Posts Tagged ‘religion’
About ten years ago, The California Prune Board spent $10 million on a make-over for their product. In an attempt to make prunes more attractive to consumers, they not only renamed their product, but also redesigned their packaging to show fresh plums, instead of the dried up fruit inside.
Call them “Sun-Dried Plums”, call them “prunes” or call them “pipe cleaners”. They’re still a food most folks associate with constipation.
It’s just semantics–the way we use language. Though there is an overabundance of words to accurately describe everything around us, our culture often resorts to using euphemisms, or deliberately misleading language. Like intellectual battering rams, code words and catch phrases are often intended to manipulate public opinion.
Just as magicians use tactics to redirect our attention, this kind of linguistic legerdemain, is often nothing more than a trick to make us change our perceptions. As our attention is diverted, we lose sight of what’s important, because we are focused on what isn’t. Read the rest of this entry »
Bieber’s mother wants him in rehab. Lindsay Lohan is working as an “escort”. It seems Jackie & Kelso are back together, after Mila Kunis was sighted with the same oaf, her character dated on That 70s Show. Lance Armstrong’s confession is less interesting than Trump’s hair. Girl Talk blogger tries to make sense of modern-day manners.
There was a time when most homes had at least one copy of Emily Post or Amy Vanderbilt’s guide to manners. Social graces, from which fork to use, to how to write & address correspondence; were reasons to consult the experts, lest we commit a social faux pas. Back then folks cared about (and knew how to pronounce) etiquette.
There are probably still circles where the rules of refinement are closely followed, but those aren’t my circles. Most of the people around me don’t worry about being “proper”. Whether this bothers you is probably related to your age, because many of the little courtesies we left in the 20th century, seem to recall a different time and attitude.
Minding one’s manners is supposed to make everyone more comfortable, but for most of us, it was just one more potentiality for embarrassment. As a pragmatist, I’m glad we no longer fret about stuff like hats, gloves, and wearing white after Labor Day, but though some of our small courtesies have fallen from fashion, common courtesies should not. For me, forks & fingerbowls were never as confusing, as deciphering the new norms.
There was a time when men refrained from using bad language in front of women. Now women are as apt to swear as men. There was a time when men stood for a woman entering a room. They gave up their seats and opened doors for women. Now, doing such, seemingly, nice things, puts a man at risk of being censured for what could be misconstrued as a condescending attitude towards women. Even addressing a woman with, the formerly respectful, “ma’am” can be offensive, if the addressee believes it is an assessment of her age.
There was a time when our sense of propriety dictated the clothes we wore. We wore our “good” clothes to school or work. We wore “dress” clothes to church. We slept in our pajamas and worked in our jeans. Our underwear was under our clothes, instead of on display. Back then a man’s shoes told you something about him, and seeing too much of a woman’s skin told you something about her. It was a time when a man complimenting a woman’s appearance, was considered charming, instead of sexist.
There was a time when gossip was always in bad form. Today gossip is a lucrative industry, producing magazines, tell-all books and reality television. Promiscuity, scandal, and shame have become newsworthy, and TV provides a never-ending freakshow of society’s worst members. Instead of biting our tongues or averting our eyes as we once would have, we gawk, we mock and feel good about it. Once it was considered coarse to laugh at others, now it is entertainment. Read the rest of this entry »
You have probably heard dogs see in black and white. The world is full-color, but curiously, dogs don’t see it that way. Canines don‘t actually see in black and white, but the colors they see are limited–mostly shades of greys tinged with blues and yellows. I don’t know how or why scientists figured this out, but now, perhaps they should turn their attention to why people, who see in color, tend to think in black and white. The brain is a scientific wonder, in its complexity, and the eye is no less magnificent. In fact, oftentimes our vision is more nimble than our thinking.
Despite the ability of the brain to process information, most of us overlook the shades of grey, in how we see things. Life’s big issues are often reduced to black or white. Oh, if only life were as simple….
