Saturday, April 28, 2012

Remarks from We Are Women Rally

There is a community of the spirit.
Join it, and feel the delight of walking
in the noisy street and being the noise.


This morning, I had the honor of being asked to both speak and give a blessing at the Denver We Are Women Rally and March. The weather was beautiful (despite forecasts of rain and gloom) and we gathered in the Civic Center Greek Amphitheater, some 2000 strong: women, men, children. The signs people carried were fabulous. One of my personal favorites: Keep the Fundies out of my Undies .

There were many inspiring speakers and I was moved by our determination and unity. As I wrote to a new friend on facebook (a connection made because we were both at the rally): Isn't it amazing when we all stand in solidarity? How power to change the world is much more obvious when we are should to shoulder! This morning as we marched after the rally, like a pulsing conduit of strength and change, chanting slogans such as When women's rights are under attack what do we do? FIGHT BACK! I completely understood the sentiment of Rumi: we were walking in the noisy street; we were the noise; we were a community of spirit.

For those not able to be there, here is the text of my speech and blessing.

I have a confession to make! I am a religious fanatic! I am a religious fanatic for justice, equality, equal access!

In 1969 when gay minister Rev. Troy Perry spoke at a rally decrying laws that discriminated against gays and lesbians he said "I’m afraid my private parts are my own and what I do with them is my business and not the law’s!"

And I stand here today to say the same thing. Women’s bodies are not government property. Our health care decisions are not up for public debate. Your religious beliefs cannot cross the boundary of my body and my decisions.

I believe we are at a cross-roads in history where the vitriolic rhetoric of anti-choice politicians and faith leaders is filling the air with fear, lies, and shame. Now, more than ever, we need to amplify the voice of pro-choice faith leaders (and politicians) to reframe the discussion, rather than react to the hysteria of those who would seek to repress these basic human rights. The issue of reproductive rights and access to such basic heal thcare as birth control is not only morally and ethically compelling, it is theologically sound.

But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: This is not about religious freedom; it’s about the tyranny of the religious right and the attempt to hi-jack our nations human rights and civil liberties. We need to remember that our forebears were clear that the separation of church and state does not mean merely freedom of religion. It also means freedom from religion.

And when an employer’s religion trumps women’s access to basic health care; when laws are made based on religious opinions of a few and not grounded in the communal good of all; when the right to choose abortion is subjected to shaming ultrasounds and paternalistic authority; when a woman’s role in society is reduced to being a fetal incubator, we must stand up and speak out against this outrage. We must speak for women’s rights in the streets, we must shout it in the voting booths. As Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John Adams (both Unitarians, let me just say), imploring him and the other framers of the US Constitution to include suffrage in that early document:

If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.

And I say today, we will not go back. We will not give in. We will not give up but we will press on with the conviction of all those who have justice on their side and we will prevail.

Would you pray with me:

Holy Mystery of Love and Justice who is beyond any name we might give, and who cannot be boxed into any denominational job description, we ask your blessing on this sacred convocation, we pray that you continue to give us courage to speak truth to lies, to speak boldly in the face of those who would seek to shame us into silence. We thank you for the solidarity we share, women and men of all ages, socio-economic status, sexual orientation and gender identity. We ask that you bless us and we ask that you open the eyes of women who would deny their own bodies for political gain, who would seek to shame and silence other women for social power. We pray for them, that their eyes be opened to how their very bodies have been colonized by the rhetoric of those who seek to keep women subjugated.

Be with us now as we sing for justice, as we march for justice, as we shout and work together for justice. May your voice be heard in ours, O Holy Love. In Your Many Names and in the Name of All that is Holy. Amen.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Final Review of New to You

Okay.. I think this is the last retro-blog I will post. I had to follow up with the last one since this is like a sequel.

