I’ve just learned of the passing of Leonard Nimoy.
It spawned the following thought:
Here is for what school and parents and no one ever prepares us:
Life never stops changing. Even the good stuff. “This too shall pass,” is meant to bolster us against the hard times so we know they are not fixed, not permanent.
But it also applies to the good.
This too shall pass… and we will be forever trying to adjust to these changes.
The moral is that there is no steady state; there is no equilibrium.
Copyright 2015 © Christina Caine. All rights reserved.
… before fear, [when] love was the only song you knew.” – Danny Dummitt
I’m Christy Caine. I’m Scott’s cousin. I’m the one in the pigtails and the patent leather shoes. He’s the one with those eyes.
As I thought about what I wanted to say today, I realized that Scott is one of the few people who understood some of the best parts of my childhood because we experienced them together.
If you know our family, you know that the grandchildren didn’t come all at once. They came in pairs. Each one has a matching cousin (except for Clark, who was on his own as the youngest). Scott is my match. And as the oldest grandchildren (he’s two months older than I am) we grew up without other siblings or cousins for nearly ten years, experiencing every holiday, wedding, funeral, family reunion, and summers at our grandparent’s house together.
That’s what I wanted to talk about today: our childhood. Because I realized he is the only one who knew the grandparents that I knew at the age they were when we knew them, who let us do the things they let us do. He’s the one who taught me to build and climb and create and adventure. (And if you’ve never been in the grandparent’s house when the dining room was filled with string and popsicle sticks and glue and tape and construction paper, in true feats of engineering, it’s quite something.) He’s the one who lay on the floor with me on that plastic runner in their living room, watching Mr. Rogers, eating snowman-shaped ice cream on a stick. Who knew about all the times we played darts in the basement and got them stuck in the ceiling – and each other … who knew about Grandpa’s refrigerator in the garage full of beer and Fla-vo-ice pops – how it had a short and would shock you just a little when you opened the door.
He’s the one I built forts with in the apple tree (and was with me the time I stepped on a nail and had to get a tetanus shot).
He’s the one I caught honeybees with in empty prescription pill bottles.
Who made tents out of sheets on the clothesline.
We swam. We fought. We swam some more.
On porch swings.
In closets full of mysterious stuff.
And among the tombstones of those who had gone on before.
We knew which aunts gave the best hugs… and who gave the sloppy kisses to avoid.
He’s the one who also knew the names of all of our grandparent’s dearest friends: The aunts and uncles who did not share our DNA.
He’s the one who remembered the cavalcade of automobiles my grandparents had based on the comfort and the slickness of the back seat and how well you could slide across it from one door to the other. Who washed and polished the chrome with me on them – inside and out – to earn money for ice cream at the Igloo while listening to the Pointer Sisters on the radio sing “We are Family”, as the hot August sun beat down on the same shiny vinyl seats, where little legs of 1970’s fashion-clad children would quickly jump up because of the intensity of the heat and eventually melt into and stick to them, slick with sweat… the electric windows that we weren’t supposed to play with…
He’s the one who knew of our trips to feed the ducks at the pond, and to Pizza Hut, and the library… the smell of books. And the only one who knows about the day we nearly died laughing at the laundromat at the sight of our grandmother’s foundation garment caught hanging in the window of the dryer.
He’s the one I cried with in the movie theater when Bambi’s mother died.
The one I dressed up with in old-timey clothes for pictures in Old Towne.
He was with me when we were the first customers at a newly opened Taco Bell somewhere in this city.
And the one who introduced me to
He knows what it was like laying in bed with Grandma as she read to us at night…
to order Sprite on the rocks at family weddings…
and to get to fall asleep dirty and exhausted, sun-kissed in our swim clothes to the hum of a box fan in the hallway as the sheers from the window rose and fell over our small but growing bodies all night long in Aunt Effie’s bed.
He knows the sound and rhythm of Grandpa’s snoring … in his recliner… with the Rockford Files on in the background.
