A Gift Recognized...

Holding onto anger is like grasping hot coal, you are the one getting burned - Buddha

The growth in both spirit and emotional strength that I have accomplished in the last few years has been pretty astonishing to me. I sometimes look back at the hurt and angry person that I was and I feel so much sorrow for her and I long to tell my past self that all will improve and truly will be for her good. I have not exited the furnace of my crucible, but I am closer to the cooler air and to peace and for that I am very grateful.

One thing that I felt intensely that I need to share and must be willing to express is my gratitude that I have been able to let so much of the anger go. I will not pretend it is all gone nor will I feign that I don't still feel a decent sized mass of it writhing around the halls of my soul. However, I can look at some of the hurtful things that people do now and I can see their pain even in the hand that harms me. It is a gift that I had never wanted nor hoped to gain, but it is a gift that I am so grateful for. I still cry sometimes and I feel the frustration and pain that come from misunderstandings and judgments of others, but I now can feel some of what is lurking under the surface of their skin and I can find compassion within my to give. I think in the past I have found it so easy to forgive people of so many things to a certain point and then the hurts would just compound until I couldn't see them without the anger and the hurt almost overwhelming my mind. I think that my new instinct to not trust right away but to also take things less personally and to reach out in love and a genuine desire for understanding is helping me to trust more appropriately... to feel protected and yet open and ready to serve. I am so grateful for this new viewpoint and understanding that I am beginning to gain and thankful that I can see the blessings even in what I believe may be one of the largest trials of my life – my divorce and family loss.

What happened to reflect this to me recently was a very painful experience that I had last Monday. I am not yet ready or comfortable enough to share it with others as my soul just feels almost as much shock and disappointment in myself as pain, but it feels sufficient to say that as I tucked into my covers that night and felt pain and resignation in myself, I felt a great deal more sorrow and compassion for my ex and a few friends than I ever have before. I am in a place that I can comprehend and almost see what they struggle with and it makes my struggles seem so minor and of lesser consequence. I haven't felt such a strong motivation to help these individuals in a very long time. While I feel my own burdens pressing, it is a wonderful feeling to look for ways to help... my troubles seem to lessen even in just the thinking of it. A wonderful blessing indeed.


An Open Letter to Tsar Peter I from King Louis XIV of France

This was one of the most challenging assignments I ever have had. Pretend, etc... is not a strong suit for me and when we were asked to 'write' a letter as one particular monarch to another... well, I will admit that I avoided the assignment until I couldn't any longer! So I have finished it and I don't think its too bad considering I feel like it's waffle. :) So here is a letter from King Louis XIV of France to his Russian Counterpart, Peter I (the Great). What do you think? Is it a lot of waffle or maybe a bit interesting... I would have happily written a ten page paper on the both of these men to get out of this letter....

To my esteemed colleague Tsar Peter Alexeyevich, Emperor of all the Russias

It was with genuine pleasure that I dictate these words in response to your communication dated August last, 1714.

I was much pleased to watch over the last few years of the many reforms and cultural improvements that you have commenced to put into place with great enthusiasm and vigor. I know from personal experience the challenges and deft hand it takes to create great changes in social culture as well as the difficulties of controlling the wayward and selfish of those in our realms who would rebel against us and our divine responsibilities as rulers over those the Lord has put into our dominion. Controlling and appealing to the natures of the aristocracy- many of whom consistently seem to forget their place in society and endeavor to pull themselves up to heights that their God did not deem proper has been a challenge for both of us from our tender years to now. I wish to congratulate you on your tax reforms as well as your ingenuity in using the ideals of loyalty and meritocracy to control and distract those in noble stations who might distract you from continuing to improve the lives of those under your care. Your efforts towards a strong military have also been noticed and I compliment you highly on the strength and organization of it. It is quite a formidable force at this point and I would be quite shocked if it disappointed you in your quest for more liberal trading routes and partners.

