Friday, July 26, 2013
One of my very old friends sent me an email today that is circulating all around. It is basically an email that speaks of the issue of race. It is meant to supposedly portray things from a **caucasian** perspective, in this regard, which I found ultimately disappointing, overall, given that I highly respect the person who sent it to me. She sometimes sends me things merely for feedback, which may have been why I got it, I don't know. But you know I can never resist giving feedback to issues such as this, so she got it whether she wanted it or not. LOL
And it got me to thinking.....
You know....anyone who knows me very well at all learns rather quickly that I am a radical label hater. I have always rebelled against labeling of any kind. From the time I was a child, it was very hard for me to really understand this issue at all......I have always been a rather clinical person, when it comes to people, and biology is biology, to me, I guess. This world, and the humans that comprise it, seem hellbent on always assigning a label to this, that, or the other, but most especially to other human beings.
I am gay. You may be straight. I am white. You may be black, or hispanic, or Native American. I am a female, you may be male. Labels seem to be an inherent part of our language altogether. We all use labels in one way or another, mostly because as children, we learned to use them from the adults around us. We even use labels when it comes to diseases....how many times have you heard someone say, "I am a diabetic."? It seems that there is a tendency for humans to want to have some means of 'defining' almost everything we come into contact with in this existence. We seem to feel the need to define ourselves, and therefore others.
I remember as a child, I had many, many pets. Bats, o'possums, rabbits, turtles, crows, cats, dogs.....the list is endless. I especially loved cats, as a child....and every cat, or dog, that I had was a different color. And yet, nobody thought anything of that superficial physical trait....it was merely a 'cat' or a 'dog'. And I loved them all the same.
My first experience with racism was at a Girl Scout camp. I don't remember how old I was, I am thinking possibly around 8 or 9, but my bunk mate was a black girl named Margaret. She was several years older than I but that didn't matter. We had two weeks of total fun. I remember she told me that her mother could write equally well with both hands, which completely impressed me to the point where I practiced writing with my left hand for several weeks after that camp. And I don't remember one thing about any of the other girls I was there with.....except for a particularly ignorant group of three who decided to accost me one night when I was on my way to the outdoor latrine.
I was making my way thru the woods after dark, when these girls jumped out of the trees and threw me down, rolling me in a patch of poison ivy. I did not understand why they were doing it, they were not girls that I even knew, but I do remember that they called me names the entire time, one of which was 'N----r lover'. I did not even exactly know what that meant, at the time. I did not find out until I was home and asked my mother about it. I had never even heard that term prior to that occasion. I think that says a lot for my parents, overall....and I am grateful for that, because you see, racism and prejudice in general are nothing more than fear-based learned behavior, nothing more.
After a couple of well placed kicks, the girls finally left, and I got up and continued on my way. I never mentioned any of it to anyone else other than my mom. And Margaret and I continued to be inseparable until camp ended.
I also never got poison ivy, but I was gratified to learn that all three of those girls did.
I saw Margaret about a year later, at the public library. But it was a different setting, and I did not go over to her table to talk to her, as much as I wanted to, because she was sitting with some of her older friends and I know my older brother did not want me hanging about when he was with his friends, so I was afraid that if I went over to speak to her, I would embarrass her. When you are older, you don't want people to think that you are friends with a child. It was not until much, much later, when I thought back on that, that it hit me that she might possibly have thought I did not go over to speak to her for other reasons, and that makes me feel badly, even today and all of these years later. It did not cross my mind back then.....
My oldest and dearest friend is a Jewish girl. We have known each other since she was 4 and I was 5. Just another label. I spent every summer in Detroit, Michigan, at my aunt and uncle's house, and she was one of their neighbors. In between times, we wrote each other religiously. I remember when we would ride our bikes together thru the neighborhood, invariably some group of kids or another would hurl names at my friend, one of which was 'himey'.....I do not know if that is spelled correctly or not. But it was essentially a slur to her Jewish-ness. I would spend Passover at her house, and it was a marvelous thing, to me. I was Catholic, and attended a Catholic school. I made the mistake of telling my nun teacher about this, at which time I was ordered to the corner to repent of my 'sins'. Apparently, it was a no-no to have a friend of another faith. I remember standing in that corner and thinking, "what is wrong with this picture....." Not in those terms, of course...but the gist of the thought was the same. I was fully and completely sure that God loved my friend every bit as much as He did every other person on the face of the planet, and that was in second grade, which was the first experience that caused me to really examine religious thought in general. I saw no spiritual value to it whatsoever, because there IS no value to divisiveness and condemnation, period dot.
