Imagine

Imagine

Epiphany

 

I really want to write about imagery but since we are focusing on verbs and action this Epiphany season, I elected a verb form of the word family.  Then I realized that that word  “imagine” was really want I wanted to discuss.

 

There are purportedly seven major types of imagery, each corresponding to a sense, feeling, or action.  These include visual imagery which pertains to graphics, visual scenes, pictures, or the sense of sight.  Then there is auditory imagery, a form of mental imagery that is used to organize and analyze sounds when there is no external auditory stimulus present. This form of imagery is broken up into a couple of auditory modalities such as verbal imagery or musical imagery.   It also includes the imagery of onomatopoeia, using sounds or words about sounds to evoke images of such things that create those noises.  Olfactory imagery pertains to odors, scents, or the sense of smell and the less known gustatory imagery pertains to flavors or the sense of taste.  Tactile imagery pertains to physical textures or the sense of touch while the lesser known kinesthetic imagery pertains to movements or the sense of bodily motion. 

 

Finally there is organic imagery or subjective imagery which pertains to personal experiences of a character’s body, including emotion and the senses of hunger, thirst, fatigue, and pain.  It is this last type of imagery that often poses the greatest threat to us because it can also raise an awareness of fear.  Recently, over the past eighteen months, this type of imagery has been most prevalent worldwide.  Fear is defined by the website and magazine Psychology Today as “a vital response to physical and emotional danger—if we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats.”

 

Laughter is also a response.  Psychology Today says this about laughter:  “Laughter just might be the most contagious of all emotional experiences. What’s more, it is a full-on collaboration between mind and body. Although laughter is one of the distinguishing features of human beings, little is known about the mechanisms behind it.  Scientists do know that laughter is a highly sophisticated social signaling system, helping people bond and even negotiate. Interestingly, most social laughter does not result from any obvious joke.”  Laughter is also beneficial, as is fear.  Laughter “has numerous health benefits: It releases tension, lowers anxiety, boosts the immune system, and aids circulation.”

 

So today I am asking you to imagine both fear and laughter.  Both are vital responses necessary to the human condition and yet, while they seem very far apart, both serve essential functions.  Carl Sagan, though, reminds us to be certain of that which we consider fearful as well as that which makes us laugh.  “But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

 

In other words, just because we laugh does not mean something is great.  While Columbus, Fulton, and the Wright Brothers proved themselves to be correct, the laughter they received had little to do with their success.  Their actions were backed by just that – real action.

 

We need to make sure that those things which create fear are also real.  Recent news stories have been built upon fiction, not fact.  Certainly there is shame to be heaped upon those who fabricate such false stories, attempting to engage our imaginations and create fear, but there is also shame on those who readily accept such rather than taking a few moments to fully imagine what might be truth.

 

What if we stopped trying to create fear and simply lived today in the best possible way we could, not worrying or being fearful… just being as productive as possible?  Imagine that, as John Lennon did, please.  “Imagine there’s no heaven.  It’s easy if you try – no hell below us, above us only sky.  Imagine all the people living for today.  Imagine there’s no countries.  It isn’t hard to do; nothing to kill or die for and no religion too. 

 

Imagine all the people living life in peace.  You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one.  I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one.  Imagine no possessions.  I wonder if you can; no need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man.  Imagine all the people sharing all the world.  You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one.  I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one.

Different Strokes

Different Strokes

Advent 26

 

In 1966 a Kansas newspaper interviewed the boxer known as Cassius Clay about an upcoming fight.  The boxer, more famously known as Mohammed Ali, replied:  “I got different strokes for different folks.”  A year later a rhythm and blues singer released a single called “Different Strokes” and used Ali’s quote in the song.  It appeared a year later in the Sly and the Family Stone hit “Everyday People” and was later the impetus for the title of a television program ten years later.

 

Although Mohammed Ali might have put a more modern spin on the saying, it actually dates back several centuries.  In the later 1500’s there was a saying “To each his own” with an accepted version being frequently heard in the 1700’s.    A reader asked me what one phrase or quote defined grace.  I think one of the first definitions can be traced through these sayings to the first century ACE and even earlier. 

