Sunday, May 26, 2013

A little talk with God

SCENE: Heaven.  A cool but pleasant day in a garden rich with fruit, flowers, NO mosquitos, and a plate of brownies in front of me.

God shows up with a clipboard full of forms.

GOD:   May I sit down?

ME:  Sure!  Have a brownie.

GOD:   OK, just one.  We need to go over your reincarnation plan.

ME:   My what?

GOD:  Reincarnation.

ME:   Haha!  Good one, God!  I keep forgetting.  You must have a sense of humor, since you created humor. 

GOD:  Not a joke, dear one.  It's time to reincarnate.

ME:  You.  Are.  Shitting.  Me.

GOD:  I rarely shit people.

ME:  Okay, then.  No.  Just no.

GOD:  You thought it was optional?

ME:  Well, basically, yes.

GOD:  No, I'm afraid it's a necessary part of soul development.

ME:  Look, Big Guy, I am just not buyin' that.

GOD:  You're requesting an exemption?

ME:  Duh, I am requesting logic. You invented that too, right?  So.  If 90 years of head colds, bee stings and algebra didn't Dee-Velop my Soul adequately before, it's all gonna be different this time?  Bull.  Sorry.  Been there, done that.  Not sitting through memorizing the state capitals ever, ever again.

GOD:  You really are not understanding this concept.  The idea is to have different experiences, things you couldn't experience in any single lifetime.  We can arrange for you to incarnate in a place where education is something children crave and embrace when they get the chance.

ME:  That's a small part of it, God.  I mean, come on.  You tellin' me there's any possible incarnation where I won't have to experience another stomach virus?

GOD: Well......

ME:  I thought so.  No dice.

GOD:  You seem to be forgetting that I'm God and what I say goes.

I watch Him for awhile, and He lets me process this.  And then I remember something.

ME:  You said something earlier about an exemption.

GOD:  I'm skeptical as to whether you qualify. You have a real attitude problem.  You whine about trivial complaints when others have endured torture, muscular dystrophy, the atomic bomb.  I think life as a religious minority in an eastern culture might do you some good.

Tears are rolling down my face.

GOD:  Don't look so miserable. Nobody has to be totally powerless to shape their destiny.   I grant everybody a wish before they go.  Make one.

ME:  I get a wish?  Anything?

GOD:  Yup.

ME:  Awesome!  OK.  I wish..... I wish that you had a speck of sand in your eye.  Right now.

GOD:  No, you're wasting it!  It's for life in your new incar-- OW!   Owowow!

ME:  Sux, doesn't it?

GOD:  OW!!!  This is wretched!  Wish it away, get this thing out of my eye!

ME:  Wait, though, I thought I only got ONE wish.

GOD:  Two!  OK? Take a second one!  Make it go away!

ME:  Fine.  I wish the speck of sand gone from your eye.

GOD: ......... Whew.  OK.  Yes.  Better.  That really is miserable.

ME:  Yes.  Yes it is.

God flips through the papers on the clipboard.
Puts it down next to the plate of brownies.
Rubs His chin for a minute.
Looks up at me.

GOD:  All right.  You've got a point.   Exemption granted.

He signs something on the last page of the paperwork and hands the clipboard to me.

GOD:  Sign here, and initial on the top page.

I comply.

ME:  Thank you, God.  I mean it.   Have another brownie.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

"Awards aren't important," she said, displaying hers.

I wasn't a big achiever in college, but I did manage to get into an honor society.  It wasn't terribly high profile anywhere,  and I think it went inactive in the '70's or shortly thereafter.

Delta Tau Kappa was a social sciences honorary.  Requirements (if I recall correctly) were to earn some level of A grades in social science classes, and have a B-average in general.  We're not talking Phi-Bete, here.  Cool.  I can do that.

We got certificates and gold pins and, I cringe as I remember it, I gave my pin to my ex.  As a token of my ... um ... esteem.  And I do not mean that I did so during the Soul Mates phase, but toward the end when things were bad and I was being told repeatedly that I was uncaring and unsharing and blah blah blah.

What a wasted gesture.  My membership should have been rescinded for that level of stupidity alone.

Years ago I started checking Ebay for a replacement.  Back then,  the "notify me" period expired in 30 days.   Several tries yielded no pins, and I gave up notifications.  I checked sporadically, but less often as time went by.

This week, something spurred me to try again.  Somebody was offering one!!

It's ba-a-ack!  Not my original - I got the history of this one from the seller.  No, this is an identical pin.  And for ridiculous reasons, I'm just over the moon to get it.

Should I pontificate about whether/why my honor society pin matters?

Oh what the hell, why not.  Blogging is dead but I am a cat and I resist change.

I can blame some of it on Camp Gethsemane For Girls, which I wrote about right here years ago.  I was a kid.  I guess part of me is still a kid.  I coveted that Gethsemane "G" and bought myself one later because I thought I deserved it.  What these things are really about is belonging.

The fact is that I was mopey and not particularly warm, enthusiastic, or liked at camp, and what that really cost me was the lifelong friendship some of the girls have.  However sukky the camp's standards were, some of the other girls, G-worthy girls, were warm, nice, smart, funny, very cool people who are in no way the Pious and Repressed.

