Monday, July 25, 2011

What's in a Name?

Juliet asked the question, what's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet!
Anne of Green Gables responded that she thought that a rose could not possibly smell as sweet if it were called a skunk cabbage.

I think we can all appreciate that words matter, and that there is value in using the proper word or name for a thing. I would argue in favor of proper terminology, even if we have to overcome some personal baggage about it. I always felt a bit awkward about proper anatomical names for males, but now that I have little boys I do teach them what their parts are called, and I don't say "that's your wee-wee."

For years I was turned off by the word "feminism," and yet, now that I understand what it is (or, more specifically, what third wave feminism is), I find that I am more comfortable with it, and can even apply it to myself. I got over my personal baggage, so that I could use the most accurate word.

I now find several people have responded to me with discomfort or distaste at my use of the word 'pagan' and at my applying it to myself. Sure, I could say "earth-based spirituality" or "seasonal awareness" or "mindful, balanced, peaceful, harmonious, intentional living" or a dozen other things, but the truth is that one word sums it all up more effectively than a dozen tongue-twisting phrases. And so I use the one word. And just as I have been getting over my personal baggage about the word "feminism," so too some other folks need to get over their personal baggage about the word "pagan."

Since the beginning of time, some societies and groups have belittled and disenfranchised other groups. Some groups became powerful so they wrote the histories and somehow we have often believed their one-sided stories without stopping to try to learn the other half...but that is neither logical nor appropriate. To learn what it means to be in an ethnic minority, there is no better way than to get to know someone from that demographic. To know what it is to be Mormon, one should ask a Mormon rather than a Southern Baptist. And to learn what 'pagan' means, one should ask a pagan; because whatever anybody else says will probably be tinted.

If you're familiar with the movie "The Princess Bride" then you probably remember this scene.
Buttercup: But how is that possible [that you're the Dread Pirate Roberts], since he's been marauding twenty years, and you only left me five years ago?

Westley: I myself am often surprised at life's little quirks. See, what I told you before about saying "please" was true. It intrigued Roberts...[and he] and I eventually became friends. And then it happened. Roberts had grown so rich, he wanted to retire. So he took me to his cabin, and told me his secret. "I am not the Dread Pirate Roberts", he said. "My name is Ryan. I inherited the ship from the previous dread pirate Roberts, just as you will inherit it from me. The man I inherited it from was not the real dread pirate Roberts either. His name was Cummerbund. The real Roberts has been retired fifteen years and living like a king in Patagonia." Then he explained that the name was the important thing for inspiring the necessary fear. You see, no one would surrender to the dread pirate Westley. So we sailed ashore, took on an entirely new crew, and he stayed aboard for a while as first mate, all the time calling me Roberts. Once the crew believed, he left the ship, and I have been Roberts ever since.
Words and names can indeed be powerful things. The same few letters that inspire one person can terrify another. And therein is the crux of the matter: a word may carry baggage, but it is only as powerful for us as we allow it to be, and it only means what we believe it means. So let us be mindful of our own baggage when we encounter words. And try to be conscious of the literal meanings of the word, and of the intended meanings of the speaker or writer. And do not fear a word in an of itself.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Picking Birthdays

It's my birthday. We are on vacation though, spending a brief week with my folks before we all move in in Kotzebue, so this is a pre-scheduled post.

I remember having a conversation with my cousin years ago about how we felt about when our birthdays were. She had a birthday right before Christmas, and she hated it. Too many people rolled the two holidays into one, and she felt like she didn't get a special day for herself. (I have two great grandfathers who had birthdays ON Christmas day, and I remember years of making sure to send two separate cards--a birthday card and a christmas card--so that the birthday wouldn't be forgotten in the holiday hubbub.)

In high school, I had a friend whose birthday was just a few days before mine--in July. She told me that she hated having a summer birthday. Many of her friends would get balloons at school, or decorated lockers, or cupcakes in class on their birthdays, and she was sad that her birthday was not during the school year and that she never got to have those things. I remember being shocked, because one of my favorite things about having a summer birthday what that I didn't have to do any school work--that the day was mine to do with as I pleased!

