samedi, novembre 11, 2006

Speaking in tongues

Driving home from Sian's drama class today, my two children, who have shown little interest in learning a foreign tongue, suddenly became bi-lingual. Although they aren't always best friends, it sounded like they were getting along just grand. "Sian, look at all the onyx's and stilyx's" said Colin (forgive me if I get the spelling wrong). Sian seemed enthusiastic about the appearance of these creatures. Then, as we rounded the curve before Creek Road and home"There's Digwit and my personal painter!" There's something about playing a game on Colin's Gameboy that brings my two sibling rivals together like almost nothing else. Most of the time, I leave them to it-but there are moments when I feel like I am very much an outsider, a layman at a Masonic rite, a Protestant in Rome. Then I start making inquiries-"What are Onyxs? Who is Digwit? Imagine having your own painter!" Sometimes, I have to admit, the answers leave me as lost as the questions. I still think its a good idea for the children to know that their mother hasn't totally abandoned interest in any part of their lives, that she isn't totally absorbed in NPR or Evanescence, that she asks questions and really wants to get answers. At the same time, I am aware that this is one more small reminder that eventually there will be parts of their lives that will indeed be foreign territory to me and that there will be little I can, or even sometimes wish to do about it. This responsibility, and this knowledge, is both the privilege and yoke of parenthood. On my way to the garden a couple of hours later, I had the relief of hearing my two and some neighbors kids, hotly debating whether the boys were going to be part of the same mission as the girls. Admonishing them not to step on my roses and moving on to turn over the dirt in the vegetable garden, I reflected, happily, that some things never change.

mercredi, novembre 08, 2006

Anybody's Guess

Geoffrey Garin, a Democratic pollster, said, “An important feature of this election, with implications for 2008, is that the center of the electorate clearly doesn’t like to be ignored in an era of base politics. The Republicans played to the base at their great peril among the middle.” New York Times, November 8 2006-----------------------------------------------------------In a post penned in the spring, back when I began this blog, I mentioned that because I am the daughter of a professional historian I tend to take the long view. However, it may be very unfair to blame my father for my desire to see an teachable moment in every event-that may be the journalist in me, drawing parallels and perspectives from even the smallest least significant moments. I'm happy to say that last night's election wasn't one of those moments! In fact, I think Garin is spot-on in asserting that the great American center finally spoke up...with a yell of revulsion for the carnage this Administration has wreaked in Iraq, and for the bankrupt extremism of the Republican-led House of Representatives. Other tea leaves are harder to read, with results in Virginia and Montana (of all places) still to be decided. Those races may turn out to have been rooted in the popularity of an incumbent-and an electorate which decided to be generous! We can all be happy, however, that Allen has lost his shot at a Presidential bid in 2008.As usual, it difficult to make sweeping claims on the basis of one election. That's one of the great things about American democracy-we are ornery, fickle and dislike being told what we should think. That's my tentative conclusion-no, affirmation-on this sodden Wednesday morning. We're still in a horrible mess, but at least we've put the brakes on the insane ambition of the man who put us there...and gotten rid of many of his partners in crime. After having been out of power for 12 years, we'll see if the Democrats are capable of making a positive contribution to the national debate-let's hope, and pray, that they can agree on something.

mardi, novembre 07, 2006

Virtual communities-do they work for you?

In a lovely change from the endless round of political coverage (an addiction for political junkies like this PA bloggette), the New York Times included an editorial on marriage in today's paper. Arguing that marriages can't provide all of the social and psychological support that partners need, writer Stephanie Coontz asserts that friendship (the idea of a couple meeting all of each other's needs is relatively new) outside of marriage can make marriages healthier and promote personal growth. She refers to the growth of virtual communities to bolster her point that we are hungry for this kind of connection with people other than our partners. It was a wonderful article, full of common sense and historical perspective. But it also provoked me into wondering about this blog and whether it is meeting any needs, other than my own need to voice my opinions. I had hoped, when I began, that it would evolve into a community forum-that what I had to say would be provoking enough to elicit comments, and that a real dialogue between East and West Coasts, liberals and conservatives, religious and non religious would be inspired by readin these posts. Do I need to be more provocative? Or am I writing for people who are happy to be discreet rather than finding an immediate connection between mind and monitor? I am honored to see that I have regular readers in California and New Jersey and Pennsylvania-and intrigued to see that readers from France, Great Britain, and other countries happen upon my blog. I often wonder who you are, and what you find here when you take time from your normal lives. If you are reading, I imagine that the blog fills some purpose for you- I'd be very curious as to what that purpose is. I just wish that I could write something that would get under your skin, or inspire you, enough to jump in there and post an opinion. Perhaps your fire would illumine, encourage or even tick off somebody else, and get them to think about an issue more profoundly...I'm still eager for this to happen and hope you will think about adding your words of wisdom-after you go and vote, that is! Your virtual friend, relative, and opinion writer-Elizabeth

dimanche, novembre 05, 2006

L'enfer? Ce n'est pas les autres

I got to church late this morning, and, as usual, sat near the back. We had a baptism at the early service, so the place was jammed. In front of me, a two year old lay on the floor, a copy of Clifford the Big Red Dog in her hands. Now and then she would jump up, brown eyes serious, to chat with her mom or show me the book and the picture of Dora the Explorer on the back. I wonder how children that age feel about how well they communicate with adults-hopefully they don't suffer from constant angst. A sweet nod or smile won't do it for a two year old. They really want to have some idea that you understand what the heck they are saying. All of that to say that for the first five minutes or so, Pastor Chadd's All Saints Sunday sermon got by me. I knew dimly that he had begun by describing the antipathy towards Halloween among various conservative Christian congregations-and how some churches used it as an opportunity to make their own "hell houses" to show visitors what eternity would look like for them if they didn't repent. By the time I was truly paying attention again, Chadd had gone back to the original illustration-but this time, with a paralyzing spin. What if we built a haunted house that looked like the hellish places of this earth? he asked. What if in the first room we had thousands of Tanzanian orphans without parents (like the ones St. Matthews supports)? As we went into that second room, we would see a family eating a Thanksgiving meal-with homeless Philadelphia residents in the shadows, shut out because of their poverty from participating in the plenty. Layering image upon illustration, Chadd concluded by describing a family which had everything...but drove by the church each Sunday on their way to breakfast because they weren't sure that they would be welcome. Instead of being so concerned with our fate in the afterlife, he pointed out, perhaps it was important that we remember that Christ called us to life-abundant life-right here on earth-and important to help others have that life, too. I don't know if Chadd intended it to be a pre-election homily-there is a public revulsion in the air right now against some of the outrageous hypocrisy of some religious right leaders (Ted Haggard foremost among them). Whatever his goal, it was timely reminder that in this country, with its Judeo-Christian ideals, it is time for us to repent, not just of our personal sins, but of our corporate selfishness. Thank goodness that as far as we stray from our own best ideals as a nation, there are individuals and institutions that remind us of who we are, and who we ought to be. PS- There was a wonderful, and appropriate comment on the Haggard situation from a member of the church he pastored in Colorado that seemed worth including on this Monday before Election Day-"God does things when he thinks they’re appropriate,” said Larry Stockstill, the pastor of the Bethany World Prayer Center in Louisiana, from which the New Life Church began in 1985 as an outreach mission.
“What’s going to happen in the nation?” Mr. Stockstill said. “You know what — I don’t think that’s your concern or mine. He chose this incredibly important time for this sin to be revealed and I actually think it’s a good thing — I believe America needs a shaking, spiritually." So, all of you Shakers, go out and do some shaking (prayerful) tomorrow!