Thursday, November 22, 2007

Maternal Presence

It's true, what they say. Becoming a parent changes you.

I have become smarter, better, more organized. I have had to be, as I also become more tired and forgetful. I am now permanently tired and forgetful. I go to the store with a grocery list of military precision, written in the order of our journey through Atlantic SuperStore, because if I don't keep moving constantly my toddler will abandon cart and make for the hardware aisle with unerring speed and accuracy. (Why go for toys when there are adult tools available? Especially those exciting sharp blades!)

The way that I experience consciousness has changed. 3 years into a nursing relationship and going strong, the way that I experience sleep--and wakefulness--may be forever altered. Time will tell.

More than anything, I find that I have adopted a way of being in the world that is distinctly parental. At any time and in any situation, the idea that my thoughts, behaviours, and actions affect my child is omnipresent. Even when he isn't.

In many ways it is similar to the pastoral presence I learned to cultivate in seminary and especially during my work as a hospital chaplain. There are many important differences, as well--but the main similarity is this: Whatever is going on, it's not about me. No matter how much it seems to be in the moment, no matter how involved and emotionally attached I am--Not. About. Me. Quite freeing, actually.

It is instead about being witness to my child's journey, to help him with emotions too big for his small experience--to support, to listen, to help... and mostly to back off as needed.

Into maternal presence, I breathe. Support me, Air. Support me, Earth. Support me, Mars bars.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Toddler Koan

Question: Why, now, has Gorilla Munch cereal manifested itself in the bathtub?

Answer: Is life not sweet? Kill the Buddha! (But not the toddler.)


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Welcome, Everything

Note: This entry is a work in progress. An advantage of my low readership!

“It is my thesis that what schools do not teach may be as important as what they do teach. Ignorance is not simply a neutral void; it has important effects on the kinds of options one is able to consider, the alternatives that one can examine, and the perspectives from which one can view a situation or problems. The absence of a set of considerations or perspectives or the inability to use certain processes for appraising a context biases the evidence one is able to take into account. A parochial perspective or simplistic analysis is the inevitable progeny of ignorance.” ~ Elliot Eisner

Unitarian Universalism, affirms inherent worth wherever we find it... which is everywhere. We celebrate diversity, and recognize the humble scantiness of our knowledge in proportion to what might potentially be known. We always have much to learn, and part of our journeys is the search for meaning in any environment.

We recognize that every individual has a unique lifelong path.

We also understand ourselves as life long learners. We learn and grow throughout the course of our lives, and as we learn and grow in all aspects of self, of course we do in spiritual understanding. Our beliefs deepen, or drop away, or shift focus. Our understanding of the world changes. Our spiritual path continues, for all of life. Each breath continues our journey.

We further understand that no one can dictate the path of another, or convert another. We value freedom highly, and conciously chose to be supportive of each other's varied and unique journeys.

We believe in opening oursleves up to all the wisdoms of the world, our own heritages and the unique and inestimable perspectives of many peoples different from ourselves. Nothing is cut away. No knowledge is restricted. There is no One Right Way To Be.

The null curriculum (1) is eliminated.

1.null curriculum

Dia De Los Muertos

My grandmother Zena could not cook worth a damn. One of my fondest memories from childhood is of watching her stand over a stove in her chic Chicago condo, elegantly dressed and coiffed, cigarette in one hand, as she haplessly poked at a hunk of meat in a pan. Five minutes later we sat down to eat. The meat (and I could not now or at the time tell you what animal it came from) was nearly inedible; but the dining room was a work of art unlike anything in my pokey hometown. The same could be said of the conversation.

I didn't really get to know her until I was an adult and living in Chicago myself. We would meet for bitch sessions over tea and Thai take out. She loyally affirmed all my complaints against my seminary professors. We had the same exact opinions of Mayor Daley, of Bill Clinton, and especially of the whole Monica Lewinsky debacle (and we both read the transcripts with voyeuristic fascination). She was the kind of the person to whom I could quote George Jean Nathan's "Art is the sex of the imagination," and she would respond, "exactly!"

The village in Russia where both her parents were born was razed to the ground during The Great War (and then again in the next one). To her, that was the heritage of her Judaism. A staunch atheist from birth to earth, she nonetheless felt that her children deserved information and perpective on religion. So one day she marched into the office of Rev. Leslie Pennington at the First Unitarian Church of Chicago and announced, "I'm an atheist, but I want to bring my kids here so they can learn about religions." "Great!" he replied. "We need more atheists. We're a little low at the moment." And so began a lovely friendship. 50 years later I preached my first-ever sermon in that church, with my grandmother in attendance.

This week we celebrated Dia De Los Muertos in our household, "Day of the Dead". We sipped black tea in honor of Zena, and ate strawberries in honor of John's father. I showed my son pictures of the great-grandmother he never met. He won't grow up with Zena, but he'll grow up immersed in the pictures from her life, the books from her shelves, and the stories we shared. Her love passes through me to him, dripping into the future, like a river that seeks the sea.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Wait a minute, what's the point again?

The creative geniuses who brought us South Park break it down.