Reaching Sunward

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Guess Who’s Coming to the White House

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was on TCM today.  I watched again and remembered that the first time I saw it, sometime in the 80’s, interracial marriage was still shocking; something that made you look twice and perhaps judge negatively.  Watching it again now, 20 years later and 41 years after its release, it seems to me that the shift in our culture toward acceptance of interracial marriage has been phenomenal.  The year 1967, when the movie was released, was the same year the Supreme Court ruled in Loving vs. Virginia, in which the court “declared Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statute, the “Racial Integrity Act of 1924″, unconstitutional, thereby overturning Pace v. Alabama (1883) and ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.”   It’s amazing that it took so long for those laws to be overturned, but it’s equally amazing how far our culture has progressed since then.

The messages of this film are especially significant now because of the election. Barack Obama is of mixed race, a fact that people who interpret the Old Testament literally have used against him.  Citing prohibitions that God gave the children of Israel against intermarrying, literalists view intermarriage as a sin and the children of those marriages to be “less than.”  These ideas remain with us, a legacy of racism and bigotry.  But a legacy that is dying.

In the film, Spencer Tracy stated that he thought that public opinion against interracial marriage would not change within 50 or even 100 years. Yet only 41 years later, look how far we have come.  In spite of the fact that there are still people out there who object to Obama because he is black or part black, there are many more people for whom race and mixed race is simply irrelevant.

It says a lot about our level of maturity, our ability to accept people of all nationalities, races, creeds and mixtures thereof, that Barack Obama is electable in our nation.  Not a month ago, when I told a colleague that I thought he would win, she responded “Oh no, not in this country.  We’re not ready.  There are still too many bigots.”  But today the polls say something else, projecting Barack Obama to win 351 electoral votes to John McCain’s 187.  Last week, Obama gave a speech attended by thousands in front of the St. Louis State and Federal Courthouse – a building on whose steps slaves were sold and where Dred and Harriet Scott in 1850 had their petition for freedom overturned because they were “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

The 158 years since that decision have brought massive changes in our human and civil rights.  It has been a long struggle, and it isn’t over yet, but is encouraging to note that in my lifetime (I’m 40) interracial marriage in this country has gone from being illegal and “wrong” to being legal and no big deal for most people.

Obama in front of the Old Courthouse in St. Louis

Obama in front of the Old Courthouse in St. Louis

Our movement toward tolerance can also be viewed in our acceptance of same-sex-marriage. It’s easy to imagine the movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” with two fiances of the same sex instead of two fiances of different races. The same objections are raised – the problems the couple is likely to face in society, the judgment and condemnation they may receive regarding children, the objection that they have no right to marry at all.  But Spencer says it very well in the film – what matters is love.  “…because in the final analysis it doesn’t matter a damn what we think. The only thing that matters is what they feel, and how much they feel, for each other. And if it’s half of what we felt- that’s everything. As for you two and the problems you’re going to have, they seem almost unimaginable, but you’ll have no problem with me, and I think when Christina and I and your mother have some time to work on him you’ll have no problem with your father, John. But you do know, I’m sure you know, what you’re up against. There’ll be 100 million people right here in this country who will be shocked and offended and appalled and the two of you will just have to ride that out, maybe every day for the rest of your lives. You could try to ignore those people, or you could feel sorry for them and for their prejudice and their bigotry and their blind hatred and stupid fears, but where necessary you’ll just have to cling tight to each other and say “screw all those people”! Anybody could make a case, a hell of a good case, against your getting married. The arguments are so obvious that nobody has to make them. But you’re two wonderful people who happened to fall in love and happened to have a pigmentation problem, and I think that now, no matter what kind of a case some bastard could make against your getting married, there would be only one thing worse, and that would be if – knowing what you two are and knowing what you two have and knowing what you two feel- you didn’t get married.”

And to circle back to Obama, and America, we have a choice now. We can choose love or we can choose fear. We can focus on our separateness or on our unity.  Obama said, “We can come together as one nation, and one people, and once more choose our better history.”  Obama represents, in so many ways, that what matters is what is in our hearts and minds (not our pigment).  What matters is how we treat each other.  If we choose our better angels and focus on our more noble history, then we can make our way into a better future.

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How a wristwatch or a cookie can save your life

Harold Crick: Am I OK?
Doctor Mercator: [with facial indifference] Well, you’re not dead. On the other hand, it looks like you cracked your head, you broke three bones in your leg and foot, you suffered four broken ribs, fractured your left arm, and severed an artery in your right arm, which should’ve killed you in a matter of minutes, but amazingly, a shard of metal from your watch obstructed the artery, keeping the blood loss low enough to keep you alive… which is pretty cool.
Harold Crick: Wow.

Kay Eiffel: As Harold took a bite of Bavarian sugar cookie, he finally felt as if everything was going to be ok. Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies. And, fortunately, when there aren’t any cookies, we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin, or a kind and loving gesture, or subtle encouragement, or a loving embrace, or an offer of comfort, not to mention hospital gurneys and nose plugs, an uneaten Danish, soft-spoken secrets, and Fender Stratocasters, and maybe the occasional piece of fiction. And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives. I know the idea seems strange, but I also know that it just so happens to be true. And, so it was, a wristwatch saved Harold Crick.

