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March 19th, 2008
01:19 am
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Therianthropes' "German moments"
My mind goes in odd directions sometimes ...

kinkyturtle just posted some cartoons, one of which pokes fun at Nazifurs. Yes, that's exactly what it sounds like: furries who take great glee in their character violating Godwin's Law, even showing up at conventions dressed up in Nazi regalia. I mention this only because the second panel of the comic (a retelling of an encounter at Anthrocon where an actual German discovered one of the Nazifurs didn't speak the language) threw my brain on a tanget.

The encounter is funny because, well, Nazis. Not speaking German. The cognitive dissonance of it slaps you in the face. If somebody's going to all the trouble to incorporate such a recognizable symbol into their outward identity, you'd think that they'd at least try to get the glaringly obvious bits right.

And here's where my brain left the path: Do us dragons (and Otherkin/therianthropes in general) have our own "German moment"? In other words -- are we (some or many of us) missing out on anything that basic? Is there anything so fundamental to the theri experience that it seems glaringly obvious we would all have exposure to it, even though there are probably swaths of theris running around that haven't given it any thought?

As impolitic as it is to say it, I think there is.

And I'd like to submit that it's a silly thing to be a theri without having done -- and enjoyed! -- some camping and hiking.

Now, I'm not going to be a Nazi hard-ass about it and say the True Theri has to spend months at a stretch out in the woods. Not everyone has that sort of insanity, determination or resources. But look: we identify with creatures that are other than human. Creatures that, by and large, have no experience with tool use. Creatures whose lives were spent in direct contact with nature, fighting the elements, foraging or hunting for food, running or flying through the open spaces.

We make the choice to acknowledge that part of us because we like it. We identify with it. We have a deeper connection.

And so why would we want to sit in dark rooms, in front of cold computer screens, when we could have the chance -- at least occasionally -- to go out and live those experiences? To get a hands-on, visceral, tangible connection to the way our other side lives -- to step outside of humanity's smothering embrace for a while -- to be alone with ourselves and the caress of wind and embrace of sunlight.

Out in the woods, we discover ourselves. (I'm sure somebody famous said so. Thoreau?) And as people with such an investment in self-discovery, we should be leaping at that chance. It always surprises me when I meet those who don't. And I always have a negative gut reaction to overcome when dealing with theris who hate the idea of sleeping out under an open sky.

I should be careful to point out: this doesn't apply to all Otherkin. Elves in particular have a comparatively humanlike social structure; and not all Otherkin come from a primal background. (I think some time out in the woods would do anyone good, but that's another topic. :)) Language sticklers might note I'm talking mostly about "therianthropes" here -- people whose nonhuman side is that of an animal -- although mythic creatures such as gryphons and dragons also fall in the "primal" category.

* * * * *

Also, on another topic entirely, I support the upcoming LJ content strike (Friday, March 21). The primary reason I'm here is that it's an accessible social hub, where I can keep track of many friends easily and share semiprivate content with them. When SUP gets progressively nastier to the folks who got free accounts here to keep track of paid members like me, and when they drive my friends off little by little, SUP undercuts my entire reason for sticking around as a paid member.

Current Location: ~/brainstorm
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Current Music: "Zelda's Jazz," AmIEvil, www.ocremix.org
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(26 comments | Leave a comment)

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From:premchai21
Date:March 19th, 2008 09:41 am (UTC)
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This is lent something of an interesting inversion when one's notion of “primitive” from that perspective is more like “the natural numbers” and “basic lambda calculus” than “trees and rocks”. (I'm pretty sure there's some other even more primitive elements in there somewhere, but it's not quite from the same direction as the way mathematics is spoken locally, and I don't know how to translate it properly in this language. Or maybe I'm just hallucinating things.)

I think my “German moment”, then, gets to be “not knowing enough mathematics”. *nod*

(Sigh, inconsistent quotation marks fixed.)

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From:baxil
Date:March 20th, 2008 10:23 am (UTC)
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Well, if you really want to go primitive in mathematics, set theory is (more or less) an attempt to derive All Of Math from just the concepts of "a collection of things" (set) and "performing operations on things" (functions). :) Broke my brain in good ways back in college.

