Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 2015

Body shapes of dancers: By photographer Howard Schatz

Howard Schatz is an outstanding American photographer.

Patsy Z shared this link via Juan Enriquez
H/t Jeannie Jennie Norberg

“I want to look through the view-finder of the camera and fall in love: I want to look through my view-finder and see an image I’ve never seen before anywhere else!.” Howard Schatz

Image Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artículo relacionado recomendado, también del mismo fotógrafo:

Howard Schatz: With Child

 

How movies teach the varieties of Manhood behaviors?

if you’re a boy, you are a dopey animal, and if you are a girl, you should bring your warrior costume.

Heroes and villains were all females a few decades ago and behaved by making friends. Modern movies they are all males and they keep fighting violently.

By Colin Stokes, Nov. 2012

You know, my favorite part of being a dad is the movies I get to watch. I love sharing my favorite movies with my kids, and when my daughter was four, we got to watch “The Wizard of Oz” together.

It totally dominated her imagination for months. Her favorite character was Glinda, of course. It gave her a great excuse to wear a sparkly dress and carry a wand.

00:34 But you watch that movie enough times, and you start to realize how unusual it is.

Now we live today, and are raising our children, in a kind of children’s-fantasy-spectacular-industrial complex. But “The Wizard of Oz” stood alone. It did not start that trend.

Forty years later was when the trend really caught on, with, interestingly, another movie that featured a metal guy and a furry guy rescuing a girl by dressing up as the enemy’s guards. Do you know what I’m talking about?

There’s a big difference between these two movies, a couple of really big differences between “The Wizard of Oz” and all the movies we watch today.

One is there’s very little violence in “The Wizard of Oz.” The monkeys are rather aggressive, as are the apple trees. But I think if “The Wizard of Oz” were made today, the wizard would say, “Dorothy, you are the savior of Oz that the prophecy foretold. Use your magic slippers to defeat the computer-generated armies of the Wicked Witch.” But that’s not how it happens.

Another thing that’s really unique about “The Wizard of Oz” to me is that all of the most heroic and wise and even villainous characters are female.

I started to notice this when I actually showed “Star Wars” to my daughter, which was years later, and the situation was different. At that point I also had a son. He was only three at the time. He was not invited to the screening. He was too young for that. But he was the second child, and the level of supervision had plummeted.

 So he wandered in, and it imprinted on him like a mommy duck does to its duckling, and I don’t think he understands what’s going on, but he is sure soaking in it.

And I wonder what he’s soaking in. Is he picking up on the themes of courage and perseverance and loyalty?

Is he picking up on the fact that Luke joins an army to overthrow the government?

Is he picking up on the fact that there are only boys in the universe except for Aunt Beru, and of course this princess, who’s really cool, but who kind of waits around through most of the movie so that she can award the hero with a medal and a wink to thank him for saving the universe, which he does by the magic that he was born with?

Compare this to 1939 with “The Wizard of Oz.” How does Dorothy win her movie? By making friends with everybody and being a leader. That’s kind of the world I’d rather raise my kids in — Oz, right? — and not the world of dudes fighting, which is where we kind of have to be.

Why is there so much Force — capital F, Force — in the movies we have for our kids, and so little yellow brick road?

There is a lot of great writing about the impact that the boy-violent movie has on girls, and you should do that reading. It’s very good. I haven’t read as much on how boys are picking up on this vibe.

I know from my own experience that Princess Leia did not provide the adequate context that I could have used in navigating the adult world that is co-ed. (Laughter)

I think there was a first-kiss moment when I really expected the credits to start rolling because that’s the end of the movie, right? I finished my quest, I got the girl. Why are you still standing there? I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.

04:28 The movies are very, very focused on defeating the villain and getting your reward, and there’s not a lot of room for other relationships and other journeys.

It’s almost as though if you’re a boy, you are a dopey animal, and if you are a girl, you should bring your warrior costume.

There are plenty of exceptions, and I will defend the Disney princesses in front of any of you. But they do send a message to boys, that they are not, the boys are not really the target audience.

They are doing a phenomenal job of teaching girls how to defend against the patriarchy, but they are not necessarily showing boys how they’re supposed to defend against the patriarchy.

There’s no models for them. And we also have some terrific women who are writing new stories for our kids, and as three-dimensional and delightful as Hermione and Katniss are, these are still war movies.

