Beginner's Heart

complicated 3Sometimes I wish life was less … nuanced. Complicated, in other words.

I wish I didn’t feel I have to vote w/ my $$ when companies aren’t ethical. Since $$ are all many US corporations seem to value, I’ve started publicising their choices, and asking others to join me in refusing to support bad choices w/ our money. That part seems simple.

So I don’t buy at WalMart. Their attitude towards unions, and workers in general, is at best hostile. At worst? It’s aggressively so. They also don’t pay living wages, and say it’s my fault as a consumer. Hmmm.

I also don’t buy at any company that demonises same-sex relationships, or insists that workers follow the CEO’s idea of religion. Not Constitutional, but also not moral, by my book. So I don’t eat Chick-Fil-A, or support Home Depot.complicated 4

And then there’s Amazon…  Amazon is (of course!) complicated. As this article explains, Amazon is rapacious. As bad as WalMart, even with its workers (the article links to a 2nd article on Amazon’s treatment of its workers). Not to mention that Jeff Bezos — the man who both birthed & now embodies Amazon — was named World’s Worst Boss by the International Trade Union Confederation. For, basically, exploiting workers who have limited to non-existent choices of other work.

Despite how some of my colleagues tease me, I’m not anti-business. I’m also not anti-profits. I am strongly anti-profiteering & exploiting workers. When you refuse to provide humane working conditions (114˚ in a warehouse where you have 20 seconds to find an item, in the 16 football fields of the warehouse; see above links), you’re exploiting workers. When you pay them the least you can get by with, place the warehouses in right-to-work states (one’s going in down the highway, here in Oklahoma), so the workers have no legal rights to speak of…? I have issues w/ all of that.

via google

via google

Pretty clear-cut, right? Bear with me.

It’s not that simple, because Amazon also provides a lot of great services & technology. It’s revolutionised reading for kids, for adults, for many who didn’t read earlier, w/ the Kindle. It’s provided work for a lot of people who would rather take these awful jobs than not have jobs at all. It provides rural America w/ access to goods that are lacking in most small American towns. These are good things. And while it’s not as green as I’d like, that’s also subject to messy complication.

So I’m trying to figure out how to negotiate this complication, as I did WalMart (which happens to be a very green corporation). I buy tires at Sam’s, a WalMart subsidiary, to support their green initiatives. I don’t buy from WalMart, because of their worker policies.

Each of us draws our own line in the sand. The line may be straight, but I’m here to tell you: figuring out where to draw it? Messy. VERY messy.

I can’t tell you, yet, what I’ll do about my conflicted relationship w/ Amazon. I’m still giving it serious, headache-producing, thought. And coming up with more questions each time I consider. Probably that’s growth. Messy, right? And very complicated…

via flickr

via flickr

Poor Monday. Even after retirement, it remains the ugly dog you’d like to love, but somehow can’t. Too many memories of weekends spent catching up, and Monday showing up waaay too early.

Today’s a lovely day — cool morning, crisp. The hairy woodpecker busy demolishing the seed cylinder, a murder of crows on the roofline next door, sounding just like their name. But it’s still Monday, and the baggage lingers, like washing white clothes w/ new blue jeans…

I should be fine — tonight I teach, which I adore. I’m probably meeting a writing friend before that, to look at a MS she’s getting ready to job. And I don’t have anything else on my calendar for a few days. How relaxed is that??

Unlike the work-a-day world, my Monday is my own, free to fill as I please, for the most part. So obviously I need to re-frame Monday, rescue the poor thing from the past, and look at it as its namesake: Lundi, or Moonday. It’s not a big moon night tonight, but that really doesn’t matter. Nor does the fact that it’s  a waning moon, that other unfavourite.

via flickr

via flickr

For some reason, the waning phase of things — the moon, life — isn’t what we love best. We like things to be waxing: ripening, coming into fullness. Or perfectly in the middle, like a peach in July. Sweeter, it seems.

But the waning moon — and even Mondays — can be times to catch our breath, regroup. I seem to need more time for that these days. Perhaps it’s just that there have been a series of what Lemony Snickett would call ‘unfortunate events.’ More likely, I’m slowing down, waning. 🙂

That’s part of the schema, isn’t it? That my grandson is busting out, walking sturdily where a year ago he laid w/ large eyes of wonder, perfectly still. And I’m happy just to watch him on FaceTime, still thrilled at this unfolding, this waxing child.

Tonight marks the Autumnal Equinox, known as Mabon to my Wiccan friends. Like my own regrouping, it’s a time to harvest, giving thanks for the blessings of the earth, and asking for blessing during the upcoming winter.

maui labyrinth


This sounds, to me, like a perfect Monday activity. So here I am, grateful for my slow-paced autumnal life. Still scurrying at times, but mostly happy to be at the falling equinox. It’s peaceful, and a great way to reclaim this Monday.

If there were a labyrinth nearby I would walk it. Last year — almost 18 months ago — I had the opportunity to walk the reopening of the Sacred Garden labyrinth, in Maui. The three of us sharing it just lucked into the good fortune of it being a huge celebration. So with at least 70 or 80 others, I traced the path of the Chartres-based pattern, spiraling in then spiraling out. In the cool, green Maui night, it was magic.

That’s what I want for all my days, not only poor Monday. I want to be more aware of the mysteries around me, the days when lingering summer and upcoming winter balance perfect on the autumnal equinox. The beginning of a week still devoted to work, but not the kind I tend to get paid for.

Maybe if I look at Mondays as a walk through a labyrinth…? That kind of spiraling in & out…? What do you think?

