Second Fiddle – Major Player

Second Fiddle – Major Player

Lent 26


We’ve all heard someone described as a “second fiddle”.  The term is used to imply someone whose worth is not as great or whose contribution is not as important as someone else’s might be.  In short, it is not a compliment.  This week we will be discussing, as we grow a garden of self, about respect.  If you ever need to clear a room quickly, just throw out “respect” or “self-respect” as a talking point.  We all desperately want it and yet, nobody wants to really discuss it.


Sunday a woman often described as a “second fiddle” passed away.  She had a full life, rich in circumstances and adventures but one that was also filled with public scrutiny and debate.  People either loved her or gave her little attention except to occasionally insult her or speak rather disparagingly about her.  She was, quite possibly, one of two of the most accomplished women of the past two hundred years and, in spite of all of the talk about her, possessed the healthiest dose of self-respect anyone could ever hope to feel.


This woman first came to the public’s attention as an actress.  She never gained stardom from her acting and a less than kind person might call her a “B list” actress.  Through acting she met her husband and became his second wife.  Women of her time were often called second fiddles to their husband but this woman was not just second fiddle as a wife, she was a second wife.  Her husband’s first wife had also been an actress and she was considered an “A list” actress, surpassing both the husband and second wife in stardom and in garnering the public’s favor.


So how did this woman who passed away yesterday have so much self-respect?  Let’s first talk about the other accomplished woman I mentioned.  She too was a wife at a time in which woman were supposed to be the “second fiddle” to their husbands.  She would become famous for not being a beauty and no one was surprised when she married a man she’d known all her life, a distant cousin.  The husband was charismatic, though, and everyone was surprised when he chose the quiet, studious cousin as a wife.  The woman was learned and not afraid to speak her mind and became an asset in her husband’s career just as the one recently deceased had been.  Both accomplished great things because of their self-respect.


Respect is not something that can be bought and even taught.  It is the prize at the end of a quest, much like the treasure one seeks after following a map.  In this instance, though, we are the only ones who can undertake the search.  We have to look within and find the treasure ourselves.  It is not an easy task.


The second woman I mentioned used her self-knowledge (see last week’s posts for discussions about this) to learn to love herself, something we discussed two weeks ago.  The more recent woman had a more difficult time in doing this but both woman would find their self-respect and once found, never lose it.  They became quite possibly the two best “second fiddles” to have ever lived in the White House as the First Lady.


Nancy Reagan passed away yesterday and so, this post has been edited and publication held for twenty-four hours out of respect.  Many saw her only as a shadow of her husband, President Ronald Reagan.  Living in the White House opened their lives up for public discussion.  Nany Reagan was a step mother and wife, something a bit unpopular in a time when woman were encouraged to walk in the limelight and not the shadows.  However, scrutiny of her time as First Lady, wife to the President of the United States of America will reveal some very important contributions.


Nancy Reagan was single-handedly responsible for getting various drug abuse prevention programs started in the US.  Her “Just Say No” advertising campaigns are still being used and resulted in other programs being implemented.  She also began grandparent mentoring programs and hosted children in the White House, giving them a connection that many never felt before to their own country.


The other successful woman in the arena of self-respect was also a First Lady.  Eleanor Roosevelt became well-known as her husband’s polio kept him side-lined but she really came into her own after their left the White House.  Her activity as an advocate further opened the door for women that their being needed to work in factories in World War II had cracked.


Anne Frances Robbins, called Nancy by friends and family, considered being a wife a privilege and worthy of respect.  “I see the First Lady as another means to keep a President from becoming isolated, I talk to people. They tell me things. And if something is about to become a problem, I’m not above calling a staff person and asking about it. I’m a woman who loves her husband and I make no apologies for looking out for his personal and political welfare.”  She was not above calling members of Congress either, inviting them for tea and then drilling them on problems that had come to her attention.  In short, she lived with confidence because she had self-respect.


Eleanor Roosevelt is a favorite of mine and role model of sorts.   Her belief that “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility” is something I have tried to live every day.  She is the longest serving First Lady in the history of the United States and is now considered a politician, diplomat, and activist.  “I think that somehow, we learn who we really are and then live with that decision.”


“A woman is like a tea bag- you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”  This quote of Eleanor Roosevelt’s not applies to herself and Nancy Reagan but to us all.  Take a quick look at yourself and I think you will discover things there to like about yourself.  They are things to improve on; consider them the difficult parts of the treasure map that is you.  After all, every quest has its hurdles that must be overcome.  Think about the movies Indiana Jones – snakes, canyons, chasing marauders, etc.  We all have them, even First Ladies and Presidents. (Maybe I should add “especially” First Ladies and Presidents.)


Every second fiddle provides harmony to the ensemble or orchestra.  Without the second fiddles of the world, life would be just a simple melody, nice but a bit boring. In their own right, second fiddles are major players that help round out our living and give it meaning and illumination.


