Welcome to the updated ABOUT page. The original can be found HERE. I have updated the “About” page to better reflect my current stage-of-life.
I’m Fiona Kat [Surname Withheld], an Australian self-employed artist and writer. A mother and wife. A Monash University sociology honours graduate. A 30-something human female born and bred in a rural town nestled among the green rolling hills of South Gippsland, in the state of Victoria. A member of the Golden Key International Honours Society and The Australian Sociological Association.
This blog is a melting pot for my eclectic range of musings. I share my art and art-in-progress. I muse at length on Nanowrimo and other creative writing-related topics. I very occasionally write about the sociological and psychological dynamics of abusive religious systems and cults, particularly as found within Christendom. I love geeking out on science, especially dinosaur palaeontology and astronomy. I read a lot of books, too, and love to share my thoughts and recommendations. I write about life seeking to follow a contextual moral vegetarian praxis (teetering on a fine line between vegan and lacto-ovo vegetarian, but, as my vegan friends call me, I’m a 95% vegan).
The menu of topics is at the top of the webpage, and you can access specific topics by clicking on the categories and tags in the side bar (at the bottom of the page on the mobile site).
SPIRITUALITY, RELIGIONS AND CULTS
The name for this blog comes from my love for mystic and contemplative spirituality, as expressed in the ancient Christian traditions. I was raised in a Roman Catholic context, and have predominantly positive memories of my religious upbringing. My extended family also includes Atheists, Agnostics, Neo-Pagans and Eastern religion practitioners. I am particularly drawn to the forms of Catholicism expressed in the Franciscan, Benedictine, Jesuit and Cistercian Orders.
Up until the age of 18 I was a regular mass-attender and volunteered in the parish band playing flute and other instruments. I later identified as Wiccan for a few years – though nowadays I recognise that it may have been more accurate to identify as a Neo-Pagan, Hedge Witch or even as someone heavily influenced by Asatru and Kemetic beliefs. In my early 20s I married my husband, an engineer I met at university (we met when we were thrown together as housemates in the student residential village). He was raised in a strictly Pentecostal home with strongly fundamentalist leanings and for several years attended an ACE Christian school (and is still recovering). A very long story short, for some time my spirituality came to a grinding halt in the name of keeping the peace, and when I later adopted the label of Born Again Pentecostal after a series of vivid dreams about Jesus, my religious life became heavily entwined with, shaped by and informed by the teachings of the nondenominational Australian Pentecostal megachurch that my husband’s family attended. I became involved in every part of the church life I could: signing up for partnership, training as a leader, leading several Bible study groups, helping out at meetings, as an intercessory prayer team member, and as a youth and young adults leader. It consumed just about every waking moment and became the central point of my life and dictated my social circles. In mid-2015 I drew a line in the sand and ended my volunteering involvement in the Pentecostal church, having reached a point of utter burn-out. I still count other members and former members of the same church as my closest friends.
Nowadays my spirituality is very much a work in progress. I don’t know how to label it because it shifts so often. Christocentric mysticism? The Druidic Christ? Spiritual ecofeminism? Contemplative? Nature-friendly Catholicism? (Thank you, Pope Francis, for creating a spiritual space for environmentalists!)
Maybe just “Christian” would suffice, but the term is so strongly associated with all kinds of negative and dysfunctional social systems that it can be off-putting.
This is not a “statement of faith,” but some of my readers might be curious as to where I stand on some issues that Christians so often have a view on. For example, I hold to radical ideas like that GLBTQI people are actually humans. I am unapologetically egalitarian in my view of men and women in the church. I believe anthropogenic climate change is real (more on that below). I don’t think life can be reduced to some battle between forces of good and evil. I believe psychiatric disorders represent medical conditions that can be treated through the wise application of scientific reason, and that dealing with mental illnesses is not the domain of Bible-thumping preachers. I am disturbed by the way some churches financially abuse their congregants. I’m not sure if Satan is a literal fallen angel or an ancient term referring to all that is damaged and broken and vile in the world. I think that the physical world and the time and matter-bound life we lead is significant and important, and that focusing on some concept of a spiritual heaven or an imagined rapture is irresponsible faith. I think detaching ourselves from the reality of the world around us leads to ineffective faith that does nothing but puff up our own pride. These ideas I hold were not developed lightly but through years of study, learning, and committed and prayerful involvement in the Christian community.
