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1/31/11

The Cessation of Suffering

Last summer, one of my mother's neighbors lost a teenage child in a very sad and very unexpected accident.

In many ways, the community, particularly the LDS community, (as the child was Mormon,) rallied around the family. They held memorials, and people tied ribbons around their trees, lampposts, and street signs. A constant reminder of the unanticipated loss.

Last week, in a unit on World Religions, my students and I learned about Buddhism. We studied The Four Noble truths, the first of which acknowledges "The existence of suffering."

Now, every time I drive past a frayed and discolored ribbon, I remember the existence of suffering. Somewhere, someone lost their world.

Over time, however, it was interesting to see some people react to the mother's seemingly prolonged, and still very raw suffering.

"She just needs to move on,"

"She needs to remember that she will see her again"

"She should count her blessings, she was blessed with that sweet spirit for 16 years"

"She just seems to have lost her faith. It is so sad when people let these experiences shake their faith."

After a certain point, for many people, it becomes inconvenient to recognize the existence of suffering. It cuts into having fun, watching The Bachelor, and, dare I say it? Baking cupcakes.


For some Mormons, we struggle to reconcile the need to recognize suffering with our beliefs. How many Jack Weyland novels held a funeral where the only LDS person in attendance wore a "lovely shade of blue" instead of black? Symbolizing that Mormons are special because we don't need to mourn. Why mourn if we really have enough faith? We tell potential converts that our funerals aren't sad, but rather a "Celebration."

The Second Noble Truth emphasizes the "Cause of Suffering." In order to transcend this world, we must allow ourselves to identify the cause of our suffering. Whether it is loss of a child, or simply the pain of living in an imperfect world.

When many LDS people felt pain after hearing Elder Packer's conference talk, the response by the LDS community varied. Some acknowledged the existence of suffering: It is hard to be Gay and Mormon. It is hard to be politically liberal and Mormon. Sometimes, it is just hard to be Mormon.

But many did not want to acknowledge the existence of suffering. Suffering became a sign of a lack of faith, a lack of conviction, a lack of testimony in the Lord's anointed.

"It breaks my heart to see LDS people react this way"

(Responding to your own suffering, but not the suffering of others, does not lead to Enlightenment. It leads to conflict, which Buddhists recognize as a hindrance to personal growth.)


"They just need to get over it."

"If they can't follow the prophet, then they should leave the church."


"This is the sifting and of the wheat and the tares."

"Choose not to be offended."

In LDS culture, it is considered a commandment not to be offended. A simple request not to cling to hurt feelings turned into a complete disregard of feelings associated with pain or hurt.


I've always identified with the LDS Hymn "Where Can I Turn for Peace." Most notably because it recognizes the existence of suffering:

Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When, with a wounded heart, anger, or malice
I draw myself apart searching my soul?


Where, when my aching grows?
Where, when I languish?
Where, in my need to know?
Where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?

Anger, malice, anguish. Feelings that when recognized, allow us to draw closer to God, the quiet hand that calms us, teaches us what we need to know, and heals our wounded hearts. Is it possible that in our desire to be faithful and not offended, we turn away from opportunities to converse with God? When we acknowledge suffering, do we allow ourselves to find answers?

According the the New Testament, when the Savior found himself in the Garden of Gethsemane, he wanted his friends to stay awake with him. He didn't feel the need to prove his faith in a time of adversity. He did not see it as a lack of faith to acknowledge his pain. He did not feel shame for questioning a very difficult plan.

The Third Noble Truth tells us that "Elimination of suffering is possible." The Fourth Noble Truth tells us that we must find "The path to the cessation of suffering."


I submit that we must find that path together. Not just by hanging ribbons, but by staying awake with our friends during the long nights of suffering. Even when those friends doubt, disagree, and force you to question your faith. After all:

"Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule. "

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."

1/29/11

well then.

After offending SAHMS, people with cooking blogs, Mormons, and probably you, I decided to take a breather. Being offensive is really hard work.


No. Seriously, can we be friends again?

Here is an update on my life, because I am fascinating.


1. Spouse-to-the-man (Would I bug people if I started referring to him as THE PROVIDER in an ironic/sarcastic way? Because I apparently made a covenant to do that ((the provider part, not the sarcastic part, anyway,)) NEWS TO ME.*) went out of town for the longest 3 day business trip known to humankind. Longest because apparently, according to weather on the East Coast, 3 days means 6. Okay, New York.


