Saturday, January 30, 2010

Linda and Henry in Fennario

Once upon a time, in the tiny town of Fennario, there lived some good people, who were loving and kind and who genuinely appreciated working and socializing together. One day, one of the people, Linda, said, "I don't know why Henry doesn't like me." Linda's friend listened sympathetically, and replied she could not fathom it, since Linda was so nice. Linda told other people that Henry did not like her, and they could not understand it, either.

Eventually, somebody suggested she ask Henry about it. "Oh, I couldn't--he scares me," Linda replied. Soon people found themselves taking sides. "Where there is smoke, there must be fire," some said. Henry eventually heard about it, and called Linda right away. She did not answer, so he left a message, and he emailed her. Linda did not respond.

The next time they were in the same place, he asked her to talk, but she only said, "not while you're behaving like this," and moved away. They had both lived there a long time, and were well-liked by all, so the conflict began to put a stress on the whole town.

During almost every conversation, Linda would speak about how upset she was. Some people began to avoid Henry. Others tried to avoid Linda. Finally, one of the oldest citizens told Linda she would go with her, to speak to Henry once and for all. Linda again declined. People began to do their shopping in other nearby towns. Then one of Linda's closest friends found Henry at the riverbank, weeping, and had a long conversation with him. The next day, she told Linda she must either go with her to speak with Henry, or stop talking about him.

Was Linda's friend right? What is the least sad way for this story to end?

Friday, January 22, 2010

asking better questions

With so much hard news, I needed something hopeful. After the Supreme Court ruled that corporations should be at least as well-protected as people; as a U.S. group created an all-white basketball league; as we wave goodbye to healthcare reform; with 10% of our US population out of work; and Haiti only the most recent nation to mix natural disaster with human economic misery, it was good to see Jim Wallis' most recent message: "Rather than join the throngs who ask, 'When will this crisis be over?' we should rather ask, 'How will this crisis change us?'"

In his new book, Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street and Your Street, Wallace writes: "The worst thing we can do now is to go back to normal. Normal is what got us into this situation. We need a new normal, and this economic crisis is an invitation to discover what that means. Here are some of the principles Wallis unpacks for our new normal:

• Spending money we don’t have for things we don’t need is a bad foundation for an economy or a family.
• It’s time to stop keeping up with the Joneses and start making sure the Joneses are okay.
• The values of commercials and billboards are not the things we want to teach our children.
• Care for the poor is not just a moral duty but is critical for the common good.
• A healthy society is a balanced society in which markets, the government, and our communities all play a role.
• The operating principle of God’s economy says that there is enough if we share it."

I do not believe that the Bible is the best or only place to seek answers, but I do agree with Wallis that our current situation is a chance to wake up and change our lives, individually and collectively.

"When will this end?" leaves us passive and dependent; "How will this change us" restores our agency and makes us interdependent. Thanks, Jim, I needed that.

Monday, January 18, 2010

barriers falling down like waters

I have been part of conversations with UU ministers about race where voices were raised and fists clenched in real anger. I have listened to story after story of hateful words and spiteful actions and, perhaps worse, tales of people of color being avoided, ignored, and silenced through “benign neglect.”

I have been privileged to listen to a few of these people gather themselves and return to the fire, re-engaging with the very people who had harmed them before.

I am frankly astonished by the commitment and unflinching open-heartedness of people of all races and ethnicities who choose to do the work of undoing racism. To honor their example of living with integrity, I must commit to the same honesty, the same humility, the same resilience in pursuit of justice and inclusion for all.
It is the hardest work we can do, to even *notice* the barriers in our own hearts
and to begin to dismantle them—-and it is some of the most important work we can do
as we evolve as compassionate and courageous human beings.

So may we be.

Monday, January 04, 2010

sand animation

Here is a YouTube video of "sand animator" Kseniya Simonova winning the "Ukraine's Got Talent" competition by moving sand around on a light table. With just sand and hands, she tells a story of people caught up in WWII, and ultimately, human survival.

She begins by lighting a candle (then dropping the match into the stand, but it's not a chalice, so I'm okay with her doing it), then moves into working on her sand art...

Other sand animators exist as well--google the phrase and enjoy!

Ganesha and Berry

Shree Ganeshaaya Namaha! Salutations to you, O Ganesha.

Virtually all Hindu prayers are preceded by this invocation, according to Royina Grewal

Ganesh, the Hindu god with the head of an elephant, is perhaps the most popular of the Hindu deities. Although he is one of the newer gods—recognizable in texts only as old as the 4th or 5th century of our Common Era, at least 1,000 years younger than some of his fellow goddesses and gods—that youth has served his myth well, as his followers could place him in significant roles in many of the previous stories, so that he is now known as Lord of Beginnings.

Originally, the elephant-headed one was probably one of the Vinayakas, four minor demons who created obstacles for humans and gods alike. People prayed to him to remove obstacles, and he quickly moved from demon to deity to primary deity.

So, at the beginning of this new year, we echo the centuries-old invocation by Someshvara Malla: “I prostrate myself before you, O Ganeshvara, your icon is a hallowed charm that assures fulfillment of all desire. With the fanning of your broad ears, you scatter away all obstacles, as though they were weightless as cotton.”

Wendell Berry wrote

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

Perhaps my prayers to Ganesha should not ask him to remove all obstacles, but to place only carefully-selected obstacles into my life path, so that I may feel both challenge and satisfaction, both occasional failure and real victory, both wounds and cures, both nurturing solitude and enriching community.