Awkward Questions We Must Ask During This Pandemic —  Even if It Means Losing a Friend

image from Politico

Awkward Questions We Must Ask During This Pandemic —

Even if It Means Losing a Friend

By Jane Tawel

July 1, 2020

 

When I first became a mom and had my four wonderful children, now all grown and adulting, I loved being with them, caring for them, watching over them like a mother hen. And so most playdates included me. I was always a bit cautious about dropping my children off with other people, even if I knew them, was good friends with the parents, or possibly even was related to them. It wasn’t exactly that I didn’t trust them but….. I didn’t trust them. I mean I didn’t trust anyone but their loving dad, to truly love and watch-over and protect and care about my kids as much as I would. I never minded other parents dropping their kids at my house and was always a hawk on the sidelines trying to ensure safety to all the children, even the ones who were not mine. If I had to leave the swimming pool as a lifeguard, ALL the kids had to get out of the water (“But Mom we’re teenagers now”. “Too bad, out.”) The one time my kids were in a hot tub at a friend’s house, and I asked her to watch my kids while I went to breast-feed the baby, my daughter almost drowned right in front of my friend. Luckily her sister was there to save her. So, call me overprotective, call me a worry-wart, call me a helicopter mom — all true — if it was about safety and protection. I didn’t try to protect my kids from risk or failure, or learning or fighting their own relational battles — but physical safety — heck yeah! I believed that as long as I could, I would do my very, very best to protect them. Now, since they are young adults, the most I can do is caution and pray (and they will confirm I do plenty of both — still my job).

 

But then all the kids started getting old enough to want sleep-overs. It would have been rather weird for them if I had insisted that if they wanted to sleep over at a friend’s house, their mom — I — would have to sleep-over too. And of course, I didn’t do that. But I did often have to say no to sleep overs, especially if I didn’t know the family or other kids or parents that well. But even if I did know them fairly well, I would always have to ask this very awkward question: “Do you have guns in the house and if so, where and how to you store them?”

 

Asking someone if they keep guns at home is a bit like asking someone on a first date if that’s a pimple or a cold sore on their lip. Awkward! However, this thing about guns in this country is something people think very, very differently about, and so when you ask a very reasonable question, it feels intrusive because people see it as political. For me it had nothing to do with my view of guns or my view of my friends — it had to do with, “will my child be as safe as possible at your home, and do you consider this an important safety issue like I do?” This was something I had learned to ask as a careful, discerning parent, and yes, some people got offended, and yes, some people might have lied, and yes, some relationships fell apart even, but at the same time, asking might have made not only my kids safer but made those families safer too, if they found out they or their own friends were not treating gun ownership and storage with the seriousness it should be. I knew without a doubt, that even if it was an awkward conversation, I would rather my children and I be “safe and not sorry”. You see, my children’s lives are the most precious gifts I have ever, ever received and I wanted to treat them as such. I would never get another one of J, C, V, or G — my unique and oh, so special four children — and so I didn’t mind being considered a bit overprotective, even if it cost us a “fun time”; even if it cost us a friend.

 

Fast forward to 2020, and some of us who would rather be “safe than sorry” have got to start being “the careful parent” of our own lives and the lives of others. As Corona Virus continues to rampage through our nation, we may not be able to control other people’s foolishness or lack of care about their own or our safety — but we CAN control their access to us, do our best to not be unaware of or ignorant of their behaviors both in our presence and apart from us, and speak out when necessary. We do have the right, awkward as it may feel, and the responsibility to protect ourselves and our children, and our children’s children. We must truly take seriously any possible threat to our well-being, even if “those people” do not. But just like guns, some people see the safety precautions and their rights to do whatever they want with the weapons of this virus as a political issue. Don’t let them do that to you. It is not — any more than gun safety is a political issue. It is a life-issue and a safety-issue and an issue about how much we care about each other. And so it feels intrusive and awkward to bring the subject up, but if we start caring more about our health and safety and the health and safety of others, more than we care about our feelings or egos or politics, then we will make having these awkward conversations just one more part of the new normal. We will make asking the right questions of others a matter of caring about them, and we will willingly share with others what they need to know before they decide to meet with us. We will be honest, even with our most casual acquaintances and we will be truthful with ourselves when we ask, “is this event worth my giving up something in the future with people I love?” And dear, dear folks — we need to start having these conversations before we get together with other people.

 

And sometimes the hardest conversations are with the very people who are your best friends and your beloved family. Having to ask your parent or child, “by the way, before you come over, what have you done this week, how safe were your co-workers this week, and are you still wearing a mask and washing your hands like a surgeon”? Last week, when we were lulled into a sense of security (false as it turns out this week) that maybe we could have another couple over for a socially distanced, outdoors, bring your own food and utensils, keep it distanced and keep it short little get-together at our house, we made all the arrangements until I mentioned the time. Then my friend (who is 70 years old and has been quite careful about following all the protocols during the pandemic / quarantine) asked if we could make it later in the day since the day before we were to meet, they would be hosting a party for a friend’s son who was graduating high school and she would be hosting 30 -40 other people. Yep. True story. I was rather flabbergasted and yes, blindsided. So my hubby and I discussed it and I texted her a very kind, sweet text asking if we could delay the get-together and she was very kind and texted back, ‘of course we could’. But here’s the scary part — if she hadn’t mentioned it in passing, I would never have known how many other households I would be exposed to through her the very next day. I never would have known if she hadn’t let it slip that her “gun was loaded in an unlocked drawer” so to speak.

 

So here is the gist, the bottom line, the stern warning, the upshot, the please, please, please let’s all commit to doing this. We absolutely must start quizzing people about where they have been and with whom and for how long and what protections they used when they did it — BEFORE we get together with them. Remember that old adage that every one your mate has had sex with, you technically have also had sex with? Well, corona virus is like that, y’all, but the thing is — if you’re asymptomatic or have just recently been exposed — you don’t even know that you’ve “had sex” with the virus. So, abstinence is finally the right solution folks — and we do that by sacrificing pleasure for the long term health of all us, and by masking up, social distancing, washing like a surgeon, telling each other the truth, and making good (even when tough) decisions for those we love.

 

We can’t be embarrassed around each other or irritated if someone asks us about our exposure or if we have been following protocols with the Corona Virus — this is killing us folks! We certainly cannot keep being offended if someone asks us to follow the safety guidelines when we are with them and we must stand up to those who act offended by our desire to protect ourselves and our children from them — (do I need to say it again? THIS IS KILLING US.) Just like asking if someone’s guns are stored in a safe, locked lockbox, we have to start asking people if they have been “locking down” the threat of their corona virus possibilities. Just like I never believed (without proof) someone who would say, “oh don’t worry, I’ll watch your kids” or “how dare you ask, my kids would never do such and such” or “don’t worry I’m very careful with the gun I keep loaded in my bedside drawer” we can’t pretend that all of us don’t stretch the truth to protect ourselves from criticism or from having to change our behaviors. We can’t really keep expecting to believe that others are being careful to protect their own health or mine, unless we are willing to converse, and communicate, and dialogue. And we should not shy away from a little bit of questioning and a commitment to get some reasonable answers on the part of those we would like to be with.

