Hell Hath No Fury Like a Heaven Scorned

by Jane Tawel

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(Image by Dave Cutler for The Boston Globe, March 2020)

 

 

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Heaven Scorned

By Jane Tawel

August 3, 2020

 

 

 

Introduction: Reading C.S. Lewis and what some call the “Old” Testament (actually the Torah and Tanakh) is not for the faint of worldview. They aren’t for the faint of heart, either, but it is especially our worldviews that seem to have brought us to where and who we are in this particular moment on Planet Earth.  Perhaps if it had been our hearts instead that were leading us, we would not have arrived at this Foucault’s Pendulum swing that may, like a Giant Finger on the World’s Balance, forever still the rotations of our world as we have known it.  And still, those who can, fly off to space for a joyride, or build an empire for king but not kingdom, or insist on being the naked emperor, unmasked but unhumbled; while we let our children die and the wars rage and the planet burn and dry up into a husk of the Eden it was meant to be.  If only we would all stand on the same side of that swinging pendulum and push and pull together to right the balance of this lopsided world. The discouraging beginning of this essay will hopefully resolve itself in the end. But this is our task, is it not?  To look honestly and truthfully within and without at what is wrong, and then do our very best to right the wrongs, become upright ourselves, and then right the off-course ship of this great world?

 

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Image credit: Yuri_Arcurs | Getty Images

 

 

I no longer fear the hell of Mythologies and Scripture.  That hell is reserved only for those who choose it in this very present “now”; and if we are honest, we can see them choose hell for their souls and whatever souls they may desire to pull down with them. There is a “special place” reserved for those who would hurt others for their own gain, and we can see it in the world we live in; we do not have to believe that somehow, some God will either “send” people to that hell or that some God will not send any one to that hell because of some kind of supernatural love.  While love is always a supernatural power, so are hate and greed, and those who choose  hell have every right to live in it, just as those who choose to live in the perfect “heaven” of love have the right to hope for it in Eternity. We see the choices people make and we turn from the knowledge because it is too horrible to see any human being choose to live as a hellish creature, but also it can be too fearful to see the power and might of those who truly choose to live as heavenly ones. So we often turn from the knowledge that we can choose to live  in a “heaven on earth”, an existence without the outcomes and consequences of our fear or anger or hatred or wrongs; we just do not really want to.

 

C.S. Lewis writes much about this choice between living into what I might humorously call,  the now of Nirvana or the presence of Purgatory. In The Great Divorce, a fictional exploration of this idea of our choices in the view of Eternity, Lewis writes:

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

 

 

But it is Lewis’ book of essays in The Weight of Glory, that stun us into contemplation on this idea of heaven or hell as our ever present daily choice:  In it, Lewis writes:

 

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. … Next to the blessed sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” (The Weight of Glory, Lewis)

 

 

 

Besides my current “on steroids” fears of super-viruses and super-villains, there are other things to fear in one’s soul in the here and now.  Instead of fearing a future hell, that lake of fire and pit of despair and place of torment, I fear instead that I will continue to exist in the now as nothing more than sinew and bones. I fear a death of becoming nothingness if I have lived a life that is full of the nothingness of the lies of selfish striving, and not the fullness of everything in truly bountiful, beautiful, generous being.

 

I fear that I will continue to think of my life and this world as stuck irrevocably in our human plight since Genesis, and that if I allow it and accept it without a fight, that “since from dust I was created, so to dust I will return” (Genesis 3;19) Oh, to me is there anything more fearful than to contemplate that I am soul-less by choice and that from molecules I was created to live as nothing more than hungry molecules, finally dying to the dust of molecules in death?  I fear to continue living as I far too often have, and far too frequently do. Hell is the idea that I will die and be punished to live in something worse.  But is it not more awful, more tragic, to never choose to live into the idea of being something better? Should we not more truly fear never knowing Heaven now, on  this lovely, lovely Earth that we have been given to share with each other?

 

I fear death, but it is more and more a fear of never truly embracing the mindfulness of living, a kind of living that I have too seldom fully grasped and too seldom fully practiced. How can I fear a permanent end to my mind’s existence, if I have never truly been mindful while alive?  How can I fear the stilling of my beating heart if I have never completely listened to the miraculous beat of that feeling organ, that organ that represents all that which we feel as humans, that life-force pumping away in our bloodstreams and symbolizing all that poets and prophets write of, that lovers dream about, and that mothers teach their babies to accept and expect? How can I be afraid of no longer seeing, touching, tasting, hearing, smelling if I have never enjoyed the  heavenly sensuousness of my God-given senses?  As the Good Teacher said, Oh, what does it profit me if I gain the world but I lose my soul in the process?

