Friday, December 26, 2014

The Sacrament of Sustaining Life

Somehow, I'm always out of step with everyone else I know. Just as I settled into the role of dutiful wife and mother, the feminist movement came roaring through my life and the lives of all the children born to those of us wondering how to always please our husbands, our breadwinners and family protectors.

During those times, there were two opposing, equally loud, voices. One was telling us to wrap our naked bodies in clear plastic wrap and meet our husbands at the door. Another was, just as stridently, advising us that we don't need men; we can do everything important for ourselves. Both bombed in my experience.

Nobody talked about what was best for, or what would happen to, our poor children during this transition. Where were they to be when we were hopping to the door, incapacitated by plastic wrap around our bodies to our ankles, and making wild whoopee with our husbands? The woman who gave this advice must have missed the part of the cultural revolution where middle class families lost their slave-waged servants who would remove the children to the nursery when Big Daddy arrived on the home scene.

That other, a flaming feminist who told us that we didn't need men was also promoting free "love," as if there should be no emotion involved in opening our bodies to the bodies of males. I don't think she took any anthropology courses; nor do I think she understood the power of hormones over our minds. It seems to me that a great number of women, because of hormonal influences, mother anything that comes between their legs, whether going in or coming out. The only "cure" for this tendency seemed to be drugs or drunkenness, both of which anesthetized the woman enough to be oblivious to what she was doing. Sex, drugs and rock-n-roll were a substitute for automatic mothering.

Birth control and finding our own clitorises was the accepted answer to all the problems that we were told we created for ourselves by seeking out male members of our species. No pregnancies, we were told, equaled no problems. Self-induced orgasms were as good as a girl could get; no wet spots, and no need to ask a man for anything. Women worked at becoming as callous about compassion for others as were the men that we had so long criticized.

Not all was evil about this transformation of society. The children of divorce, and women without life partner parents of their children, forced the fathers of our many offspring to become something other than simply breadwinners, Our children would settle for nothing less than love from each parent. We women had to "man up" and do some of our own heavy lifting; except it took at least two of us to lift any box that we had formerly counted on one man to manage.

Our society still expected us to bake cookies, even while we were winning bread for the support of ourselves and separate households, with children in residence. The fathers of our children no longer automatically assumed that there were others to whom they could hand their children while they sought their own fulfillment devoid of emotional entanglements. We women assumed that our children would acclimate to less need of our attention.

We may not like to admit it, but heavy lifting is a big part of what life's work is all about. Even a big baby is a heavier burden than most women want to carry across a continent without some brute strength to help her. Men don't like to admit it, but baking cookies in small batches without anyone to laud you as a great chef can feel rather thankless. Male-run businesses thrive, while family life dies. The businesses overwhelmingly staffed by females, such as health care, day care, and teaching continue to be run on slave-wages. The males who actually do the heavy lifting for the big bosses continue to receive not enough pay to support themselves, much less families.

Why do we pay so much to those who pray, and so little to those who do for us as we live and die? It is a mystery to me. When will we face the fact that there is no substitute for labors of love, and that those labors should be honored with pay that adds dignity to the laborers' lives? When will we, as homo sapiens, learn that the most sacred jobs of all are the ones for which we currently pay the least? It is not a lower caste assignment to take care of the basic needs of life, in all of its manifestations.

I didn't bear children to take care of their parents, but to proceed on their own paths. While some women would prefer to sexually pleasure themselves and pick up the poop of a dog or cat for companionship while waiting for, and paying a person, to come to their aid with each heavy box that needs transport, I would rather face the possibility that I may, one day, be picking up the poop of the man who has helped me to help my children, at my request, for many years.

I know the difference between giving a hug and getting one, as do the deeper recesses of our children's spirits. I'll take my husband over a hound any day. And as for baking cookies, I believe the making of sustenance for life is the greatest sacrament of all. I never feel more like a high priestess than when in front of my stove.

