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

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Child or a Choice?

While driving along today I saw a bumper sticker that read, "I am a child, not a choice." This is not the first time I have seen a bumper sticker saying this, but this one also featured a striking picture of a new born. It was very effective marketing. Even I, a dyed in the wool Pro-Choice advocate, was given pause.
I understand people who are against abortion on religious basis. If their faith leads them to believe that life is created at conception, then murder is not acceptable. Faith is one of those mysterious things that is beyond influence- for all of us, yours and mine.
My faith guides me to believe that life does not begin at conception. It seems to me that I am far from the only one who believes this; if we as a collective society believed that life began at conception then miscarriages would be addressed differently. We don’t have funeral rituals around this tragic loss; instead a miscarriage is surrounded by shame. This does not indicate to me an honoring of a life lost; instead it is treated as the loss of a potential life.
I struggle with pinpointing when life actually begins. Is it the magical moment when the heart begins beating (quickening) or when the infant takes its first breath of life? I read an excellent article in UU World by Scotty McLennan, the Dean of Religious Life at Stanford University, which provided me with concrete religious textual support for my inner convictions. I will not restate what he has already written so eloquently. I encourage you to read his article which provides Biblical scripture and Talmudic tradition to support life beginning at birth with the first breath.

With that being said, I still grapple with the issue of when life begins. I have placed my hand on the bellies of pregnant girlfriends and I knew that was a life in there- not just potential life. But would I have changed my mind had their fetus been stillborn? Would it have reverted back to “potential life” in my mind? These are questions I don’t know the answer to.
From a sociological standpoint I am very clear on where I stand on the abortion issue. I firmly believe that every child should be a wanted child. Imagine how our society would improve if everyone came into this world loved and wanted.
Pro Choice advocates love to parade out all the tragic examples of rape and incest or when the mother’s health/ life are endangered by the pregnancy. These are tragedies and I pray with all my heart that our country will never become so barbaric and backwards as to prevent a woman access to termination in these instances.
The Pro Life camp points to all the abortions that occur as an issue of convenience, because girls (or even women) who got pregnant because of improper contraception. Yes, this happens far more frequently than it should but this can be easily changed through appropriate sex education.
There seems to be a strong correlation to those who are self labeled as Pro Life and those who are against Federal social service programs and sexual education that includes the use of contraception. This strikes me as setting our young women up for failure. They are sent out into the world, unprepared to protect themselves from pregnancy (no, abstinence does not work) and then judged for a difficult choice they have to make.
Yet should they choose to not abort, once the child is born, there is no social service support for mother or child. If you are Pro Life then be pro-life. The current structure paints women into a corner and then the Religious Right complains they are there. We have to teach about contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Conservatives complain about moms on welfare, but these moms are in a situation where they don’t have access to health care, child care, or family leave because they were shamed into thinking their other choice was murder.
All this cannot be easily summed up in a bumper sticker, nor do I think it should be. I believe that we trivialize this complicated issue by limiting it to either a child or a choice. I end this post with a request: please consider all life not just the one in the womb.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Striking a Balance

Here I am in a fairly traditional seminary with a faith that is difficult to sum up, let alone categorize, which looks very different from the main party line here.

I knew going in that I did not fit the traditional mold; I took this on with intention, for many reasons. One being that my background is in social justice; I always felt like a poser telling others that being part of a minority is a livable situation when I, as a middle class white woman, had never truly been part of a minority. I wanted to see what it felt like to be in the minority. Another was that I wanted a school where issues of faith did not have to be bracketed out completely but still had a strong academic base.

In the last week or so, I have found myself removing my foot from my mouth as quickly as I can take the other one out. I try to engage my classmates from a place of respect. I know their faith looks different from mine. I know that I am very strong in my faith and that it can withstand questioning and contradiction. For these reasons, when entering into a conversation that could potentially involve contentious issues, I always give them the higher ground and do not challenge where they are. It seems that I am doing my classmate a disservice for a couple of reasons. First is, they are not seeing the full me- but a shadow cast on the wall for fear of directing my light directly at them. The second is, I am not allowing them the opportunity to grow. I’m not saying that I have all the answers, or that having a conversation with me will bring instant enlightenment; but what if I am “protecting” them from an experience they need to have?? That would be awfully selfish of me.

The issue that continues to rear its head recently is sex. I have been married twice, so yes, I have had sex. But that is not the issue here; what is the issue is talking about sex, which I am very comfortable doing. I understand that many of my classmates do not condone premarital sex; that is their belief and I respect that. One particular classmate was very troubled by a conversation I was having about a biological occurrence in men- I was trying to learn more about what their experience is like. Later I apologized to the uncomfortable classmate and let him know that I understand that he is in a very different faith place than I am, that I respect that place and that I would endeavor to show that respect in my conversations in his presence going forward.