As long as I can remember, people have been fighting over the issue of abortion–innocent lives snuffed out before they begin. Killing babies has to be wrong. Right? How can there be another side? I felt that way, until I met Sonia. At the age of 14, she was pregnant–with her second child. Sonia lived for the weekends, when she would see Suge, a 27-year old man, AKA the baby daddy. Watching a very unsettled young girl raising(?) a baby on her own, made me wonder if abortion might not have been a kinder option for the baby boy whose future was wagered against, long-shot odds. That is not to say I am pro-abortion, but it helped me see grim shades of grey.
Every controversial question, has more than one answer. Religious people have absolute truths which define their views, but even among the world’s great religions, “absolute truth” varies. For everyone who believes faith in God is foolish, there are others who are amazed that anyone is foolish enough not to believe in God. As a person with religious beliefs, it would be easy, to assume the world would be perfect, if only everyone shared my beliefs, but my truth is meaningless to those who don’t believe it.
Whether it be social issues, religion, morality, or politics, when we see the world in black and white, our vision is limited. As anyone who has had cataracts will attest, the loss of vision happens so gradually, most don’t even realize how little they see. We often suffer from the same kind of blindness, because we don’t acknowledge what we can’t see, and can’t always remember exactly how, or why we see the world as we do.
American politics provide a great example. Most issues are defined in black and white–either left or right. Instead of seeing those on “the left” and “the right” as individuals who don’t all think alike, we are manipulated into seeing the other side as wrong. This limited vision, causes us to believe our side is populated by good kind souls, people like Mother Theresa, and Nelson Mandela, great philosophers, intellects and all the other beautiful people.
The other side is populated by the thinking-impaired, lesser-evolved, malevolent people–including a few of our closest friends, some disagreeable family members, and all the mullet-wearers of the world. There doesn’t seem to be anyone in the middle–except for a handful of your friends who are decent enough people, despite being tragically misguided. From this vantage point, it appears the world is full of evil, knuckle-dragging Cro-Magnons.
We are quick to label anyone with different opinions. I recently explained my view of probable outcomes for the next presidential election, and was angrily called a “Lib-tard”. What I said was based on observations of media usage by both candidates, not any political views, yet I was immediately given a negative label, by someone who didn’t agree with what I was saying.
If you say you’re a Democrat there is an assumption that you’re a Prius-driving, Whole-Foods shopping, NPR Socialist. Tell your friends you’re a Libertarian, and they will assume you grow your own pot, which you water in the nude. If you should affiliate with the G.O.P., friends will assume all you’ve surrendered your brain to Fox News, attend Klan meetings or worship at The Altar of Limbaugh.
Beloved Soul Mate and I are both registered voters. We have identical views on many issues, yet are registered with different political parties. We don’t see eye to eye on every issue–neither with each other nor with our chosen parties. Those who know us well, might be surprised to learn which is registered with which party, because society pigeon-holes political leanings–as if there is no room for variation.
The most biased labeler of all, is the media. Both sides use their own vernacular–vocabulary purposefully intended reduce our perceptions to black & white. Just as the terms “chink” “slope” or “gook” were once used in wartime to dehumanize opponents, labels create an impersonal impression 0f real people. We see those who don’t think like us, as being nothing like us. Both sides say they want to reach a consensus, but how can we every come together, if we see those (with whom we probably have much in common) as too ignorant to have a valid opinion.
The world is not black and white. Even Rover sees shades of grey.
My first appointment with my dentist of over a decade, was on December 24th. At the end of the check-up, he gave me a toothbrush and a lovely Christmas box of Belgian chocolates. I knew I had finally found my dentist, as there was something reassuring in a dentist who would both acknowledge and support a sweet-tooth. No longer would I have to floss & brush extra well to eliminate any evidence of having committed the dental sin of having used my mouth for eating. My new dentist was a realist.