Falling Off the Speed Limit Wagon September 1, 2006

Well, I have to confess I have not been 100% in compliance with my new spiritual discipline of driving the speed limit.
I started off great on Wednesday, serenely careening down the road at speeds of 20, 25, 35.
I had pondered whether or not I should use cruise control but decided that this was a spiritual discipline, it was about the zen practice of mindfulness. I was not merely jumping through hoops or attempting to avoid another day in court. note: I appeared in court for my last speeding ticket the first of August. As my name was called to accept my plea bargain (faulty tail light...only 1 point as opposed to the 4 points on speeding charge) the judge waved my rather weighty file in the air and said "Nice to see you again!" I replied "Well, I do try to make an annual visit."
At any rate, my commitment to going the speed limit was not about avoiding speeding tickets, it was about searching for an elevated spiritual plane inaccessible to me as I rushed by at 10-20 miles over the posted limit. So I nobly chose not to engage cruise control but to keep an eye on my speedometer and try to maintain the needle at the posted limit.
As I said, this went quite well on Monday. I even reviewed other driving patterns of mine to see if I should change them as well.
I decided, nobly, humbly, seeking a higher truth, that while jack-rabbit starts from a stop light or stop sign were still acceptable in order to gain the lead over the slower car (And they are always slower cars) in the lane next to me, I had to forego my habit of "california stops" and instead come to a complete halt at the stop sign, look left, then right, then left again.
I smiled patronizingly at all those poor misguided sods who were so spiritually devolved as to zip past me, once they could, with annoyed expressions on their faces, thinking how sad it was that they still felt the need to speed.
And I was pleasantly surprised to note that I still arrived at all my destinations with plenty of time to spare. This week experiment was going to be a cinch, I thought as I pulled my car into the garage for the night.
Thursday dawned with all the promise of a day that included a session with my hair interpreter (for some people the word stylist just does not adequately describe what they do...Jerome doesn't just cut my hair, he interprets it, it's a lengthy process but always one with a happy ending).
Unfortunately, my morning kinda got away from me and I left the house already knowing I was going to be late. I had to decide what was going to bring more spiritual serenity: being late or going the speed limit and thought Dammit! I need to make that green light!
I willfully rebelled against my own vow of speed limits and not only sped, but whipped in and out among the traffic effortlessly. I was still 10 minutes late but I think that's much better than how late I would have been if I had missed that light.
Since I had already fallen off the wagon for yesterday I took advantage of my state of sin to speed away the rest of the day as well. Tomorrow, as Scarlett might remind us, is another day, after all. I also realized that I had to make the corner of T-Gap and Jackson an exception to my no califonia stops rule. You've just gotta carpe diem at that stop sign, baby. Slow and go and close your eyes. You'll know you've safely navigated the corner if your airbags don't deploy.
I did much better today, but realized in a spiritual epiphany of amazing proportions that part of the reason why I'm here on earth is to help others achieve their spiritual enlightenment. And if I'm driving the speed limit on a single lane road with cars behind me that want to go faster, and if that makes them cranky, that doesn't help their spiritual growth. Indeed the only thing I can do is to, well, unfortunately, speed up, go a little faster than the limit, lead them, if you will, into a place of serenity and calm that they will find as they, too, are able to go at a speed more conducive to their spirits.
I have to say I was proud of myself for sacrificing my own goals at going the speed limit to help others attain spiritual calm (and this was done in a non-co-dependent way, I want to point out. I wasn't sacrificing myself, I was simply recognizing the inter-dependence of the human family).
So, I'm not sure what tomorrow will bring, but I'll do my best to reach for the next spiritual plane...even if that means I have to speed.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

New to you, Part Two

Here is another walk down blog memory lane. I promise to be more contemporary soon, though I will have at least one more-- a follow-up to this one-- soon.

