Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Spelling Lessons

There are increasingly more people who are identifying as queer without fear of ridicule, bigotry or ostracism.  And that's a very good thing.  The word queer is accepted as a term to describe people who love or gender-identify differently, but by definition it also means someone who is odd.  Or strange.  Or weird.  No matter which word you use, when applied to a human being, it usually means that someone is a bit of an outsider, seeing and behaving from a slightly on-the-fringes point of view.  And I tend to like those sorts of people, because I've always had a soft spot for folks who are set apart because they're different or out of the ordinary.

I'm well acquainted with numerous queer people (LGBTQA types, not oddballs), and have found myself in situations where I've referred to someone as he/she or him/her, and been told that the person I'm talking about is a non-binary individual and should be referred to as they/them.  But please know that I'm not being prejudiced or disrespectful when I use the good old-fashioned pronouns he and she.  I suppose I could say it's an honest mistake on my part, but I honestly don't think it's a mistake.  My issue with the use of pronouns is about grammar.  If I'm talking about a particular person - ONE person - I automatically use a singular pronoun.  It's grammatically incorrect to refer to only one person, no matter how they gender-identify, with a plural pronoun.  There are, of course, situations when they and them are used for people or things whose identity is unknown, e.g.  Someone ate my cannabis brownie.  Boy, are they in for a surprise!  Another circumstance for using they is when one refers to the general public, e.g. "You know what they say..."  So let's stop it already.  There are more than enough applications for they/them.     

I fully understand why non-binary folks don't want to be labelled a specific gender if they don't feel that way.  They are outside the normal paradigm and shouldn't have to blend in to appear other than they really are.  And I say good for them.  But I shouldn't be made to feel as if I'm being offensive because I can't adjust to using grammatically incorrect pronouns, not to mention trying to override a lifetime of saying they and them when I'm talking about more than one person, place or thing.  And I admit it, I'm not prepared to rewire my neural pathways for something that sets my teeth on edge.  Nor do I believe that anyone should judge me for it.  

Sure.  I'm well aware that if a language doesn't change it dies, as Latin did because it was too rigidly codified.  My resistance comes from genuine dismay that introducing another meaning for established pronouns has been based on bad grammar or laziness in not devising a new word.  It's so bloody confusing.  Pronouns should clarify identification, not confound it.  

It would simplify things if non-binary folks were to come up with a new pronoun for their emerging community.  Shouldn't a special, new gender(less) identity have its very own pronoun?  Feminists did something similar back in the seventies when they created the title Ms., a neutral term to replace the patriarchal Mrs., which unnecessarily revealed a woman's marital status.  And geeks have produced a number of new words to accommodate developments in the digital age, such as emoji and selfie.  Surely non-binaries can do the same.  
Admittedly it's much easier to originate nouns that apply to everyday things than to create pronouns describing sensitive notions of identity.  Well-meaning individuals (and I include myself in that group) who have difficulty in adjusting to they/them without backtracking or stumbling over their words are proof of that.  If you're going to fire up the left hemisphere of the brain with the creation of new language patterns, keep it as simple as possible.  And that means maintaining standard rules of grammar.   Okay, I confess to being a bit of a grammar-Nazi, but that's the full extent of my fascist tendencies.  As I've already stated, I have a fondness for outliers, especially if they're creative and artistic. 

So instead of just complaining I thought I might suggest an alternative to the grammatically incorrect use of they/them.  How about qui/quem?  Qui and quem retain the easy, one syllable pronouns of the nominative case he/she, the accusative case him/her, and the plural accusative they/them.  And to bring the qui/quem alternative home to the people it belongs, both qui and quem begin with the first two letters of Queer.  Nice, eh?  I based my choice of pronouns on my basic knowledge of Latin.  Qui is Latin (and French) for the nominative case who, and quem is the accusative case, which conveniently ends with the same two letters and rhymes with them, also the accusative case in English.  As for the possessive cases of his and hers, add an "s" to qui and it becomes quis, conveniently ending with same last letter of his and hers.  So there it is... Qui/Quem - a pronoun for the neuter version of the masculine he/him, feminine she/her, and plural they/them.  Problem solved.  Although incorporating it into common parlance is another matter.  

I care about this issue because I'm a writer.  I like words and spells.  In order to make word magic it's necessary to have a basic understanding of spelling and grammar.  Wordcraft is witchcraft.  Magic spells are exactly that - words that have been spelled (spoken) aloud or written in a grimoire.  A grimoire is a witch's book of spells, and the word grimoire is a cognate of grammar.  And if that isn't interesting enough, grammar and grimoire are related to the word glamour, an old Scottish word for magic, enchantment or spell.  Ever since homo sapiens developed language, the shamans and mages of myriad cultures all over the world have used the power of song and speech to transform and transport their bodies and spirits.  They chant their spells to enchant and be enchanted.