And, of course, the most successful studio of all time continues to crank out classic after classic, every single one of them about the journey of a boy, or a man, or two men who are friends, or a man and his son, or two men who are raising a little girl. Until, as many of you are thinking, this year, when they finally came out with “Brave.”

I recommend it to all of you. It’s on demand now. Do you remember what the critics said when “Brave” came out? “Aw, I can’t believe Pixar made a princess movie.” It’s very good. Don’t let that stop you.

 Almost none of these movies pass the Bechdel Test. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this. It has not yet caught on and caught fire, but maybe today we will start a movement.

Alison Bechdel is a comic book artist, and back in the mid-’80s, she recorded this conversation she’d had with a friend about assessing the movies that they saw. And it’s very simple. There’s just three questions you should ask:

1.  Is there more than one character in the movie that is female who has lines? So try to meet that bar.

2. And do these women talk to each other at any point in the movie?

3. And is their conversation about something other than the guy that they both like? (Laughter)

Two women who exist and talk to each other about stuff. It does happen. I’ve seen it, and yet I very rarely see it in the movies that we know and love.

In fact, this week I went to see a very high-quality movie, “Argo.” Right? Oscar buzz, doing great at the box office, a consensus idea of what a quality Hollywood film is. It pretty much flunks the Bechdel test. And I don’t think it should, because a lot of the movie, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but a lot of the movie takes place in this embassy where men and women are hiding out during the hostage crisis.

We’ve got quite a few scenes of the men having deep, angst-ridden conversations in this hideout, and the great moment for one of the actresses is to peek through the door and say, “Are you coming to bed, honey?” That’s Hollywood for you.

07:59 So let’s look at the numbers. 2011, of the 100 most popular movies, how many of them do you think actually have female protagonists? Eleven. It’s not bad.

It’s not as many percent as the number of women we’ve just elected to Congress, so that’s good. But there is a number that is greater than this that’s going to bring this room down.

Last year, The New York Times published a study that the government had done. Here’s what it said. One out of five women in America say that they have been sexually assaulted some time in their life.

 I don’t think that’s the fault of popular entertainment. I don’t think kids’ movies have anything to do with that. I don’t even think that music videos or pornography are really directly related to that, but something is going wrong, and when I hear that statistic, one of the things I think of is that’s a lot of sexual assailants.

Who are these guys? What are they learning? What are they failing to learn? Are they absorbing the story that a male hero’s job is to defeat the villain with violence and then collect the reward, which is a woman who has no friends and doesn’t speak? Are we soaking up that story?

You know, as a parent with the privilege of raising a daughter like all of you who are doing the same thing, we find this world and this statistic very alarming and we want to prepare them. We have tools at our disposal like “girl power,” and we hope that that will help, but I gotta wonder, is girl power going to protect them if, at the same time, actively or passively, we are training our sons to maintain their boy power?

I mean, I think the Netflix queue is one way that we can do something very important, and I’m talking mainly to the dads here. I think we have got to show our sons a new definition of manhood.

The definition of manhood is already turning upside down. You’ve read about how the new economy is changing the roles of caregiver and wage earner. They’re throwing it up in the air. So our sons are going to have to find some way of adapting to this, some new relationship with each other, and I think we really have to show them, and model for them, how a real man is someone who trusts his sisters and respects them, and wants to be on their team, and stands up against the real bad guys, who are the men who want to abuse the women.

And I think our job in the Netflix queue is to look out for those movies that pass the Bechdel Test, if we can find them, and to seek out the heroines who are there, who show real courage, who bring people together, and to nudge our sons to identify with those heroines and to say, “I want to be on their team,” because they’re going to be on their team.

11:28 When I asked my daughter who her favorite character was in “Star Wars,” do you know what she said? Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Glinda. What do these two have in common? Maybe it’s not just the sparkly dress. I think these people are experts.

I think these are the two people in the movie who know more than anybody else, and they love sharing their knowledge with other people to help them reach their potential. Now, they are leaders. I like that kind of quest for my daughter, and I like that kind of quest for my son.

I want more quests like that. I want fewer quests where my son is told, “Go out and fight it alone,” and more quests where he sees that it’s his job to join a team, maybe a team led by women, to help other people become better and be better people, like the Wizard of Oz.

Israel’s reaction as seen on Tom & Jerry!

