Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

talking about faith, hate, and civil discourse

no hateOn a FB thread a friend began, there’s a discussion of homosexuality, race, and gender. My friend is not tolerant: he lives his beliefs.

An aside: I don’t really like the word ‘tolerance.’ It always reminds me of the stuff I didn’t want to eat when I was a kid. My mother & grandmother said I’d learn to ‘tolerate’ them… Ugh.

I don’t WANT folks to ‘tolerate’ my niece, my best friends, my family. I want the people I love to be seen for their own beautifully complex human-ness. And yes, I understand that’s not going to happen easily, in many people’s hearts.

That said? If your religion requires you to hate, there is something seriously wrong with it. NO mainstream religion that I know of has a founder who advocates hate. And Christianity is based on the words of Jesus, ostensibly, not the Old Testament, which is filled with hate. (Another aside: have you read the OT lately? That is a DARK piece of work!)no hate 2

Yet the Jews, who follow the Old Testament, are not people of hate. Paradoxically, it’s Christians who most often claim that dubious distinction. And fundamentalist Muslims, with whom fundamentalist Christians have far more in common than they acknowledge.

My religion is kindness, says the Dalai Lama. And that’s my mantra this year. My resolution, as it were. :) I want to be kinder. But sometimes, kindness is the wrong kind of tolerance. So in those cases, I’m going to aim for civil discourse. As I will on my dear friend’s FB page.

His cousin believes that gays are ‘destroying religious tradition.’ And that transsexuals are boys & girls who subvert the dress code to gain access to locker rooms. Somehow, religion also enters this.

god's fan clubHmmm…. I’m not sure how to answer that, other than to note that many churches (notably the old Catholic  Church) came out for slavery, and for racism, and for the abuse of women & children. Some still do. Do we allow that as ‘freedom of religion’? Is that a viable excuse for wrong actions? For denying human beings the right to live their own lives? Do you really believe that anyone CHOOSES to be gay? To be bullied, beaten, disowned by your family & church, and have the ultimate right — to love whom you please — denied you?

My other resolution this year is to be positive, to not bash, but to uphold & uplift. More love, less anger :). So what I’m asking is this: why can’t we agree to disagree? Why do laws have to be punitive? If people aren’t hurting others, why do we need to make laws to punish them? I feel this way about a lot of things: marijuana, gender, cat ladies. NOT of equal importance, of course. But equally none of my business.

What is this great hatred of things different from our own upbringing? Where in any belief does it say it’s okay to hate those who are different, and punish them? Given the incredible challenges with translating ANY text thousands of years old, why are we so sure that hate is what is asked for?love

This year, what would happen if we tried to love as fiercely as we have? If we each lived our life from the point of view that what doesn’t make us more loving isn’t part of our faith? I’m not certain, but my thought is we’d change the world. It would at least make reading FB more pleasant.

poetry, politics, and beginner’s heart

If changing the world is your fight, it will exhaust you.

But if it’s just your way of being, it will be effortless!

So promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate.

~ Buddhist Boot Camp

This is going to be my New Year’s resolution #1. Stop going off on things. Because I do, as anyone who knows me even slightly knows well. :)

grief3I’m going to remember what Robert Frost said: Poetry is about the grief. Politics is about the grievance. And be more a poet than a politico. :) Politics is important, certainly. Law can protect people from the actions of mean-hearted people. But it doesn’t often change the attitudes of those people. It doesn’t change hearts.

That’s what poetry is for.  Dealing with the grieving fallout of racism directed at a child (those chilling pictures of Ruby Bridges running the gauntlet of hate), the battered psyche of a young boy beaten by homophobic bullies, the terror in the eyes of a girl who will never ‘date’ without thinking of its silent partner, ‘rape.’ new year resolutions

If a book can galvanise a country to illegalise slavery, then perhaps a poem (or an essay or a story or another piece of art) can change a heart. Without the acrid aftermath of anger.

I think it’s at least a good place to begin, this New Year’s Day. What about you? What do you resolve to do this year?

farewells, and a goodbye belief

goodbye2I’m not good at goodbye. Nor farewell, nor see ya later. Nor any kind of leave-taking. HATE them. Too many moves as a kid. Too many folks I’ll never see again.

Buddhism is the ultimate goodbye belief. You know: the whole everything is transient thing? How everything passes? And you do realise: ‘pass’ is just a euphemism for IT DIES.

