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Father’s Day – and Fathers’ Day

Father’s Day – and Fathers’ Day

Happy Father’s Day!

Empathies and condolences to those whose dads have died or disappeared, and to those have, or had, or are, or must deal with “difficult” fathers.

If Father’s Day brings you pain, this post is for you. If it’s Father’s Day, and there’s no father, or it’s Father’s Day, but there just isn’t a card you could possibly give your father, or it’s Father’s Day, but you’re struggling to play double as a single mom, or it’s Father’s Day but… whatever emotional dynamics make this day non-celebratory for you, there are other things you can do!

For fathers as for mothers, as for humans – all of can use a very ancient method to find a path to celebration.

Try letting go of the literal. CELEBRATE the fatherly qualities that you love as they are expressed through the people you know. There are great dads and great men all around you. There are! If you don’t see any, you need to get out more!

Focus on the qualities that you really, truly, most authentically admire and find worthy when you see them. These are habits and attitudes and actions and values and all sorts of other things that you would sincerely wish to see in play more often (in your world and in the worlds of others).

Imitate those things! Start doing those things or appreciating these things when you see them! Enjoy them! Mimic them! Repeat them! Celebrate them!

This method survives in the religious paths that aim to follow/imitate the person or journey of the Christ, and even in its watered-down version, the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) camp. But perhaps religion is part of why you’re not enjoying Father’s Day? Or perhaps the text-based, variously-interpreted Jesus doesn’t actually seem all that great either sometimes, especially through the lens of some of the uses to which it’s been put?

Some people think that you have to project a father into the sky, but that’s only a metaphor for the divinity – one among others, even in the most patriarchic traditions. It’s a way for us to connect with the idea of God by imagining that our own idea of a father is made perfect and loving and all-knowing, to compensate, to make us feel protected and loved. It’s a great idea, and a great feeling, but the divine can also be imagined as a mother, an animal, an idea. The divine isn’t limited. Only our imagination is limited. While I love to imagine the most wonderful of fathers is watching over me and guiding me and loving me, I don’t tend to get very literal about it and then turn around and worship him. Why? Because when I do that, I also can’t help but remember some of the less wonderful stuff, the father of pride and violence and manipulations, the father of unreasonable and conflicting demands – and commands, the father that can sometimes lack kindness or fairness. And these things then get tied up into the divine as well – as we see from our mythologies, and from our social histories.

What’s beautiful here to me is that whether you view this as a spiritual method or a practical method doesn’t really matter. If we all have a spark of the divine – then it’s already within us, and we will be attuned – if we pay attention. And if we don’t have a spark of the divine, we still have a character that continues to develop via questionings and habits and experiences, and we will notice things – if we pay attention.

No-one else is you! You will not admire everything about anyone, nor should you!

Instead, find the something here, and there…

People talk about role models, but I don’t think it’s productive or realistic to imitate or “worship” a person in their entirety – that’s just idolatry or something like that. I’m also not talking about any sort of colonial or predatory form of assimilation like a slash-and-burn cyborg here, and it doesn’t work when it’s in the mode of “should-ing” all over yourself because you feel that you don’t “measure up” in some way either.

It’s much more modest than that.

Just start to incorporate (incarnate?) what you really can’t help but see as a better thing, a sweet thing, a loving thing, a beautiful thing, a true thing, and helpful thing, a wise thing.

The trick here is to really learn to notice and to feel when you just truly admire or enjoy something – however small or fleeting it might be – about another person. You can’t really plan it, or calculate how it’s going to happen, but when you pay attention, you’ll start seeing. And when you start seeing, after a while you can’t believe that you didn’t see those things before.

Learn how to sense what’s real to you, and to follow your own heart and soul, by paying attention, through recognition, and by creative reconstruction, alignment, and re-alliance.

It’s too easy to stay in the realm of ideas on this, through some vision or articulation of a universal ideal. Instead, try really to focus in and allow the force of the galvanic singularities to affect you. Notice aspects and facets of the real people in your life, their ways of being and their actions, and their stories, and the little things that make them who they are. Of these, try picking up just one detail, the very best thing you know and love about that person, the thing you’d mention at their funeral if you had to speak about who they really were.