He knows what it was like to be a kid… in summer… at Grandma’s house.
But mostly we loved. So much more like a brother … to me.
So, this is how I will remember…
Summer. The smell of dinner and the sound of Grandma singing in the kitchen. Grandpa–sweaty–wearing a white undershirt, carrying a work rag, wiping something clean, while he, himself, is covered in engine grease. Scott and I are running around the house on ________ Ave. sandwiched between the lumber yard and Norbert’s house–as if in slow motion–jumping off the end of the porch to see how far past the flower bed we can clear…
RIP “Little Chipper” 1970 – 2014
Copyright 2014 © Christina Caine. All rights reserved.
This article was published on the Unfundamentalist Christians blog at the Patheos Progressive Christian Channel.
Click here to read.
Copyright 2014 © Christina Caine
Washington Post article by Jamie Fuller
Step into the dawn.
Cut the cord.
Pull the plug.
Break the chains
that tie and bind.
like Nelson Mandela released from prison
into the possibility
of a new path
where enemies are surprised by grace.
Life, in its misery and delight,
has led you here.
All is learning.
Let go the past.
Awaken to signs and wonders.
Become aware of wise guides and rock cairns
pointing and reassuring the way.
Find your Anam Cara, your Caol Ait*:
the people and places who feed your soul.
Hold them close.
Recognize the hope of resurrection in each new day.
and go forth into life yet unlived.
be pure of spirit,
love mercy and kindness,
and do the good you know to do.
See with new eyes
the path that has always been,
that leads to where we belong –
that leads us home.
Copyright 2014 © Christina Caine. All rights reserved.
* Anam Cara is a Celtic word meaning “soul friend.” Caol Ait is a Celtic word meaning “thin place” where the distance between the Divine and the human is so thin it facilitates a spiritual encounter.
One day you awake and realize one of the shoes you have is full of holes. It took a long time, yet it was a surprise. You figure out that other shoes will do. So, you slide into another shoe. And keep going.
Down the road, that shoe goes missing. One’s resources are a bit limited, but, resourceful, a reasonable substitute is found. It belongs to someone else, but they are willing to share, even if it’s not a perfect fit and may be awkward at times. It’s surely not like having one’s own shoe, the one meant for your foot. Still, it is far better than having no shoe at all.
Mismatched, one learns to adjust to this arrangement. It becomes good. Comfortable. Right. Happy even. You like this shoe. This shoe is good. This shoe might be the best shoe you’ve ever had.
Not long after realizing this, the call comes that this shoe is lost. And it’s not coming back.
And for a while, you forget how to walk – what feet are even for.
For a long while.
Until one day, you awake and realize this foot is going to have to learn to be tough by walking naked and unprotected.
And so. You do.
Copyright 2013 © Christina Caine. All rights reserved.
I’ve had to learn unconditional love the hard way:
from my children.
As the lone early riser in the family, I am grateful the nine-year-old is now tall enough to reach the plates in the cupboard and skilled enough to make cinnamon toast by himself (with the help of chopsticks for extracting hot bread) so he can ward off hunger until the rest of us emerge from slumber.
Inherent to his toast-making is the application of Murphy’s Law: The butter lid always ends up butter side down.
We’ve discussed this.
And, every time, the results are the same.
There are certain things that annoy me like no other: pen-clickers, lip-smackers, ice-crunchers, chair-kickers, finger-lickers…
We are related to some of them. My husband tells me this is an endearing quality – a loveable quirk.
I have been thus far unmoved to agree with him.
The butter lid hasn’t annoyed me as much as has the inconvenience of cleaning the butter off of the counter.
I’ve explained this preventive step to the nine-year-old.
To no avail.
Today this was the post toast-making scene.
And today – for the first time – I smiled, and shook my head and said to myself, “I love that boy.”
Some of us are slower to learn unconditional love than others.
Children, gratefully, are persistent and patient teachers.
Copyright 2013 © Christian Caine. All rights reserved.