With respected to the occupied Palestinians, occupied Syrians and the reactions of the world communities to Israel apartheid and racist policies

Many debates have risen on Hezbollah’s attack on an Israeli convoy in the Shebaa Farms which came in retaliation to Israel’s assassination of leaders of the resistant movement in the Golan heights a week earlier. (The response of Hezbollah was quick and swift within a day of the assassination and killing scores of Israeli officers)

(In December of this year, Israel assassinated another leader in the Syrian capital)

No matter what we think about the timing, the reason and the location of this revenge, one cannot but notice the similarity between Israel’s reaction to some scenes from everyone’s favorite cartoon series!

We’ll let the visuals do the talking.

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A few mindful minutes: Is that all we need?

This power of doing absolutely Nothing

We live in an incredibly busy world. The pace of life is often frantic, our minds are always busy, and we’re always doing something.

With that in mind, I’d like you just to take a moment to think, when did you last take any time to do nothing?

Just 10 minutes, undisturbed? And when I say nothing, I do mean nothing.

So that’s no emailing, texting, no Internet, no TV, no chatting, no eating, no reading.

Not even sitting there reminiscing about the past or planning for the future. Simply doing nothing.

I see a lot of very blank faces.

Patsy Z shared this link TED

“We can’t change every little thing that happens to us in life, but we can change the way that we experience it.”

t.ted.com|By Andy Puddicombe
You probably have to go a long way back.

00:51 And this is an extraordinary thing, right? We’re talking about our mind.

The mind, our most valuable and precious resource, through which we experience every single moment of our life.

The mind that we rely upon to be happy, content, emotionally stable as individuals, and at the same time, to be kind and thoughtful and considerate in our relationships with others.

This is the same mind that we depend upon to be focused, creative, spontaneous, and to perform at our very best in everything that we do.

And yet, we don’t take any time out to look after it. In fact, we spend more time looking after our cars, our clothes and our hair than we…but you see where I’m going.

The result, of course, is that we get stressed. You know, the mind whizzes away like a washing machine going round and round, lots of difficult, confusing emotions, and we don’t really know how to deal with that.

And the sad fact is that we are so distracted that we’re no longer present in the world in which we live. We miss out on the things that are most important to us, and the crazy thing is that everybody just assumes, that’s the way life is, so we’ve just kind of got to get on with it. That’s really not how it has to be.

I was about 11 when I went along to my first meditation class. And trust me, it had all the stereotypes that you can imagine, the sitting cross-legged on the floor, the incense, the herbal tea, the vegetarians, the whole deal, but my mom was going and I was intrigued, so I went along with her.

I’d also seen a few kung fu movies, and secretly I kind of thought I might be able to learn how to fly, but I was very young at the time.

Now as I was there, like a lot of people, I assumed that it was just an aspirin for the mind. You get stressed, you do some meditation.

I hadn’t really thought that it could be sort of preventative in nature, until I was about 20, when a number of things happened in my life in quite quick succession, really serious things which just flipped my life upside down and all of a sudden I was inundated with thoughts, inundated with difficult emotions that I didn’t know how to cope with.

Every time I sort of pushed one down, another one would pop back up again. It was a really very stressful time.

I guess we all deal with stress in different ways.

Some people will bury themselves in work, grateful for the distraction.

Others will turn to their friends, their family, looking for support.

Some people hit the bottle, start taking medication.

My own way of dealing with it was to become a monk. So I quit my degree, I headed off to the Himalayas, I became a monk, and I started studying meditation.

03:39 People often ask me what I learned from that time. Well, obviously it changed things.

Let’s face it, becoming a celibate monk is going to change a number of things. But it was more than that. It taught me — it gave me a greater appreciation, an understanding for the present moment.

By that I mean not being lost in thought, not being distracted, not being overwhelmed by difficult emotions, but instead learning how to be in the here and now, how to be mindful, how to be present.

I think the present moment is so underrated.

It sounds so ordinary, and yet we spend so little time in the present moment that it’s anything but ordinary. There was a research paper that came out of Harvard, just recently, that said on average, our minds are lost in thought almost 47% percent of the time.

At the same time, this sort of constant mind-wandering is also a direct cause of unhappiness. Now we’re not here for that long anyway, but to spend almost half of our life lost in thought and potentially quite unhappy,

I don’t know, it just kind of seems tragic, actually, especially when there’s something we can do about it, when there’s a positive, practical, achievable, scientifically proven technique which allows our mind to be more healthy, to be more mindful and less distracted.