 

I will promise to never be offended if family or friends quiz me about whether I am doing my part for their safety. I won’t get my hackles up even if my very own children say to me, “Mom, we can’t come over this Saturday because you went to such and such a place and were with such and such a group”. I know they are saying no to being with me in order to protect me and because they know how much I love them. They may understand my choices to do “such and such”, just like I might understand their choices or a friend’s choices and we may be perfectly fine, even in agreement with — even applaud — some of those choices to do things with other people or attend something that is important. BUT approval and agreement for each other’s choices as important enough to perhaps do something that risks our health, means that we will not be able to do “our things” together if it means we won’t be safe together — not until this horrible plague is over. And God willing, someday it will be over. Then — we can all literally and figuratively breathe easy, and “let the parties and concerts, and museum trips, and play dates and sleep overs begin!!

 

What it means to do the right thing right now by all that we have been entrusted with, is that we must be willing to be seen as overprotective if necessary, even if it costs us a “fun time”, even if we lose a friend, even if someone is offended. We just cannot risk the worst by hoping for the best. We absolutely must not send off our lives to a risky play-date situation or entrust our health to an unsafe sleep over. We must prove that we can trust each other, by honestly communicating with each other. And — If we haven’t already, we must begin to treat our health and well-being as the precious gifts they are. We won’t be getting any other lives with which to replace these very unique and special ones we have, and just like our children, our lives are counting on us to protect them.

The Problem with the Unpatriotic Use of Flags and Anthems

American Flag

“American Flag” by Zoramite is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

The Problem with the Unpatriotic Use of Flags and Anthems

By Jane Tawel

June 25, 2020

So, here’s the thing about flags and anthems, folks.  They aren’t meant for sporting events or openings to concerts or educational institutions in the first place.  We have gotten so used to the unpatriotic use of flags, pledges and sung anthems, that we get quite confused when people choose not to abuse their use by not pledging, not singing, or goodness-sakes, protesting the abuses by people of what these symbolic gestures are meant to signify. A case can be made for flags and anthems at Olympic or International games or Patriotic events on national birthdays, or schools that train soldiers, but those are each a different kettle of fish. If we would rewind and get ourselves out of the silly place we’ve boxed ourselves into on this issue, maybe we could figure out how to actually honor our country and also figure out how to protest what is wrong with it.

 

Flags are for soldiers in battle and honored in death for those fallen in battle. Flags are for those who serve the public in the halls of congress, the courts of justice, and in the streets and byways where those who have taken an oath of service to community, state, and nation help us stay safe and protect us (ALL of us). I think it would be great if Congress, the Senate, The White House and all state and local governments had to begin every day gathering together (TOGETHER)  to sing the national anthem and salute the flag.  That is what these symbols are for, to remind our government officials that at least in America, we do not exist to serve them, but that they exist to serve us, and that they serve the ideals of the best of “us”.

 

Flags and national anthems are not for the beginning of a school day any more than they are for the beginning of a work day. That is for purely communist countries, where citizens work for the good of the nation, not the other way around. Not that these countries exist, but the false premises do. Jobs and education are what nations provide for the betterment of the citizens, who in turn, make the nation better because of their opportunities. Unlike in certain other countries, we are not meant to serve our nation when we are pursuing our dreams, our nation works to serve us and to provide viable employment and useful education for its citizens so that they may pursue life and happiness.

 

America is founded on the idea of liberty within reason. “Reason” meaning, we need educated, thinking, ethically-trained citizens. One of those liberties is the idea that we can worship in the way we believe it is right to worship, as long as it doesn’t harm another person, of course.  This means if my religion or belief system teaches me that I do not “pledge allegiance” to anything or Anyone other than my God, I do not have to pledge allegiance to a flag unless I am fighting for my country against another country.

But true allegiance in belief-systems, religions and patriotism seems to be a lost virtue. Allegiance means that I can (and should)  do a lot more than recite an empty pledge or hum a mumbled anthem to support and honor my country. I honor my religion, or my worldview or my nation by the way I live out its best beliefs and adhere to the ethical ideas of the best of the human beings who trod this mortal coil.

 

People who do not live according to a religious belief should not confuse patriotism for religion either. Whether we like it or not, no nation or empire or kingdom has ever been eternal and the planet will keep spinning (we hope) long after any nation has come and gone. Symbols are bigger though than any one belief-system or one place or one people. Symbols (such as flags) represent those “truths we hold self-evident” and true truths ARE meant to be eternal. This is what we praise when we raise a flag or sing an anthem — we praise the truths that we put our trust and hope in — hoping that those truths will last far longer, and far outlast any particular team or nation or any one person has come and gone.

 

Religions aren’t meant to have flags. Religions are meant to entice followers to true truths no matter where they are from, and to accept people based on their need, not on their team mentality. There is no such thing as a “Christian” flag or a Buddhist flag and so forth, and when  nations combine religion with nationalism to make flags more important than ethics, or symbols more important than worldviews, they dishonor the whole shebang of their supposed beliefs – nation, God, and man.

 

There is such a thing as a religious symbol. In Christianity symbols include a cross and bread and wine. In Judaism symbols include things like a yarmulke or menorah.  In Islam, all symbolism is considered as something akin to idol worship. And so forth and so on.  Symbols are not religion, symbols are portals to seeking better understanding of deep ideas. This would be a good thing for us to consider when we raise a flag or sing with other citizens in praise of kin and country. When we share a symbol, we are recognizing our shared ideals and the daily struggle to make them a reality in the present of our very lives.

 

When we make symbols of patriotism hold religious status, we do a grave disservice not only to the idea of patriotism, but to the idea of religion. To think that someone is unethical because they do not sing an anthem but take a knee instead, to think someone is going against a belief of religious status because they do not pledge to a flag, is fallacious reasoning and harmful intention. More than that, in America, land of the free and the brave, the shining city on a hill, a democracy struggling for realization – forcing the worship of a symbol is downright unpatriotic.

 

Conversely, when we make our flag and our national anthem something we do at ballgames or musical concerts, we elevate entertainment and competition as the highest forms of our national ideals.  No wonder we have slipped down the slippery slope we have.

 

There are such things as religious anthems and they are called things like hymns, or prayers, or chants. They are sung for certain reasons at appropriate times.  And so should national anthems and flag pledging be. Religions are meant to uphold people spiritually, not patriotically.  And patriotism is meant to make us feel that together we are one people and one nation and that for the good of “US”, we can conquer anything that threatens to undo the ideals and values that hold us together as “one nation”. Whether or not that is under God or not, is up to us.

 

This idea of patriotism has nothing to do with football or church, nothing to do with cheering or praying, nothing to do with self-centered pride or idol-worship as holiness, nothing to do with education or entertainment. Flag waving and national singing together is meant for celebration of the best of who we are, like the birth of a nation (July 4th) or the remembrance of a tragedy that threatened to undo the best of who we are (September 11th).  And when and if we are not behaving as the best of who we were, who we are, and who we can be, then we demean and degrade the very ideals that are behind the reasons we have symbols in the first place.

 

A flag is a symbol, not an icon.  It is meant to symbolize what a particular country stands for. A flag is meant to encourage those who are waving it to understand what needs defending, uplifting, or improving. A flag is not meant to be defended as worthy in its own right,  but to remind us of what is worth defending as good and  just and kind and true and honorable in our nation. The converse of that is also true.

 

A flag should make us feel shame and dishonor when what we do or say is not for the good of all of a nation’s citizens and it should make us feel energized to change things so that the least among us is proud to be a part of who we are becoming – not who we were – who we can be.

 

A flag is about sacrifice not selfishness. Singing an anthem is about community not competition. When we let our symbols decay under the weight of injustice, lies, greed, and power mongering, we do far worse to the ideals that The United States of America used to symbolize to the world, than a mere flag burning or knee taking or protest poster could ever do.