2. Because Spouseman was gone, I had no one to distract me with various Hot-Girls-Solving-Crimes TV show marathons, so I was able to kick major ass as an educator. I mean, I always try, regardless of what Jennifer Love Hewitt is doing, but this week was a show up at work at 6:15 am week.

If anyone told me that some day I would consider 5:45 am "sleeping in" I would have punched you in the face. I want to punch myself in the face.


3. Last night THE PROVIDER MAN OF PROVIDING came home and got me nine kinds of addicted to Criminal Minds. That show is creepy the heck creepy. And also good.



4. My cousin apparently grew up with Crazy SLC Michelle from The Bachelor. Some people have all the damn luck.


What is new with you?






*Said in the comments of a previous post.

1/15/11

i don't trust you if

1. You have unusual facial hair. Male or female. (Including but not limited soul-patches, weirdly manicured side burns, and most abhorrently of all: ironic mustaches.)


2. You sincerely enjoy working out.


3. You like Sarah Palin, or her familiar, Glen Beck.



4. You are "inspired" by material objects, or photos of material objects. (Thanks for the rage, Gurr.)



5. You believe that the "Bachelor" is not scripted/manipulated in some way.




6. You wear clothing from Urban Outfitters, or Anthropologie. Yes, this mean sometimes I do not trust myself.



7. You turn the words "thrift," and "gift," into verbs. (Can I get an "Amen?")




8. You have more than one blog.




9. You don't like school.




10. You like Thomas Kinkade.



11. You don't eat carbs.






This doesn't mean I don't LIKE you. I like tons of people. I'm just suspicious of you/think you aren't entirely human/am upset that you aren't sharing whatever you are on/would like some of your Kool-Aid, etc.


Who don't you trust?

1/13/11

inevitably, this will have people convinced that i hate them. i don't.

I'd like to discuss SAHMs, and a thing that they do that bugs me. No, it isn't staying at home with their kids. Frankly, so long as you aren't abusing them I don't care how child-care goes down in your home. To each their own.*

I do hate it though, when SAHMs go to great lengths to explain why they aren't doing something else. Especially when it sounds accidentally smug. Accidental smugness happens when you say something about yourself in a nice way while simultaneously insulting everyone else. **

For instance, the oft-said:

"I decided to make my young children my priority."

Um, as opposed to working moms who work in order to support their families? Since when was making sure your kid had food a bad priority? Or piano lessons?

Or:


"I want to be there for all my baby's firsts!"


Well, so does the rest of the world, so see previous paragraphs. The other thing that bugs me about this is the illogical conclusion that good, devoted, SAHMs spend every moment with their kid, gazing longingly into their eyes, and engaging in meaningful interaction. * Not so.


There is always going to be something that takes you away from your kid. Some people just get paid for their thing. If you don't that is totally cool, just own it.



Look, I understand (as much as a childless person can,) that SAHMs are under- appreciated, and it is hard work, and important work. But life is hard, and important, and the way to get me to appreciate you more isn't to tell me my (future, as not pregnant,) priorities are out of whack should I choose to work it up and Mom it up at the same time.


Lets all just make a promise that no matter what we do, we just admit it. I'm a SAHM because I wanted to, and I could. I'm a working mom because I wanted to and I could. I'm an overly opinionated blogger who will inevitably get misunderstood for this post, but I wanted to post it, and I can.







The end.
















*Dude, one of the biggest "God wants you to stay home" proponents I (e) know openly acknowledges spending eleventy million hours a day online. I'd rather get paid.


**SAHMs, if this post really bugs you, feel free to express how annoyed you feel when people tell you they could never do your job, because the need more external validation because they have such huge brains, or whatever. I'm sure being accidentally smugged (they are essentially saying you're too stupid to realize you're bored,) sucks just as bad.

1/9/11

your sunday heresy

Last week, Dan invited the missionaries over to dinner. Generally, I am fine with missionaries. But one has to admit, some are better than others. Last time we fed the missionaries, the Elders ignored me, but had no problem looking over my DVD collection and asking my husband which movies were good.*


Like most human interactions, though, I find that if I keep my expectations low, I am generally not disappointed.

Monday rolled around, and the new missionaries came on time (bonus points,) and were polite and gracious. I've noticed that missionaries tend to get paired with an opposite. For every gregarious Type A Elder, there is a Type B.

