscrabble lives and lack of choices?  If we can't remember cognizantly, then we can remember subconsciously, celluarly.  Because I think it's diminishing and unfair to forget that lifestyles that we would consider worse than death were entirely normal once, and that you are made of the victory against nature that was survival, once.

So anyway, everyone's fucked because everyone suffered a while back.  Kind of takes the pressure off, though, does it?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Hexmas

I made a satanic tree skirt.  Actually, I made two, but the first one turned out kind of gentle, far more pagan than satanic.

The first one was for me.  White fur with a glittery pentacle, fringed in red pom poms.  I stand behind it.  All of my new friends in Austin are pretty establishment, so when they see my house or the way I dress on my own time, and certainly the crafts I engage in, I feel distinctly reminded of my mother's gentle disapproval.  I still love you, but I don't like this.

So they didn't really get the tree skirt.



But I love it.  I smile every time I see it.  Although my taste is that of a spinster aunt in 1967, I feel very happy to know what I like.  I will never struggle to decorate a house.  I will never be unsure what image I wish to project.  I will never be unsure of what I want to surround myself with for the rest of my life.

The only thing that inhibits me is lack of space, and my student loans.

I've struggled with Christmas in my adult life.  It's hard to preserve the childhood magic of a holiday when you scorn the way other people celebrate it, and when you hate religion.  But winter has always been a welcome, happy time for me, and I like to observe the way the year turns.  I like to see different things in the house, and in my familiar landscape.  I like a sense of occasion and ritual.  I love to buy presents for other people, and I'm very good at it.  So what to do?

Just do it.  I was too cool and noncompliant to celebrate anything from holidays to birthdays in my mid 20s, I was like an atheist Jehovah's Witness, but now I just don't give a fuck.  I go there.  I have a pink tree decorated with antique German glass ornaments.  Don't you know holidays are just another way to amass interesting shit?

After I made my tacky pagan tree skirt, I received a request for the gag gift of an unapologetically satanic tree skirt.  Christmas is hard for atheists, I think they feel guilty celebrating something so heavily knitted together with Christianity.  But when you throw in a tree skirt emblazoned with a baphomet, it feels a little bit easier.

I don't want to show it completely yet because I'm not finished, but I'm very happy with it.



A baphomet made of sequins.  There will be pom poms.  It may be the greatest thing I've ever created.

I hesitated when the girl at the fabric store eyed my armload of black felt and blood red pom poms.  "Whatcha...makin?" she asked.  Oh, nothing...

I think this theme combines well with my interest in the overblown tackiness of Hollywood Regency and late 60s ultra lush absurdity.  Although Anton LaVey was a silly fool, he cultivated a finely articulated aesthetic that still appeals today.  A mix of the medieval and the swinging 60s, with lush velvets, skulls, knives, altars, black candles, topless "witches" with big hair, fake blood, ancient books, bejeweled goblets, I could go on.

I never really bought into his philosophy, because it's for men - ridiculous men.  It's all plagiarized from Ragnar Redbeard's 1890 publication "Might is Right," which basically espouses a hedonistic "fuck all y'all" attitude, but which does ring true on some topics, such as how it's ok to reject the contemporary flow of society when you know it to be wrong, even when it means ostracization, because you must be strong enough to withstand the slings of smaller people and smart enough to know they will come.  Subtler souls prefer Nietzsche.

LaVey does make unique recommendations for women, which you can read in his book, "The Satanic Witch," and which are pathetic and condescending and all about fashioning sexual snares.  His ideas about female beauty really show his age and plebian tastes, too.  He may have made his bones in the late 60s, but he was already a bit old then, and his tastes seem so stodgy.  He's all about garters and brown pantyhose, bad blonde dye jobs and blue eyeshadow.  The ideal woman he described seemed to belong in a bingo hall to me.  Truly, only idiots idolize LaVey, but he is a fun character, and I do like that he organized all of these ideas into a formal "religion", recognized as tax exempt by the US government.  It's all a fun joke that may bring the attention of young people to ideas they should think about.

And therefore, satanic Christmas tree skirt.