I still believe that a healthy church community is a wonderful thing and gained many positive things from my thirteen years as a self-identified Pentecostal. But I am enjoying the process of rediscovering life outside of Pentecostalism, while my husband is learning more about faiths he was once told to shun. We try to practice lectio divina, mindfulness and the examen prayer, and we attend Taizé prayer services. We are still connected with a church community though very much on the margins, and are undecided as to how much longer we will remain members.
Despite all that, I still identify as more-or-less Christian. I have more in common theologically with Catholicism than anything else but am mistrustful of the way denominational labels can limit our faith journey. I still hold to the core values of love, faithfulness, hope, fidelity, charity, grace, forgiveness and all those other foundational character traits that a Christian ought to develop, and I genuinely try to practice them with integrity.
That said, I hope my blog readers will understand that I welcome readers of any and no faith. I count Atheists, Agnostics, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and more among my in real life friends, family and acquaintances. I also have friends across a huge variety of Christian expressions and am grateful for their input into my life.
I do not consider myself as capable of fully comprehending God, the Universe and everything in between, and therefore I am, I hope, fairly open-minded. I am pro-science and while I’ve studied apologetics to significant depth, I don’t think the Bible is adequate as a science manual. I do not affiliate myself with any one set of political concepts and so cannot be labelled as either conservative or progressive or liberal, as my personal political ideas continually change in response to context and understanding. I am sceptical about notions like a disembodied Heaven or the existence of Hell, and follow the ancient Christian pre-Augustine teachings that include space for a hope in the eventual perfect restoration of all creation (hopeful universalism, if you must label it). I don’t believe that “everything happens for a purpose,” but rather that maybe using the tool of faith, good can sometimes come out of evil. I do not in any way accept Christian systems that substitute “deliverance” and prayer for psychiatric treatment; and I reject cruel, violent and punitive variants on Christianity that promote victim shaming and abuse. In the end, I take to heart the recorded words of Christ and humbly seek to live in accordance with His teachings, always refining and developing my understanding of it as I get older.
As for the rest of the Bible, I’m yet to decide what I think about it. I used to think I knew it all (I’ve read it multiple times and studied it for years under some highly regarded theology teachers). But the older I get and the more I learn, the less certain I am – and that’s okay with me. If it turned out that prayer was nothing but manipulating quantum fluctuations on some miniscule level, or if God was a concept we use to bring out the best in ourselves, I’m comfortable with that. If it turned out that Jesus of Nazareth was not the embodiment of God, but merely an enlightened spiritual master or Druid or teacher with a profound nonviolent philosophy, I still consider Him worth learning from and following. But yet I choose to live in hope that it’s possible that maybe somewhere in the Universe there is some kind of meaning to existence, and I choose to express that in the term “God” or “Christ,” with the full acknowledgement that mere human language cannot adequately express the infinite.
In the context of my blog this means that while I may share my faith and ideas related to it, I am not interested in proselytising or converting people. If my faith is worth believing then let my life demonstrate that more than my arguments or certainty. I think a lot about faith, I find the sociological aspects of religion fascinating, and so I may write a bit on it, and can admittedly be critical (though hopefully as a caring insider who truly desires healthy faith expressions). But I hope my readers who do not share my views will find other things I write to be interesting.
I love music, namely heavy metal and classical and not much else. I have learned several musical instruments in my lifetime – though due to circumstances outside of my control I stopped playing for a number of years. I greatly regret that and wish that I’d pushed through the opposition. I will try to write a blog post on that one day.
On Streams & Desolations I sometimes share video clips and Spotify tracks of the music I’m currently listening to. I hope you find something new and interesting to listen to on my blog. I love going to live music concerts when I can. The list of bands I’ve seen over the years is so long I couldn’t possibly recall them all. The concert bug bit me at age 15 when some friends’ bands put on a show at the local town hall. Since then I’ve seen all kinds of bands – silverchair in 1997 being the first “real” concert I saw. As I write this, stand out concerts in my memories include Tool, Rammstein (twice), Karnivool (three times), A Perfect Circle, U2, Floating Me, Apocalyptica, Ensiferum, Eluveitie, Dead Letter Circus, Wolfmother, Chemical Brothers (twice), and countless more I can’t recall.
