Otherwise

Otherwise
opinions about life, work, and spirituality

Seal; no word for “typical”

July 31st, 2006

He: baby fat black, speckled nose.
Dark twilight eyes, unquarried granite
Infant separate
Up and down the wood he slides,flippers slip
Waves spill plump body, milk from upset glass

He clings, but restless ocean
Knows no tenderness
like breast of mother

Rot shelf lumber chosen bode
But sea is cranky, rushes towards young smooth skin and fur
Exhausted, moving weary through water
Desperate barks from wet abdomen
Where is mother? Where…where….?

I turn, peach pit throat
Will myself unknowing
of this;
typical ocean story

Goodbye

July 24th, 2006

Yesterday was my official goodbye at Granville Chapel from my Jr. High youth and parents. Baking hot and blazing sunny, it was a great day for a pool party and BBQ. I really appreciate the effort Susan Robertson put into organizing and arranging it. I got exactly the kind of closure I needed, and I think the pre-teens benefitted from it as well.

I’ll never forget the image of twenty-five or so pre-teens and their siblings, paddling like ducks in the shallow end of the swimming pool, their sunlit heads bobbing up and down with the water, saying individual thank you’s for my work. It was uncannily sweet – like an unexpected, perfectly delicious granny smith apple.

unfinished poem

July 7th, 2006

veins coursing red, languid
kite in wind, loosely flapping
wind sudden, spins vicious, backhanded
snap!
trees bend in on selves, bowing prostrate
blood in veins, ribbons of warmth
sharpen, tighten
taut pointed icicles
hooked, reeled

Inside chest
a clamp,
wills itself unfisted
dreams
of space,
flop and flip
return to salt water
a kite flapping loosely
in wind

Letting go

July 5th, 2006

Both yesterday and today I had lunch with pre-teens that I’ve been mentoring for the past two years. Today I was amazed by Sandra’s (not her real name) openness. The last few times I met with her were somewhat frustrating for me because instead of wanting to talk she wanted to watch a movie, play with her sisters, chat with her parents, and hang out with her guinea pig. I’d gotten the feeling she was hiding something, or that she simply didn’t want my company. Today was very satisfying. We had the sort of conversation a youth worker lives for: open, honest, vulnerable and about real life. I felt priveledged to learn her heart and hear her concerns. As I wind down two years of youth work, I know it is time to let go. I can imagine that this is a mere portion of what a parent feels seeing her daughter or son off to university or move away for work. Man, I’m going to miss these kids! Their stories and struggles have enlarged my life and challenged my own walk of faith. Even though there has been considerable stress dealing with some church politics and off kilter personalities, I have savoured my time as a youth worker. As I learn to loosen my heart’s clasp on these pre-teens, my biggest hope is that they will grow to be like Jesus.

Cleavage

July 5th, 2006

Cleavage is a wonderful fashion statement. It has a long history of use, as can be seen in any period piece from Jane Austen’s era. It reflects the bounty of a woman’s body, its roundness, lushness and its ability for productivity. Unlike recent fads in which women are encouraged to starve themselves into dainty uselessness, cleavage sends a message of lusty healthiness.

I have seen the dark side of cleavage though! When I was in grade nine, I attended a very small private school. We wore uniforms, a fact I hated. For us girls, we were to wear very scratchy burgundy and mustard yellow kilts, navy knee socks or nylons, a pressed and tucked-in white button up shirt and a sandpaper-like textured cardigan or V-neck sweater. Everyday, our teachers would examine the length of our skirts, for they were to be exactly mid-knee length. We were often asked to get down on our knees. If the bottom of our kilt did not brush the floor, our parents were promptly phoned to purchase us a new “modest” skirt.

However, I doubt that this school truly did care about modesty. I say this because our principal was notoriously overflowing with cleavage. Her power suits, which appeared to be a few sizes too small for her body, pushed her breasts to overflowing. While the teachers frittered about the tops of our teenaged knees showing, Mrs. M hurried from office to class with breasts filling to practically her neck. The issue at stake was not modesty but power. Mrs. M’s breasts, in full view of the student body, were her way of telling us that she was the adult in authority; that she was above conforming to rules for mere children. Mrs. M also wore mini-skirts and stilletos, yet more evidence of her authority over legalities for the common kids. I find that private schools are full of this kind of power play, and, honestly, it disgusts me.

I still resent Mrs. M’s tight skirts, stilted heels and overflowing bosom. I was a teenager, and there was nothing more I wanted than to be free of senseless rules. Having worked with teenagers, I always try to explain why I enforce rules or why we place guidelines on their behaviour. I never tell them just to accept it because that’s the way it is. Teenagers are at an age when they can think abstractly and reason – they deserve more than a curt “Because I say so.” The glib response as an adolescent that wearing our skirts to our knees was for modesty’s sake, was an untruth, as could be clearly seen with open eyes to our principal. Mrs. M’s bounteous cleavage sent a clear message to us rebellious teens: “Because I said so.”

Faith and Complacency

July 5th, 2006

The other day I was teaching a lesson to teens about Moses and the Egyptians. In a few words, the story is about how God rescues the Israelites from the formidable oppression and terrible slavery of the Egyptians through a shy, stammering, awkward Jew (who goes on to be God’s mouthpiece!). I had some older teens in the class, which is unusual as I usually teach pre-teens. They took to defending the Egyptians, and asked why, if God cares for everyone, he didn’t chose to rescue and care for the Egyptians as well. I explained that the Egyptians were oppressing the Israelites through slavery, torture, and general ill treatment. Yes, God cared for the Egyptians, but they needed to be disciplined. I tried to use some teen boys as an example. If Jeff were beating up on George, I’d still care about Jeff, but my primary concern would be to save George from peril, which might include some harsh actions towards Jeff. Futhermore, if I really did care about Jeff, I would discipline him.

They didn’t like that example. They continued their train of thought by noting that it was Pharoah and only Pharoah who should have been punished, because the Egyptian people were simply following orders and living the life they’d been taught to live. How were they to know that what they were doing was wrong? This got me really riled up. Conformity and ignorance is no excuse for oppression and wrong doing. The Egyptian people had brains and hearts. Certainly there is truth in the fact that slavery was a very well maintained cultural reality and the abolition of slavery would have been unthinkable. However, ill treatment of their slaves was a choice, and the Bible clearly shows the Egyptians treated their slaves viciously. “The Egyptians came to loathe the sight of them. So they treated their Israelite slaves with ruthless severity, and made life bitter for them with cruel servitude…” (Ex. 1:12-13) This kind of sadism may have been mandated by their leader, but each individual had a choice as to whether or not he or she would conform to the ethos of oppression. They could think for themselves.

This began a long rant about how as people of faith, we can’t be complacent and simply follow popular culture’s mandates about lifestyle. We need to think deeply about how we live and if it really reflects God’s richness. Being an artistic type and involved in theatre, I’ve been labelled worldly before. I think this has to do with the fact that I embrace a great deal in our culture, and for good reason. There is much that is good: tolerance, burgeoning equality, democracy, feminism, environmentalism, artistic expression, scientific and other types of discoveries, technological advancement (though I would argue that only some advancement is positive, some advancement has negative effects), etc, etc.

I’m aware, however, that there are many aspects of our culture which don’t reflect God’s wishes for humanity: individualism, materialism, complacency, hyper-busyness, suburbia, poor city planning, marginalization, obsession with television and celebrity, image focus, etc, etc. This blog will hopefully be an outlet for thinking a little more critically about the way I live my life and about our cultural ethos.