Labels. My mother was a Protestant. My father was a Catholic. Therefore, when everyone else kneeled in church, my mother would have to sit, because since she was not Catholic, she was not permitted to take communion or to kneel in the Catholic church. Just another thing that left a really bad taste in my mouth re: organized religion. And God in general....until I finally came to understand that religion in general is not about God, but about what lies within the human heart. Religion is a man-made entity. It serves its purpose, but people misuse that purpose, just as they misuse most everything else. Faulty learning behaviors.
Despite my overall ignorance, I grew up around a lot of labels.
But labels only divide. They serve no other value or purpose. We all know that racism and prejudice are alive and thriving this day and age. It is faulty learning and useless energy. I believe that humanity will never get past this issue until we finally are enlightened enough to get past the labels, both in regard to each other and to ourselves. When the day comes that each human is able to look at another and think only 'fellow human being', that is the day that we will finally conquer the divide. I do not expect it to happen in my own lifetime, and I am very sorry for that. But I have hopes that at some point, it will happen.
People do not take well to my views, a lot of the time. I am used to that. But most of the time, I just want to box their ears or shake them and say, "look at what you are doing". I know this would serve no purpose whatsoever. I have lost many a friend when I took exception to this label or that one, and voiced my opinion. And that is alright. I can deal with that completely. But I cannot keep silent. Keeping silent is the problem. Too many people keep silent, especially about the larger and more **delicate** issues.
But we ALL need to look at the larger picture.
Every single one of us is unique and different. That is the way it was meant to be. I believe that we owe it to ourselves to celebrate our uniqueness. It is what makes us who we are. But so many of these differences only pertain to this life, and this particular plane of existence. We tend to forget that. We are not physical beings with a soul.....we are eternal souls temporarily encapsulated within the confines of that physicality. Beyond this existence, we are merely beings of light....we are not male, nor female, gay or straight, black or white......these things ONLY apply to this level of being. And we all know that this level of being is temporary. It does not define us in any way as to who, and what, we really and truly are.
Do any of you remember when the Pharisees tried to trip Jesus up with their question about the woman whose husband died, who then went on to marry all of her husband's brothers, who also died one by one, leaving her childless? They wanted to know whose wife the woman would be in heaven, since she had been married to ALL of the brothers, since it was societally dictated at the time that if a husband died without having children, the widow had to marry one of his unmarried brothers to try to bear a son to carry on the name. And Jesus' response was that they were ignorant of God and ignorant of the hereafter, because beyond this earthly existence, we are as 'the angels of heaven', neither male nor female, and things of this nature do not translate to that existence at all.
I could make a commentary here re: the views of some religious folk who say that they espouse the 'biblical' concept of marriage, but I won't, because that would be a whole 'nother blog, since there essentially IS no 'biblical' dictate re: marriage itself....God has always deemed that to be a societal thing, nothing more. After all, King Solomon did have 900 wives and I'm quite sure that God knew all about that and made no judgment call on it whatsoever.....but I digress. LOL
But I think we all owe it to ourselves to start looking at the larger picture, and move away from the labels that we assign to people and things in this life. Racism and prejudice need to become things of the past entirely. Humanity needs to become enlightened enough to finally see it for what it is and finally grow enough to set it aside in the dust bin in which it belongs. Only then will we truly advance to become the persons we were meant to be.
We were all created from the very same source, and that source is pure love, nothing less. We are all of equal worth and value, and we need to begin realizing that and stop assigning labels that merely serve no other purpose than to divide, separate, or downgrade. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being different......it is a marvelous and wonderful thing. But 'different' does not equate to 'lower' or 'higher' at all. It merely translates to 'different' and 'unique'.....and we are ALL unique. We are meant to be.