That Christmas, like every other, I probably ate more chocolates than one should, because knowing better, isn’t always an effective deterrent in keeping us from doing things we shouldn’t. Easter is another day on which I will probably eat too much chocolate. Though Easter has nothing to do with chocolate, it seems chocolate is integral to most of our holidays. Unfortunately, holiday traditions, often obscure what we are celebrating. Christmas is celebrated as if it is the most important day of the year, but Easter is the true centerpiece of Christianity. Without Easter, Christmas has little, if any significance.
I cannot remember a time when religion wasn’t part of my life. I was raised by a mother whose Catholic upbringing was deeply ingrained in her. She was one whose faith was as vital to her existence, as the blood in her veins. Her beliefs were imposed upon me, until the time when she no longer felt as comfortable being Catholic. At that time, she began a religious odyssey exploring other religions, taking me along for the ride.
Another child, might have been ambivalent, but I was at least as curious as she, because even as child, religious teachings always filled me with questions. I remember sitting through mass, trying to make sense of things which made no sense to me. I couldn’t have been more than four, as I squirmed in the pews of an old church, wondering why good people, like my father, who weren’t good Catholics were doomed to burn in Hell with bad people like murderers.
My mother’s quest for truth soon had me well-versed in the teachings of various religions, but it didn’t eliminate my questions. Even now, when I listen to religious leaders, I am mentally noting things about which I have questions, or against which I might argue. This might lead one to believe, I have an adversarial view of religion, but in fact the opposite is true. In my mind, every believer should have questions, because religion which requires no faith, is meaningless dogma devoid of mystery or wonder.
Because of this, I have respect for atheists. While there are many atheists who resemble the religious leaders they hate; narrow-minded persons who wish to suppress the views of anyone who doesn’t believe as they do, I have known just as many who will freely admit that though they don’t believe in God, they know there is a possibility they are wrong. In this respect, some atheists have more integrity, than their religious counterparts, because most religious folks are afraid to admit they might be wrong.
Faith usually brings about the conviction that God is real, but it is part of the equation of religion, to believe in something one cannot prove. I will readily admit, my faith in God and Jesus is blind faith. I can no more substantiate the existence of the God of the Old Testament, than I can the existence of the unicorn. Additionally, my faith in this god requires me to believe all other gods are false. Likewise followers of other deities, believe their god is real, and mine the imposter.
Religion which requires no faith, moves into the realm of things we can prove, like science. If we could prove beyond doubt the existence of a supreme being, we would all be more or less obliged to pay homage, as we would to a dictator. In the absence of proof, even those whose personal experiences have convinced them of the existence of God, must be willing to accept the unexplainable or the supernatural.
But not all religions are faith-based. Many religions pressure followers into embracing things unwillingly. I have been exposed to sects, which turn the problem of skepticism back on the believer–as if it is the failing of the individual which prevents them from knowing God. Coercion is an effective way to convert the unwilling, but it is a very poor substitute for faith.
I am not convinced every spiritual experience has merit, nor do I believe all moral teaching comes from the same god working under various pseudonyms, but our spiritual experiences are as unique as we are. I am Christian because it is easy for me to realize I am not like anyone else. Knowing that if billions of people could exist without duplication, it seems logical that their creator would know their flaws and peculiarities. A malevolent god would destroy the flawed, yet we each exist with our own unique nature and will. Certainly God knows we are better suited for failure than perfection, yet somehow, he seems to have a measure of patience with mankind. Only with this kind of god would there be a place or purpose for someone like me–a gal who whose nature has always been irreverent and provocative, a gal who asks questions and tests boundaries.
I am convinced God, like my dentist, knows me. He knows I don’t always get it right, but because of Easter, that’s not a deal-breaker. He knows most of us will be distracted today by things that have nothing to do with what we are supposedly celebrating. I’m sure He wishes we’d do better, but at least he isn’t He isn’t surprised. I believe God “gets me”, and even though He’d prefer I were the kind of person who would readily focus all my thoughts on the profound significance of Easter, he knows I’d miss the chocolate.