From:premchai21
Date:March 20th, 2008 01:48 pm (UTC)
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I'm familiar with the basic overview of such derivations, yes. You can get natural numbers out of the lambda calculus or out of set theory, for instance. Or you can do other things. What I'd probably like to learn is more abstract algebra, real and complex analysis, category theory, geometry… and in general, more of the vocabulary involved. (I now have the distinction between “homomorphism” and “isomorphism” firmly lodged in long-term memory, for instance.)

My actual direction is not specifically mathematics, but a more general space of many things abstract (sort of), which is why I've gotten strongly into music also, for instance: it's one of the most abstract of the arts. My penchant for computer software is for similar reasons, but also related to environmental considerations: a high-speed computer effectively provides a translating gateway between a subset of the physical world and a subset of the discrete mathematical world (which, by representation, can “contain” many other information-based things), so tunneling myself into virtual spaces is a little closer to my roots, as it were.

(One of the reasons I'm starting to balk at music and software nowadays and have a strong impulse to turn tail and hide behind a university mathematics department somewhere is that the concreteness of music and programs, while it provides a pleasant and interesting texture to me, seems to engender a sense of ownership of some sort which I find alien and distressing and in which I cannot really participate much in good conscience. One almost never hears “You have to get permission to use my theorem, and if I don't like the way you're using it, then you'll have to do your proof some other way”—or at least I hope not.)

(Unrelatedly, it is also possible for this to come full Möbius-loop(?): going out into the wilderness provides a different and interesting perspective, which in a meta-sense is what I'm all about in some ways. The difference is that it's still a decidedly non-native environment for me: the attraction would be more in experiencing something new. Then again, there's a difference between observing things and living inside them; sometimes the latter is too much.)

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From:emerald_scales
Date:March 19th, 2008 11:13 am (UTC)
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Weeelll... do remember I time when I was still living in CT; the more primal nature of myself to come to bare a few times only it was a cross between my totem and myself. It was a little uncomfortable in that it was the more "hunt for food" drive that decided to appear one day - in downtown city.

at other times throughout my life its just been more of an acute awareness of my environemnt that settles in. For my own part though, I do often feel the urge to head into the mountains. For some reason I feel a strong attraction to them, just as much, if not more, than wanting to be out in the wilderness.
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From:baxil
Date:March 20th, 2008 10:26 am (UTC)
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I find it interesting you draw a distinction between "mountains" and "wilderness." For me, the two are virtually inseperable. :)
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From:zon14
Date:March 19th, 2008 12:14 pm (UTC)
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I tend to be a desert dragon, so you know where my tendencies play themselves out. Can't help but squee a little when I see a lizard scuttling about on the rocks. And standing at the top of Fort Rock in Oregon was just teh special! I kept wanting to jump up and down and cheer. Just be sure to bring some water along!

Haven't gotten any hunting urges, but now that you've mentioned it, I'm sure the ol' brainbox will start working that way.
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From:makuus
Date:March 19th, 2008 12:14 pm (UTC)
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What can I say? Some of us, when we found the comforts to be had lying low within human society -- including the acquisition of more arcane knowledge as they grew to build and use thinking machines -- the freezing cold of the northern winters became just that much less glamorous. *shrug*
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From:baxil
Date:March 20th, 2008 10:58 am (UTC)
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Standard disclaimers:
1. This post is merely my opinion; I am not the Grand High Poobah of Otherkin.
2. This post may not apply depending on what your "other" side is.
3. This post was intended to open a dialogue, not issue a condemnation.

That having been said --

Believe me, I understand the lure of human society! I'd be a resounding hypocrite if I tried to claim otherwise (from a comfortable bed, typing on a laptop, connected to the Internet, listening to music in a heated house with electricity and running water). My point was never to cast that away; as Otherkin we are human and Something Else, and we'd be fools to turn our backs on the benefits of civilization.

But ... if I can try to abstract my point out a little ... it's all too easy to fall completely into that life. If we're identifying as Other, there has to be something Other. If we have no opportunities to detach ourselves from the human experience, then our Other side is just so many words.

It seems natural to me to find that outside connection in the wilderness. But you raise a good point; if the wilderness available to you is inhospitable, the incentive to go out and enjoy it is a lot less, and if you're struggling to survive you're not going to be doing much connecting.

The important thing is finding a way to set aside our human routines and build that connection to our Other sides. If you've got other ways to do that that involve staying comfortably indoors, more power to you. (I do, too. But I find them insufficient for me on their own.)

