Elderly

Allie and I celebrated the new year with a walk in the woods to the south of our house. The area is part of a designated wildlife corridor crossed with trails. We met no one and thus had some time together in the quiet we enjoy here. She walked right by my side, a companion of 13 years matched to my almost 73.

I don’t walk on trails with as much confidence as I used to. Rocks and roots must noticed and avoided. I don’t leave on a walk without my cell phone. Allie has much more grace with this than I, and more spring in her step.

Doesn’t mean I wasn’t enjoying the experience. It just involves a bit more.

My project this year is to explore the concept and experience of what that “bit more” is and might be. I want to start a conversation (with myself if no one else) that’s more than small talk  I would also like to avoid “organ recitals,” the recap of medical history that admittedly builds friendships and gives us a sense that maybe our diagnoses are not that worrisome.

Since we live in a culture that doesn’t value being old, what does the word “elder” mean from the perspective of one who qualifies? Now that I’m not defined by the work I used to do, where am I? To quote Joan Chittester:

“For the sake of our happiness and mental health, we must also answer the question: What am I when I am not what I used to do? And does anybody really care? And what does that have to do with growing into God?”*

*Chittister, Joan. The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully, Blue Bridge, 2008, p 8.

 

Intention for Today

American FlagI’ve seen many memes and aphorisms on Facebook with the general theme of “pray for peace.” Nothing wrong with that, but as the woman in full hijab rang up our purchases at Wal-Mart in Grand Forks ND three weeks ago I got to thinking about how results might be better if we were more specific.in our intentions.

My thought is to imagine a place where you have been (or want to be) that invokes serenity. For me it’s the forest, quiet and green. I envision a circle around a campfire where many people can sit comfortably and see each other easily.

I would invite people to sit and share their vision of America. The woman in hijab, my African-American cousins, several of my neighbors here in Port Townsend and maybe that guy with the pick-up truck with the Confederate Battle Flag in the rear window. The refugee from a war-torn country seeking a place for her family and a member of the DAR. The guy who runs a pharmacy on Main Street. A grandchild or two. The nurse who cared for me whose husband had died and was living paycheck to paycheck. Just folks. You can make up your own invitation list.

We’d go around the campfire and share our vision for America and how we might achieve it together. Deep down, what is it that gives us pride in where we live? What values can we share to build us up as communities and not tear apart? What is about our country that makes us grateful?

America has always been an experiment in self-governance. We are an imperfect nation that paints over our flaws with myths and symbols that perpetuate that imperfection. I’d ask my group what new myths and symbols would help us build a country that was inclusive and compassionate. Can you envision such myths and symbols?

The campfire would close with an affirmation to hold these specific hopes and dreams in our hearts and to look forward to a fresh new direction for all of us.

A synod for America

The United States has had a civic religion since the country was founded, based on those persons, places and ideas that citizens feel are “sacred” to their sense of country. In our beginning it was the Declaration of Independence and the almost deification of George Washington. At a baseball game there is the National Anthem, Old Glory the size of, well, ball fields and God Bless America. We have troops, who must be Supported. Some regard presidents as sacred to our country; certainly Lincoln falls into this category.
The changes to our demographics are now causing a shift in HTC the objects of civic religion. Blacks are rightly asking how much some of these sacred objects are examples of white privilege. Southerners take a look at Dixie and Jefferson Davisi being replaced with highways and streets named for ML King and Barack Obama. Their sacred flag is now vilified and torn down.
Muslims hold Allah and the Quran to be sacred, and so are much quieter in their assimilation.
The angry folks in our county resent these changes, much like conservative Catholics after the Second Vatican Council. The order and placement of the Mass and the altar had changed, and the mysticism of Latin was now plain old English.
Being White, as a sacred status, no longer guarantees top ranking in society as social justice lifts more and more groups to equal position. A woman is running for president, and this after eight years of an Afro-American. Is nothing sacred anymore?
No wonder there is so much animosity. People are adrift and fearful.
So it’s time to talk about what sacred objects will bring a sense of country today and in the future. What is “America” for the 21st century? In religious parlance, people of a faith come together to prayerfully consider their future at a synod. There is often conflict, but the greater good of the bodyb of believers is uppermost. Since we have no effective government, it’s time for We the People to act.

