October 4, 2012

Psalm 137

Psalm 137 (Photo credit: Mouse)

To be on the planet at all is a stupendous opportunity!  Each of us has the chance to improve conditions here, clarifying and identifying situations that could be ameliorated by our special attention.

How frequently I become overwhelmed with “things that something should be done about”!

It is so easy to get lost in the labyrinth of problems.  The planet is too large for me!  The old platitude occurs to me today:  Bloom where you are planted.  I have always chafed at the idea of being planted.  I yearn for lightness, airiness, freedom.  Still…

We all need the good earth to pull sap into our veins, to stay hydrated, to fully live.  My daily practice is to open the Holy scriptures before the day is fully underway.  Here is what I do:  I ask God to lead me to what I need.  Then, I open the Bible randomly to a place in the Old Testament, the story of the Jewish people, the chosen family of God.  His miraculous interactions with ordinary people all through it make exciting reading.  Though often callous and rebellious, God reached down to guide and protect them from their many enemies.

Next, I open randomly to the New Testament, reading the pages in front of me, and finishing at least one chapter.  They are usually short.  The sayings of Jesus are in red ink in my version.  But quite often, the passages I am reading are all in black.  Both provide immediacy and intimacy for me, drawing me (small inconsequential human) to know there is a plan, has always been a plan, and I am counted.  I have a part to play.

Next I go to Proverbs, a book of 31 chapters, one for each day.  Pithy, wise, simple to understand, if I were only be able to read one book, it would be Proverbs.  Today is October 4, so I read Chapter 4.  Verse 23 is circled in my Bible:  Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.  I ponder its meaning.

Last of all, I randomly select a Psalm.  For me, the Psalms are a book of comfort and reassurance.  Once I have read a chapter, I feel refreshed and close my Bible.  The entire process is about 15-20 minutes.  If I want to, I can read more, but normally I do not.  I am a busy girl!

The immediacy of knowing God is with me, even when I seriously doubt it, as others have done since the very beginning, way before my time, and long before these books were written consoles me.  I relax, knowing it has never been just up to me to solve every temporal problem on earth.  All things work together in some mysterious way.  All we have to do is align ourselves with goodness, love, light and peace, to get a perspective of knowing when we have choices, to make good ones.  It is a VERY individual walk, yet it affects the entirety.

I must bloom today, but could not do so if I had not been firmly planted first.

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Pigs in the Parlor

Terrible suggestion, right?  Years ago I read a book titled “Pigs in the Parlor”, and it was about deliverance of demons from human beings, in a literal sense.  I have forgotten most of it, but thirty years ago, it was quite a sensation.

I am not going to talk about the merits of the book, or even the merits of deliverance today, but rather the metaphorical idea of having pigs in our parlors.  First of all, in 2012, very few young people even know what a parlor is, and the same group only have a very limited idea of pigs.  Even in my own mind, a parlor has little meaning, and all I know of pigs is to stay as far from them as possible.

The parlor was a kind of salon in which the hostess received guests in the most precious and formal terms.  The very best furnishings, valuables, and serving pieces were on display for all to see and enjoy, and envy, truth be told.  Prim ladies sat at the edge of the chairs, backs Victorian straight, sipping English tea from porcelain cups and saucers, stirred gently (only two circles, never touching the side of the cup) while the general conversations continued in either hushed or tinkling tones.  It was a “presentation” room, where people entered with the understanding they would use their very best behavior.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parlour

We do not have parlors in this sense anymore.  It is probably never going to become stylish to have one.  Yet, in ladies’ circles all over the world, one can see remnants in our behaviors.  We like to present our best face to the outside world.  We try not to make mistakes, or look foolish in public.  We meet girlfriends in outdoor cafes, and gossip over coffee and a tiny snack.  We meet for “Teas” occasionally, dressing for the occasion, and feel very special, like tiny girls over toy tea sets.

What is a “pig in the parlor”?  Weeeelllll…let’s just say you will definitely know one when you see one!  It is the bully who pushes other kids at the McDonald’s playground.  It is the drunk who shows up at his best friend’s wedding, in a loosely organized tux, barely able to stand.  It is the husband and father acting in  complete domination over his family members.  Or it could be the haughty woman in spike heels demanding faster service or else.  These are the people who disrupt, embarrass, knock things over, the ones who are never punished, never caught, who go about muddying up the peaceful and tidy scenes of our lives.  They are arrogant, rude, loud, and unashamed.  We say to ourselves, “That’s terrible.”  But we do nothing, as if our failure to act is more “polite”.  Constrained by our precious traditions, we fail to act appropriately.

