So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

14 September, 2007

Elbow Room

A while back, I got into a discussion with someone who came across to me as a rather meanspirited atheist, who wanted to know what I could possibly see in Neb.y Set, one of the gods I particularly revere. And, y'know, I'm not interested in justifying my religion to random hostile people, especially ones who treat a watered-down and simplified version of the Contendings as the be-all and end-all of understanding of Himself. (For context, the Contendings is the best generally known Egyptian myth -- Osiris, killed by Set, Heru-sa-Aset avenges His father, claims the throne.)

The thing that was far too personal and touchy to express is this: Set embodies the concept of transgression as something which is within the great system. His is the abnormal, the perverted, the strength of having to do everything as an outsider without being able to depend on the community. Egyptian cosmology is intensely communitarian, intensely collective, and there's Big Red, out there on the edges being queer, being left-handed, being a redhead, governing infertility when existence depends on fields and children, governing darkness in a solar pantheon, governing chaos in a world devoted to cosmic order.

And this is not evil.

If you look at crowning images, Heru (Horus) crowns the king on His father's throne, the king is the living incarnation of Heru's soul, all that stuff -- and Set is holding the crown from the other side. The sunboat's prime defender against annihilatory nothingness? Set, Great of Strength -- great of strength because He does His own thing. The other is part of the system, part of the reality of what is, part of the cosmic community, the part that lurks around the edges, freaks people out perhaps simply because it isn't normal, and is strong enough to hold its own against the devouring dark when all light seems somehow implausible, in the dark night of the soul where there is nobody else.

Set, who by His nature is the essence of all the feared and sometimes hated non-mainstream, is still recognised as part of the system, in fact a great defender of the system -- one who challenges it, constantly, to accept Him, to grow up enough to see the Other as real, too.

In a world where Set is, there is space for me.

I wrote, a while back, a sort of rambly essay about liberty and license. My, googling on 'Liberty and License' turns up a bunch of fascinating hits. I think I like this one best, and will quote a line from its conclusion: "Liberty can never be license since the unrestrained use of liberty quickly and surely renders inoperative the general rules upon which it is based. The ideal setting for liberty is one in which individuals have internalized an ethic of responsibility and restraint that motivates voluntary compliance with society’s general rules." I can run with that.

One of the things about being a weirdo is that one can wind up in a position where some subset of 'society's general rules' just make no damn sense. (For some relevant exampling: a bunch of the 'liberty and license' hits pulled up folks handwringing about how licentious it was that the U.S. Supreme Court was considering Lawrence vs. Texas, including slippery slope arguments about how a decision that overturned the anti-sodomy law would let the polygamists in! And then the paedophiles! Over here in the Gehenna Reach, we say, "... buh?") And then one has to figure out what to do about that, how to deal with the fact that from over here, those rules don't look like they work.

One of the weirdest experiences I've ever had as a Set-worshipper was hanging out at a pagan gathering with a new acquaintance; the conversation turned, as such things will do, to what gods we were dedicated to. And when I mentioned Big Red, the fellow broke in with, "Oh, He's not so bad." Because something about mentioning that name -- Someone associated with the transgression -- inspired a 'more transgressive than thou' reaction, something that reminds me a lot of what Maymay wrote in The Kink Culture of Fear about people feeling that their credibility depends on how hard they play -- how far beyond the boundaries they go, how much they go over the edge into "But people don't do that". And maybe in his head the only reason to deal with Neb.y was to go over the boundaries, to go out into the darkness that is His domain, so of course the way to play the one-upsmanship game was to say, well, that's not that far....

A while back I got into a discussion with someone who claimed that the only reason to be kinky was to be transgressive in some way. That the whole point of kinkness was to be other, over the boundaries, not-normal. And the conversation went around and around, sometimes seeming to argue that this was a semantics argument by which kink was defined by its lack of mainstream sexuality nature, and other times seeming to be about the assumption that to be kinky was to kink on sin, as Eileen so pithily put it. And there just wasn't space out there for being into BDSM without into being the dark mirror of the vanilla world, there to illuminate the boundaries between the Acceptable and the Beyond. Some sort of dancing monkeyism, the pervert there for the entertainment and education of the norm. Possibly in a display case of Fallen Women, skewered with hatpins in a cigar box and propped up like sick social lepidoptery.

