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A Ferret Called Wilson

Chasing Happy, Chasing Dreams

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Feminism

Anti-body = Anti-sex = Anti-woman = Barred from Paradise

I used to be a Christian. This morning, having run out of positivity on the Internet to accompany my morning coffee, I turned to my friend, Reverend Beverly Dale, who helped me process the joint loss of my marriage and my religion five years ago, to see what was up in the world of sex positive Christianity.

Reverend Dale, or “Rev Bev” as she was affectionately nicknamed by her students back at Penn, is a magnificent woman. A sufferer of emotional, physical and sexual abuse throughout her childhood, she never lost hold of her Christian faith and now uses her experience and her triumph over the injury and the shame to guide others on a path of joy and freedom never before experienced inside the walls of modern Churchdom.

The linked video is of her sermon “A Veiled Gospel Truth: God as Erotic Passion.” In it she references St. Augustine as the father of modern Christian body shame and sex negativity. Saint Augustine was a notorious misogynist. What struck me was her claim that he fathered not only the anti sex and anti body philsophy that governs modern Christian thought, but that he also fathered the anti-woman ideology that pervades our society.

The typical Story goes like this. Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden*, an eternal paradise where they would want for nothing. In order to remain in the garden they needed to obey only one rule: Eat not the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. I like this part because it can be translated to “the conditions to living in paradise are only that one must not know the difference between good and evil, only to be.” Woman, however, was weak of mind and became tricked by the Serpant. She ate of the tree and then in her shame made Man to eat as well, thus orchestrating his fall from grace. Woman, therefore is the cause of Man’s sin. If you can control the woman, you can control the sin and thus regain your righteousness.

It makes sense to me that to truly have freedom in our life we must learn to love completely and without restraint. I think the male hatred of the female is actually an extension of the male hatred of his own body and his inability to control his impulses. The reason why our society hates the feminine so much is then because the feminine becomes a representation of everything society hates about itself. But the male and the female exist in balance, harmony and perfection. We were created that way, to complement each other, with each one being completed and made greater by the other. To deny the feminine is to deny the part of one’s self that is passionate, warm, flowing, and creatively powerful. These qualities are indeed difficult to control and in our control oriented society they become faults. However, a world without passion, a world without creativity, a world in which we are afraid to dive into the luscious depths of our very existence is a world not worth living in.

Paradise is living without the ability to distinguish between good and evil. It is the place in our hearts where we accept ourselves without caveat or criticism. It is a place where love flows freely. Of course we all want entrance to this place. We all want to be loved freely and without caveat. The first step on the path to paradise then is to accept and love our selves — the male and the female within us — for if we do not know how to love our selves, how can we know how to love another? Or what it feels like to be loved? We run the risk of walking right into paradise, and then back out again because we don’t know how to recognize it when we see it.


*According to Sex at Dawn, they were actually thrown into a garden, but that’s a different discussion.

A True Story

I’m very tired today.

I’ve been tired for several days lately. I keep repeating to myself something like a mantra:

You’re tired because you haven’t been sleeping, not because your life is too hard for you.
You’re lonely because you don’t want to go outside in the heat, not because you don’t have friends.

Lately I put so much effort into managing my oversized brain that I often lose my sense of what is true and what is a story I told myself. This is made more difficult by the fact that I know that truth and facts are as axiomatic as the stories themselves. It’s very slippery to operate at the level of stories because you end up redefining truth even as you are seeking it and in the end you are the only one who can say whether or not you’ve found it.

One thing that I know about stories is that they are easier to accept when you know they are a story. For example, if I told you that humanity today is not at the epitome of gender equality and that human rights have actually taken huge blows in the last twenty years that have put many swaths of society at a greater disadvantage than they were perhaps fifty years ago, you would probably try to argue with me based on facts that I am wrong. On the other hand, if I told you a story about a human society where men and women were interdependent on each other and selfish behavior was punished by death or banishment from the tribe, you would probably listen intently. There would be no reason to argue with me because it would be a story. Stories aren’t true.

…and yet, they create truth. Because once you heard the story of men and women respecting each other, working together and celebrating their complementary strengths, in your deepest consciousness you would know that such a world is possible. Possible and actual are only separated by experience.