~ From Stranger Than Fiction

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Babette’s Feast – Mercy and Truth meet together

Mercy and truth have met together. Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.
Man, in his weakness and shortsightedness believes he must make choices in this life.
He trembles at the risks he takes. We do know fear. But no. Our choice is of no importance.
There comes a time when our eyes are opened and we come to realize that mercy is infinite.
We need only await it with confidence and receive it with gratitude.
Mercy imposes no conditions.
And lo! Everything we have chosen has been granted to us.
And everything we rejected has also been granted.
Yes, we even get back what we rejected,
For mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.

~ From Babette’s Feast

Babette’s Feast operates on many levels;

It’s about food, and it’s about how meals can bring people together.

It’s about the tension and the reconciliation between earthly pleasures and divine transcendence,

simplicity and sensuality.

It’s about creativity and the nature of the artist.

It’s about poverty and wealth.

It’s about forgiveness and finding your way.

It’s about loss and regret, and is also about being a receiver of everything, and losing nothing.

It’s about mourning and the healing that it brings, and also about true love and joy.

It’s about being able to finally say the words you need to say, and to finally be able to give the gift you want to give.

It’s about knowing who you *really* are.

It’s about giving that comes right from the heart.

It’s about grace coming to live in a modest and remote place, both in the physical and the spiritual sense.

It’s about Christ-consciousness.

It’s about time you watched this movie or read this story!

(thank you Jo Owen!)

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Hope, Reasons to Live, and Suicide Prevention

A friend of mine that I grew up with recently died by suicide. JC felt he had been in too much emotional pain for too long and he didn’t see it getting any better. This was so crushing that I want to share hope with others. I want you to know there is help, there are people who love you and care for you, there are ways to cope with and lessen emotional pain and grief, and that your life, however painful at the moment, is a gift and you can use it to bring help and joy to others and to yourself. These are some things that have given me hope, and I want them to give you hope, too.

Flight of Hope #1 – My favorite movie is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” wherein George Bailey realizes at the end just how much of a difference he has made in the lives of others, and how many people love and care for him. That lesson has always had a profound effect on me because I believe that much of the good we do and love we engender is unknown to us. Frederick Buechner said, “The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.” We are all here together. Separateness is an illusion, for we all touch each other in ways we cannot fathom.

Flight of Hope #2 -I also believe that when we are sad and can’t find a good reason to live, we can focus on helping others. Turning compassion outward sometimes helps us have it for ourselves. If you can find the sacred part of yourself and live from there, you’ll touch people in positive ways. One little flicker of light is all it takes to light a dark room – find that light within yourself and share it.

Emily Dickinson wrote,

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Flight of Hope #3 – When I saw Under the Tuscan Sun, I had just gone through a terrible divorce and was reeling emotionally and financially. My life had been overturned and I lost my love and my home. I had thoughts myself that it would be easier not to go on. But after seeing that movie, I realized that many lives are available to us. It is possible, for instance, to sell off everything I own, move to Italy and work as a waitress!! I didn’t do that – what I did was move far away, and in with some friends, and worked in a flower shop. I healed through the support of my friends and the willingness to change my life. It is possible to get a new job, a new home, move to a different part of the town/state/country/world, cut your hair, get a makeover, meet new friends, get a pet, go to social events, learn new skills, read new books, etc. In other words, when your current life is unbearable, death is not the next step. The next step is to reinvent yourself, and reinvent your life. You are not stuck. You are not trapped. Another lesson from that movie is that the future is built by what you do now – Martini tells Francis, “Signora, between Austria and Italy, there is a section of the Alps called the Semmering. It is an impossibly steep, very high part of the mountains. They built a train track over these Alps to connect Vienna and Venice. They built these tracks even before there was a train in existence that could make the trip. They built it because they knew some day, the train would come.” Believe that your train is coming! Build the tracks…

Flight of Hope #4 – Many people are on anti-depressants, and when properly diagnosed, that’s a good thing. But another part of emotional health is recognizing your feelings and being able to cope with them. Expressing our feelings is what keeps them from exploding. What if, when we feel sad, we could validate and express our feelings in these ways? I think we’d find that the sadness dissipates.

  • Vocalize sad feelings – cry, yell, wail, sob, moan
  • Draw yourself in a sad situation that you remember
  • Find music that reflects your sadness
  • Express your sadness through dance if you feel like it
  • Write about your sadness – keep a sadness diary
  • Watch a movie that you know will allow your tears to flow
  • Think about who you wish you could share your sadness with and picture yourself talking to this person
  • Share your sad feelings with someone

Flight of Hope #5 – Perspective is also important to think about when you are very sad. Everyone experiences suffering and pain. Every single person in the world will experience loss and grief. You are not alone in feeling the way you do. It is our courage in these circumstances – to remain free inside our hearts and not to let suffering smother our spirit – that makes us the hero of our own journey.