When you invite these little gems to activate within you, guess what happens? The very thing that you mimic, and re-present, and try to assimilate – transforms! It becomes a unique thing to you, because it can never repeat in exactly the same way when it’s filtered through the YOUness. Maybe there is no “real thing” but instead a chain of variations – sameness within difference, difference within sameness. I don’t know. I wish I did.

But this I can say with some confidence: However loosely bundled your heaps of self might be, it’s always great to pull in stuff that you know (that you intuit, that you feel, that you sense) is just better, truer, and/or more beautiful! Need some inspiration for starters? Try Atticus Finch!

On Father’s Day, I hope that YOU celebrate all those wonderful fatherly sparkles that are blooming here and there, through everyone, all over.

Happy Father’s Day, you dear, wonderful fathers!
Happy Father’s Day, you who father others in spirit!
Happy Father’s Day, you who inspire better ways to be a father!
Happy Father’s Day, you children who invoke love in the hearts of fathers!
Happy Father’s Day, you mothers loving fathers!
Happy Father’s Day, you who are fathers to the next generation, and the next!
Happy Father’s Day – everyone!

Birthday Time

Birthday Time

My birthday was yesterday and Oh! I love birthdays now. I love holidays. I love celebration and joy.

Every celebration heals my soul, even now. After all this time, there’s a small part of me that is making up for all those missed celebrations of my JW childhood.

I am sorry that I have not been posting very often. I enjoy my job, but it is tiring. When I get home, I prefer to spend my time with family and friends – offline and online. I suspect I’ll only be able to do a couple of posts a week unless my energy level picks up.

A big thank-you to online friends. I had so many birthday wishes from my friends online – especially on Facebook and MySpace – that I haven’t even gone through them all yet. It made me weepy with happiness. I also got a slew of birthday ecards, emails, graphics, hugs, cuddles, photos – all sorts of wonderful things and I want to thank everybody. The day was really super-special to me because the people I care about took the time to do those things. Yeah, ok, I’m a big mushie.

At home, we had a nice dinner while I recovered from smashing up my knee in a mortifying tumble I took in the company parking lot earlier in the day. Ice pack, ibuprofen, sun and a beer – actually not such a bad way to spend some birthday time.

I didn’t actually get any real presents on my birthday – we’re really that unorganized around here. But John did surprise me with a bouquet of flowers, and we had big round purple grapes and pizza and blackforest cheesecake. John got a sentimental Hallmark card, and Ben made me one of his own (in which he downgraded me 4 years – hee hee – which sort of made up for his adding five years in the morning). When we have time, I’m to get some RAM for my computer at home (my brother Michael is going to help determine the right kind and where to get it) and a new swimsuit for our upcoming vacation.

The phone didn’t stop ringing, though. My brother Roy called the night before. He SANG to me, and so did my mom and stepfather. Carol called yesterday night, and told me that my customary cake was ready. When was I going to pick it up (in Massachusetts!)? Just a bit late sending out. My gramma called and wished me a happy day, and I even got a call from my old landlady Doris.

My Iowa roommate Bev called me too – we always send each other presents – but I hadn’t gotten hers yet.

When I got home from work today, John mentioned that I had received a book. There was a package from Amazon. I hadn’t ordered anything recently, and I didn’t connect the dots until I opened it. When I saw what it was, I knew exactly who it was from. No need to look. No-one else would have gotten me the complete Twin Peaks series!

I started to jump up and down, until my knee reminded me (with a very clear message) that it wasn’t quite better yet (you see, the knee is getting better only in incremental stages. I might need comfort and affection every day for … oh, I don’t know, a couple of weeks?).

Anyway, it was a fantastic present! Bev and I had watched it together when we were roommates in Iowa City. When one of us was working, the other would tape it and then we’d watch later. I haven’t seen any of the episodes since then, and I’m looking forward to watching it again. Maybe this time I can figure out what the deal is with the owls and the Buddhist monks.

You Rock, Red Sox!

You Rock, Red Sox!

Oh YEAH. The Red Sox won the World Series!

I may be living in Georgia, but the Red Sox as icon is in the blood of this Massachusetts woman.

Red Sox ROCK

I’m thinking that they must inject something in Massachusetts babies.

I have absolutely no interest in any other sport or any other team (well, not since that handsome Bobby Orr gave me his autograph at the now-defunct Boston Garden).