 

I do not have to pledge to a flag to prove I love my country. To prove I love my country, I need to stand up for the best ideals, work to change what is wrong, and live according the best lights of my nation’s best values.  To prove I love my country, I do not need to sing a song (that is impossible for most of us to sing on key anyway), and I certainly am not meant to confuse patriotism with an entertainment event. To prove I love my country, my actions will always speak louder than words, and my heart of service to others and fight for the best ideals of this nation, will always sing more truly on-key than any anthem ever will.  Our country is not meant to be upheld in its grand and good ideas for the sake of its entertainment. And even though we seem to have come to a place where we think this is what America stands for, it is not too late to start climbing back up the hill, to light the torches of truth, to join hands to pull-up the weakest of us to stand on equal footing with the strongest of us, and to be that place that “So proudly we hail” once more at the world’s “twilight’s last gleaming”.

 

 

On September 11, 2001, some people did a heinous thing against the nation that I am honored to be a citizen of.  They could claim they did this in the name of nation or religion, but that would be a lie.  They did it because they had allowed hatred and pride, selfishness and false beliefs, to take deep roots in their souls. Their horrific actions had nothing to do with true religion nor with true patriotism. If we have learned anything in this current living generation from the tragedy of September 11th, it should be that patriotism has nothing to do with flag waving or history-worshipping or cheers for our sports or political teams. People who are abusing and twisting the ideals of our nation and stoking the mock cheers for self-centered patriotism are lying to us.  And their lies are dividing some of us, and killing others of us. Loving and honoring America is only as true and as good as the honor and love we give each other.

 

There are many peoples and nations who claim to do things in the service of all kinds of beliefs. History is a searchlight into our own hearts and minds we dare not turn away from if we do not want the darkness to finally and completely consume us. Nations have suffered from while propagating genocides, holocausts, terrorist attacks, enslavement, systemic racism, systemic misogyny, systemic impoverishment, dictatorships, and caste systems.  Many of these peoples and nations claim they do it for love of a flag or a symbol.  But this a lie. A flag that has ceased to be a symbol of morals and ethics, without honor and justice, without freedom and equality is not a symbol of anything worth honoring. It is a piece of cloth and certainly not worth our worship. It is barely worth our attention as entertainment.

 

A flag is only as good as the people it stands for. Perhaps that is the saddest thing of all about America thinking a flag or an anthem is worth nothing more than a place of honor at a competitive ballgame or the team-sport of a political rally. The saddest thing of all is that we no longer think we as a people are worth those noble ideals or ethical standards that caused some people to once pen these lines,  “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

 

 

If we want to truly honor the flag or our national anthem, it is way past time we started doing the things that honor not what America was, but what America can be. It is time to start forming a more perfect union, just as we were meant to. It is time to secure the blessings of this life for our posterity, just as our ancestors tried to do for us.   Until then, maybe the most religious and the non-religious of us should start taking a knee and the most patriotic of us should start pledging to take care of each other.

Little Things

Little Things

By Jane Tawel

June 19, 2020

 

Sometimes, all we can see are the very BIG, gigantic, massive,

momentous, colossal, towering,overwhelming things which

Threaten to undo us.

The feelings just run through us.

The thoughts swirl round like mucous.

And our souls relate to truth like Judas.

We long for change and newness,

But the mirrors that once knew us,

Now conspire to just excuse us

From the lies that now delude us.

Oh, the BIG things chew, chew, chew us.

And of course, the GREAT BIG Truth is,

We should let the BIG things do this

Or we’ll never overcome.

 

But sometimes we just need a break, a rest, a sabbath,

a time-out, a healing, and a peaceful pause.

Sometimes we need to look at and truly see the little things, like

a bird,

a bud,

a blade of grass,

a bead of water,

a bubble,

a leaf,

an ant,

a grain of rice,

the shape of an eyebrow,

a freckle,

a wrinkle,

a tiny toe,

the nib of a pen,

a fallen hair,

a seed,

a fingernail,

a grain of sand,

a tuft of fur,

a petal,

a pebble,

a smile,

a scar.

 

Sometimes we need the little things to remind us

That because they are worth living for,

The BIG things are worth fighting for.

 

So, we heal what was blinded, and restore our vision

And refocus our sights

 by looking at the little things.

And that makes the big things

seem small enough to face once more.

P1050907

“P1050907” by claymore2211 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Loss and Love Becoming

By Jane Tawel

Welcome to Happy Town..

“Welcome to Happy Town..” by In Memoriam: Mr. Ducke is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Loss and Love Becoming

By Jane Tawel

June 15, 2020

And so, we watch.  And listen.  There is sometimes nothing more. And sometimes the least we can do, is the best we can do.

 

And so, as all things must end, we grasp the final straw of a moment, wishing we could start a new haystack, start all over again, building something permanent, not something so easily burnt-up, burnt-out, smoldering within the hazy, choking smoke of our agonizing defeats.

 

And we look away from the fires, and we do not reach out our hands. These fires do not warm us. We run to the water, knowing that nothing lasts but the ebb and flow of life and death, life and death, life and death… like waves coming to shore but leaving for somewhere unkept.

 

Wishing hard will hurt the heart, but giving up will kill the soul. There can be no end to the mercy we must grant our pain.

 

“Yesterday, I should have done”. “Today, I must”. We tell ourselves tall tales while, Tomorrow beckons like a small flame easily snuffed-out by loss.

 

Each moment can be a new beginning to the hopes nestled in our cherished memories. Each intention falls short unless propped-up by a letting-go of self-containment. There is no joy in the prison of one’s certainty of aloneness nor in the sham of the inevitability of acceptance.

 

We do not long for a god residing somewhere past death, but crawl along the helpless shards of our afflictions for Someone better, Someone bigger, Someone who is not us but is with us. And every loss is a death and every death a loss.

 

And yet…. And yet ….

 

the soul responds to uncertainty with the certainty that death and loss are an illuminating darkness and darkness is what we were created to overcome. We fight the unacceptable with our acceptance that we are broken and with the stubborn wills of our need for wholeness.

 

We have never known wholeness. Its adopted spurious offspring are myths born of the illegitimacy of our need to numb our emotions and quell our rational fears. We claw at the desire to forget, clinging to forgetting like a raft in a hurricane. We remember in a panic and hold-on for dear life, for dear life, for dear life… to that which has almost drowned us and that which has kept us afloat.

 

In the suddenly YES! — we sometimes see fragments of a dappled radiance among divine clues hidden in plain sight in the world’s penumbra. We co-exist with Deity when we, weeping, Yearn.

We reveal ourselves to be that which from whom we most want to blind ourselves. And in our darkest nights, we awaken to a brilliance made porous by our pain. In the dawns of our best loves, we rise with tattered wings made translucent with the practice-flights of time.  Only with holes gaping in our souls, can there be light for the long journey.

 

We are most luminous when we are most changeable. The shadows see our lambent light and flee.

 

We long to look at loss and pain as dross, best left uncovered, undiscovered, unused. But pain is a geode, a hard, dirty clod, formed in fire, hiding its truth deep within.  Our hearts must be broken to find the glory nestled inside of us. The hard things formed in fire, when broken and opened, reveal a crystalline universe of reflective beauty, as substantial as heartache, as durable as hope, as fierce as love, as illuminating as the truth behind a waterfall of tears.

