Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

tea and blondes: a story of hanging out ~

I’m visiting my best friend — my ‘bff,’ as my students say. So far, we’ve crammed weeks of being together doing what we love into the six days we’ve had together. We’ve gone to pick up berries (blue, black- and rasp-, not to mention Oregon kotatas). We’ve had tea, Tillamook ice cream, and tonight is fresh-caught crab (this morning’s crab pots). We’ve hit the Latimer Textile Museum (stealing the 2 most fragrant roses you can imagine, from the parking lot!), the Farmer’s Market, the Tea Room, and the shoe & jewelry store.

We motored up the coast, hitting at least 6 vintage resale shops. We watched young goats jockey for status, and courting bluebirds, while our husbands caught us fish & crab for dinner. But best of all, we just hung out.

There is not enough homage paid to hanging out. To the quiet conversations that evolve over picking crab, or sitting in the rare Tillamook sun. People need time to just be. To breathe. It’s one reason tea is a sacrament in Japanese Buddhism, and a ritual in many other cultures. Tea allows you to relax. To breathe. To just hang out. I can hang out over tea — especially w/ my girlfriends — for hours. It’s my favourite meal, the one I can’t mess up, since any time spent drinking good tea is (by definition) good. And if you add engaging  conversation, a few nibble-ish goodies, and a brilliant afternoon…? What’s better?

I wish I could offer tea and hanging out breaks to all the hectic people I know. I wish I could send them huge pots of a good black tea, their perfect cup to drink it from, and the company of someone who makes them laugh, listens to them, and loves them unabashedly. I’m sure it would cure all the ills of the world, if people would just hang out together. Preferably over tea. Taking time to breathe, to inhale the fragrance of tea, and just be. It’s my prescription for world peace: put people together over tea. And let them just hang out ~

 

ashes to ashes… we all fall down ~

Two friends who attend my church — or at least what I think of as ‘my’ church, despite not attending it w/ any degree of frequency! — lost their nephew today. Lost him in a pool of dark red blood on a white concrete driveway, the victim of a drive-by shooting. Yesterday his father sat outside the house, waiting as police went about the official business of death, of murder. Of the kind of American business that is a plague on too many of our houses.

Why are we killing each other? And why do we feel that our ‘right’ to carry guns w/which to kill each other trumps our right to enjoy our young?

I’m not against hunting. I still eat red meat, so it would be hypocritical to be against taking on the karma of the death of my food. But somewhere along the chronology of killing our food, we began to believe it’s our right to access killing guns. And I can’t believe that’s a religious virtue. No religion says ‘arm yourself.’ No faith that I’m familiar with takes death lightly.

I’m asking you, as a pacifist, a Buddhist, a mother of sons (the major demographic ~ young American males): lay down your guns. Fight back non-violently: write Congress and tell them your faith precludes this reliance on guns as ‘protection.’

Want protection? Feed the hungry and they will have far less reason to steal. Help the hurting and they will be far less likely to hurt you first. Heal the sick. Breathe for those in pain. And forgive. It’s not wimpy . It’s compassionate. And don’t we need more of that than more death?  Because one death isn’t just one of us ~ it’s all of us. Donne was right. None of us are islands. Ashes, ashes… and we all fall down…

grief, tragedy, & holding each other in the light ~

Sometimes, the heart is incapable of filling futher. It can’t even break, it’s so full. The Quakers, when things are very hard, hold you in the light. And for each of us, ‘the light’ may be different. But this week, I am trying hard to hold the many victims of the Aurora tragedy in the light of comfort.

I am holding each of the children, the adults and even the sad young man who made it all happen in light. I am holding the familes in light. I am holding a country that places ‘full gun rights’ as a national priority in the light. And I am breathing in grief, trying hard to transmute that leaden feeling in to light. It’s not always working. But I’m trying. I’m still trying…..

koine Greek, missing the mark, and beginner’s heart ~

My sister-in-law reads Biblical Greek. Not the New Testament kind, but the kind that the really old parts of the Jewish & Christian Bible are written in. She’s a Presbyterian minister, which is one of the few ways (that I know of, at least) to come by such arcane skills. Here’s what she told me yesterday:

“One of the cooler things I found when learning biblical Greek was that the Greek word that gets most often translated to “sin” in English means just “missing the mark” It is the same word used if you are in an Olympic game throwing a javelin, and don’t hit the bullseye.”

Wow. Think about that: ‘sin’ — as defined through more careful translation — is just missing our best target.

I know a little about translation. It’s been a passion of mine — well, the study of it has, and the reading of translated works — since I was in HS. I didn’t have American literature; I had Russian. We read Dostœvsky, not James or Faulkner. And later I was crazy about Neruda, reading his poetry w/ the Spanish on one page and the English beside it. Still later, I read Walter Benjamin, and several of the post-colonial writers like Trinh Minh-ha, who talked about ‘the language of the oppressor,’ and what translation meant to a citizen under colonialism.

What I know is that translation is an art, and requires letting the first writer speak to you. You can’t impose yourself — in any way — on the content, or it turns. Talk about missing the mark. A few years back I readWar & Peace (really). It was a new translation, and I absolutely loved it. Made all the difference in the world. And when I read the intro, I could see why, from the examples of changes given. BIG shift.

So…How did the idea of sin move from an almost Buddhist notion of ‘missing the mark’ — not measuring up to standard — to evil that damns you to hell? I don’t understand, but wish some etymologist or linguistic scholar of Biblical translation would explain. Because I’ve never thought the universe punishes us for making mistakes. We are our own punishment, another Buddhist thought. So I need not feel guilty of ‘sin.’ I should try harder next time.

I miss my own objectives daily — when I split dessert w/ a friend instead of saying no; when I don’t get out & walk before it’s 100˚; w hen I flare back at my tired husband, who isn’t thinking about how he says what he says…:) I don’t think of these as the same, of course, as the murder of an innocent bystander in a gang fight the other day at Best Buy. But I also don’t believe the young men & woman involved in the shooting will spend eternity paying for this. Already, their lives must be full of fear, of violence, of hate. What kind of lives are those?

Yes, they should be punished. But for horrible mistakes. For falling short of a kinder & less violent ideal. Not because they’re sinners…

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