Norbert Capek composed this poem in Dresden Prison in 1941, shortly before he was transferred to Dachau concentration camp, where he died in October, 1942 ~

It is worthwhile to live
and fight courageously
for sacred ideals.

O blow ye evil winds
into my body’s fire
my soul you’ll never unravel.

Even though disappointed a thousand times
or fallen in the fight
and everything would worthless seem,

I have lived amidst eternity —
Be grateful, my soul —
My life was worth living.

He who was pressed from all sides
but remained victorious in spirit
is welcomed into the choir of heroes.

He who overcame the fetters
giving wings to his mind
is entering into the golden age of
the victorious.

In The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond tells his son, Albert, “Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout as you did in Rome, ‘Do your worst, for I will do mine!’ Then the fates will know you as we know you: as Albert Mondego, the man!” It is the courage you muster, and the courage you have in the worst moments that make you a mature human being. If you look for that courage, you’ll find it. Don’t give up!

Flight of Hope #6 – Start simple. There are many things to open your senses to that may bring you back into an appreciation of life. Go outside and let your senses awaken. Walk on the beach – feel the sand, smell and taste the salt-air, hear the waves and the gulls, watch the sunset. Walk down the street or walk in the woods, drive to the desert or sit on a park bench, and pay attention to each one of your senses. Close your eyes and experience. Anne Frank wote, “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.”

Flight of Hope #7 – There is someone available right now to listen and help.

The most important step is to talk to someone. People who feel suicidal should not try to cope alone. They should seek help NOW.

  • Talk to family or friends. Just talking to a family member or a friend or a colleague can bring huge relief.
  • Talk to a befriender. Some people cannot talk to family or friends. Some find it easier to talk to a stranger. There are befriending centers all over the world, with volunteers who have been trained to listen. If calling is too difficult, the person can send an email.
  • Talk to a doctor. If someone is going through a longer period of feeling low or suicidal, he or she may be suffering from clinical depression. This is a medical condition caused by a chemical imbalance, and can usually be treated by a doctor through the prescription of drugs and/or a referral to therapy.

Call the National Hopeline Network at 1-800-784-2433 (TOLL FREE Nation Wide)
Website: www.timesunion.com/communities/samaritans/
Website: www.suicidepreventioncenter.org

The experts say suicide is rarely a spur of the moment decision and is not so much about wanting to die, but about a powerful need for pain to end. All types of people die by suicide: men and women, rich and poor, old and young, straight and gay, rural and urban. What suicidal people share are feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and isolation, a desire for a solution to their problems, and deep uncertainties about living and dying. The more you know about suicide, the better you will be able to help someone struggling with these issues.

In the days and hours before people take their own lives, there are usually

Warning Signs:

The strongest warning signs are verbal: “I can’t go on,” “Nothing matters any more,” “I’m thinking of ending it all.” Such remarks should always be taken seriously.

Other warning signs include:
Becoming depressed or withdrawn for > 2 weeks
Behaving recklessly
Getting affairs in order and giving away valued possessions
Showing a marked change in behavior, attitudes or appearance
Abusing drugs or alcohol

What do people who feel suicidal want?

Someone who will take time to really listen.

Someone who won’t judge, or give advice or opinions, but will give their undivided attention.

Someone to trust.

Someone who will respect them.

Someone who will say, “I care.”

Someone who will make him/herself available; put the person at ease and speak calmly.

Someone who will reassure, accept and believe.

What do people who feel suicidal not want?

To be alone. Rejection can make the problem seem ten times worse. Having someone to turn to makes all the difference. Just listen.

To be advised. Lectures don’t help. Nor does a suggestion to “cheer up”, or an easy assurance that “everything will be okay.” Don’t analyze, compare, categorize or criticize.

To be interrogated. Don’t change the subject, don’t pity or patronize. Talking about feelings is difficult. People who feel suicidal don’t want to be rushed or put on the defensive.

Have hope – we are all children of God, we are all made of stars.

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Remember John today….and Imagine!

“If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliche that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal.” –
John Lennon

Today is the 26th anniversary of the death of John Lennon. He’s still with us in so many ways though, and his vision and beliefs ring true today… just see the film The U.S. vs. John Lennon. John’s messages of peace, of questioning war and governments, and of promoting critical thinking, understanding and communication are as compelling now as they were during Vietnam.

So take a moment today, as I am, to remember a brillant man; a peacemaker, a music maker, a leader.

“The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.”

John

 

 

We should remember those possibilities now, and act on them. Get involved! Read about it!

Some great pictures, quotes and other items of interest about John can be found at the official website and a well done and comprehensive biography can be found at wikipedia.

“It just was a gradual development over the years. I mean last year was ‘all you need is love.’ This year, it’s ‘all you need is love and peace, baby.’ Give peace a chance, and remember Love. The only hope for us is peace. Violence begets violence. You can have peace as soon as you like if we all pull together. You’re all geniuses, and you’re all beautiful. You don’t need anyone to tell you who you are. You are what you are. Get out there and get peace, think peace, and live peace and breathe peace, and you’ll get it as soon as you like.” – John Lennon

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