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Today was the last day of the term at the drawing studio, so I might not get to do figure drawing until January. Now that I’ve devoted every Monday morning to art for several weeks, I’m in the habit; I missed it badly the week I couldn’t go because Munchkin was sick. So Mondays 9:30-12:30 will be my art time for the month of December too.

I’m trying to go darker and use more shading/planes, relying less on line. As if by magic, that turns out to make light more visible in the drawings. Lumos!

I’m also trying to work on a bigger scale, which makes the drawings hard to scan in one piece, hence the “top” and “bottom” for most of these.

It’s hard to put these online sometimes because the flaws haunt me (what have I done to her poor right leg in the 20-minute drawing?), but I’m committed to being publicly imperfect as a way of wearing down the perfectionism that made such a daunting wall between me and drawing for years. I don’t post everything I draw, for which, believe me, you should be thankful, but I also don’t wait to have something to post that I’m 100% satisfied with. Who knows when that might happen.

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I’d pointed Munchkin to her classroom door, since she insists now on going by herself, before the service. I’d taken up my spot by the front door, robe and stole on, ready to greet people as they entered. But everyone who crossed the patio seemed to be stalling at a little cluster of people by the big tree who were staring at a spot about eight feet up.

I went over and saw something that I’ve never seen before: a spider actually in the act of creating her web. She had started from the outside and was spiraling in clockwise. At each segment she paused, attached a length of thread to the radial support, and moved on. The web had the sun behind it, and as it shifted in the breeze, different sections glowed iridescent.

We were all speaking of the web-spinner as “she.” It’s a nice change (I notice, eavesdropping in zoos and parks, that we usually refer to all unfamiliar animals as “he”), but I wondered aloud whether it’s true that only the female spider spins. Maybe it is just a figment of our cultural memory: Charlotte, Arachne, women as the community’s spinners and weavers. The crowd wasn’t sure. A little online research suggests that males do spin webs, but mostly when they are very young (pre-mating age). We didn’t ask this spider its age, but it was quite large, and the males are usually much smaller than the females.

The bell rang and we went into the service, but I already felt like I’d been to church.

It used to be that in order to be granted conscientious objector status, you had to claim religious grounds; I believe you also had to be a member of a “peace church” such as the Quakers or Mennonites. In either case, this was overturned in 1965, in United States v. Seeger, which ruled that one could seek CO status based on any religious belief, defined as “a sincere and meaningful belief occupying in the life of its possessor a place parallel to that filled by the God” of other people.

And one can claim CO status even though the religion one belongs to is not uniformly pacifist. For example, you can currently say you are a conscientious objector because you are a Christian and wish to follow Jesus’ teaching to turn the other cheek. The fact that there are other Christians who do not interpret that passage as requiring pacifism doesn’t automatically invalidate your conviction, in the eyes of the committees empowered to make these decisions. I have written letters of support for members of my church, explaining carefully that their pacifism is grounded in their Unitarian Universalism even though being a Unitarian Universalist does not require one to be a pacifist. (That non-creedal church thing always needs explaining.)

Hell, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos could testify for the wiggle room even within Quakerism, since our only Quaker president was Richard Nixon. But I digress.

Now the Truth Commission on Conscience in War, on whose Planning Committee the Starr King School for the Ministry serves, proposes a further expansion of the grounds for conscientious objection. To my mind it is similarly reasonable to US v Seeger, though difficult to administer (as are people’s current claims of religious objection to war): instead of requiring all would-be COs to be pacifists, it would allow someone to object to participation in a particular, or particular kind of, war.

For example, one might be allowed to take a Just War stance, such as the Roman Catholic Church propounds. This makes a lot of sense. Why tell Just War advocates, “Nope, it’s all or nothing”? “Fight in all wars or none”?

Many applicants for CO status in recent years have objected to fighting in Iraq but not Afghanistan. Their applications have been automatically rejected; this proposal would change that. It would enable the enlistment of potential soldiers who right now do not enlist because they don’t want to be compelled to fight in a war that is unjust by their ethics.

Furthermore, it reflects the kind of distinction most people make. Some of us are opposed to violence of all kinds; many more support its use, reluctantly, in certain circumstances. There are plenty of us who would risk our lives, even threaten another’s, in order to save the women of a village from mass rape, but would neither kill nor die to save the profits of the United Fruit Company.

The proposal got attention from the New York Times‘s At War column today. My first impression, sadly, is that comments on the New York Times website aren’t that much more intelligent than the ones on your average Yahoo story. There are quite a few comments along the lines of “if they’re too scared” (one person says “too delicate”) “to be soldiers, they shouldn’t sign up.” More thoughtful are the reminders that we don’t have a draft and so anyone who wishes not to volunteer need not, but they don’t address the fact that some would-be soldiers may be needlessly excluded from serving.

I don’t wish to enroll lots more people in the armed forces, but I do like a public policy that encourages nuanced moral reasoning.

A few drawings from today’s session, ranging from seven minutes (the first two, which are two parts of one drawing too large to scan in one piece) to thirty (the last two, ditto).

Last week I only brought charcoal and graphite, as distinct from actual pencils of same, which had a wonderful effect: I had to draw more in planes and broad strokes. I am trying to do this more instead of focusing so much on lines and fine detail, so this was good. Today I brought the charcoal pencils along too, and used them along with the charcoal sticks, when sharper lines were called for.

Click thumbnails to see larger size.

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