 

I do as all others, fear the cessation of what I may call “my soul” and the separation of myself from that “Otherness” which I may call My God.  What has often kept me safe from despair and evil, that “Other Hope”, that Otherness as an “Eternally Existing Life-Force”, is only as real as I make it.  It may finally ebb and never again flow back to the shores of that which I call myself.  And yet, while I fear the cessation, how often as I live– how often do I choose– to stand on the shore and merely watch my life, rather than fling my life into the ebb and flow of this present ocean of existence as Goodness and joy in the journey? How often have I chosen as Lewis warns us against,  to see my neighbor as “mere mortal” and not to see my neighbor as the “holiest of objects ever presented to my senses”?

 

But above, all I often forget all the love. I so easily remember the hurts done to me and the shame in the hurting I have done; harm done to me, and the harm I have participated in, to others and self; the painful silences of loneliness and my own pain-producing silences in the face of wrong and evil. I fear that one day, when my body dies, and everyone’s will, I fear that I will no longer love, nor have love. If Love is the strongest belief of all; the most real thing that exists anywhere in the Universe; the most unerring righteousness of all law and ethical philosophy; the greatest gift as well as The Giver; and if Love is the one thing that will remain forever, being real in an unknowable, mysterious Eternity, even if all else fades away; then all I truly need fear is the end of Love. And since that can never be; my fears are always at the mercy of Love.  My fears can be conquered each day by the grace of my loving actions, by the very real presence of my loving others as I would love myself, and by the faith of my acceptance of a Love that has the power to defeat even the evils of death, and to live forever.

 

Today I can have Heaven on Earth. Today I can live an eternity in this moment in the destination of my choice. Will it be Heaven?  Or Hell? Or will it be mostly the drudgery and soul-less-ness of dust?  We are taught by The Master, to pray that we may have life today “on earth, as it is in a World of Perfection”.  As another favorite guru of mine, Kathryn Schulz wrote, “The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is. It’s that you can see the world as it isn’t” (Being Wrong, Schulz).

 

Sun over the ocean

“Sun over the ocean” by welcometomyisland is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

 

 

All of my fears of the afterlife can be resolved when I put away my fears of tomorrow and live only for this day. But I also must continue to live for the future; not a future that is focused on myself, and the continuation of what I want, but focused on the future of that which is more than me and at the same time, makes me so much more than just a continuation of who I am and what I have today.  I  must choose today, between heaven and hell, but I also must make this day a “heaven on earth”, by not just enjoying for myself what I have, and not just “being all that I can be”, but by living with the knowledge and purpose and desire to create that world we were meant to live in as One. I must imagine a heaven on earth where all have what each needs, and the earth is returned to beauty, cared for as a child cares for an aging parent, with tenderness and love; and a world in which each child is my child, and where there is more than enough to share, and especially enough Love to share. Until every human on earth can live in the freedom and joy of that heavenly vision, then no one will ever truly live in it.

 

 

My soul is secure in The Presence of Goodness that is here and that is now. My soul is at peace in the hope that is alive even in the darkest moments, because hope is not a trophy earned, but a gift freely given. My soul is “in love” with the life that I have today and being “in love” with life makes me full of love to share freely with all others.  My faith is an ocean flowing backwards and forwards in the Time I am allotted, but when I immerse myself in the flow, I am able to get a small, faint glimpse of the Heaven that lies on the Far Shore. It is my choice of where I shall live today, will it be that which is Good and causes good or that which is Suffering and causes suffering?

 

Today I will baptize myself in that river of healing – in that ocean of Love— and from the depths of almost drowning myself in the reality of my fears and hatreds, my hurts and harms, I will arise to that Reality which has no end, on earth, in heaven, or in that which I call my soul.

 

We are taught to pray for a world here and now “as it is everywhere else in the Cosmos – The Heavens” where Love and Light and Holy Joy exist as Reality Eternal.  Heaven is Love and Love is available to all Life. Now. Here. Love is as small as the teardrop on someone’s face that  I can wipe away. Love is as vast as an ocean which may obscure the Vision of The Other Shore, but is full of life and life-giving. And because Love is not a feeling, but an action, and an action that has the power to change even the worst feelings we humans may have – anger, hatred, and even fear –then Love is Heaven Come Down to us.  As long as I can choose to act in the Love of this Moment, then I need have no fear. Love is Eternal, and if I love, so am I.