 

“One man’s meat is another man’s poison” is accredited to Lucretius during the first century BCE.  “De gustibus non est disputandum” or “There is no accounting for tastes” was also a popular saying and it evolved into the sixteenth century French saying “Chacun a son gout” or Each to his own taste.

 

I stroke my pets and it is, I am certain, a much different stroke than those delivered by Mohammed Ali to an opponent.  And yet, each allows for individuality.  To me, grace is recognizing that we are indeed individuals.  One person’s food allergies are poison to them while another might eat a great deal of the very same item with no adverse effects.  This does not mean one person is better than the other.  It simply means one is different from the other.

 

Respect is the one thing we all want and need.  Living in grace means, in my humble opinion, to show respect to all.  Whether you say “Different stroke for different folks” or Different stroke for different blokes”, the meaning is the same.  Life can sometimes hinder us and it can be very hard.  Having respect shown to us can make the journey easier.  As the theme song of the television show states: “Now, the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum, what might be right for you, may not be right for some.”

 

 

Remove the Stigma

Remove the Stigma

Pentecost 100

 

It is 2016.  We can pick up the phone and talk to someone on the other side of the world without hesitation.  We not only can talk to someone anywhere on the planet, we can talk to those orbiting the earth in outer space.  And yet, we cannot, do not talk about suicide.  There is a stigma about it that prevents us from discussing this tragic action and that means we will never cure it.  We must remove this stigmas and stop suicide.

 

Quoting from the World health Organization:  “Suicides are preventable. There are a number of measures that can be taken at population, sub-population and individual levels to prevent suicide and suicide attempts. These include:

  • reducing access to the means of suicide (e.g. pesticides, firearms, certain medications);
  • reporting by media in a responsible way;
  • introducing alcohol policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol;
  • early identification, treatment and care of people with mental and substance use disorders, chronic pain and acute emotional distress;
  • training of non-specialized health workers in the assessment and management of suicidal behavior;
  • follow-up care for people who attempted suicide and provision of community support.

 

“Suicide is a complex issue and therefore suicide prevention efforts require coordination and collaboration among multiple sectors of society, including the health sector and other sectors such as education, labor, agriculture, business, justice, law, defense, politics, and the media. These efforts must be comprehensive and integrated as no single approach alone can make an impact on an issue as complex as suicide.

 

The stigma surrounding suicide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and the stigma surrounding mental disorders and suicide, means” many people thinking of taking their own life or who have attempted suicide are not seeking help and are therefore not getting the help they need. The prevention of suicide has not been adequately addressed due to a lack of awareness of suicide as a major public health problem and the taboo in many societies to openly discuss it. To date, only a few countries have included suicide prevention among their health priorities and only 28 countries report having a national suicide prevention strategy.  Raising community awareness and breaking down the taboo is important for countries to make progress in preventing suicide.

 

How does such a stigma affect suicide – what we know about it and how we can stop it?  Again I quote from the WHO:  “Globally, the availability and quality of data on suicide and suicide attempts is poor. Only 60 Member States have good-quality vital registration data that can be used directly to estimate suicide rates. This problem of poor-quality mortality data is not unique to suicide, but given the sensitivity of suicide – and the illegality of suicidal behavior in some countries – it is likely that under-reporting and misclassification are greater problems for suicide than for most other causes of death.

 

“Improved surveillance and monitoring of suicide and suicide attempts is required for effective suicide prevention strategies. Cross-national differences in the patterns of suicide, and changes in the rates, characteristics and methods of suicide highlight the need for each country to improve the comprehensiveness, quality and timeliness of their suicide-related data. This includes vital registration of suicide, hospital-based registries of suicide attempts and nationally representative surveys collecting information about self-reported suicide attempts.”

 

Every life has value and we need to make sure that people understand that means them.  All lives matter, not just during a political season or holidays but each and every single day.  No one has a stress-free life.  You might be the richest person on earth or the poorest but I promise you your life has its share of stresses. 

 

Too many religions consider this subject taboo and help encourage the stigmas regarding and surrounding suicide.  Our faith should uplift and support, not help destroy or belittle.  There is no deity that does not understand our human condition.  We need to show compassion, grace, and love to our neighbors, our family, and yes, even those we do not like or do not like us.  In my final installment of this mini-series on suicide, I will discuss just how easy it is to connect, communicate, and care.