Elder A was charming and funny, he made us answer doctrinal questions over dinner, which I obliged because I was feeling kind, and I understand that in his world, it is the DOCTRINE OF GOD 24/7.

Elder B was quiet. He mentioned that it was hard for him to introduce himself to others. He was shy in a lovable way that suggests he would never want to deliberately offend. He takes deep breaths before he speaks.


I liked him. I remember when I first went away from home on Study Abroad, that I prayed that my roommates would like me. I suspect he might have done the same. While Elder A and my husband talked shop (THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST.) Elder B and I discussed our mutual interest in World War I.


At the end of the meal, however, Elder B ended the conversation, turned to my Spouse, and said "As head of the household, would you please call on someone to say the closing prayer?"


Pulling the "male presiding as head of the household" card is like Kryptonite to me.

Normally, I would have informed Elder B that my spouse and I were equal partners in leading our home. If I were feeling particularly vindictive, I may have mentioned that when my husband and I pay our bills, I pay the mortgage on our home. Financially, this household exists because of me. (And all our other amenities exist, including our business, because of my Spouse. Due credit.)

But I didn't. Because I liked Elder B. Because he was kind and sweet and smart, and I knew that he would never deliberately hurt my feelings, or offend me.

He simply thought that because my husband and I were obviously righteous missionary-feeding Mormons living in Zion, that we must abide by the very traditional gender roles of many church members. Perhaps he was raised in a home where loving parents taught this example.

He didn't know, and his reality was different than mine, so I refrained from my usual feminist beat-down, and my husband called on Elder B to say the prayer, and the missionaries went home.


I've been thinking about Elder B all week, because as obvious as it may be to some of you, I learned something not so obvious to me.

Not every male, traditional, gender-is-essential-Proclamation-hanging-in-every-room Mormon is an enemy to me, or my beliefs. We can co-exist. Elder B didn't change my mind, or make me less enthusiastic about gender equality in the LDS Church, but he did help me become a tiny bit kinder, and a tiny bit more Christ-like.

Wonderfully enough, he treated me with more respect, perhaps, than some of his more liberally minded peers.

He saw me as a person, with valuable opinions (on World War I weaponry, to say the least,) and a voice worth hearing.

Isn't that what I've wanted all along?

























*Boo. No one log on to tell me that the Elders were just unsure of how to talk to me because I have lady parts. Elders are perfectly capable of speaking respectfully to women without having lustful thoughts. Politeness is not something one gives up when serving a mission. (DVDs, however, are.)

1/3/11

the _____________ of the story

WARNING: Here is a long and essentially pointless story, which I am telling you because I am back in school and teaching my class this morning felt like running into a brick wall. Repeatedly.


Once upon a time, when I was a brand-spanking new mid-year hire, I discovered the magic coke machine. Sometimes, when you put in a dollar bill for a 75 cent diet coke, the machine would give you an extra quarter back as change. Magic coke machine!

Legend had it that the coke machine could predict the future. Extra quarter= good day. No extra quarter= bad day.


I am already a superstitious person. I did not need any extra help believing in the machine. I also may have made a spreadsheet documenting correlations between cheap coke and good teaching days, but I may have not done that, either.

Sometimes, though, shit happens and you don't have a dollar. So you frantically dig through your bag and your desk searching for 3 quarters.

But alas, in your early morning delirium you mistake a nickel for a quarter. You come up short. It is going to be a very bad teaching day. You accept this, and hit change return.

And get back 4 shiny quarters.

You try the same tactic again the next day, and it works. And the next day. You get your diet coke, and you make a small profit. 55 cents = 1 dollar= 45cent profit=Diet Coke for 30 cents.


And then you feel bad. It isn't a magic Coke Machine God that capriciously grants you an extra quarter and a good day of teaching. It's a broken piece of machinery that you deliberately manipulate every day so you don't have to pay as much to feed your addiction.

This of course causes much internal reflection. Am I stealing? Do I care if I'm stealing from the Coke Corporation? Is it my fault the machine is broken? What about that one time the machine ate my dollar? Can I consider this compensation for how little I get paid?


If I clutch my husband's coat-tails firmly enough, can I make it into the Celestial Kingdom despite my morally bankrupt quasi-thievery?

What do you think?

No seriously. Either help me rationalize, or sermon me into repentance.