What Shall We Celebrate?

Lady Liberty, Symbol of Strength, Peace, and Freedom. Courtesy Pexels.

As most of us prepare for the Fourth of July, with its fireworks, barbecues and picnics, vacations, and joyful gatherings with friends and loved ones, perhaps we should take a few moments to set forth some prayers for those who have not yet fully gained or even partially gained their freedom throughout the world.

Frederick Douglass had it right when he delivered a famous speech on July 5, 1852, in Corinthian Hall, Rochester, New York, addressing the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society. The speech, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” In the speech, he brought out the contradictions to a celebration of liberty, citizenship, and freedom as an offense to the black slaves, who had none of those things. The Fourth of July was supposed to be directed to ALL citizens of the United States.

Frederick Douglass, courtesy Wikipedia.

The times have changed, but the inequality has grown out of proportion. Today, as we prepare for the Fourth of July, let us offer a prayer for those living under modern slavery, which encompasses more than some nearly 30,000,000,000 enslaved people (as of 2013) – adults, children and babies alike – no longer black slaves alone, but all colors, races, political, religious or spiritual or other beliefs – in every manner of slavery imaginable. The highest number of enslaved people is in Asia, but the United States has a huge number as well. No matter where these human beings are located or how many of them there are, we cannot blindly celebrate without remembering those who are not as fortunate as we are.

“Oh Lord, thank you for this freedom that you have bestowed upon me and those I love. I know how precious it is when I see how many people in this world are suffering every day because they have no hope. I have difficulty understanding this inequality, and I honestly don’t know what I can do to help except to offer this small and perhaps inadequate prayer. But what my soul cries out is WHY? Why must innocent people suffer in this manner when you have provided enough for all of us? I have no answers, Lord. I want to believe that there is some power in this world that is good and that can nourish and care for people who have done nothing to deserve what they are suffering. Thank you.”

Talking to Rocks

A rock is a rock, but is it?

Today after a doctor’s visit, I was sitting out on a little circular border surrounding a large tree. It was just about the right height for a bench so I sat on the concrete flat area that seemed made to sit on. Inside that was a ring of rocks. To look at them at first, they were all about the same size and most were round and there was a bit of change in color. I picked up one and began to study it carefully. This one seemed to have one end cut or broken off, and it revealed a much darker and varied , somewhat smooth surface, as if I were looking into it. Down one side of that top area, extended a crack that seemed as if another part of it might split off. And crossing that seemed to be attempts to cut it with a sharp object diagonally.

Something drew me to pick up other rocks in that circle and to look at them. I guess sometimes it seems that, for example, perhaps all grains or sand, or in this case, all rocks in a group are similar in size, shape, color and texture. But in this case, the more I examined the rocks, I saw how distinctly different each one was. And I began to think about how each rock might have formed and what must have transpired to make it so different from all the rest. In my mind were so many questions coming forth, seemingly spilling out like a dam that was overflowing. How could it be that stones that likely all came from the same source/location could all be so different in texture, colors, shapes and sizes. Where was this magical place and what other surprises did it hold?

As I was pondering all these wonderful mysteries, my Lyft showed up and honked for me. I grabbed the one rock with the top seemingly cut from it and put it carefully into my pocket. I wanted to look at it once again at home and I wanted to ask it questions. One thing I learned today was that we should never even take a tiny grain of sand for granted. There is mystery and magic everywhere in this world.

The Butterfly and the Circle

Circling Butterflies by Anne

Both the butterfly and the circle carry much positive symbolism. And for me, these symbols are especially meaningful. The little caterpillar moves carefully along branches and twigs, filling itself with green leaves and perhaps flowers, and being careful not to fall or get caught in a spider’s web. Generally speaking, the caterpillar has no real defense system, and it is vulnerable to everything around it from the moment it develops from an egg.

But then it begins to build a cocoon, surrounding itself and closing out all that it has known in its brief life. And in this time, it spends in a form of meditation and growth. After a set amount of time, it begins to beat its newly formed wings (a symbol of its transformation) until it is able to slowly release itself from the cocoon. It is no longer in any sense a caterpillar. This newly transformed creature now seeks the nectar of the most beautiful flowers. Its new-found freedom enables it to travel to new locations, even those far away from where it started its life. It has no fear of going where it has never been before. Often a group of butterflies will begin to circle higher and higher into the sky.

Ancient people throughout the world recognized the circle as a symbol of infinity, and of being whole and complete. Spiritual and Religious cultures recognize the circle as a symbol of the female and the feminine energy , and especially of Mother Earth. It represents a fertile and sacred space. In the U.K. and other countries, there are many circles of stones.

The circle also represents a cycle that can be the cycle of life, death and rebirth. It can represent being complete and whole as well. For the Celtics, the circle was a sign of protection, and may be the reason that many early fortresses, temples, crosses and other sacred things were in a circular shape or contained circular motifs. The circle is found in many other cultures and countries throughout the world as well.

