Tuesday, November 21, 2017

For Peace

Day Three: Grateful for Peace

Peace is a slipperier concept than you might at first think. For starters, what kind of peace am I grateful for?

Do I mean inner peace? Yes. Do I mean domestic peace? Yes. Do I mean peace in my community? Yes. Do I mean peace in the world? Yes. I am grateful for whatever moments, or fragments, or aspirational visions of peace I can grasp.

It seems ironic to me that everyone seems to want peace, or at least they say they do--but still there actually is so little of it to be encountered in the world. If we really want it so badly, why don't we have it? Lots of reasons, I think. There are many forces working against peace, no matter whether we are talking about personal, inner harmony, or our larger communities. We live in a perpetual state of seeking a balance.


Forces such as a struggle to survive, to thrive, and to control aspects of one's life are not necessarily bad, in and of themselves, but there are times when they produce strife. Forces such as greed, hatred, and intolerance normally are looked upon as evil or sinful--in others. We tend to give ourselves a "pass" when they crop up in our own mental landscapes.

Is competition good, or does it stir up divisiveness? The answer to both is: it can be/can. Is self-interest essential to individual survival? Yes. Can it also lead to destructive selfishness? Absolutely.

I think the first step for any of us is to find a way within our own selves to cultivate peace. As Anne Frank said:


The imperative need to act lovingly toward others is affirmed in many faith traditions, but you do not have to be Christian, or Muslim, or Buddhist, or a follower of any religion at all, to see the sense in this. If we treat others with love and respect, it is much easier for them to respond in kind.


But it is the "love and respect for others" part where so many of our peace initiatives break down. If we go into a situation believing that the "other" is angry or hostile, it is harder to display peacefulness.

If we start with the assumption that the "other" is stupid, evil, or automatically wrong, we have already decided not to respect them. Granted, there are a lot of people whose opinion we find it hard to respect! But we don't have to like what they say to agree that every person deserves a foundational level of respect, if we seek for peaceful relations with them.

I think respect is the essential difference between the peacekeeper and the peacemaker, no matter what the setting or the scope of the dispute.



In our lives, our local communities, our social media, our national discourse, and our international relations, I think the people we need most are peacemakers. Blessings upon them! How can we find ways to be them? The road is deceptively simple. Kind of like the idea of peace itself.

IMAGES: The "Seven Days of Gratitude" design is my own creation, for well or ill. If for some reason You'd like to use it, please feel free to do so, but I request attribution and a link back to this post. The "You cannot find peace" quote image is from The Things We Say; the Anne Frank quote image is from Affirm Your Life; the Tabarani 6067 quote image is from e Islamic Quotes; the Angie Lichtenstein quote image is from Pixteller. I profoundly thank each one!

Monday, November 20, 2017

For My Family

Day Two: Grateful for my Family

We humans are shaped and often defined by our families, for both well and ill. We can inherit everything--and anything--from our forebears:

  • Genetic vulnerabilities or resistances to diseases
  • Family recipes (be they sublime--or dreadful!) 
  • Attitudes (political or otherwise)
  • Catchphrases (do you ever hear your parent's or grandparent's voice coming out of your own mouth?)
  • Childrearing practices (boy, can that be a two-edged sword! For you, and your kids!)
  • Knicknacks (from worthless dust-collectors to priceless heirlooms)
  • Traditions, (for holidays, special occasions, or anything at all)
  • Wealth (along with its entanglements.)
  • Poverty (different kinds of entanglements, but at least as many, here)
  • Or, all too often, dysfunctional patterns that over time can take on the likeness of a "generational curse," if we're not careful, thoughtful, and brutally self-reflective.



Blessings? Curses? A little of both? Yes. Families can be all of those. They even can be all of those at the same time.

If you regard your family-of-origin with little short of horror, I get it.

If you see them mainly as a pain in the patoot but you love them anyway, you're in good company throughout most of the planet.

If you never knew them, I offer my deepest condolences--and pray you may be empowered to surround yourself with the kind of friends who love you like the most positive kind of brothers and sisters.