One thing that I find myself quite puzzled and repelled by is your consistent desire to ignore or demolish ritual anywhere you can find it. Ritual is an important part of monarchical and universal law; important and clear to show and maintain the appropriate order as well as an example to those in society of the proper and necessary conduct to the monarch as God's 'lieutenant'. I know you have mentioned that I should address you as simply 'Peter'... as if I could possibly consent to such disrepute and impropriety. I, myself, have recently begun to wear a new ornamental clothing around my neck which is an accessory that I am using to show my high rank as well as wealth and importance.  Already, many of the noble classes here have begun to wear these 'neckties' and I am confident that this new addition to my wardrobe and to social ritual will continue to become a symbol of importance and honor over time.  My dear friend, please consider these things when continuing to confuse God's order between yourself and your subjects by such frivolity and informality.

I was distressed to hear through the courier channels and from your own pen of your challenges of health in the last winter and relived to know of your continued improvement and robust health. I have heard many tales of your legal reforms and the beauty of your new city of Saint Petersburg. I hope your inspiration for a grand residence in the style of my 'Versailles' is able to come to fruition in your lifetime. As to mine, I have little left and I am reluctant but ready to face my God when that time comes as it must soon. Please do not follow my example and leave the future of the state and your subjects as uncertain as I have. I think it may have been the mistake that may undo all I have managed to accomplish in my life. By outliving my heirs of legal succession, I have left a power vacuum that surrounds my grandson and I fear it could swallow him. Pray mind my advice in this matter.

With much thought and salutations,

King Louis XIV, King of France and Navarre


My Thoughts on our Military Entering Syria....

One of the classes that I am currently taking is called Human Rights Violation: Torture, Trauma and its Effects on Society. I took this class because I thought it might be really interesting to really learn about how challenging and how people are affected by this treatment or affected by and/or deal with witnessing it, etc... In my first reading this week, I found that two sentences really stuck out and I found myself reading the paragraph that they were 'embedded' in and ask your thoughts on them.

The first sentence is: “The US Declaration of Independence state that “all men are created with certain inalienable rights” and makes the case that a people can reject the authority of a government that violates those rights....”

The second phrase is: “Thus, a major focus of human rights law is not only to describe rights that are legally protected but also to prohibit actions by governments that violate such rights...”

So I was hoping for your thoughts on them. When I read these two sentences, the thoughts that came to mind were actually on Syria. I was against the Iraq War and going into Afghanistan, but I have shocked a few of my friends when my pacifist non-violent self admits that I feel we should go into Syria and help. I know that my opinion on both equations is the opposite of what statistics showed of public opinion in 2011 and today. Yet when I was reading these two lines, I realized that these are my thoughts on the issue stated more clearly than I knew how to express. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the need for military intervention was not clear and diplomacy and sanctions and other methods probably would
have brought these countries more in line with human rights and would have improved the lives of those living there. As those governments were only breaking these rights mainly legally (according to their laws), I don't feel like we were likely to change them... and it doesn't really appear that we have made any changes except for who is running the country. In many ways I believe we have left these countries worse off and more likely to have severe human rights abuses without recourse. The people of Syria have been trying to get more rights for over two years now and have been fighting their government with everything as they have 'rejected the authority of a government that violates' their rights. We have 'in theory' been trying diplomacy for two years as well without success. The Syrian government has now used a weapon that single-handed killed over a thousand people- many of whom couldn't have really been fighters or a threat to the government – I'm thinking of the children. So if we as a nation believe in the later quote above, should we not attempt more wholeheartedly to stop these prohibited actions...?

I guess I wonder what is our place in human rights and our responsibility.... my responsibility, my community's responsibility, my federal government's... and the world's. Some of these questions seem so easy to answer unless I think about them long enough. So what do you think your responsibility is towards Syria... or even in your own communities?


An Interesting First Class!

So this semester I am taking three classes; two online and one in classroom. I usually always only take on line classes but I still needed a fine arts elective and funnily enough... very few of them are online. ;) So I signed up for a class than analyzes the American culture and way of life through film. Already, I am a bit surprised. My first surprise was I thought that it would be pretty easy- I analyze books with very little trouble and even though it's a writing intensive course, I love to write so I figured I was pretty set. To my surprise, I was quite wrong on a few levels.