 

C.S Lewis had much to teach about the Judeo-Christian ideas and the imagined reality of heaven and hell. In his story about people having one last shot at choosing where to spend eternity, he has a prophet say to a seeker,

“Hell is a state of mind – ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind – is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.”  (The Great Divorce)

 

 

When fear has us quaking or anger has us shaking, we must remember that it can be a God-send – a Heaven-sent, if you will—opportunity to let all that is wrong or broken inside of us, all that is untrue and un-straight, all that is hurting and hurtful – all of that “hell” to be shaken loose to fall away like so much sand in the mighty waves of the ocean.  The Ocean of Love is unshakeable, and it is that which will remain in us and in our world and in our creations and from any of our meager accomplishments and that which will remain forever in those we love, including our very own selves. It is what will remain in earth, and in the heavens. And the reality of the heaven we seek is that heaven that we bring to this day.

 

If hell hath no fury like a heaven it scorns, then it is also true that heaven mocks our fears of death with the strength of Love. That Heaven which is among us, scorns the lies of hell, and scoffs at the weakness of hate. That Heaven is the most powerful thing in existence – Love.

 

All this will pass away, but Love – unshakeable, unerring, unfearful Love – that will forever remain.  May our hearts lead our worldview and our love lead the world.

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“photo-love-edit” by takemetoklinghovillage is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

“Heaven or Hell?”

 

Hell is always in a hurry.

Hell is wrought with fury;

And the strength of it lies,

In the lies of hell,

 those who choose it, tell.

*

Heaven is now;

For those living in Tao.

Around, within, above,

Forever in those who live Love.

~~ J. Tawel

May your Love, and The Love that can be yours today, dispel all your fears of living in the Heaven of this very moment. Together let us have faith in Love and faith in each other to bring heaven to earth.  ~~ Jane

 

 

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“There is no fear in Love, for Perfect Love, casts out all fear”.  ~~From the Book of I John 4:18

 

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

~~ From the Book of Zephaniah 3:17

 

 

“The Kingdom of Heaven is closer than the brow above the eye, but man does not see it.”

Let your love flow outward through the universe. To its height, its depth, its broad extent, a limitless love, without hatred or enmity. Then as you stand or walk, sit or lie down, as long as you are awake, Strive for this with a one-pointed mind; your life will bring heaven to earth.”  ~~ Gautama Buddha

 

 

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.  These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”    ~~ Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

No More Fingers in the Dam

by Jane Tawel

July 30, 2020

Hoover Dam 2005

“Hoover Dam 2005” by stevencko is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

I was commenting on a friend’s post today. She is someone of great heart and intelligence, who is struggling with the current conundrum of a Super Villain Virus and the push to reopen schools; a problem of “pandemic-proportions” foisted on her as a teacher and a parent. Anyone who has ever been both a teacher and a parent, (and I have long been both), will know the difficulty when one is asked to choose between those “two sides of our hearts”, and we don’t always make the right decision. But then we shouldn’t have to choose between “our children” — it’s an unfair “Sophie’s Choice”. And we wouldn’t have to so often choose between our love of our students and our love of our children if things were different here, at least in the good ‘ole U.S. of A.

 

My friend questioned whether she is being asked to be a “martyr” for her students if classrooms are reopened during this pandemic. She feels she is being asked to count the cost for her students for staying out of the classroom without considering the cost for her own family of going back in. My thoughts are included below as it might prove interesting for some of my other teacher and parent friends. But even if you are neither, wouldn’t you like to be part of the Big Picture Solutions that are so desperately needed now? The old chalkboard lessons have been erased or at least smeared due to a very bad thing happening around the world, but that merely means we can start anew and learn better lessons for ourselves and teach all the children that we care enough to do the hard work of Real Change.

 

Dear Shaneka: The difficulty is that what we are seeing is that the problems are so, so deep and much bigger than just these critical decisions we must make for the upcoming school year. The long-standing issues in America are all coming to a head in this pandemic issue in terms of educational resources, health resources, paid time off for sick time and for sick child health care for everyone, (no matter your 401k status), and livable wages for all. We need more schools, more and better paid teachers, smaller classrooms, more money in public education especially in areas of the country where there are not huge tax dollars (this includes poorer regions throughout the country along with those parts of the country that bear the brunt of systemic racist policies). We need to re-consider the overwhelming costs of getting a decent education from the early years to the college years and then truly weigh that against the costs of NOT providing educational resources for all our citizens and the overwhelming costs that has had to the whole nation because of our laxness in addressing the problem.