As I have noted, my art often contains images or symbols that are sacred to me. The cycle of life, and of completion belongs with the butterfly and its life cycle and my own life.

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Dachau Holocaust Memorial

Before you mistakenly think that I am a Jew, I am not. I believe that we are all sacred on this earth, and we were put here for a purpose, so we all belong here – be you Chinese, Mexican, Black, Indian (East or West), Muslim, or any other race of people or culture, regardless of what God or spiritual belief you follow, regardless of your political beliefs, or any of those other things we associate with human beings. We are ALL sacred, and none of us would be here if we were not meant to be, along with all the types of creatures and growing plants, right down to the smallest grain of sand. Our greatest challenge today is to accept all the people in this world as being essential for the survival of the world and the universe. Together, we can accomplish so much, but as long as we keep considering that any particular group, any creatures, any plant or grain of sand, we will be continuing to tear down what was given to us as the greatest gift.

Holocaust Memorial

Let us not be separated by barbed wires, by men and women with guns, or other instruments of torture. Let us look to see the beauty in all the individuals and the creatures, the plants, and the smallest grains of sand, and work together to help this universe to continue to live. Every time we harm another human being, be it physical or with our words, we harm our own selves because we lose more of our souls until there is nothing left to show that we were once human. Take a moment out of your day to say a prayer for all of the humans, the creatures, the plants and the grains of sand and how thankful we all are that we have been given this beautiful diversity. Thank you one and all.

Life is not always as it appears

Rare, four-footed goldfish

Things are not always what they seem in life. There is an old scene in the animated film, “The Point” by Nilsson, released in 1971 where the little boy, Oblio, is vanquished into the “Pointless Forest” by the evil prince. On his journey through the forest, he encounters Rock Man, who gives him a lesson in wisdom. “You see what you want to see, and hear what you want to hear.”

How many times is this true in all of our lives? What do we really know of our world or our universe except what our minds choose to believe or our eyes choose to see?

I have been thinking about creatures of this earth, and recently a conversation came up about the lowly slug. Everyone hated them, and most of the people were afraid of them. Yet, if you think about slugs, they have no means of self-defense. They DO have a bit of a shell inside, but they are easily stepped on and destroyed even with that. They do leave a slime path wherever they go that is created by the water they drink and which mixes with their bodily fluids, to be exuded along the way. They do have eyes located at the ends of their antennae. They sometimes come to a home and will get inside, even though there is nothing visible drawing them inside. And other than their little slimy paths, they do no damage or harm anyone.

I had never considered how sacred everything is in our universe until I searched on the symbolic significance of slugs. I will leave it for any of you who wish to pursue this further to find it on your own, but I will say that after I read it, I thought of how many things in this world I have feared or disliked simply because I never thought of them as being important or sacred in this world. Everything in this world, every person, every creature, every plant, and every grain of sand has meaning in this universe. We are not here by accident; we are the result of an amazing design – a phenomena that has occurred with incredible complexity of evolution.

All is not always as it seems. The tiniest particle in our world may be a chain in our evolution. We need to look closer at those things we take for granted, or that we think we know and perhaps are afraid of and/or dislike. There is always something new to learn and it is good to question ourselves when we encounter something we don’t understand in this world. Maybe, just maybe we have it wrong.

Blessed are the Poor . . .

As we enter this season with people rushing here and there to purchase every last thing they can for others, I think on what civilization has become.  And I think of the beautiful saying, “Blessed are the Poor, for they shall inherit the earth.” I believe that this saying is true for reasons that you may not have thought of.

So many majorly poor people struggle through life to glean the fields for food, and to eat foods that most people throw away. They find what clothing they can, or they create it from cloth or skins that are thrown away or left from some other use. In doing these things, they are, in their own simple ways, helping this earth to survive. They are not throwing away trash that pollutes the soil ultimately and creates land that is no longer fertile and perhaps a danger to health ultimately.

Free from materialistic needs and wants for the most part, they live simply from day to day. They are the first to share whatever meager things they have. I have seen this down in Mexico in the interior. The people we visited lived in a one-room adobe home with a dirt floor. They had no visible food in their home except for one jar of homemade preserves sitting on a shelf.  Perhaps  they had grown and made that jam, or perhaps that was given to them as a gift; I will never know.

As we sat in the early evening light, the sun shone on the fruit, creating a beautiful sight.  I inadvertently admired it, and the woman got up immediately to give it to me.  I was touched deeply by such sharing and simple trust in the universe to provide from day to day what little these people had. To refuse such a gift is considered impolite, so I accepted it.  As we continued on our journey, and I thought back on those people, I thought of how good it is to be happy with what we have and what the earth blesses us with.  I thought how we must return to living simply to help our earth to survive for our children, and our children’s children.  And it was good.