 

Every loss is a piece of the soul’s broken imagination. Each loss awaits the sticky residue of our tears, the paste of our determination, and the glue of our love. We gently hold our sorrow as long as it takes to see where it belongs, before we stick-back into place the broken part, reforming the wholeness within us.

 

The pieces of pain dug out from our depths are laid down, piece by piece, like small tiles, laid next to the bits and chunks of love we have mined- out from the moments of our best selves, and as we lay-down piece by piece of loss and love and love’s losses and losses’ loves next to each other, the mosaic of our life takes its exquisite shape. And it is dangerous and it is awesome to behold.

 

And with all the love and all the loss, we create the kaleidoscope of our celestial luminosity. And this is who we may yet become.

Geode

“Geode” by bobandcarol71661 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

(c) Jane Tawel 2020.

 

 

I Will Defend Your Rights With My Last Blogged Breath

This is something I was originally going to post only on my Facebook page, but then thought it might be useful to some readers on other mediums. I love the camaraderie and kindness and supportive comments of fellow writers on WordPress,and I try to do the same as often as possible, so this is not about anyone or writer that I have come across on this platform. I do know several people on Facebook who “inspired” this passionate plea for allowing freedom of speech and for questioning and for debate, and I think we have seen the problems I am trying to address in this post, exponentially take destructive roots quite clearly in far too many of our leaders in politics and religions. The following is inspired by the voices who are now insisting to be heard after the murder of George Floyd, and the renewed vitality in the Black Lives Matter conversation. Thank you as always, for, as Blanche would say, “the kindness of strangers”. ~~Jane

 

You Have the Right to Remain Not Silent

by Jane Tawel

June 10, 2020

 

I’m sorry to have to point this out, I dislike conflict or being the gadfly or bad guy just as much as the next person — but if you are just now getting on your high horse about the injustice that people of color have been suffering or any of the horrible things or violence and the lies told to support them that have been happening in this country, for a long time, and you want to speak out now but you don’t want any conflict about it, then we have a problem. If you are white or “Christian” or a “good person” or an educator or a parent or a voter and you haven’t been saying anything about this until now — and if now you are “speaking out” oh so carefully but making sure on your posts that you also say, “I don’t want any one debating me on this” and “it’s true for people on both sides of the fence” and “no negative comments please” — then you really DO NOT GET IT.

 

So go ahead — enjoy your comments that cost you nothing, enjoy your peaceful life with no debates and no questions and no dangerous protestations. Don’t worry about people who might wonder “where have you been up til now?” No need to feel bad or ask forgiveness or make changes if you make sure only your cheerleaders communicate with you. Continue to not offend anyone who might be a part of cutting your paycheck or a member of your in-group.

 

Just keep basking in those lots of likes about what a “nice” person you are, but please — know this — some people aren’t as stupid as you think and they do see through you. Not that you care, because your defenses for protecting yourself are as strong as your defenses of those who need your help are weak.

 

Some people are taking a stand — for decades — or at least at last — and even when they get knocked down — they get back up. When someone disagrees with them, they don’t back down and they don’t back away and they may even change their minds about something, or apologize or grow up and change for the better even.

 

Today it is vitally important that we listen and learn, and today it is time to listen and learn from black people, the Afro American communities who today will not ride in the back of the bus of your Facebook posts.

 

Black people and Jewish people and sojourners from other countries (usually brown people) at our borders have been trying to involve you in debate for years now — and not only have they had to put up with your own dissent, your negative comments, your disagreements your powerful silences in the face of their powerless silenced-ness — they have put their lives on the line.

 

To want to say whatever you want with the caveat that none of your friends or followers or anyone can debate or question you is a perfect example of white / “Christian” / American — whatever label you harbor to think you have the privilege to shut people up, to shut people down, to dismiss people who make you uncomfortable. To unfollow those who debate you, who question you, who make you think — that is the epitome of an abuse of power and a greedy need to be safe and liked and untouched. Your “good heart” in your posts that is untouchable and untouched is a stone not a heart.

 

This is not however how nations or communities or peoples survive or grow or get better from whatever ails them. It is not at all the best of what this country of America was formed to be — a democracy — debatable, questioned, continually questioned. It is not at the center of a sustainable world view or of a valid belief of any kind. It is a mockery of a religion, with its adherents “nice Inquisition-ists”. It is not however an example of the person so many want to quote but not follow who gave His life and His name to Christianity, a man full of debate and endlessly debatable and forever questioning. It is not a path to certainty or truth but a quicksand of thoughts supported only by one’s need to to be right despite any theories or facts to the contrary.

 

A nation that has stopped questioning itself will surely wither and die, alone and bereft. A person who believes in an unquestionable God who created unquestionable human beings has no hope in a future that consists of the Unknowable powers of faith, hope and love. A human being who stops questioning his own rightness is a king of fools.

 

If silence is agreement, then silencing someone else is an abuse of power — even if it is only the abuse of the power of your role in a group, of your relationship in a tribe or family or even of just one friendship.

 

Freedom of Speech and the ability to question authority — It is one of the things our founding forefathers tried to get right in the name of God and nation. It is one of the things our Creator tried to get right when She created human beings a little higher than the beasts and a little lower than the angels.

 

I am sorry my passion and questions disquiet some of you, I will listen to your requests to “not comment” but I certainly won’t be under the impression you mean all those “nice” things you are saying on behalf of others. Sorry — but real truth is meant to set us all free and real caring for others — enough to fight for them, speak for them, protest with them, change the world for them, love them — means, no protective armor for my own self-serving needs.

 

We have made a world where people are vulnerable because of their black skin color in a white world. Surely we can allow ourselves to be vulnerable for some black words on a white page.

 

And by the way, anyone who knows me knows, I would never dream of asking you not to debate or question or engage with my ideas in your desire to make me think. I would never unfriend someone for disagreeing with me and I am grateful not just for those who build me up with support and additional help but those who respect my ability to think and reason and maybe even change and who question or debate me. I may not agree with you but I will defend your right to speak out and disagree with me with my last Facebook breath.

Free speech sometimes is uncomfortable | News, Sports, Jobs ...

 

Teach Your Parents Well

Teach Your Parents Well

by Jane Tawel

June 6, 2020

 

A previous student of mine posted this today. Another day to thank the Dorsey Family for trying to teach me and help me. You know I was privileged to teach three of the Dorsey “kids” years ago, and I didn’t realize it then, but I do now — they began to teach me some truths during those years, and now they have become some of my best teachers at this critical point in my life and the life of this nation and the life of God’s Kingdom.

I can not even imagine what this feels like — generation after generation. This brings it home…

 

I wake up trying to fight and stand with, every day now, and I am so tired and exhausted and I say to myself — “you stupid baby — stop whining. Imagine being this exhausted by fighting every day of your life, every generation of your family, just because you woke up black today. Get over yourself, Jane Tawel! Time to wear out myself in this cause, and get off my old white duff.”

The time is now — it has to be– the time is now — don’t let any one tell you otherwise. May the spirit of Lord truly rise up, May His Kingdom be known by justice, truth and love on this planet, in this world, in His true people as it was meant to be, may we be fearfully aware that we will be judged by how we rise to this challenge in our own lives today, may we be fearfully aware we will be judged by the lies we let ourselves believe and live by, and may we be changed to Be the Change.

 

To my white friends — make yourself a student today of the experts — you can tell who they are by their skin color.

To my religious friends — make yourself a student today of The Expert– you can tell who that is by His Love.

