Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

a message from a fellow First Amendment follower

bill of rightsA friend sent me a blog post from a blogger I don’t follow. And what Mr. Lake had to say (he’s the blogger) had to say resonated deeply.

I’m the kind of person who donated money for free speech during the trials of Nazis in Skokie, Illinois. Knowing what I do now about hate speech, I probably wouldn’t. :) But at the time, it seemed to me (I was a working journalist) that if I couldn’t fight for those I condemn to speak freely, my beliefs weren’t worth much.


I feel the same way about freedom of religion.  As Lake notes, “No religion is safe when any religion can dictate public policy, law and education.” I’d put ANY in bold caps, myself.

There is a feeling among some Christians — and I know family members and close friends who feel this way — that Christianity is under attack. I find that assertion so untrue as to be almost laughable. Except that I don’t laugh (well, not very often…) at other people’s beliefs. But you’d have to be non-Christian to see the irony here.

We are discussing the rights of Christian businesses to bail on insurance, if it covers birth control. Even if they’re not Catholic (the only religion, to my knowledge, w/ a strong historical platform against birth control). We allow Christian families to refuse shots for the children. We take off from work for holidays that religions allare Christian: we don’t get off for Jewish Hanukkah or Muslim Eid al-Adha or Hindu Diwali.


But Muslim women have had to fight to wear their religiously  mandated head-covering, the hijab. Just last year, a woman in Oklahoma lost her lawsuit to wear her hijab to work. And try telling someone you can’t work during Ramadan (which is accommodated in most Muslim countries).

In other words? This is a predominantly — & preeminently — Christian country, despite popular evangelical claims otherwise. I’m not fighting the right of Christians to practice their faith. I am championing the rights of other (non)believers to follow their own paths. Which may be quite different.

first amendmentSo here’s to Jay Lake, who said it both more succinctly and more overtly than I can. “[Y]ou have absolutely no right to impose your beliefs on others through the public instrumentalities of government, law and public education. Any more than any one else has the right to impose their beliefs on you.” And THAT is the 1st Amendment, folks.



goldfinches, titmice, and wrens: what’s your pleasure?

wren on suet feederThe goldfinches have (finally!) arrived. They’re going through about a feeder of thistle seed every couple of days. My sister, looking out the breakfast room window onto the 1-2-3-4-5-6+ feeding and water stations, wondered aloud what this costs us monthly.

It’s not negligible. :) But it’s soooo worth it.


Afternoons like this, when there’s still a chill out, the soft warm light fills the room, slanting across the table as I try to draw a goldfinch. I might as well be counting breaths, I’m so focused. And mornings, the cool blue sky is just the wakeup I need w/ a cup of multicultural mocha. :)

We don’t go to many movies, we don’t have cable TV, we don’t have satellite or dish. Neither of us smokes anymore, and we don’t drink or do drugs. Birds are our splurge — we’ve been known to make detours through Africa just to see the flamingos. But we get almost as excited, these days, when the pelicans take over the sandbars on the Arkansas River.And crows in the pecan tree, or a hawk on the deck rail?  Wow. pelicans november 2


I’m not going to stretch for metaphors — I’m sure you can figure several out on your own. Suffice to say you get to a point where you don’t apologise for your pleasures not fitting what’s expected. Even if it’s ‘only’ runner-up in fastest growing American hobby. :)

There are good reasons, though, that sitting in the light (or the dawn fog, or the chilly afternoon wind, or even rain!) is a small price to pay to watch even sparrows. And why this fixed-incomer is willing to shell out $$ on thistle, black sunflower seed, suet, & other avian treats. Remember the dinosaur? Welll, when you watch a hawk watch a sparrow, you might be right in the (safer!) middle of Jurassic Park. :)


Quakers, foxes, Buddhism, and beginner’s heart

YouTube Preview Image

Even before I did a graduate paper on the Quaker preacher Elizabeth Ashbridge, I’ve been fascinated by Quakerism. The idea that the Divine is knowable to each individual, w/out the mediation of text or preacher or church, is a deeply attractive belief. One I hold firmly: you don’t need a preacher or a holy (wo)man to show you the Divine within.

I also love the silent worship — so like meditation, but meditation done in a group. Something else that draws me in. I still mourn the demise of a small meditation group I was in once. There’s something very different about being in a group, each of you turned inward and yet seating in amicable silence.


And I’m also very fond of the Ylvis song, “What does the fox say?” Partly because foxes are one of the most magical animals I know (slipping through the high grass by the creek, standing as still as stone, only his eyes moving). And face it: the music is fun.

So this parody, by Quaker Ben Guaraldi, was bound to be a favourite for me. Whimsical, profound (read the quotes — they’ll move you deeply), and beautiful. How beginner’s heart is that? And if you’d like more on Quakerism (and the real Fox), I’d point you to Friends Journal. A lovely, well-written journal that is as full of necessary surprises as Guaraldi’s video.

A note: there are more similarities between Buddhism & Quakerism than might, at first glance, appear. But go look for yourself. And as the song says, let yourself be open to peace. And integrity. We need more of both.


Say what? West Virginia isn’t as important as Chris Christie’s shenanigans?

imageOkay — so it’s politics and soapbox time (you can tune out now, if engaged Buddhism doesn’t fit your needs today — I really get it).

Sunday, NO ONE spent time on the disastrous West Virginia chemical spill. 300,000 American citizens fighting over potable bottled water so fiercely that WalMart has to call police, and the big news is weather & Chris Christie pulling Mafioso-type politics?


I don’t get it. Why is the environment not newsworthy? What is it about the future of our planet that we don’t care to talk about it? We are STILL doing these insane things! Fracking, Pipelines that will certainly break at some point. And precipitate similar disasters. Not ‘if,’ but WHEN. Accidents happen, and we have no fall-back plans.

The Gulf states are still  dealing with (well, trying to deal with) the fallout from the BP spill. Most — if not all — small family industries & businesses dependent on the Gulf ecology are down the tubes. I could go on in detail, but this information is readily available from impeccable sources: National Geographic, Smithsonian, Discover, Wired. If you’re a research-based journal, the facts are there. The accompanying photo is from the Christian Science Monitor, a reputably neutral source.


"Tar balls lie mixed with shells on the beach in Gulf Shores, Ala., in this June 11 file photo. Three years after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the petroleum giant and the Coast Guard say extraordinary cleanup operations in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi are done. Louisiana officials want the effort to continue." Dave Martin/AP/File

“Tar balls lie mixed with shells on the beach in Gulf Shores, Ala., in this June 11 file photo. Three years after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the petroleum giant and the Coast Guard say extraordinary cleanup operations in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi are done. Louisiana officials want the effort to continue.”
Dave Martin/AP/File


So I’ve come once again, and this is an ongoing challenge for me, to the conclusion that America hates science. Truly dislikes it. Loves the technology scientific research produces, and the medical advances. The PRODUCTS — which can be commercialised — we’re great with. But the process? I have NO evidence that ordinary people give a rat’s patootie, as my Aunt Alene used to say.

We don’t ‘believe’ in so many accepted scientific facts that it’s frightening. Many Americans (22 million!) still believe the moon landings were faked! Not to mention how many don’t believe in climate change, don’t believe in evolution, and generally don’t believe in science.

Still…. You’d think folks would believe that 300,000 American men, women, & children deserve clean water. And that the rest of us do too. Somehow, I thought that was an inalienable right. Guess Chris Christie is more interesting.




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