Enlightenment

the miracle of birth
the creation of a child
a new human spirit
soft bundle of flesh
sweet, innocent,
vulnerable
we see Life anew and
Awe shines forth

The story of Christmas. There would be no story without the infant. There would be no child without the mother and her labor.

A holy time when music and lights lift us up. Inspired by the Tangible and Intangible. a time of transcendence from the ordinary. The spiritual and material worlds merge. A time of wonder and awe.

It’s more than a Christian holy day. It’s a time for all people to reflect on motherhood. All infants and children, not just the Baby Jesus. The miracle of life. My mother. Your mother. Women’s bodies. My body. My love for babies, a maternal instinct and a desire to touch, be near the miracle of new life. To hug a child and be reminded of my own innocence and beauty: this is how we all started in life.

Women’s bodies–it is science, yes, but also mystery. Mystical. The popular novel, The Davinci Code, made me rethink the stories of the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene. These two women are often portrayed as opposites: the virgin and the whore. And yet, as women, they were both vessels for the miracle of life, and according to the novel, the true meaning of the Holy Grail of Arthurian legends and stories of the Crusades. The novel claims that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were lovers, and that she bore his child. Don’t know about that, but both Marys represent all women’s bodies as holy vessels for new life to be honored and protected.

Truly, women hold the key to human potential, to the survival of our species. Degrade us and you degrade life.

I wish I had understood this earlier as a young woman: how to treat my body as something sacred, to be cherished.

I wish all men had this understanding and would stop abusing women and children. Stop their violence against the vulnerable and the beauty in the world. I know I am asking for a real miracle. But we all have to dare to ask to stop sexual violence.

I’m asking college administrators to stop covering up sexual assaults on their campuses. And to stop making the well-being of athletes more important than that of our daughters and sisters.

I’m asking the NFL to man-up and adopt a zero tolerance attitude against players who abuse their spouses and girlfriends. I’m asking all sports teams to stop pushing alcohol during sporting events. Do fans really need chemicals in their systems to enjoy these events, to feel more manly?

I’m asking our military leaders to deal with their gender bias and put real action behind their words to transform the military regarding sexual assaults. To provide a safe and respectful working environment for women in the military. To prosecute and stop protecting perpetrators.

I’m asking all college administrators to muster the courage to address the problem of excessive alcohol consumption on campuses and campus events. Alcohol may not be the only link to sexual assaults, but it is a huge factor. I’m not the only one who thinks this, right? Parents of college students should support policies to control this substance on campus, as well as be vigilant to any behavior in their children that signals alcohol and drug abuse or misogyny.

Real men don’t beat up women. They don’t rape. They don’t abuse children. They aren’t bullies. They don’t stand quiet when violence is perpetrated against women or children. They know when they need help and can ask for it.

They are able to recognize the truth. They are willing to change. And they have the courage take action to make things right.

In this Season of Light, I am reminded that the days following the Winter Solstice will start getting longer, that Hanukkah is the Festival of Light, and the Star of Bethlehem is an important symbol in these dark days. Yes, we need more light. Sun, moon, stars, candles, colored lights on trees and houses. Incandescence. Illumination. Inspiration. Imagination.

Yes, imagine miracles. Then we can make them happen.

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Aging & Going Rogue

In The New York Times Book Review, Garrison Keillor admitted:

“As for putting books down without finishing them, I do that all the time. When you pass 70, you are no longer obligated to finish what you’ve started, not a book, not a meal, not even a sentence.”

Is Keillor saying that getting old is something to look forward to? This what-the-hell attitude–I don’t have time for this. Next! I can imagine walking away in mid-sentence. “As I was saying….” But this might be more concern for senility and not just newly-found orneriness.

And is it possible to abandon the clean-plate imperative drummed into me from childhood? Not only were me and my siblings harangued by the plight of starving children in China, we six children were competing for that often non-existent extra piece of pie or seconds of stew. As a large family we certainly didn’t starve, but we were a ravenous group.

Maybe at 70, I too might be more acutely conscious of my time left on the planet. And less patient with reading something difficult to understand or just not my style. But with so many good books out there, maybe I should adopt this attitude now and not wait. Time is already too precious.

Or I can invoke my mantra: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Perhaps Keillor’s comment stirs me most poignantly as a writer and a reader.

As a reader, I usually feel compelled to read a book to the end. Most of the time, I’m happy that I continued reading even though it didn’t engage me in the first 20-30 pages. Some works have a slow start, but come together and take hold of me eventually.

I remember trying to read Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Some of the slaves’ experiences were so visceral, so intense that I had to put it down. Twice. I finally finished it when it was assigned for a class–and happily so. The instructor’s notes and insights helped immensely and just having others grappling with the the narrative and characters fortified me to handle the story. A communal spirit really made a difference.

Sometimes I put a book down and go back to it later. Sometimes I don’t. We all do this, right?

As a writer, I have started essays and stories that sit unintentionally abandoned in my files. No problem there in not finishing them as I became involved in other projects that I did complete. But what to do with these bits and pieces?

I imagine most writers have this problem. Perhaps it’s not really a problem, but just part of the process of writing. We have to start somewhere. I know I’ve started a piece of writing to experiment on something like dialogue. Or I wanted to see what it feels like to construct a fictional character. These were exercises.

Other times I started writing a piece, then discovered a kernel of an idea I was more interested in pursuing, and took off in that direction. Writing is often about discovery. Like starting a piece and having a sense of where it’s going only to find out it needs to go somewhere else. This is the joy of writing. Letting the writing take you somewhere unexpected.

This is the practice of writing: not everything will be finished. Not everything will be good or even close to good. This is life.