 

We are still always trying to foist the tough decisions onto parents and teachers but the tough decisions must be made by those with the power and resources to change what is wrong that makes dealing with a pandemic so overwhelming. We know as teachers that the problems have been overwhelming long before now. We know as parents that the tough decisions must always be made for the good of all of our children; because it is only if all of our children are safe, and healthy, and able to thrive, will any child really have the future and the dreams that he or she deserves.

 

We keep looking for band-aides but what we need is “open-heart” surgery on a national and state level. Oh, teachers have martyrs’ hearts, for sure, Shaneka, but going into dangerous situations for false or foolish reasons won’t make any one a true martyr, it will simply be one more finger in a dam that has already broken. The flood of problems we face has already begun lapping at the edges of all of our towns and communities. We have to fix the dam. And quickly. (Analogy to Hans Brinker story intentional.😊)

 

C’mon folks, we can do this. If the flood of fears and problems has begun seeping into our very homes and our children’s playgrounds, then it is long past time to fix the broken structures that have opened those floodgates. We can do it no matter what our lot in life or our calling. We can all take a page from the mothers and fathers and teachers, and with the ingenuity and creativeness and care and love that lets a teacher walk into a classroom every day or a parent love and dream big dreams for her child each night, we can “be the change the world needs to see”. Let’s take this opportunity to rebuild the broken parts not just put band aides on them. And beginning with rebuilding our schools and re-imagining our children’s education and our children’s future seems a very, very good place to start.

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(Mrs. Tawel and some of “her children”)

Heroes and Fools All Under the Sun

REVELATION

“REVELATION” by Arnawitto is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

 

Heroes and Fools All Under the Sun

By Jane Tawel

July 29, 2020

 

 

There is nothing more foolish than continuing to try to change the mind of a fool or the heart of a hater.  Better to go ahead and change the world and let all benefit from it.  The fools and haters will never thank you for it, but you won’t need their thanks. Heroes don’t need the praise of fools any more than the Sun needs the earth in order to shine its light. World-changers don’t need the haters to love them, any more than the weeds and stones need to love the Sun in order for it to warm them.  As the Good Ones say, “The Sun shines on the good and the evil”. The Light illuminates The Path for those who will walk it and for those who will stand on the sidelines and look for any excuse to sit in the dark.  Just as the Sun does, we must let the light of truth and the warmth of love touch all, even those who will continue to prefer darkness and coldness.

 

Let your light shine and let your love warm. Do not fight or worry about those who refuse to step into the light or embrace the warmth.  World-changers don’t waste time trying to get fools and haters to believe that the world doesn’t revolve around them, any more than the Sun needs to convince us that She doesn’t revolve around the Earth. Each day, the Sun shines, whether a person believes in it or not.

The Sun will shine because it is created to shine. You are created to shine.

The Sun will warm because it is created to warm. You are created to warm.

And the Earth will continue to exist to revolve around the Light and Love of the Sun as long as there are Good people willing to keep their lamps full of the sacred oil of love and their lights burning bright, conspicuous and bold with the power of truth.

 

Be a Sun in the world today. Be the unsung, un-thanked Hero of this moment in the sun.

Be the light and even the fools will feel your power.

Be the warmth and you will find that even the haters will feel less cold.

 

Be the Light and do not let darkness delay you in your quest for a better world. And when you leave the fools and haters behind, you will find that there are many more heroes in our world than you ever dreamed there could be.

And the unsung heroes are the ones that will one day, receive the only thanks that truly matter in a better world where all will live in The Light of the Sun; the heroes of today will receive the thanks of the children of tomorrow.

 

Be of good cheer; have hope even in the darkness; shine your light; find joy in your journey; and rise to your very own task of being a light on The Way and a  hero to others today – Jane (P.S. And remember that all real superheroes wear masks. 🙂  )

(c) Jane Tawel 2020

eco ike: Mister Rogers on hero's | Hero quotes, Mr rogers quote ...

 

A Psalm in The Time of Pestilence

DNA Sculpture

(“DNA Sculpture” by ἀλέξ is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )

 

 

A Psalm in The Time of Pestilence

By Jane Tawel

July 28, 2020

 

*

Oh, Great Epidemiologist,

Knower of each cell,

From Eden’s first

dusty particles of Atoms,

You created All.