And the beauty of it is that even though it need only take about 10 minutes a day, it impacts our entire life.

But we need to know how to do it. We need an exercise. We need a framework to learn how to be more mindful. That’s essentially what meditation is.

It’s familiarizing ourselves with the present moment. But we also need to know how to approach it in the right way to get the best from it.

And that’s what these are for, in case you’ve been wondering, because most people assume that meditation is all about stopping thoughts, getting rid of emotions, somehow controlling the mind, but actually it’s quite different from that.

It’s more about stepping back, sort of seeing the thought clearly, witnessing it coming and going, emotions coming and going without judgment, but with a relaxed, focused mind.

So for example, right now, if I focus too much on the balls, then there’s no way I can relax and talk to you at the same time.

Equally, if I relax too much talking to you, there’s no way I can focus on the balls. I’m going to drop them.

Now in life, and in meditation, there’ll be times when the focus becomes a little bit too intense, and life starts to feel a bit like this. It’s a very uncomfortable way to live life, when you get this tight and stressed.

At other times, we might take our foot off the gas a little bit too much, and things just become a sort of little bit like this. Of course in meditation —

06:40 we’re going to end up falling asleep. So we’re looking for a balance, a focused relaxation where we can allow thoughts to come and go without all the usual involvement.

 What usually happens when we’re learning to be mindful is that we get distracted by a thought. Let’s say this is an anxious thought. Everything’s going fine, and we see the anxious thought. “Oh, I didn’t realize I was worried about that.” You go back to it, repeat it. “Oh, I am worried. I really am worried. Wow, there’s so much anxiety.” And before we know it, right, we’re anxious about feeling anxious.

You know, this is crazy. We do this all the time, even on an everyday level. If you think about the last time you had a wobbly tooth. You know it’s wobbly, and you know that it hurts. But what do you do every 20, 30 seconds?

07:33 It does hurt. And we reinforce the storyline, right?

And we just keep telling ourselves, and we do it all the time. And it’s only in learning to watch the mind in this way that we can start to let go of those storylines and patterns of mind.

But when you sit down and you watch the mind in this way, you might see many different patterns. You might find a mind that’s really restless and — the whole time.

Don’t be surprised if you feel a bit agitated in your body when you sit down to do nothing and your mind feels like that. You might find a mind that’s very dull and boring, and it’s just, almost mechanical, it just seems it’s as if you’re getting up, going to work, eat, sleep, get up, work. Or it might just be that one little nagging thought that just goes round and round your mind.

08:21 Well, whatever it is, meditation offers the opportunity, the potential to step back and to get a different perspective, to see that things aren’t always as they appear. We can’t change every little thing that happens to us in life, but we can change the way that we experience it.

That’s the potential of meditation, of mindfulness. You don’t have to burn any incense, and you definitely don’t have to sit on the floor.

All you need to do is to take 10 minutes out a day to step back, to familiarize yourself with the present moment so that you get to experience a greater sense of focus, calm and clarity in your life.

2015 in review

In summary: 190,000 views, and 850 articles posted.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 190,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 8 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

 

The Confused Person’s Guide to Understanding Yemen

Note: In the last 9 months, the US/Saudi let pre-emptive war on Yemen has totally demolished Yemen infrastructure, hospitals, schools, dams… Million are displaced and dying of famine and health degradation…

 ‘What the hell is exactly happening in Yemen?’

‘What the hell is exactly happening in Yemen?’ is now one of the most urgent geopolitical questions in the Middle East.

Few people are qualified or knowledgeable enough to answer this pressing question. Most experts agree that most experts can’t give you a straight answer.

The reality is Yemen is a complex place that is very hard to understand for outsiders, and even more so for insiders. Indeed most of the people asking what is happening in Yemen are Yemenis themselves.

Karl reMarks posted:

I am not an expert on Yemen but being Lebanese I am an expert at not knowing what is happening in my country, which gives me a valuable insight into the situation in Yemen.

Not one to shy away from difficult challenges, I have compiled this essential primer on Yemen that will help you understand its politics and prepare you for what will happen there next.

(Experts also agree that anything is possible there next, which narrows it down a bit.)