I hope this week you join the discussion and remember that, As Eleanor Roosevelt reminds us, “People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.”  This is how we grow our self-respect and a better self.

Concord and Labradors

Concord and Labradors

Pentecost 96

Until used as the name of a supersonic jet in operation from 1976 to 2003, many people alive in the latter part of the twentieth century had never heard the word “concord”.  It is both a grammatical and musical term and originated from words in most of the Romance Languages that meant “heart”.

Once man began believing in an interactive deity, as the Abrahamic faiths’ mythologies required, then the names of this deity became adjectives.  Originally this deity was “Go’el” or “kinsman redeemer.  Their mythologies told these believers that all were their brothers and sisters, all living men and women and children were the children of this deity.  In other words, all were their kin.

In a world where mankind had been able to believe in gods and goddesses flying around on horses, throwing thunderbolts into the sky, and being reborn in a variety of shapes, forms, and manner of life, this was the hardest belief to accept.  They created another name for their deity, a more personal one: Jehovah Goelekh, “the Lord, your redeemer”.  This one aspect of their holy mythologies, the belief that all were equal and kinsmen, left them bereft of concord, living in a world without peace and/or harmony.

Centuries earlier Buddha had said: “Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.”  Not all wars have been started because of the differences of the Abrahamic religions.  While they are the three largest organized religions, they are not the only evil in the world.  People have personal responsibility to control their own feelings and actions.  What mankind, especially those in these three belief systems did do, nonetheless, was misuse their faiths.  They separated their stories and by doing so, dissected the faith they believed, making it something else.

“Peace is not something you wish for; it’s something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away.”  Each of these three belief systems has their own stories, mythologies that say the same thing John Lennon did in this quote.  Jehovah Hoshiah means “O Lord, save” and soon mankind did indeed need saving.

These three Abrahamic faiths followed the mythologies of earlier cultures and inspired others to continue the holy writings.  As the early Greeks and Romans had used their mythologies in their literature, so did the faithful of these three.  “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love” was part of a prayer by the Italian known as Francis of Assisi, a recognized saint in many Christian denominations. The “Lord, our peace” or Jehovah Shalom was a deity of both Judaism and Christianity.  Mohammed Ali, a modern day follower of Islam once explained his faith:  “I believe in the religion of Islam.  I believe in Allah and peace.”  Peace was not often a condition found in these faiths, however, and so another name arose for the monotheistic deity – Jehovah Rophe, the Lord our healer.

I agree with the Indian spiritualist Jawaharlal Nehru:   “Peace is not a relationship of nations. It is a condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul. Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people.”  I also believe it is one of the characterizations of a believer, regardless of how you define your beliefs.

In music a chord is a pleasing combination of tones and a concord is a chord that resolves.  Faith should be a concord, in my mind.  Counsel is a word that has strayed far in its usage from its meaning.  It means the interchange of ideas.  It has come to mean a judgement.  Peleh Yo’etz is a lesser known name for this one god.  It is grammatical incorrect which has led many to question its meaning.  Yo’etz was the ancient Hebrew word for both” advise” and “counsel” and, in this configuration, is translated as a noun rather than a verb.  Was it to describe the deity as a counsellor or was it to seek guidance?  Was the author of the mythological writing known as the book of Isaiah saying “Advise me, Lord”?   Were thanks being given to an all-knowing “Wonderful Counselor!”?  Were the faithful being admonished to seek guidance or to acknowledge their own shortcomings?

The Roman historian Sallust knew the value of concord and, perhaps with an understanding that we have yet to appreciate, recognized the communion between its meaning of heart and its usage in both music and our living.  “Harmony makes small things grow; lack of it makes great things decay.”

We need more counsel as an interchange of ideas and less as judgment.  We are a varied and diverse group of beings, we who comprise mankind.  Do roses deny the beauty of another variety simply because they are not the same?  With all due to respect to Thomas Fuller, an English clergyman who lived at the dawn of the seventeenth century, he was wrong when said “It is madness for sheep to talk peace with a wolf.”  This has, regardless of its being incorrect, been a belief many have followed.  The Internet is full of videos denouncing this.  Jimi Hendrix was correct when he said “When the power of overcomes the love of power, then the world will know peace.”

Labrador Retrievers are, in my humble opinion, one of the most delightfully perfect creations on our planet and, quite possibly, in our universe.  Having owned or rather been owned by one, I realize they are not perfection.  They do offer us an excellent example to follow.  Labrador retrievers are dogs which boast three colors of their coat.  (And make no mistake, there are only three colors.  Silver labs or red labs are merely genetic mutations; still delightful but not worth their inflated costs being sold to a fashion-obsessed public.)  An Oregon organization of Lab owners explains their breeding:  Coat color in normally colored Labs is determined by two genes unrelated to anything else about the dog. It is perfectly possible to get all three colors in the same litter, therefore the notion that there is a color based difference in temperament and/or ability just doesn’t make much sense.”