So today I was talking about all this with another classmate who also finds herself in the minority and she (so wisely) pointed out: why do we have to always tone down who we are to fit in the mold?? Why can’t people accept us as we are? Meet us where we are instead of the reverse? She confessed that she felt almost like she was putting on act- not being true to herself. Her words resonated with me. Engraved on the inside of my pinky ring is, “Keep true to thyself.” I don’t feel that I wasn’t keeping true to myself, but even dimming the light some can lead to extinguishing it all together. Her words were my wake up call.

All these questions are rhetorical- I don’t know the answer. I doubt there is a correct answer. I do know that I will continue to stumble through life, only opening my mouth to switch feet. I honestly mean no disrespect. All I ask is that you extend me Grace.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Study Hall

I had an epiphany this morning: I have never learned to study solo. Yes, I was an only child but I grew up in boarding school where we had mandatory study hall for everyone. And for those who put in a less than stellar effort or didn't turn in assignments (::: looks around... who me??:::) pretty much all free time was structured into a study hall format.

So here we are, 20 years later- yes, I am almost 40 years old and in graduate school but I realize: I work best when the social shame structure is put into place.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

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

I spent five years in a private girls boarding school whose motto is: Fortezza, Umilitade, e Largo Core - Courage, Humility, and Largeness of Heart. During my misspent youth, I did not embrace this idea fully but it planted itself deeply in me and began to germinate, waiting for the right moment to sprout.

I was at Oldfields School during my formative years (8- 12 grade.) I was not always happy there and for years after I did not look back at it fondly. As my 20 year reunion approaches and I am reconnecting with school mates (particularly via Facebook) my self-imposed wounds are healing. In their place I am finding gratitude. Though I resisted at the time, I was given so many wonderful tools, which I use so often now. The greatest of these is our school motto, which I endeavor to live up to everyday.

Thank you for all you have given me.

Looking for Bread

So here it is, Wednesday night (my hell night for school work) so while I am waiting for inspiration to find me to assist with my academic work, I will write randomly while I tarry.

This evening, while wandering through the grocery store, I was reminded of my dear friend Mike (not his real name) who when wanting to find a certain “sweet” sister, would go looking for bread. He came up with this idea at the National Rainbow gathering in Vermont in 1991. This was long before cell phones and since we were in the backwoods part of a national forest, there were no pay phones close; this made meeting up with people quite challenging. Mike had his eye on this certain sister who was camped close to the bakery camp. He noticed that if he went looking for her, he never found her; however, if he wandered off in search of bread (which happened to be in the direction of her camp) he almost always found her.

I have been very blessed when it comes to finding men. I (inadvertently) had my first date with my second husband the day after my first husband moved out. Many of my girlfriends ask how I do it. They say all they want is to find a nice man to date. My advice is always the same, “Stop looking.” Just like my friend Mike who could never find his ladylove when searching for her but always found her when he ceased looking.

Upon leaving the grocery store I called Mike to tell him that he was on my mind. While catching up, he confessed that he felt that he had lost his mojo. I reminded him that instead of looking for a woman that he needs to look for bread. He countered with the reasonable concern that if he is not looking that he might miss “her.” I responded with a very cheesy but very applicable movie reference: Bull Durham where Nuke LaLoosh is told to breathe through his eyelids like the lava lizards of the Galapagos Islands. While one breathes through their eyelids they are able to maintain their focus yet still keep it diffuse.- therefore looking while not looking.

So to all my single friends, I wish you the best of luck looking for bread.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Beware- be aware. The Unitarian Jihad.

a repost of an article from Jon Carroll at the SFGate: The Unitarian Jihad Friday, April 8, 2005

The following is the first communique from a group calling itself Unitarian Jihad. It was sent to me at The Chronicle via an anonymous spam remailer. I have no idea whether other news organizations have received this communique, and, if so, why they have not chosen to print it. Perhaps they fear starting a panic. I feel strongly that the truth, no matter how alarming, trivial or disgusting, must always be told. I am pleased to report that the words below are at least not disgusting:
Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Valentine's Day Plans

I feel like every Wednesday night I whine the same thing: let me just make it through tomorrow. This Sunday, by Grabthar's Hammer, I will have "a date" with my textbooks and I will write my papers. Yes, I have 1) dropped an awesome Galaxy Quest reference and 2) publicly announced I plan to spend Valentine's Day studying. My nerdom is securely established.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

So here we go...

This is my first foray into blogging and is an experiment in exhibitionism. As the title suggests, this will be my random musings on life, love, politics, and theology- pretty much anything one is not supposed to discuss in proper company. I imagine the frequency of my postings will be in direct relation to how much schoolwork I have; so anticipate lots of posts at mid-term and finals.

Many of my friends have set the bar high in their quality blog posts. I will not attempt to live up to these standards yet; first I will attempt to just post. Similar to a writer faced with a blank page, the challenge is to get something down, even if it is not your best work. I am giving myself permission to post blurbs and quips and random things that make me giggle or provoke thought. Who knows? I guess you will just have to keep checking back to find out what I come up with.

Thank you for reading and supporting me. I hope you feel rewarded for doing so.

"She departed, she withdrew, she strode off, she broke forth." -Cicero