1. The first thing to understand is that Yemen is an ancient land, as the Yemenis themselves always remind you.

It is thought that Yemen existed when the Earth was first created, and there’s strong evidence to suggest that it was the location of the Garden of Eden because Eden and Aden sound a bit similar, especially in English. This helps explain why Yemenis think they are a cut above the rest.

2. Until 1990, Yemen used to be divided into two states, North Yemen and South Yemen, until leaders in both countries realised they could merge the two countries and save on stationery costs.

This however created deep resentments, much like when a couple move in together and have to consolidate their belongings and get used to sleeping in the same room with someone who insists on keeping the windows open even in winter.

Such unreasonable behaviour I have never seen before. But I digress.

This deep resentment continued to simmer and boil for the past 25 years, as deep resentments have a habit of doing. We can’t understand what is happening now in Yemen without understanding that this deep resentment has something to do with it, although most experts agree they’re not quite sure what exactly.

It is not inappropriate however to suggest that division is a possibility now, particularly if we caveat it with ambiguous references. For example, one can say: ‘the south might push for independence but not unless it has good reasons to do that’.

(Mind you that the south was Marxist before the unification: It is now a Qaeda base for the Saudis alliance)

3. To complicate matters further, Yemen is not religiously homogenous, which always spices things up in Middle Eastern countries, particularly for external observers looking for convenient categorisations.

About two-thirds of Yemenis are Sunni while the other third is Shia. They are however Zaidi Shias unlike the Shias of Iran who are Twelver, but it’s best to lump them all together because it simplifies things immensely (for the talking head of western experts).

Yemen is also host to a thriving al-Qaeda community, who are the Houthis’ biggest enemy in Yemen.

The Houthis are Zaidis which explains their hatred of al-Qaeda, as if anyone needed a reason to hate al-Qaeda. The two groups are so opposed to each other that the only thing they can agree on is that they both hate America and the Jews, but not necessarily in that order.

The Houthis’ slogan, incidentally, is “Death to America, death to Israel, curse on the Jews, victory to Islam”, which in the words of Tony Blair shows ‘a lack of commitment to the values of tolerance and diversity’, if Tony Blair were to comment on the slogan. It also shows that they are dickheads (you mean the Tony Blair kinds?), but this shouldn’t cloud our judgment of them.

4. As is generally known, Yemenis consume the stimulant drug Qat in huge quantities. What is less known is that Sunnis refer to it is as Qat, while Shias refer to it as Qit.

Children of mixed marriages call it Qit-Qat.

5. On a related note, Yemen is the birthplace of coffee, which we are all hugely grateful for, but it does suggest that Yemenis have a thing for stimulants. As one 19th century anthropologist put it ‘is it any wonder that these people are so jumpy?’

6. The traditional Yemeni dagger, the Janbiya is also an essential item to understand the political dynamics in Yemen. All Yemeni males wear this item, but here again Sunni Janbiyas curve to the left while Shia Janbiyas curve to the right. However, if you’re standing in front of a mirror it could be a bit confusing.

When the leader of the Houthis gave a speech on television this week, his Janbiya was held in the upright position, which experts agree was a sign of confrontation.

In Yemeni culture a dagger is seen as symbol of aggression because it is a phallic symbol. Had he worn it at an angle, or even horizontally, we could have expected his willingness to negotiate. As it stands, the situation looks very dangerous indeed.

So what is in store for Yemen now that the President, the Vice President, the Prime Minister, the Parliament and one third-grade teacher in the north of the country have all resigned?

The absence of any political authority in a Middle Eastern country can best be understood through metaphors about the dangers of political vacuums. One can say for example ‘Yemen is facing the abyss’ or ‘staring into the void’ or ‘on the precipice of disintegration’. These phrases, while they don’t actually tell you anything, do convey an appropriate sense of impending doom.

The one thing that we can be certain of now is that Yemen is at a crossroads.

7. In addition to these internal complications, Iran and Saudi Arabia have been both anxious to open another arena for their passive-aggressive regional contest, and Yemen appears to be their choice of venue.

To sound wise, suggest that the decline in the price of oil has something do with it, but say you’re not quite sure what. Be prepared for sightings of Iran’s notorious and shadowy General Qasem Soleimani, and don’t hesitate to say ‘Bandar’ at appropriate moments and nod your head knowingly.

And keep an eye on the Janbiyas.