It is time to examine our own hearts, and our own motivations, when we find ourselves using labels of any kind to define ourselves OR another person. It is time to start viewing those labels that we all wear in eternal terms, versus worldly terms, and realize what really matters. Human beings matter. Equally. Forever. ALL of us. It is a level playing field in the realm of eternity. There should be no 'lesser' or 'greater' in our way of thinking, because NONE of us is lesser OR greater, despite whatever label we choose to define ourselves by.
And I am done. I guess. THE END. LOL
But we are not done at all, from a humanity perspective.....we still have a lotta growing left to do. But it's time to start, and start in earnest. Our souls will thank us.
Friday, June 28, 2013
I caught myself thinking today that life is a lot like a ladder that we know we have to climb in order to get to wherever we are going.....but it is like a ladder in a dense, dense fog. Only one, or maybe a few, steps are visible at any given moment.
I don't know about anyone else, but I have a serious fear of heights. I don't know when I acquired that. My favorite pastime as a child was climbing to the top of a huge pine tree that grew by the corner of my childhood home. I would sit in those branches, surveying the scenery, loving the wind, loving the sway of that narrower (and only NOW, to my adult brain, more risky) upper trunk. Loving the piney odor of the sticky sap that would invariably stick all over my clothes and my hands. I would look down upon a mourning dove's nest, marveling at the eggs and then the babies that appeared in it. There was also an abandoned gravel pit on a neighbor's property that still had the old conveyer belts and machinery, long idle, sitting in the sun. After gleefully climbing those rickety conveyer belts whose rubber was corroding from the sun and whose structure was corroding from the elements, I would spend hours scouring thru the pebbles and rocks, always picking the ones that had the little sparkly bits in them, or the faint vestiges etched in them from some creature from long ago that had become somehow entombed within their mass.
It always seemed somewhat magical to me, to see the outline of a creature whose body had long since succumbed to the elements, yet whose imprint was left behind in such a tangible form........it seemed somehow significant, to my childlike brain, that a creature whose overall existence was of such short (and probably very difficult) duration, of no importance other than to itself and possibly a few other creatures like itself, yet because of its death, and the unfathomable workings of nature, left behind such clear evidence of its own existence, to be stumbled upon eons later by a child searching thru a pile of rocks.
It was like the proverbial 'message in a bottle', preserved by some unseen yet loving hand of nature, via the slow and seemingly 'unplanned' elements, leaving a testament to those who took the time to find it that ALL life, no matter how short, or how small, or how seemingly insignificant, matters. And matters greatly enough for its long-gone presence to be lovingly preserved in a testament of rock.
Lots to be said for that. A testament of love, for a life that was, but was no longer....at least here.
Perhaps life is not so much like a ladder.....perhaps it is more like that old pine tree.
Life begins as nothing more than a seed.....a tiny grain of materially-manifested possibility. Some of what it will need to survive is contained within itself, the already encoded molecules that will determine what it will be, physically. But much of what it will need to eventually thrive and grow in this lifetime will later have to be absorbed from the environment around it. The warmth of the sun, the moisture of the rain, the nutrients of the soil....
Depending upon what sort of life it is meant to manifest, it will also need the assistance of so many other things. The bees that pollenate, the creatures around it that died before it, whose biological materials are absorbed into the soil and therefore provide the essential nutrients that will nourish the life that comes afterwards. Nature is an unfathomably intricate process for all living things, and so many things can go wrong along the way of it. If one necessary thing is lacking, it can indelibly mark the life that comes. And every tree has its own accumulation of knots.
And one dose of Round Up can put the kibbutz on everything.
We come into this world so small, and so dependent upon everyone and everything else.....we are a clean slate, and completely unaware of all of the steps that lie before us. We do not realize that we have a ladder to climb that will more resemble a gnarly old pine tree, with splinters that will painfully penetrate and possibly fester, sticky sap that will make all of the dirt and debris stick to us until we scrub it off, and limbs that can suddenly break, throwing us back to the ground to begin the painful climb all over again.
And face it......it's impossible to avoid the birds that come by occasionally to drop something disgusting all over you, or the predatory little pests who decide that you are the perfect host and consequently bore thru your shell to lay their little eggs that will hatch and then prey on you----little eggs of contention or seeds of strife or negativity. Just sayin'......