Less than a century ago, Halloween was little more than a night of youthful pranks and mischief. Ever-changing, and ever challenging our sensibilities, it seems Halloween is forever being redefined. No other celebration poses more of a dichotomy, as the most morbid themes are mingled with whimsical innocence. Fairies, princesses, ghouls, super heroes, and characters from TV or movies provide alternate identities, and a brief escape from reality.
Halloween is one of our calendar’s most-controversial celebrations. From it’s earliest origins, it has been a holiday to love or hate. The holiday we now know as Halloween, was first instituted by Catholics, as the intended replacement for its pagan forerunner, Samhain. In keeping with the Night of the Living Dead theme, it was a day to honor the memory of saints and martyrs. Martin Luther’s Protestant reformation, hoped to eradicate the Catholic celebration of All Saint’s Day and All Hallow’s Eve, because his religious ideas did not embrace the Catholic view of saints. The New England Puritans banned the holiday in the New World, because of its Catholic origins, but it wasn’t long before large numbers of Irish-Catholic immigrants succeeded in reestablishing the popularity of Halloween traditions.
By the early 1900′s, Halloween celebrations had become part of the American tradition, but the holiday was, and still is, one of our most controversial. Just as the Catholic church once did, many churches and religious communities, have invented their own substitutes for Halloween. Even the so-called “separation of church and state” hasn’t been able to keep schools from taking a stance. Many schools have banned costumes or other Halloween celebrations out of respect to those with religious concerns–and one school district in Pulyallup, Washington, was compelled to enact bans, lest local witches (Wiccans) be offended.
People either love it or hate it. I understand many dislike the way Halloween blurs the line between good and evil, but to me it’s not so different from the rest of life as we all seek to balance bad things and things that scare us, with the good and sweet things which make life worth the struggles. In fact, I adore seeing children in costumes eager to receive a ration of candy, but for some even innocent trick-or-treaters pose a nuisance.
If only being grown-up, were as simple as being a kid. As adults, we adopt a seriousness about ourselves and the things around us. Fortunately or unfortunately, it is clear that Halloween is no longer just for kids, and it is one of few opportunities for us to shed the inhibitions and constraints of our own identities, to embrace another. In the same way princesses, ghouls, super heroes, and cartoon characters give children a chance to make-believe, costumes offer grown-ups an invitation to play.
I like it when adults let down their guard a little. Costumes seem to make it easier, but if costumes are a license to have fun, they can also be an excuse to behave (or misbehave) in a way one wouldn’t normally. An article from Psychology Today suggests costume choices may reveal hidden parts of our personalities. Whether it is repressed feelings, unspoken desires or innocent fantasies, Halloween provides an outlet.
This brings me to the subject of provocative female costumes. Once witches were ugly crones with green skin and twisted noses, but the newest generation of witch costumes usually feature a spell-casting amount of skin–which is rarely, if ever green.) Every perennially popular costume is now available in various degrees of slutty. Not so long ago, the pregnant bride costume provided risque laughs, but now most of us would err on the safe side, by offering a pregnant bride our congratulations. Beacons of virtue like Snow White and Red Riding Hood have lost their innocence, along with the school teachers, nurses and costumed nuns who have joined the naughtiness. It seems the little girls who once collected candy, have become a mixed bag of sweet tarts.
Though most women enjoy the attention that comes with being attractive, those who swap their uniqueness to become just another girl in a skimpy costume are reduced to little more than eye candy. Has our quest for equality made us like men hoping for a conquest, with no thoughts of the morning after? As we advertise our tricks and display the treats, have we forgotten how to cultivate desire, without the use of T & A? Could it be that we no longer know how to engage and delight men, so they, like children on Halloween, can hardly concentrate for the distraction of thoughts of finally being allowed to unwrap the candy?