 

Suicide is a killer, a killer that we can stop.  I hope you will take five minutes today to fo five simple things and help save a life.  Learn the warning signs and never take as a joke when someone says that want to end their life.  Call your emergency hotline (In the USA it is 911.) and report such to the proper authorities.  Then join the movement to prevent suicide.  It is as simple as clicking on the World Suicide Prevention Day Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/events/1054474904622617).  Share this message with someone – repost or retweet.  Finally, understand that suicide is a big issue and one no one should handle alone.  Reach out to professionals for help.  These are five easy steps that might just save someone’s life:  learn, discuss, join, remove the stigma, support a friend, and reach out.  What a great way to have an extraordinary day in helping save someone’s life!  Suicide is not a secret and never should have any stigmas attached to it. 

 

Today I am Thankful – Sort Of

Today I am Thankful…Sort of

Pentecost 84

 

From time to time I am asked if I practice what I write.  My answer is generally something along the lines of “I am trying to do so.”  The truth is most likely that I am simply trying but I do believe in what I write.  Most of the time I back what I am saying with statistics and references so these are just random thoughts I dreamed about but real things backed up by experience and science and not just my own but those of others.

 

Today though, after posting about living a grateful life, I found my own words haunting me.  “Do we thank those we dislike?  Or do we just write the instances those people have done something nice for us as oddities?  Do we consider ‘those people” as being evil and dismiss them from our acts and words of gratitude all together?’    There is an old Irish blessing that includes those we don’t like…or rather those that don’t like us.  ‘May those who love us, love us; and those who don’t love us, may God turn their hearts; and if He doesn’t turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles so we’ll know them by their limping.’  It takes a great deal of faith to pray for those we consider to be evil and yet, they are the very ones that need our hospitality.”

 

I had just posted that when I read an article that sorely tried my belief in those very words.  A Washington Post headline “Racial realists…” topped an article that spoke of an “identitarian” and a group established to “oppose multiculturalism and mass immigration”.  IT was referencing a political campaign which, in my humble opinion, had definitely reached a new level of mass hysteria and stupidity.  The campaign’s latest ad was geared to “concentrate on his natural constituency, which is white people,” says one of the candidate’s biggest supporters.  This man identifies himself as a “white nationalist write”.

 

The feelings the article and the video ad conjured up in me were not those of gratitude.  Yet, based upon what I had just posted, I need to show some.  I needed to live that life of gratitude I was encouraging everyone to do.  I need to lead by example.  It was not what I wanted to do.  And yet, if I really believed in what I was writing, I had to find some gratitude in this article.

 

It is absurd that in 2016 someone needs to identify himself by color, any color. Someday I really hope we realize we are all part of the human race, colorful and diverse just as roses or puppies are – remarkable in our differences but stronger because of them. That is the true reality.  I am an American Indian so I feel very strongly that these so-called “white racial realists” might want to remember the first wave of multiculturalism and mass immigration to this country was from the Europeans who, by legal definition are Caucasian or, in terms used in the 1700-1900’s, “white”.  They were once the very poster children of that which they now oppose.

 

So where is the gratefulness?  How and for what can I be thankful?  First of all, I am grateful for the Bill of Rights, those first ten amendments to the US Constitution that allowed this story to be published and disseminated to the masses.   Freedom of the press is not found in every nation and in the USA, writing this story will not get the reporter imprisoned nor on someone’s list to be annihilated.

 

Secondly, I am living in a nation that, while these candidates have their flaws, does promote and guarantee free elections.  Voting rights extend to those over a certain age, regardless of socioeconomic status or ethnicity.  In two days I will go to the voting locations in my own area and vote in a local election without fear of retribution and without needed to register with one party or another. My vote will be private and whomever I vote for – well, that decision will be purely and solely mine to make.  It will not affect where I live or where I worship or what I will be able to purchase to eat as it is in some countries.

 

Third, I can express my opinion about this article, again without fear for my life.  I am grateful today that my nation has done well in the 2016 Rio Olympics but more grateful that while this article illustrates the impaired thinking of some, it also illustrates the we are free to think whatever we like.  The freedom that allowed our Olympic delegation to encompass all races and religions, with some competing wearing religious garments, also allows us to be different in our thinking.  While that diversity of thought and campaigning may seem absurd to me, it illustrates our freedoms that we so proudly proclaim and fervently cherish.

