Fortezza, Umilitade, e Largo Core - Courage, Humility, and Largeness of Heart.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Parable of the Three Sons (as told by my mother)

Growing up, my mother told me a parable in order to illustrate the importance of not hoarding
money. She taught me that hoarding your money is the greatest sin.*

A father gave each of his three sons equal portions of money and sent them off into the world. The first son invested his money; the second son spent his money; and the third son buried his money in ground. Some time later the father called his sons together and asked about the status of the gift he had given them. The first son proudly reported that through wise investing, he had increased his initial amount. The father was incredibly proud of his son and told him so. The second son hung his head and told his father that he had spent the entirety of the gift. The father explained that he was also proud of him because he had spent the money and therefore helped the economy. The infusion of capital into the market helped the overall well being of their country and countrymen. The third son was pleased to report that he had the same amount that he was originally given. The father asked how this was possible and the son explained he had buried it. The father was gravely disappointed in his son and the son did not understand. The father explained that the first son had invested the money, which helps the economy of their country, and the second son spent the money, which also helps the economy, but he had buried his money which helps no one. The father explained that hoarding money and not aiding in the growth of the overall economy of his community is the greatest sin of all.

*It turns out that her parable is loosely based on the Parable of Three Servants found in both Matthew and Luke but hers has a different twist.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Taking Back the Night


This evening I spoke at Emory University's Respect Program and the Alliance for Sexual Assault Prevention's Take Back the Night Speak Out Rally. Here is what I said:


I am Allegra Knight, a Masters student at Candler School of Theology and I am a survivor.
 
When I started my Master’s program at Candler School of Theology at the age of 38, I never imagined that I would end up a victim of sexual assault by a classmate. The term “victim” is usually frowned upon but I wear it with pride. I refuse to cower or feel shame and I encourage anyone who has been assaulted to follow my lead.

I was raised by a single mother who ingrained in me strength and independence. I went to all female schools (high school and college) where we were taught how to protect ourselves. But after my divorce, I was left broken and vulnerable and even with this proper training, I still ended up with a classmate—a friend—trying to rape me and stalking me.

For months I allowed an emotionally abusive relationship to continue which culminated in him attempting to force penetration against my will. Since he had previously ignored my requests to leave me alone, I figured out how to block him via phone, text message, and online media so that even if he tried he would be unable to contact me. Despite these steps, he came to my front door uninvited on a Saturday night at 11pm, which I responded to by calling the police, who advised me to file a restraining order against him in order to protect myself. The officer hit me hard with a case of “scared straight”. He explained that this was a man who does not understand “no” and this would not stop. I saw two paths in front of me: one where I stand up and protect myself or the other where I become a statistic on the news.

I had to navigate the complicated bureaucratic systems both at Candler and within Dekalb County. I had to talk about the intimate details of my sex life with Candler’s Dean of Students and the Registrar. I went through the court system and got a restraining order against my attacker. I could not have done this without the support of my friends. The experience left me wanting to crawl under my covers never to return. But somehow, when we are on the verge of giving up, Providence steps in and catches us before we fall. My friends were there to support me; they held me up when my legs failed. Reach out to your friends, they will still love you and support you.

The more I talked about my experience, the more I learned that I was not alone. And that is why we are here today with the intention of removing the stigma of being a victim. My friend Miranda (who has twice been a victim of date rape) was so inspirational; she told me that she feels called to tell her story, so that women realize that this is not our shame to bear but that this shame belongs to our attackers. I reiterate: this is his shame, not mine. I already knew that if I did nothing and he attacked another woman that would be on my head, but after talking with Miranda I realized that I must speak up publicly about what happened; I am called to be a role model for other women. I must speak up loudly and with strength. 
I stand tall… as a victim.




Thursday, September 5, 2013

Why I love Dragon*Con

Dragon*Con is not just costumes and fandom

This weekend was my first full weekend of Dragon*Con. It is not just geek heaven but also nerd heaven. In case you were wondering what the difference between the two terms is:

Dragon*Con is not just Trekkies and Whovians in costumes, there is a wide assortment of cerebral panels to choose from as well. I spent most of my time in the nerdy, less crowded panels. Next year I may attempt to participate in the more popular panels with the big name stars but this year I was happy to sit in on the less attended, more cerebral panels. In other words, I completely geeked out on all the nerdiness. Some of the amazing panels I attended:
  • Why Mensa Will Never Solve World Hunger
    • a panel which discussed the difference between intelligence and rationality 
  • Of Mice and Men: How mice revolutionized our knowledge of neurogenetics 
  • Comics as Teaching Tools
  • The Moral Arc of Science
  • The Hobbit: One book, three movies
  • Why Everything You Know About Quantum Mechanics is Wrong
  • Tesla vs. Edison
  • Game of Thrones Religions: We want you for the Red God 
And yes, I took copious notes in all of them!