The only musical instruments I play these days are bass guitar (4 and 5 string), guitar, and ukulele, but at various times I also learned flute, alto and tenor saxophone, and even failed dismally at bagpipes and drums. Once upon a time I lived and breathed music and was adamant that my future lay in that direction. But sometimes life doesn’t go the way we want. So, I still love music with a passion, but these days I channel my creative energy into my writing and art, relegating music to a much-loved hobby rather than a vocation.
PERSONALITY AND PSYCHOLOGY
I’m intrigued by personality typing and enjoy learning about the different ways of understanding who individuals are and how they interact. For readers who like that sort of thing, I’m an ISTP in the Myers-Briggs typing system and a 5 wing 6 in Enneagram. Basically, I’m an introvert who comes across as quite serious – even seemingly quite cold, from what I’ve been told, is fascinated with science and wants to understand everything, while also being quite a tactile and hands-on person. I’m married to an INTJ who really embodies the stereotype – he’s got a Master of Engineering degree, is extremely focused learning absolutely everything about whatever current interest takes his fancy, and one of the only people I know geeky enough to understand me.
I’m also a mentally ill person, medically diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety disorder, and undergoing regular treatment with appropriately qualified mental health experts. It’s a disease – a kind of cross-wiring of the brain mixed with a whole mess of chemical stuff going on in the body. It should go without saying, but I didn’t choose it. I inherited it through a combination of genetic factors, chronic stress and constant exposure to socially dysfunctional settings. My mental illness doesn’t get to define me, and I refuse to take it on as my core identity – but it really does it affect my day-to-day life in all kinds of ways. My mental illness is not me, but it is a part of me and I will never be cured but I have progressed in my ability to manage it. I sometimes touch on the topic in blog posts, though quite frankly I don’t often write about it because as a mentally ill person, particularly with connection to Christian circles, one discovers pretty quickly that everyone considers themselves an expert, full of unhelpful and sometimes even burdensome ideas. Sorry, not sorry, but if you’re not my doctor or my psychologist, you don’t get to claim to know what’s right or helpful for me. You can be supportive without offering a diagnosis.
BOOKS AND WRITING
I’m a complete book nerd who reads a lot within some oddly specific categories, like late 19th Century European literature and science and Star Wars Expanded Universe. I also love writing and my stories tend to sit in the realm of sci-fi and fantasy and the dark and spooky. My blog is a great platform for practicing my writing craft and I genuinely appreciate everyone who takes the time to read my work.
I hold two university degrees in Sociology from Monash University in Australia.
Bachelor of Arts – Major: Sociology, Minor: Journalism. With studies in educational psychology, childhood literacy, Indigenous Australian politics and history, political science, European history, media and communications, semiotics, and sociology of deviance, environment, race, migration, ethnography, and social justice.
Bachelor of Arts (with Honours by research) (Sociology). I specialised in ecofeminist and critical realist approaches to climate change and how it is affected by animal agricultural systems and food consumption patterns. I went in uncertain as to whether I believed in climate change and emerged utterly convinced by the evidence that anthropogenic climate change is an extremely real and extremely important issue that humanity must confront with multifaceted forms of action. For people who want to learn more, whether you’re a climate skeptic or convinced of its reality, I highly recommend Open Universities Australia’s free Open2Study Climate Change course which presents a good overview of the concept and the ways that human activity are impacting on the Earth’s weather patterns.
I’m also a member of The Australian Sociological Association.
One of the interesting/irritating things about sociology is that people in my family can’t understand it. It bears repeating: I am not a counsellor, a psychologist or a social worker. I’ll be honest: I am terrible at dealing with people’s problems. I don’t like people’s problems. I don’t like being around people with serious problems. I like things that are calm, sane, rational and non-emotive. For the love of my sanity please stop asking me why I’m not yet working in a counselling centre. Sociology is social science, emphasis on “science”: it’s a system of research and analysis for understanding human behaviours on a huge population-level scale. It’s mathematical analysis of population dynamics. It’s drawing together evidence, for example interviews, statistics, historical and political analysis, group psychology, social activism, textual analysis of the media, as well as varying philosophical frameworks, in order to make reasoned and meaningful statements about the state of culture and society. Sociology is hugely varied and interesting and useful to improving social circumstances for large groups of people. Whether it’s highlighting the damaging effects of racism, drawing attention to the difficulties faced by disabled people, demonstrating the political biases behind popular beliefs, or seeking to advocate for those who are marginalised, asking hard questions about who benefits from social privilege and what can be done to bring more equity and balance, sociology is pretty darn awesome and I am grateful I had the opportunity to study it in depth at university. But it doesn’t make me in any way qualified to counsel people. So stop asking.*
*It’s an ISTP stereotype to have a mix of wanting to care yet possessing no ability to cope people’s personal issues, and to struggle in contexts that are emotionally burdensome. So, as much as I do genuinely sympathise with people facing difficult circumstances, I don’t function when in the vicinity of people operating in strong emotions, or for that matter, strong body language.