Move on stupid. Let go of Your God

On September 10, the morning of my seventh birthday, I came downstairs to the kitchen, where my mother was washing the dishes and my father was reading the paper or something, and I sort of presented myself to them in the doorway, and they said, “Hey, happy birthday!”

And I said, “I’m seven.” And my father smiled and said, “Well, you know what that means, don’t you?” And I said, “Yeah, that I’m going to have a party and a cake and get a lot of presents?”

And my dad said, “Well, yes. But more importantly, being seven means that you’ve reached the age of reason, and you’re now capable of committing any and all sins against God and man.”

Patsy Z and TEDxSKE shared a link.
ted.com|By Julia Sweeney

00:52 Now, I had heard this phrase, “age of reason,” before. Sister Mary Kevin had been bandying it about my second-grade class at school.

But when she said it, the phrase seemed all caught up in the excitement of preparations for our first communion and our first confession, and everybody knew that was really all about the white dress and the white veil.

And anyway, I hadn’t really paid all that much attention to that phrase, “age of reason.” So, I said, “Yeah, yeah, age of reason. What does that mean again?”

And my dad said, “Well, we believe, in the Catholic Church, that God knows that little kids don’t know the difference between right and wrong, but when you’re seven, you’re old enough to know better. So, you’ve grown up and reached the age of reason, and now God will start keeping notes on you, and begin your permanent record.”  

And I said, “Oh … Wait a minute. You mean all that time, up till today, all that time I was so good, God didn’t notice it?” And my mom said, “Well, I noticed it.”

And I thought, “How could I not have known this before? How could it not have sunk in when they’d been telling me? All that being good and no real credit for it.

And worst of all, how could I not have realized this very important information until the very day that it was basically useless to me?”

So I said, “Well, Mom and Dad, what about Santa Claus? I mean, Santa Claus knows if you’re naughty or nice, right?” And my dad said, “Yeah, but, honey, I think that’s technically just between Thanksgiving and Christmas.” And my mother said, “Oh, Bob, stop it. Let’s just tell her. I mean, she’s seven. Julie, there is no Santa Claus.”

Now, this was actually not that upsetting to me. My parents had this whole elaborate story about Santa Claus: how they had talked to Santa Claus himself and agreed that instead of Santa delivering our presents over the night of Christmas Eve, like he did for every other family who got to open their surprises first thing Christmas morning, our family would give Santa more time. (That’s the smart way of buying gifts: When they are on sale)

Santa would come to our house while we were at nine o’clock high mass on Christmas morning, but only if all of us kids did not make a fuss. Which made me very suspicious.

It was pretty obvious that it was really our parents giving us the presents. I mean, my dad had a very distinctive wrapping style, and my mother’s handwriting was so close to Santa’s.

Plus, why would Santa save time by having to loop back to our house after he’d gone to everybody else’s? There was only one obvious conclusion to reach from this mountain of evidence: our family was too strange and weird for even Santa Claus to come visit, and my poor parents were trying to protect us from the embarrassment, this humiliation of rejection by Santa, who was jolly — but let’s face it, he was also very judgmental. So to find out that there was no Santa Claus at all was actually sort of a relief.

I left the kitchen not really in shock about Santa, but rather, I was just dumbfounded about how I could have missed this whole age of reason thing.

It was too late for me, but maybe I could help someone else, someone who could use the information. They had to fit two criteria: they had to be old enough to be able to understand the whole concept of the age of reason, and not yet seven.

The answer was clear: my brother Bill. He was six. Well, I finally found Bill about a block away from our house at this public school playground. It was a Saturday, and he was all by himself, just kicking a ball against the side of a wall.

I ran up to him and said, “Bill! I just realized that the age of reason starts when you turn seven, and then you’re capable of committing any and all sins against God and man.” And Bill said, “So?” And I said, “So, you’re six. You have a whole year to do anything you want to and God won’t notice it.”

And he said, “So?” And I said, “So? So everything!” And I turned to run. I was so angry with him. But when I got to the top of the steps, I turned around dramatically and said, “Oh, by the way, Bill — there is no Santa Claus.”

04:48 Now, I didn’t know it at the time, but I really wasn’t turning seven on September 10th. For my 13th birthday, I planned a slumber party with all of my girlfriends, but a couple of weeks beforehand my mother took me aside and said, “I need to speak to you privately. September 10th is not your birthday. It’s October 10th.” And I said, “What?”

05:13 “Listen. The cut-off date to start kindergarten was September 15th.”