To my American friends — make yourself a student today of the experts of a balanced and humbling History. — you can tell what that is by how uncomfortable it makes you.

 

And to young folks today — you are going to have to become quick studies but deep, wise thinkers in how to be the experts for making this world a better place for the future. Some of us old folks will try our best to help you — you can tell who we are by our humility and willingness to learn from you.
Love, hope, prayers, and I commit to continued action! — “Mrs. T”.

Black Lives Matter. Period. Full Stop

Black. Lives. Matter. Period. Full Stop.

by Jane Tawel

June 3, 2020

 

blacklivesmatter.

Yesterday, I read a great, helpful, and meaningful essay that was about Biden’s comments on blacks voting in the upcoming election, but the comment is very relevant for all of us who are not waking up black in America today. Something we need to take in as we speak and if we speak. And it was this: “The message may be right, but we are not the right messenger”.

You may philosophically be correct when you insist that “all lives matter”, but if you are just coming to that conclusion as a response, a rebuttal, or a pass card for your inaction or complacency, as a bait and switch to the idea that “black lives matter”, then you haven’t earned the right. You are changing the conversation because you feel uncomfortable with the reality.

If you have been out there in the trenches working for justice for people of color, acting to make changes in institutionalized racism, voting against people who are incapable of empathy or of upholding the values of the American Dream for all, or if you are truly living a life of servant-hood and service for people who have never had your advantages, then go for it. Speak away about “all lives”. If not, perhaps it is better to listen first to the experts and to ask yourself: Do I truly believe enough to take real action? Do I honestly believe that black people matter enough to stand up and stand with them? Have I tried to find out about the reasons black people feel the way they do? Do I believe they have a right to be angry, to be tired after years of fearfulness and racist policies and treatment, to be shocked at the violence allowed against them again and again and again, to be sorrowful, to feel helpless? Do I care enough to remember the times I have felt that way because of something in my own life, and take in the deep knowledge, that if I were black I would feel that way every day, year after year, century after century — what would THAT be like — to never believe my life mattered as much as someone else’s because I had black skin? Do I believe in the words of Jesus and the echoing message of John F. Kennedy that “to whom much is given, much is required”?

I have spent a lifetime in the lap of white privilege, so of course I have never had to say people my color matter. That is already a given in this country. It shouldn’t be so difficult for us to see that it has never been and still is not a given for people of color in America. I feel my own need to stand with, stand for not just “my black friends” but for all Black Americans, at this time and then to shut up and listen to their pain and to call out people for their acceptance of white privilege, and to call out racism, and to start finding real ways for me to get off my old white duff and DO SOMETHING.

I will not change the conversation by saying “all lives matter” because I live in a country that has never believed that is true. I will do my best to use my voice for the right fights at the right time. And as in any thing, I will listen to the experts before I chime in. I am so grateful that I have experts who are willing to speak truth to me and who know what they are talking about, because they have studied– day after day, taken life after taken life, fear and sorrow after more fears and sorrows — lessons learned the hard way in the hard halls of experience while being black in this world.

Are you listening to the experts on the black experience in America today? I pray to the God of all of us, that I will continue to speak, but that more importantly I will act for better justice and equality for black people. period. full stop. –in this, my nation, whose owing is way past due. #blacklivesmatter

 

Left Speechless but Speaking Out by a Humbled White Person

By Jane Tawel

June 1, 2020

My Father Could Have Been Killed By Police – STIR Journal

“Stir Journal”  2016

Left Speechless but Speaking Out by a Humbled White Person

By Jane Tawel

June 1, 2020

Remembering George Floyd: Devoted father, 'gentle giant' | USA ...

George Floyd, 2020

 

And so it is, as we see that black lives still don’t matter to my people, the white people; that social justice still does not matter to my people, the people in power; that we are all for equality as long as my people don’t have to give-up any thing to make America a more equal playing field for people; and so it is we see that Langston Hughes was right all those years ago:

 

“What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over—

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

 

Or does it explode?”

“Harlem”  by Langston Hughes (1951)

Local reaction on national riots following death of George Floyd ...

(FILE – Protesters demonstrate against the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis, Friday, May 29, 2020, in New York. The massive protests sweeping across U.S. cities follow the police killing of a black man in Minnesota. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

 

We see that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ever so right, was so right, when he wrote:

Let me say as I’ve always said, and I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. … But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. [Martin Luther King Jr., “The Other America”]

 

Years and years go by. . . deaths and deaths go by…. Are we really still surprised, when black people have to shout, still have to try to make themselves heard over our white complacency, still have to shock us as they cry out: “Can you hear me now?!”

 

We have failed to hear that we have not met our promises. People say, “oh but two wrongs don’t make a right”. But the question for me, a white woman grown up in America all these years, isn’t about being right – it is about being righteous.  Righteous indignation is all very well for a white person, but righteous action is what is needed now. My intellectual assent to what black people are feeling, or doing is all very well, but that doesn’t help them two bits worth if I do not act on that assent.  As it is said, “faith without works is dead”.

 

How dare we like spoiled children cry over our broken toys, more than we weep over the dead bodies of black boys and girls. How dare we demand self-righteously that the playground rules be changed to punish black people, and not ever demand just punishment for the white looters sitting in the halls of power, looting our democracy, looting our economy, looting our health system, looting the very foundations of any remaining morals this country might have tip-toed toward. The playground has never had fair rules for blacks and whites, because we white people hog all the swings and slides.  How dare we continue to let people keep killing our citizens just because they are black and then complain that they don’t know how to control their anger.  We dare because we are white.  It is that horrifically simple.

 

And so I am left speechless in the flood of prophetic, condemning, heart-breaking, angry, fearful, mournful and sorrowful words and actions, protests and riots, preaching and venting —  I read by and about and hear by and about black people in this nation. They are the stored words and feelings of centuries and they rise once more like a flood of tears that is never dammed.

 

Maitland, 1913 flood

“Maitland, 1913 flood” by maitland.city library is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

 

 

And yet, though I do not have the right, I have not earned it as I should, I was not born black with so few other equal rights other than the right to speak up on this now –I must speak. I will not stay silent just because it is not “my fight”, for until we white people make it our fight, nothing will ever change, as we have seen. I will not condemn the reactions of people whose shoes I have never walked in. I have never been black. I can try my hardest to walk in those shoes, but it will be an exercise in moral thinking only, not moral action, unless I am truly walking with, standing up for, acting for people of color.

 

But I have spent a lifetime walking in a white person’s shoes, and so I get to decide what it means to “walk the walk and not just talk the talk”. I get to decide what I believe my own life is worth.  Is my life merely worth the gathering of more stuff for me, the avoidance of conflicts that might be difficult, worth only the “niceness” of staying silent, and the ease of retiring into a life that was never all that hard to begin with?  Or is my life worth more than that?  Is my life worth believing that small people doing small things in the name of justice and truth and love, is the only real kind of life worth living?

 

So, I will speak when spoken to, and I will condemn and call out white people—my people–, no matter whether they are people I love or not. I will call-out white people who use racist language to defend their unease with black anger. I will call out those white folks who sit in judgement of others, while the giant planks in their own eyes prevent them from seeing their own sins against God and others.  I will call out the white pastors and white Christians who claim their rights to practice their religion and earn their salaries are more important than the death tolls, the health, the salaries, the murders of black people in this country.  I will call out those who listen but do not act.  I will call myself out, first and foremost.