The Ballot

BallotPut a stamp on my Washington state primary ballot this morning, marking my affiliation with the Democratic party and voting for Bernie Sanders. The primary here doesn’t apportion delegates, but it was a positive thing to do, one small way of witnessing this year’s presidential race.

I believe that Bernie and We The People who support him have something valuable to add to the party and the nation. I am hoping that all the enthusiasm that he has generated can be heard and that change will occur. He may not be the Democratic nominee by virtue of establishment politics, but change has been incremental in this country rather than violent.

I hope that Bernie supporters will remember that the other party will probably nominate a man who would be an extinction event for the republic if he won. Hillary is not my choice for many reasons, but third parties are not the best answer to this dilemma. Sitting out the election in a pique, in my opinion, would be an abrogation of civic responsibility. Sometimes we need to morally make choices that are not black and white.

 

 

Violence

Weapons are the tools of violence;
all decent men detest them.
Weapons are the tools of fear;
a decent man will avoid them
except in the direst necessity
and, if compelled, will use them
only with the utmost restraint.
Peace is his highest value.
If the peace has been shattered,
how can he be content?
His enemies are not demons,
but human beings like himself.
He doesn’t wish them personal harm.
Nor does he rejoice in victory.
How could he rejoice in victory
and delight in the slaughter of men?
He enters a battle gravely,
with sorrow and with great compassion,
as if he were attending a funeral.
– Lao Tzu (c.604 – 531 B.C.)

So now, another episode of gun violence, this time a Planned Parenthood site. White guy captured alive after killing a cop (and others). We have a fascist white man running for president (with millions of supporters) stoking fear and hatred, with the other candidates his party not far behind in rhetoric.

I played the weapons and violence game a long time ago in a land far, far away. When today’s domestic violence happens, daily it seems, I take a deep breath and go numb for a few minutes. The lack of compassion, mindfulness and logical thinking in the responses is what hurts the most. The rote replies of most politicians is sickening (I almost wrote political leaders, but I’ve stopped using those two words together).

A walk in the woods is needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tribal Thinking & Myths

Our culture is headed in the opposite direction of my own journey toward inclusive belief now. I’m not talking about the small stuff, like the Mariners’ season, but anti-intellectualism, violence and lack of moral compass.

This list is imposing and deserving of more than one post, but now I’m thinking of the symbols, myths and legends that ought to be giving us a shared sense of right and wrong.

“A true religion is precisely one that can teach you how to recognize and honor God everywhere, and not just inside your own group symbols”. – The Perennial Tradition, Richard Rohr.

American culture appears to be getting it’s shared sense of right and wrong in the post modern era from sources unencumbered by the thought process. The foundational myths of the United States have been co-opted by tribes, despite what  our president repeats about us all being Americans. The community sense of “We the people” and the belief that our republic would survive only if virtuous individuals came together for the common good have been pushed aside in favor of the rugged individualism and lawlessness of the Wild Wild West.

So where do we get our shared sense of right and wrong? What are the myths that drive our identity today? Seems like the strongest one is the military. “Army strong” has become [fill in the city where a tragedy has occurred] strong. “Boots on the ground” objectifies the reality that those boots are filled with human beings who bleed and die. The US flag has replaced the Constitution as our source of national identity. Saying thank you to those who serve in the military has become attached to every national day and event we have. Those who serve now include many more who wear safety services uniforms. The words honor and hero are so loosely used as to include everyday actions that belong in the category of job descriptions. “Protecting our freedom” is a tagline, but nobody ever asks how exactly that is happening in places like Irag and Afghanistan.

The paragraph above does not mean any lack of respect on my part for members of the armed services, or police and fire departments. This myth began with our government and the media. It instills crisis mentality and black and white; or red, white and blue; thinking.

More American myths include rugged masculine individualism, the gun culture, the Lost Cause movement after the Civil War, the belief that technology (and money) and solve all of our problems, American exceptionalism, the rights listed in the Bill of Rights have no limits or responsibilities, rampant capitalism and companies have the same rights as individuals. Quite a list, and certainly not exhaustive.

Where do thoughtful people look for relief? We remain thoughtful, we vote, we keep the issues in front of our friends and we give to the election campaigns of women and men who understand where these myths are taking us. Perhaps we can reach a point where the shared sense of right and wrong becomes civil and inclusive.