Friday, March 29, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Broken

"Cars break down and people break down and other things break down, too, so let's go down together." ~The Refreshments

This week's five minute friday prompt - Broken - doesn't bring to mind cars or material items or even promises. It brings to mind people. 

Five Minute FridayThe world is broken. It is shattered into a million (billion) pieces, and all I want with my heart and soul right now is to put it back together again. Like the ever present egg, though, I'm afraid that if all the king's horses and all the king's men can't do it - well, how could I? 

But I need to begin. I need to wash out some wounds with water and peroxide. I need to put on a soothing salve and bandage. Even if it's just a paper cut on the finger of this world, it's something. 

Because there is one thing I know about this word - Broken. It didn't make me think of myself, and there was a time, not so long ago, when it would have. I am not broken, not any more. 

I took a psychological inventory test thingy this week (MMPI-2), and the result came back almost painfully normal. I was shocked beyond reckoning. I call myself a little crazy, a little nuts, not quite all together. But as it turns out, just knowing my weaknesses (and my strengths) makes me NOT crazy, not nuts, not pathologically afflicted. 

"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see."

I made this in 2011 - not so very long ago.

No, that's not a reference to the grace of God or Christian faith. At one point, I sang it bitterly, as a reference to how lost I was *in* the conservative Christian faith of my upbringing. But now...

I've been saved from brokenness, by the grace of good people. If it works for you, you can say that those people are the hands of God working in the world. I'm healed enough, now, that I can grant you that with no reticence. For me, I think, those hands and that grace ARE divinity, whatever you may call it.

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Remember

Remember. Remember things you never knew. Remember what's deep inside the Universal Consciousness, those primal things that we know before we can know. Reflexes. Crawling to our mother's breast to eat. Crying, breathing, sucking. Is there something spiritual in there to be remembered? Should we remember those things? Do we have a choice?

Remember. Remember these moments. You always hear people talk about how happy they were when they were young, and they didn't know it. I know it. And I need to remember. This is why I take pictures, why I blog, why I Facebook the funny things my kids say and the sweet things they do. I heard  someone complain recently about how fake their friends' Facebook pages are - how they only ever post the good, happy, cheerful moments, and never the real, raw ones. Well, who the hell wants to remember those?! 

Granted, sometimes I think it would be nice if grandmothers and mothers and mothers-in-law would remember more about how hard it is to be a mother to young children, a wife in a new marriage, someone learning to keep a house and a job and a family. Not that all of those apply to me, but they apply to a lot of people with mothers, mothers-in-law, and grandmothers who don't seem to ever remember having had to really TRY to make those things work. 

But I don't want to remember that, except inasmuch as it brings me compassion. I just want to remember these moments of love and pure joy that my family bring to me. Because they do, and often. And so that's what I put on the Internet for posterity - even if no one is reading, because *I* can go back and read it, when my kids are grown, and have kids of their own. 

Remember the life that has brought us here, to this joy, in all its ups and downs. Maybe don't remember the specific sorrows of that life past, but remember their depths. Know that those moments, in all their pain, were steps on the path that brought you here. Here to this moment, which is worth remembering. 

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Greek Civilization and UU Governance

When we officially return to homeschooling next fall, Quentin (my 8 year old) will begin reading age-appropriate translations of The Iliad and The Odyssey. Despite a few attempts, I have never read these myself, but was hoping to learn along with or a little ahead of my son. So when the opportunity presented itself to take a free online course through HarvardX this semester, entitled "The Ancient Greek Hero" and largely composed of the study of those two Homeric epics (come join me if you like, the class only started today, and is semi self-paced), I jumped at the chance.

The introduction to the course involves some discussion of the Ancient Greek world, political structures, and civilization in general. As I read, my brain was quick to make associations between the writing and the topics marinating deeper in my brain (about religion and Unitarian Universalism, in particular).