Sustainers of life's positive energy, here and beyond, is the greatest blessing we can. These are the gifts for which we should be willing to most highly pay. There are more things in life that I will do for love than there are that I'll do for money, though many of these same things I did for money to show love for my children when they were my responsibility. When will we reclaim money as simply barter for labors of love for those to whom we pledge undying responsibility? When will we realize that those who share responsible compassion are the only fully human homo sapiens?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Mazel Tov at Mensch Manor

We were incredibly honored by an invitation to an intimate dinner party at the home of the cardiologist who was instrumental in saving Richard's life and his wife, who plans elaborate parties for a living. They live in the home in which he was brought up, and are both devout Jews who honor all the Jewish holidays in their home. 

Juliet was brought up Roman Catholic, but converted to Judaism before marrying Moshe and combining their families. Some of their children are practicing Jews; others are not, but what they all have in common is that they all grew up in uptown New Orleans. Being a New Orleanian, raised in the heart of one of the oldest areas of New Orleans is a religion unto itself. Most people from uptown even pronounce New Orleans with three syllables, rather than the usual two used by suburbanites.

Moshe's mother, in addition to being the matriarch of her own large family, was a renowned New Orleans art critic, patron, activist, and connoisseur. The home in which Moshe and Juliet live is Old New Orleans at it's very best, showcasing some of the greatest of New Orleans artists' works. Though the children of this home are all grown, there are always people other than Moshe and Juliet in residence. Grandchildren, students seeking a warm welcome when studying in one of the nearby universities, dozens of Godchildren, and any friends who want to bring their pajamas (or not) and stay for the night.

We really didn't know what to expect when we got the invitation. We have been to dinner at their home on more than one occasion, when it was only the four of us. Mostly we've been to their home when seemingly several hundred people were dancing and partying to beat the band...often with their formal parlor turned into a bandstand. Juliet and Moshe are much younger than are we, so we have never been able to stay long enough to see the ends of the evenings, except when it has been only the four of us.  Age is not the only reason we can't keep up with them, but it makes me feel better to pretend this is so.

Juliet and Moshe simply love to celebrate the very air that they breathe, and nobody does it better, or with more variety, than they do. They simultaneously decorate their home for Hanukkah and for Christmas. I won't be surprised if we arrive one day to find Kwanzaa included in the decor and celebration, as their home, year round, Certainly exemplifies the spirit of Kwanzaa.

We found a parking spot in the very front of their home, feasting our eyes on the lights draping the iron fence and covering Moshe's treasured Sasanqua azaleas that bloom every winter here in New Orleans. I had to smell the garlands of greenery on their old brick steps' black iron banister to know that they hadn't hung real evergreen that fall apart within a week in our heat. The decorations on their door and porch welcomed us with lots of gold intertwined in the green. (Add a little purple and they will be ready for Mardi Gras.) 

We had to knock several times before Moshe, looking harried, answered the door. He apologized that we had to "act like family and hang out in the kitchen" acknowledging that were right on time, but that he could not yet offer us cocktails. Moshe is an accomplished mixologist and takes great pride in doing drinks the way the greatest bars in New Orleans do them. With the deft handwork of a surgeon, he was peeling an orange into one long spiral of skin and studding it with whole cloves.

As we passed through the dining room toward the kitchen, we were absolutely stunned by the opulent tablescape, set with green Venetian glass and gleaming gold charger plates on which were setting exquisite fine china. Candles glowed all around. I felt like we had stepped back in time to the early twentieth century in New Orleans, when servants were in abundance to cook, iron the linens, shop, cook, set the table, serve, and wash the fine crystal, china, and silver. The amazing thing is that we knew that Moshe and Juliet were doing it all, and that we were included in the small group invited to celebrate Moshe's latest success. 

It wasn't long before another couple arrived, one whom we didn't know from previous parties. They, too, were treated to watching Moshe's handwork with the orange. Moments later, Moshe called us all to follow him into the living room, where on the bar he proudly displayed a bottle of port which he had been saving for several decades and the contents of said bottle decanted into a Baccarat carafe. He announced that this was all about celebrating his recent success. 

As the third, and last, couple arrived, Moshe was ceremoniously pouring perfectly made Manhattans into the proper stemware. Juliet arrived and requested a glass of claret. We had known for months that Moshe was studying for an esoteric and new area of Cardiology care. Though he is brilliant and imminently accomplished in all he attempts, his nerves for these months were strung as tightly as piano wires. He announced that he had gotten the results and he passed, to which we all offered great sighs of relief and raised our glasses to having our friend so happy. We had never doubted his success.