*

You Who exist as Spirit Eternal,

And Parent-Progenitor, YOU

Understand all mysteries,

Even the greatest mystery of all—

The workings of the human

mind and body, will and heart.

*

Create in me, Oh, Heart of my heart,

a new auto-immune system,

a system of my own

made in the image of

Your perfect Noncoding DNA.

*

Create in me the antibodies needed

To be born anew; and

Reshape my very cellular make-up

To love recklessly

To live wisely,

To speak truthfully,

And to honor all that is Good;

For every Good comes from You.

*

Let me take the hard medicine

Of admitting my faults and wrongs,

To strengthen my will,

And heal my broken heart.

Deliver unto us weak mortals

The super-powers of Your Holy Health,

So that we may serve Your World

 and stand with those in need.

*

We pray not for our own sake,

But for the sake of our Charge,

This Aging Grandmother Earth,

 and all her children.

*

Forgive our abuse of all

You have so lovingly created,

Including our enemies.

Forgive our wandering and wanting–

Wandering away from The Way,

Wanting more than we need.

Forgive us, Beloved Nurturer.

*

Enable the young to envision

An Eden restored;

Strengthen the old to dream of

Heaven come down.

Reconstruct our very structure,

for You are the One,

who Imagines

grand planets and awesome stars,

and tiny, little cells.

You Alone are the Gardener of Universes,

And the Nursing Mother

Of our souls.

*

Create in all who would claim You as Doctor,

The willingness to fight the evils within

and to withstand the evils without.

*

Be merciful to us in all;

And in this Time of Peril.

Oh, Great Physician,

Healer of our souls,

Hear our prayer.

Amen.

© Jane Tawel 2020

Image for post

(Image from Manifest Miracles  and Love Motives Meditation)

And It Was Good

by Jane Tawel

July 24, 2020

Image may contain: people sitting, plant, tree and outdoor

(my bird feeder)

 

Now and then, I can embrace the coming full circle of this season of life. With the coming of the pandemic, there is not even any possibility of even trying to wage a battle against it. My lifetime of early mornings is no longer spent on long runs in the dark before the sun rises and hustling around getting ready for work, but on contemplation and learning and just “being here”. That is sometimes a little frightening — to accept the importance of those things without “guilt” at not doing, but rather acceptance that sometimes just being is enough and sometimes it is all. At other times it is revelatory and just so very, very “Good”, that I feel I finally understand the words: “And G-d said that it was good. And it was good.” It is one of the truly good and restorative things happening against my will but also changing my will to something else perhaps, as I sit with books and birds (and coffee of course). This morning, a special guest arrived for the free breakfast. And it was good.

Image may contain: people sitting and outdoor

(my unexpected guest)

Stop Playing in the Traffic

Stop Playing in the Traffic, My Friend

By Jane Tawel

July 23, 2020

 

I have an acquaintance who is all worked-up about America becoming Communist. I just don’t have enough hair left on my head to keep pulling it out trying to explain things to some people, but remaining silent is also not always an option for me, at least at a first go.  I do not engage in fruitless argument, but neither will I engage in the mock-niceness of not saying anything.  Not saying something to people is not only not nice, it is unkind.  If people want to go out and play in the traffic, I at least have the responsibility as someone who has learned that playing in traffic is not only wrong-headed but dangerous to try to convince them they aren’t seeing things the right way.  I have to at least try to be ethical and to warn them and tell them:  “Hey, you know you don’t have to play in the traffic, you can play right here in my safe backyard with me. C’mon in”. I can’t force them to change their minds, but I also can not be silent while they play a game of chicken with speeding semitrucks.  And no this is not about things that are truly open to one’s own opinion. For more on that you can see my post of July 6, 2020 (janetawel.com/2020/07/06/unapologetically-thoughtful-woman-seeks-thinking-humans/)

 

So, back to the person who lives in fear that the people who are protesting throughout America today are “commies”, and that all of the people who want real change in this country are “socialists” (a term some people erroneously associate with synonyms for “thieves” or God help us,  with that frightening term “French People”) (and let’s just pause here for a moment of silence to let this settle in: this man and others are upset only about the Black Lives Matter protests – about the way Black People protest or the way we are protesting as white people for the long disenfranchised people in America. In the name of Saint Colin Kaepernick, isn’t it as clear as Black and White by now folks what the real issues are?!?!)  This person and tragically too many like him actually believe that the federal government of America is right to send camouflaged troops into cities to protect property rather than allowing local governments to decide how to protect peacefully lawfully protesting people. I mean, can we get this straight – some people are still more upset about property destruction as a bad side effect of good people protesting long after they have forgotten what the protests are about – people!)

