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Human Parts
A publication from Medium about humanity: yours, mine, and ours.

Religion

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The story of how he wound up in a dangerous compound—and how he escaped

Two vintage photographs of my dad and his sisters

I was so young when my dad started telling me his cult stories that I don’t think I even knew what a cult was. In a way, I still don’t. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how unique it was to have a father who regaled his young daughter with vivid narratives from his early life, much less one who survived an adolescence as gripping and gut-wrenching as his.

Now 65, my dad doesn’t look like the stereotype of a traumatized ex-cultist who came of age under the baleful reign of a charismatic leader. Today, Dr…


Planet Soul

Notes from a neophyte spiritualist

A long-haired person reaching toward the sky; ripples radiate from their hand. Everything is monochromatic gray.
A long-haired person reaching toward the sky; ripples radiate from their hand. Everything is monochromatic gray.
Illustration: Laura Knetzger

I shall have to train my senses, make them at once stronger and more delicate, at one moment tough, at another fragile; in a word, more lucid. I shall hear with my sense of sight and with my skin; I shall cover myself with eyes. Everything, even judgment, will be touch and hearing. Everything must be felt. I shall also think with my eyes and my hands: Everything must think. —­­Octavio Paz, “From Criticism to Offering”

Last year, I began praying for the first time in almost two decades. I don’t remember the precise reason I started back up, but…


Lived Through This

My brother’s homicide remains unsolved. With no face and no name, there’s no one to hate.

Photo by Rene Cizio
Photo by Rene Cizio
Photo courtesy of the author.

When my brother was murdered, the police never found his killer, and my mom said, “Good, then I won’t have anyone I need to forgive.”

She was religious, righteous, or at least she tried to be, wanted to be. To forgive is divine, but without anyone to blame, forgiveness could not be expected of her. She felt she should be off the hook.

“I don’t think it works that way; besides, forgiveness also sets the prisoner free,” I said pointedly. “The only person you’re hurting is yourself, Ma.”

This was how she coped with her anger by thinking about forgiveness…


Planet Soul

It’s not about religion. It’s about being honest with yourself.

Photo: Silvia Otte/Getty Images

It was Christmas Eve, but it sure didn’t feel like it.

The previous Christmas Eve, I’d watched a midnight Mass outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. I suppose it couldn’t get any more “Christmas” than that. But there had been snipers on the rooftops protecting the gathering from an ISIS threat — their eerie silhouettes surrounding Jesus’ supposed birthplace (which I’d recently learned was up for debate). And even without that added touch, the truth was that the Palestinians just didn’t celebrate Christmas like we did at Gramps’ condo in Sacramento.

But I was back with my family…


Lived Through This

The road back to my Self was paved with sex, love, guns, and motorcycles

Photo: Free To Use Sounds/Unsplash

I never intended to join a cult when I was younger. But I did. Getting in that deep wasn’t my original intent — I simply wanted to understand more about a 16-year-old Indian boy I’d learned of. He was known at the time as “Guru Maharaji,” but now he’s known as Prem Rawat.

Young Rawat spoke of creating world peace one person at a time. He was charming and attracted thousands of young people drawn to him and the experience he described, so I learned how to practice his meditation.

He is the youngest son of a guru from Northern…


This Is Us

You don’t get to disrespect me and still keep me

A confident Black woman standing against a prairie-like background.
A confident Black woman standing against a prairie-like background.
Photo: Btihal Remli/Getty Images

We’re not friends.

There. I said it.

You and I are not friends anymore, and in the deepest parts of me, I wonder if we ever were.

Seriously. I question the things between us — the energy, history, past.

I thought I could tell you everything. All my sins and all my hopes. But there was always a piece of me that was out of reach for you — because you would not reach for it. You would not stand up, extend your hand, and try to grab this part of me that was always so heavy to hold.

The…


Past Is Prologue

Agency is not men’s to give, it’s women’s to have

A woman wearing a red head wrap looks at the camera.
A woman wearing a red head wrap looks at the camera.
Photo: Delmaine Donson/Getty Images

I was distracted by the beep from my phone as I settled down to nap. I stretched forward to turn off the ringer but ended up sneaking a peek: two direct messages and four mentions. A sister on Twitter called my attention to an article written in response to one of my essays on the mutual inclusivity of feminism and Islam. I read it and wasn’t surprised.

The writer tactfully excommunicated me from my faith, arguing that Muslim women need to be extricated from the religion entirely before anything close to equality can be achieved. …


Past Is Prologue

The image is not only inaccurate — it’s harmful

A painting of Jesus resurrected. This Jesus looks clearly white.
A painting of Jesus resurrected. This Jesus looks clearly white.
Photo: Pascal Deloche/Getty Images

On June 22, 2020, Shaun King tweeted, “Yes, I think the statues of the white European they claim is Jesus should also come down. They are a form of white supremacy.”


Planet Soul

The monsters are surfacing, and we wait to see who will win

Storm clouds shroud an electrical storm of the coast of Byron Bay at night.
Storm clouds shroud an electrical storm of the coast of Byron Bay at night.
Photo: Enrique Díaz/7cero/Getty Images

Because the fundamental character of human existence is jagged, nonlinear, and complex rather than simple, and every person is a mystery, most especially to themselves, finding a narrative that makes sense of the world is mostly a child’s game of playing pin the tail on the donkey while blindfolded—it’s arbitrary.

Sure, there are poets, prophets, singers, writers, preachers, comedians, and revolutionaries the dots are illuminated for, those who tell us a story about the world in which we can see ourselves, a story that make sense of things. But this still mostly only works in fiction, where a handful of…


Planet Soul

As ‘scientific’ as our beliefs about reality may seem, they’re still beliefs

Credit: Hiroshi Watanabe/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Here’s a belief I hold: What we consider reality is, most likely, a sensory rendering of a fractional slice of true reality, which is probably some computational network entity much like a laptop’s CPU or the neural network of a human brain.

My belief is close, but not identical, to the “simulation theory” Elon Musk popularized. Rather than believing we are necessarily living in some simulated video game programmed by a more advanced version of ourselves, I think our reality is probably something like a computer’s screen, and true reality is probably something like a computer’s processor — and I…

Human Parts

A publication from Medium about humanity: yours, mine, and ours.

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