The last couple to arrive, Mona and her husband Mickey have been at every function we've ever attended at this home, so they really are family. Mona took one look at the table and asked, appropriately, "Where are you putting the food?" We noshed on hors d'oeuvres in the parlor for a while, sipping and basking in Moshe's glory; then Juliet began to lay out the buffet.

As we were seated, Moshe poured both red and white wines, the Claret for some and Vouvray for others of us. He also poured water all around. Timothy, who was seated next to me, received from the hands of Juliet a bowl of freshly steamed haricot verte and what looked to be falafel patties. It seems that even vegans get what the wish for in this home.

The salad was spectacular, and had the gourmet touch of prosciutto in place of bacon bits. The sweet potatoes were firm and in a syrup that was just sweet enough; not cloying like so many sweet potatoes. The stuffed merliton was pure New Orleans goodness; I'd challenge any chef, in or out of New Orleans, to beat Juliet's version of this dish. And the crowning touch (pun intended) was the crown roast of pork with gold foil tips for the standing bones. There is nothing more elegant in presentation, in my opinion, than crown roast. The pork was slightly pink in the middle, as it should be, tender and other words, roasted to perfection. This was accompanied by a side dish of applesauce, as if it needed more embellishment.

Before we ate, there were three blessings spoken over us and the table, two in Hebrew by Moshe and one the Roman Catholic grace before meals by lifelong friend Mickey. The conversation was lively and laughter was good-natured. Any subjects that were brought up to break the mood were gently, but firmly put aside for later by Moshe. I kept waiting to see servants standing at the ready, knowing how much work went into this moment in time. 

As the dinner dishes were cleared, Juliet brought out champagne glasses and ice cream with three different toppings. While we ate ice cream, Moshe appeared with what appeared to be a small silver punch bowl and ladle. As we watched, he raised the clove-studded orange skin spiral out of the bowl, picked up the ladle and poured a liquid over the end of the spiral. Fire leapt out of the bowl and traveled up and down the spiraled skin. 

We were now witnessing the Old New Orleans performance art form of flaming desserts and coffee at table side. Moshe was using what he said used to be given to all New Orleans brides as a wedding gift, his mother's sterling silver cafe brulot bowl, and what a show he put on! The highly spirited coffee was served in fine china demi tasse cups. Timothy announced that he had enjoyed cafe brulot in several of the best New Orleans restaurants, and that this was the finest he had ever had.  It was spiced and spiked better than any I’d ever tasted.

Juliet, once again appeared from the kitchen, with yet another vintage recipe, perfectly prepared: baked in an iron skillet buttery pineapple upside down cake. We ate for hours, it seemed, but the evening was still young. The champagne flutes were filled with Veuve Clicquot, tasting to me of sparkling fresh pears, to wash down our cake before we retired to the parlor for 40 year old port and aged  Montrachet cheese and chocolate. 

It was time to bring out the parlor game that we had given Moshe and Juliet as a gift. Questions were asked and hilarity ensued while Moshe offered everyone liqueurs. I don't know when was the last time we stayed at a party this late, but the time simply flew by. One of the questions asked of Juliet was, "What is your favorite time of year?" She replied, "I love this holiday season because everyone is so nice to each other. 

Juliet and Moshe stretch this holiday season to include Hanukkah and Christmas. They then roll right into celebrating the carnival season of Mardi Gras. They do so much for so many that we were inspired, for Moshe's last birthday, to give them New Orleans style tiles saying "Mensch Manor" Their home is what humanity is supposed to be about, whether one is Jewish, Catholic or simply of homo sapiens who wish to be considered full parts of humanity.

We were celebrating Moshe, and he and Juliet were waiting on us! This was a sacrament, in my eyes. The good will we shared will be transubstantiated into good will and good works by all who were at the table and all who enter their home.

