Heart Dead?

When a straight line makes its way across the monitor screen, indicating no response to stimulation, the patient is declared dead.

———————————————————————————————————————–

One day I asked my heart,

Would you like it if…?

no response______________________________________________________

How about…?

no response, just silence, a long line ———————————————————-

I wondered

Am I “heart dead”?

Have the tempests stilled the dizzying depths of emotion, the heavy heights of passion, the breathy breadth of response?

Can I no longer count on a “gut feeling” to guide me?

I remembered taking a walk

no phone, no umbrella,

yet the storm clouds gathered themselves gloomily in the distance,

and I could not smile.

My daughter offered to teach my mouth to smile and

I responded that the smile must come from the heart, from a feeling.

Finally, the charcoal clouds overhead started bumping up against each other angrily, and I said, “Let’s go back.”

We turned back and my daughter observed a smile had formed on my lips.

My heart had started beating, when we turned back.

Must I turn back from this path? to find a response?

But what is “back” when one is speaking metaphorically about a direction in life?

What do I want to do? Why is it so hard to know after all these years of education and living?

How can I pursue my passion, if I don’t know what that is?

Or, is it that I don’t think my passions, pursue-able? How does one earn a living talking, writing, thinking about ideas, which spring up from literature? Except to teach, and to assist others in the pursuit.  Teaching has not opened its doors to me. What then shall I do?

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‘Emmanuel’ God With Us!

Here we are with yet another year to add on to the tale of our lives. How the story grows, and how the plot thickens as time moves steadily forward, as obstacles arise, and conflicts threaten resolution; nevertheless, time pushes us ever onward, towards our final, fatal destiny.

The eternity of the soul cries out and welcomes Emmanuel, God with us. And because God is present with us, we are able to make sense of this time-based narrative that leads us, not to denouement, but to an eternal story, a timeless story with unlimited resources, without sickness, without strife, without separation from and loss of those whom we love. Essentially, we have a story with no conflict to build tension, no suspense, nothing but fulfillment! Hard to imagine that being remotely interesting…yet, unending fulfilment, or should I say wholeness, is our hope.

Because the author of our story introduced the character of Jesus, a word (logos) that is living and breathing, clothed in mortal matter: the flesh; a word that transcends language and cultural barriers; a word that declares, “Peace and Good will to all,” we now have a story of hope, not despair; love, not hate; unity, not strife; prosperity, not harm: A comedy, not a tragedy!

O Come O Come Emmanuel!

Economy of Privilege

Privilege: a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor.
~Merriam-Webster dictionary

Lately there’s been a lot of talk about being white and the unearned privileges associated with this social “racial” classification. In looking at the often taken for granted privileges of being white in North America, I asked the question: “Why do we talk about privilege in terms of economy, as if there is a shortage on privilege?” I think this might be an odd question, since by definition the concept of privilege involves those who “have” and those who “have not.” But why do we grant privileges to some and not others? And, why do we make arbitrary social standards about who will be granted privilege and who not? Can’t we give the rights and advantages of privilege to all–rich and poor, majority and minority, white and coloured? Why does our society, and society’s all over the globe have a system of privileging some over others?

Peggy McIntosh talks about privilege in her article, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.

She creates a list of unearned privileges which accompany being part of a dominant group:

1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.
12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.
16. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.
17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.
18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.
19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
22. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my race.
25. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.
28. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.
29. I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree with me.
30. If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn’t a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have.
31. I can choose to ignore developments in minority writing and minority activist programs, or disparage them, or learn from them, but in any case, I can find ways to be more or less protected from negative consequences of any of these choices.
32. My culture gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other races.
33. I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race.
34. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
35. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.
36. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it had racial overtones.
37. I can be pretty sure of finding people who would be willing to talk with me and advise me about my next steps, professionally.
38. I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative or professional, without asking whether a person of my race would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.
39. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race.
40. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
41. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
42. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my race.
43. If I have low credibility as a leader I can be sure that my race is not the problem.
44. I can easily find academic courses and institutions which give attention only to people of my race.
45. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my race.
46. I can chose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.
47. I can travel alone or with my spouse without expecting embarrassment or hostility in those who deal with us.
48. I have no difficulty finding neighborhoods where people approve of our household.
49. My children are given texts and classes which implicitly support our kind of family unit and do not turn them against my choice of domestic partnership.
50. I will feel welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.

Many of these privileges have to do with power, and access to resources such as jobs, money, status. Why don’t we tend to want to share and extend power to all people in a society? Why don’t we allow open access to resources? In a sense I think it comes down to the value of taking care of your own. I think of a scene in Linda Crew’s Children of the River, in which a Cambodian mom, fleeing from Cambodia, sits on board a ship, nursing her infant, and refusing to share her milk with another infant whose mother is sick, and whose milk has dried up. The infant whose mother is sick, dies. The other lives. Why this privileging of one infant over another. Their race and class are equal. But one belongs to the mother, and the other does not. Had the mother agreed to feed the other infant, would both infants have died, since she did not have enough water to keep up her supply of milk? Resources are limited, and allowing open access to resources means that everyone has less. But why use race as a standard for privileging some and not others? I guess the answer lies in who has access to the resources, and those who have access, wanting to take care of their own. I’m not saying this is right, or good. I’m just exploring the question: “Why do we talk about privilege in terms of economy?”

