Learning to Fall

The other day at work I had Fall Prevention training. As a bridgetender, there will occasionally be moments where I’m called upon to work at a dangerous height, so this training is essential. The fact that I never received this type of instruction in my thirteen years as a bridgetender in Florida tells you everything you need to know about the difference in work culture here in Seattle. My current employer actually cares if I live or die. Yeah, yeah, part of that is due to litigation, I know, but I genuinely believe they value me much more than my former employer ever did. Heaven knows they pay me more.

The class was actually rather interesting. Not only did I learn how to properly inspect, wear and maintain my harness, but I learned some basic physics. To oversimplify things to an extreme degree, there’s no point in attaching your harness to a 60 foot rope if you’re standing on the edge of a 40 foot drop.

I also learned something rather fascinating. If you do fall and you’re dangling in a harness for more than a minute or two, expect to pass out cold when you are finally rescued. That harness is going to cut off the circulation to your legs, so your body will be taking all the oxygen out of the blood in the lower half of your body to survive. So when you finally stand up again, all that deoxygenated blood is going to rush to your head, and, basically, it’ll be lights out. You can count on it. They don’t show you that in the movies.

But of course, since I live in my head most of the time, I also learned a few philosophical truths along with everything else. Learning how to fall is important. If you do it right, you’ll survive. It’s okay, it’s even attractive, to be vulnerable, but it’s also critical to have contingency plans and put serious thought into everything that you do. Prevention is key, but plans are necessary, too.

It’s also about educated faith. Trust the equipment, but inspect it first. If you’re going to fall, make it a knowledgeable fall. If I had a coat of arms, I think that should be my motto.

scraping-the-sky-mission-impossible-ghost-protocol-_129913-fli_1362912699

[Image credit: mubi.com]

Sealed Without Your Consent–Mormon Ordinances by Proxy

The LDS Church performs a wide variety of ordinances, some of which are called saving ordinances, which they believe are required for salvation. One such ordinance is called sealing, and it seals you to spouses and other family members for all eternity. Fine and dandy and more power to them, I say. Everyone is entitled to their own sacred beliefs, and that is one of theirs. Even as someone who is outside their faith, I can respect that.

But wait. Hold on. It turns out that a whole group of my ancestors in Denmark have been sealed. And they passed away before the LDS even existed. How is that possible? It turns out that there’s this loophole called an ordinance by proxy.

According to Wikipedia,

“After Latter-day Saints enter the temple and receive temple ordinances for themselves, they may return and perform the saving ordinances on behalf of their deceased ancestors. These are performed vicariously or by “proxy” on behalf of the dead, and Latter-day Saints believe that it is up to the deceased to accept or reject the offered ordinance in the spirit world. Only saving ordinances are performed on behalf of deceased persons.

“Ordinances on behalf of the dead may be performed only when a deceased person’s genealogical information has been submitted to a temple. Latter-day Saints complete genealogical work for deceased persons and if it is determined an individual has not received some or all of the saving ordinances, the individual’s name is submitted to the temple to receive these ordinances by proxy. Optimally, the proxy who stands in will be a descendant of the deceased person, but the ordinance proxy may also be an unrelated volunteer.”

Well, that certainly explains why the Mormons have the best, most detailed genealogical records in the world. They want to save as many people as they possibly can. That can’t be a bad thing, can it? Rumor has it they’ve even sealed Adolf Hitler, Anne Frank, and Mother Teresa. That’s a load off, knowing that their places in eternity are assured, because their actions in life didn’t already seal their fate for better or for worse, right? [Heavy sarcasm alert.]

But when I heard about this happening to my relatives I was disgusted, and my cousin and my late sister could not understand why. Here’s why. I take my spirituality very seriously. It has been hard won and required a great deal of soul searching. The thought that when I die some future relative who is a total stranger to me can perform this ordinance on my behalf, against my will, is offensive. If I wanted to be sealed, I’d do it while I was alive.

I suppose I could petition that my relatives to be “un-sealed”, but I feel I don’t have the right to do so for the same reason that the proxy sealer didn’t have the right to seal them in the first place. I have no idea what their wishes would have been, so I can’t in good conscience make that type of choice on their behalf.