But if you're like me, you not only remember your siblings and parents--you still have at least some of them around to deal with, care about, and/or worry about.

A bit rude, maybe, but more accurate than not.
In my case I have a house I have almost reclaimed from the hoarder-esque piles of inherited household goods after some eight estate liquidations since 2005, a recently-turned-93-year-old father, a Beloved who lost his 89-year-old mother this year, and two adult children with a variety of strengths and challenges--plus assorted canine, feline, piscine, and even Eublepharine household members with challenges of their own.

They are, in many ways, the reason I get up in the morning (well, them and the novel!), the delight of my life, and also the sand in my gears. I wouldn't trade them for anything, and I know I'm incredibly lucky to have them. Every single one I've lost, I've lost under extreme protest. Every single one I haven't yet lost, I cherish with all my heart.

IMAGES:  The "Seven Days of Gratitude" design is my own creation, for well or ill. If for some reason You'd like to use it, please feel free to do so, but I request attribution and a link back to this post. Many thanks to Boardofwisdom, via Your English Library's summary page about About a Boy, for the quotation image from Manwadu Ndife, and to iFunny for the graphic about family being like underpants.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

For Religious Freedom


Day One: Grateful for Religious Freedom

On many calendars, this is the first day of the week, so I figure this is a good place to start my Seven Days of Gratitude project for the week of the US Thanksgiving holiday. Throughout my life, gratitude and thankfulness have repeatedly come up as important themes. I welcome this holiday each year as an opportunity to explore them once again.

My daughter recently started a "Gratitude Journal," a daily recording of at least one thing each day for which she is thankful. Thinking about her project has given me my theme. As a practicing Christian, it is my belief that I have myriad blessings each day to celebrate with joy and thanksgiving to my God.

Massive among of those blessings, for me, it the United States Bill of Rights guarantee that I may practice my religious faith freely, without fear of persecution. It should be a source of great joy to everyone in the USA that this not only is guaranteed to me, but to everyone in my country, whatever tradition of faith--or however much absence of religious expression--they cherish.


Ironically, I think this is the single most important reason why so many people in the United States still say they believe in God (89%, according to a 2016 Gallup Poll. Compare that to most other industrialized nations, many of which have long histories of state religions). It seems to me that if you are free to believe in the God of your innermost spiritual being, you are more able to find reasons to believe in any God at all.

Or not. And that won't get you thrown in prison either, thank . . . the Bill of Rights.

Our strength, yet again, lies in our diversity. That's why I shudder when I hear people say "America is a Christian nation!" Many of the founders may indeed have been some variety of Christian (pretty broadly defined, though: consider how many were Deists, or how Thomas Jefferson felt free to create his own "good parts" version of the New Testament), but asserting any specific religion as "the" American religion would have been "fighting words" to them.

And rightly so. I believe that all of us in the United States should be deeply thankful for our guarantee of religious freedom--and I believe that we must remember and defend it, any time we see the rights of any religious community under attack. Bad as that is, though, I think it's even worse when the values of any particular religion are imposed upon others, especially by people acting in the name of some level of government. Any advocacy for either abuse should be "fighting words" for all true Americans.

IMAGES: The "Seven Days of Gratitude" design is my own creation, for well or ill. If for some reason You'd like to use it, please feel free to do so, but I request attribution and a link back to this post. The illustrated quote from Sir Patrick Stewart is courtesy of We F**king Love Atheism. Many thanks!

Friday, November 17, 2017

How's the writing coming along?

The Artdog Image of Interest

We're about halfway through Na-No-Wri-Mo (National Novel Writing Month). Time to check in, again . . .


Whether you're participating in Na-No-Wri-Mo or not, I hope your creative endeavors (whatever they may be) are going well. The creative process always involves frustration--but don't let that stop you! Keep going!

IMAGE: Many thanks to Debbie Ridpath Ohi, her ongoing comic "Will Write For Chocolate," and her Twitter feed for this image. It's always a pleasure, "Inky Elbows"!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Working on a first draft?

