Wednesday, December 21, 2005

We Were Speaking of Belief...*

"Mom, is that Jesus?"

Sophie points to the large crucifix at the front of the church where we're sitting and waiting for the beginning of the choral program. We're here to listen to the Northwest Boychoir perform "A Festival of Lessons and Carols," a concert patterned after the Christmas Eve observance at King's College in Cambridge, England.

And as should be clear by Sophie's uncertainty about the iconography she sees prominently displayed, our focus is on the music, not the message. Although Stephen and I are both from Christian backgrounds, neither of has chosen to continue on that path; if one felt the need to label us, "agnostic leaning toward pagan” would come pretty close.

This being the case, our kids have had very little exposure to organized religion of any sort. For them, a church is a place you go to hear Nathan sing in a recital (as he had earlier in the day, with the early prep level of the choir), or a place that houses a daycare center. Pretty windows, high ceilings, good acoustics. They know that there are folk called “Christians” and others called “Jews” and “Muslims” and “Pagans” but thus far they have only the vaguest notion of what it means to be a member of those communities.

Sophie's question is simple enough, so I follow suit with the simple answer. "Yes, it is."

Then Nathan chimes in. "Uhhh... why is he on that wood thing?"

Thanks boyo. So much for simple.

So it begins in earnest, the complicated process of discussing religion, faith, and ritual with the kids. I've both anticipated and dreaded its approach; this is where having a strong belief system to start from would be helpful, I think, in framing the conversation. But, instead, like any good secular liberal, I made my way that night after the concert to Amazon and ordered a few books that I think will be helpful in getting us started.

I want the kids to have a good understanding of what different people believe, and how those beliefs affect others around them, politically and socially. I want to give them the vocabulary and the histories, make sure they understand the major players and the major events, the differences and similarities. And if they find a belief system that resonates with them, that they want to explore in a more emotional/spiritual way, we’ll follow that path where it leads.

Even (or maybe especially) if it leads here.

*Major props to anyone who knows the title's obscure reference without googling!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Point, counterpoint

After that really uplifting post on Wednesday, I come back now with words that appeared in my inbox this morning. From today's Writer's Almanac, the amazing Allen Ginsberg explains how love has weight too. That's a good thing to remember, isn't it? What interesting synchronicities life puts in our path.

I heard Mr. Ginsberg do a reading once at Michigan, lo these many years ago and I treasure that I had the opportunity to even be in the same room with him. Granted, it was Hill Auditorium and he was a small speck on the stage from my vantage point in the balcony, but still his presence was palpable.

by Allen Ginsberg

The weight of the world
is love.
Under the burden
of solitude,
under the burden
of dissatisfaction

the weight,
the weight we carry
is love.

Who can deny?
In dreams
it touches
the body,
in thought
a miracle,
in imagination
till born
in human—

looks out of the heart
burning with purity-
for the burden of life
is love,
but we carry the weight
and so must rest
in the arms of love
at last,
must rest in the arms
of love.

No rest
without love,
no sleep
without dreams
of love—
be mad or chill
obsessed with angels
or machines,
the final wish
is love
—cannot be bitter,
cannot deny,
cannot withhold
if denied:

the weight is too heavy

—must give
for no return
as thought
is given
in solitude
in all the excellence
of its excess.

The warm bodies
shine together
in the darkness,
the hand moves
to the center
of the flesh,
the skin trembles
in happiness
and the soul comes
joyful to the eye—

yes, yes,
that's what
I wanted,
I always wanted,
I always wanted,
to return
to the body
where I was born.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Weight of Hate

I couldn't help wondering this morning, while angrily turning off the radio so I didn't have to listen the Idiot in the White House try to justify his illegal and immoral war, how it must feel to KNOW that millions of people loathe you.

Most of us go through life knowing that we are loved by friends and family, suspecting that we are disliked by a few misguided souls, and acknowledging that we are otherwise anonymous and unremarked upon by the vast majority of humanity. Bush, on the other hand, wakes every morning and must know - even though he might try to ignore it - that he is hated and actively wished ill by people all over the world.