Sheesh. Talk about ending up in your discomfort zone.

Yesterday it was my elder son, DIL, & grandson. Today it’s my younger son. Every day it seems like there are farewells to be said. Sometimes just goodnight. Sometimes far more permanent.

We didn’t think so at the time, but when my mother died, it took an entire day. She’d had Alzheimer’s, so we knew she was dying for a while. But the actual process took a bit. Which during the hours, seemed like hell. But now? How lucky we were to be able to say goodbye. To sing to her, to hold her, to let her go. goodbye3

Putting my sons, DIL, and grandson on planes is nothing like even the little death that is sleep and nightmare. But these days, life seems far shorter than it did even a decade ago. Anything can happen in uncertain times, it feels like.

That’s the upside of a goodbye faith: everything is very precious. Because you KNOW it will pass — die a natural death, and change into something else. The seasons — those signposts of life for so many religious festivals — remind us of this: spring’s growth is burgeoning summer is autumn flame is the bare twisted branches of winter.

And saying goodbye remains my hardest task.

Aftermas: the importance of taking/ making time

christmas hourglassThere’s an inevitable fall-off after Christmas. All the fierce anticipation — even for grown-ups! — of presents (given or received), the worry about dinner (especially for the cooks!), and just the fatigue resulting from late nights baking, wrapping, and picking up family from the airport.

And that’s for a relatively perfect Christmas holiday. Just imagine if you have no real home, no money for the have-to-have toy, or maybe have lost someone you love. What do you do after Christmas? I can’t imagine — our first-world, happy Christmas blues are all I want to ever deal with.

In our family, we solved the post-Christmas doldrums accidentally. Trying to accommodate new family members, their families, and various work schedules, we have our huge family celebration late — this year on December 28th. We call it Aftermas. :)

Everyone brings things — we host at our house (it’s the biggest, and closer than my niece’s, the next largest). Vegetarians introduce us to great non-meat dishes that are more than simple sides. Meat eaters scarf the spiral ham and brisket that have become tradition. And I work hard at devouring ALL the many salads & sides; we haven’t even gotten to dessert! christmas hourglass2

It takes forever to feed us all — there will be about 20 or so this year, including holiday orphans and partners and rug rats. And in my family, when you unwrap gifts, you do it one by one. Every year the next generation rebels and stages a mutiny. So far, the four sisters (my three sisters & I) have won the field, and we still unwrap for HOURS. It’s glorious!

There’s so much paper that we all feel a bit guilty. Even though as I’ve said, I save the ribbon and ALL the bags the kids haven’t squashed. There’s a LOT of loud laughter, teasing, bad puns, and talking with mouths very full.

But more important, there’s time. Santa has come & gone, and there’s been at least one or two days to calm down. So that the food is welcome again, and the grownups aren’t worn to a frazzle from wrapping. The kids aren’t up to their necks in sugar, and the whole celebration is…well, more celebratory.Even when my beloved & I each commit — w/out consulting the other — to keeping my wonderful grandson the WHOLE DAY I should be shopping & cooking & fixing.

maslow's hiearchyThe more I think about it, the more I wonder if time shouldn’t be on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Right up there with love & belonging. Because time — the time to enjoy love, the time to appreciate your family, your tribe — is critical. Without it? I don’t know if you really CAN have the others.

When my husband & I were raising young children the big buzz phrase was ‘quality time.’ What we decided, as we talked about work choices and moves and our priorities, was that without quantities of time, quality time didn’t really happen in the same way.

And this holiday, as I cooked a big dinner for only the five of us (and a baby :) ), I was so grateful to have time to rest & relax. To be able to sleep in Christmas morning, and make coffee for the later risers. To go present by present, oohing & aahing at each one. Knowing we didn’t have to rush to make room for another ‘party.’ holiday tea 2

As you wind down from your holiday — hectic or not — make time. You can, you know. You can create it out of almost nothing. After work, on the way home, listen to a holiday song you didn’t get to before Christmas or Solstice. Make a list of what all you received — if you start it this year and keep it up, it makes a lovely record of past holiday times. If you were lucky enough to receive a bottle of wine, or a tin of tea, maybe some hot cocoa mix, fix a glass or mug and just sit. Preferably by a fire… :)

Time will drift like perfect snowflakes into your lap. I promise.

 

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