For myself, I've always liked having a summer birthday. I like that it's about half a year between my birthday and Christmas, no matter which way you look. I like that (theoretically) the weather will be nice and we can be outside or go somewhere interesting. I like that some of my favorite foods are in season and available for my birthday dinner. (In fact, for many years of our youth, I always requested artichokes for my birthday dinner, not because I liked them much, but because my sister liked them, but couldn't have them at her January birthday dinner.) I don't particularly like that sometimes my birthday gets lost (or has to be 'rescheduled') for the sake of camping trips or other summer busy-ness, but in the long run I do like the summertime birthday.

How about you? When is your birthday? How do you like it? Would you change it if you could? When would your ideal birthday be?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What I Can Do

When I was 7 or 8, my dad brought home a filmstrip (yes, a filmstrip!) about a woman who had no arms. I vividly remember two scenes from that movie, one where she was in a grocery store, repeatedly slipping her foot out of her flip-flop sandal to use it to examine produce and put it in her cart, and the other where she was sitting on a barstool in her kitchen, carefully slicing a tomato with her feet.
I remember a few months ago, many of my facebook friends passing around a youtube video link of a young mother who also didn't have arms (or didn't have the use of her arms? I don't recall exactly). She picked up her infant, rocked him, and changed his diaper, all with her feet. Most of my friends made comments to the effect of "wow, I will never complain about the tasks of motherhood again, I have it so easy!"
Once when I was talking about my miscarriage experiences, someone said "I don't know how you do it."
I will tell you how I did it--how I do it--how those other women did what they did. We simply did what we had to do. And when the situation was in our faces, we could do it because we had to do it.

We are capable of many things, some we know we can handle, some we don't know until we are in the situation. But I maintain that we are capable of much. You never know what you can do until you are tested, but don't discredit yourself by saying "I could never do that." Because, chances are, if you had to, you could.

And now, with the knowledge that you can...consider striking out and making the situation for yourself. Not all challenges are negative things. Sometimes we have to take the initiative to make things start to happen. Don't let fear hold you back. "A life lived in fear is a life half-lived."

Believe in Yourself

Monday, July 18, 2011

I am only one, but I AM one

Recently, my husband and I watched The Blind Side. It's a movie about a woman who takes in a homeless boy and makes him part of her family. Initially she just offered him a place to stay for a few nights, but over time she got him a tutor so that he could graduate from high school, and then she adopted him, and put him through college. They lived in the south, and her white friends all gave her grief for taking in a black boy, saying that he would rob her and leave in the night, and that he was dangerous. But she was not hung up on social or racial stereotypes, she just saw a need, and she filled it, and she changed not only his life but her own in the process. (It was a great movie, by the way.)
We may not all have the financial means to take in a big teenager as she did, but we do all have the means to do something--to be forces for good in the world around us. Just a few days ago I showed my 11 year old son the Heifer Intl website, and he got really excited at the idea of using part of our christmas budget to provide animals to people in third world countries. A friend of mine has begun spending about $20/month to give micro-loans via Kiva. You don't have to do something big in order to do something good.

I am only one, but I am one.
I cannot do everything, but I can do something.
And what I can do, with God's help, I will do.

And I dare say, if I am not doing what I can do, shame on me!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

In Defense of Orthopraxy in Times of Doubt

[from Greek orthos correct + doxa opinion, idea, doctrine]
correctness of [religious] belief

[from Greek orthos correct + praxis deed, action]
correctness of [religious] action or practice.

I think it is only human to sometimes have questions, or doubts, particularly in an area so delicate and personal as faith. For many of us, our faith directs our worldview, and if a piece of it comes into question then  it may feel as though a house of cards is falling (or about to fall).

What then are we to do, when we feel uncertain about something? My conclusion is that we should study, certainly, and try to sort things out. But in the meantime, we should go on living according to the things that we have believed--or have been taught--to be correct.

I can hear the arguments: "But isn't it living a lie, to do it if you're not sure?" In short, no, I don't think so. To do it if you were certain it was wrong, that would be a lie. But if you're not sure, then either path (to do or to not do) could be equally valid. And to do will, in my estimation, be the more productive of the two.

If any man will do His will, 
he shall know of the doctrine, 
whether it be of God, 
or whether I speak of myself.  