Anomalies and Spiritual Disciplines August 30, 2006

I am up early this morning through no fault of my own. The tribe of cats who have heretofore peacefully shared my home have enacted a coup and are now officially in power at my place of residence. They celebrated this with a major show of force this morning, including running amok across my sleeping form, minor (but loud) skirmishes over who gets to be Ultimate Supreme Commander and gamboling through the house firing their little bb guns into the air with shouts of victory. I should have never given them those for Christmas last year. And honestly, I can't help but wonder if whiskey was involved in their late night/early morning victory celebration.
So, I reluctantly got out of bed and let them out (they cannot go out at night ever since Mr. M. picked up some stranger and brought him home...I'm all for safe, sane consensual frivolity but this was a dead mouse and that's a definite no-no in my book) made myself some coffee and settled in to write this blog.
I had a very scary first yesterday. Well, it all began on Monday when I had several appointments with people at various local coffee shops. I love coffee and start my day with half a pot to get me going (I have a coffee cup that says: At first I drank coffee to keep me alert, then I drank it to keep me awake. Now I drink it to keep me alive). But--and this is a true confession that I hope won't make you lose respect for me; well at least not any more respect than you might have already lost-- by the end of the day on Monday (which had been capped off with a dinner of apple pie and coffee) I was feeling well, how shall I say this? A little coffeed out. I imagined it was only a temporary setback but yesterday morning when I awoke I could not even bear the thought of coffee (another magnet I have: Coffee: You can sleep when you're dead). It was chilly in Colorado Springs yesterday morning, just below 50, so I definitely wanted a hot drink, but I couldn't even make eye contact with my coffee pot. With futility I scavenged through my pantry for my favorite hot tea (Earl Grey green tea) but I had none of that. Eeek! Couldn't drink coffee, didn't have tea, I was fearing the onset of a major caffeine headache but settled, in the nick of time, for a room temperature diet coke.
I am happy to report this morning that the freakish anomalous experience had passed and I am happily swilling back my second cuppa joe even as I write this.
Today is a big day for me. After weeks, months (decades, eons, it seems) of wrangling, errors, incompetent workers, I'm finally closing on my house refinancing. I tried to be gracious and understanding but at times I reached into a fundamentalist background I don't even have to wonder why God was punishing me. Then I wondered what I had done to achieve such bad karma.
Actually, this was a good thing to reflect upon. As I sat one day last week willing my broker to call me with an update, any update, just talk to me! I thought about karma and I thought about how I hated it that this guy wasn't returning my calls, even if only to say "We're working on it." Then I remembered three emails gathering dust in my inbox which I should have responded to days (and in one case, weeks) ago. I wasn't ignoring these emails, just wanted to be breezy, chatty, or thoughtful, reflective and hadn't had time to write such a thing. I remembered, too, that I had promised to make a copy of my three part sermon series on Homosexuality and the Bible and send that to someone which I hadn't yet done. I wondered how that felt for those waiting for my responses. Hmmm...karma indeed.
So that day I got up, marched to my computer, sent off the three emails and began looking for the original cds of my sermon series. (I'm still looking for part 2, but I will find it, I will, and I'll copy it at the speed of sound, if not light, and pop them in the mail post-haste).
So, there you have it, I'm not saying I would recommend refinancing your house as a spiritual discipline; it's a tough one (lessons learned: patience, grace, respond to emails), not for the faint of heart, but hopefully (for me at least) today will be the culmination of that particular lesson and I can go on to my next learning.
I think I'm going to try driving the speed limit as my next spiritual discipline. I am one of those people who, in dry sunny conditions, is leader of the pack, whizzing effortlessly by those poor sods going the speed limit (or, gasp, below!!). As I make my approach to a red light, I scan with a practiced eye the line-up, choosing the lane with the shortest line of cars (or in some cases, the line with cars that look like they will move the fastest). It doesn't matter if I'm simply going to the grocery store or if I am, indeed late for a meeting (my time optimism getting me into trouble once again) I simply must hurry to get there as quickly as I can. This results in a lot of stress-driving because when I can't be in the lead, I get cranky at those who are impeding my progress.
So yesterday I thought about that, how it impacts my life, my attempts at living peacefully and peaceably with my fellow travelers on the journey of life, how easily my crankiness-o-meter rises when I drive. And I decided to see how it would feel if, for one week, I drove the speed limit everywhere I went. I'm going to begin the experiment today, so I'll keep you posted. I think it'll be tough, I can't promise perfection, but I'll do my best. Then again, maybe it would be easier if I cut back on the caffeine. Eeek! Perish the thought; then the cats would easily subdue me once and for all in my weakened state and I'm sure they wouldn't remodel the kitchen the way I'd like to.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blast from the Past

My poor friend, Kevin, has said he is going through withdrawals since I'm so abysmally undisciplined in blogging. Hey! I've been busy! Get off my back! So, I recently stumbled upon a forgotten blog I had written in 2006 and thought I'd share some retro blogging while my current blogging mojo is recharging. I'll add a few of the "best of" over the next few days. To start:

Bowling with Bumpers August 26, 2006
So last night I went bowling with my son and a friend of his. Although my son is on the cusp of 11, he's probably only bowled 5 times in his life so we decided to use the bumpers. You know, those rails that guard the gutters so you're virtually guaranteed at least one pin?

Could anything be more humiliating than losing to my son using bumpers?

Well, perhaps not even breaking 100.

Still, it was fun, and in my defense I was bowling right handed (I'm left handed and my left wrist seems a little whacked out, getting old, sigh). Although to be honest, I wouldn't have bowled much better with my left hand.

We played two games and during the first game we were the best, most attentive cheerleaders to whichever of us was bowling. Then, during the second game the boys got distracted by one of those crane know where you manipulate the crane to try to snag stuffed animals? So, when they weren't bowling they were clustered around this machine, feeding it quarters.

