Rag Doll

Some people love looking through things left in the closet from years before. Many of us have a terribly hard time throwing those things away. And if by chance the object has upon it the handiwork of a long-deceased relative, letting go of it would be nearly impossible.

Looking through such a closet, my aunt and I came across a cache of old bedlinens left by her grandmother. Among them we found a pillowcase and a single-bed sheet finished with a style of embroidery called open work. The pattern is completed with short, tight stitches around an area that is later removed, giving the piece a look of intricate lace. I was pleased to find these lovely items and expressed my excitement.

My aunt, however, was more reserved: “Yes, her work is good, but I wish she’d used better material.” She understood the quality of the fabric was below the finest by several degrees. My aunt would have tossed them both into the rag bin. She was probably right, but I begged her to let me keep them.

The phrasing of “better material” struck me as significant. We all know these refrigerator magnet encouragements: “Be patient. God isn’t finished with me yet” and “God doesn’t make junk”: signs better written on the heart than anywhere else. Taking the pillowcase to use as part of a lesson led to unexpected observations. I wanted to talk to the women about being something with which God could work. One woman asked if she might make it into a rag doll. I went through the meaning of the lesson, briefly, to make sure she had understood. She had, or at least convinced me that she had, and I agreed to the project. A doll would be easier to look at than a pillowcase, we decided. She was correct. The story can be shared just as easily with an attractive object as with a crude one. The doll turned out well and was easier to prop up than a pillowcase. In fact, it was probably a better lesson.

Last week, I kept hearing about the centrality of the Golden Rule. Wikipedia has an article on it, of course, reflecting what we all probably know anyway: All ethical traditions include the idea that we should (yes, I know) treat others like we want to be treated.

A friend just released a book of poetry called “Relationship Determines Decision.” Just released by Shanti Arts Publishing, it includes discussions of our relationships with the earth, with others, and with ourselves. Full disclosure: My blurb on the back suggests that reading them will bring joy, which I found to be true. In his author’s signature to me, Peter writes that he has cherished my “sense of irony and sarcasm for years.” And I do try to be nice.

The eponymous poem from the collection recounts the story of a long walk during which a young dog comes along for many miles. Finally, however, Peter realizes that he cannot reason with, explain, or rationalize a decision because the dog is, after all, a dog. It is relationship that determines what happens. The dog enters another dog’s territory and doesn’t return. We aren’t told what to think about all of this. We find the poet alone again.

Last year when I wrote about a potential Bernie Sanders run, advising him not to do it, I neglected to send the piece to the Democrats. My conclusion then: we are not as good a people as we would need to be in order to enact all his programs. I think this still holds true.

The Golden Rule hasn’t transformed the world as a whole, though on the individual level it surely helps. Its parallel—WWJD?—now has been answered with HWLF (He would love first.) It’s a website, a dotcom, of course, where you may buy products. It is human nature to do that which benefits ourselves first. Peter fed the dog and thought that act might affect its behavior. It didn’t. We can feed the world, and we do pretty well. We can do more. We probably should. We will not do it if forced.

Vast amounts more need to be written on this topic, of course, but I will predict that if Sanders secures the nomination, he will lose the election—not because we aren’t made of good enough material but because we understand that having the government run everything won’t work. That’s facile and shallow. I won’t say more now. I’ll let the prediction stand.




Peeves on a Leash

It’s amazing we can exist together on this planet as it is. Add in hundreds—perhaps thousands—of pet peeves and watch what happens. It must wear us out. As I think of it, I wonder if that’s why the month of December results in nothing getting done: We’re all involved in making people happy, forget those peeves, and move along. It’s exhausting.

There’s no reason that my pet peeves should be more interesting than yours. When I asked one person for hers, she said there were too many to count but later offered one to do with food. Another indicated being asked his pet peeves is a pet peeve. Why they’re called “pet” must be addressed, done here adequately enough.

Misinterpreting them can be another issue. I misunderstood one friend’s concern about being late as applying to other people. She said that doesn’t bother her; it’s being late herself that’s an issue.

This list is long, with 75 pps. (Random abbreviations is not there but could be.) It has some of mine, of course. Incorrect pluralizing of last names, for example. The title is also problematic. The actual title is fine, but the URL includes a vulgarism I’d never use. And there are GIFs, the pronunciation of which is a source of concern for some. Like the peanut butter, FYI, if you find links irritating.

Let’s consider organizing. Not my usual action statement, but I’ll try.

Words: Saying “quote” to mean “quotation.” Technically, I know they’re interchangeable. Somewhere it became irritating to me.

“Reach out.” Can’t we just say “Contact”? Or something else with less emotional investment?

“Deserve.” Maybe you can say it about someone else. Avoid saying, ever, “I deserve.”

Actions: Tailgating. We had an uncle who liked to “teach” people not to do this. He eventually lost his license. Sadly, I’m beginning to see his point.

Gum chewing in public. Among the 1472 rules of “Being a Lady,” this one stuck. Sorry for the pun. I don’t to see anyone over the age of 12 chewing gum.

Cutting in line. Recently at Costco, a couple did this inadvertently and apologized for the next 15 minutes. I suppose, therefore, that this is a common peeve. Notice further that I didn’t say “literally 15 minutes.”

