Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

love and war and faithful friends ~

War, my father once told me, never changes. It’s the same for every generation of men (and now women) who fight it for those of us who remain here, waiting.

He told me this when he was about my husband’s age now. He told me that the men at the VFW — the veterans of my husband’s war, Vietnam — saw Daddy only as an old man, w/ his big belly and his receding, greying hair. They didn’t see the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the multiple Purple Hearts or all they cost him.

My father was lucky. He came home with only a big divot out of one leg, bad memories, and a fistful of medals for valour. My husband also came home with no limbs missing, no horrific external injuries. But neither man was ever the same. This my father knew.

I don’t know what to say to the several Oklahoma families who lost sons this past month. Only how very sorry I am. How much I hate war, and wish that there would never be another one. So instead, as we near the anniversary of the ostensible reason for these most recent wars, I offer this image, honouring both a lost soldier and his most faithful mourner. Sometimes grief is as pure and searing as flame. This image reminds me of those griefs ~

 

mermaids, furries and other dreamers ~

No, it’s not a real cat. It’s also not, according to the owner, merely a costume. It’s a fursona. A human being who has taken on the identity — at least sometimes — of a furry.

I only learned quite recently about furries. A friend of mine was telling me that her son, whom I’ve known since he was in middle school, is a furry. He identifies w/ animals, and w/ the furry characters from various media.

A few weeks after we visited, I was in Portland, home of tolerance for most things. Sitting at a caf é on Pioneer Square, drinking a civilised cup of great Portland coffee, w/ a dear friend I saw something that made me start from my chair, to poke Pat hard.

“Pat! Look behind you!”

Pat shushed me, scolding ~ “Don’t point, Britt! That is soooo rude!”

“Pat, I mean it! LOOK!”

Rolling her eyes, she turned discreetly. Her jaw dropped open. Literally.

“OMG!” she said. “What IS that??”

Behind her, teasing and playing w/ his three other more normally attired friends, was a blue-fur-faced young man of probably 20 or so. Hard to tell…:) He had blue (Yup. Blue.) fur –fluffy artificial fur — glued to his face. Not a beard (although he may had one of those also…), but fur, all over his face. His arms also were painted blue, and he had a blue hoodie on. This Oklahoma girl was blown away.

I had to explain furries to Pat. And we actually saw Mr. Blue a couple of other times downtown, while I was in Portland.

So yesterday, my hair dresses commented on my mermaid necklace (I promise this connects). I told her my best friend — the same one who saw Mr. Blue w/ me — loves mermaids. Kaitlin said her girlfriend also loves mermaids. “In fact,” Kaitlin offered, “she’s kind of obsessed w/ them.”

“Really…?” I said.

“Yeah… She dresses up like one all the time. And she went to the Mermaid Convention this year,” Kaitlin adds.Where a bunch of other folks (mostly women, but hey — some mermen, as well) dress up like mermaids.

“Soooo, does she dress up like a mermaid a… LOT?” I ask. And Kaitlin nods… “She carries her tail with her.”

Everywhere?” I’m not believing this.

“Even on a cruise,” Kaitlin says.

“Wow. Did anyone go w/ her?” I’m thinking what it would be like to be on a cruise where one of the passengers carried her mermaid tail w/ her everywhere…

Continue Reading This Post »

‘Mom, you’re sooo depressing’ ~

On the phone the other evening, my beloved younger son told me that while he reads my posts on Facebook, I am sooo depressing. (And yes, there was drawn-out emphasis on the so. :))

It’s true. I post news stories about injustice, corruption, racism and all kinds of unkind, socially unjust actions and behaviours. Because as a former journalist, I still believe that knowledge will change people’s behaviours. That if we can just figure out what’s happening in the world around us, we’ll work to fix the wrong and celebrate the right.

But research doesn’t bear me out … In fact, many people entrench further when confronted w/ challenging facts. I can’t fathom that. I tell my students: I’m not invested in being ‘right.’ I’m invested in the information being correct.

So when I learn new facts — like when Pluto got demoted :) — I change my opinion. As John Maynard Keynes said, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”  

I have alot of friends — some quite dear — who disagree with me on things I believe are fundamental. Even family members often find my faith, my positions on various social issues, troubling. They tend to ignore our differences. And possibly I should as well.