Which meant I lost my cheerleaders. Not only did this negatively impact my score (I mean, really, bowling is meant to be a shared event) but I realized during one of my approaches as I was eyeing the kingpin with steely determination, positioning myself on the boards, being the ball, that, to the casual observer I looked like an adult bowling alone. With bumpers.

As if that wasn't enough damage to my dignity I came in third with a score of 78.

So, that's my night-life here in Colorado Springs.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

In the Year 2525

Nori’s Nuggets

There is a cartoon making the rounds on facebook. It depicts a husband and wife at the dinner table. The woman is looking at their budget quite askance and saying something like, "I don’t know how we’re going to pay the mortgage and all these bills. There doesn’t seem to be enough money," to which the husband replies, throwing down his newspaper in disgust, "That’s it! No more abortions!"

Ludicrous as that response sounds, it seems as if this conversation is happening on national and state levels of government.

Recently, the Virginia Senate narrowly passed a bill that would make it mandatory for women considering an abortion to have a transabdominal ultrasound 24 hours before the abortion procedure. This was actually an improvement over the original bill which would have required a transvaginal ultrasound– much more invasive and potentially traumatizing to women who were pregnant as the result of a rape.

On the website a February 28th story reported that in Utah, a bill passes the House restricting sex education in high schools to abstinence only programs, forbidding the mention of contraceptives. The bill states: "Human sexuality instruction or instructional programs shall teach and stress: the importance of abstinence from all sexual activity before marriage and fidelity after marriage as the only sure methods for preventing certain communicable diseases; and personal skills that encourage individual choice of abstinence and fidelity.
"Human sexuality instruction or instructional programs may not include instruction or the advocacy of the intricacies of intercourse, sexual stimulation, or erotic behavior; homosexuality; contraceptive methods or devices; or sexual activity outside of marriage."

In national news, President Obama’s support of Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius’ decision to move forward with a mandate for insurance companies to provide coverage of contraception, as well as the "morning after" pill created such a firestorm of controversy that he amended it to say that religious organizations would not have to actively provide such services but that women who worked for such organizations would be able to seek such coverage directly from their insurance companies. This after a "hearing" before Congress comprised solely of men (many of them religiously celibate who would presumably never have personal need of such contraceptives.)

This has been, rightly in my humble opinion, viewed as a war against women and women’s right to control their own bodies and make healthcare decisions that are the best for themselves.

But it goes even further; here’s the part no one is talking about: if we continue to glorify women as child-bearing incubators; if we continue to celebrate childbirth without examining the ramifications beyond the local family, we will be well on our way to over-extending the resources of this beautiful planet on which we live. We are populating ourselves right out of our blueboat home.

On July 7, 1986 news reports showed the population had reached 5 billion (based on a growth rate of 1.75% annually.) We hit 6 billion–added one billion more– in 1999, just 13 years later (at a growth rate of 1.3%.) On October 31, 2011, the world celebrated the birth of the 7 billionth baby, estimated to have been born on that date; it took just 12 years to reach that milestone. Currently, the United Nations estimate that we are adding 80 million people to the population every single year.

According to Al Bartlett, Professor Emeritus, Department of Physics, UC Boulder, if this trend continues at a modest growth of 1.3% annually, in 780 years there will be one person per square meter of dry land on the planet.

There are several reasons why population continues to grow, even though we know on some level our planet cannot realistically support all these humans. Recently I watched a full-length documentary filmed by Colorado Springs local Dave Gardner. The show is called Growthbusters: Hooked on Growth. In this film he explains several factors involved in the ongoing population crisis. He notes how communities, cities, and countries are fixated on a growing economy, which means more people are needed to both provide cheap labor for creating things to buy and then to be consumers of all the schtuff and thus, bada-bing! bada-boom! We have a growing economy.

Gardner lists several countries (including our own) who give significant tax breaks to people for having more children; the more children you have, the greater the return. People often speak with disdain about how our welfare laws provide more money for more children, but even those who are able to work and support their families get this "benefit." One might argue that if a family can support more children, it shouldn’t be anyone’s business how many they have. But the reality of it is that those children, if they have the same amount of kids as their parents, will continue to exponentially increase the population and further strain the resources of our planet which is already over-burdened.

On his website about the movie, Dave Gardner points out: "World population reached 7 billion in 2011. Scientific estimates of the population the Earth can sustainably support range from under 1 billion to 5 billion. It all depends on how simply we live (in other words, how much we in the developed world are willing to curb consumption and contract our economies)." In other words, to be comfortable right now, we need about 1.5 planet Earths; we have just one.