The Modern Yin and Yang

Historically, men and women have always existed in a kind of balance with each other, with each gender filling in its own roles that together make society work. Over time, those roles have changed, and depending on location they have started from different places as well. Recently, however, I get the distinct impression that the role of the female is being stamped out and made to be irrelevant. Our society is becoming completely yang and we are suffering for it.

Taking a grand view, the devaluation of the feminine in western society can be traced back to agriculture. Nomadic humans were “fiercely egalitarian,” as Brian and Jethalda put it in their earth shaking volume Sex Before Dawn. Sharing of work and of bounty was the most efficient way to moderate the risks of the ancient environment. Depriving women or other members of society because they were weak was simply not an option. For one thing, the smaller stature of the female enabled her to nurse young children on the same caloric intake of her male counterparts. Moreover, modern studies of female labor have proven that pregnancy and the presence of nursing infants had nearly no impact on the average 18 pounds of food per day that women gathered. Hunting, on the other hand, was comparatively more risky both in its costs and its rewards. To devalue the feminine in a hunter-gatherer society would be to expose yourself to many a hungry night.

With the advent of agriculture, women were able to nurse for shorter periods and thus became more fertile. Children were able to work on the farms from as young as four or five and so producing many children became economically advantageous to the increasingly isolated and independent family unit. Disease and malnutrition also increased with agriculture making the viability of each pregnancy less reliable. The result was that women became domesticated, along with the animals they depended on for food. Men, on the other hand, were relatively unaffected physically by the shift to agriculture.

The beginning of gender imbalance arrived with the technological shifts associated with independent, agricultural based living. Furthermore, because agriculture was a much more stable source of food on a short run scale, the focus on sharing decreased and competition increased. With each family unit responsible for itself, there was incentive to hoard food and to exchange it for services, favors or other necessities instead of share it openly. With agriculture was born capitalism.

And capitalism is responsible for the continuing degradation of the feminine. Where once fertility was a valued trait in a women, it is now a liability. Children do not increase the prosperity of a household but rather suck its resources. Producing children also becomes a trade off, putting women’s very physical nature at odds with their desires and desirability in the work force. Economic obsession with marginality and comparative advantage has also lead to the conceptual division of fertility from male and female. Where once it was believed that a child required a man and a woman (or in some places many men and a woman) to create and raise, operationally we behave today as if the entire weight of reproduction is carried on female shoulders. It then becomes a natural economic imperative to value male labor over female, particularly in industries where children are considered burdensome to production.

I think it is no accident that today activities which are considered difficult, requiring of high skill, or respectable are given male identities while equivalent activities that are mundane, or necessary but not difficult, are associated with the female. For example professors are men while teachers are women. “Cooking” is something you have to do at home so that you can feed yourself or your family and many women cook, but men are chefs. Similarly, supporting roles are assigned to women while forefront performance roles are given to men. Lawyers are male and paralegals are female. Bosses are male and secretaries are female. Sewing is a women’s task, but fashion designing is controled by men. When you look at the distinctions, there is very little difference in the actual activities involved in many of these paired occupations. For example, what does a chef do if not cook? How does one create new fashion without sewing the clothes? Can a paralegal properly type up a court decision if she does not understand the laws about which she writes? These distinctions are not in any way related to the fundamental nature of male and female so much as they are imposed from the outside in order to support the status quo of a highly competitive performance male, and an accomodating female.

The trouble with economics is that it is built upon the idea that competition is fundamentally a good thing because it raises us all up to our individual potential and guides our choices in such a way that without needing to hold a committee meeting, we can all corrdinate our activities with each other to achieve maximal bounty. What economics does not acknowledge, however, is that the rules that govern our interactions with each other — market rules, commercial law, human capital investment — are made by the very actors that are bound by them.

The difference between economic government and democratic government, however, is that in a democracy each human is worth one vote whereas in economics, each dollar is worth one vote. So in the end, equality is always a very precarious equilibrium. It only takes the tiniest sliver of advantage for one individual or group to be able to amass a majority of the wealth and once this happens all the surplus can be devoted towards shifting the rules in such a way to protect and grow that majority. Corporations are guilty of this, but men are guilty of it, too. Sadly, women are also guilty of participating in the fray. Indian culture is a prime and awful example. A woman’s value is derived primarily by the success of her eldest son. In old age it is her eldest son who will care for her. Thus a woman is driven from the start to neglect her daughters and her sisters and pour all her devotion into the men in her life — her husband who controls her present and her son who controls her future. This sad truth is a reality that was created by a society that had a surplus of power and a lack of incentive to protect equality.

