Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A miscelleny

Today, I can't seem to gather my thoughts. Perhaps it's the migraine I seem to be on the edge of. But several things are kind of swirling around in here so I'm trying to get at least a basic sense of it, because some of them are important and worth thinking about when I can concentrate.

One thought has to do with a quote that I happen to love from Jelal ud-din Rumi. Yesterday, as I was looking at a blog that I follow, I noticed that this quote was a header for an entry: "Sell your certainty and buy bewilderment". Now, the actual entry didn't engage me nearly as much as the quote did, and I felt that this phrase was something that perhaps I was meant to think on for a bit - certainly, it's been nagging at me, whispering at me since I saw it. What certainties am I clinging to that I need to let go of, to sell away?

Another thought in the swirling mess that is my consciousness today has to do with churches. Not the concept "church" as in "Peter, go and build my --" but as in brick and stone, wood and cloth and water hookups and electrical connections, and sewage management and somebody's going to come in and build this thing. It's strange - I've been to many churches and synagogues, meeting rooms in bookstores, a couple of mosques, a meetinghouse, and other places of worship, but whenever I think of a church, I think of a tiny white clapboard one, maybe 5 miles at most from the Ohio River. It has acoustic tiles that were painted by someone (maybe in the 60's?) with devotional images. The stained glass windows don't have pictures, just squares of colored glass in the window frames. The organ and "choir loft" (a tiny stage at the back behind the wooden bench pews) take up the entire width of the back, and the sanctuary at the front is a simple wooden structure. That church was partly built by my great great grandmother. Whenever I think of it, I remember my grandfather's booming deep voice leading the congregation in hymns, of various relatives getting married in it, of funeral dinners in the basement. Of the story of my great grandfather who was outraged with the preacher for making fun of poor folks during the Depression (who didn't donate much to the roof fund), so he knocked that preacher into the rosebushes by the porch. Of the various family pictures of everybody sitting on the steps to that porch.

This was sort of inspired by someone else who'd been talking about a story in the Christian Science Monitor on mega-church development and the strains it's imposing on local infrastructure. One quote that struck me was a woman and her daughter who lived less than a mile from the church who were complaining that it would be shorter to walk than to drive to church when another church went in. So, um, why don't you? Better for you, better for the environment, your neighborhood... Maybe encourage both churches to run shuttles for those who can't easily walk? Encourage carpooling in your congregation? Maybe even begin funding a program in your church to serve breakfast to all comers after services? Give y'all a chance to connect to each other, a break most Sundays from making brunch (or make it a potluck or something to reduce the financial and work burdens of doing it), a chance at community outreach, fewer cars on the road since you won't be planning to go out after church...

And in there, they also had a story on the whole war on Christmas thing and on a congressman who wants to have a Koran with him at his swearing in. Look, folks, I don't care if you celebrate Christmas, Diwali, and the major Sabbats as long as you don't shove any of it down my throat. As for the whole Koran thing, John Q. Adams was sworn in on a book of law including the Constitution, which seems to me to make more sense than any religious book. But that's just me. (And by the way, I don't swear - neither by heaven nor by earth. I try to just tell the truth as I see it, and if you won't believe my word, why would you believe my oath?)

Finally, I was thinking last night, as I taught someone else how to crochet, of the women who taught me to crochet. My mom, who taught me the basics, and a series of older women who would watch my hands as I learned and say things like, "Your tension'd be more even if you'd hold your thread like this..." and "Let me see that bit you just did. That's pretty work." I'd watch them work their hooks through the fabric, the lace, the thread, and wish that the hook would flash in my hands, fabric dripping seemingly effortlessly off the end. Oh, how I wanted to be able to create beautiful things like that. I was so proud when I managed to make a doll blanket for my sister out of different kinds of squares and edge it in scallop edging.

Well, last night, it felt like I had somehow begun to pay forward some of their patience with me. This time, it was me saying, "Well, it's easier to pull the hook through if you turn it this way while putting on a tiny bit of tension by holding your stitch like this..." "Watch how I curl my finger to hold the thread a little bit out there..." and even telling stories of how clumsy I had been when first learning. And how I thought when I was little that perhaps they were crocheting the world...


Anonymous Anonymous said...


That's my congressman!

A friend of a friend apparently got a last minute campaign call on behalf of his competitor, and said basically "no, I won't be voting for hm, we don't really share the same values" or something, and the caller said "you're not going to vote for a muslim, are you?" but overall, there wasn't a lot of that, for which I was grateful.

I think it's just crazy that people would make a big deal about wanting him to swear on a book that isnt' that important to him - I know that if I swore at all, it would be much easier on a bible, than on something that seemed significant to me (future generations, say) if I was gonna lie.

I really appreciate your miscellaneous style today.

