07 July 2009

Adopting to Mormons

I mentioned in passing a couple of posts ago that I'm pregnant. Let's get a little more specific about that.

I'm 26 weeks preggers at this point and the pregnancy itself has been free of nearly everything that usually makes pregnant women miserable: no morning sickness, no weird cravings (although eggs are not my friends at the moment), no swelling or just about anything else. I just have a baby in me. (I do have some uterine fibroids that may become a problem at some point, but they've been behaving so far.) Pregnancy is fucking weird and I'll be glad when I can go a whole four hours without needing to pee, but that's really not what I logged on to talk about today.

Instead I logged on for Mormonism.

See, Steve and I are adopting out our unborn son, and the family we chose happens to be Mormon. We've met them, we really like them, they're fantastic people. We wouldn't be giving them our kid if we didn't think they were the best family possible for him. But damn, this has given rise to a lot of discussion in the house. Our roommate Varina used to be Mormon; now she's trying to decide where to get her "Daughter of Perdition" tattoo and all but filling out paperwork to officially leave the church. She's been trying to explain the theological and social aspects of Mormonism that we'll want to know about for our kid. She thinks we're a little mad for adopting to Mormons, but not nearly so much as a friend of hers who actually was adopted by Mormons and made a long, wrenching post about how much the religion fucked her up, no matter how much she loves her family. It's been around my brainpan a bit of late. Oh, and the local Mormon church is right across the street, anytime you look out the kitchen window or leave the house, there it is. (It's actually pretty scenic; a lot of our weather comes over the church and the clouds look very cool against its spire. But it is weird to have around.)

I guess what's bothering me is that I don't know why this discussion is happening. I know I want this family to raise my child. Maybe this is just part of that looking into the unknown of the future that's inherent in adoption. I have no idea. I don't want my son to get fucked up by his religion, but I also know that if he does he will still be okay. The couple in question are sane, understanding, emotionally competent people and I believe they'll help him deal with the religion in a way that makes sense for him. And if the religion itself becomes a problem, then hell, his birthparents are heathens and we can help him figure his shit out. The support structure is good. He'll have all the people around the he needs. I mean, if Steve and I for some reason raised him we'd teach him to be a nihilist in a beautiful world, and possibly a Thelemite. Thelema is one of the best religions out there for getting your head on straight and looking at the world, but in all honesty 90% of all religion is identical. That's why I'm not a Thelemite on my own or a member of any other religious institution.

I know my kid's going to be okay because while that identical 90% can be damaging and the remaining 10% is necessarily crazy-looking, religion is a system that you can grow with and that can grow with you if you deal with it as something that should grow. A stagnant system is useless to everyone inside and outside of it. But if you look at your faith as an organic process, as something that ought to change over time as you explore it, then I think it can be positive. I didn't. My religion (Episcopalian) was just this thing I did on occasion without much interest, so when my disinterested fakery became a serious emotional sinkhole that kept me from respecting myself as a person, I just left the church. Leaving is easier when you don't believe. I spent awhile half-heartedly trying to find a replacement before I admitted I didn't need or want one, that they all felt just as fake as the institution I'd left, and that I wanted to go it alone. My worldview has grown up since then as a fairly cohesive universe that does everything I need it to and nothing else. I don't understand doctrinal belief; why do you need all these precepts that you didn't invent, that somebody else came up for you, that often get in your way or become points of strife between your desires and your prepackaged morals? That seems like a lot of unnecessary hassle just to get a lens through which to understand the world. (I know a lot of the sociological reasons people join religions. They make sense, in a way. But it's such a bizarre, narrow, fear-based way of dealing with a welcoming, expansive, free reality.)

Perhaps what I'm getting at is that this whole discussion about whether it's a good idea to send a kid into Mormonism isn't part of my reality anymore. There is no possible manner in which this child's life could not turn out in the best way possible. Bickering over details like where one religion falls on a scale of 1 to Crazyballs is moot -- beyond moot, it's meaningless. They are all Crazyballs and they are all perfectly reasonable and they are all useful only to the degree you use them instead of vice versa. It's a meaningless discussion. The universe wants me to give this baby to this couple, and the universe knows what it's doing. Everything else is idle chatter.