It also doesn’t make much sense that humans have value based upon their skin color, gender, and/or belief system.  I had someone once complain I used too many quotes from women.  To that reader, I offer this piece of advice – Remember you were born of woman and….You probably will want to stop reading now.  Life has much in common with peace.  As Eleanor Roosevelt remarked:  “It isn’t enough to talk about peace, one must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.”  The same is true for our beliefs.  We must walk daily and work at living that which we profess.  Lab puppies begin their day with a doggie smile. “Peace begins with a smile”.  Another female quote, this time from Mother Teresa.  🙂

It’s All in Your Mind

It’s All in Your Mind

Pentecost 46

The Greeks used their mythologies not only as an explanation for what they saw but also for what they experienced. Like most cultures with a strong oral tradition, these stories changed with each telling. However, the Greeks scribed their stories, assigning people to write them down. Thus, there were basic commonalities with their stories. Nevertheless, mankind being composed of humans, even with their mythologies recorded for posterity, there were variations. In other words, people gossiped about their deities.

There is a great deal of science involved in the basic act of gossip. People tend to join with others who believe the same version of gossip and some prefer not to associate with groups that disbelieve a certain aspect of gossip. For instance, those who call themselves pagans are included to tell stories about the deities of nature and feel they live a very basic and simple lifestyle that honors the very core of the essence of life. Others call such people witches and feel no shame in spreading stories about them. At one point, people thought to be witches were killed, simply based upon perception with little or no real evidence to justify their deaths.

First we should explore exactly what gossip is and quite honestly, that is not an easy thing to do. Gossip can be as innocent as casual conversation and as harmful as malicious rumors. Oddly enough, the word “gossip” comes from an ancient English word meaning Godparent or sponsor and is a combination of two words which meant God and sibling or relative. It’s original meaning warped into meaning a casual acquaintance and then in the nineteenth century to meaning idle talk.

Gossip was once a learning tool. It was a type of vocal newspaper and helped to unify people. Mankind began as primates who lived in clans and existed by living off the land. The ability to speak allowed for the exchange of ideas and for the growth of the speech centers in our brains that interpret language. Unlike many animals, the human body allows our windpipe to access our thorax and vocal chords. We are able to vocalize and sing with intention, unlike other animals.

It may not seem like it but the accomplishments of a toddler in learning language and how to vocalize and say specific words is actually a minor miracle. By age six, the average child knows almost thirteen thousand words and by age twenty-one, their vocabulary has increased to sixty thousand words. Some psychologists believe this evolution of language encouraged man to develop the ability to master the politics of social living. Not only do we speak to groups of people, we have learned how to interpret their nonverbal language, those signs that are indicative of feelings, emotions, and motives. These skills have allowed human tribes to exist and coexist rather than feel in direct competition and kill each other simply for being alive.

Gossip serves three very important functions in our world today. First it is a type of networking. There are social hierarchies in everyone’s life. Networking gives us a sense of belonging and expanding our community, our tribe. These connections lead to improved health, great wealth, and overall happiness. Gossip also becomes a key element in the world of influence, both in a negative sense and a positive sense. Political candidates utilize gossip to officially not say what they what known. Lastly, gossip creates social alliances as mentioned earlier. People will congregate with those who believe the same thing they do.

Gossip becomes an uncertain tool because societies are ever-changing. They are not stagnant but evolve daily. The problem is in defining exactly what gossip is and in determining whether or not you believe it to be true. In our world today of instant global access to words spoken sixty second after they are uttered, it might seem like everything would be truth. That would be wrong. There often is a huge difference between what gossip is and what fact is. Gossip may begin as fact but, like the mythologies of ancient times, the facts somehow get told and then retold with subtle variations that, after a time, can become the opposite of the truth. Some psychologists believe the intention for telling the story determines whether it is fact or gossip. Sometimes, though, life is just not that simple.

Psyche was a Greek goddess who was engaged in some casual conversation with her sisters. They asked her to describe her husband and when she admitted she had never actually seen him, they began telling her he was a monster. Psyche had never actually seen her husband, having once been a mortal princess and began to believe her sisters’ stories. That night she hid a knife and candle so as to see his face and be ready to kill him if he indeed was a monster. This is not the end of her story but really just the beginning for Psyche. Although she allowed her sisters’ gossip to sway her mind and influence her actions, she does eventually reconcile with her husband, the god of love known as Eros or Cupid.

The story of Psyche is said to be an allegory, a story with a deeper meaning that just the basic story. Her name in Greek means both butterfly and soul. Regardless of what is said about us, we can continue to live and transform our lives and explore our soul. Eleanor Roosevelt stated: “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” Live according to your beliefs, not idle gossip.