 “So I told them that your birthday was September 10th, and then I wasn’t sure that you weren’t just going to go blab it all over the place, so I started to tell you your birthday was September 10th. But, Julie, you were so ready to start school, honey. You were so ready.”

I thought about it, and when I was four, I was already the oldest of four children, and my mother even had another child to come, so what I think she — understandably — really meant was that she was so ready, she was so ready.

Then she said, “Don’t worry, Julie. Every year on October 10th, when it was your birthday but you didn’t realize it, I made sure that you ate a piece of cake that day.”

Which was comforting, but troubling. My mother had been celebrating my birthday with me, without me.

06:05 What was so upsetting about this new piece of information was not that I had to change the date of my slumber party with all of my girlfriends. What was most upsetting was that this meant I was not a Virgo.

I had a huge Virgo poster in my bedroom. And I read my horoscope every single day, and it was so totally me.

And this meant that I was a Libra?

So, I took the bus downtown to get the new Libra poster. The Virgo poster is a picture of a beautiful woman with long hair, sort of lounging by some water, but the Libra poster is just a huge scale. This was around the time that I started filling out physically, and I was filling out a lot more than a lot of the other girls, and frankly, the whole idea that my astrological sign was a scale just seemed ominous and depressing.

06:55 But I got the new Libra poster, and I started to read my new Libra horoscope, and I was astonished to find that it was also totally me.

 It wasn’t until years later, looking back on this whole age-of-reason, change-of-birthday thing, that it dawned on me: I wasn’t turning seven when I thought I turned seven. I had a whole other month to do anything I wanted to before God started keeping tabs on me. Oh, life can be so cruel.

One day, two Mormon missionaries came to my door. Now, I just live off a main thoroughfare in Los Angeles, and my block is — well, it’s a natural beginning for people who are peddling things door to door.

Sometimes I get little old ladies from the Seventh Day Adventist Church showing me these cartoon pictures of heaven. And sometimes I get teenagers who promise me that they won’t join a gang and just start robbing people, if I only buy some magazine subscriptions from them.

So normally, I just ignore the doorbell, but on this day, I answered. And there stood two boys, each about 19, in white, starched short-sleeved shirts, and they had little name tags that identified them as official representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they said they had a message for me, from God.

I said, “A message for me? From God?” And they said, “Yes.” Now, I was raised in the Pacific Northwest, around a lot of Church of Latter-day Saints people and, you know, I’ve worked with them and even dated them, but I never really knew the doctrine, or what they said to people when they were out on a mission, and I guess I was sort of curious, so I said, “Well, please, come in.”

And they looked really happy, because I don’t think this happens to them all that often.

08:35 And I sat them down, and I got them glasses of water — Ok, I got it, I got it. I got them glasses of water. Don’t touch my hair, that’s the thing.

You can’t put a video of myself in front of me and expect me not to fix my hair. Ok.

 So I sat them down and I got them glasses of water, and after niceties, they said, “Do you believe that God loves you with all his heart?” And I thought, “Well, of course I believe in God, but you know, I don’t like that word ‘heart,’ because it anthropomorphizes God, and I don’t like the word, ‘his,’ either, because that sexualizes God.”

But I didn’t want to argue semantics with these boys, so after a very long, uncomfortable pause, I said, “Yes, yes, I do. I feel very loved.” And they looked at each other and smiled, like that was the right answer.

And then they said, “Do you believe that we’re all brothers and sisters on this planet?” And I said, “Yes, I do.”

And I was so relieved that it was a question I could answer so quickly. And they said, “Well, then we have a story to tell you.”

09:53 And they told me this story all about this guy named Lehi, who lived in Jerusalem in 600 BC. Now, apparently in Jerusalem in 600 BC, everyone was completely bad and evil. Every single one of them: man, woman, child, infant, fetus. And God came to Lehi and said to him, “Put your family on a boat and I will lead you out of here.”

And God did lead them. He led them to America. I said, “America?

From Jerusalem to America by boat in 600 BC?” And they said, “Yes.”

10:29 Then they told me how Lehi and his descendants reproduced and reproduced, and over the course of 600 years, there were two great races of them, the Nephites and the Lamanites.

 And the Nephites were totally good — each and every one of them — and the Lamanites were totally bad and evil — every single one of them just bad to the bone.