Much to the consternation of our neighbors (I fear), we have an urban garden. This year the rain and the mosquitos have overtaken it, and we’ve mostly left it to its own devices, including the raspberry thicket and the volunteer mystery vine emerging from the compost bin.
My great-grandmother introduced me to red raspberries. She had a row of bushes growing along her house and a large garden with tall stalks of corn. She also collected dandelion greens, snared rabbits and welcomed gifts of fresh honey from her bee-keeping neighbors who lived next door. Staying with her was like going to the farm wihout ever leaving the city. Culinary adventures with her extended into other areas of survival education. Having reared five children through the Great Depression on her own after her coal-mining husband died of a brain tumor, she took in laundry, used government commodities and depended on the kindness of strangers in order to keep her family fed.
She was poor, yet she had an abundance of faith and hope.
I often stayed with her in lieu of a babysitter. When I was old enough, I would ride my bike the hand full of blocks from where we lived to her home. Hers was an old house, filled with wonder: drawers full of reused drinking straws, drawers full of of twist ties saved from bread bags, drawers full of bread bags. She taught me how to tear old, clean sheets into strips and roll them into bandages on a tabletop contraption she had made from wood and steel. She would attach the strip of cloth, then let me turn the crank. We secured the ends with medical tape, and she would mail them to missionaries overseas. She also taught me how to make a toy from an empty dish soap bottle and a piece of kitchen string: The string was knotted at both ends through the hole of the spout, the extra length tucked inside, and, when you squeezed the bottle – quickly and with force – the string would come shooting out. We played “Go Fish” with Bible character cards, making four of a kind with Moses and Zechariah, and we used a spinner for games that originally came with dice because she believed:”Dice are used by gamblers and are tools of the Devil.” She had a small container she had fashioned from two ends of empty bleach bottles where she stored broken pieces of crayons.
We colored pictures. We swayed back and forth on the porch glider that she called a “davenport.” We ate raspberries.
We’d collect them outside her living room window – the window we would often have to walk around to behind her house where we would peer through and gently knock in order to get her attention, because, hard of hearing and deeply devout, she would become lost in her fervent prayers as she sat head-bowed and hands-clasped at her dining room table, so much so that she could not hear when someone came to the door.
We tried not to startle her.
Much like the now famous image by Eric Enstrom,
Grace was not only her name; it was her way of life.
Minnesota state photograph, “Grace,” 1918 by Eric Enstrom, public domain
Having retrieved from the bushes what the birds had left behind, we entered her humble home with our bounty through the front entrance, which had the familiar squeak and slam of the ideal incarnation of a summer screen door. And, there, we would sit, together, in the kitchen, the breeze making ghostly figures of the window sheers, eating our bowls of red berries swimming in white milk and sugar.
“Lord there may be homes much larger than mine. There may be tables groaning with food and drink in abundance. There may be riches in supplies and appointments. There may be conveniences on every hand, and there may be physical assurances that tomorrow will still bring more. But, Lord, you have been with me unto this and supplied my necessary requirements. On that assurance I will rest my belief that you will bless my efforts, if I apply them to the best of my ability to carry on. I am content. Amen.”
– Author unknown, caption for Eric Enstrom’s photo “Grace”
For GCS (1903 – 1985)
Copyright 2013 © Christina Caine. All rights reserved.
Photo Credit: www.localfitness.com.au
This morning Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and wife of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), posted on her facebook page comments made by E. W. Jackson, Virginia GOP candidate for lieutenant governor, that recently came to light regarding his views on the practice of yoga:
“When one hears the word meditation, it conjures an image of Maharishi Yoga talking about finding a mantra and striving for nirvana. . . . The purpose of such meditation is to empty oneself. . . . [Satan] is happy to invade the empty vacuum of your soul and possess it. That is why people serve Satan without ever knowing it or deciding to, but no one can be a child of God without making a decision to surrender to him. Beware of systems of spirituality which tell you to empty yourself. You will end up filled with something you probably do not want.”