My sister said, “But why do you care if you’re sealed? You’ll be dead.” I care, dammit, because we’re talking about my legacy. We’re talking about what other future family members will read about me and believe about my choices. Unless they make an effort to do their homework, they’d most likely assume that the choice was mine, and I’d hate to think that perceived choice might influence theirs. I don’t want my legacy, my hard won philosophy about this life and the next,  to be usurped and altered, no matter how well-intentioned the person who chooses to perform this rite may be.

It’s a certainty that I won’t completely agree, religiously, with the majority of my future relatives. Heaven knows I don’t agree with all my living ones. And, oh, by the way, there are some relatives that I’d rather not be sealed to for all eternity, thankyouverymuch. There. I’ve said it.

My sister also said, “What would it hurt to have all your bases covered?” To which I replied, “And what if one of those bases happened to be related to the Satanic Church? How would you feel then?”

I sincerely believe that every person has their own spiritual path to walk upon. I don’t want some “one size fits all” type of divine insurance policy. Not only does it lack sincerity, commitment and dedication, but it would deprive me of my free will. If that means I’ll be burning in hell, so be it.

So if any future ancestors are reading this and thinking of having an ordinance by proxy performed on me, thanks, but no thanks. Even if I were truly given the opportunity to accept or reject it in the spirit world, I plan on being busy, and will not want to be disturbed.

Latter_Day_Saint_confirmation_(Mayhew_1852)

Those Moments

That moment when you realize that you’re a fundamentally decent person: It’s a lovely spring day and you’re having a picnic in the park with your boyfriend and your two dogs. Along comes a crack addict with her mortified 4 year old in tow, and from 50 yards away she starts screaming at you that you better not sic your dogs on her or she is going to f*** you up. You are stunned that anyone would even come up with that concept with regard to you. It is so foreign as to make you question if you’re awake.

That moment when you comprehend that maybe the next generation will have it under control after all. It’s the end of a very long, grueling two weeks of fundraisers and events to raise money for the earthquake victims in Haiti, and you look over at the exhausted 20 year old girl of Haitian descent whom you’ve been working with. She came up with the idea and coordinated everything despite her very real anxieties about the relatives she has lost as well as the relatives who have not yet gotten in touch with her. You realize you couldn’t have done that at 20. No way.

That moment when it dawns on you that you’re not in a safe place. You’re in Turkey. You don’t speak the language and the only person in sight is a very big, evil carpet tout who is screaming at you because you refuse to come to his shop and buy one of his products. (Avoid Diana Carpets in Selçuk, Turkey!) He towers above you, pushes you against your car, rips your souvenirs out of your hand and refuses to give them back, and you have to leap into your vehicle and race down the road. You spend the rest of the night shaking in your hostel, and all your wonderful Turkish experiences in the past two weeks seem to pale in comparison.

That moment when you discover you’re not at the top of the food chain after all. You exit the convenience store, slurpee in hand, and while passing by the open window of a van in order to get to your car, an enraged pit bull lunges out of said window, missing your face by mere millimeters. You feel his hot, stinky breath against your eyelashes. The dog’s owner is unrepentant, so in that same moment you realize that you’re also not at the bottom of the food chain, either.

That moment when you know we’re all in this together. You are the only one present to witness the very traumatic experience of a total stranger and you wrap your arms around her and just let her cry.

That moment when you grasp that you’ve become your mother. You hear yourself telling your teen-aged niece, “Life isn’t fair.”

That moment when you understand that fame is sick, twisted, and undesirable. You come upon a highly sexual photograph of 13 year old Willow Smith, and are shocked that even her father, Will Smith, who you’d think would have some power in that realm, is in fact powerless to prevent his daughter from passing through the sexuality meat grinder that is the music industry.

That moment when you can no longer deny that your boss is a total scumbag. You get a hysterical phone call from a coworker. The next phone call, which is to your boss, goes like this: “I don’t care where you are or what you are doing. Get your putrid a** over to the courthouse and take care of that parking ticket you swore you took care of MONTHS ago so that Linda can have the boot taken off her car, or so help me God…”

That moment when it dawns on you that you’re better off alone. The man you have lived with for 16 years admits to you that even though his boss has stolen 3,500 dollars from you, he’s going to continue to work for him.

