Monday, December 25, 2006

Two gifts of wonderful writing...

I've added two links that I really want to call your attention to, dear readers.

As you've probably noticed if you have read very many of my posts here, I am not always that happy with organized religion. On the other hand, I greatly admire spirutual and out of organized traditions...who live out their convictions in compassionate ways. And, so I've added two links to blogs written by spiritual women in two traditions who are living their convictions and blogging about their lives and beliefs with great eloquence.

In alphabetical order, then:

Musings of a Discerning Woman follows the journey of a Catholic sister who is currently a novice in an order active in social justice issues.

The Velveteen Rabbi offers the on-line meditations of a Jewish woman in the middle of her studies to become a rabbi.

Both women are wonderful, thoughtful, insightful writers. I thought that this was the perfect day to share their blogs with you. So, please...I hope you'll read and enjoy the offerings they are kind enough to share with us in the blogosphere.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

There's no place like home for the holidays...

I'm not much of a holiday person. I admit that. But there are some holiday memories that just stick with me, make me laugh and make me mist up a bit.

There was the time when I was very little, probably four or five years old, and was in the Christmas pageant at the Methodist Church, where I went to Sunday School at the time. I remember very little of the pageant, but I remember that we almost didn't get there. When it was time to go to the church for the program, it was so foggy that we nearly couldn't see past the hood of the car. It wasn't typical southern California fog, but more like San Joaquin Valley tule fog, the kind that everyone thinks of when you compare fog to pea soup. When we stopped off to pick up my grandmother, we waited at the end of her long driveway and my dad walked up to the house to bring her to the car; he was afraid that if he drove in, he wouldn't be able to back out again without hitting a tree.

Still, we perservered and made it to the church. As we were going inside, my dad said, "Wouldn't it be funny if were clear as a bell when we come back outside later?" We all laughed and said the early 1960s equivalent of "Yeah, right." We all went inside, the program went well, I guess, since I don't remember any big mistakes being made. I think there were cookies and punch afterward. And when it was time to go, we went outside...and it was clear as a bell. The east wind (you might have heard of it as the Santa Ana wind) had come up and sent the fog back out to sea. Not that my dad was a prophet or anything...he had just lived in the valley long enough that all he usually had to do was go out and take a look at the sky, see which way the wind was blowing from, and he could usually give an accurate weather forecast.

But that's not my favorite Christmas season story. My favorite is from the Christmas about five years after that.

That was the year we were living in Blythe. In a motel room. The thing was, my dad was a produce inspector for the state of California. Sometimes he got sent away from home to work for as long as a month or six weeks at a time. Since it was just my dad, my mother, and myself, we always went along with him when he would work out of town. A few times we lived in apartments, but most of the time we would live in a motel room with a kitchenette attached. This went on for the whole time I was in elementary school; at least a couple of years during that time, we were away from home for at least six months out of the year.

That year, we happened to be in Blythe over the Christmas holidays. Down in the desert there are a number of crops to inspect at that time of the year. I think it was the only time we were actually away from home that time of year. We would have rather been at home, but we got a small tree to sit on the dresser in the room and there were the full complement of presents underneath it. But we didn't know if my dad would have the day off or not; he had had to work on holidays before, so we didn't plan anything.

When he got home after work on Christmas Eve, though, he had news. He had Christmas Day off. Then he asked if we'd like to go home for Christmas, spend the holiday in our own house. Well, of course, my mother and I both said. And so we packed up the car and off we went. Thing was, it was a Volkswagen bug...the old, traditional kind. So I shared the back seat for the more than 260 miles from Blythe to Simi Valley with the Christmas tree and all the gifts. It was a good thing I like the smell of Christmas trees.

We drove a good part of the night, got home very, very late, slept a few hours, had Christmas morning at home. Then, of course, we had to pack back up and head back to Blythe since my dad had to be at work bright and early the next morning. We stopped off at a Denny's restaurant or somewhere like that for Christmas dinner along the way, I think. But we were home for the holidays, and that was a wonderful thing.