And then that damned fog........you have no choice but to just take each step as you can see it, because you don't really know where you are going, you just know you HAVE to go, because you really don't want to repeat the energy that it took to get to the rung you are currently on because it was hard enough just to get THERE. But you do sometimes find yourself on a really comfortable rung, where the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and you have some downright beautiful scenery to enjoy that makes your heart feel full. But life and nature can be very fickle things, usually.....eventually it will become uncomfortable to sit on that rung for any longer because the sun gets too hot, the singing is too loud and raucous, and the scenery has become humdrum, without its initial thrill. And the mosquitoes have come out. And you have a cramp in your leg from sitting so long. So you force yourself to begin making that climb again, in the fog, and not knowing if you will find broken rungs ahead, or possibly another rung that has even more pleasures to enjoy and to bask in for awhile.
And now and again, the occasional thunderstorm or heavy wind will come along that will necessitate you halting your progress and clinging for dear life to the rung on which you happen to find yourself when that occurs.
I guess whether you approach this climb with enthusiasm, excitement, dread, fear, or a mixture of them all pretty much depends upon what kind of rungs you were met with from the very beginning. And how many storms you had to contend with during your climb. Too many dings can create an awful lot of fear.
Some people's ladders are mostly escalators. Other people's ladders are covered with splinters and bird droppings, and some people's ladders have rotting rungs that break on them consistently and are angled thru the Bermuda Triangle of life.
Eventually, on your climb, you will happen across that proverbial mirror. I believe the psychologists will tell you that you have to reach a certain stage of development (or rungs) before you realize that when you look in a mirror, what you are really seeing is yourself, and not someone else. That is when your brain begins to self-evaluate.....you gaze at your image in that mirror, and you decide whether or not you particularly 'like' the image that comes back to you-----how it 'compares' to other people that you have met, how it 'compares' to the image
of yourself that you have in your brain.
I think most of us do not like mirrors, overall. But the oxymoron in that is that the reason we don't like mirrors is because they force us to look at ourselves. That can be a downright uncomfortable thing to do, depending upon what rung you are on. When you are just starting out on those first rungs, mirrors make you laugh, because when you see your face in the mirror, it is delightful to you, and so you make funny faces, and you do funny things, and you just plain enjoy the experience. There is no 'judgement' in yourself as to whether the image is 'good' or 'bad' at all. It's just fun. It is only when you are older (and further up the ladder, after many storms) that you use this mirror for other things....to see that glaring pimple on your face, or the image of yourself that seems so 'deficient' compared to the images that you see every day on the TV or in the magazines or anywhere else that you may go. And now and again, you will happen upon someone whose ladder is very close to your own and who will use their own mirror to blind your eyes.......and you will then learn to turn your own mirror upon others to do the same. Or you will occasionally find a mirror that is so warped, it does not portray an image that is at all accurate, but twisted, because the maker of that mirror for some reason decided to make it that way because they did not like the image of themselves that they saw.
And now and again, you will happen across someone whose mirror image (and possibly whose ladder) is very similar to your own, and when you each gaze into each other's mirrors, those mirrors become a window and you will see the resemblance between you and it will give you a warm feeling and that person will become a cherished friend whose presence will make your ascent much easier, at least for a time.
Does the ascent ever get any easier? I don't know. Nobody does. Because as long as you are on this ladder, that fog will never completely go away. It depends upon what territory your own personal ladder happens to take you thru...... and how many mirrors you encounter along that route, maybe, too. It's a sure bet that even the escalators have an occasional splinter.....and that even the worst ladders have an occasional smooth and easy rung that lets you rest for awhile.
And when it is done, and you have managed to reach the last rung of your ladder, you will find that when you are able to look backwards, back down that ladder, there is no fog....it has somehow miraculously disappeared from your sight, when always before, it was always so dense and unfathomable. And only then will you be able to see whatever imprint you yourself were able to leave behind, for anyone else who will come after you to climb that same ladder......and whether or not you were able to repair some of those rungs, to make the next person's ascent just a tiny bit easier or at least less exhausting, or whether you only made the rungs even harder for someone else to climb, by beating on them out of anger or revenge or anything else and only causing more splinters. And how many mirrors you warped or straightened on your journey for others to see themselves in.
Not many of us are able to leave behind something so graphic as a fossilized image of ourselves encapsulated in granite, altho there are certainly some really big egos out there who have attempted to do just that. But ALL of us will leave behind some kind of imprint on this world, and on its consciousness. And everything that has been or ever will be created then becomes an integral part of that consciousness, because consciousness, you see, never dies.....it is eternal.