How could a normal, emotionally healthy, non-evil person even get out of bed in the morning with that kind of spiritual burden?

Friday, December 09, 2005

OH! The cuteness!

Otter Pup
Originally uploaded by monagrrl.
I love otters.

Like Hermione, if I could summon my patronus, it would certainly be an otter. Like Seregil, if I could transform into a creature that reveals my true inner self, it would be an otter. If I lived in Lyra's universe and had a daemon, it would be... well, you get the picture.

Sea... river... doesn't matter. I think they're the some of the coolest little animals on the planet.

So I just had to share this heart-meltingly sweet photo of the otter pup just born to Lootas at the Seattle Aquarium. I think it's time for a trip down there to check the little guy out in person.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I Resemble That Remark

Ah, it all falls into place. I'm clearly afflicted with N.A.D.D. - Nerd Attention Deficiency Disorder.

To wit: right now I have two browser windows open with 9 tabs between them (in which I'm monitoring e-mail, news, and two online communities), I'm IM'ing with 4 people, and listening to a podcast of They Might Be Giants playing at KEXP... and this is just on one computer. On my second computer, I'm on IRC with a co-worker, responding to e-mail, editing web pages, and reading a couple of articles.

And, as evidenced by the fact that you're reading this... I'm blogging about it.

Whew. That article, plus the one I talk about here sum up, to a T, how I live and work.

Monday, December 05, 2005


After the Nutcracker
Originally uploaded by monagrrl.
Oh yeah, baby. We got it, in spades.

Last weekend, our family attended not one, but TWO theatah events. On Saturday, we took in the Seattle Children's Theatre production of "Sleeping Beauty." It was wonderfully done - the sets, the singing, the acting... just fantastic (as girlie is fond of saying).

Then, On Sunday, we saw the Nutcracker together for the first time. Not knowing whether the kids (read: the son) would enjoy the ballet, we went the less expensive route and attended a (very good!) performance by the Olympic Ballet Theatre rather than the fancier and spendier Pacific Northwest Ballet.

We needn't have worried. Though boyo did admit that some parts were boring, he liked it on the whole and wants to go again next year. Ms. Thang was completely and utterly enthralled. She sat almost completely still through the performance, eyes riveted to the stage, and then clapped wildly when the times for clapping came.

It's interesting to think how different their childhood experiences have been (and will continue to be) than mine were. Each year they see several plays, attend concerts and baseball games, visit museums and the zoo and the aquarium. All of these things are easily accessible, one of the benefits of living in a city of Seattle's size.

Contrast this with my childhood growing up in a small town. I remember how exciting it was when we went on class field trips to one of the bigger cities nearby (Battle Creek, Lansing, or Kalamazoo) to see the occasional performance (the only one I remember specifically was El Sombrero De Tres Picos, "The Three-Cornered Hat" - bless Mrs. Malovey, my Spanish teacher) or visit museums or the zoo.

My grandparents did take me to concerts (old-time country music, natch), and we did have a movie theater (The Main - one screen, and you get what you get) but that was really the extent of my cultural access. Mine was not a theatre-going family, despite the fact that my hometown boasts one of the oldest in Michigan.

(Which brings up a minor digression. Tibbets Opera House is a beautiful theatre that was built in 1882. Thanks to its summer theatre program it was named by USA Today "one of the ten great places to see the lights way off Broadway." How cool is that? Not that I ever saw any professional productions there, but still.)

Sometimes I wonder... will my kids, by virtue of the abundance of opportunities they have, miss out on experiencing these things as special? Will they take it all for granted and eventually find it boring? Maybe, though I really hope not (and I'll do my job and remind them, frequently and with much vigor, how lucky they are).

Instead, my wish for them is that it will open up artistic worlds and possibilites that they can choose to know and dwell in where I was only an occasional visitor.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Rudolph on the brain

It must be December. I encountered not one, not two, not three... but FOUR mentions of Rudolph today in various contexts. From a topic on my Detroit Tigers discussion group (Rudolph's Dad : Insensitive Jerk or Egocentric Prick?) to this must-read sent to me by my husband

Sixteen Serious Questions Raised By "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer"

it's all reindeer, all the time.