 

And I will not stay silent when I grope for the words I continue to try to say to my black fellow Americans, to my black brothers and sisters, and forgive me for using a phrase that has given so many white people like me a false sense of solidarity, to my black friends:  Please forgive me. Please help me. Please.

 

I am so sorry. I am here and now accepting my own egregious culpability and the egregious culpability of my nation. I have tried to say many things during this time with words that will only remain pathetic if I don’t act. I speak as someone who has long believed in a world view that is only as good as it is acted upon. Unlike what you may be hearing from those who claim it today, the Judeo-Christian worldview is one of acting for love and truth and justice, against hatred and injustice and deceit. In fact, the only thing worth believing about God, Jesus or the Bible is that it doesn’t matter what we think, since in light of God we are all stupid.  It doesn’t matter what we believe if it doesn’t change us. The only thing that matters is that we humans are meant – required –to act out goodness – goodness for the whole earth, the whole world, good hearts and minds that translate directly into wills of loving actions for the betterment of all, but especially for those who have less than we do. Period.

 

So here are some thoughts related to a few things my black connections, and other people of color,  have been trying to help me with and that I have been struggling with. I don’t say that there are not white friends of mine who are also speaking out and speaking up and standing for, but they like I am, are the “roar of the crowd”; we are not the players who literally have skin in the game.

 

I have to start with my own worldview as shaped by American Christianity but which has drastically morphed in recent years, to something that I hope resembles more like what a real God, and real Savior, and a real Holy Book would teach.  If you believe in the truths about justice in the Bible, and the idea of how the world is supposed to be as Jesus taught, as I do, then we know that accordingly, the nations are continually and will be in the future judged. Check out the books of Amos and Isaiah and the words of Jesus, if you don’t believe me. America will be judged, and I think God will start with what we — our whole nation of white, colonizing, slave owning, genocidal, violent and silent– people have done to people of color, indigenous peoples,  and in this country, especially, to black people. It makes me tremble to hear people call this country “back to being” a Christian nation — it never was, never has been, never will be. Christianity is as Christianity DOES. As God has always called His people to do, we must decide “as for me and my house, who will I serve?” Will I serve the false idols of this nation, or serve the Lord? As all individuals from Abraham to Moses to Joshua to David to Jesus, we can choose to side with the power of a nation of kings who are not just, not truthful, not caring of the least of society, not “loving the whole world as God so loved the world”, a nation built on racism and greed. Or we can stand up and be counted. We can leave the  Babylon of our false religion, we can stop wandering in the wilderness of our grumbling and greed, or we can leave the Promised Land to those willing to risk for it.  But this is “religious” talk.  What is happening in our country today is about humans, and humanity, no matter what your beliefs and disbeliefs.

 

The transgressions and consequences of racism and violence of our nation continues and I can not imagine if I were black and having to witness atrocity after atrocity. But until everyone who is not a person of color, accepts their own responsibility, either by commission or omission, we will not know how to change. I must accept my own shame — we carry the sins of our fathers and mothers generation after generation. I carry the stain of my own prejudices, spoken or “only” thought. I carry the heavy cost of my own laziness in not fighting for others, silence in the face of pure evil, and for not mourning with so many people of color who continue to mourn, and mourn, and mourn.

 

 

I have no substantial say in my nation except with my vote and my money, but I do have a say before my God and my brothers and sisters, and fellow humans, and even a voice that should be heard by those who do not believe as I do. Perhaps they cannot believe in my God because they have suffered at the hands of this white “christian” nation for so long – and that is on me.

 

I am angry, and I am sorrowful. And I am so, so sorry for everything. To claim it is not “my fault” may have philosophical credence but it has no bearing on what must change in my own heart, my own life, and in the hearts and lives of this nation.

 

And to those who would see me as a spiritual person, I repent. And I confess my own sins humbly with repentance, for my owns sins of both commission and omission, done and left undone. I honestly believe, that in this life and the next, God will weigh us all in the balance. I know I, too deserve to be judged, for my prejudices, my racism, my not being who God has called us to be, and I pray that I might understand the weight of these words: “Repent and be saved. I, Jesus, do not judge you — so go and sin no more.” And sinning no more in white America today, means that I am also being told: “Now get out there and do something about this as God has commanded you to do.”

 

To look at oneself in the mirror of truth is to face one’s own hypocrisy. Black people in this country are understandably incensed not only at the institutionalized racism of centuries, at police murders of black people, of white racists killing innocent black people and getting away with it in the courts meant to uphold our laws, but they are also angry at the blatant hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy is the other monster head on the Hydra of white privilege, hatred, inequality, and greed that lives and is fed in America.

 

I am finding that hypocrisy is one of the most difficult things to call people out on. It makes sense, because hypocrisy is not only in the very foundations of our egos, but is a founding father of this nation and of the major religion we claim as “Christianity”. Our foolish lazy stance that we are merely called to a belief in the idea of democracy but not a fight for it, and our complacent belief that we need not do anything other than pray to earn God’s favor, has led us to jump off the cliff of reason and understanding, and into a raging tide-pool of hypocritical insanity-producing self-justification and destructive false mores and unsustainable values.

 

My heart breaks most of all at what people are doing and not doing in the name of God or Christ. A white pastor I know and whose church I once attended, posted the other day to all his followers that maybe we should stop speaking out on social media and stop speaking out in the streets,  and try “listening”. Dear Lord, does this man not see his own complacent hypocrisy? Answer: no. The man has a cushy job in an all-white church with a house on a golf course (paid for in God-money) in a pretty much all white state – a place he fled to a few years back after Los Angeles got a bit too much for him. What black people is he “listening” to? I’ve tried calling him and others out before and they just delete or unfriend me. LOL! But isn’t it really the same for most of white people, we live in all white glass houses and throw rocks at the reactions of black people throwing rocks in riots?

Frankly, I’m always rather thankful when someone decides to “break up with me” over issues, because I feel I must be doing something, maybe even doing something right. Also, when someone unfriends or deletes me because they don’t like how angry I am, or my truth-telling, or my trying to discuss something I don’t agree with, then I get a little bit closer to understanding what is it to walk in the shoes of a person of color. To be shut down, to have no voice that is worth listening to, to be “listened to” and then ignored.  I can pity these people who decide I am not worth it, who think God’s love is for being nice, that God’s command to love others as self, is for Sunday pew sitting, and not protest marching, tables turned over righteousness. I am aware that I am being “deleted”, being dismissed, being shunned or judged because I am in-your-face angry. I can almost imagine how angry I’d be if I were black. When white people get upset and angry with black people for demanding truth, demanding righteousness, demanding change in thinking and acting, for “calling out” and calling to account our wrongs, our deeply entrenched problems, our race issues, and our “Christian” failings, do we not see our own hypocrisy?  Do black people also have prejudices, do they also make mistakes, do they also have to be accountable – why of course, but as a white woman, I take to heart these words from a person of color, Jesus Christ, who said “to whom much is given much will be required”.  Mea culpa.  Much is required of me and it’s time I started paying my dues, not just skimming off the top.

 

So we keep at it – all of us. Listening, yes, I am listening, but “faith without works is dead”.  And listening without change and action is like watching a meal without eating it.  It is like eating a communion wafer, the body of Christ given for us, without becoming the person of Christ, without acting out the life of Christ, suffering unto death for the love of others.