Unfortunately, I’m not made that way… Sigh. If you believe in untrue things — that races are different in potential, that there were no dinosaurs, that women are ‘meant’ to be submissive to men, that certain religions allow us dominion over others — I’m going to want to know why. And if you try to find pseudo-science to ‘prove’ your point, the scholar in me is going to come back. Politely.  But w/ firmness :).

Some people believe that Buddhism is a religion of renunciation. Actually, many of us (Buddhists) don’t think of following the Buddha’s teachings as religion — an important aside. It’s more like being a Keynesian economist :). But regardless of whether you believe that Buddhism is a philosophy, a life journey, or a religion, many important Buddhist leaders are what we call ‘engaged’ Buddhists. More like what Americans think of Quakers doing — working for social justice, working against inequities of all kinds.

Robert Aitken

Like Robert Aitken. Who on his deathbed was still fighting the good fight: seeking acknowledgment of previous wrong-doing by others. Trying to make things right.

As Shambala Sun notes, “Aitken Roshi would become one of Western Zen’s foremost social justice activists. He was a founder … along with Anne Aitken, Thich Nhat Hanh, poet Gary Snyder, deep ecologist Joanna Macy… and others—of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.”

What does it mean to be both unattached — a primary tenet of Buddhism — and still work hard for peace, for social justice? How do we juggle, in our complicated daily lives, the quiet in&out of the breath, and the leaping flames of passionate advocacy?

I don’t think I know that. At least not yet. :) But it’s my bone-deep belief that each of us must try to change a world where people go hungry, die of curable illnesses & diseases, and this great land of plenty says ‘It’s not my responsiblity.’ It’s the reason that my poetry isn’t funny, my FB posts aren’t either, and I keep trying to change the minds of people who don’t want to hear what the facts show. We have to keep trying. The world depends on us ~

‘Know your name’ ~

There’s a song I like, w/ a refrain that goes: Hold on. Know your name. Go your own way. That seems like such great advice.   I figure it has to apply to most of us, most of the time.

Know your name. It dovetails perfectly with the Buddhist koan speculating on our intrinsic nature: “What did your face look like before your parents were born?” I can’t answer it, at least not in words, but I think I know what it’s asking — what it is about us that is permanent, if indeed anything is permanent…?

It’s a good question — who were you before? Who are you now? What is your true name? Some cultures place a taboo on giving your true name to strangers. It gives them power over you, a kind of entry.

But if you don’t know your name, that too is a ceding of power. So how do you find your name? And what does it mean once you have it…?

Previous Posts

day 26 in a month of Thanksgiving: cranberries, turkey, and pie...oh my!
The pies are cooking for tomorrow. All the house smells of butter crust and pumpkin filling. In the 2nd fridge there's a medium-sized turkey, with a ham still to be picked up. I'm fielding calls regarding what els

posted 4:01:14pm Nov. 26, 2014 | read full post »

day 25 of Thanksgiving month: gratitude in the wake of #Ferguson
Today, in the wake of Ferguson, my beginner's heart is breaking. There seems so very little to be grateful for. I wasn't even going to write. And then I thought -- there is one sad, terrible thing for which I am gra

posted 10:57:00pm Nov. 25, 2014 | read full post »

day 24 of Thanksgiving month: getting ready (or not...)
I'm not at the 'in the pie pan' stage yet, but I did make the dough today. My family is BIG on pie, and especially at Thanksgiving. (Countdown: 3-2-1...) I think my beloved could eat an entire pie b

posted 3:47:13pm Nov. 24, 2014 | read full post »

day 23 of Thanksgiving month: soundtracks
The other day I wrote about how much I love music, how it's one of my everyday gratitudes. Which set me to thinking: what would my life's soundtrack be? What would I like to exit to? You have to realise: I pick

posted 6:07:08pm Nov. 23, 2014 | read full post »

day 22 of Thanksgiving month: the kindness of strangers
Today's gratitude is slightly abashed. I'm grateful for kindness -- even my own, actually. And abashed that it's noticed so...noticeably...? Because if just joking w/ the Starbuck's barista, and teasing her about

posted 10:42:50pm Nov. 22, 2014 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.