 

And when my friend brings up the cold, cold-war corpse of Communism as a specter,  he is right (but oh so wrong because he doesn’t see it)– right in that it is always the abuse of power by those who lead that corrupt a system of government and thereby decay the moral integrity of the very foundations of a nation.  This is absolutely true today, if we look only at nations and governments in which the philosophy of communism fell to the greed and power-mongering of the entitled, and this is true no matter what they may claim their governing philosophy is today. Of course, as Orwell predicted, our founding philosophy of American Democracy and the ideology of a “republic for all” has fallen just as low, if not lower than that of the original intent of Marx’ and Engel’s ideology. This is what we should be looking at – not where we might be headed as we change, but where we have sunk as we have changed.

 

And can we just actually look around at our nation with open eyes and ask, “is this really what we want to believe in?”. It may be what we “want” since we can be as self-centered and greedy as the next person, but is it what we want to believe in?  Are we willing to follow along with the folks that have drunk the kool-aide and let ourselves think that a little more “communal-ism” would even be the worst thing that could happen to our self-centered nation?

 

(I refer you to a commercial break here so you can listen to that great prophet, Bob Dylan and one of his many protest songs:  “Gotta Serve Somebody”   https://youtu.be/wC10VWDTzmU )

 

People who think this way about what they fear happening in America don’t understand either America’s true system of current leadership which I would describe as “Oligarchical Unethical-Uber-Capitalism”; nor do they understand very much about the theory of Communism as a governing ideal rather than the way Communism has come to be used by history’s dictators and shysters.

 

So when this acquaintance of mine, who happens to claim Christianity as his religion,  posted a scary meme about America becoming Communist, I responded thusly.  (For those of you that don’t know much about Christianity, the cult of Jesus Christ was originally the most philosophically “Communist” religion since Abraham gave Lot the first choice in land ownership. It still has elements of the ideals of communism that can be found in many communities that practice Christianity including nuns, monks, the Amish, and the Bruderhoff communities.)

 

I told my friend, that in fact he was right – America’s Federal Government is behaving like a Cold-War-ish Communist regime, in a frightening way, perhaps not seen on a federal level since the civil rights movements of the 1960’s or the student riots which caused Neil Young to pen the words to the song “Ohio” in 1970 (https://youtu.be/xy7FgTKPaMc)  . Change a few words and names in Young’s song, and we horrifically, sadly seem to be right back in those days of the American Federal Government abusing its power against its own peacefully protesting citizens.  So, to my friend’s fallacious argument meme, this is what I said:

 

Why yes, my friend — the fact that you see freedom of speech as vandalism is exactly the point of propaganda such as regimes like Communism and Fascism have used in the past. Or Nixon’s “bums” at Kent State. Or Hitler’s Jewish enemies of the state that led to the Holocaust. It is called propaganda for a reason and the reason is to persuade people that lies are truth and truth is a lie and to create an alter-enemy narrative so that the people in charge can divert your attention away from the problems they are supposed to help solve. Read your Orwell. Read your history. Read news accounts of what is actually happening — your government employees lining their pockets by abusing their power (golf tournament in Scotland anyone? So worthy of a petty, greedy strongman like a Stalin or a Putin.) Your federal government acting against its own citizens let alone against immigrants and sojourners. Things allowed to happen because someone was “elected”, even though it is unconstitutional, breaking the laws and the rule of law of the Constitution, tear gassing innocent people, not “vandals”. Oh, you are quite correct — that is all something that communist countries do (see China vs. Hong Kong) or dictators (see history of Tienanmen Square, Arab Spring, just for a few in our lifetimes). Caring more about their economy numbers than the health of their citizens is indeed so worthy of a communist dictator — you could not be more right on this, if you are pointing the finger at our current federal government. And please,  if those points of true history or current events don’t convince you, read the Bible for it’s great and God-origin calls to justice and sharing and equality and freedom and love — and then just picture Jesus (who was frankly nothing at all like an American capitalist) — imagine the Guy who people want to claim as their Savior, turning over the tables of the politically sponsored religious money making businesses, while he was being teargassed and hit with rubber bullets by Caesar’s camouflaged men while the religious leaders washed their dirty hands of it rather than washing the protesters’ and sinners’ dirty feet.

