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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

30 Days of Love: RIP, Pete Seeger

Peter Seeger and his banjo, “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender,” Great Hudson River Revival 2011. (Flickr/Jim)

Peter Seeger and his banjo, “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender,” Great Hudson River Revival 2011. (Flickr/Jim)

I have always loved, admired, and respected Pete Seeger. As a musician, as a social activist, as an influence on American folk music, he’s one of my heroes. He died last night, and the world will be the poorer for his loss. As it was the brighter for his voice.

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Pete Seeger is the epitome of what 30 Days of Love is about, for me: standing up for justice, with the tools you wield best. In his case, a banjo and a voice. He took the idealism of his youth through his entire life, one bright gold thread in the nation’s tapestry of action.

Blogger John Nichols, from The Nation  eulogises Seeger and his  many accomplishments eloquently. Take a moment to celebrate a life well-lived, and deeply missed.

Rest in peace, Pete Seeger. You were a mighty warrior for the people.

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freedom of (and from) religion

1st amendment

As I’ve mentioned recently, freedom of religion is a big deal to me. And that freedom doesn’t mean you get to worship your mainstream religion in public and I don’t. Or that you can discriminate against me — even harass me — because my beliefs differ from yours.

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And yet, despite the very clear dictates of the US Constitution’s First Amendment on this, a school district in Louisiana is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union after a sixth grade student’s parents complained that the boy was being told he needed to change his religion, and accept that ‘this is the Bible belt.’ The boy’s family sued when the parish superintendent told them to transfer the boy, a life-long Buddhist of Thai descent,  where there were ‘more Asians.’

It’s also alleged that the boy’s science teacher — who teaches that evolution is impossible, and that the Bible is 100% true — called those who believe in evolution ‘stupid.’religions all

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How is this in any way reflective of the Christianity of Jesus? Where would this show up in the New Testament? As someone raised throughout childhood in a Christian tradition, I can’t imagine if I had been this disrespectful of my Indian, Việtnamese, Chinese, Japanese, or ‘other’ friends. Or my parents’ friends, who were Buddhist, Taoist, Catholic, Jewish, and Christian. Later, my own friends were Muslim, Hindu, atheist, pagan, and Wiccan. How on EARTH is being rude and hateful to a sixth-grader emblematic of ANY faith?

I don’t understand meanness. Never have. But I really have no truck w/ being mean to children. And even less patience with people who try to impose their religious beliefs on ANYONE. It’s not your business what my children believe, and having a principal, or teacher, or superintendent of the district ask if a child can’t change his religion to ‘fit in’ is beyond insulting. It’s flat wrong. And it’s also unconstitutional.

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30 Days of Love: ‘love’s austere and lonely offices’

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Today’s post is short but sweet, and courtesy of one of the best poets I’ve ever loved: Robert Hayden.  At times in my life I have been without words: desperately lonely, or bitterly angry, or lost in one of those interior labyrinths we all know so well. Hayden has always been there before me, to get me through.

Today, as I thought about love, community, and writing, he was there for me once again. The prompt for 30 Days of Love is to write our stories: of ourselves, of now, of our community. Hayden did all that, far better than I can dream of doing. His work memorialises  both day-to-day life and  great historic tragedies, as well as the injustice rained upon a black man in mid-century America. All of these are fitting, given today’s prompt.

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The poem below is one that reminds — every time I read it — of how little we know about love.

Those Winter Sundays ~ Robert Hayden

Sundays too
my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blue black cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the
cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently
to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

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30 Days of Love: drawing birds, getting it wrong, and compassion vs. love

goldfinch2This is not a great goldfinch sketch. BUT…. it’s measurably better than last year’s birds (see below). Because I’ve spent a YEAR drawing crappy birds. :) And they’ve grown slightly less wretched each month.

Here’s the kicker: you have to be able to look at the early birds ( :) ) to see the progress. You know where this is going…

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As I’ve mentioned many times in this blog (most recently yesterday), my family encompasses a wide spectrum of politics, religion, and personal beliefs. We range from extreme right-wing to pretty extreme left, from evangelical Christian to die-hard atheist. From converted Jew to converted Muslim. And in between? There are folks who never vote (really!), folks who practice paganism, folks who spend time in jail, and folks who do none of the above. It makes for interesting family dynamics. :)

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It can also make for defensiveness, and probably hurt feelings.

Yesterday one of the family whose beliefs are more in line with mine sent my blog post to another family member, whose beliefs are pretty opposed to mine. I probably would have recommended against that. listening and understanding

Suffice to say: the response was to say I don’t love Rush Limbaugh and Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Which is true. I have a very hard time loving mean-spirited people. Especially people who use their positions of influence to treat others badly. This makes me very non-loving.

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Digression that I promise has to do w/ drawing birds AND beginner’s heart:

A long time ago — at least 10-12 years — three horrible things happened in my world. None, thankfully, to me. But they were senseless violence that occurred in lives that touched mine, either personally or geographically. One was the murder by the uncle of my son’s best friend: the man murdered his wife, but police told her sister (my son’s friend’s mother) that they couldn’t prove it. The man just wanted to be shed of her. DIVORCE, anyone??

Second, the very dear friend of my sister-in-law — a man I knew, too — was murdered. Shot as he opened the door to a kid in his neighbourhood, for robbery. A man w/ very little material wealth. The kid got little other than prison time.

And third? A young mother of a baby and toddler was robbed of her welfare check as she came out of a building. She was shot (fatally), dropping her infant to the head-breaking pavement.

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