An Inclusive Humanist Manifesto

Humanism is shorthand. It’s a start, a summary, and a statement. In a world of ideologies that refuse to recognize my humanity or that assert that it has no value, it is a bold and clear assertion:

I matter.

I matter, because I am a person.

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An Inclusive Humanist Manifesto
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Dysfunction Defined

[TW: chronic illness, depression, suicide]
We are our bodies.
That sounds obvious, but it isn’t.  Cartesian dualism thoroughly infiltrates the English language and many others.  Many of the ways in which we talk about our bodies describe them as things we own, or carry, or inhabit, as though we were somehow distinct from the skeletons and meat.
My sense of my own consciousness is firmly anchored in my eyes.  Everything else is ancillary, a wall of sensation at a distance or a weird intrusion from the outside.  When I dream, I rarely have legs.  My dream avatar pushes itself through crowds with its arms, or it is nothing but disembodied eyes, watching more than participating in the dream’s events.  When I am more than that in dream, I am watching myself do things from the outside, a lucid vantage point on third-person adventure.  In those dreams, my oneiric body is usually someone else entirely: a minotaur, a Mexican woman, a robot.  I don’t have a sense of touch in my dreams, even when I have hands.  Those differences are how I tell when I’m dreaming, or when I’m recalling events that happened in dream: I can’t touch anything, I don’t have feet, and people don’t have faces.  And the world is usually in hazy grayscale with flashes of red or green to indicate the assorted Chekhov’s guns my dream-narrator likes to set up on my behalf.
There may or may not be anything to diagnose in those patterns.  But all of them are illusions, the fantasies of a mind that often feels estranged from and confused by the letters its frontier outposts deliver to it.  For the rest of us, our bodies and minds are not as distinct as my oneiromancer wants me to think they are.  Within this lipid-rimed assembly of motors and struts is a complex of sensors and wires, connections that make the events of the hands and intestines and small of the back as real and immediate as any thought or emotion—and every thought and emotion as real as leaving one’s hand too long on the stove.  The brain is only the largest and foremost organ of the self, anchoring and integrating the activities of all the others.
We are our bodies.
And when those bodies go wrong, it attacks the very definition of us.

Continue reading “Dysfunction Defined”

Dysfunction Defined

Confessions of a Bag Lady 2: Three More Things I Learned Collecting Beer Cans for Money

The first two things and the introductory statement are here.

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3.     You Develop a Weird Relationship with Homeless People

Humans, especially Western humans, produce enough refuse that there really is more than enough to go around.  There are still places where it’s harder or much, much easier to collect lots of it at once, though, and those spots get “claimed” very quickly.  A kind of turf system is at work in the scavenging game, and people like me were competing with every other kind of vagrant for the same prime trash-collecting spots.  There’s no “turf war,” or even negotiating over territory.  If you get good enough at collecting in one area, it stops being lucrative for the other people who were doing it, and they leave on their own for less contentious places.  On the handful of occasions that I met someone else who visited my building for refuse that the tenants helpfully left bagged by the outside door, it was always tense.  Were we sizing each other up to see who would keep this area as theirs?  I tried to give them some of what I found whenever this happened, because I knew most of them would be much worse off than I was.  They’d never outdo my collection efforts, though—I could afford to come to that room daily with a shopping cart, and they showed up occasionally with a bicycle, or just bags.

Continue reading “Confessions of a Bag Lady 2: Three More Things I Learned Collecting Beer Cans for Money”

Confessions of a Bag Lady 2: Three More Things I Learned Collecting Beer Cans for Money