The source for the quote is E. W. Jackson’s book, Ten Commandments to an Extraordinary Life: Making Your Dreams Come True and appeared in the June 5, 2013, edition of The Atlantic.
I replied to Ms. Schultz’s post in the following way:
As one who was reared in Christian Fundamentalism, I am familiar with his point of view. Let me explain.It is common within Evangelical and other conservative Christian denominations to hold a binary or dualist (all or nothing) worldview. These groups tend to believe unwaveringly in absolute truth, rejecting any form of relativism, including nuance. Many groups are proudly anti-intellectual, claiming intellectualism to be a product of humanism, and often reject, along with it, reason and rationalism seeing them as compromising on absolute truth. In a binary worldview that rejects nuance and holds to absolute truth, that means there is only one correct answer, path, and solution and all others are in error. Compromise is viewed as weakness. Unyielding commitment to one’s convictions shows true faithfulness. This point of view was well-represented in a recorded interview of a Sarah Palin supporter at a book signing in Columbus, Ohio, during the 2008 campaign in which he said (at 4:47 in the linked video), “When you’re right you don’t have to compromise. Compromise is for people that [sic] are wrong.”This worldview might work for some people within their paradigms of faith, but it proves to be an untenable point of view when brought into political office and government service where compromise, reason, nuance and intellectualism are valued.This binary, anti-humanist thought process also often leads to a tribalist worldview: I am loyal to my in-group, which is right, moral and valuable and all others are seen as “other”, outsiders, and a threat. (See: Jonathan Haidt’s research on the difference between liberals and conservatives. More on Jonathan Haidt here.)
E. W. Jackson and those who share his worldview cannot tolerate yoga because, for them, it is inextricably linked to a religion they see as “other”. In this worldview, anything that is other is against God. And, since there can be only one correct faith path (or orthodoxy), and he believes his is uniquely right – yoga isn’t simply different, it’s evil. This is the thought process.
This is not the first time Christians have recently opposed the practice of yoga as shown in this article from the New York Times.The public at large needs to become better informed about the religious worldview of these faith groups.In an article that appeared in Church and State by Dakota O’Leary from February 2013, entitled Christian fundamentalists are driving our country into the dark ages, the author further articulates these important insights. It is a worthwhile and important read.
I am reminded of this wisdom that we are far too slow to learn:
“Do not praise your own faith exclusively so that you disbelieve all the rest. If you do this you will miss much good. Nay, you will miss the whole truth of the matter. God, the omniscient and the omnipresent, cannot be confined to any one creed, for he says in the Koran, wheresoever ye turn, there is the face of Allah. Everybody praises what he knows. His God is his own creature, and in praising it, he praises himself. Which he would not do if he were just, for his dislike is based on ignorance.”
~ Ibn Arabi (12th -13th century Sufi mystic)
We do nothing toward forming a more perfect Union by endorsing the unholy marriage of Church and State.
Copyright 2013 © Christina Caine. All rights reserved.
In 2005, writer David Foster Wallace, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, presented the commencement address at Kenyon College. It set the bar for speakers for decades to come for how one might inspire new generations of graduates in creative and unconventional ways to not only engage the world in a meaningful way, but to face what he describes as the “petty”, “banal” existence of the day in and day out that is life with awareness and dignity and grace. His words are poignant and true and transformative.
If you have never heard this talk – or even if you have – it’s well worth your time to listen to this excellent excerpt in the accompanying video: This is Water
“The real value of a real education has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over: ‘This is water. This is water.'” *
Learning to overcome “the natural default setting,” as Wallace describes it, of “I am the center of the world and… my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities” * is the work of life. Learning how to see ourselves and beyond ourselves to others and life and the world around us in any number of grand and infinitesimally small ways is what is necessary for becoming a marriable person – or at least one that is reasonably pleasant to live with. It’s what is necessary to not get fired from your first job – or your fifith. It’s what is necessary to stay married, to have and keep friends, and to make life infinitely less frustrating and burdensome and exponentially more meaningful, happy, and connected to people and reality. Good mental health is nothing short of an unwavering dedication to reality. And, as too many of us know, a lack of it is attributable to our default setting.