 

Reading this article brought up some anger but in the end, the anger has been overwritten by gratitude.  My opinions about the article have not changed but I hope to promote my own in a positive, grateful manner.  After all, for every storm there is a rainbow for which to give thanks.  For every tear, somewhere someone is smiling.  In every trial, there is a blessing, even in political campaigns.  There is always a reason to be thankful and for that, today, I am grateful.

 

 

Humanity

Humanity

Pentecost 54

 

It was a Friday when Frederick Lewis Donaldson said the following in a sermon given at Westminster Abbey in London, England:  “The seven social sins are…wealth without work; pleasure without conscience; knowledge without character; commerce without morality’ science without humanity’ worship without sacrifice; politics without principle.” 

 

Most of us freely admit to being human and by that, we imply that we are not perfect.  Mistakes are going to be made and while we are better at forgiving our own than those of others, we do allow the possibility for their being made.  What about when society makes them?  How forgiving are we when it is a collective sin?  Do we still extend a sense of humanity to such?

 

Recently a group of people identifying themselves as being patriotic to their own cultures and homelands came together for an experiment.    You can watch the results here and they are far more compelling than anything I could write.  Truly we all are a part of each other.   “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten how to belong to each other.”  These words from Mother Teresa might very well be the key to making this ordinary time extraordinary. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyaEQEmt5ls

 

 

Life and Beliefs

Life and Beliefs

Easter 27

 

Friday evening was the beginning of Passover.  This Jewish holiday celebrates the emancipation of the Jewish people from slavery.  It is an eight-day festival which is celebrated in early spring and is called by those trying to be humorous, the “Jewish Easter”.  While it celebrates one emanicipation, there clearly are others and yes, some include the Jewish people.

 

Religious freedom is not just something discussed and guaranteed in the United States Constitution, although said document was one of the first to include it in a government’s laws and stated human rights.  It has been the goal of mankind since beliefs became diverse and openly discussed.  Clearly the first deliverance of the Jewish people from the bondage in Egypt was not a cure-all.  In the mid twentieth century Adolf Hitler sought to not only enslave them but to eradicate them, even though he himself was of Jewish descent.

 

This entire series is about celebrating women and so, today I would like to celebrate some women who have stood up for not only themselves and their gender but also their faith.  “We were redeemed from Egypt because of the righteousness of the women of that generation.”  This sentence is found in the Talmud, the Jewish holy book.   In honor of Passover, today’s females who have created and invented new respect and life for themselves are all Jewish.  More importantly, though, they are all good citizens and stewards of the earth, since today is also Earth Day. 

 

Sarah Aaronsohn was born at the end of the nineteenth century and spent her life trying to obtain freedom for Palestine from Turkish rule.  She was tortured for her efforts but remained strong and determined, faithful to her religion.  Lina Abarbanell was an opera singer of high acclaim.  She retired from singing but not from the stage and became a worldwide director of such wonderful operas as “Porgy and Bess”.

 

Born in Germany immediately after the end of World War Ii, Rosalie Silberman Abella took her experience as a refugee and used it as motivation to help others.  She became the first Jewish woman elected to the Supreme Court of Canada.  Ruth Abrams became the first woman to serve on the Massachusetts Supreme Court, championing both women and minorities through her legal career.  Ruth Ginsberg is a vigilant and powerful presence in the United States Supreme Court today.

 

Lithuanian Dina Abramowicz was a Holocaust survivor from World War Ii.  While many hold that librarians are quiet, dull people, usually female, Dina proved them wrong.  As the head librarian of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, she helped recreate the rich heritage of the Jewish culture and people after WWII.  Bella Abzug was a New Yorker who also proved the strength of the Jewish woman.  Throughout her three terms as a U.S. Congresswoman, she advocated for and helped pass ground-breaking legislation for equal rights and particularly the right of women to play intramural sports in schools.

 

More recently Jill Abramson was the first female executive editor of the New York Times and promoted women within the organization as well as featuring stories regarding gender equality and racial injustice.  Rachel Adler sought to achieve gender equality within her own faith and was a pioneer of the Jewish feminist movement.  Born fifty years earlier, Paula Ackerman had taken over leadership of her rabbi husband’s congregation upon his death, a move that was met with support from the members of their synagogue.