It is said that God has placed eternity in the hearts of mankind. It is also said that each of our lives is only one thread of a universal tapestry. I like this analogy. It makes me think that I would not like to be one of those whose thread is so weak that it destroys the integrity of the tapestry in any way. While we can't help but unwittingly do just that, when we are on a particularly exhausting rung or when we are being assailed by those winds or other hardships and clinging for dear life, as long as you are still weaving, it is within your power to repair the integrity of your thread beyond the point where it was broken down.
Most of all, a tapestry is meant to be a thing of beauty enjoyed by all......
The day will come when that tapestry will be hung, and supported, by all of our ladders, and there will be no more need of mirrors because we will be able to see it for what it truly is, in all of its beauty and with all of the occasional little flaws that makes it even more unique....and priceless. And then we will understand our own value.
And we will then understand that we were all equal contributors, of equal value to the completion of this beautiful tapestry of the universe. And the tree of life that will be made of all of our ladders will soar to the heavens in glory. It will have many knots, but the knots will only make it stronger and more unique. And we might be sad for the knots, but we will understand that some of them came to be because we did not have the proper environment, or the proper nutrients, or the emotional strength to do anything other than just cling to our rung. Or maybe we got hit in the eyes with someone else's mirror a few times too many and became discouraged. We will understand that we were only human, because we were not able to be anything but that. It was what we were meant to be.
I once had a history teacher who told me that in its original language, the meaning of my maiden name was 'sturdy tree'. But in this life, I have struggled to be anything other than a fractured splinter. I somehow think that this does not make me unique in any way, because this life is generally not very kind, at times, to any of us. I think that life likes to give each of us a healthy dose of Round Up on our way up these rungs. Sometimes we dose ourselves without meaning to.
All we can do is keep climbing. Because the view, in the end, will be well worth it. And who knows.......maybe at some point along the way, long after you are gone and predominantly forgotten, someone may happen upon your 'fossil'.
Make your imprint one worth passing on. And while you're at it, if you come across a broken rung along your journey, do your best to patch it up and sand it so it will be smoother for the next person.
And it probably wouldn't hurt to build a 'seat' along this way just so someone else can come and rest for awhile......
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Here it is, another Easter season, celebrating new beginnings, renewal......new life. The end of the old, the beginning of the new....it's a lesson worth pondering.
Anyone who grew up in the country is familiar with the old practice of the farmers' 'planned burns'. As deadly as fire is, it can also be a means of creating new life, and new beginnings. Farmers would intentionally set fire to parts of their fields, to burn the old growth down to the dirt. The residue that remained would add nutrients to the soil that would stimulate new, and better, growth, enriching the soil in preparation for the new crops that would be planted. Forest fires, as deadly as they are, often do the very same thing, eventually. What is more poignant than seeing those delicate, green shoots arising from the ashes of what was formerly there? What is more poignant than something new being created from the destruction of the old?
The phoenix, rising from the former ashes......new, and better life, from the ashes of the old.....
It seems to me that life is very much like that. It seems to me that we ALL are very much like that....
Sometimes, you reach a point where your entire life has to go up in proverbial ashes, to burn away the old ways of thinking, to add those nutrients of knowledge that are vital to stimulate new growth, new ways of thinking....to finally make you see the old ways of thinking, the ingrained habits, for the ashes that they truly are. There is something about seeing new growth from destruction that strikes all of us on a soul level. It seems to somehow be a commentary on the human condition.
And there is absolutely NO doubt about it....fire burns, and it scorches, and it painfully peels away the already-dead layers, as you scream and writhe in agony......
And it's terribly hard to love the fire.....
When the student is ready, the teacher will come.....and sometimes the fire is the only way to prepare the student to be ready for the instruction, to scorch away the dead wood of your soul that has stunted your growth all along.
New beginnings are always a reason to celebrate, despite what you have to go thru in order to finally reach them. The day will come when you will appreciate the fires that forced you to become who you are now, and who you will eventually become. You will someday love the fires.....because you will become a diamond, polished and glistening, from the fires of those afflictions.....strong, bright, gleaming in the light....glowing facets of knowledge.