Why would anyone try to write a novel? It's an appropriate question for Na-No-Wri-Mo (National Novel Writing Month). Personally, I'm in great sympathy with Toni's reason:


In my experience, writing the first draft of any project, especially a novel, is an exercise in faith. Faith that you'll work out the problems, that you have something interesting to say, that you'll find good, better, and even-better-than-that ways to say it. Everything is possible at the beginning--especially in my chosen field of science fiction.


But then you start to create your world. Rules begin to appear. Now if you want to break those rules, you have to change the world. Sometimes it's worth it. But if you do, it's okay. It's the first draft.



If that's a little too free-form for you, this thought may capture your creative process better:



However you manage to create your first draft--and whatever it looks like at the end, I have just one more thought for you:



IMAGES: Many thanks to Laugh.Love.Live, for the Toni Morrison quote; to Chasing the Turtle and Alice Walker for the quote about flying; to Writingeekery and Shannon Hale, for the "shoveling sand" quote; and to P.S. Bartlett, Authors Publish, and the late Terry Pratchett, for the "telling yourself the story" quote. Finally, many thanks to Novel Kicks, for the unattributed "best and worst" quote. So True!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Writing is like . . .

The Artdog Quote of the Week

Especially for the "pantser," I think:


If you're one of the brave souls who are persisting in the creative challenge to participate in Na-No-Wri-Mo (National Novel Writing Month), then you've already long since figured out this aspect of your writing process. To all writers everywhere, Good luck, and keep writing!

IMAGE: Many thanks to Writing Sisters and E.L. Doctorow for this week's quotation image.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Respect

How do you celebrate Veterans Day? How should we? I think that varies with the individual or family, whether one is or is not a veteran, and sometimes which war hits closest to home for us.

A Veterans Day parade in Milwaukee, WI, complete with banners, flags and uniforms.

Certainly there's nothing wrong with a good parade, honor ceremony, or display of the flag. In many places you can buy a remembrance poppy, evoking memories of World War I, and a tradition in English-speaking countries since the 1920s.


I sometimes feel that the trappings of patriotism--the outward signs, such as a flag pin on a lapel or a patriotic meme on a Facebook wall--get more focus than actual, substantive ways to support veterans and their families.


Last year I posted some thoughts on how to thank veterans that might be worth another look, if you're so inclined. But it seems to me that we as a nation need to think long and hard about how we treat our active-duty military personnel and our veterans. It's easy to wave a flag and say "Thank you," and I'm sure many feel good to be publicly appreciated--but is that the supportiveness they truly need?

If we, as citizens and taxpayers think veterans should be better-served than they currently are, we first should educate ourselves about where the needs truly lie--then get active on a local, state, and national level. To me, that's the best form of patriotism: the hands-on, trying-to-make-it-better kind. P.S. Did you vote for better government last Tuesday?


If we're paying enlisted personnel a living wage, why do so many of them end up as prey to the predatory payday lenders whose businesses cluster near military bases?

Back in 2011, I wrote about dilapidated schools on military bases. Many were still struggling to improve their facilities as recently as 2015, though academic scores were rising.

If we're so grateful as a nation to our veterans, why don't more employers make a point of hiring them

Why are there so many homeless veterans? Also, what can ordinary citizens do to help them? Why are social and mental-health services spread so thin that veterans too often fall through the gaps?

Why do so many veterans commit suicide? How can we stem this trend?

Looks elegant--but are we making it REAL? That's an open question, I fear.


It seems clear to me that we still have many serious "system upgrades" to put in place, before any "thank you for your service" we say won't be at risk of seeming kind of hollow, to all too many of our returned warriors.

No matter how sincerely we mean it.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Honor Our Military (based in Milwaukee, WI) for the photo from their 2014 Veterans Day Parade; to the Remembrance Day Pinterest page and Pin for the poppy-themed thought (photo sourced from Hubpages); and to Ultimate Medical Academy via Pinterest for the quote image about real heroes. Thanks are also due to Diply via Pinterest for the Mark Twain quote about patriotismFinally, I am grateful to the National Veterans Foundation for the "dog tags" Thank You image.