Al Bartlett, gives the example of steady growth in a finite environment. Imagine a jar into which is placed a single bacteria that doubles every minute. At 11 A.M. the jar has that single bacteria; at 12 noon it is full. He asks three questions: 1) When was the jar ½ full? He states that many people say 11:30 but remember: the bacterium double every minute. So the jar was ½ full at 11:59. One minute to noon. 2) At what time, if you were one of those single bacterium in the jar, would you realize it was getting crowded? Remember, at 11:55, the jar would be only 3% full. The rest is open space– ripe for development! 3) Suppose at 11:58 some bacteria realize they’re running out of space and search for more jars. They miraculously find three empty jars! How long until those jars are also full? At 12 noon, the first one would be full; at 12:01 the second one would be full (remembering the population doubles every minute) and at 12:02, they would all be full.

Bartlett’s point is to make us aware that we are one minute before noon in our population growth. Bartlett states in the video presentation of his lecture, Arithmetic, Population and Energy (found on youtube in eight 10 minute segments): "The first law of sustainability is:population growth and/or growth in the consumption of resources cannot be sustained. Stopping population growth is a necessary condition for sustainability."

If we, as Unitarian Universalists are to be serious about the 6th and 7th principles what does that mean for us? If we are to strive for a global community of justice, peace, equity, we had to acknowledge that won’t happen if there aren’t enough resources to go around. Lack of resources will only create more poverty, war and unrest. If we are to have respect for the interdependent web of creation of which we are a part, we need to look beyond our own consumption to see how that is destroying the planet. In his film Growthbusters, Dave Gardner makes the case to not make growth be the point of city and community development. He recommends, rather, that we halt growth and find ways to reduce our carbon footprints individually and collectively. He, too, points out that we must curb population growth in order to truly respect the interdependent web of which we are a part– and not the most important part at that.

What does this mean? It may mean, if you’re of the age to want to start a family to make a conscious choice to limit how many children you physically bring into the world. Adopting children would be the better first option. It can be very difficult to swim against the tide of public assumption that we need to continue our particular strand of DNA but parenting really isn’t about DNA as much as it is about loving and nurturing a life given into your care. Ironically, while I was at the showing of the Growthbusters film, during a brief break to address technical difficulties, Cate Terwilliger, who was with me at the show, asked Gardner if he thought the problem behind all the growth issues was over-population. A woman in the row ahead of us said in a shrill voice, "You can’t just tell women not to have children. Women are desperate to have children!" This is an echo of what we’re taught to believe. But in reality, some women want to be mothers; the manner in which that happens shouldn’t be the primary focus.

Another way to curb population is to provide education about family planning, contraceptives, the right to choose abortion– all those things that many law-makers are trying to restrict. That’s the reality in our own country; in under-developed countries the situation is even more dire. Many women don’t have access to contraceptives or family planning services. Educating them and providing the needed resources for parents to self-limit their families is crucial to slowing the rate of population growth.

Another, perhaps more radical way is to join the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. This group advocates voluntarily choosing not to have children as their flagship value.

Finally, if the government wants to get involved, about how tax credits for those who adopt rather than give birth; financial incentives to those who voluntarily remain childless or limit the number of birth children to two? Instead of rewarding a way of life that will ultimately strain our beautiful planet who cares so wonderfully for us, why not begin a new way of life that takes into account how our consumption, our addiction to growth, and our culture of sanctifying the existence of a zygote, a fetus rather than the sacred planet on which we live and calls us to be more intentional about the choices we make and to have more choices than we currently do?

Let me be clear: this is not about the family size you already have. It’s about going forward with new choices. I am so incredibly blessed by my son Sam; I can’t imagine life without him, but I think if I were exploring starting a family today I would make a different choice and I will encourage him should he want to start a family one day, to explore adoption as the first option. My nephew, A.J. was born on October 31, 2011 and his mom and grammy (my sister) were interviewed by the local news station about what it was like to theoretically give birth to the 7 billionth baby. I’m thrilled he is on this planet and can’t wait to meet him. I, myself, as the youngest of five, am very grateful my mom had a large family. I love everyone on the planet! And because I do, I am hoping we can choose not to add so many people to it. In this way, hopefully, we can become more in tune with our rightful place as one of the many living things on this planet; we can live more intentionally and thoughtfully; we can breathe easier with more room to stretch out; we can ensure that we are on the path to a global community of justice, peace and equity– not just for humans but for all beings that are in this inter-connected web of creation of which we, too, are a part. It’s not too late to start.

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