Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

A Seat At The Table

iStock_000010215203XSmallOur country is upside down and inside out!  Juxtapose the strong opposition to social welfare with rampant corporate welfare for starters.  The government gives billions in agricultural subsidies to huge corporations like Monsanto, but cuts food stamp programs that effect children.  There are 50 million “food insecure” people in our country—people who do not know where their next meal is coming from–and that is shameful.

I saw a film this weekend that was a real eye-opener—“A Place At the Table” is a documentary that sheds a light on hunger in America, its close link to obesity and why poverty is the underlying issue that needs addressing.  It’s in the theaters and you can also rent it on Amazon.com

While faith communities have done a good job of feeding the poor, charity is not what will end hunger.  Fair pay for a day’s work will feed the soul of a man as well as his belly. While the job deficit grows, so does the food deficit in many households across America, yet the safety net for helping and healing both is woefully inadequate.

What we are willing to subsidize in terms of feeding the poor is a mere $3.00 per day in Federal Assistance. Congress yells and screams, “How are we going to pay for more? These people just want a free hand out,”  all the while doling out corporate welfare to huge agricultural conglomerates and oil.  The myth, perpetuated by some of our leaders, is that somehow poverty is a choice.  I would really like to see where Paul Ryan wound up had he been born into the inner city of Philadelphia as opposed to his privileged home. Moreover, I don’t believe that any innocent child chooses to go to bed hungry. Most people who are hungry are experiencing embarrassment and not glee in applying for Federal Assistance like food stamps. We can bail out the banks, cut taxes and award money to big corporations but we cannot fund a decent program that keeps children from starving in this wealthy nation of ours?  There is something criminal about that.

“A Seat At the Table” both angered and inspired me.  It angered me because I see that so many of our problems, including this one, are easily fixable if we would just get the big money out of politics and force our leaders to be the public servants that they were intended to be instead of whores who jump into bed with whatever corporation is holding out the biggest check for their re-election.  Imagine a Washington where the leaders were responsible to the American people, addressed the problems of those people and not the almighty American corporation. Imagine a pool of political candidates reliant upon their wits and wisdom instead of the lobby whose money will get them elected or re-elected.

“A Seat At the Table” inspired me as I began to wonder what I as one person might do to alleviate the hunger of children.  I know that I can make donations to my local food bank, but I think that there may be other ways for me to advocate that food is a “right” for all people. You can live without a lot of things in life, but you cannot live without food.  No mother should ever have to send her child to bed hungry at night!

There are two tiers of food consumption in this country:  people who have the least are relegated to a steady diet of packaged, processed, junk food because it is the cheapest.  Calories are cheap and nutritious foods cost, thus the link between hunger and obesity.  There is not a “choice” to eat healthy when you are eating on $3.00 a day. The second tier is made up of those who have so much of a choice that they are the largest consumers of diet books, trying to put all that abundance into some sort of perspective.

I have never had to deal with not being able to concentrate or focus because I was hungry, the way that fifth-grader Rosie did in “A Seat At the Table.”  I don’t worry about food lasting throughout the week because I am able to shop for more if I need to.  Any challenge of my life that seemed harsh or insurmountable up until now seems greatly diminished in its importance after seeing this film.

Poverty is tied to education, is tied to food, is tied to the health of a nation.  There are simple things that we can do now to assure that children get enough nutrition to assure a chance at a getting an education; that they get enough nutrition to assure a life of good health that in turn assures opportunity for improvement of their lot.  It’s not rocket science to think that instead of giving farm subsidies to corporations like Monsanto we fund food programs for these struggling people. The cost of not doing anything to alleviate hunger in our own country  will not help to balance the budget and it is certain to bankrupt us morally and spiritually.  It is time to acknowledge the problem of hunger right here in the good ol’ US of A and ask ourselves if we want a class system that delineates the haves from the have-nots by virtue of who is rich enough to feed their family.  If the ramifications of that are too frightening to consider, then what one action can each of us take that cumulatively can make a difference?

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

More of the “Sad” Same

spirituality

New Pope. It was the big world news yesterday. For me, it was curious and sad. Even though I was raised a Catholic, I want nothing to do with institutions that exclude women, or anyone for that matter. An all male church that worships an all male God cannot ever be in balance. Period. And the argument that Jesus didn’t have any women disciples is not necessarily accurate or true. But supposing for a minute that he didn’t, do we really take the message of love and twist it into a “no girls allowed” story? Shouldn’t the spiritual path be one of growth and evolution that serves all of humanity?