This was our Christmas dinner. Thank you, Moshe and Juliet.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Abraham's Adultery and Islam

Do the world's three religions branching from the tree of Abraham really differ so much in what they believe creates a peaceful place for families to thrive?
Abraham was not a strong man. He used his wife's sexuality to save his own skin. While married, he fathered a child with a servant girl, and allowed the servant and his own first-born son to be sent to the desert to die. Why is it that the three religions constantly killing the mothers and children of each other in bloody wars, insist on calling a man with Abraham's type of behavior their Patriarch? The descendants of the first-born son are still attempting to reclaim their birthright, and until all are willing to admit to the wrong done to Ishmael and his mother, I can't see that we have a chance of peace on earth.
It seems to me that Moses, with the Ten Commandments streamlined a way for the sons and daughters of the earth to create peace among themselves.This peaceful "place" was to be called "Israel," and exists wherever people honor the rules of living in peace with each other. These same rules seem to be at the core of what all humans want in creating communities.
This is what I believe Jesus came to say, "Taking care of each other and the less strong is what's important; the rules are for forming committed communities." I also believe Jesus came to model the way humans can manifest The Eternal, Universal Sacred Spirit of responsible, committed compassion in our own actions on earth. This Sacred Spirit is available to all with ears to hear and eyes to see. I find it most obvious in the eyes of a baby, just after birth and in the eyes of the dying as they long to see their goodness in the eyes of another.
In my opinion, Abraham should not be the role model for how husbands treat the most vulnerable in their lives.Maybe we need to let Abraham go finally to his grave, so we can stop sending so many of his children to theirs.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

To the Pro-LIfe Liars

Why is it that no religions are based on being awake and available to our own children? Why is it that we worship those who act as if children are to be seen and not heard? What is the attraction of the majority of religions to the philosophies spouted by those who spend their time meditating on issues other than the ones in the lives in which they manifest in physical forms?

I am sick, almost unto death, of those who spend their time seeking nirvana while ignoring the eyes, voices, and cries of their own children and the children of their neighbors. I am sick, almost unto death, of those who attribute sainthood to those who bear the most babies, with no ideas of how well the mothers and fathers have paid attention to their own children's individual needs.

Homo sapiens should not be brought up in litters, unless we want the offspring to simply manifest as feral animals. The fallacy of the religions that promote large families is that no human mother (or father) is able to nurture another child properly without sufficient time between births. The religions pretend that "the church" will make up the difference, but this is simply not the reality.

How many individuals will willingly give up their free time to console the colicky baby, not their own? How many will stay up all night, sober, to make sure that the teenagers of others are safely tucked in after their explorations? How many will live responsibly in order to show the example to the young, for as many years as it takes to bring homo sapiens to fully human adulthood?

Every homo sapiens child deserves to be born into a family and community of responsible, committed, compassionate fully human adults. If their conception can't lead to this, we shouldn't be surprised that the new homo sapiens turn out to simply be feral animals.

I am sick, almost unto death, of the hypocrisy in humans. Humanity takes many years to nurture one  homo sapiens animal into a full human. To all who are against conception and birth control: Either put your own time, resources, and love on the line, or shut up, go home, and stay quiet.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What's Tugging at My Heart

What is tugging at my heart is the inability to find common words to describe The Sacred Spirit, as embodied in our universal experiences.

Some call this energy love, but what is love? To many it is synonymous with sexual attraction; to others it is an emotion similar to longing; in the understanding of others it is the willingness to suffer for another. In my world, love is shared committed action toward a common goal, right here on the physical plane we share in this lifetime. Not very romantic, is it?

Religions have all sorts of names for this universal energy. Seemingly, the most long-standing common term is "god(s)" or "God." In my 63 years on earth I have encountered so many explanations of what people commonly call "God" that I know they can't all be talking about the same being. It seems more like the elephant and the blind men. Depending on which small part you encounter, you describe it as a different being.

I am increasingly uncomfortable with the tendency to believe that whatever we see in our own communities is the only way that people should live. I understand the desire for stability, but not at the cost of continued life. Any living organism that stops growing begins losing its individual existence.

The only way I believe we'll get past the "tribal" impasses that our ancestors have inflicted on us is to open our eyes to the difference in homo sapiens as animals and those that are full humans. Full humanity is the only higher plane we can use to change the future of our earth. If we don't adapt, we die; this includes our understanding of The Sacred.