I have had just enough of both of these worlds to say emphatically, when a pig enters a parlor, it is time to act.  You reach for your fan, your poker, or take off a shoe and deal with that thing!  Pigs do not belong in polite society.  They must be dealt with according to what they are.  Until we accept the pigs for who they actually ARE we remain fearful, and ill at ease.  Our tolerance of pigs leads only to disaster.

You are wondering who I am speaking about.  (Refer to my three examples above.)  Surprise! I feel frustration with everyone BUT the pigs!  We cannot blame the pig for storming into the parlor for tea and crumpets.  This is his nature.  He loves to squeal, duck under things, bite and roll in the mud.  A pig in his natural habitat is a very good thing.  But in a room full of china cabinets and glassware, he is out of his element, and we must assist him out the door.

I am against you, myself, and any other person who feels tolerance for pigs extends to our front parlors.  It does not.  And every time we do not confront boorish behavior when others are victimized by it we are wrong.  We must throw off constraint, niceties, and precious good manners until the pig is roundly dealt with and we restore sanity.  Next time you see a “pig in the parlor” ask yourself why you fail to act.  Take responsibility for it.  Own the behavior within yourself which allows pigs to roam freely among us.

And one last thing:  While we are introspective, we should examine ourselves to ensure we are not one of them.  A pig does not care if you are polite, loving and tolerant.  He is going to do his muddy thing until you admit he is a pig, and run him out of there.  THIS HE UNDERSTANDS.  And if we act as one, he will stop seeing the merits of entering that space in the future.  He will remain in his pen, lying in the mud, sunning himself, with no recriminations, resentments, or grudges.  He will be smiling.

Think What You Want

A strongly held opinion is not something we arrive at lightly.  Normally it is born of life experience, and grows over time to be reinforced, eventually becoming crystallized into a foundational structure for every action we take on a daily basis.  The belief has become so ingrained we operate within it, without even understanding why.

We arrive at adulthood early in life, but from the day we leave our parents until the day we die, we operate within the life structure provided to us during our formative years.  For this reason, the study of early childhood development has always fascinated me.  When I observe a “dysfunctional” adult, I immediately see a child who has had some kind of early childhood life trauma.  One can only imagine.

I  had to stop trying to do interventions on these people.  They are already lost.  Though this seems a harsh stance, it has saved me from disaster more than a few times.  I am now using my personal energy and resources to assist young families with the arduous task of rearing healthy adults who will eventually do the same when their turns come.  As a mother who has completed the cycle of launching three daughters, I have enjoyed observing them “getting it right” even among huge piles of laundry, and supper boiling over on the stove.  Their children absolutely glow.  And they have friends with kids just like them, which gives me great optimism about the future of this world.

Mom was a school teacher, one of those very gifted and energetic individuals who could bring talent from nearly any child.  When she retired she said sadly, “Give me a child five years old, and I will tell you whether he will succeed or fail in life.”  WHAT?!!  She went on to explain her opinion.  “By age five, the foundation for the rest of his life has been set.  His love of learning, his courage, his willingness to cooperate within a group, and many other things are already in place.  When he arrives in the classroom devoid of good experiences it is nearly impossible to reverse the damage.”

Wow.  This was a very heavy thought for me as a young mother.  I played devil’s advocate, sounding the depths of her position to be sure she had said something she could defend, because if it were true, it meant parents play a critical role in the general health of our entire society.  Before we finished she had explained it has nothing much to do with religion, political views, or even the public schools.  Great kids and bad come from homes.  HOMES.

Now I am a “wisdom carrier” myself, one of the “elders” who observe from the sidelines, watching  young families struggle with decisions that could break a heart, yet still must be made.  They consult me daily, looking for some hint, a clue, some guidance in the process.

A little known secret of the elders is never spoken.  I will take the risk here.  The secret is simply this:  There is no escape.  None.  You must do the work of LOVE, and it takes a lifetime to understand all that this implies.  Ironically, it is what any newborn knows from its first moments.  We are born with every tool, every willingness to learn, every good intention, and too much trust.

All we can do as parents is preserve this or mess it up.  By age five, the windows are closed.  The child enters the larger world with the evidence of our choices.  The most important work we can do in life is to rear children with their tools, their willingness to learn, and their love and trust intact.  If we get even close to right, we have made an impact on the world at large.

When you have time, watch a large group of young children at play, and without a doubt, you will be able to spot a child who glows and a child whose light has been diminished.  One will graduate with honors, and the other one will have a criminal record later in life.  Sound extreme?  Think what you want to.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are  created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable  rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  Thomas Jefferson was referring to men all over the world.  For us to return to sanity in America, we must, MUST extend these tenets to include our children at the earliest formative stages.

Be a light carrier, for the days are dark ahead.  We must martial ever resource, and this includes our foundation, the children.  They are the real wisdom carriers. If you doubt it, sit down and talk to one of them.