This is the truth that sets us free, that separates those who stumble through life merely existing – yet unaware – and those who consciously choose to see and take The Road Less Traveled By. “The Capital T Truth is about life before death… This is water. This is water.” *
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Copyright 2013 ©. Christina Caine. All rights reserved.
Note: Passages in quotation marks followed by an asterick are by David Foster Wallace and are quoted from his commencement speech, “This is Water.”
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“Why do bad things happen?”
“Why is there suffering in the world?”
My friend John Shore addressed his version of this question earlier this week in his blog entry entitled: “How can I believe in God, when so many innocent people suffer?” From John I am learning, among other things, that I have a great deal more to understand about the proper use of commas.
I would have answered this question differently in my younger days, and I have taken a different track than did John, but life has a way of teaching important lessons along the way, if we are open – and willing – to paying attention.
Two years ago our family lost a beloved family member who was also a dear personal friend. She was vibrant. Creative. Full of life. Her children were fourteen and sixteen at the time. She had a wonderful husband and a rewarding career. And in a tragic and strange accident, she died.
As I said at the time, “The most despicable thing about the unforeseen is that it gives no warning.”
Grief has a way of making some things vividly clear. What was clear to me then was that the familiar platitudes from my youth about God having a plan or that she was in a better place or it must have been God’s will or we could look forward to seeing her again one day were not a comfort and should be among the things never uttered to the grieving.
What I learned from that experience is that some things make no sense.
Why do bad things happen?
Because they do. Because that’s life. Because good and bad things happen to us all. It is part of being alive. It is the nature of the human experience. It’s the cost of admission.
This is the lesson in the Bible from the book of Job that is too often missed: It’s not about why. It’s about what invariably happens to us all and how we are going to handle it when it does. It’s about what is.
For me, the comfort came in knowing that God or The Divine or The Universe or Karma is not the cause of our suffering, but, rather, the Divine Presence, in some way, grieves with us as we go through it and sends us wise guides and kind souls to navigate us through – not some day – but here and now. If we find meaning in our suffering in the process of negotiating our way to the other side of our grief, so be it. But the meaning and the lessons are not why it happened; they are the result.
As our minister so often says: “We have an up to us privilege of choosing not what happens to us in this life, but how we react to it.” and “The right question isn’t ‘Why do bad things happen?’ but rather ‘Why, when we live in a world where we have been given all that we need to survive and the gift of each other, have we not yet learned how to share what we have and live together in peace?’”
How we react to our own suffering and that of others that works to reduce ongoing suffering in the here and now, for me: That’s where God is.
I posted this on John’s blog to which a commenter asked: “What is the opposite of freedom? Is that a life without suffering?”
To which I responded…
The opposite of freedom is living in unreality. There is truth – and freedom – in knowing the truth will set you free.
Intellectually, we know sickness happens, accidents occur and everyone dies. We know this. It’s just that we also think that it’s not supposed to happen to us or to someone we love or until we are very old; and very old keeps getting older the older we get.
Into every life some rain will fall.
It’s pointless to be pissed that it rains.
Carl Jung said: “Neurosis (living in unreality) is always a [poor] substitute for legitimate suffering.”
And M. Scott Peck: “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” *
Another smart person: The sum of human unhappiness rests in wanting things to be not as they are.
We struggle against reality in vain.
Acceptance of What Is is the first step to freedom.
Our neighbors cut down their one hundred year old trees.
Our dog goes wild whenever anyone comes home.
Our son has Dyslexia.
People we love get sick and die.
I have thus far found little comfort in the hope that the lost paradise will one day be restored. I have found a great deal of peace, however, in accepting that it does, and will, more often then we would like, rain.
Copyright 2013 © Christina Caine. All rights reserved.
* from The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck. A Touchstone Book. Simon and Schuster.1978.