If we can't even find a universal word for the Spirit of Full Humanity, what hope do we have for communication and cooperation? My spirit longs for a word or phrase that defines responsible, committed compassion for our present and future universe, one that is free for the taking. I have been calling this life force that I feel "The Sacred Spirit." I'd love to hear other suggestions for an all-inclusive term for what enables us to be the best we can humanly be.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Purification of the Physical Process.

It seems odd to me that so many communities frown on speaking of conjugal bonding, even among responsible, committed, compassionate couples. Where did those who call themselves religious miss the many references in their own accepted sacred scriptures, the comparisons of the ultimate in Eternal Love to the love making of humans?

I am so tired of being an outcast, a "scarlet woman,"so to speak, in the company of women who call themselves mothers of the churches and temples. This problem is greatly exacerbated by the attention I draw from the males who can see that I am often in agreement with their points of view. I have tried almost everything, short of killing or crippling myself, to break this curse laid on me from the time before I could speak. Nothing has worked, so I keep mostly to myself.

My mother told the story of how "You trained your father when you were nine months old." According to her, after my father hit me, I turned over in my crib to avoid looking at him for three days. According to her, from this time forward, he never hit me. I believe this to be true...not only because I knew he wanted me to look at him, but because I also know he never again hit a crying girl. My mother always admitted that she was jealous of me for this "control" I had over men, especially my father.

Don't focus on why a father would hit a nine-month-old baby and why the mother of the baby would, not only stay married to him, but bear seven more children with him. Focus on the fear that others have of a woman-child with the ability to stop a dragon in his tracks. Focus also on the number of women who have come to me to back down the dragons in their lives, only to shun me in order to please their dragons or their dragon's offspring.

Being a dragon slayer without encouragement to brag on one's successes in love or in war is the loneliest existence for a woman. Would that I had been born a man, except for the blessing of the one man who neither worships nor seeks to control me. With him, I have discovered the divinity in sacred bonding. I only wish we had a group with which to share our ecstasy without invoking jealousy, which leads to competition, rather than community celebration.

Even Adam and Eve chose jealousy over contentment. Isn't it time to stop following in their footsteps and form footsteps of our own. The "sins of the fathers" stopped being passed on when the joyful Jewish Jesus was walking the earth.  Pentecost made it possible to celebrate without ancestral guilt, jealousy, greed, retribution, and mindless competition. The Sacred is in what we celebrate in the physical manifestations we were given. It is the purpose of each of us to continue purification of the
physical process.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Families of Faith and Religion

I respectfully submit that it is time that we draw the real line between faith and religion.

It seems to me that religions have always been about rituals and rules for behavior. Whether or not the people in the religious communities actually shared the same faith was, and is, immaterial. Religions, at best, create civil societies that can trust each others actions and commit to the same rules of bringing up offspring. The punishment for crossing the boundaries, at best, is banishment and restitution to the those harmed in the community.

The worst of religion is the formation of tribes who will watch as other members break all the boundaries of responsible, committed compassion and go to any means necessary to keep the community together. It is easier to hide the perpetrator than to admit that the hypocrisy of this behavior will destroy the bases on which the religions were formed. This is especially true when the leaders of the "tribes" are, in plain sight, the ones breaking the rules.

It seems to me to be okay to form community around any rules one wants, as long as the rules are consistently enforced. If a church doesn't want sex to happen outside of marriage between two opposite sex married-in-the church people, that is their prerogative, as long as all are held to the same, "no sex outside of church marriage" rules. The only way this should become a civil issue is when the religion is receiving support, in any form, from the civil society in which they operate.

One of the cardinal rules of civil disobedience is that those engaging in it must be willing to suffer the civil societies' rules for restitution.  There are too many hiding behind religious immunity while breaking the rules of the civil societies that are supporting them. This is the hallmark of hypocrisy.

Families of faith are something altogether different than religions. Families of faith share value systems by which they openly live their lives in community with like-minded others. It seems to me that our United States is becoming more a family of faith in the value of fairness as it moves away from religious self-righteousness. The beauty of democracy, as we purport to live it, in our country, is that anyone can become an entrepreneur and write their own rules for fairness in hiring and trade.

My faith is in the ideal of fairness, and those who treat each others in that manner are the only ones I wish to call family, friend, and fellow citizen of this earth.