In The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours Professor Gregory Nagy begins to explain the Greek "city-state" and what that meant to the citizens.
The ancient Greeks would agree that they shared the same language, despite the staggering variety of local dialects. They would even agree that they shared a civilization, though they would be intensely contentious about what exactly their shared civilization would be. Each city-state had its own institutions, that is, its own government, constitution, laws, calendars, religious practices, and so on. Both the sharing and the contentiousness lie at the root of the very essence of the city-state. What I am translating here as 'city-state' is the Greek word polis. This is the word from which our words political and politics are derived.

Read this paragraph again, replacing "Greek" with "UU," "civilization" with "religion," and "city-state" with "congregation." Sounds just about right, doesn't it? And the word for UU governance is polity (a word that confounded me for far too long - why do we UUs, who claim to be a religion for the huddled masses, who want to expand, insist on using language that turns us into a secret society, an old boys' club that, even when you attend, seems impossible to break into linguistically? Another post for another day, I suppose), from the same root, and in fact is its own political structure in Ancient Greek civilization. I'd like to explore that in more depth some day as well.

Nagy goes on to clarify Aristotle's discussion of polis and humanity.
Here is the original Greek wording, ho anthrōpos phusei politikon zōion (Aristotle Politics I 1253a2–3), which can be translated literally this way: 'A human [anthrōpos] is by nature an organism of the polis [politikon zōion]'. [2] We see in this wording the basis for a distinctly Greek concept of civilization. What Aristotle is really saying here is that humans achieve their ultimate potential within a society that is the polis. From this point of view, the ultimate in human potential is achieved politically.
Eventually, the few consistencies amongst the Greek city-states are described, including festivals, knowledge bases, and poetry. Continuing the UU analogy (we do have some things in common, after all, don't we?), one could argue that we UUs can best reach our own human (and spiritual?) potential within the societal structure that is affiliation - society, a congregation- in all its benefits and struggles. This seems a profound statement, and I'm interested to learn more. Unfortunately, this topic is only tangential to my coursework, and indeed, I have much more to read before I've finished the week's assignment.

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Homeschoolers at Heart

Lately, I've taken to tagging many of my Instagram pictures with #homeschoolersatheart. After all, we didn't stop being life-learners just because Quentin started attending public school. Both boys continue to ask fascinating questions, and we keep helping them learn to find answers.

This morning, around 7:45, after Luke had left for work but before it was time for Quentin to walk to school, Jude and I started talking about sex and gender. He has taken to calling boys "XY" and girls "XX" lately, after having watched a Bill Nye the Science Guy episode about genetics (or was it probability?). Jude, who sometimes decides he's a girl, thought that maybe his chromosomes change periodically. Quentin wondered what would happen if someone had two Y chromosomes, either together with an X or without any X. Then he wondered about having three Xs or just one.

Ask me how much I know about genetics. The answer is only the most basic jr. high level information. So how on earth could I answer a question like that? How can parents be teachers after all?

Enter Google. If schools in the cloud aren't a reality, learning in the cloud certainly is. We tried asking Siri, but she struggles with voice recognition when the boys are the ones speaking to her. So I typed in Quentin's question ("What happens if your dad gives you two Y chromosomes?") and off we went to explore genetics and DNA replication.

Together, Quentin and I discovered how Trisomy X, Down's Syndrome, and Turner's Syndrome manifest genetically and physically. We learned that there are key developmental triggers on the X chromosome, and so no embryo can survive without at least one copy.

We had a social lesson, about the ways people can look and act differently, from those who choose to personify a gender different from what their chromosomes have determined for them, to those who have extra chromosomes or not enough and might have unusual features or be slower to understand, and we faced the sad truth that not everyone is as kind and compassionate as our family strives to be - even adults sometimes mistreat people who are different ("They should know better!" said Q).

We are life learners, full of curiosity. In June, we'll be more than homeschoolers at heart; we'll be homeschoolers in reality once more. I can't wait to see what we continue to learn when we have more than four hours together each day to explore. (and I'm thinking again about starting ANOTHER genre blog... stay tuned)