 

Ah, listening.  Is the corona virus “listening” as more people of color die than white people do because of years of entrenched greed and racism and institutionalized inequality? Did the cops “listen” to any single one of the black men and women they have pulled over for being black, arrested for being black, killed for being black? Did they “listen” when they heard George Floyd cry, “I can’t breath”? Are our government leaders “listening”? Are schools and those who will educate the future “listening”? If they are truly listening, they will hear the thunder of the waves — the flood is here–and they –we– will all DO SOMETHING. It is not time to take cover, white folks, it is time to fix the broken dams.

 

Who do we admire, black and white folks alike?  Gandhi? Mother Teresa? Abraham Lincoln? Martin Luther King, Jr.?  Did they merely listen and then “pray” or “discuss” or “promise change for the future”?  How about Jesus? Did Jesus just “listen”? Heck no, He led a one-man riot, he turned over the tables, folks. Jesus actually lived out his whole life as a single-handed protest against racism, injustice, and greed and pride. There was no one who understood better than The Son of God what having great power means and so he used it by laying it down for the least of the least in this world. There was no one who suffered more at the hands of conspiracy theories and racism and false religious leaders and persecution than the Son of God. How dare we treat him with such contempt today with our hypocrisy of inaction.

Revised Common Lectionary ~ Turning the tables edition ...

Revised Common Lectionary ~ Turning the tables edition

 

We have got to stop giving powerful or entitled people the “pass card” on their actions (or inactions) and for us white folks, we must stop giving people the green light on their hypocrisy. I confess humbly, that it is easy now at my age, with my color, in my place to speak out. Far too easy compared to George Floyd, a black man who cried, “I can’t breathe”.  It’s kind of a relief that all the “Christian” places and the schools that I used to work for “let me go” for being a bit radical, a bit different, for speaking out, for questioning authority, for protesting.  I’m not complaining as it has helped me understand prejudice more intimately. I don’t have to weigh any more who might read my posts and decide that students or other “Christians”  “can’t handle” something or that hard truths are merely “opinions” that should be kept to oneself, or worst of all – that Jesus came to preach “why can’t we all just get along?”, which is the very last thing Jesus would have said.

What Jesus did say was, Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”  What Jesus did say was, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

White folks, we keep “swallowing camels” and “straining out gnats”. And that is the truth we seem unable to “swallow”.

 

What students can’t handle – what young people today can not tolerate – what people who do not believe in the religions of today can not stomach, what people of color cannot swallow — is the broken world we are leaving them and the excuses we are still clinging to.

So, you are right, no matter how the words may come out, my friends, to call out and call to account each other and ourselves. We must all call-out folks, but let’s start with calling out our own folks. Let’s call out especially educators of young minds and hearts, especially white people, especially self-proclaimed religious people, especially powerful leaders, especially the “listeners” and not “doers”.

When there is a seismic earthquake going on in this country, a destruction of the very foundations of morality and democracy, then people can’t keep silent. We can’t just enjoy sharing recipes. It’s why it has all been a “recipe for disaster” — our complacent acceptance and our soul-destroying hypocrisy of those who are privileged to live white. The foundation is crumbling folks, don’t keep painting over the dirty walls.

 

I am calling out myself, because it has always been easier for me, a white woman, an American, a “Christian”, to speak out and speak up. It has always been easier for me to post and write things like this than it has been for a black person, a person of color, a Muslim or Jew, or an immigrant. I refuse to give myself a pass card, and don’t you either, my friend, “To those who have been given much, much will be required”.

 

Thank you to the black people, to all the people of color, in America today, throughout the world, in fact, who love me enough to speak out and to speak truth.  Who care enough to believe that I can change. Thank you. Be brave, be safe.

 

Thank you to all the black and yes, white people who have been acting in ways seen and unseen for all these years to bring justice home to America in real ways. Be tireless in doing good, be hopeful.

 

I will continue to think and pray, listen and take in, and find ways to actually ACT, not just talk and write. I will keep listening and keep listening and never feel that it is my right as a white person to be tired of listening. I will mourn in anger and sorrow with black mothers and fathers and spouses and children and friends across this nation for the terrorism and tragedies that no one should have to endure time and time again.

 

And I will act, without knowing for certain whether it is the “right thing” to do, but with the hopeful assurance that it is the “righteous” thing to do.

 

 

~~ “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

(Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quoting the ancient prophet, Amos)

~~ May it be so ~~ Jane

River And Dam View #1

“River And Dam View #1” by star_cosmos_bleu is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

 

 

Things I Miss

Things I Miss

By Jane Tawel

May 27, 2020

 

I’ll confess, there are actually a lot of things, frankly, that I like about sheltering in – not the fear and health and deaths and unemployment –but I mean things I personally like. I like the time I have to chill more, read more, binge watch more, relax more. I like having more morning time to watch and listen to birds, more intentional communication with friends and family, more time to be still and meditate, pray, imagine; etc. etc.  But here are ten things I didn’t realize how much I would miss.

I MISS:

 

  1. Getting “dressed up” and wearing work-clothes that don’t include sweats and t-shirts.
  2. Smiling at strangers as I pass them in public places. (Or at least strangers being able to see that I am smiling at them).
  3. Entertaining big swarms of friends and family – I’d even cook AND clean- up after, at this point.
  4. Thinking about, planning for, anticipating ANYTHING other than what to eat that day.
  5. I actually miss NOT having enough time to keep eating, and keep eating, and keep eating, and having to stop eating because I’m too busy.
  6. Soft, un-chapped hands that don’t look like they should belong to a lizard.
  7. Going whichever way I need to go down the grocery aisles – arrows are tough for directionally challenged people like I. It takes quite a bit of thought for some of us to redirect. I miss following the directions of my own skewed and screwy internal compass.
  8. Hugs
  9. Hugs
  10. Hugs

Stay safe, stay sane, stay hopeful.  ~~Jane

 

What If — Instead Of’s

by Jane Tawel

“…change…” by ĐāżŦ {mostly absent} is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

What If — Instead Of’s

By Jane Tawel

May 26, 2020

 

I have more time lately, and reason, to meditate on all the “What If’s” and “Instead Of’s”. Some days, this is instructive and hopeful, such as “What if we realize people in essential services need to be paid more in the future and billionaires need to be paid less?” And some days, this is mind numbingly depressing and futile, such as “What if they win again, and Canada still has closed borders?” Perhaps we all have been made more aware of this frame- work of Possibility Thinking during this “Impossible- to- Imagine- It- Could- Happen-In-Our-Lifetimes” Time. I mean, even dear John Lennon, didn’t “Imagine” this. I truly hope and pray that with all we are all thinking, writing, experiencing, doing, that we, the human race, or at least The Good Guys and Gals, decide to use Possibility Thinking for a better world for all of us. A healthier, saner, safer, kinder, more peaceful, restful, equitable world would be a nice “Instead Of” Outcome.

 

Though I am rather obsessed lately with the What If’s of the Future, we most often use this rhetorical device for thinking about the Past, and not the Present or Future. It’s human nature, after all to pick over the spoils and pick at the scabs incurred in our Pasts. And of course, it is vitally critical to look at the Past — or should I say, Pasts — plural. We have all gone egregiously and just stupidly wrong in not learning from our individual Pasts, our communal Pasts, and our national, religious, planetary, and world-wide Pasts. It is one of the things that elevates us as humans, this ability to change course, to envision something better, and yet we foolishly continue to so seldom use it. Rather than evolve by learning from past mistakes or last night’s sins, we so often choose to devolve into either helpless or stubborn beast-like creatures, chalking it all up to some other beastie’s problems or some innate inability in ourselves to grow and change. But being a human being was meant to be a glorious thing — a unique thing, a godlike thing. As human beings with souls, we are uniquely placed on this planet to live into the reality of “If-Then’s”. And therefore, when we go wrong, we can live into the miracle of “What If Instead Of this, We do that Instead’s?”. We can choose differently today than we did yesterday. We can regret. We can repent. We can hope. We can imagine. We can change. We can ask, What If we did this Instead Of that?