I stand by my comment about negative gut reactions to such people -- but one, it's genuinely not a big deal, and two, anyone I keep in touch with here has already passed the "gut reaction" threshold. :) I'm not stupid enough to let things like other people's opinions of outdoor activities get in the way of perfectly good friendships.
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From:makuus
Date:March 20th, 2008 05:42 pm (UTC)
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Worry not. I am not here to disabuse you of your opinions and gut reactions (even if I think it is the nature of dragons to shake things up). In fact, I rather like the topic.

It may be a matter of tastes and what one associates with this concept of "nature". Personally, I'm not really a keen camper or outdoorsman, for, I suppose, many reasons. It might be that of not having had the opportunities when I was younger. It might be that I'm not very physically in-shape (making hiking around not a pleasant experience). Or, it might be that I am too fond of mod-cons (I am much a fan of hot showers). [Full disclosure: I am, however, rather fond of snow and can spend hours in it, even in the woods. And, while I'm not an avid hiker/camper, the occasional trip to the woods for quietude -- "ZOMG! no traffic noise!" -- was rather enjoyable.]

I like that you did abstract a little and use a key phrase -- "detach ourselves from the human experience". That, I agree, is what's important. It's what I might call "sticking [one's] head above the crowd". In place of the outdoors, I suppose that I've gone within to detach. Not so much along the lines of a concerted meditation effort -- not that there's much happening in my head anyway -- but maybe something along the lines of 'thinking about the world at large' whenever possessed of some downtime, such that even looking at the hawks outside my window mean a trip to someplace else.
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From:jolantru
Date:March 19th, 2008 12:34 pm (UTC)
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I acknowledge that I am other. But I do not assert this distinction along the lines of 'racial purity' or Us versus Other. That's bad and we have seen this sort of effects enough in (cosmic) history.
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From:baxil
Date:March 20th, 2008 11:02 am (UTC)
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If this is a response to my bit about camping, I'm not sure I follow.

If this is a response (as seems likely) to the idea of "Nazifurs" -- then I completely agree. I find the phenomenon creepy. Which is probably the effect they're going for. :-p
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From:jolantru
Date:March 20th, 2008 11:27 am (UTC)
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Heh, I should have been clearer.

I was responding to the Nazifurs. :)
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From:dancinglights
Date:March 19th, 2008 02:59 pm (UTC)
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heh. This drives me absolutely batty every time some relevant sort of therianthrope or fae bitches about the outdoor nature of our yearly East Coast camping-retreat 'kin gather and some decide not to go because it's camping.

We have hot showers and occasional electricity these days, even. And the capability to bring a car worth of gypsy-wagon plush comfort with us, which I do because I've been going for eight years, dammit, I don't care. It's so outdoors-lite that I can't fathom why so-called nature spirits can't handle it.
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From:baxil
Date:March 20th, 2008 11:11 am (UTC)
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I won't name names, but I know not one but several 'kin types who are almost physically incapable of separating from their beloved gadgets and Internet connections even for a few hours at a stretch -- much less the duration of an overnight camping trip. Talk about "can't fathom it"! I've never quite worked up the nerve to ask them if they understand why they're out there in the first place.
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From:summer_jackel
Date:March 19th, 2008 04:08 pm (UTC)
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Given that I 'came into' my other-ness because of my time in wilderness and among non human creatures, and that almost all of my major spiritual experiences along these lines have happened in the woods, I'm going to have to agree with you on the camping thing. I suppose we all have very different paths, but I have a hard time imagining a therian-type coming into it in the city. Or maybe not...

It bears considering that shamanic practice, involving transformative visions and the kind of identity that we're calling therian, has been a common thing, historically speaking, in human culture over time. Possibly even a universal thing; it comes up in Anthropology a lOT. *Our* urbanized macro-culture relegates us to the fringe; I believe that in more tribal cultures, the shamans would know what to do with us, and we'd have been spending a lot more time outside anyway. Just sayin'.
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From:natetg
Date:March 19th, 2008 05:28 pm (UTC)
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Not that it really matters, but NSDAP Germany (in fact the Waffen SS) did have 'foreign legion' troops. It seems rather plausible that that organization would have had a number of people with no, or at best very limited German language skills, even if most of those probably spoke Slavic languages or French.

Regardless, it seems like preferring one interpretation of the whole anthro thing over another is a matter of taste. More specifically, the suggestion that dragons are not tool-users is rather odd considering their association with magical devices in a lot of literature.