Everyone who grew up in Massachusetts knew the drill. Yeah, they were great. Yeah, they were likable and fun and had a great energy. They always did. But you knew that as talented as they were, they would bring it right up to the edge… and everyone would get all geared up… and then, somehow, they’d blow it.

I don’t know anyone who really believed in the Babe Ruth curse (the so-called “Curse of the Bambino” that fated the Red Sox not to win the World Series for 86 years after they sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees). Still, it always seemed like they just got so close… There were even some violent episodes between fans of the Red Sox and Yankees from time to time.

You should have seen me screaming when the Red Sox won in 2004. Literally. Screaming.

I’m not saying I condone any rioting… but I understand.

If only we could get this revved up on political issues…

I so wish I’d been in Boston last night.

Shoutout to my people. Love you Red Sox. Love you Boston. Love you Massachusetts.

Rambling post on Suicide and Jehovah’s Witnesses

Rambling post on Suicide and Jehovah’s Witnesses

Christian Peper has made a good start in thinking about suicide and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and it’s worth a read. I’m just using his post as a starting point to bounce some ideas around.

Suicide isn’t really any kind of sure way for JWs to hedge their bets. The position on suicide was one of their rare agreements with the Catholic Church. JWs don’t believe in hell, but they used to say that suicides could not be resurrected because it was an ultimate rejection of the gift of life. It’s not one of the main points that gets repeated and repeated, so many JWs might not even be aware of that position. Commenter Stacey1970 points out that the Watchtower Society actually took a step back from judgment in the 1990 Awake! – I wonder why?

This 1990 Awake! article (it’s so sad they hid this doctrinal change in the Awake!, since the Watchtower is their doctrinal magazine, it seems they would have printed it there too…) from Sept 8th, states:

“Love strengthens our recognition that suicide—though evading one’s own burdens—only heaps more problems on loved ones left behind. As far as the one who rashly took his own life is concerned, we humans cannot judge as to whether he will get a resurrection or not. How reprehensible was he? God alone searches ‘all hearts and every inclination of the thoughts.’ (1 Chronicles 28:9) But we may be confident that ‘the Judge of all the earth is going to do what is loving, just, and right!’—Genesis 18:25.”

Is there a similar Watchtower article? I’m sure there must be an article on suicide somewhere (will look up later) for comparison.

When I think of my own transition through depressive, melancholy times, and of people I have known or talked with later on, I feel that that it may not matter so much what the position on resurrection is for someone who feels suicidal. Someone who wants to kill herself or himself feels done. They want escape, or just an end to feelings of despair. It is painful and horrible to be desperate or tired enough to consider killing yourself. Would a person in such a state necessarily care whether or not he or she were resurrected? I don’t know, but I somehow don’t think so.

Yes, there is a focus on death and destruction, but the energy isn’t so much about anger. JWs have usually been pacifists (except for that weird 3rd cousin Waco offshoot). JWs don’t vote, or fight. If some of them got a little angry once in a while, there might be more real discussions. It is short-circuited at the start. I think that might change, though, judging by the comments of some current JWs. Now, they direct their anger at people who criticize the Watchtower Society – but that anger is new – where will it go? (Note: The comments on JW-related posts are often troubling, in many ways. There is a lot of anger to go around.)

Some Jehovah’s Witnesses try not to think about what they are actually saying about Armageddon, and they fear it, and they bury their fear. They expect the God of Love – Jehovah-God, through the Archangel and Mediator Michael (Jesus) to do the actual killing. JWs are just preparing the way… or something like that.

Some JWs simply want to think that if they obey every rule, they will be favored. They are the ones who could most benefit from the idea of grace (that is never discussed).

They think that if they follow the leadership of the “governing body”, then they will get a reward. I grew up with a completely different idea about keeping “your eyes on the prize.” It was a song, and it wasn’t about civil rights.

It’s deferred gratification, but hey – who wouldn’t like to live on a paradise earth forever, or for even the thousand years before the second judgment? It looks like fun, with the lions lying down with the lamb and all. No pain. No work. Everybody just gets along. No ethereal ambiguous heavenly existence for the “great crowd” – that’s only for the 144,000. No, the great crowd gets paradise – with all the inconvenient other people gone, like in that song “Political Science” by Randy Newman.