I'm thinking of your dad


12/07/2006 11:57 AM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

Part of me wants to know if they've ever seen the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes" where the preacher commits perjury after having been sworn in on what looked like a Bible but turned out to be a copy of Moby Dick. Oh, how I wish it were J.Q. Adam's style that had taken root.

I have been "sworn in" as an officer of the court. I specifically didn't swear, but affirmed under penalty of perjury. Had someone wanted to use a book to "swear" me on, I would have requested a copy of the Constitution.

While affirmation is most often presented in the media as an alternative for athiests and agnostics, I think it's the better choice for most citizens. It's not the judge's business to know whether my cap signifies that I am Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or First Reformed Gathering of the Great Pumpkin Brethren (Ohio Conference).

While my spiritual meanderings are of some limited interest (hopefully at least to those reading my writing), they have little to do with my virtues as a citizen. I am capable of being a good American of many different faiths or of none. As a Christian, Jew, Pagan, ?, I have done my best to be a good citizen. And whether I swear on the Bible, the Koran, the moon above, the Constitution, or refuse to swear at all, I am still the same person.

One presumes y'all thought this was a guy with some integrity, yes? If so, his word is good. If not, swearing on his own life wouldn't make him so.

12/07/2006 12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think he's got integrtiy. He was a rep in the state legislature, but not in a district I knew much about. I heard really good things about him though.

But now that I'm remembering, there was an attempt made to link him to Louis Farrakhan (because he was involved in the million man march) and imply that he was scary in this way or that (I think he's also the first black man we've sent to congress!) but he won the primary, after winning the party endorsement and this county (minneapolis and surrounding) is still at least unquestioningly democrat (the rest of the state is slipping away....)

But yeah, the guy has integrity. I can think of plenty of people who have been sworn into political office on the Bible and don't seem to, though. I don't think that's the priority for everyone....

It kinda sideswiped me though. I found myself thinking "well, what would they have me, an atheist swear on?" and then I remembered, atheists NEVER get elected!

lots of work left to do....


12/07/2006 1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would you two please keep on talking? I love reading what you have to say; it's almost like you are sitting there over a cup of tea, giggling over the unabashed silliness of our world, while I eavesdrop.

About swearing/testimony: as a Quaker, I don't swear; with me, what you see is what you get. I *try* to be honest in all my words; I'm pretty sure I wouldn't commit perjury with a copy of Moby Dick, except to save someone's life.

12/07/2006 6:45 PM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

brianh, welcome to the conversation! Grab a cuppa and some ginger cookies and have a seat.

And in the movie, he *is* saving a life. A woman is on trial for a murder she didn't commit, but if the real person (who acted in self-defense) becomes known, there will be a lynching. If you get a chance, watch the movie, or even better, read the book. Well worth it.

earthfreak, well, I'd vote for an atheist, but then again, I'd vote for a Christian, Muslim, or Pagan who would do the job properly, too. Frankly, at this point, I'd love it if someone would give a real challenge to my sock puppet of a representative. For a brief while, it looked like we might have a chance, but he won the primary by a very slim margin. Bummer.

I am, however, heartened to read over at http://blog.au.org/ that an attempt to introduce religious recruiting in some schools in rural Virginia is resulting in equal access by *all* religions. (A rule that Jerry Falwell campaigned for is being used by the local Unitarian Universalist Pagan group to invite students to a private Yule celebration.)

12/07/2006 7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, I read 'Fried Green Tomatoes' in 1993, and saw the wonderful, perfectly-cast movie when it came out on tape. My point was that Moby Dick is one of those books which contain enough truth that I wouldn't perjure myself while holding it...unless something larger than my honor was at stake. Come to think of it, there are a lot of books like that, many more than just Scripture.

Returning to politicians, our governor has not been very effective the last few years, being hampered by a Republican state legislature. But he was just reelected handily, I think partly because many of us admired his stance on Iraq. An ex-Marine, he was and is for the troops but against the war. He has attended the funeral of *every* Oregon service person killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, as his way of honoring their sacrifice. I guess I don't need to contrast this attitude with that of the President.

12/08/2006 9:05 AM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

Oh, yes, now I see what you mean. I wouldn't care to perjure myself at all, but especially, as you point out, on a book that contains a fair amount of truth.

The Governor's race here was very close and very nastily run. Right before the election, the Republican candidate hired some out of state folks to distribute flyers that seemed to indicate that he was a Democrat and endorsed by some Democrats that he wasn't endorsed by. He also had some ads that went up in primarily African-American neighborhoods (including mine) with extremely divisive language. He was defeated, but many of the political pundits couldn't understand why, attributing it to political bias. (Um, how about the fact that his dirty tricks alienated a lot of people or the fact that not everybody wants slot machines all over the state?)

12/08/2006 9:44 AM  

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