Thursday, September 27, 2012

Imagine - A Dreamer's Prayer

In 1971, a "strange" young man wrote and released a song, simply titled Imagine.  As far as melodies go, not very complicated, and the arrangement, a simple piano led accompaniment.  Nothing fancy.  Yet it is this simple little 3:14 song that has been weighing on my heart recently.  Especially in light of all the unrest in mostly Muslim countries, the horrific attack on American embassy staff  and the nasty rhetoric that has since followed.  All which came about as a result of some silly YouTube video which offended the Muslim community.

The very first time I heard Imagine, I was a young adult.  I know that many of you would be just stupefied that a person could go through life without having heard Imagine, but sadly, it's true.  On first hearing the song, I have to admit, I was NOT impressed.  I found it to be really offensive.  How do you mean, "Imagine there's no Heaven and Hell?  And no religion?".  That dude must've been smoking some really good stuff!  Turns out he was.  However, that shouldn't negate the message of his song.  I've grown up a bit since then.  I've lived a bit.  Been out in the world.  Done a little traveling.  Now I get what this "crazy hippy" was trying to say.  Not that I claim to understand all things, quite the contrary.  However I think I better understand what he was trying to say.  He was dreaming of a world when we wouldn't let our differences define us or prevent us from seeing each other as worthy of respect.  In his opinion, living for Heaven or in fear of Hell, prevented people from appreciating where they are now, the relationships they have now.  Religion seems to pull us apart instead of giving us compassion for each other.  Most of our faiths espouse tolerance, compassion, generosity, hospitality, mercy, love, peace.  One would think that we would see the benefit of that in our societies, instead we seem to cling solely to that which would cause hurt and pain.  We use our faiths to judge, condemn, oppress, destroy.  It would be wonderful if we just were able to just BE people.  Not have countries and nationalities, just be people.  All willing to share, no-one taking more than they need.  Everyone living in the understanding that when I care about the well-being and welfare of my neighbor, I am also caring for myself.  But our innate natures seem to be somewhat greedy and restless in its discontent.  Ironically, the very reason I think we could benefit from the positive teachings in our faiths.

It is so easy to look at images of the angry demonstrating crowds and think, "Exactly what we've come to expect from Muslims.  Always getting upset and excited about something trivial."  Yet, Christians are just as guilty.  Muslims may bomb or kill people they consider offensive to their faith, but Christians have been known to blow up abortion clinics or assassinate doctors who work at those clinics.  Then there's the infamous witch hunts, pogroms and crusades, all done in the name of God and under the flag of Faith and with the Church's blessing in some cases.  What was that?  Oh, not ALL Christians are extremists?  Well, couldn't it be possible that not ALL Muslims are extremists either?  Similarly, not every Middle Eastern man wants to rain death and destruction on the West.

Extremes in ANYTHING in life can be dangerous and have disastrous effects.

Seeing news footage of the burnt down embassy in Libya, the folks that lost their lives, the angry protestors in the streets, just made my heart feel so heavy.  Shouldn't we of faith, regardless of which faith it is, be able to rise above these things?  Can we not find a way to share this wonderful planet with each other without perpetually warring with each other?

Somebody posted a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King on Facebook the other day, which so aptly described this dilemma for me:

"When we look at modern man, we have to face the fact that modern man suffers from a kind of poverty of the spirit, which stands in glaring contrast with scientific and technological abundance.  We've learnt to fly the air as birds;  We've learnt to swim the seas as fish, yet we haven't learned to walk the earth as brothers and sisters."

How very sad.

Yet, like Dr King and Mr Lennon, I do have a dream.  Maybe, ONE day we will finally be able to understand that different doesn't mean superior or inferior, it simply means different.   And different doesn't equate to bad.  We all have something to teach each other and something to learn from each other.  We all are necessary to make this rich tapestry that is Mankind.  Each contribute flavors and colors which adds to the richness and beauty of life.

To quote another singer/songwriter, "I'm starting with the man in the mirror, I asking him to change his ways ..."  If we all chose to "give peace a chance" - not merely lip service, but actual actions (and sometimes, inactions) that would bring about real change, could you imagine the world we would have?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

SuBtle Plugs

I really don't like pushy sales people. I really don't like being bullied and sometimes, in order to make a sale, folks will try to run roughshod over you. My first encounter with "high pressure" sales pitches was when I was eighteen. I had just started working, was living on my own, and was enjoying being "footloose and fancy free". My experience with door to door salesmen had been very limited up to this point. I'll admit, I was completely taken in by his dazzling smile, flattering ways and "hocus pocus". Before I knew it, I had signed an automatic bank order for a 12 place setting dinner service. It was beautiful. There were serving dishes, serving platters, and the all important gravy boat. The plates were near indestructible and the glasses elegant. The problem with "Hocus Pocus", as with any "spell", it's hold lasts only as long as the "caster" is there. Sure enough, after the gentleman left, my faculties slowly returned to me. What on earth am I going to do with a dinner service that would take me two years to pay off? Naturally, I did what any self-respecting, strong, independent, single woman would do. I called my mom. She very graciously agreed to phone the company and cancel my order. The lesson I learnt from that experience, beware charming men with dazzling smiles, and truly NEVER open your door to strangers. Since then, I've followed my mother's words of wisdom: Just say no. Some folks are really determined. Or maybe just hard of hearing. Those situations require incessant use of the word "no!". As in, "nonononononoNOOOOOOOO!"

Once I moved to the US, I had to really step up my game. Here, they have people who phone you all the time trying to get you to buy stuff or change stuff or upgrade. Thank God for the shelter of the "Do Not Call List". Being rude to folks isn't something that comes naturally to me, and most of the time I am able to convince folks to leave me be, before having to resort to hanging up on them mid-pitch.

