One of Those Moments

It’s been a long time since I’ve done this (write a post here) so, you know, please be patient while I get back into the swing of things.  This evening I had one of those moments – those ones when you think, I don’t want this to end.  We were out to eat at a local place where the food was very good, the service was friendly and efficient, there was live music playing, and I just loved my children so much I started to cry.  You ever read the children’s book Frederick, by Leo Lionni?  While all the other mice are frantically gathering food for the long, cold, impending winter Frederick gathers colors, words, sunshine which he then doles out to keep the other mice happy when the winter is (as expected) long and cold and the food runs out.  That’s what this evening felt like:  I was gather moments, memories, feelings for when the children grow up, for days when I adore them less, for times when I am sad or lonely or distracted or frustrated.  I will dole them out when I am hungry for them and need them.  For now, I will just bask in the glow of a nearly perfect evening.  That feeling might, just might, last through bed time.



On Saying Little and Thinking Much

Just lately I have been thinking about how I have a lot to say.  Or at least I think I have a lot to say, which is a different animal all together.  But where to say it?  Then I remembered – I have a blog.  I’ll say it there.  Of course when I sit down to write something interesting or at least some part of what I’ve been thinking lately my mind goes blank and all I can think about is lunch.  So, unsurprisingly, I will say something about food.  I just learned that the research is showing that the best way diet can affect blood cholesterol levels is as follows:  1) take out saturated fats (think animal fats), 2) replace them with monounsaturated fats (think nuts, seeds, fish), and 3) limit sugar.  There are other important things – eat lots of fiber, get good sleep, exercise regularly, take a multi-vitamin.  But the removal of one fat and replacement with the other has been found to be pretty significant.  So I’ve been trying to eat less sugar, less cheese, and more seeds, nuts, and fish.  It isn’t hard – a handful of sunflower seeds in our dinner coleslaw, a little extra salmon in the lovely smoked salmon pie, peanut butter on toast for breakfast.  Lunch time – fish pie anyone?

Celebrate Death? No, no, and no.

Last night I watched the news until far later than I intended, watching the talking heads talk about the big news – the end of Osama bin Laden.  As the evening wore on I watched as the crowds gathered at the White House, in New York, around the country and I watched people’s reactions as they posted on Facebook and Twitter.  Like many millions of people around the world I felt a sense of relief that this man who willingly perpetrated murder, who instructed chaos and terror, who was so supremely filled with hate – I felt relief at the end of his ability to act in the world.  And I felt a certain relief that the American military machine, which operates at the cost of billions of dollars that could well be spent elsewhere, does work and can move stealthily and carefully.  A little part of me, the eternal optimist – we can say the unrealistic idealist – hoped that this might be the first far-off ringing of the end-of-war bell.  What I did not do and will not do – not then, not now, not ever – is celebrate the killing of this human being. 

The death of Osama bin Laden changes everything and it changes nothing.  It doesn’t change the fact that the United States is embroiled in two deadly wars; that terrorists all over the world want to kill us; that our country is suffering from high unemployment, a weak economy, a gutted housing market, millions of homeless, hungry, and uninsured citizens.  What it changes is the feelings of millions of people the world over who have been waiting for justice to be done for the thousands of murders committed at the behest of Osama bin Laden.  He planned, organized, and called for murder and terror attacks not just in the US but in Africa, Saudi Arabia, and around the world.  The waiting for his capture is over.  His very public face as king of hatred is gone.

We can celebrate the end of an era, the end of waiting for his capture.  We can celebrate with some national pride at a successful military mission and for a president and soldiers with a brave hearts.  But we should not celebrate his death.  Today, in the aftermath of last night’s giddy joy so many people were expressing, many more were expressing horror at the celebration of death.  Do we not remember the anger and pain we felt as we watched citizens in Gaza cheering and throwing candy and celebrating when they heard news of the attacks of 9/11?  We are better than that.  Respect for all human life is one of the things that sets us apart from them.  And when I say ‘us’ and ‘them’ I don’t mean ‘Americans’ and ‘everyone else’.  Nor do I mean ‘non-Muslims’ and ‘Muslims’ or ‘the rest of us’ and ‘Arabs’.  When I say ‘us’ I mean ‘we who try to change the world through acts of righteousness, be they large or small’.  And when I say ‘them’ I mean ‘they who try to change the world through acts of terror, cruelty, and hatred’.  Not celebrating death is one thing that separates us from them.  Even if there is rejoicing in our hearts we do not celebrate the killing of this man. 

I think I express the feelings of many Americans when I say I would have rather seen him captured alive than killed in a blaze of bullets.  We are enjoined to pursue justice and although his killing may have been the only option and may have been the right thing, it wasn’t justice.  And we should not celebrate his death.

On Turning 40

My birthday was last Tuesday; I am 40.  So far, it’s been a great decade – all 6 days of it.  Birthday dinners, big blow-out party (with nacho bar!), cake, candles, pinata, presents, new hair cut, lots of nice cheeses – what more could a birthday girl want?  This time I am not being sarcastic or rhetorical, there is really very little more that I want.  I started with three main goals for my 41st year:  finish the novel I started for NaNoWrMo last November, get a flattering hair cut, and go camping with the family at the Sand Dunes.  Haircut done, that leaves 360 days for the rest.  But for today, a beautiful sunny day, I’ve got the company of two small children who are growling and pretending to be polar bears.  How could I feel anything but happy to be 40?

Strength, Weakness, and Damage or Why I Disagree With Nietzsche

Any of us who has suffered, either physically or psychologically or emotionally or in any other way, has most likely heard the Nietzsche quote that has become an inspiring platitude: “That which does not kill you makes you stronger.”  And inspiring it is – I must admit to loving this quote when I was young and green, before life had showed me some of its uglier faces.  But now, having been on the receiving end of sympathetic head shaking and encouraging platitudes galore I have heard this little goody from Nietzsche enough times to actually make me think about it.  And, Nietzsche, my little friend, you’ve got it wrong. 

I have come to realize that there are some things that don’t kill but irrevocably weaken – the body and the spirit – and leave permanent damage.  This is not something we like to say; this is a painful and stark reality that does the opposite of embracing the (admittedly appealing and friendly feel-good) theory that differences among people are embraced only when they reflect positive aspects of us.  There are some times, some things that leave us less than we were before.  A broken bone can heal and be stronger than it was originally.  A bone can also be broken so badly, or not treated correctly, or heal wrong and always be weak or twisted or painful.  In the same way psychological pain can leave us stronger or weaker.  Why is it that what damages one person improves another?  Why is it that in some people a thick scar weakens and in others it does nothing?  I don’t have the answers, I just know that it happens. 

It is an ugly truth that we can’t control everything, we can’t fix everything, we can’t heal everything.  But it is also true that being weak or damaged doesn’t necessarily mean being a lesser human being.  A man with a limp is no less a man.  A woman with a fearful heart is no less a woman.  More important than weakness or strength; being perfect or being damaged; being whole or broken is being. 

So, Nietzsche was wrong about suffering making us stronger but that’s ok.  More generations of people will be inspired through hard times with his famous quote.  And many will continue to be inspired by this William Ernest Henley poem, Invictus, which I appreciate so much more than one sentence platitudes.  Enjoy.  Be strong, or not.  Just be.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
for my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance,
My head is bloodied, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll.
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.