That moment when you’re taught there are forces beyond your control. You make the mistake of turning your back on the ocean, and the next thing you know you are being tossed around as if you are in the world’s cruelest washing machine, and you’re wondering if you’ll ever breathe again. Then suddenly you find yourself spread eagled on the sand, coughing up sea water and thanking God you’re still alive.

That moment when you discover that you took a wrong turn in life. You are the undeserving butt of someone’s narcissistic rage for the millionth time, and when you react to that, you’re told that you’re just being hypersensitive.

That moment when you really know your sister loves you. You receive a card from her that says, “I’m glad you aren’t someone else,” and it makes you cry.

That moment when you can no longer ignore the fact that you’re sometimes just as superficial as the next person. At the swimming pool, you run into the guy you’ve had a crush on for your entire college sophomore year, and discover that he has a thick, bushy mat of back hair from his neck to his waist, and suddenly the thrill is gone.

That moment when your faith in humanity is restored. You watch an entire interstate part like the red sea in order to let an ambulance get through a traffic jam on a bridge.

That moment when you fall in love with nature all over again. You stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon and you find you cannot move. And you realize you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Grand_Canyon_South_Rim

 

Humbly Reaching Out

From a recent conversation with my boyfriend:

Me: All of a sudden so many good things are happening in my life! I’ve got that job interview, I got a promotion in my captioning job, I got my 100th follower on my blog, and I just saved a couple hundred bucks by transferring a credit card balance. Could it be that the pendulum is swinging back the other way, finally? Could my luck be changing? I should buy a lottery ticket.

BF: Just remember that this is from YOU reaching out. Not the other way around. Keep reaching out and the way will show itself to you.

Me: You’re right. But, too, it DOES seem like it is the very times when I step back and surrender and stop trying to force things…that’s when things start to get better. Sometimes I just have to get out of my own way.

BF: I learned that from hitchhiking. The more you want and NEED a ride, the less chance someone will stop.

Me: Exactly! So, reach out by sticking your thumb out, but don’t add desperation into the mix. Don’t insist. Don’t expect everything at once. Just make yourself available to the abundance should it come your way, and then see what happens.

————–

That’s a difficult balance to maintain. Reaching out but not clutching, grasping, forcing it. Being humble without being passive. Being open without having expectations. Trying to reach a goal without anticipating an outcome. Having faith but taking responsibility for yourself.

I think finding the right balance will be something I’ll have to work on my entire life. But as it stands now, I did wind up getting the job!

On the other hand, I only matched two out of the six numbers on that lottery ticket. But hey, that’s one number more than is usual for me! Which is probably why I rarely buy them.

Hitchhiker Jericho

[Image credit: solanotempest.net]

P.S. Please do not take this as an endorsement of hitchhiking. In this day and age it’s entirely too dangerous. Getting across town, let alone across the country, isn’t worth your life. Unfortunately, this is not the world of my youth.

It’s World Hijab Day. Should I Care?

In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a Muslim. I’m a Unitarian Universalist. But I have worn a hijab on two occasions. Since I am not a Hijabi (which is a woman who wears a hijab), and have not experienced what it is like to wear a head scarf day in and day out, I cannot speak to that part of the issue. I’ve never experienced the heightened respect nor the prejudice that this simple piece of fabric can evoke. But I am a woman, so I will speak in that capacity.

Women wear the hijab for many reasons. The purest of which, in my opinion, is the voluntary wearing of the hijab due to one’s religious belief. I have complete and utter respect for this choice. If a Catholic woman can hold a rosary, then a Muslim woman has the very same right to wear a hijab.

Other women simply wear it as a fashion statement. And I have to agree that there is something quite beautiful and even ethereal about a woman in a hijab. I imagine that it makes people look at you differently. Those without prejudice have to see you for you, and not be distracted by your exterior. That appeals to me greatly. I get so tired of constantly being compared to other women. In that scenario, someone is bound to be found wanting, and just as often as not, it is me. This can be quite draining. Unfortunately, prejudiced people will not see you for you at all. They ONLY see the scarf and make assumptions, quite often political ones, from there. This is not a reflection on the Hijabi. This is evidence of the ugliness in the prejudiced person’s soul. I firmly believe that a woman should have a right to wear whatever she chooses.