I claimed that the dominance of yang over yin in our modern world was hurtful to all of us, not just our women. Men who are comparatively more yin, that is more passive and accomodating, or more gentle, are devalued just as women are devalued in general. This argument was made by Emma Watson to the UN in a recent presentation on women’s rights, but even this is not the whole story. We humans need to be complete and to live complete and full lives that accept, cherish, and nurture all aspects of ourselves. A man who has been forced into a mould that does not fit is an unhappy man just as a woman who has been squashed into a box that cannot contain the whole of her being is an unhappy woman. Yet man and woman will seek each other out and seek happiness in each other. But how can we find happiness in another when none of us know happiness ourselves?

The suppression of the yin in our world is a form of socially expressed self loathing. It is a hatred for the acceptance of the Way Things Are and a willingness to find happiness in one’s current circumstances. It is a disgust for our personal weaknesses and our inability to change the things that hurt us. It is a denial of the pain we experience on a daily basis, pain which defines us and brings us life even as it hurts us. I will even go so far as to say that the love affair with yang is a form of hubris, believing that man is superior to the nature that created him, and the nature that still defines him today. It is the belief that we as humans know better than the environment that carved out our existence so many millions of years ago and that our power to control is greater than the power of Nature to destroy, to kill, and to rebirth again.

Man can no more live without woman than humans can live without the earth. I believe that the future of humanity lies in our ability to restore the balance of Yin and Yang in our society and in our world.

Ride Like a Girl

Perhaps it was the Always* commercial, or some other commercial, that inspired me to redefine what it means to ride like a girl. I’ve been searching for people to ride with who can help me grow as a cyclist. I want to challenge the professionals one day and I know I can’t do it alone. In a forum on a new group I’m checking out, one of the members made a comment that some guy was slow and “rides like a girl.” To the group’s credit, another member quickly corrected him, but the seed had already been planted. To ride like a girl is an insult? Nonono. Let me explain to you what riding like a girl really means. To ride like a girl is to love the sport of cycling like no man has ever loved. We are so few and they are so many that to even dream of riding a bicycle is like walking into the lion’s den. They would eat us alive and shit us out again without even a second thought if we gave them a chance. And we give them a chance every time we get on the road. “Can we ride with you?” “Sure, but this is a no-wait ride.” BITE “What pace are you planning to hold?” “Today’s an easy day, so something like 16-17 mph.” CHEW “I want to race, but there’s no women’s class. What should I do?” “Just jump in with everyone else. That’s how we learned. Trial by fire.” SWALLOW “Everyone is so much faster than I am. It’s very scary, is there no other option that’s more my level?” “Look, if you don’t have the balls, don’t ride. We are not the babysitters club.” SHIT And there we are, shredded, watching as the men ride off into the distance. And what do we do? We climb back into the saddle. We push on the pedals. We ride. We ride for the love of the bicycle. We ride for the need for speed. We ride for the joy of feeling our bodies propel the bike through the air, over the road, down the trail. We ride because we are made to ride. Some women will quit. After the kind of welcome we receive into the sport of cycling, who can blame them? But those of us who continue to ride, we are furious. We survive the burn, burn after burn after burn, because we are propeled by an inner fire a thousand times hotter than anything outside. With smaller legs, less muscle mass, and smaller lungs, we climb the same hills. Our hearts beat the same rhythm. We put in the same time. And each hour of work produces less speed and less progress than any a man’s body would put out. The hills feel bigger, the miles feel longer. And yet we ride. We push past the barriers of our own bodies, the barriers of an industry who considers us as nothing more than marginal revenue sources, the coldness of a culture that simply doesn’t believe that we should be allowed to play, too. And we excel. We fly. We get dropped, and we ride alone. We crash, and we pick ourselves up. No sponsor? No problem. We’re used to taking care of ourselves. All this we do with the energy that comes from a deep seated love for riding. Only a girl could endure all of this and still ride on. So do it. Go on. Ride like a girl. I’ll ride with you.


* Originally I thought Dove was responsible, but it was Always with their campaign #likeAgirl. They’re at it again and you should definitely go check them out.