 

For me, a person who has long tried to figure out what that figure of Jesus Christ is supposed to mean to my very own life, has there ever been a better time in my own country – in my own community – in my own family – in my own soul– to serve and love others as He did? Do I, as Jesus did, fear G-d enough to stop fearing Caesar? As Martin Luther King and John Lewis did?

 

And even if you don’t believe in any god at all – is your life not worth more than letting your fears define you?  Don’t you want to be defined by what you believe IN, not what you fear is OUT there?

 

So, I told this friend of mine, and I say it to us all:

 

Be careful what you are allowing yourself to fear because it will end up being what you are left to serve.

 

Honestly, I have never liked talking about politics.  I don’t have a desire to spend my remaining time on earth to write about them or even think about all this stuff. After learning and thinking about all  the issues currently swirling around in America today, I feel like I have just willingly put myself in the eye of a storm much too big for little ole’ me and I am watching the pressing needs and problems swirl around like  a million Amazon packages in a Wicked Witch’s Tornado.

 

But I must. If I am forced to run into the oncoming traffic only because it might save somebody else, then run into the speeding cars I must.  It is my time.  It is The Time.  As that great sage and prophet, J.R.R. Tolkien said in The Fellowship of the Ring:  We must decide what we are called to do with the time we are given.

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Unapologetically Thoughtful Woman Seeks Thinking Humans

By Jane Tawel

July 6, 2020

Paths of desire: lockdown has lent a new twist to the trails we ...

(The Guardian: Paths of Desire, 14 June 2020)

Unapologetically Thoughtful Woman Seeks Thinking Humans

By Jane Tawel

July 6, 2020

 

I am going to sound a bit too personal and probably a bit too irritable in this post, but I figured that someone out there in my audience-land may need to hear this today.

 

I am an unapologetically thinking, thought-full, thought-provoking woman.  I am both an energetic teacher and a seeking life-learner. I am overly empathetic and feistily philosophical and I have a strong worldview that tries hard – really hard — to be ethical and moral, but also flexible and open-minded. I try to not close my mind by the continual process of opening my heart. I am equally passionate and limited, hard-working and lazy, and the yin and yang of that kind of energy keeps me humbled.  I believe in the greatness of the human spirit, the fallenness and brokenness of each of us and our institutions, and that there is Someone, Something, that IS but Is Not Us, that moves throughout the cosmos with justice, wisdom, creativity, goodness and most of all, love.

 

And here is my getting irritable part of all this:  I will do my very best, no matter when, what or to whom, to sincerely apologize when I am wrong.  BUT I am sick to the point of anger and distraction of being asked to apologize for how it makes “you feel” when I am right.

 

There are some things that are not open to opinion.  There are some things that are black or white, right or wrong. People really can be either thoughtful and intelligent and wise or unthinking, stupid, and foolish. As a matter of fact, we all are sometimes one or the other of these things, and to insist that we are never stupid or foolish or are never just plain, downright wrong, has opened the Pandora’s Box of Evils currently assailing the modern world. There is good. And there is evil.  And there is just plain messing up, making mistakes, or being misguided or selfish.  When I am any of those things, I, just like you do, try to hide behind denial, justification, falsehoods, or anger.  But I also try to want to change that knee-jerk response, and realize sooner rather than later when I have been wrong or wronging and to course-correct when possible.

 

What I don’t want to change however, is thinking that it is somehow “ethical” to be “nice” to people who are wrong. I am not speaking here of being kind to all and loving our enemies – that is something completely different both philosophically and spiritually.  I am talking about dialing back truth and allowing people to go on thinking they are “entitled to their opinions” when those opinions have ethical consequences both for them and for the world. And why, yes, there ARE times I am quite sure that I am right because the opposing idea is showing its ugly underbelly or the fungus of fallacious thinking and irrational arguments that grow out of someone’s defenses of the wrong side of something.

 

This is what having a valid, working worldview means. It means I have tools with which to examine ideas and actions – my own, and yes, others’. And if I am trying to have a growing, moral, ethical worldview, and not a completely self-centered, stagnant, directionless worldview, then – why yes, I will confidently say, “this is not an opinion, this is the right way to think / act / live”.  In other words, there are times we need to say: “Let’s look at the current hypothesis and then apply our worldviews and see if the theory can stand up to the standard of Truth.”