Historically, most of my friends are west coast Burning Man attendees. However we've gotten older, many have had kids, and we realize that washing playa dirt out of our nether regions is not as much fun as it was when we were younger. I am now on a campaign to convert them to east coast Dragon*Con-ers (is that the proper term? if not, what is?). I am not alone in this idea- Dragon Con: Where Grown-Up Nerds (& Kids) Go to Play .

Don't get me wrong, the costumes are amazing! Some links to pictures of these amazing costumes: All the Coolest Costumes and Props We Saw at Dragon*Con, c|net and my personal photos: CleverClover Dragon*Con 2013.  Sadly, I was not able to take pictures of the most amazing costumes, so if you want to see them, you'll have to just come next year and see them for yourself.

The moral of the story: Dragon*Con is not a one dimensional experience and holds something for just about everyone. Personally, I'm still completely blissed out by the experience.

Monday, August 26, 2013

His Holiness the Dalai Lama to visit Emory this October


Why I support The Visit 2013 and why you should too.

For those of you who are Facebook friends with me, you may or may not have seen my posts on the Dalai Lama visiting Emory this October. I am on the Development Committee for this visit, which benefits The Emory Tibet Science Initiative. My mother's foundation supports this cause because of its focus on uniting science and religion. Among their goals is creating open dialogue between science and religion in the hopes of "bridging two worlds for one common humanity". They accomplish this by an exchange program between Emory students (who study in Dharmasala, India) and Tibetan Buddhist monks (who come to Emory to study), translating science texts into Tibetan, and developing cognitively based compassion training. The later is ground breaking and will allow for the scientific study (replicable) of meditation in many contexts. It also puts it into a format that can be taught in many contexts such as in schools or to battered and abused women/children. To learn more about it: http://www.tibet.emory.edu/cbct/index.html.

When the Dalai Lama visited three years ago, I arranged for an Endowment Level gift and was given unbelievable access to His Holiness (including a private lunch with HHDL, Richard Gere, and 20 other people). This year's visit will focus on secular ethics in the context of our citizenship in the 21st century Global Village.

Please consider visiting Atlanta and sharing in this life changing experience with me this October! If you are unable to make it, please consider making a donation to this remarkable project and spreading the word about this opportunity.
http://www.dalailama.emory.edu/
http://www.dalailama.emory.edu/support/index.html

With love and light,
Allegra

Friday, August 23, 2013

What is this Fitbit thing??

Many of you have seen me post extensively about Fitbit and have asked "what is a Fitbit?" and "do I find it beneficial?"
My answer is a resounding YES!

Many people are hesitant to spend money on a gadget and to compete with their friends when they have such a sedentary life. What people who are just joining us on the Fitbit bandwagon don't know: when Jeff and I first got our Fitbits, we barely got 5000 steps a day (Fitbit sets the initial goal as 10,000 a day). But what it has done for us is it has motivated us to cleverly find space in our day for walking more. i.e. parking further from the door at the grocery store or Jeff paces the hallway while reading his Kindle. And I know for a fact that when I don't have my Fitbit, I get lazy. It helps keep you honest. I am so very competitive (particularly with my husband Jeff) so we are able to push each other without nagging.

Some folks aren't certain if the competitive aspect will be good for them or damaging to their ego. A friend confessed, "what I do know is that when I fail privately I tend to give in to despair and quit. Quitting is particularly easy if no one notices." This is where Fitbit becomes particularly helpful. Your friends are able to cheer you on, (hopefully lovingly) taunt you, and send you messages of encouragement. Usually it's not necessarily cutthroat competition... unless it's between my brother-in-law David and I, in which case we tend to battle to the death. Ok, it's more like loving pokes.

Many friends have asked if my health outcomes have changed since I began? I have gotten so much stronger and have greater endurance since getting it. Before getting my Fitbit, I was barely able to walk the dog around the parking lot. Now I am able to walk all around my neighborhood! My sister-in-law, Sheri, has experienced similar results. That is not to say that we don't still have our bad days, due to our health, but we are getting through them more easily the stronger we get! 