Discrimination or Ignorance?

As an active woman with a high sex drive and a very prestigious job, I defy basically all the stereotypes about gender. I’m pretty comfortable defying stereotypes at this point. At 30+ I have plenty of experience being cat called, written off, and misinterpreted and I also spent a good ten or more years trying to fit the typical female mould, too. Many women today call on other women to further defy the stereotypes, “to break out of the mould!” as it were, and achieve unprecedented levels of self actualization. I want to talk about something else. Gender stereotyping is a form of passive discrimination. By assuming all women to be a particular way, we can overlook important ways in which our decisions make women’s lives more difficult. Ignorance, on the other hand, is a deeper form of discrimination that goes beyond passivity into institutional. Ignorance, ignoring the differences, means that not only are we likely to make decisions that are unfairly hurtful to women, but we may do so under the false belief that we are actually offering equal opportunities for all. Sports are one of the easiest places to see gender ignorance.

Women and men are physically different. While no one would deny this basic fact, many people operate as if the differences don’t exist. Products marked as “unisex” and sold as sporting equipment are often products designed for men. Most bicycle seats are too narrow and too flat to support a female pelvis with a vulva. T-shirts given away as finishing prizes at road races are almost invariably cut to fit a male torso — wider and shorter than an appropriate female cut, and often sized for men. The result is that out of half a dozen road races that I’ve run, I only have one finisher’s shirt that actually fits my body. Most are too large because sizing starts at men’s small, and too wide so that they fit me like a tent more than high tech sports apparel. Rental equipment for ice skating, bowling and skiing is also unisex, which we can easily read as “for men”, concluding that the majority of production in the sports industry ignores women.

Gender ignorance in sports is not just a feature of product marketing, but in many cases the entire environment ignores the differences between male and female. I recently left my climbing gym in tears because after climbing there regularly for a year I was still unable to complete half of the monthly routes marked for beginners. Over and over again I see guys join the gym and quickly skyrocket from total noob to intermediate and advanced in a matter of months, but I can never cross that critical first barrier of being able to climb the beginner’s routes. Gym regulars, over 90% men, have tried to comfort me by saying that it is just this gym’s style to label their routes much easier than they really are. It would be comforting to me, I replied, if there was a “pre-beginner” level of monthly routes that were within my ability. However, there are not. But because I have nearly a decade of climbing experience and far more upper body strength than the average female I am confident that it is not my ability which is lacking. On the contrary, the attempts by the regulars to comfort me are actually clear indication of the ignorance: they mistakenly assume that my frustrations will be as short lived as theirs were when they shot past the beginner level years ago. They fail to see that as a female, the level at which physical strength becomes a limiting factor on my progress comes much sooner than for males. My climbing gym is a prime example of an institutionalization of female gender ignorance and it irritates me constantly.

At this point, most people are familiar with the concept of discrimination and are aware that it is not socially acceptable any more to openly discriminate against women. People are also more or less aware that stereotypes can be hurtful and need to be regularly evaluated for accuracy. However ignorance is almost always overlooked by nature. People don’t have words for gender ignorance and can often perpetuate it with misguided attempts to be fair. A road race without gender categories is clearly unfair to women, but if someone said “Prizes to the first three people across the finish line” few people would take note. In my own life I find myself repeatedly having to explain to my friends that their assumptions about what is good and true universally are very hurtful to me because I, as a woman, cannot stand in their position and share their experience. They are good people and they don’t mean to exclude me, but when they say things like “come on, it’s easy!” when I am clearly struggling against my body’s feminine constraints, I can’t help but feel like an outsider.

Dear My Origins

Dear My Former Church,

We haven’t spoken in a long time. In fact, we haven’t spoken since that critical day in August, 2010, when I realized that you had been lying to me all this time. It’s been hard for me to live without you, but as the song goes, “I spent so many nights thinking how you did me wrong and I grew strong. And I learned how to get along!” I don’t need you anymore and I’ve come to realize that, accept it, and own it. There is a scar from our past which will always be with me, but now that the wound is closed and I have come to be able to breathe again I thought I should write to you to give us both a little closure.