Now companies have changed their strategy yet again. Now they're using our TV's. Yes, I'm aware that commercials have been with us since the beginning of visual medium, but these aren't your "typical" advertisements. These are cleverly placed products on set of our favorite shows. Car companies really seem to be stepping it up, with shows like the Closer, Burn Notice, Suits to mention a few, cutting away from relevant dialogue to point out Ford's latest feature or Hyundai's latest gizmo. Regardless of having a DVR that I use to skip through the majority of ad pitches, here, smack bang in the middle of my favorite serial drama, I have a not so suBtle advertisement. That's not even talking about the other little things like soups, clothes, cereals, TV's, appliances and so on and so forth. I understand that marketers sole job is to make me want their product. But, seriously? Is there no respite from their relentless bombardment? One would think with the amount of advertisements they cram in between scenes, they wouldn't have to find additional ways to ply their wares.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Longest Day

Some days feel like they'll never end. Some days seem to fly by at light speed, leaving you feeling breathless in the effort of wrangling it to a more languid pace. Some days seem to last a month or a year. Or five years. Sunday, was a long day for me. The sun was out. The sky a beautiful blue. Autumn temperatures made being outside simply wonderful. A gentle breeze was playfully mussing the leaves in our trees. The day was slow, as befits Sunday. It would never do to have a rushed "Day of Rest". In an instant, a blink of an eye, all peaceful rest is upended. All wonderful tranquility forgotten and in it's place panic, fear, sadness. In the midst of this awful drama relentlessly unfolding before me, I find myself thinking, "It's ok. Tomorrow will be a new day. A fresh start." Normally, that would be true. But this sadness, this unhappiness, this need to make things right, will not be done with tomorrow. It's repercussions will linger and haunt me for a while still. Like bad medicine, the after taste will repeatedly remind me, "this happened". My soul bows over under the burden of a hurt heart.

Yet, I determinedly face this Long Day. This day whose length will be measured in days and weeks, not simply hours. I know even the Longest Day eventually has to say its farewell and give way to something new. I take a deep breath, dry my tears, square my shoulders and lift my chin.

The sun slowly begins its majestic descent. It's fading light giving Angels colors of fantastical hue to paint the horizon with. On the light, evening breeze, a song of ... Hope. A new day is on its way ...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Fighting Marlises

Ever had one of those days.  You know, the ones where your comforter/duvet wraps itself tightly around you, pulling you into it's warm embrace.  Your bedroom cloaks you in comfort as its dim light whispers lullabies, tempting you to hit "snooze", accept your comforter/duvet's inviting embrace and languidly slip back into dreamland for part two of that really great dream you were having.  I don't know about you, but all this begins a raging argument within myself.  The Responsible Side whispers, "It's time to start your day."  The Immature/Irresponsible Side counters with, "Just a few minutes more and then you can get up."  Followed by, "Come on.  You know you're not going to make it out the house on time if you lay here for much longer.  There's lots that has to be done today."  Eventually, the "arguing" between the two sides of myself becomes so loud, the only way to have any peace is to just get up!  Well, I had one of those mornings today.  What made today a little more unusual, was the continuation of the internal arguing even after getting up.  The topic was "To gym or not to gym."  There were some really great arguments made against visiting my place of blood, sweat and perseverance.  Some really tempting ones, in fact.  Yet, I kept going.  One foot in front of the other,  until, I found myself standing in front of the door to Curves.  One would think that at this point, the two sides would have conceded the arguments and let me be.  Oh no!  It continued, like two snippy chihuahuas, continually harassing each other.  "Do just one circuit."  "You're here now, might as well do the full two."  "You're not feeling 100%.  You don't want to end up hurting yourself"  "Think of your riding goals.  You want to strengthen your legs, don't you?  Do at least two circuits."  While they continued to snip and snap at each other, I did two circuits, with extra reps on the squat and quad machines.  I didn't let Immature/Irresponsible Side get me down when I looked up my work out stats and saw I was a little below where I wanted to be.  I didn't get down on myself because I had managed to complete my workout, to the best of my ability, with all that racket going on in my head!!  Surely, that was the hardest part of the day.  Surely now the noise in my head would die down and let me get on with the rest of my day.  Alas!  The new subject of debate:  going to the barn.  I don't really need to go to the barn.  I could survive without going, and yet .... I know that I am better once I've been there.  I doled out some apples to my four legged friends, chatted to assistant trainer as she did her chores, and by the time I left, there was peace.  No more wrestling with myself.  At least for a while.  It started all over again on entering my home.  "Get things picked up. Tidy up.  You'll feel better"  "Nah.  Leave it for a day."  "You left it for a day yesterday" "The kids are only going to mess everything up.  Why bother?"  And so on and so forth.  Again, during this tug of war, I managed to wipe down the kitchen counters, load the dishwasher, get a load of laundry done and made some time to quickly write this blog (even though, according to one Side, "no-one reads it anyway!"). 

Yes, today has been one of those days.  Everything has been a fight and a struggle.  Yet, I feel like I have accomplished so much more precisely because of it.  I didn't give in.  I kept moving forward.  One little step at a time.  One little action followed another.  The result has been, the things that are important to me, have gotten done.  Some of the things that aren't so important but necessary have gotten done too.  That's reason to celebrate!

Whatever day you're having, whether it be highly motivated or a continual struggle to get things done, at the end of the day, may you feel content.  May there be pride in what you have accomplished.  May you go to sleep tonight, with a smile on your face and a light, joyful spirit.  Until tomorrow morning ...