And so, for those of you who are home for Christmas this year, treasure the opportunity. And for those who aren't able to be at home this year, treasure the memories of the times you were home and I'll send good thoughts that you are able to be home...wherever you consider home to year.

Happy Holidays.

Friday, December 15, 2006

I knew there was a reason why science wouldn't make the cut either...

At dinner this evening a friend and I were discussing the whole Harry Potter situation and what it would do to the curriculum at a school that couldn't discuss murder, greed, or violence at all. I was going through the list of things that probably could and couldn't be taught, and when I mentioned science she reminded me about all of the violence in the animal world. It's inherent in the food chain, after all. So, at least zoology would be a no-go, and probably biology generally. I'm pretty sure that physics and geology would still be okay to teach, though.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Censors Lose a Round

I see where the Georgia Board of Education has decided that Harry Potter is legal for the kids of their state. This, after a woman named Laura Mallory has spent at least a year trying to oust the boy wizard from the state’s public school libraries on the theory that J. K. Rowling’s wildly popular books are “mainstreaming witchcraft in a subtle and deceptive manner, in a children-friendly format.”


It occurs to me that some adults in this country have much more trouble telling the difference between fantasy and reality than do most children. But Ms. Mallory’s witchcraft delusions don’t worry me nearly as much as do other statements she has made. In arguing that the books are not suitable for children, she was quoted as saying that the books are full of “murder, greed, and violence. Why do they have to read them in school?”

Excuse me while I roll my eyes.

Okay. I’m back. I’d be interested in how Ms. Mallory feels about children reading the Bible, which contains a bumper crop of all three. Let’s see. Murder first appears in the fourth chapter of Genesis. That’s six pages in, in the Bible translation I have on my shelf. Now, granted I’ve only read the first couple of Harry Potter novels, but neither one of those have a murder six pages in, as far as I can recall. Greed plays its part before Genesis is over as well, and violence is fairly common all through the Good Book.

But let’s lay that aside. I’m assuming that Ms. Mallory is Christian when the article I read does not give any evidence of that. There are still other questions that are more intimately related to the school curriculum in light of her assessment: which subjects are the schools going to have to omit if there is to be no mention of murder, greed or violence in our national schoolrooms?

History would definitely be out. All those wars, you know, not to mention palace intrigue and other historical activities. Lots of violence there. Greed, too, when you stop to think about it. Economics would be eliminated simply on the greed factor. Couldn’t teach literature, either. Honestly, how many works of fiction can you think of that don’t have any violence at all, either physical or otherwise? Murder? You bet. Lots of greed in some literature, as well. The schools couldn’t teach anything about current events, as under Ms. Mallory’s theory there would be no place for the daily newspaper in school libraries, either. What about civics, aka government? Right. Gotta get rid of that, too, or at least severely restrict what is taught. The arts? Have to be very careful there, too. Math and science might make the cut, but I’m not even sure about that.

I’d be interested in knowing if Ms. Mallory shields her own children from the evening news on television; from newsstands displaying the day’s headlines; from, well, the whole world.

Now, I’m not going to argue for making kids grow up any faster than necessary. In fact, I’m a firm believer in letting kids be kids for as long as they can be. Goodness knows, that is a precious short time as it is these days. On the other hand, I also believe it is a mistake to overprotect children from the realities of the world or to give them a mistakenly benign view of how the world works. It’s a very fine line to walk, and all too easy to step off to one side or the other. But letting kids think that the world is a nice, sweet, safe place where no one will ever be mean or try to hurt them is doing them just as much a disservice as turning them into little miniature adults with all the cares and worries that implies before it is necessary.

Keeping kids from reading harmless fantasy like that found in Harry Potter is, I think, probably a good way to ease them into a knowledge of the reality that there are bad people as well as good in the world and that not everything turns out right in the end all the time, all without unduly traumatizing them.

As far as I can see, people like Ms. Mallory are much more of a hazard to children than J. K. Rowling and the books that she writes.