The downside is that just as kids may revel in the excess of the evening, big boys are apt to do the same. When Halloween is over, they will have to wait for next year’s candy extravaganza, and some women may realize they have become just another piece the morning after, the sexy costumes have no more appeal than leftover candy corn.
Thankfully, it’s only one night a year.
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Within each of us is the desire for autonomy, aka freedom. There is no freedom apart from the acknowledgment of an individual’s worth. When leaders decide who has value or who is worthy of respect, the end of freedom is near.
Yesterday I was looking at a copy of The Constitution of the United States. It reads somewhat like a school handbook, but The Declaration of Independence is a piece of literature worthy of study and praise. I am always moved by how it recognizes the sovereignty and worth of the individual.
The unalienable rights, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, could easily be the basis of a religion, but instead they are the foundation of a country, which by not promoting religion, grants religious freedom. There are many who would prefer to see references to a creator or a god expunged from The Declaration of Independence, in order to make it more egalitarian, but there is not a more egalitarian credo in the secular world. The recognition of an unnamed god, does not establish the nation as Judeo/Christian. Instead, it establishes the right for individuals to name their own god. You may call your god Gaia, Vishnu, Muhammad, Buddha, Krishna, Jesus, Jehovah, Darwin,Karl Marx, Karl Rove, Karl Malone or even declare God nonexistent.
It is a document which allows the right to commit mass suicide in order to meet the Mother Ship or pay thousands of dollars to an institution which promises to electronically help clarify thoughts. It is a document that establishes our right to marry in a synagogue, LDS Temple, or on a beach. It is a document that allows us to eat animals or embrace veganism. It is a document that respects the rights of the individual, the worth of the human spirit, and a document that affords us the right to be wrong.
It is often said that religion is the opiate of the masses. The quote is attributed to Karl Marx, but credit for calling religion an opiate, goes to The Marquis de Sade. The most oppressive regimes prescribe their own religions, as the Taliban did; or erect their governing heads as the supreme authority, as Kim Jong Il has in North Korea. If religion is indeed the opiate of the masses, why do the worst regimes in the world go to such great lengths to eliminate religious freedom? It is because religions allow people to consider their own value and purpose.
As I child, I was plagued with religious questions. For as long as I can remember I’ve had questions, the answers to which have lead to a distillation of my own beliefs. Like every other person of faith, I am convinced my beliefs are true. Believing is an act of faith, sometimes based on evidence, sometimes not. Just as I did as a child, I still have questions. Some people think having questions represents spiritual weakness. I believe questions are necessary to determine what is true.
Over the years, I’ve sat through many kinds of religious services, in each followers were convinced they had found truth. When we subscribe to a spiritual practice, whether it is meditation, doing good works, fasting, performing sacraments or murdering innocents, it requires faith. Followers do what they do, because they believe, and while most religions require faith, they should never require the suspension of reason. Even those whose religion is Evolution, will affirm the brain is not a vestigial organ.
Religion is not an opiate, it is an exercise of intellect, by which we try to find freedom from our fears, our nature, and our failings. Our beliefs give purpose to our existence. Whether you believe the origin of humanity to be an act of nature or the artistry of a creator, whether or not your beliefs include a deity, it requires no faith to know you are a unique individual with a life which yearns for purpose.
Healthcare reform is a contentious issue. On the one hand, nobody wants anyone else to go without necessary medical care, on the other hand, not everyone is enthusiastic about being saddled with the cost of everyone else’s medical bills.
We can argue whether the The Beatles or The Stones were the greater rock band. We can disagree on whether or not Matthew McConaughey is hotter than Colin Farrell, or which actor was the best James Bond. We can argue which country makes the best autos, or who was the NFL’s greatest quarterback. We can disagree on any number of things and still remain friends–except those things which touch peoples values–like religion and politics.