Gender and Spirituality

Here is a link to a very interesting article on gender and spirituality.

http://www.malespirituality.org/masculine_spirituality.htm

I like this article because it extends my understanding of gender code switching, mentioned in a previous post, into the spiritual world. It makes sense that we must develop both the masculine and feminine in our own spirituality, as well as within the established church. Certainly the church feels like a boys club in many ways, and yet the worship does often feminize the worshipper with images of surrender. This would, of course, mirror the analogy of the church being the bride of Christ. What are your thoughts about the article?

YA Fiction

To prepare for teaching high school students, I’ve been forced to read a pile of Young Adult Fiction. For the most part, I’m not impressed by YA Fiction. I find it loaded with social and political ideology, and it often takes a moralizing tone. I’m not speaking of the Harry Potter books, by any means. These have focussed entirely on building great, likeable characters, intriguing plot and terrifying adventures. Rather, I’m speaking of books like The Chrysalids, The Giver, Among the Hidden, Farenheit 451, The Outsiders, The Maestro, The Crazy Horse Electric Game, etc…

Many of these books are dystopias which are political by nature. What if the government had complete control?>>> blah blah blah. Can I say that if this is all we give kids to read, I can see why video games are so popular! Still, there is always a good point or two to make about any and all of these books. But why is it that good YA fiction is so hard to find?

Public vs Private: For Everything there is a time and a place

Lately the issue of public versus private has been on my mind. Many bloggers are describing their feelings of unease over the mixing of the public and the private through the blogging medium. I certainly feel this tension. I have a couple of blogs that I keep up: a personal blog that relays information to family and close friends, and this public one that I use to document general information about my life and thoughts.

I have long thought that blurring private with public is a mistake. The feminist movement had difficulty with these boundaries because the notion of "feminine" was associated with the private life, and "masculine" was associated with public life. Many women thought that in order to bring themselves to the public life, they had to mix private with public. They didn’t consider their capability to take on a masculine, public role. (Nor was it socially acceptable for them to do so.)

Honor of the Queen by David Weber is a sci-fi novel that explores this theme of feminine and masculine roles in society. Honor is a woman, and the captain of the starship, Fearless. She is tall, strong, brave, smart and objective—everything one can hope for in a good captain. In fact, if I replaced “she” with “he” in the story, there are only a few moments where I would feel that the “he” doesn’t fit. At one point, after work in her private quarters, the story briefly describes Honor’s personal enjoyment of hot chocolate and cats. Another point is when Honor empathizes with one of her officers and he becomes embarassed. Here the reader realizes that Honor, to be successful, must keep feminine characteristics at bay. Honor’s mother is another character that highlights how Honor is unusual, and therefore successful. Honor’s mother teases her about men, and love, but Honor is embarrassed by her mother’s comments and gives them very little time, thinking only how unattractive she would be to the opposite sex, due to her size and strength, and position.

I think this story is really talking about public and private roles in society, not only masculinity and femininity. Codes of masculinity are rules of public, war-like, competitive behaviour, and codes of femininity are codes of private, peace-loving, domestic behaviour. When alone Honor is free to think in terms of love and relationships, comforts, beauty, and emotion. When in her professional role, Honor must be objective, strategic, strong, and brave. Still, Honor is confused about her public and private roles, and does not develop a strong personal life. (This may reflect the author's own confusion about roles and code-switching in different contexts.)

Throughout time the blurring of public and private has caused problems. Men, who were raised to be knights, warriors, protectors, and hunters, found domestic life difficult because it felt like they were being feminized at home. Some responded to this by leaving, or engaging in risk-taking activities whenever possible to prove they are still men (think of Deliverance) and some responded by acting like aggressive warriors in their own home, abusing and battering their family members when the security of the family seemed threatened. (There are of course many responses but these are generalizations) Women, bringing their private, domestic code into the public life made things very complicated, and they were responsible for creating destabilizing effects in the workplace. Even now there is a real conflict between top levels of government, who must be responsible for protecting the business, organization, or nation, by competitive behavior, or engaging in war (masculine/public roles) and those who are against any type of aggression, muscle-showing, or competitive roles in society.

My opinion is that there is a time and a place for everything. Code-switching is an important skill in all areas of life. We don’t go into a high-class restaurant and act like we would at McDonalds. We code-switch. We try not to use jargon when we go for a job interview. We code-switch. I think, too, that in public life, we need to code-switch. I don’t think that domesticating the public world is any more beneficial to the public, than publicizing the private is to the private life. I also find I’m very uncomfortable in a world that blindly accepts Foucault’s idea that anything private or hidden is shameful and must be brought out into the public eye. There is nothing shameful about the private life remaining private. But that is another topic…