But the Gethsemane awards had little to do with real life in other ways as well.  Just in the past month, I have discovered some later lives of a couple of Gethsemane's GGirls that would have made make the camp's leaders' hair follicles shrivel then, and would make them burst a blood vessel now, when it's gone much more right-wing evangelical than it was in my relatively preppie/high-church day.

Awards.  Here's my thing about awards, especially awards for children and teens.

Of course they should not be just handed out to everybody like the whole trophies-for-all trend.  But they should be based on clear objectives and actions and/or a definable achievement level.  That doesn't mean everybody earns a cup.  Not getting one is part of refining your sense of self and learning what you are good at and not so good at. 

But the Gethsemane G had no criteria.  It was given if they liked you.  What does this teach?  That sometimes you can be rejected based not on what you do, but simply on an indefinable assessment of who you are?

Before you say that's real life - yep.  That doesn't make it a teaching tool of any value whatsoever.  If you want to teach kids to work toward a goal, tell them how and evaluate them objectively for it.

My attitude and achievement probably really did not merit one, but I know of several other kids whose work and personalities very much did, and they too lost out.  I was in good company.

A very nice ladylike girl, lots of awards-and-positions and really liked, looked up to by enough others to get her voted her team's leader, never made that lifelong Gold G society, the Honor Circle.  Over and over, selection after selection, and since everybody else in that camp echelon was in, it looked aggressive on the part of the director.   I remember others just laughing, saying "Everybody knows that Mrs. D doesn't like Sue." [name changed]

Man, I hope Sue became a punk rock star.

One kid -- let's call her "Lee" --  was the sweetest, best, most genuine embodiment of Gethsemane Values you could ask for.  Our first year there, she got a G.  This was The Sixties, and apparently her parents decided to become Buddhists during that following year.  For some unknown reason Lee wasn't G material that next year.  Another friend also missed out on the G, and that one I could never even come up with a theory about, except that she was from a distant state and unlikely to bring the camp more applicants no matter how she exulted around her home town about how great it was.  That's all I can come up with.

I think all us losers need to get over Award Damage, but maybe it's actually winners who have a harder time. If we succeed in getting core-self affirmation from awards, we never make a clean break with over-valuing them. I could write about how I wanted the pin because I want to just re-gather lost stuff that my big life crisis deprived me of, but yall'd see through that and even if you didn't, it's not the real reason.  I care about having gotten into DTK, and feel a little uncomfortable with caring.

That's why sane award giving is so vital for kids with developing minds and values.  We see it in headlines, how no later acceptance and success can completely undo outsider status in childhood when it's particularly hurtful and sanctioned by the Authority we want kids to accept and work to be part of.

Give them a girl of an impressionable age and she's theirs for life.....

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Miles to go.

I have no idea why I developed a yen to haul out my art books and flip through them.  I mean, yeah, that's why I bought them, but this particular impulse was strong and sort of demanding.  If it was my Higher Power with some part of The Plan in mind, I still have no idea what or why, but when it's harmless and doable, I've learned to just go with it, and it's fun.
So I'm leafing through books I've had for many years, and a couple that I recently bought to replace lost copies from previous life.  After college, I workled at an art museum.  Answering the phone and telling people where the bathrooms were, but still.   They had a museum librarian and I considered what a cool job that might be and took some relevant classes at the univeristy.  And bought books.

The ones in the stack aren't all we've got, just what I've been in the mood for.  17th and 18th Century Art was a textbook I used for an art history course back then, fall 1979.  Not sure how my original copy left my environs, but a replacement was delightfully inexpensive on eBay, and so was 1948's edition of Gardner.   History of Art for Young People, and the National Gallery book were gifts from Dad, and excellent general history with luscious photos.  Vermeer -- gift from Mom --  is one of those creative geniuses who make me believe in the existence of the soul.  His light-bathed little deceptively ordinary house scenes have that luminous quality that seems to reveal something inexplicable. 

Holbein came from around the same time as that 17th-18thc. art history class.  $3.99 on a sale table, circa 1980.

I keep coming back to this portrait.

This is Charles de Solier, Sire de Morette, painted in about 1534.  According to the text, he was France's Ambassador to the English court.  According to the French version of wiki, that was brief.  I find little on him in a cursory search, but it's the portrait that grabs me.

This particular portrait is appreciated by artists (that link goes to the French PlusPedia entry done in Google Translate which explains the slightly odd wording), and deserves that appreciation, but isn't in that "everybody's familiar with it" category.  It wowed me immediately, even in my extremely dull-witted 20's.

Not only does the detail in that calm, smart face amaze me, but it's more than just physically realistic.  I fancy I can tell what he's thinking.  There's some weariness, but he's still in the game.  He's seen a lot and not much will surprise him anymore. The power and money and alliance game shifts but doesn't fundamentally change, and I think he's fairly recently come to an awareness that there will be a day when he just can't care much about the diplomacy game.  According to the link he lived to be wonderfully old for the time, around 30 more years after this portrait.  But the day to hang it up is not here yet.  Bring on the next thing.