 

So even if we do not have all the facts about something, we can still apply an ethical, right vs. wrong, good vs. evil worldview microscope / magnifying glass / telescope to what we can currently observe, know, and act upon.

 

So while I will always try to use my empathetic nature to understand anyone’s point of view, I won’t excuse it as a valid “opinion” if it is wrong. I am not able to kill the engine on my critical thinking skills nor will I accept as opinion, those things which grow out of falsehoods or broken, or sometimes hateful hearts. And if I am wrong, I will be, if not always the first, at least at the head of the line to own up to it.

 

I don’t want a world where everyone is like me – God forbid. I wish everyone would care about the things I am writing about here, but that is not the real intent of these thoughts on myself.  I tell you some things about what I am like, to try to explain the following analysis of this post’s philosophical musings:

 

It matters to me– Who I Am, Who I Am Becoming, and (with a whole lot of help and faith and humility) Who I Can Be.  I do not want to be content with the way things are, either for me or for the world.  To riff on one of my favorite quotes by Tolkien, “I hate the times I have conflicts with people and the bad stuff that seems to be happening in my world today, but all we have to decide is what to do with the time and the character qualities that are given to us.”

 

I may be nothing in the scale of human achievement and I may be only a small bit of dust in a vast Eternal Cosmos, but all that matters to me right now, in this moment, is to believe that in some inexplicable way: I matter. And if I matter?  Then You Matter.

Somehow, our very matter miraculously matters.

 

Who We Are + What We Do = Our True Purpose in Life

 

What I Do with Who I Am is what is called “Ethics”.  Who I Try to Be, with Whatever is Done To or For Me, is called Courage.  And when Who I Am and What I Do has both ethical intent and courageous truth-telling action, then I am that Imago Dei, that very singularly spiritually-distilled essence that I am created to be – the very only, unique version of a glorious, flawed, amazing human being that is heroically ….. Me.

 

A friend recently and kindly responded to a post of mine with this comment: “I agree with everything you said, except the part where you say ‘I’m sorry for writing this’ because I don’t think, Jane, that you are sorry. And you shouldn’t be sorry”. And she was right. And I was wrong. I am not sorry for when I am right and I will not apologize any more for the things I do and say that might make someone realize he or she is wrong.  And the many times I am wrong, I will do my best to make it right. But, no I am not going to apologize any more for when I am in the right, even if someone doesn’t like it. Even if someone doesn’t like me. Because there is always a slight chance that someone will learn something they need to know, and that together, we can learn how to make the world a better, truer more right-eous place for everyone.

 

But no matter what, True Truth has a way of flinging itself upon the moorings of the world and shoring up all that is right with Her, despite us, and thankfully,  sometimes, because of us.

 

While we, of course, may indeed have differing opinions on a host of things, when we begin to think everything is open to opinion, we lose the very strength and security of the foundations we need so desperately to stand on and the reality we need to exist in as sentient beings. Someone may knock me down with hurtful words or by taking a little angry stance on what they see as their “opinion”, but though I may be hurt or irritated or aghast, it is not about me. There is a reality to our existence that is true and good whether we are aware of it or not.   It thankfully matters not if I am right, for being right does not make me who I am.  But it matters a whole, whole lot if I can never admit I am wrong, because knowing I am wrong is the only thing that can change what I do and being able to change what I think and what I do is what makes me more than a mere animal. It makes me a human soul.   We who believe that there is Some Thing, Some One more in the world that puts in all of us a desire for a better, more whole existence can hang on to this assurance: Right will always Rise to the Top.   As Maya Angelou, preaches in a poem, that is about black women, but which I’d like to think can be about any  Righteous Cause or True Truth:

“You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

 

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

 

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.”

 

 

Unapologetically flawed but often entertaining, Thoughtful Woman—Seeks Those Who Want to RISE TOGETHER! Pet-opinions allowed only in open spaces. Willingness to admit being wrong is a must.   Must also be willing to insist on being right. Desire others who are seeking-out truth and have a worldview open to learning and change. Hopefulness, not necessary, will be provided when together. Any race, age, gender, or social strata welcome. Contact if you are like me and looking for a “Good” Time.

 

 

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(Fearless Girl????)

Fellow WordPress folks:  Make sure you check out the blog posts on https://lensdiary.blog You will be glad you did!

 

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