The cartoon seems a bit banal - it's casting the Nazifur as a prat, but it's basically completely unrelated to the ironic or hypocritical aspects of the notion of Nazi-furries. Really, it seems like there's much richer material in things like, goose-stepping, 'Furries Raus' or, 'No Dogs or Chinamen'. I suppose that puns on 'entartung' and 'Rassenreinheit' would be lost non-German speakers.
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From:draque
Date:March 19th, 2008 06:56 pm (UTC)
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It seems like you're overthinking it a bit to me. The majority of the Nazifur thing seems to hinge on porn... making me think it's mostly a sexual thing. I saw this was addressed on Kinkyturtle's post, but I think it's kind of silly to dismiss the idea that the outfits would be just as sexually appealing without the swastikas and the like. When has the forbidden not been sexualized?
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From:draque
Date:March 19th, 2008 08:15 pm (UTC)
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Gah, forgot to respond to the rest of the post... anyhow, I think it's important to realize that individual identity doesn't have to be drawn from a natural environment. I enjoy camping and the outdoors as much as anyone else who's spent time in the country, but the synthesis of self is something that can take place in any environment. Even if a person claims some sort of affinity to/with an animal that is typically associated with nature, it's important to remember that it's a cultural association and doesn't by necessity hold true for the individual.
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From:paka
Date:March 19th, 2008 09:49 pm (UTC)
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I think you're overthinking it a bit. On the other hand I think it's good to overthink things, sometimes. Although weirdly I would have figured things would work the opposite way around - that dragon otherkin would be a lot more distanced from the natural world.

And sleeping out under an open sky? Fuck, it's been too long.
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From:baxil
Date:March 21st, 2008 09:00 am (UTC)
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I e-mailed the address in your LJ profile.
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From:frameacloud
Date:March 20th, 2008 01:49 am (UTC)
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After settling into and getting familiar with what few tropes exist for the otherkin and therianthrope communities, I couldn't help but notice some humongous cultural blind-spots. Great huge topics that I'd expected therians to not only address, but also to wrap their entire lives around, and yet they never seemed to come up. That's the sort of thing that leaves me feeling disappointed because the community didn't live up to (or even have!) the aspirations that I expected it to have. German moments, as you call them here.

*sigh* I can't even give specific examples of it without griping about specific other people. And, well, hell if I can see my own blind-spots, except that I should be achieving more interesting things in general.
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From:dragonzuela
Date:March 20th, 2008 03:51 am (UTC)
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The second to last panel (soul is otherworldly --> must be here for a reason --> should try to do some good in this world) shows an attitude that I try to incorporate into my life as much as possible, and I'm confused about why many otherkin haven't come to the same conclusion.

The "German moment" I was going to say is somewhat similar. It disappoints me when people put years of effort into figuring out their otherkin identity, assembling memories, etc, then decide that it has no bearing on their current human life. If your past life isn't important to you now, why should you have remembered it in the first place? Don't you think these memories are trying to tell you something? There's a lot of atheist/agnostic otherkin attitude on Draconic, and it seems so counter-intuitive to me.
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From:baphnedia
Date:March 20th, 2008 01:54 am (UTC)
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Well, being in the Army, I get plenty of time off in the woods. Sometimes, even when were out 'there' for 'organized fun' (war games, if you will), I'll find a cave, a hill, or some other terrain feature - not so much to claim, but to enjoy being in (or on top of) it.

Possibly my favorite spot is one of the three remaining Atomic Cannons (280mm piece of artillery that could fire nuclear munitions). There's a spur with one atop it (that's quite steep on the downhill slopes). Even with the glaring inclusion of something man-made being up there, it's nice, because I can see for many miles atop it (or rest in the shade of it's rusting hulk).

As a kid I spent a lot of time in the woods, with many wildlife encounters. Many times I've stumbled across deer, and a couple of times, black bears. Fun times. It's amazing how much you pay attention to your body language when there's an adult bear that's trying to decide what to do about you...
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From:greylander
Date:March 20th, 2008 08:39 am (UTC)
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I find the notion of "roughing it" with scads of specialised equipment to be a peculiarly First-World conceit of the economically privileged. When you've slept on red oxide and deal with all manner of urban environments, you stop reifying nature and start appreciating the need for human sustainability.

Also, all the stupid authenticity crap from Otherkin is getting really old. It's mostly why I left the community and stopped identifying as "Otherkin".
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