Skimming Deep

Searching, traveling, talking, reflecting, and exploring. Read along with me as I continue on my journey through life.

Tag: hope

History in the Making

It’s Election Day, 10:00pm Pacific Time, and the future of the country hangs in the balance.

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How did we get here?

Did anyone realize how divided a country we are? Along race lines, gender lines, values, beliefs, ideas of democracy and what the United States of America stands for?

It’s been a long journey, seeing the two main parties arrive at the two candidates who are fighting for their lives and our futures. and I really never thought it would come to this.

What do the next four years hold for us as a country? No matter who wins, it’s clear that there is a large number of people who won’t be happy with the result. How do we move forward as the “UNITED” states, not the “DIVIDED” states?

This campaign has been eye opening for me in so many ways. I’ve been surprised at what people will believe. I’ve been surprised at how much racism and sexism still exists at very deep levels all over the country. I’ve been surprised at what people will ignore or dismiss to be able to justify their choices. I’ve been surprised at how people will make decisions that go against their own interests.

How do we move forward from here? What will the history books say about this election? What will tomorrow look like?

#10: Memory

Two nights ago, nine African American individuals were shot and killed in cold blood while in prayer at Emmanuel A.M.E Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The killer has been apprehended. This tragedy has left me stunned, angry, sad, frustrated, and questioning.

Our country’s collective memory is short, especially when it comes to racism and the oppression of people of color. And then something like this shooting happens, jogs our memory for a short moment, gets us talking and acting, and then the 24-hour news cycles ends and moves us on to the next big movie or celebrity gaffe.

The memories this moment jogged for me were other awful events from the past few years:

  • the killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and the many other black lives whose soul and breath were taken unjustly and unceremoniously by police violence
  • the shooting in Newtown at Sandy Hook Elementary School
  • other mass shootings perpetrated by white men who were often written off as mentally unstable with no recognition of the larger system and society that has created these killers

President Obama gave a speech after the shooting. Some of his statements really resonated with me as I try to stay hopeful and optimistic that maybe THIS time there will be more action taken to control the rampant presence of and access to guns in our country.  He said, “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. And at some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.”

He also quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from a speech he gave in response to the killing of four African American girls when a church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed by Klan members. I went to read the full speech and it’s amazing, beautifully written (and I’m sure spoken), and inspiring. Here are a few excerpts, but I encourage you to read and re-read the whole thing:

And yet they [the four girls] died nobly. They are the martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity. And so this afternoon in a real sense they have something to say to each of us in their death… They have something to say to every politician who has fed his constituents with the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism. They have something to say to a federal government that has compromised with the undemocratic practices of southern Dixiecrats and the blatant hypocrisy of right-wing northern Republicans. They have something to say to every Negro who has passively accepted the evil system of segregation and who has stood on the sidelines in a mighty struggle for justice. They say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American dream.

and then there’s this:

Now I say to you in conclusion, life is hard, at times as hard as crucible steel. It has its bleak and difficult moments. Like the ever-flowing waters of the river, life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood. Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons, life has the soothing warmth of its summers and the piercing chill of its winters. And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him, and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.

Let our memories not be so short at all the injustice people of color, especially black people and communities, have endured. When will Dr. King’s dream be realized?

O is for “Outside the Box”

I’ve been doing this activity with youth that I work with for many years:

Connect these 9 dots using only four lines following these few rules:
you cannot lift your pen in drawing the lines;
you cannot draw back over a line after it’s been drawn;
the lines must be connected.

When I first was presented this puzzle, I couldn’t solve it.  And most of the time, when I present the activity, people cannot get it.  Every so often, I get someone who really sees outside the box and is able to get the solution.

Thinking, being, doing things outside the box presents a dilemma for me.  I think I’ve lived a lot of my life outside the norm and dealing with the challenges that come with living outside the norm.  While I want to be outside the norm, or the box, I am at the same time acknowledging that there is a box.  But does acknowledging the box mean I just live my life in reaction and that my life exists because the box is there and will always be there?  I don’t want to live my life in reaction– in reaction to stereotypes, in reaction to what I’m told by society that I should be, in reaction to boxes and norms and expectations.

How do we create a new reality?  Is everything in society so entrenched that the boundaries of the box are etched in stone, permanent and unable to be rewritten and redrawn?  Is there some sense that the permanence is being lifted?

I guess I can answer my own questions by saying I have to find hope in the little things.  And hope even more that people are trying to push against the heavy dark lines outlining the boxes that confine us.  CSAs, craigslist, car and bike shares, wikipedia, and other mechanisms where people share, depend on each other, build a sense of shared destiny and vision are all signs that the box isn’t so confining as it can seem at times.

I was talking with a friend about relationships and how frustrating it is that society’s expectation of relationships can be so confining, limiting, and even detrimental to individuals when we try to pursue our own and a sense of collective happiness.  For example, though divorce has become more common, there is still a social stigma that makes it such a difficult experience (unless you’re a celebrity couple…).  Marriage is a social construction, in other words, man-made.  I wonder sometimes if (not that I’m opposed to committed, long-term relationships), if marriage for life is sometimes an unreasonable goal.  Am I just being cynical because it didn’t work out for me?

Let’s look at some realities:

  • people change at different rates and in different ways. Wouldn’t that affect a relationship if the changes aren’t in a similar direction for each person?
  • the longer you are with a person, the more you learn about them that you couldn’t have known when you first got together.  If you learn that you aren’t compatible later in life, is it fair to expect that you should stay together?
  • often people stay together for the sake of the children.  Wouldn’t it affect children negatively if their parents stayed together despite having all these negative feelings and tension?  Would the children know what it means to have a healthy, loving relationship if they didn’t see that in their own parents?

Again, maybe I’m just being cynical.  Or selfish at this point in my life as I get ready to embark on a physical and metaphysical journey.  I know marriage is hard work.  I know that relationships are hard work, and I am not saying these things to abdicate any responsibility of the hard work part.  But I think sometimes society (ie. people) has unrealistic expectations about “till death do us part” that make it really hard for people in bad/unhealthy/unworkable relationships to leave and move on without feeling guilty and like they didn’t try hard enough or they even failed.

Whew, where did all that come from?

Leaving on a positive note– I like to think about the possibilities of another world where societal expectations are not oppressive and limiting but actually open us up to more opportunities, 2nd and 3rd and 4th changes, new experiences, and the ability to grow into the fullest version of ourselves.

By the way, to solve the puzzle at the beginning, go online and do a search for “nine dots.”  You’ll see the picture of the solution in the images.

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