I don’t believe in proselytizing, not my values, not my religion, not my politics. There isn’t any future in it. There are many who love to argue their beliefs in attempt to enlighten others, and/or prove they are right. I find arguing to be a distasteful waste of time. If people ask, I am willing to discuss, debate and defend my views, but I don’t like the disruptive quality arguments have on relationships. Which is why as we prepare to go to the polls again, in what seems to be an election of some significance, I wanted to give readers something to consider.
There are all kinds of people in this fine country. There are good people, bad people, hardworking people, shiftless people, remarkable people, dull people, crazy people, intelligent people, misguided people—some are better company than others, but people are people. Everyone of us knows people we’d rather not know, but in general most of those we interact with, are decent folks, worthy of respect.
What makes us different is that each individual is exactly that–an individual, shaped by their raising and experience. But even among individuals, there is a set of common traits. Everyone wants to have a comfortable standard of living–to live without fear of financial woes, to be able to pay for the things we need and still have some left over for things we want. We want to have autonomy in figuring out what is best for us. We want to be able to take care of our families and help our friends. That’s you. That’s me. The people who favor “socialized” medicine, are generally not card-carrying members of Lenin fan club, plotting the next Marxist revolution, anymore than those on the other side are Dickensian villains who would have everyone turned out on the streets or sent to workhouses.
They’re people, people whose beliefs are felt sincerely. Reasonable people hold reasonable views. They may be right or wrong, but one of the greatest things about this country, is that we are given the ability and the freedom to think for ourselves, as I believe our creator and the founding fathers intended.
We are different, we don’t all see the world through the same lens, but we believe what we believe for reasons which make sense to us. Our ideas on taxes, education, healthcare, social programs and human rights are crafted by what we believe to be true. Truth is universal, personal truths are not. Just as good ideas are sometimes shot down in corporate boardrooms, on any issue, there is someone who sees it differently. Those disagreements can cause unpleasant ripples and irreparable rifts between people. No matter what views people have, they are still worthy of respect. We all have issues on which we disagree, but in the end, people are just people. Like you, like me.
(Dedicated to my friend Meredith)
For those in the Judeo or Christian religions, this is a day or season of remembrance and solemnity. Followers of Judaism, commemorate Passover and Christians are reminded of the death of Christ. Both occasions recall suffering and persecution, followed by great jubilant reasons to celebrate.
Those well-versed in theology could explain the many parallels between the two occasions—how Passover is a small-scale version of the Easter story. I like theology, and I find it in the garden. For me the garden is a metaphor of everything in life. It is my seminary.
Plants, flowers, children, and individuals–I adore watching living things grow. This is why Spring excites me. Spring is everything I love. It is the morning of the cosmic day–a time to wake up. It is the time to be refreshed and rejuvenated. It is a new beginning, after a season of darkness.
Where I grew up, Spring began with tiny crocus poking up through the last patches of Winter snow. Like little Easter eggs, they were a symbol of new life and a promise of things yet to be seen.
Where I live now, Spring looks different. For the same reason there is no snow, there are no crocus or tulips, but early blooms spring forth to remind me that there are more to come. Early daffodils, freesia,and irises welcome the season, as the bulbs that slept in the ground through the winter give birth to bright and fragrant blossoms. What appeared dead, bursts forth unexpectedly as their season arrives.
Spring, is a reminder of the course and events of our lives. Winter is a time when growing things die off or sleep. The grass is dormant, the trees are bare, it is bleak and dreary. It is a season of resting in the garden, and it is a season of resting for the gardener.
At the end of the season, there is much to be done. It is time to renew the garden, to tend neglected things and to prepare for new things. It is a time to get rid of undesirable things–a time to make positive changes. It is a time to fortify roots, amend foundations and and break new ground.
Life is refreshed and renewed. Things that have been cultivated begin to emerge, as small dead-appearing seeds, branches and bulbs give birth to glorious new generations of vibrant new life. What was dead has been redeemed and renewed. It is hopeful, encouraging and it is life.
It is spring!