To start, movies are a bit complicated for me. Don't get me wrong- I do like movies- but I am actually very careful what I watch. I was exposed to 'war' movies and horror movies when I was quite young by my mother and I still sometimes have horrible dreams of those movies. (One specific scene I see a few times a year in a thin, small Asian man walking through a field of bones with fear and resignation on his face... not a pleasant scene) If you want a true irony – I love history and most of my 'fun' reading books are history nonfiction, but I do not watch too much on that topic at all. I don't tend to watch the History Channel period – I call it the war channel- and while I have a huge shelf of documentaries at home, none of them deal with war. Most movies I do watch tend to be documentaries (usually nature or science), comedies, as well as books turned into movies. My favorite movie is Pride and Prejudice for drama and Pink Panther (the older ones) for comedy... My Uncle Dee introduced me to those! So actually watching war films for three hours in the first class was very challenging for me. We watched two documentaries; one hasn't even been officially released yet but my teacher has some pull with the producer. That particular one is called “Nazi's Attack America.” It talked about the spies that landed in Hancock, Maine during WWII and reminded me of my friend Sarah Drew who first told me about the spies and their capture. She died about five years ago at 88 years old, but I loved listening to her stories of the depression and the war in Maine.
It was interesting to look at the mug shots of the men that I have heard so much about in my past and to learn that one of the spies comes to Down-east Maine every few years on vacation. I also didn't realize that the war could have continued on longer- I thought Germany pretty much had nothing left at the end, but the documentary made clear that they were still well equipped navy -wise and if a different man had been in charge, this might have been different (or at least the war would have dragged on longer.) On NPR a little over a week ago, the reporter mentioned that Hitler's last bodyguard died. (I think he said the gentleman was 91.) The reporter quoted the man as saying that Hitler 'was just an ordinary nice man.' While it is not comfortable to hear things like this, especially to those who have turned the image of Hitler in their mind into an unforgivable demon, I think those things are so important to hear when people thing them because it confirms to me he (Hitler) wasn't so abnormal... we each as human beings have these inclinations in all of us. Anyone of us could do the same thing if our situations were different and we have to actively fight the darkness in ourselves to not perform these atrocities. Scary, but good to know!

I was very intrigued by the documentary “The War” directed by Ken Burns. It felt very comfortable for me to watch because it really did focus on the individual human element. Dates and occasions as history do not mean as much to me because I do not believe they tell much of the real story. I am very interested in watching the whole thing and watching for a cheap copy... Anybody have one they don't want? :) It really looks like a great film. I was nervous when it first came on the screen because I thought it would be like “Platoon” or “The Killing Fields.” I was genuinely pulled into the story. So I am hopeful that I will get to see the rest of it at some point and I do highly recommend it from the sixty minutes I saw!

There are some movies that I would be interested in seeing that I highly doubt will be in the class. I am interested in the Sweeny Todd film directed by Tim Burton (he's a favorite of mine) and I am also interested in some of the classics as I have seen very few. I am guessing that the class doesn't touch music videos either (according to the syllabus) but I will admit that I am starting to really look at the videos that I play when I run on the treadmill. One song that has started to really intrigue me due to the video is called “Warning” by the group Green Day. I feel like I find something new in the video every time and I am starting to enjoy looking at a few others and trying to see the art and the message in them. Some do not seem to have much, but I've found a few lately that I have enjoyed. :)

So.... What movies are you hoping to see soon? What are your favorites? How do you think movies can express the culture and values that we live in? I would be interested to know how you view and use them in your life.... :)


Our Debt to the Enlightenment...

So, I was sitting in class this week and we were asked what we were thankful for in our lives that is directly a result of the Enlightenment. I was very surprised when I really thought about it and realized that I am so blessed as so much of my life and the things I take for granted can be traced back to the philosophes and the time historians have titled the Enlightenment. I know that I am able to do many things and even go places safely because of the humanist ideas, etc… that came about during this time. I figured I would take a moment to mention a few examples that came to my mind.