 

Amy Alcott is a fantastic golfer who was recognized in the World Golf Hall of Fame.  Sue Alexander is a founding member of the International Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.  The list just goes on and on as these women have found purpose and strength from their faith.  After all, why do we believe of it is not to help us live better and leave the world a better place?

  

 

 

Embracing the Passion

Embracing the Passion

Lent 10

 

Yesterday we learned of the passing of a great American writer, Harper Lee.  Harper Lee was a daughter of the Deep South, that part of the United States of America that was explored a century before the Pilgrims began their epic ocean crossing.  Born in Alabama, Harper Lee died in the small town she wrote about in her ground-breaking novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

 

Another writer’s death was also reported yesterday, that of Umberto Eco.  While Ms. Lee sought to show the world its true reflection, Mr. Eco looked for the same in symbols and signs.  Umberto Eco was a scholar but sought to see how the world viewed itself through not only words but also music, religious icons, signs, symbols, and graphic artwork such as cartoons.

 

Several days ago we talked about the image people sometimes set for us – the restrained studied indifference that is seen as being socially correct.  Neither of these writers wasted time with any of that.  They both embraced their beings and their worlds and sought to make both a little better while keeping their eyes wide open.  In short, they both embraced their living with passion, great passion.

 

Both writers also had legions of critics.  Harper Lee’s critics were usually rather silent, that is until her second book was published last year, “Go Set a Watchman”.  Her first book gave us a distinct hero and was written as a commentary seen through the eyes of a child.  People were comfortable with that because it gave them an excuse for their living.  It recognized that we all live each day with the experience for that day the same as a child’s first time as doing anything.  In her second novel, however, Lee expected her readers to have grown a bit and gives them an adult story that is complete with raw, unapologetic truth.  No one wanted to be held accountable and the book was met with great negativity.

 

Eco’s biggest critique was that he saw nothing as being too menial and looked for meaning in everything.  The writer Salman Rushdie who would later have to live in hiding because of a death contract on his head placed there by Islamic Extremists once described a novel of Eco’s as ““humorless, devoid of character, entirely free of anything resembling a credible spoken word, and mind-numbingly full of gobbledygook of all sorts.”

 

Umberto Eco spoke at least five languages and never apologized for his passion about what he saw in the world.  He once explained his viewpoint to the London newspaper “The Guardian” in 2002: “I’m not a fundamentalist, saying there’s no difference between Homer and Walt Disney… but Mickey Mouse can be perfect in the sense that a Japanese haiku is.”

 

Harper Lee, though looking very different from the stereotypical Southern damsel yet always reminiscent of the grown-up version of her character “Scout”, explained her lack of hurt feelings this way:  “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read.  One does not love breathing.”  She also explained her title”  “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy….they don’t do one thing except sing their hearts out for us.  That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

 

Both writers sought meaning and encouraged their readers to find the passion in their living.  Sadly many people are frightened when confronted with someone doing just that.  Do we really fear passion or do we fear what their passion requires of us – a true and honest look at ourselves?

 

“To Kill a Mockingbird” brought the inequities of racism into focus and gave meaning to the daily struggles of its victims.  Umberto Eco’s novels are a bit more involved, his most successful being “The Name of the Rose”. but they do much the same thing.  In spite of having once won a literary competition for young Fascists as a lad growing up in Italy and later a member of the Roman Catholic Church, Eco was considered a liberal.  As a girl growing up in a small town in Alabama, Lee walked among the tides of racism every day and brought a liberal, humanist approach.

 

Both of these writers embraced life and humanity in their passion for writing.  They saw the need for greater humanity in the world and encouraged people, by their example, to embrace the passion of living.  Sometimes the truths about which they wrote were discomforting.  Passion is not always wine and roses and warm sweaty embraces.  Passions can sometimes hurt.

 

“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for,” said Harper Lee during a ceremony in 2007 when she was awarded the Congressional Medal of Freedom.  She had lived in New York City for decades but returned to her Alabama small town home that same year.  “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

 

I invite you to crawl inside your own skin and walk around in it.  Not the skin the world wants you to wear but the skin that makes you feel alive, that gives you a passion for living.  Embrace your own passion and then make it your identity.