And life just don't get no better than that!
Happy Easter, everyone.....happy new beginnings!
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Having grown up in the country, I have to admit that I have always been a bit of a nature freak. To my first mother's dismay, my usual pastime as a child was finding bugs, or critters, or some other wonder, and then tucking them in my pockets to bring home. This included bats, baby rabbits, baby o'possums, squirrels, and uh.....baby copperheads, which didn't amuse her in the least, since she had an absolute snake phobia. She much preferred the arrowheads or fossilized rocks I'd find in the fields and along the creek beds. In the summertime, I would spend the entire night sitting below the floodlights that my dad had put over the back portico of our house, and examining all of the bugs that were drawn to the lights. I saw some absolutely marvelous things, and my most cherished possession became a 'bug book' that my mother gave me, with pictures and descriptions of any kind of bug you could name. It became my mission to mark off every bug in that book and to see each one of them. It took me two or three years, but I finally accomplished that......with the exception of one: a luna moth. I desperately wanted to see one, but I never did. Time went on, and I put that on the back shelf of my mind, and continued examining everything else I happened across. One day, I came across a cicada emerging from its shell...and if you've never seen that happen, well, you've really, really missed something.
When they first emerge from their shells, they are the most wondrous shades of emerald green, neon pink, and have a sparkling gold pattern on the tops of their heads. Within minutes, the colors are gone and they become the dull black bugs that you're all familiar with. I sat and watched that bug struggle its way out of its dried brown shell, and it felt like I was seeing a miracle. Was an experience I never forgot.....and am ashamed to say that even as an adult, I still sometimes find myself poking thru the woods in search of that sight again each summer. As I grew up, there were two wishes I carried in my heart, even into adulthood....one was to finally see a luna moth, and the other was to see that wondrous cicada first greeting the air again. I mean.....do we EVER really grow up?? I really kinda hope not.....
I grew up, got married, had kids, all the things they say you're supposed to do as an adult, and on the surface, left behind all of the 'childish' things. I never voiced them to anyone, but I also never forgot them myself. I became a corrections officer, and my job was third shift yard patrol. Most nights I worked alone, roaming the grounds, responding to alarms, doing fence checks, and during those quiet times when the radio was quiet and the pressing work was done, I would sit alone at one of the picnic tables in the yard, or perched atop one of the field fence posts, with my thermos of coffee and listen to the snow fall or share my sandwich with one of the skunks or stray cats that had free run of the place. Little slice of heaven, in the midst of what most people would consider to be a hell of sorts.
My last week of yard patrol, came the night I was picking up count slips from the cottages. As I passed a tree in one of the yards, something caught my eye.....it was a cicada emerging from its shell. I couldn't get those count slips fast enough....made it to the capt. office in record time, then ran back to that tree, collected that cicada, and proceeded to take it to every cottage on that farm to show my other co-workers....most of whom thought I'd lost my flippin' mind. The biggest response I got was, 'EEWWWWWW, get that bug outta here, are you CRAZY??" A few of them wanted to know just what happy pill I'd taken (or what joint I'd smoked) prior to coming to work. I kept saying to them, "No, you just don't understand....you might go your whole life without ever seeing something like this again!!!" I just couldn't seem to impress anyone with the significance of this. Left me a bit deflated, to be honest. Evidently, I was the only one who thought this was something to be marveled at. So I took the cicada back to its tree to finish its work, and resumed my rounds, but gotta admit...was a bit sad about it all.
When the night was almost done, my work was finished, and the eastern sky began to show just a hint of brightness, I made my way back up to the admin building to brief my relief officer. As I turned the corner of the sidewalk, beneath the flickering light of the security lamp, I looked up......only to see one lone luna moth, flitting in the beam of light. Stopped me in my tracks....and an overwhelming sense came over me of a presence saying to me, "I never forget......." Thirty years later, the two most secret desires of a child's heart were granted....and all in one night....by Someone Who is not confined by space or time, and Who holds in His hands even the forgotten wishes of a no-longer-child. And frankly.....it just don't get no better than that. And.....I'll still keep looking, in hopes to see at least one more wonder before I leave here! So hang onto your dreams, anyone who reads this....because you never know when they might come true, and there's Someone Who never forgets....
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