I was young when we met, bright eyed, beautiful and vulnerable. You came to me with the promise of joy and protection from the cruel world. You told me that I was weak and you were strong and that you would love me and only want what was best for me. Naturally I was swept away by your promises. What innocent virgin would not be? I bound myself to you and made your presence known in every action, every thought, and every interaction I had in every single day of my life. You told me that I was broken, that I was dirty, that I was the cause of man’s downfall. You told me that my suffering was just and inescapable punishment for my inherent sin and I believed you while at the same time asking you, nay even begging you, to explain to me how your love was apparent through all that judgment.

You were jealous then, and you still are. I didn’t understand until I was married how far reaching the tentacles of your jealousy were. You told me that to marry young and virgin was the height of my virtue and that only a complete denial of my physical self could be closer to your ideal. So I did that. I married young and virgin and innocent. When on my wedding night my husband proclaimed to me that “[He] was going to have sex with [his] wife!” a strange thing happened. For all my young years I had been fighting against an ever increasing tidal wave of sexual energy. It threatened to throw me body and soul out of the light of your glory and into the frothing sea of carnal passion below. You promised me that on my wedding night instead of plunging to my spiritual death, that this tidal wave of energy would instead raise me up, send me soaring in virtuous marital bliss, but when my gown came off and I open my thighs for my new husband…

there was no wave. Indeed it was as if the entire ocean had dried up before me.

Of course neither you nor my brand new husband seemed in the slightest bit bothered and the both of you just kept plowing on without me. And so it was that I spent the better part of the next decade in a desperate losing battle to reunite my rebelling spirit with the joy and safety that you had promised me. You know how well that went. You promised me that if I could only make it as far as I did that ever abundant life and joy would be made available to me, but instead you abandoned me to the care of a man. A single, solitary, miserly, inadequate man. Even though I returned to you time and again for an explanation, your promises and your love were as dry as the tidal wave of my former passion. You told me then in my desperation and my loneliness that I should be happy because you had given me everything I could want. You told me that my lack of happiness was my own fault for rejecting your gifts to me.

And so it was one humid summer night that I went back to the cliff where I had last seen the raging sea that threatened to swallow me whole so many years ago. I remember standing on the edge of that cliff and looking down into the sea and wondering if it would indeed kill me. But then I looked for you there on that cliff and though you warned me not to jump, I saw the truth of what your promises held for me: pain, loneliness, self-loathing. Your promises to me were no more alive than an empty desert who so long has not felt rain that it has given up even the memory of moisture. My choice was apparent. I could stay with you and have a slow wasting death of which every day would be safe and secure in the knowledge that there was no more life to be had. Or else I could throw myself off that cliff into the writhing, frothing sea below. Perhaps it would kill me. Perhaps I would drown, or perhaps I would not. Perhaps the waves would cradle me and toss me, bringing thrill and kindness to my parched existence.

You know what happened that night. There is no way you didn’t hear me screaming and calling out my passion. I nearly choked on the surge of life that flooded my body. And I know what you said then, too. You said to all who would listen to you that it was the voice of suffering that rose up from the water. You called them to look at my face and see pain and madness, a fallen woman indeed. But let’s be honest with each other. I feel that after all these years we owe each other at least that much. You did to me what any spurned lover would do. You muddied my name and discredited me so as to mitigate the pain of your own rejection.

Were you a human, I would forgive you for your faults, but you are not a human you are a church. You are massive conglomeration, a katamari of all that is good and all that is mislead in humanity and you wield your power over us young and helpless. Isolated and naive you make of us easy prey. I wish I could say now, My Church, that I forgive you your trespasses, but you do not forgive those who trespass against you, do you?

I guess in the end, though, I am not without fault. I wanted to believe you. You did tell me one thing which was true and that was that in my heart, at the deepest center of my being, I would know truth from lie. And I knew you were lying to me. Your story never made very good sense, but I used all my energy to force that burning star of Truth at the back of my consciousness into the clean and tidy cage you offered me. You told me I should love my neighbor as myself and I knew this to be truth. But you also told me that I should love my husband more than myself and this never sat well with me. How could I love my neighbor, my brothers and sisters in God, as myself and then love one person of my choosing more so than all of them? I tried to convince myself that it was simply a matter of expediency that one necessarily had to spend more of their time with their husband than with the rest of humanity so it made sense to love him more.