The two occasions when I wore a hijab were both during visits to mosques in Istanbul, Turkey. I did so happily, and out of respect. I was well aware that I was a visitor in a place of worship, and as such I had absolutely no problem complying with their rules of proper etiquette. I must say I was surprised at the instant difference I felt within myself. I was calmer, and I felt more reflective. I also felt more formally beautiful, which was a nice feeling indeed.

Barb in proper mosque attire Me at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.

Regrettably, there are also negative reasons for wearing a hijab. I was listening to a radio show called BBC’s World Have Your Say today, and the topic was World Hijab Day. Many women called in to discuss the positive reasons for wearing the head scarf, but a lady called in from Egypt who said that many women there wear the hijab in public simply to avoid sexual harassment. Some people do believe that men cannot control themselves and therefore the women must cover up. I find this to be tragic. I think it underestimates men and causes women to live in fear. In countries where the hijab is not common, you don’t regularly see women being attacked in the streets, so men can be civilized, especially in an atmosphere where respect is expected of them. In places where laws are not enforced, sadly, mob rule often takes over. That is the nature of humanity, and it’s heartbreaking to contemplate.

On the most extreme end of the spectrum you have women in fundamentalist areas, such as Iran, who are forced to wear the hijab. You can actually be jailed in Iran for not doing so. I think the Iranian government is making a very drastic mistake by doing this. Forcing something upon any person, man or woman, will simply encourage rebellion in their hearts. It will not make someone want to be a devout Muslim. It will simply engender depression, resentment, suicide and every other thing besides spirituality. In my opinion, in situations like these the beautiful and religious and modest hijab has been warped into a tool of control and imprisonment. It is the very opposite of faith and therefore the worst type of violation.

So, if I see you on the street and you are wearing a hijab, I must apologize in advance for staring at you. I’m not doing it for negative reasons. I’m not looking at you as a freak. In fact, I most likely think you’re beautiful. Chances are I’m just wondering about you and your motivations, and hoping, for your sake, that they are pure and positive and liberating, not dark and negative and repressing. I want only good things for you, and wish you well.

So should I care that it’s World Hijab Day? Yes, indeed, and for more reasons than one might imagine on the surface. This is a deep and complex issue that needs more exposure, if you’ll excuse the pun.

Riding the Planet

Today is my birthday, and yesterday, my grandnephew Carter was born. Naturally, this has given me ample opportunity to compare our two situations.

Having spent almost half a century on this planet, you might think I know a thing or two, and I suppose I do. I can pat my head and rub my stomach at the same time. I have memories of my travels, and of friends both present and past. I’ve had regrets, I’ve learned from at least half of my mistakes and I’m proud of my achievements.

Carter, on the other hand, after just one day of life, is simply riding the planet. That’s what I call it when you just trust that gravity will hold you to earth’s surface, and you let the planet hurtle through space without making any effort to steer. You’re not there to stress out over anything, you’re not trying to solve anything. You’re just entrusting your fate to the universe, and you’re along for the ride. I try to do this when I meditate, with mixed results. But when I achieve a full state of planet riding, I’m content. Everything seems so much easier. Carter was born with the ability to do this. He trusts that he’ll be fed and cared for. He has faith that things will work out for him. So who is wiser? Nobody’s feeding me, giving over their entire existence to make sure I’m safe, or rocking me when I cry. Lucky kid.

Unlike Carter at the moment, I seem to be in a constant state of surprise. For example, just yesterday I discovered that this creature exists:

Pink Fairy Armadillo

That’s a Pink Fairy Armadillo and it lives in central Argentina. Granted, I haven’t spent copious amounts of time wandering around the heartland of Argentina, but still, I cannot believe that I’ve shared the planet with this animal and have never known about its existence up to now.

And a few years ago, they found an entirely new Indian tribe in Brazil that has never had any contact with the outside world. The only reason they discovered it at all was that an airplane flew over their longhouse. Here was a whole group of people living their daily lives, being born, laughing, loving and dying, and yet we didn’t even know about them. How freaky is that? http://news.discovery.com/human/newly-identified-tribe-in-the-amazon.html

I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that you’ll never stop learning, so Carter, even though you’re just starting out, even though I might seem comparatively wise, in the overall scheme of things, we’re really in the same boat, and we’re both just at the starting line of life.

So keep dreaming your newborn dreams, dear Carter, and let the world take care of itself. At least, for now.

Carter