01 July 2009

Melville and Ellis on breaking out of the world

There's a book you should read that you very well may hate. A lot of people who read it do, although I'm not one of them. It's called Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment, the second in Jed McKenna's three-book series about enlightenment and other things that are bad for your sanity.

Incorrect has a lot to do with Moby-Dick, and that's the level on which I bring it up. You see, Jed came up with a way of reading that book so it actually made perfect goddamn sense, which is more than any Melville scholar has managed. It's actually been well established in academia that Moby-Dick is essentially ineffable. But Jed proved otherwise by establishing a whole new archetype in the character of Ahab. He calls it the Break-Out Archetype: someone bent on breaking reality, on burning it to ground to see what's left because they can't do otherwise.

I'm posting because I've just realized that Doktor Sleepless, the title character in a comics series by Warren Ellis, also fits the definition of the Break-Out Archetype. He is driven, amoral, monomaniacal, and unswerving. He doesn't reflect on the sacrifices he makes constantly because he is certain of his path.* There is no Plan B. He is alone and self-sovreign. Emotional attachments are meaningless, including the Doktor's first love and Ahab's toddler son.

One thing and one thing only matters: the destruction of that which is between him and his ultimate goal. For Ahab, that was the white whale; for the Doktor, it's the total destruction of Heavenside (and assumedly the world afterward). He's hell-bent in more ways than one, yet he embraces his madness as a new and more coherent form of sanity.

Ahab and Doktor Sleepless are lies. Their personas are pure invention, devised purely to manipulate everyone they know into helping them succeed. Ahab manages to fake it as a sane, sea-worthy Nantucket whale-captain for weeks before the Pequod is safely out to sea and he lets Crazy Ahab out of the box -- and even then, he convinces his men to support his insane chase for Moby-Dick. Likewise, on the first page of the first issue of Doktor Sleepless, our title character deliberately takes on the persona of a cartoon mad scientist so that he can get the attention he needs without anyone taking him too seriously. They are finely crafted masks that the characters wear with specific intent and not a drop of self-deceit. Both, however, reflect on an actual transformation and an actual loss of some tangible part of the characters' earlier persons. Ahab lost his leg in Moby-Dick's maw and spent weeks raving and sick aboard the Pequod till he emerged permanently changed, no longer the same man, yet pretending he was. And the Doktor -- hell, where to begin? When he saw his parents killed he stopped sleeping (a first transformation, possibly from being Oblivious to the Mass of Men stage**) and then over a decade later he had a "breakdown" when he unlocked The Darkening Sky, the cryptic book his parents had been reading from/using when they died (a second transformation). It was only after the breakdown that he was able to become Doktor Sleepless, the mad scientist bent on world devastation, because that transformatino was the one that made him the break-out archetype.

Like their persons, the good Doktor's and Ahab's goals wear masks. Doktor Sleepless' agenda is not the end of the world. It's the end of himself. Just as Ahab kills off a shipful of whalemen to succeed in destroying everything he is, so does Doktor Sleepless drive Heavenside to utter, stark-raving chaos designed to eat itself just as the Doktor devours his own self. These may sound like acts of callous or vindictive sadism unrelated to the true goal at hand, but they're not. The true goal -- self-immolation -- cannot be accomplished without this outside destruction. It is certainly callous, but that's it. It's wholly necessary to the characters' paths.

Interestingly, Doktor Sleepless displays one point of the archetype that Ahab doesn't. The Doktor is filled with "Elation. Lunatic joy. Stark, raving happiness. Transcendental exultation." He's got that mad scientist maniacal laughter in droves. Ahab, on the other hand, just doesn't, which is interesting in and of itself. To quote Jed twice in one paragraph, "all the uncertainty, fear, doubt, mediocrity, pettiness, striving, ambiguity and myriad other chains that bind us and weigh us down have been sliced away. His fate is known, his success certain. He is hurtling at thrilling velocity into perfect freedom. He knows it, and he would be unspeakably happy about it." Setting the world on fire brings him a manic, unceasing, defiant, impregnable job satisfaction. That is what the break-out archetype is all about.

*Jed explains this well: "It's not that he's unaware of the cost, but that he knows it to be irrelevant; a non-issue."

**This references another of Jed's concepts that's outlined very well in Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment (a book I usually just call "Incorrect").