Scripture teaches clearly that we can find truth in the practicing of behaviors. A more modern take on this concept might be to "fake it till you feel it." I'm not advocating that anyone be dishonest with themselves about anyone else. If you feel strongly about an issue, then by all means follow your heart. But if you simply have questions, or feel unsure or confused about something, then I think the answer is to live orthopraxically until you have the feelings or understandings that will allow you to believe orthodoxically.

And if you do not ever find your mind settling into orthodoxy, I think orthopraxy is still a valid option. At the moment I find myself thinking about certain gospel topics in some relatively unorthodox ways...and yet overall I still want to be part of the active *LDS community. So I am orthopraxic; and whatever may be going on inside my head (or on my blog), I am still doing all the things I've been taught to do. Where my head may end up I don't know. But my actions will keep me right here.

*When I say "LDS Community" I am referring to the formal church organization headquartered in Salt Lake City, and not to the larger Mormon world (which includes those who are mormon in culture, heritage, or beliefs, but may not be baptized/active members of the LDS church).

Monday, July 11, 2011

30 Days--Day 14

Day 14 - A picture of someone you could never imagine your life without.

My Bear. 
I love all my children, but Bear was my miracle baby after so many miscarriages. 
There is something special about that.
His birth brought me a lot of healing, and his attachment to me during infancy and toddlerhood (while sometimes tiring) gave me a very fulfilling kind of motherhood.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Thoughts on Patriotism

(I'll warn you upfront that this post carries a tone of frustration and annoyance at the narrow definition of 'patriotism' that I often encounter.)

I like to be patriotic. I think our national holiday is a good time to think about what patriotism is and how we can be patriotic. I do NOT think that the military is the be all and end all of patriotism.
There you have it. I'm sick and tired of people saying "well I wanted to serve my country so I enlisted..." By all means, support the troops. If you'd like to enlist, feel free! But if you'd like to serve your country, please remember that you can do it in many other ways too. My husband wanted to serve his country, so he became a school teacher. My friend wanted to serve, so she works for a local women's shelter. I care about my country, so I teach my children to take care of the earth we live on and to serve the people we live around. I care about my country, so I get involved with politics, and I always vote.
As I said, I support the troops--the men and women who get out and do things. I really don't support the military-industrial complex that the USA has developed. I'm a pacifist, conscientious objector, and so on.  A friend of mine (who served in the military for several years by the way) has some very similar opinions about this. She wrote a great post here.

There's another thing that really makes me sick, and I hear it every Independence Day too: We live in a great country ("the promised land" yadda yadda yadda), and in fact it is the best country on earth. No it's not folks. We live in a great country, definitely. We in the United States have a lot of blessings and opportunities that are not available elsewhere. We have a lot of wealth (a ridiculous amount in fact). But we are not superior to other countries or peoples. More blessed (in certain areas), sure, but not superior.
Can we please learn to appreciate what we have without knocking down others in the process? Julie can be pretty without saying that Susie is ugly, you know?

That's all. Be grateful and happy with what you have. Work to take care of it and of the people around you. Remember that no one is inherently superior to anyone else, especially not because of being born between some transient manmade borders.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Clarity Moon

x-posted at Mother Wheel

The first Sunday of the month is "Fast Sunday" for LDS members. We traditionally abstain wholly from two meals. There are multiple purposes for this--first, the money saved can be donated to the needy; second, denying oneself in this manner is an exercise in self-control, of spirit over body. This spiritual 'tuning-in' can help us focus our prayers for greater efficacy as well.

During pregnancy and breastfeeding, my body needs the nutrition of not skipping meals. So I have not fasted regularly in years. Although it has been months since my baby started eating enough solid food that I could skip a meal or two, I am simply out of the habit, and usually forget about fasting.

This month, the new moon was on Friday, and I began my fast on Saturday night. For 24 hours I am not eating (I am drinking water for the sake of avoiding dehydration, but only water). In January (right after winter solstice), during my Purification Moon, I cleansed my body by abstaining from sugar for several days. Now, six months later (right after summer solstice) seems a good time to cleanse my spirit. So as I fast, I am praying for spiritual clarity. As we all do from time to time, I have been struggling with some matters of faith in the last few months. So today I put my body under subjection to my spirit, and ask the Divine to help me see things more clearly.

Linked Within

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...