And then there's the people who figure that discovering that rules don't work from one angle means that there are no lines. To take license to be haphazard, disruptive, offensive, and expect there to be no consequences because there are no boundaries. If the set of rules can be shown, in certain places, to be arbitrarily chosen or subject to negotiation, rather than laws of nature, then there is nothing that stops them from whatever they want. There is the world of Rules, and the world of No Rules, and if one does not follow one Rule, then one is plunged into shapeless, meaningless chaos. (Otherwise known as "The failure state of Discordianism is really annoying.") And there can be a wicked power in this, the ability to make people uncomfortable, and it has its profound appeal at times -- shake things up a little, 'freak the mundanes', however it gets put. The ability to go, "Don't try to out-weird me. I have stranger things free with my breakfast cereal." "Who do you think you are, Zaphod Beeblebrox or something?" "Count the heads" has its sort of intoxicating power, but a power that depends on other people reacting in just the right way.

That's the thing that gets me, again, the hook between the fact of being transgressive of a set of rules and depending on that set of rules for some level of justification of the difference. If one's being a foil -- kinking on sin -- then the whole point is to exist in this antithetical space to whatever set of social rules one's dancing with. Which can be a useful thing, hell, it's another Twins metaphor and I love Twins metaphors, but it's defining oneself as a negative to the positive, a sort of ghost being state. If one's kinking on disconcerting or disrupting other people's adherence to the system, then ... again ... it depends on the system, the people jumping the right way -- getting offended and responding when getting trolled, basically -- and if people don't feed the energy creature, it has nothing of its own.

Being transgressive simply to be transgressive is a constantly moving set of boundaries, shifting depending on subculture, flow of social interaction, and any of a number of other things. It's placing the locus of personal power outside of oneself and charging up off interacting with that. If the line of the acceptable shifts ... bam, the entire thing deflates. Not sustainable.

And it's never that simple, and never that easy, and I can't say I've never gone freaking the mundanes, though it's been a while. But I much prefer living out in the boundary-lands on the edges of the map because that's where my home is, where I can stretch out all my limbs and not feel like I'm about to put my foot through an ill-placed paper wall. And maybe with me prowling the edges of civilisation, in the long run civilisation will expand a little and I'll wind up in some sort of pervert suburbia.

And maybe Set and I, we'll catch the worse monsters than we are, the ones that really would destroy the mainstream if they got past us, and we'll have ourselves a kickass barbecue. Out here where there's elbow room for freaks like us.


Eileen said...

The idea that discovering fallacies in a set of rules means that there are no rules . . . it boggles my mind how often that idea is practiced, despite how insistently it smacks of falsehood.

Not a proper comment, really. Thank you for writing this! I enjoyed reading it.

Daisy said...

Off-topic but not totally: I am a big twins-metaphor person, too. :)

Have you ever seen David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers? Based on the real story of the Marcus twins; the book was titled TWINS by Bari Wood. Drop everything and go watch. I'd love to hear your comments.

Also, you'd love Lives of the Twins (1989) by Rosamond Smith, who actually turned out to be Joyce Carol Oates.

And I assume you've seen TWIN FALLS, IDAHO? If not, good lord, drop everything and go watch that too...

Continuing to enjoy your fabulous writing!

Deoridhe said...

I seriously feel that way a LOT of the time. One of my problems is, though, that I frequently don't SEE the boundaries until I'm gleefully tapdancing on the other side of them, having a grand old time, and everyone around me is trying to get away. Sometimes I'm ok with that, but a lot of the time I wish I'd chosen it, instead of stumbling into it.

I've tone down a LOT in the last decade, and I'm trying to figure out now what, exactly, I've lost by doing so, and if I want to tone up a bit and be more honest.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus said...

Really excellent reflections--I couldn't agree more, based on my own experiences thus far with Set! (And as of the latest ones, the echoes in wording to some of your thoughts here are...rather close!)