b–A Million Tries

I love writing but I love doing it by hand and so I am the possessor of a sand storm of gritty pieces of paper with words on them. Some I remember and some stack up in the dunes of the forgotten. Typing is something I literally had to be forced to learn. Sometimes my parents were smart and sometimes I was wise enough to actually do what I was told. I’m glad Dad made me learn to type but I’d still rather put pen to paper.

That is kind of odd as I’m a bit of a tech geek. I’m a bit proud of having joined the computer age in the 1980s when I was a graphic artist. I love playing with computers, have had all the electronic thingies since my first transistor radio around age 13 or 14. I have an iPad, had an iPod, I got my first cell phone about 1997, got the 2nd generation of Kindle and that lives with me. But I still rather write with my fountain pen with blue/black ink. It used to be peacock-blue when I was in school but I  gave it up as garish in high school.

I can spend forever daydreaming what I’d say but getting it on paper seems such a struggle. I keep thinking recording it might work but then I think of how long it takes the software to accurately record in writing what you say. I seem to have excuses all over the place. Discipline has always been my tragic flaw. I have all these great ideas and brilliant insights but they flutter off on the breeze of the next best thing. My father used to yell at me when I did something wrong that the path to hell is paved with good intentions. This is really what that expression means, I meant to do it and didn’t get to it. Not that I tired my best and failed, which is how he read it. gosh, now I’m suffering from two intense feelings, grief and frustration. Can I make it a threesome give myself a reason to stop writing?

I’ve been reading Anne Lamott. She is about my age but has one son. He appears in many of her essays. She is considered a Christian writer. I’d like to ask her what she thinks of that label these days. What a trial is to be Christian, with what the right has done with the faith. It isn’t quite as bad as being Muslim but still carries a stigma that makes many cringe. She is someone who makes lemon aid out of all the lemons, even if it takes a lot of processing. I’ve been intrigued by her thoughts on grace. I’ve though about how the Jews have survived for so long and I’ve come to believe the persecution they face is actually the grace that holds them in their god’s hands. I don’t think anyone will persecute us Quakers any time soon, but with as crazy as the world has grown, you can’t count on anything.

Reading Anne’s stuff is helping me to be more aware of grace, to remember even in the fear and loathing I feel over what I see, god is at work and in the end it will be OK. As John Lennon said, It will all be OK in the end. If it isn’t OK, it isn’t the end. I think of what the world might look like on the day I die. That image has dramatically changed since 9-11.

I am so much less hopeful, not because of Muslim extremists but because of extremism. “They” are winning and I won’t be totally surprised if we haven’t totally lost even the illusion of democracy in the country by my last day, not that far in the future. We are giving it away hand over fist. Maybe the right-wing kooks have it right and we need to turn survivalist to survive with any semblance of personal choice and freedom. I’m actually very worried about it. So I write. I write warnings, I write fears, I write actions, I try to inform people and give them the resources to become aware and informed.

This train of though takes me back to something I heard recently, that we are genetically really only 2% different than any other species and if that is true, how different are we humans from each other? We work under the illusion that there are vast differences between the left and the right. When in reality the only difference is how do we get to a shared goal of a right life? If we nit-pick the differences in what the ideal life looks like we can look miles apart, which is what is happening today. It is over the nits and mustard seeds that we are at war. It is over the idea that happiness is a zero-sum game. We somehow got it into our heads that there isn’t enough to go around. We got it into our heads that there isn’t enough god, enough grace, enough joy, and enough comfort for all of us so we have to horde it. Since none of that is true we have to work to change the eyes people use to look at the world.

We need eyes that see the love, forgiveness, respect, equality and all things we have plenty of if we just reach out and share. We have to give it but also to be willing to accept it when it is offered without being begged to. We need to teach a mentality of plenty. A culture built on endless availability of things most valued, love, respect, caring, attention and so on has the ability to be a culture of plenty. That is the opposite of our consumer culture of supply and demand.

We take the 6th grade students to a camp, North Bay, in Elk Neck State Park in MD. They arrive on Mon. and stay until Fri. For many it is their first experience being away from family over night and often the first time in the middle of the woods, on the edge of the Chesapeake Bay. The kids explore the idea of plenty. It used to be that they could eat as much as they wanted and go back to get more as many times as they liked. What was done was that at the end of the meal ALL the uneaten food was weighed. They looked at how much they had taken and how much they had wasted. What always happened was that the amount of waste fell precipitously once the kids believed there was enough for them. The concept of plenty is that if we trust it is there we can leave it there until it is a time of need and we don’t have to take more than we need because it will be there next time.

That is a lesson we need to teach our children and we so often teach them the opposite. We teach them that only the best looking get loved, only smartest get respected, only the best behaved get rewarded, ONLY some get stuff we all need to have in faithful amounts. I was raised with what I call a poverty mindset. I, to this day, won’t use the last of something without having a back-up, even the tooth paste. There wasn’t enough money to replace the torn dress, the used up crayons, the broken toy. There wasn’t enough attention so get it while you can. I recall being told over and over and over that there wasn’t enough money. That seemed to be the source of all my want. It cost money to be happy because parents didn’t have time, they had to work.

Now so many have come to the point of feeling only their needs and opinions matter that the world is constructed of me and I and not enough and I got more. This world is a place with space for everyone and democracy in the modern sense is everyone. So we are giving it away so that maybe we can have more than someone else because they didn’t do x, y, or z to “earn” a life of plenty. In the long run, we will never see life as enough. We can’t earn what is free.