I’m an animal lover, I’ve been a strict vegetarian since 1995 (which happened while working weekends on the family farm and confronted with the reality of where meat and milk and eggs come from), and I’m the proud mother of two rescue cats, super fluffy tabby Riker (who we suspect is a Siberian cat) and pale ginger Odin (who acts as if he’s more dog than cat). Riker is named after the Star Trek character. I grew up surrounded by animals – cats, dogs, guinea pigs, hermit crabs, fish, cattle, horses and more. It developed in me a strong sense of compassion towards my fellow sentient beings, and despite coming from a community where animals are seen more like bits of farm equipment than living, feeling individuals, I became convinced of my own need to give up all forms of meat, seafood and leather. As I learned more, and studied animal rights philosophy at university, I progressed more in the direction of leading as plant-based a life as possible.
For those who are curious, I’ve been married since 2002 to the only guy with whom I’ve ever had a long term serious relationship and quite frankly it’s going great. I shouldn’t sound so defensive so let me put it in context – we got married fairly young, shortly after I turned 20 (that’s young for Australians) and at the time we were repeatedly informed that it wouldn’t last. But we’re quite stubborn and insistent on having a happy marriage to prove them all wrong. We have two kids, one extrovert and one introvert. We are also young parents, typically finding that we’re the youngest parents in our children’s respective year levels. That’s kind of fun and kind of difficult. Raising kids when you’re still trying to form your own identity is a huge challenge. Even though I’m in my early 30s, as the mother of a teenager I feel a lot older and more tired than a 30-something should!
GENEALOGY & ANCESTRY
I’m really interested in history and concepts like ethnicity and family origins. All credit to my younger sister who has done the bulk of the genealogy research. We are Anglo-Celtic Australians with a dash of Viking in our heritage. Our family first came to Australia with the exploratory trips of Captain Cook and were early settlers in Melbourne and Gippsland, Victoria. Our extended family is far more diverse and we count Asians, Europeans and Indigenous Australians among our relatives. I love multiculturalism and am fascinated by people’s cultural expressions. I am privileged to have in-real-life friends from every continent (well, except Antarctica). My ancestors, the ones we know of, hail from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, Norway and quite possibly Sweden, Denmark and there was suggestion that Finland was somewhere in there, too – in order from most recent to most distant. My husband is Anglo-Ukrainian but sadly details on his family heritage are hard to find as much of it was lost during the 20th Century European wars. His grandfather came from Western Ukraine, and to the best of our understanding was born in Ternopil Oblast.
Here’s an image I created for my Instagram, originally shared in early 2015, in response to the hashtag #whatsyourheritage, in which people compiled the images of flags representing their ancestors.
View this post on Instagram
#whatsyourheritage? I love learning about people's cultural and ethnic heritage. My sister and I have been trying to piece together our backgrounds for years – we're both fascinated with history. I also studied sociology of race and ethnicity and migration at uni and really enjoyed listening to people's stories of how their ancestral culture blends with moving across countries. I am Aussie first and foremost, & the first representatives of our family set foot on Australian soil in the 1700s. After that, in order from most recent ancestry to least, we are Anglo-Celtic: English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, French and if you go back far enough on my mum's side there's Vikings in there (yay!). The Viking ancestors we know of are Norwegian and there's also possibly some Danish and Swedish in there, mum suggested Finnish too, but by that stage we're going back about 15 centuries so there's not a lot of certainty. And my husband is English-Ukrainian, 2nd generation Australian. I'd be interested to know what sort of ethnic and cultural backgrounds my friends & IG followers have. (Any racist comments will be deleted… #justsaying) #history #genealogy #ethnicity #culture (Flag images from Wikipedia.)
This page first published: 14 October 2015
This page last updated: 30 November 2017