 

Now the “What If’s” are closer to home for many of us on a day to day basis now they seem to be more personal and more a very real matter of life and death. We don’t have to imagine quite so hard what it is like to walk in another person’s fragile, vulnerable shoes. We don’t have to try so hard to think what it is like to be afraid of going outside, of being imprisoned, or of not having enough money for the future or even the present day, or what it is like to work among dying patients in a war that makes no sense, or what it might be like to be very ill, afraid of dying and physically impaired in a world meant for only healthy people. Some of us don’t have to rely on memory alone any more or try to imagine what it is like to have pollution- free skies, or birds singing in the morning, or time to just be still and relax and rest. Some of us are finally experiencing a small sense of the prejudice and injustice that people of color have experienced their whole lives. Some of us are mourning over the senselessness and randomness of death.

 

Some of us are finding out the joys of the “Insteads”. We are finding that it is freeing to make do with less. That love starts at home but you have to be there to be part of it. We are discovering that creating things is vital for every human being and that everyone, no matter how faceless and nameless, matters deeply and intimately to each of us personally. A few of us may be realizing the “Instead-Reality” that we were meant for more — maybe it isn’t completely clear yet, but it is glimmering up ahead as a faint, dream-like Possibility. Most of us hopefully have some clue that instead of getting ahead for just me, myself, and I, Life is more fulfilling, and the Future more plausible, if we realize that we are all in This together.

 

And so, we may find ourselves asking, “What If we want things to be more like this in the Future?” What if I want to care more about others less fortunate than I, now that I have a better idea of what their lives have always been like? What if I want to help heal the planet from the outrageous things we’ve done to it? What if I want to work less and live more, and try to make sure that everyone has that same opportunity — to stop living for our work and start working so that we all might live — more equitably, more freely, more safely, and more joyfully? What if I want to spend more time in creative pursuits and supporting those who create art — whether it is on a stage, in a gallery, or in a garden? What if I want to spend more time outside in a world made for our enjoyment? What if I want to help protect the things in nature that before I have endangered? What if every day, I want to look at those I love and be more forgiving, more accepting, more understanding, and more selflessly helpful? What if everyone I love becomes Everyone? What if everyone I love includes you? And what if everyone I love includes myself — me?

 

What if I carry the lessons of the Past into Today to change myself in order to be a part of a better Future for the world? What if I become an “Instead Of”?

 

At this crossroads time in the history of humans, we are forced perhaps like never before in most of our lifetimes, to look backwards and wonder, “What If”. We ask it of the whole world: “What If they had done this Instead Of that?” We look at our leaders and weigh them in the balance of this equation. But it will never mean a thing if I am not asking the What If’s of myself. If we are at all honest and seek any kind of life of understanding or at least desire something better up ahead, we must look within our own hearts, our own minds, our own individual wills. We must peer with intention into the very essence of what makes us human — we must look within our souls. While we have been picking at the Past scars of What If’s that we can not change: — What if I hadn’t let Grandma go to work that day? What if I hadn’t gone to that birthday party where that woman was coughing all over the buffet table? What if Uncle Pete hadn’t gone to sing in the church choir that Sunday? — We must now let the scars heal over, and begin to seriously look at the “Instead Of’s” from here on out going forward. The What- If’s of our past choices should be given a very short shelf life. They are rather useless “what if’s” unless we can create a Time Machine and go back in Time to change them. (Let me know please, if you do. But I must warn you, I have a rather long list of changes I’d make.)

 

Some people spend a life-time on “What If’s”. What if I hadn’t married her? What if I had taken that job? What if I had majored in something else in college? What if I hadn’t gotten drunk? What if I had told him how I felt? What If’s can only change the Past-Self if we let it change for the better our Present-Self in order to grow into our best Future Self. We can evolve, we can be born again. That is the glory of our status as sentient, sensible souls. What If’s can pull us under with regret, remorse, anger, sorrow, lack of initiative, brokenness, and a host of other short-term and long-term emotions and ploys for convincing ourselves and others that change is impossible. Emotions without goals for change merely serve to sap our desire for a better life and deplete our energy for action. What If’s are only helpful if one understands that “though I didn’t know it then, I DO know it now”. What If’s are only helpful if you look at the Past and decide that Today, you will choose “Instead Of’s”.

 

If you grew up “back in the day”, when I did, with any sort of Biblical or Judeo-Christian Worldview, you have grown up to believe that every thing is, in fact, a “life or death” decision. Ideas like, “what does it profit a man if he gains the world and loses his soul?”, or “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life”, used to be the bedrock of a belief system that supposedly was based on a Savior who lived and died in such a way that the whole world might be changed for the better. Tragically, this isn’t at all a popular or wide-spread belief among the most vocal of those who claim this particular religion these days, so please don’t be fooled if you look to those who espouse a religion in name only, and not in deeds. Unlike what we hear today, the Judeo-Christian belief system was meant to be pretty much completely a religion of straight-up, unadulterated, no excuses, no holds barred — Love-First actions. I say that with a great amount of regret and repentance before God and other humans, for my own Past, a deepening humility for my Present lack of virtue, selfless love, wisdom and dearth of loving actions, and my plethora of selfish wrong-doings. I say it with a great desire for a Future that is definitely based on a lot of “What If’s”. What If — I can change — be reborn — starting today? What If — God is real? What If — human beings are meant to live most practically and healthfully when we love others as we love ourselves? What If — we were put here to care for a planet? What If — we will only keep our human souls alive if we make sure that the least and most struggling among us is as essential as the highest and most powerful? What If — Jesus was an example of what we all could be — Miraculous?

 

So Today, I look outside my window, and hear the little grey sparrows and the large black crows, and I say, “What If God’s eyes are on the sparrows and the crows, and what if I can trust that like a Mother Hen, She is watching over me?” What If I truly have nothing to lose by living in love for all others, by doing right and speaking truth, by choosing to do Good, by changing my worldview, my heart, and my actions, and by hoping and praying that the whole world might be “saved”? What If I have everything to lose if Instead Of that, I choose my freedom and rights over other people’s safety and health? What If I choose my will over their lives — “not Thy will but mine be done”? What If I choose my convenience over the planet’s safety and health, if I choose my pleasure over other people’s needs, if I choose to be right rather than righteous? What If I gain the whole enchilada, but piece by piece, day after selfish day, lose my soul?

 

Ah, hurrah, hurray, it’s another grand day! To be alive! To be alive to choice and change and chance! To be alive to the idea of being a better human being today than I was yesterday. What If — ah Glorious, Glory-ing thought! What If by believing whole heartedly in the lessons of the Past, by studying them deeply and with humility, I can change. What If by making less of me and more of others Today, there will be something of me Tomorrow? What If by loving others with heart and mind and will in the Present, I can save the very essence of who I was created to be, I can save my soul, and have more than a temporal happiness, have Instead, an eternal life of love, and light, and joy?

 

What If today instead of Death, I choose Resurrection?

 

What If my Future, and the Future of the Earth and the Human Beings that inhabit it could, Instead of This be……………? Imagine……

Wouldn’t that be Miraculous?