For many, for most (not for all, but for most), the best thing seems to be to simply put up with everything, and do what you’re told to do, think what you’re told to think, and feel that you’re doing the right thing – even if that means you don’t talk to your son or your daughter or your mother or father or sister or brother or friend anymore. They think that they might save a life by cutting them off from love. They believe that the only good work is to make more Jehovah’s Witnesses.

They miss so much.

There are no celebrations, few occasions to break into the hours of service and talks and indoc…um…training. JWs don’t celebrate holidays, even their own birthdays. It’s not so much that the specific holidays are so important as that there is no cause for celebration – there is no little light and warmth in winter which to make days to remember, touchstones of repetition in one’s life. No Halloween frolic, no day of carnivale, little dancing, not nearly so much laughter as there should be. Simple kindness is undervalued somewhat, or twisted somehow.

Yet, as a JW, you feel that this is what God wants for you, and you go out and try to convince others that you want to save their lives by introducing them to the “Truth” – the only real religion (the others are demonic). Saving lives – it seems like such a good motivation to sell ideas and books for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, doesn’t it? And many of the JWs are good people.

Social pressure is intense. The loss of self-determination and the slow ebb from freedom (even the freedom to seek God), are compensated with intense self-righteousness. Hey, I loved explaining to everyone in homeroom why I didn’t salute the flag! I felt special, even if the differences were also difficult (I wanted to sing the Christmas songs and make Valentines).

I felt right. That’s the hard part. Oh, that’s so hard to give up, once you’re accustomed to that feeling. I struggle with it. I still love to be right.

Suppose you have to admit you are wrong. Tough, isn’t it? Suppose you didn’t have a friend, or any family that would speak to you if you did admit you were wrong. Makes it harder still. Sometimes people set themselves up, or lash out, or identify with what they have been told former Witnesses are. It takes a lot of windup to go.

It helps if you just leave the area, but you’ve got to develop new skills.

I had it easy, really – I was leaving for a while, for lots of reasons. I still had my family, and I had “worldly” friends that were strangely kind and understanding and supportive. I read a lot, too, which also helps more than I ever knew at the time. I left.

Some are kicked. Everyone participates in shunning the “unrepentant ones,” and among some congregations, there are internal urban myths – such as that the belief that once away from the “Truth”, you will be spiritually attacked by by by…demons. These demons are depicted as even more frightening and evil than this “wordly satanic system of things” which, to them, is our common reality.

Some of them even feared Smurfs. Smurfs with mystique. I remember the story of the wallpaper with demonic Smurfs that came to life. I wonder if that JW urban myth led directly to the animation at the beginning of “Dragon Tales”? Hmmm.

Depression, glumness. Glum. Like Puritans.

So then, if a JW is dealing with a real issue or problem, and isn’t necessarily ready to leave, who does the JW turn to? The elders? Elders don’t really have the training or even (usually) the inclination to shepard someone (in the good sense) through a moment of crisis. They’ll be using selected bible verses to support a thinly-veiled argument dictated by someone else – in New York. Asking questions could get you labeled – “gray area” “rebellious” “independent thinker” “worldly” “Memorial members.”

There are problems with power – the JWs are happy to think of themselves as submissive sheep – but righteous, very righteous and preferred by God. These shepards don’t coax, not even with friendly dogs. They are the kind with the whip hidden behind their back. To admit difference is to invite punishment – some of it is subtle, but it is effective. “Only” Jehovah’s Witnesses follow God’s Word – at least in that translation. If you have questions or problems – well, they have to keep the congregation clean.

I would like to see more documentation on the suicide rate among Jehovah’s Witnesses. I would also like to see the same kinds of figures on former Jehovah’s Witnesses (especially those who have been cut off from contact with their families under conditions of disfellowshipping or other ostracizing behaviors). Is anyone tracking this to know the statistics? Has there been a recent study? (I’m already aware of information and news tracking, and the work of such groups as Silent Lambs). Please comment with any information.

Sorry for the rambling quality of the post. I’m working out some things in my mind, trying to think how it might help a former JW who contacted me. Sometimes writing helps – and sometimes the thought process itself might help someone. You never know.

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