Then, after Jesus died on the cross for our sins, on his way up to heaven, he stopped by America and visited the Nephites.

And he told them that if they all remained totally, totally good — each and every one of them — they would win the war against the evil Lamanites. But apparently somebody blew it, because the Lamanites were able to kill all the Nephites.

All but one guy, this guy named Mormon, who managed to survive by hiding in the woods. And he made sure this whole story was written down in reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics chiseled onto gold plates, which he then buried near Palmyra, New York.

Well, I was just on the edge of my seat.

Americans, here in the U.S.” And I said, “So, you believe the Native Americans are descended from a people who were totally evil?” And they said, “Yes.”

Then they told me how this guy named Joseph Smith found those buried gold plates right in his backyard, and he also found this magic stone back there that he put into his hat and then buried his face into, and this allowed him to translate the gold plates from the reformed Egyptian into English.

12:05 Well, at this point I just wanted to give these two boys some advice about their pitch.

 “Ok, don’t start with this story.” I mean, even the Scientologists know to start with a personality test before they start telling people all about Xenu, the evil intergalactic overlord.

Then, they said, “Do you believe that God speaks to us through his righteous prophets?” And I said, “No, I don’t,” because I was sort of upset about this Lamanite story and this crazy gold plate story, but the truth was, I hadn’t really thought this through, so I backpedaled a little and I said, “Well, what exactly do you mean by ‘righteous’?

And what do you mean by prophets? Like, could the prophets be women?” And they said, “No.” And I said, “Why?” And they said, “Well, it’s because God gave women a gift that is so spectacular, it is so wonderful, that the only gift he had left over to give men was the gift of prophecy.”

What is this wonderful gift God gave women, I wondered? Maybe their greater ability to cooperate and adapt?

13:17 Women’s longer lifespan? The fact that women tend to be much less violent than men?

But no — it wasn’t any of these gifts. They said, “Well, it’s her ability to bear children.” I said, “Oh, come on. I mean, even if women tried to have a baby every single year from the time they were 15 to the time they were 45, assuming they didn’t die from exhaustion, it still seems like some women would have some time left over to hear the word of God.” And they said, “No.”

Well, then they didn’t look so fresh-faced and cute to me any more, but they had more to say. They said, “Well, we also believe that if you’re a Mormon, and if you’re in good standing with the church, when you die, you get to go to heaven and be with your family for all eternity.”

And I said, “Oh, dear. That wouldn’t be such a good incentive for me.”

14:12 And they said, “Oh.

Hey! Well, we also believe that when you go to heaven, you get your body restored to you in its best original state. Like, if you’d lost a leg, well, you get it back. Or, if you’d gone blind, you could see.”

I said, “Oh. Now, I don’t have a uterus, because I had cancer a few years ago. So does this mean that if I went to heaven, I would get my old uterus back?” And they said, “Sure.” And I said, “I don’t want it back. I’m happy without it.” Gosh. What if you had a nose job and you liked it?

14:48 Would God force you to get your old nose back? Then they gave me this Book of Mormon, told me to read this chapter and that chapter, and said they’d come back and check in on me, and I think I said something like, “Please don’t hurry,” or maybe just, “Please don’t,” and they were gone.

Ok, so I initially felt really superior to these boys, and smug in my more conventional faith. But then the more I thought about it, the more I had to be honest with myself.

If someone came to my door and I was hearing Catholic theology and dogma for the very first time, and they said, “We believe that God impregnated a very young girl without the use of intercourse, and the fact that she was a virgin is maniacally important to us.”

15:27 “And she had a baby, and that’s the son of God,” I mean, I would think that’s equally ridiculous. I’m just so used to that story.

So, I couldn’t let myself feel condescending towards these boys. But the question they asked me when they first arrived really stuck in my head: Did I believe that God loved me with all his heart?

Because I wasn’t exactly sure how I felt about that question. Now, if they had asked me, “Do you feel that God loves you with all his heart?”

Well, that would have been much different, I think I would have instantly answered, “Yes, yes, I feel it all the time. I feel God’s love when I’m hurt and confused, and I feel consoled and cared for. I take shelter in God’s love when I don’t understand why tragedy hits, and I feel God’s love when I look with gratitude at all the beauty I see.”

But since they asked me that question with the word “believe” in it, somehow it was all different, because I wasn’t exactly sure if I believed what I so clearly felt.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

December 2015
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