Another question was "was your motivation weight, health, looking fine in your bikini, or...???" My primary motivation was getting strong in my post-Lyme life, however we purchased our Fitbits six months prior to our beach wedding, so I would be lying if I didn't include that as part of my motivation.

Having a Fitbit helps to change your behavior radically, which can be a very difficult thing to do. Since I've gotten mine, I've had some crappy weeks, sometimes from Lyme or sometimes because I'm swamped with schoolwork. But I continue to try to find ways to fit more walking into each day, thereby regaining some of the strength that Lyme stole from me.

Additionally, it has a journal section where I can record symptoms or events from the day (good and bad) to help track my Lyme journey. This is particularly helpful since I have "Lyme brain" and can't always keep track of it myself. It also has graphs to track trends: sleep, weight, activity, etc. My Lyme doctor finds this helpful in our monthly appointments.

 Caveat: Fitbits are incredibly easy to lose! Be prepared to be extra vigilant. I have gone through five so far (lost 1, wore 2 different ones into salt water, gave one to a friend who promptly lost it, and one of the replacements was defective) and I STILL think they are worth every penny! 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

My Wicked Sense of Humor

I come by my wicked sense of humor honestly... both my parents are hilarious, in very different ways. My mother gave me my sense of irreverence. In the '80s there were these bumper stickers that were very popular: "My [ex-husband, ex-wife, boss, etc] is in the trunk." She wanted to get one and then attach one of these to the trunk:


From that point forward, she created a monster. If I ever offend you accidentally, know that I meant you no harm. If you are still offended knowing that, your loss.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The metaphor of the walking mandala

Today was the first beautiful weather day in what feels like forever. I moved to Atlanta with the hopes of escaping weather that increases my Lyme related pain but my hopes have been dashed this particular winter. As I try to not squander an opportunity, I chose to take some time for myself and walk the mandala behind my health practitioner’s office. It occurs to me that the process of walking a labyrinth is a great metaphor for life:
We go out to go in and in to go out, backwards to go forwards.
 We follow a path, walking on blue slate chips which can be warm in the sun or cool in the shade. If we choose to walk on them barefoot, they can be smooth and pleasing or jagged and even painful.
 Alternatively, we can protect ourselves (via shoes). You go all the way in to (pause and then) turn around and go out the very same way, yet the scenery looks quite different on the way out. Things change depending on your perspective: you might not see the dragonfly on the blue globe close up but it was so easy to spot from a distance.
 
We can take time to smell the sweet flowers. We can choose to follow etiquette but shouln't be afraid to break it either.
 Mindfulness of the moment, yet clarity of past and future.
 Remember to have joy in the moment- never take yourself too seriously. Stop and observe the flora & fauna, but be careful to not disturb them. It's the relation between stillness and movement.
 
“Labyrinths are one of the oldest transformational tools known to mankind. They have been used for centuries for prayer, ritual, initiation, and personal and spiritual growth. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth is unicursal- only one way to the center and back out again. Once you set your foot on the path, you are gently guided to the center of the labyrinth and yourself. There are no obstacles, no dead ends, and no tricks. So- with the labyrinth walker it is a meditative process- the mind can be stilled and attention paid to the body. It is a time of being rather than doing. Labyrinths also help us access our intuition and creativity, integrate body and spirit, listen to our heart, connect to the greater universal flow of energy, and deepen our spirituality.” (HealthSpring Holistic Center)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sometimes you have to make room...

My husband and I are in the process of trying to make all of our stuff fit into a condo that really only fits one person comfortably (or two if they do not have a lot of stuff, such as 5 bajillion* books). Since Jeff and I have more books between the two of us than the average small town community library, one of the things we are attempting is to pare down is our books.

Both my husband and I are learning disabled and came to reading late. Each of us has that special book that broke through the barrier and helped us gain the ability to read without tremendous effort. For Jeff that book is The Hobbit.

We have the fancy binding edition of the Tolkien trilogy and Jeff was going to sell his original mass market print editions. As he was getting ready to put it in the "to go" pile, he shared his story of the breakthrough, of how his mother, despite money being tight, rushed out to purchase her son these books that he was excited to read. Although Jeff would probably deny this, I could hear the lump in his throat as he told me about the moment when he finally was able to read at his grade level. The books that he held in hand were the exact books responsible.

Knowing the pain of struggling to do something that your heart calls so strongly to do (both of us come from families of voracious readers) and the elation of finally breaking through, I immediately told him to put the books back on the shelf, that we could make room for such influential books.