Now I've given myself away, for I'm not exactly mainstream myself.  I'm a spinster who likes to bend words to my will, which makes me a witch as well.  My pen is my wand.  I spin and weave stories with words, and words have power.  Words matter.  When printed on a page in a book they are matter.  Transforming thought into matter - making the invisible visible - is an act of magic. And the word "magic," it should be noted, is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root maghwhich means to be able, to have power

It seems to me it would empower genderless, non-binary folk to devise pronouns that signify just how special and uncommon they are.  They deserve to be referred to in a way that is uniquely their own and cannot be taken from them.  My wish for all those special people is that they find a way to proclaim their power with a mighty, resounding spell that the whole world can hear.  

So mote it be.
- g.p.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

waking & walking

a musing morning

         walking deep

sitting still
sipping tea

         geese honk
             crows caw
                 water ripple

             sun rise
          mist lift 
      tai chi masters   
moving mountains                                                                                   
- g.p.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Lovers in a Dangerous Time

I crashed a wedding the other day.  I've never crashed a wedding before, but these are weird times and weird things are bound to happen.  

I was going on a walk just for fun, as opposed to braving the elements to do some errands.  Due to frigid temperatures and super-slippery sidewalks, it had been more than a week since I'd walked for the sheer joy of it.  The sun shone brightly after many grey days as the temperature climbed up to three degrees C.  It was a small and welcome blessing in the middle of a c-19 winter.  

I came upon the wedding after an hour or so of easy walking.  A handful of people were gathered on the sidewalk gazing upward at the house in front of them.  I followed their collective gaze to the second story balcony and spied a young couple holding hands and decked out in wedding attire.  A woman wedding officiator stood behind them.  I had arrived just as the ceremony was beginning.

I wondered if the ceremony had been originally scheduled for that day, because it was the first time in a while that it was warm enough to have an outdoor wedding in reasonable comfort.  It seemed as if  Mother Nature herself was giving a gift of a mild mid-winter day for their nuptials.  It also coincided with the first new moon of the new year.  It's hard to say whether that was deliberately planned or just another bit of serendipity, but whatever the case may be, it was an auspicious day to tie the knot.

I stuck around for a while to soak up the good vibes.   I kept my distance of course, as did the small group of wedding guests.  Everyone was welcoming and didn't make me feel as if I was butting in where I didn't belong.  The officiator blessed the young couple and encouraged them on their path through life together.  As I listened to her wise words I could feel tears welling up in my eyes.  Soon the tears were flowing freely.  That really surprised me, because I've never cried at a wedding before, even for family and close friends.  But there I was shedding tears for people I'd never met.  

My emotional response was a release of bottled up tension and stress created by life in the covid-19 era.  Fortunately I was crying for good and happy reasons, and not out of sadness or despair.  The sweet scene of togetherness amid all the physical separation of the last ten months brought out the best in me.  It was great to see people celebrating love, despite all the restrictions placed on gatherings for even the best reasons.  It felt like a big, fat fuck you covid-19!  And I loved it.

I'm grateful to that young couple and their friends for allowing me to be part of their special day.  And attending a wedding on the first new moon of the new year didn't go unnoticed by this sign-seeking magical thinker.  It bode well for me and everyone else who was there, even though they may not have been aware of it.  Finding love and beauty in the midst of barely-contained chaos is spiritual gold.  

Those two young lovers gave me a gift.  If it weren't for the tough times we're going through I wouldn't have chanced upon that happy occasion and cried tears of joy for two people I didn't know.  And that led me to wonder...  Is it possible that covid-19 is making me a better person?  Could be.  Like I said - weird things are happening.  

So mote it be.

- g.p.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Make Hats Great Again

All you really need in life is some fresh water, a good hat, and a really good pair of shoes.
- Shirley MacLaine

I bought myself a new hat.  I didn't need one - I have quite a few already.  But a jaunty cap always lifts my spirits, and my spirits have needed a lot of lifting lately.  Every so often I'll have a bad day for no discernable reason.  When that happens I know I'm suffering from covid fatigue, which is rather ironic, because fatigue is one of the early symptoms of covid-19.

Come to think of it, a day doesn't go by when I don't have one of the numerous signs of the onset of c-19.  Who doesn't get a headache, or dry cough, or a runny nose every now and then? Especially in the winter? Am I supposed to worry when I go for a walk in the chilly winter air and get the sniffles?  Even though I'm still in relatively good shape, I'm weary of the shit show that the whole world is starring in. 