Window, Old Ship Church, Puritan meetinghouse, Hingham, Massachusetts via Wikipedia

Window, Old Ship Church, Puritan meetinghouse, Hingham, Massachusetts
via Wikipedia

Today I was thinking — again — about the similarities between contemporary conservative Christianity (at least in everyday life) and historical Puritanism.

Several of us were discussing the sad state of Oklahoma’s schools. One mentioned that she has 30 (yes, THIRTY) kids in her kindergarten class. I added that a friend of mine has 220+ students in her English classes, which  means that even if she did a 50-hour week, she would only be able to put in 13.5 minutes per student, weekly. Including class time, lunch hour, etc.

We discussed how the newest Oklahoma state rating shows most OK schools failing. None of us believe that all Oklahoma schools are awful. Two of us believe that the tests are just godawful, and show nothing. Then a third said, but we DO need ways to assess learning. I noted that OK’s standards (we threw out common Core) are at the mercy of a governor who has cut school funding by more than any other state, and a state superintendent of schools who’s a dentist, w/ NO prior education background.

via google

via google

Someone noted that the Democrats, w/ Common Core, were no good. (and yes, I know that’s not really germane to the argument about the overcrowding and lack of resources, but the current OK gov is Repub, so I’m thinking that’s where the non sequiter came from).

I’m pretty knowledgeable about Common Core — my former job was instrumental in helping the local school district work on adapting to it. That was before OK dumped it. And Common Core wasn’t/ isn’t partisan; it was begun by the National Governors Association. And while it certainly hasn’t been implemented well — nor is its labeling by the right as ‘national curriculum’ helpful — it’s not intrinsically a bad program. The idea is just that since we’re testing w/ national, MANDATED high-stakes testing, all our kids should have access to comparable education. They currently do not. Emphasis is on critical thinking and writing in all content areas, as well as increased reading in all content areas. How  radical is that?

PuritanHere’s where the Puritan legacy comes in. The conservative Christians among us — including the teacher! — agreed that if we had more of God in our lives, and fewer broken families, education would be better. Wow. And just how would we make that happen? And exactly how could we legislate it??

This is the Puritans, folks. The Puritans said that if we just followed God, everything would work out fine. Hmmm… That didn’t work so well for Job. Or the many many nice people to whom bad things happen. But the thinking — and the move in a conversation about societal ills from doable solutions to abstract desires — is classic Puritan, as well as absolutely contemporary. I’ve written about this recently, and it still puzzles me whythis mindset lingers.

One of us noted that education problems would be solved if we fixed the broken American family.  Wow. And how can we do that? Well, by getting folks to go church, of course. And how can we get them to do THAT? And what about the kids already in the system?? What about schools like the one in Newkirk, which went from A+ to F in two years, because it took special ed students? Just how will stronger beliefs in this Puritan mindset help those kids?

Marvin Joseph, Washington Post

Marvin Joseph, Washington Post

This whole ‘just be a better person’ isn’t enough for me. I prefer the Quaker (and engaged Buddhist) approach: get out there and FIX IT. VOTE. Write letters. Educate people. Why on EARTH would we cut taxes for corporations, when we say we don’t have enough money for our own children??

And finally? Oklahoma is a loudly Christian state — each of the administrators I’ve mentioned even implicitly professes to be a devout Christian. So tell me again how belief alone is going to fix my broken schools? And what we can actually DO to make it happen? Because the ‘believers’ in charge sure don’t seem to care…


anubis2 Rarely do I feel inadequate, like I don’t measure up. If that sounds overly confident, I don’t mean to. It’s just that I don’t normally spend a lot of time comparing myself to others.

From a very early age I knew my life wasn’t like most American kids, so while I may have wished I had a different life sometimes, I didn’t feel I was unworthy, or ‘less than.’ Different, yes. But not inferior.

Still, when I rounded a corner in the Cairo museum many years ago, and saw this papyrus, I knew I would buy the copy hanging in our living room. Anubis — Lord of the Underworld, more or less — is judging the souls of the recently dead, weighing each soul’s heart against truth, shown by a feather. Light-heartedness was a definite plus, if you didn’t want to be devoured by Ammit.

Which is a longish way of getting to my afternoon yesterday.

Digression: Each time writers enter a journal contest, we pay (well, almost always) a submission fee. This helps underwrite the journal’s expenses for the contest, up to & including any cash prize(s). It also gives you a subscription to the journal. Which is a great way to learn more about contemporary writing.

Ammit, devourer of the dead. via Wikipedia

Ammit, devourer of the dead. via Wikipedia

But there can be a downside to reading a journal you just submitted your best work to: falling into the OMG! What the heck was I thinking, that I should submit here??? abyss.

Sigh. Who knew there was a journal that inherited the legacy of Ammit, devourer of the unworthy??

I don’t really believe I’m inadequate, and this is a journal that once accepted a much earlier piece of mine. But through a series of missed connections, the piece never ran, and I ultimately placed it elsewhere. All’s well, etc. 🙂 So I should, I know, let it go, and be glad I didn’t see the stunning piece FIRST, right?

Because let me tell you — it’s even odds I would NOT have felt I … well, measured up. All this angst, even though I know that by almost anyone’s metric, I’m a more than competent writer, even a prize-winning published writer. And yet we all have blind spots.

A very dear friend just lost her job. Not her fault, although you’d never know that to hear her describe it. Stupid employment protocols w/ noooo flexibility. Which means her previous employer is out a dedicated, hard-working, very knowledgeable employee. And my friend feels inadequate.

When I hear a story like that, I’m embarrassed to confess my own piddly insecurities. Which is very good for my beginner’s heart. Did I mention I’m glad I didn’t see the great published pieces first? 🙂