A mix of words and actions: Being told what I believe or think, because you think you know. Hurting someone’s feelings (me) without intending to. Ignorance, willful, of a group of people or their religion. Reposting without verifying.

All things being equal, I can’t think of anything much more self-serving than sharing my pet peeves. Thanks for your indulgence. I do like my title, and I suppose that we do keep our peeves on a leash better than we think we do. Otherwise, who knows? I hope to be more profound next week.




Kintsugi and Sound Baths

What a weekend. I met Famous People, again. I learned great things. I made connections with less-than-famous people who are doing great things. Two principles presented themselves. They had nothing in common until I saw that they do.

First, kintsugi is the Japanese art of sealing broken ceramics with glue and gold. The word means “golden joinery”; another name, kintsukuroi, means “golden repair.” If you don’t of these, you likely have heard of its philosophic basis, wabi-sabi: “asymmetry, roughness, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.” I love Japanese art forms and was glad to learn more about kintsugi.

The purpose for the discussion came when Sharon Eubank, worldwide director of LDS Charities since 2011, gave this talk “Turn on Your Light” in 2017. Story is the way to teach principles, and she recounts a sea rescue using a human chain. Her five ways of turning on your light reflect a happy way to be.

When Sharon Eubank spoke on Friday evening, she used the Japanese art form as a metaphor for understanding healing. She had been working in Syria on the eve of the war that began in 2011. Her tasks were specific: providing a source of improved bull semen for Syrian herds and increasing instruction in neonatal techniques for obstetric practitioners. And then she and her group had to flee. We don’t often need that word. Sometimes the pain of its aftermath lingers for years, but there is hope, sometimes explained and explored through art.

Earlier, as a legislative aid in Washington, Eubank had this to say: “I learned so much about the nature of compromise in government. I learned that surprisingly most things get done through relationships.” When we are not concerned about division in our currently divisive (not simply divided) system, we show a lack of understanding about how things have worked better in the past, as Joe Biden learned recently. Apparently, the age of relationships may have ended.

Second, sound baths combine two words one doesn’t expect. The experience isn’t a fad but comes from an ancient Tibetan meditation practice using singing bowls. Here you can listen for three hours, and there are longer, nine hour versions if you need that much relaxing. Do look at the bowls even if you don’t need that much relaxing. Again, healing and cleansing.

As usual, I think (almost positively) that I’ve learned about both these topics in the past. Why did they not “stick” in my memory? Why do we use that word to describe holding on to an idea? Am I to embrace that which needs repairing in my poor brain? (An aside—I neglected to save the first version of this. What might be lost that I don’t remember?)

The other Famous Person I met was Richard Bushman, an important LDS historian famous for a Joseph Smith biography, Rough Stone Rolling, and much additional work. His degrees are from Harvard, and he taught mostly there and at Columbia. He is now a co-director of the Center for Latter-day Saint Arts in New York City. Which is not in Utah. He believes the arts are the way forward, about which I hope he plans to write more. I told him as much.

It’s humid and cloudy and cold. Maybe that’s affecting my memory too. Off to get white thread for another project: sewing seams in long, straight lines. No gold involved.

Look What Light Does

This week I’m writing about light, its beauty and its meaning. The photo was taken by a friend, and I think it’s transcendent: something about the color of the blue (technically, cobalt) and the pale pink are enhanced, as if the light permeates them both. I have another picture with a similar characteristic. A nun sits with her back to us, on a ledge in the Grand Canyon. She’s all in white, and light seems to go through her. I don’t know any terms that describe this effect. Perhaps you will and can share.

Understanding what light actually is eludes me. Explanations here and here use words cogently, but I don’t really get it. Yes, light is energy. I emit it, and so does everything else. Metaphorically speaking, some people seem to have the ability not only to gather more light than others but also to radiate it more abundantly.

A favorite science fiction writer (Isaac Asimov) wrote a favorite short story (“The Last Question”) about the evolution of computers. Eventually, entropy has ended everything, but the minds of all beings and future computers have continued to work toward a solution. Awesomely, you can read an archive of the original story here. As you can surely predict, finally, the answer comes: “LET THERE BE LIGHT” and there is light.

Does that conflict with my belief system, in which a Being I call divine called light into being? Not at all. While the Hebrew word or means simply “light,” the phrase that means “light of God” is elohim, which in my faith we use as Elohim, the name we take to be that of the Father. It appears in the Hebrew Bible as such but in English translation is simply “God.” The distinction, however, is that the former is a name, the latter a description.

Most of us want to “shine a light” on things, to understand, to explain. In the last few weeks, the two political sides have grappled with this problem to little avail. Last week in my blog this spam comment appeared: “What a material of un-ambiguity and preserveness of valuable knowledge on the topic of unexpected emotions.” Gotta love it. While the current political dudgeon (“a feeling of offense or deep resentment”) remains high on both sides, with no end in sight (light reference), I suppose I can continue to seek truth and beauty on my own.

As much as I’ve thought about this, words sometimes are not as good as the original picture. I can leave this at that. I did, however, learn that the “C” in Einstein’s E = mc2 means celeritas, the Latin word for speed. So that’s good. Accelerates my learning, as I should have asked before.