I like to read the mystics– St John of the Cross, Theresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart. They speak to a connection with the Divine, devoid of ritual and dogma. They speak to the potential of a personal experience and direct connection to the Divine in all human beings — not just the chosen, the straight, or the exclusively male. This is where I feel comfortable—in the inclusion of human diversity, not the exclusion of it. This is where the Christ consciousness resonates for me, in a sense of oneness. It’s the “oneness” that I view as “holy.”

It is difficult to believe in this time and age that we still have such a big list of who God likes and who he doesn’t. It reminds me more of life in Junior high school than it does something spiritual. Separating out people who the church is afraid of or judging of, just perpetuates a mean message…and no one is as mean as someone who is mean in the name of Jesus.  Once again, it reminds me of Junior High.

There’s an old joke that has something to do with the hard-of-hearing priest kneeling in prayer while God tries to emphasize the message of “celebrate” and the priest hears it as “celibate.”  It’s a good joke–we should be celebrating life!  The exclusion of different groups and the secretive and ritual abuse of children is hardly celebration though, is it?

The exclusion of women in the Catholic Church has led to an infection of perversion that has wrought unspeakable harm to children. Until that mess is cleaned up and the source of it addressed, the problem will perpetuate itself as it has for centuries. With the  albatross of child molestation around its neck, how is this church in a position to condemn anyone?

For me, I don’t believe that Jesus would have excluded anyone from the table. I believe that the message of Divine love is so large and encompassing, that all are welcome. There is a big difference between the politics of church-ianity and the message of the Christ—a big difference between the message of unconditional love and  self-righteous exclusion. So, this new Pope is a big disappointment for me, just more of the same. And more of the same lost step a long time ago.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

For the Love of Sunday and Rilke

Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke
Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke

Sunday is the best day of the week. It stretches before me without schedule or obligation. It makes no demands. I pour a mug of hot black tea with honey and return to bed, sitting among pillows and comforter with my books and my laptop, the accessories of Sunday morning.

A spring snow fell most of the day yesterday, a heavy grey shawl that wrapped itself around the house and closed us in, leaving my husband to work at his desk and me to finish the chores of a weekend; laundry that filled the kitchen with the sound of churning machines and the clean smell of soap; groceries—my only outside venture of the day—that were organized in fridge and pantry; a prayer of gratitude for such things. Clean laundry and food in the fridge always make me feel secure and happy.

This morning, the sky is a brilliant blue, the way that only a Colorado sky can be, stretching infinitely beyond snow-capped mountains to places wild, beckoning me from this reprieve of leisure to get out and walk before the trails get slushy and muddy. Church happens for me walking in nature, the wide vision of wonderment filling the empty places in my heart and healing the wounds of exhaustion that the workweek wrought with her incessancy.

I read the next chapter in Brother Steindl-Rast’s book, “Gratefulness the Heart of Prayer,” and then read a few pages from “Letters to a Young Poet,” by Rainer Maria Rilke. From Steindl-Rast’s book, I came away with thoughts that I will allow to pecolate during my upcoming hike; thoughts of purpose and meaning, vision and action and contemplation as an entering into the temple of one’s own heart in order to sit in the light of praise, thanksgiving and gratitude. It is precisely this grateful attitude that Rilke writes about to the young poet, pointing out that gratitude can inform a life and strengthen its wholeness; can make the moments of darkness more fruitful in their contribution—the gift within the gift.

Rilke has helped me to see the value of such life-passages without judgment. A decision made long ago influences me now—a vow to live the examined life has remained a constant, sometimes throwing me into chaos when those around me were having a party. I have remained faithful to that, uncomfortable or not. The examined life retreats to its depths and is born again. Retreating and birth again and again, opening and closing to itself ,all to become more aware, to see with a keener eye, to expand in heart and mind to a greater understanding of self and its place in the story of the human condition.

Sundays are the best day; ripe for contemplations and ponderings; for time in nature; for play and leisure that balance out a life so tightly woven with responsibility. A hike and back into the jammies—not a moment of Sunday given to anything but the quiet appreciation and rest that allows the heart to fill and the journey to continue.