One example is medicine. I was premature at birth and only weighed around five pounds. I had breathing problems and was ‘slow to thrive’. I am now a happy healthy adult that is too hyper for many and for the most part I don’t have reminders of my feeble beginning. If I had been born in the 1600’s there was some understanding of the human body, but the understanding of how the body itself was really formed and interacted with itself was only discovered and really started to develop during this time. My lung challenges alone would probably have been my death warrant because so little was really known. As a celiac, I would have had a very limited life because this disorder is really a disorder where the body attacks itself in the presence of unacceptable proteins and these sorts of complicated chemical reactions and transactions in the body are still being discovered today- during the Enlightenment they were just beginning to understand the existence of these reactions. Also, chances are that food itself would have been an issue for me. If all I could eat was bread, then I could eat it and feel sick… or starve. Not too many options there. If I was sickly I would be less likely to survive to adulthood, much less likely to survive childbirth and, as evidenced by my beautiful son, my children would be prone to medical challenges as well if they were able to survive. I take for granted that I can have a quite variable diet and can find food that I can eat almost anywhere that I can afford and enjoy. I also am able to have medical treatments that were only a dream forty years ago, but wouldn’t have been possible without the desire and work of some many people –mostly men, but women shouldn’t be ignored- during this time.

As a woman I can attend school, I can own property, I can become divorced or married as I please… all ideas that came about or started during this time frame. During this time, voting rights for more than just the elite began to be discussed and I can –and do- exercise my right to vote whenever I am able (much to the consternation of my extremely conservative parents… They still can’t figure out where they went wrong) As the writers and elite of this time became more humanist and allowed boys of all families to be able to look at education, it allowed for the doors to be opened wider for me. I can walk down the street wearing anything I want (almost) and I do not worry about being jailed, beaten, or even killed for my ‘audacity’ or ‘promiscuousness’. I can chose a religion (or not) based on my conscious or the voice of my own mind and heart, and not on the particular law/government/church in power at the time. Heck, I can study science in a room of my peers of both genders. I can have a nontraditional job for my gender- and while we definitely still have challenges with that it our society, it certainly is much more possible!

I think the thing I am most thankful for impact wise is the ability to question anything. To be able to ask questions about my environment, people, topics of all sorts… and not only be physically safe but have conversations and be able to form my opinions through study, observation and my own moral guidelines. Before the Enlightenment, as a woman, I didn’t have a lot of options for what I could do with my life. I might get more options if I was wealthy and had an understanding husband (because I would probably have had to have one to have continued to have more options), but those options would have necessarily been limited by the facts of percentages. After all, very few men were wealthy and as women could not own money or property with very few exceptions, only women married to wealthy and ‘tolerant men’ could have had more options for their lives. (And even then, their options were still limited in comparison to the options I now have for choices in my life.) At least once a week, I can have a conversation with a friend of family marriage on something difficult; gay marriage, human rights, universal health insurance, discrimination of women in the workplace, what is modesty, etc.... I enjoy them and I can have them and agree or disagree appropriately as I see fit and learn, think, and study out what was said. I would really feel like my life was incomplete with out that aspect of conversation in my life.

When you look at your life and look back at all the changes that came with that time frame, what are you most grateful for? What things changed that you don't see as benefits in your lives? What do you remember about the Enlightenment from your past classes? :)


2013 Poetry Corner #5 - "The Boats in Sacrament"

To sit in Sacrament alone you feel adrift
A dingy in a sea of boats
families sitting, crowded and close
tightly moored in their pews
A glance around - you're all alone
in a sea of empty seats...
But then, a dream and soon you too
are surrounded by love and friends
What bliss and joy and peacefulness
and the world no longer seems bleak

A beautiful wish, a thought, a dream
and a need that is attainable
to serve, to lift, to hug another
is a challenge so easily served
So, brothers and sisters, my friends, my love
What have you done today?
Have you moored your yacht so closed and far
that others fear to join?
Stand up, reach out, a hand, a touch
and for just a moment in time
A boat and a dingy sit side by sit
picturesque, joined, and one.
A beacon for all to see
so that all may join, feel safe, secure
in the arms of our earthly community

Please try, please reach
please ask out loud
and pull us all together.
Let no one feel left out, alone
So all may feel at home.