So I bought a bright red, hippy-happy hat.  But please know that it's not one of those red caps that ignorant rioters wear to proclaim their allegiance to a deranged, deluded megalomaniac.  My red hat restores a sense of balance for me when I'm feeling out of sorts.  It's bright and joyful, and I'd like to think other people enjoy seeing a flash of colour during the long, cold, dark days of winter as well.

That's why I'm sharing my hat with you now - in a number of guises and adorning faces that don't really need enhancement - but make me smile when I look at them wearing my hat.  I hope they make you smile, too.

Here's praying that 2021 has happier times and hats in store for us all.  

Blessed be.

- g.p.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

I have a joke to share with you.  It was going around almost four decades ago with the rise of radical feminism and for some reason it's on my mind lately.  That's probably because I blame the hard times the world is going through on patriarchy.  In fact, I pretty much blame patriarchy for most of the ills that have plagued humanity for the last five thousand years.  I know that's sexist of me, but there are some compelling arguments for my case.  Patriarchy represents the lust for power and domination of the earth and women.  It's power over rather than power from within.  

But I'm not here to re-hash the same old stuff I've been complaining about on this little web of mine for more than a decade now.  Today I'm writing a joke that reminds me of being young, righteously angry, recognising my divinity and embracing the power of sisterhood.  It's not deep, and not even that funny.  But it made me laugh long ago, and remembering it now still puts a little grin on my face.  Which means there is a basic truth in it, despite its sexism.  So here it is...

Q:  What would the world be like if there were no men?

A:  No war and lots of fat, happy women.

That's it.  That's all I wanted to say.  Have a nice day.

- g.p. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Kamala Karma

A goddess has been elected vice president of the U.S.A.  Kamala Harris triumphed over vile racism and misogyny as she campaigned alongside presidential candidate Joe Biden.  Her bravery and perseverance in the face of extreme asperity is nothing less than heroic.  

Kamala means lotus in Hindi, the language of her Indian-born mother.  The lotus is a sacred flower in Hinduism and Buddhism because it grows and blooms out of muddy, murky waters.             

Kamala Harris is the perfect embodiment of the lotus.  She emerged victorious after The U.S. - and indeed the entire world - endured four years of living in the muddy trenches of Trump's lies, ill will, and ignorance.  And she survived a mud-slinging campaign with grace and dignity, attributes which have been seriously missing in the outgoing president.                                                                    
Kamala represents all women, race and religion notwithstanding.  She is the daughter of a Black father and Asian mother and married to a Jew.  She is Everywoman.  Her perceived privilege of class is the result of being educated - a right which should be available to everyone.                                                                                                                                  
What celestial committee consorted to elect this woman of divine proportions?  The mere facts of her remarkable story are mythic.   She is beautiful, brilliant, accomplished, and compassionate.  Kamala moves me and makes me proud to be a woman.   

For four years the world has been forced to watch a shit show
 in which Trump played the villain.  Enter our heroine Kamala Harris, dea ex machina and the stuff of Trump's nightmares - an educated woman of colour in a position of power.  Like the fierce Hindu goddess Kali, she is a destroyer of demons.  

The lotus has risen to the top of the mud heap while the world breathes a collective sigh of relief.  A new era is at hand.  It won't be easy for her, but Kamala has proven that's she's got what it takes to surmount whatever challenges come her way.  Her story is a reminder of that pithy maxim - No mud, no lotus.                                
Namaste.                                                                                    - g.p.  

Monday, September 21, 2020

Smilin' Through

If you can't beat 'em - join 'em.  And that's exactly what I've done.  After six months of refusing to wear a designer face mask, I've given up and given in.  I hate wearing them of course - who doesn't?  But if I'm going to have mini-anxiety attacks brought on by shallow breathing because a swath of cloth is pressed against my mouth and nose, while my glasses fog up so that I can't see, I might as well be wearing something that looks better than a piece of ugly tissue hiding half my face.  So I bought a handmade facemask in my favourite colours.     

Up until now I hadn't purchased a permanent facemask because I hoped it would make me feel as if this shit show we're going through wouldn't last long enough to warrant the expense.  Well, I was wrong.  Boy, was I wrong. 

And if that weren't enough to convert me, I don't like the same, nondescript, sterile appearance of the disposable masks.  When you can't tell who's behind the mask almost all individuality disappears.  Because as oppressive and depressing as these times may be, at least  we're not living in communist China during the Mao regime.                                                                        

Most of all, however, I miss seeing people who return my smiles.  But maybe they are.  Maybe strangers are smiling at me the way I'm smiling at them beneath the mask.  We need good will more than ever now, and  we shouldn't have to hide it.  So that's why I'll keep wearing my mask when I should, and smile and breathe all the while.  So mote it be. 

- g.p.