*yes, I made that word up.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I'd never go back to high school.

It seems that so many people fantasize about returning to their glory days of high school. You couldn't pay me enough money to return to that hell. However, I would love to return to a freshman year of college experience. 

We are currently touring Georgia State University looking at their neuroscience graduate program. Today's tour is for the general university so I'm getting a good overview of the undergrad program. I. am. so. envious. What I would give to be an incoming freshman student.

Yes, I'm a geek.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The presence of God?

I regularly ponder the presence of God in our daily lives. I am troubled by the issue of free will vis a vis omnipresence. An Islamic Imam posed one possible explanation: that life is like an improv play- God sets the stage, gives general direction, and will yell "Cut!" when your scene is done; how you choose to get through your scene is up to you.

This is what I was wearing when
James prayed that God had no
hand in selecting the outfit.
Yet, this leaves me wondering- how present is God in my life? I have no doubt that it was Providence that has guided me here to Atlanta, but does God care whether I get stuck in traffic or not?

In seminary we have very deep conversations in a very lighthearted way. While at a Tacky Christmas Sweater Party with my classmates, we were debating the issue of Providence. I was up on my metaphorical soapbox, passionately debating both sides of the argument, when I asked, "does God really care what I wear?" Without missing a beat, my friend James retorts, "with what you're wearing, I certainly hope not."

I would love to hear your thoughts. How present is God in your life? Where do you fall on the issue of Providence?

Monday, March 4, 2013

A prayer we can all relate to...

From St. Teresa of Avila:

Lord,
Thou knowest better than I myself
that I am growing older and will someday be old.
Keep me from fatal habit of thinking
I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.

Release me from craving to
straighten out everybody's affairs.

Make me thoughtful but not moody;
helpful but not bossy.

With my vast store of wisdom,
it seems a pity not to use it all;
but Thou knowest, Lord,
that I want a few friends at the end.
Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details;
give me wings to get to the point.

Seal my lips on my aches and pains;
they are increasing, and love of rehearsing them
is becoming sweeter as the years go by.

I dare not ask for improved memory,
but for a growing humility and a lessening cock-sureness
when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.
Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet, for a sour old person
is one of the crowning works of the devil.

Monday, February 25, 2013

An Interpretive Alternative to The Lord's Prayer


New Zealand Maori Prayer
Prayer at Night’s Approaching

Life-giver, Pain-bearer, Love-maker,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:

The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom
sustain our hope and come on earth.

With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.

For you reign in the glory of the power that is love,
now and for ever. Amen.


a New Zealand Maori prayer, interpreting The Lord’s Prayer  from http://www.amazon.com/Prayer-Nights-Approaching-Jim-Cotter/dp/1870652274/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1361229010&sr=1-3&keywords=Jim+Cotter

I originally posted this on my Tumblr account but realized that it belonged here.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

While we sleep...

It occurs to me that while we sleep:

Teddy bears guard us from monsters.


Cats guard us from spirits/ghosts.


And dogs guard us (hopefully) from real life threats.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Greatest Birthday Gift to Myself, Ever!

When I first started at Candler, I was barely able to make it from the parking lot to the classroom and only rarely had the strength to make it up the stairs to Cannon Chapel. On my 41st birthday I was able to make it from the 4th floor of the Theology building, down the stairs, through campus, all the way to Emory Village to pick up lunch... and back... in under 30 minutes! I could not ask for a better birthday gift to myself!!

I have come a long way since I first fell ill with Lyme disease: rebuilding my life from being bedridden and abandoned to a new life that includes graduate school and love. I worked very hard to get to this place and must continue in my vigilance. Through all the tears and pain, I persevered. I will continue to persevere with love, strength, and gratitude bolstering me.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pondering Hermeneutics and Dog Training

I am currently taking an anthropology class exploring world Christianities. We began the semester by examining the terms we will use throughout the semester: meaning, belief, faith. One article we read actually explored "the meaning of meaning". Is your head spinning yet? Mine certainly is.

Barron 
I must confess that I am a terrible dog trainer. My dog is housebroken but that is about the limit of his training. As I was pondering this new hermeneutical lexicon while walking my dog Barron, it occurred to me that this might be why I fail at training my dog. Specifically: when I tell Barron "Up!" it could mean "go up the stairs", "jump into my lap", "stand up so I can reach your collar"... well, you get the idea. How is Barron to know the meaning of "Up."? How am I to know the meaning of "meaning"?

These are the things that an over-educated graduate student ponders...