You also told me that my body was a temple to the One True God and that I should never celebrate in it. Wait, what? Are temples not for worship? How can I worship with my body if I never use it? You told me that my body, being a female body, was necessarily unclean, but why would a holy and divine being bestow upon me a temple to its glory that was unclean and unworthy of celebration?

I knew these things did not make sense just as I knew that your promise of unconditional and unbounded love did not actually extend to me because of my womanhood. And yet you were so charismatic, so convincing and you made the outside world seem so scary that I would have chosen you then a thousand times over.

Well, I wanted to tell you that I have grown now. I jumped into that frothing sea and I drank it until the waves subsided and they carried me spent on their backs until I reached the shore. I have found my peace now with my body and my womanhood, but not with you. So I thought it was fair warning to let you know that I’m coming back to finish you off. No longer will I allow you to prey upon the young and the innocent. No longer will I stand by and try to justify your lies to my sisters who, unlike myself, are still too afraid to take the leap. You who would sow fear and distrust amongst those that I love are forever my enemy and I will fuck you out of existence.

You have been warned.

More Heroes

I don’t know what it is, but this video made my heart jump.

A Little Girl Discovers a Hero

I’ve been looking for a female role model for years. I think I found one.

On Humanism

Last week was a week for feminist bashing. First, a post by a member on a men’s support forum that I frequent blamed the liberated modern feminist for the shape of modern male body shame. More recently there have been a number of articles published commenting on Hillary Clinton’s impending rise to power and on the form of feminism presented by Ms Sandberg in this article. I used to think of myself as a feminist, but I think feminism is outdated, and a misnomer, for what the true meaning of the movement represents. Today, I think of myself as a humanist.

I thank my fellow bloggers, les femmes, for helping me to find words to express my standing, and I thank a a particularly genuine forum member at the support forum for the inspiration to remember my own humanity in the midst of the anger.

Humanism. It isn’t feminism because it doesn’t seek to place women on equal footing as men, or to insult men or put them down, and it isn’t masculinism or patriarchism because it doesn’t seek to maintain the long standing oppression of women. Humanism is the philosophy that all humans have value, that we are all made of flesh, that we all feel pain, we all cry, we all fear the unknown. Humanism seeks to undo the damage that centuries of body shaming and millennia of power seeking have put on our collective psyches. Humans wants peace for all humans in their own hearts, and in their relationships with each other.

After the claim was made that modern feminism is responsible for the shape and style of small penis humiliation, another man added an explanation: feminists seek to topple the patriarchy, but instead of going for the strongest males, they attack the weakest first and use the cheapest shots. This naturally results in women shaming non-alpha male types for their insufficient sex drives, small penises, lack of ambition and generally non-alpha male patriarchal personality types.

I understand where this man is coming from. He feels inferior to the alpha-types that define what ideal modern masculinity looks like, but it is easier to blame women, outsiders, for attacking him than it is to blame his fellow men. He would like to be an alpha, but he isn’t. However, if he rejects the image of alpha as fundamentally flawed, he incites ridicule from other alpha males — the strong and empowered males that he claims women are afraid to challenge, but whom he himself also fears. Rather than accept that he fails to meet the standards he upholds, or to take the responsibility to change the things in himself that he disapproves of, he finds an outside entity which is socially weaker than he is and attacks it instead.

Thanks to the gentle words of another member on the forum, when I read these accusations I saw them for the expression of impotence that they really were, rather than the attack on myself that they felt like. I suggested that where he wrote “feminists” he might instead write “people who seek power over others” and where he wrote “alpha males” that he might instead write “those who currently have power and social approval.” I think what this man was really trying to say is that people attack the weakest representations of their enemies when they feel threatened, and that in doing so they harm those who are in fact closest to themselves, perhaps even their allies.

To be a humanist takes a wider perspective than to be a feminist. It is not enough to topple all the males, but rather, we must select from within the whole of masculinity what bits are truly harmful to us and what bits are nothing more than the imperfect and clumsy attempts of other human beings to fight for their own happiness. After all, men still are in a position of power over us. We don’t like it and we don’t want to accept it, but we can further our own goals if we acknowledge it and make allies where we can.

I am no political strategist. In fact, I am quite simple in my understanding of humans. I see the philosophy of humanism as a torch in the night. By recognizing the humanity in all of us, even those who would appear as my ideological enemies, I can make better choices, see more clearly, and feel less threatened by the violent world that I live in.

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