Otherwise

Otherwise
opinions about life, work, and spirituality

On Writing – Amen!

February 2nd, 2009

A few days ago, I posted some of Anne Lamott’s words about writing. As I toil away at my full length play, Luddites!, here are some more thoughts about writing:

I’m so grateful to be able to write. I think it changes me, makes me a better human being; a more human human being! I learn from my writing. If I hadn’t written The Saddest Girl in the World, I wouldn’t know much about Kosovo, its war and current situation. I would be less attuned to the complexities of ethnic conflict, and less passionate about welcoming new immigrants to Canada. Now, with Luddites!, I am blessed to learn about the Industrial Revolution, about work and life in the early 1800’s in England. My point-of-view is being stretched, and my empathy nourished as I learn to empathize with a (lead) male character. I have the chance to work with my wonderful dramaturge, Kathy Parsons, which is invigorating and fun. I have the chance to hold readings, which are satisfying, communal and stimulating. I am richer for being a part of an artistic community.

I agree with Anne Lamott that writing is a reward in itself. The point is not publication, or in my case, production. The joy of writing; of entering into another realm and loving and caring for a group of characters, and of simply creating; that is what matters. That is the point. I admit, however (there had to be a however!), that I long to share my creation with more people. I am very happy to have the opportunity to share my work with Kathy, a group of actors and a few friends. It’s a chance many people in this world are never given. I am very grateful for what I have. And, I want to do for others what certain writers and playwrights do for me.

When I was a child, I played a game in which I held a large, gilded mirror in my arms as I walked through my house. I would gaze fixedly into the mirror and imagine that I was walking on the ceiling. I would jump over chandeliers, trace my foot around decorative ceiling plasters and stretch my little legs to step over room dividers. It was an exhilerating exercise; experiencing a new planet within the familiar. Reading a good book or listening to a great play is similar. I look into another world, in which my own self is reflected, but am caught up in another reality. This is what I want to do for others; provide a place to gaze deeply into another life, and find themselves reflected.

Right now I’m reading a novel entitled “Fox”, by Margaret Sweatman. It’s a short piece, set at the time of the Winnipeg General Strike. I’m sure there aren’t many copies of this book around. Probably very few people have heard of, seen, or read this novel. I’m not sure many critics paid attention to it. The thing is, I’m really enjoying it. I find it creative, poetic and compelling. I love entering into the world this author has created because it’s unique, attractive, and evocative.

Some authors and playwrights are famous. Half of these for good reason – their work evokes something in a lot of people, or is distinctly unique and highly creative. Some are famous for reasons of fluff. The media has latched on to some controversy or matter within their work (I’m thinking of one particular piece of clunky-worded bombasticness that soared to popularity in the talons of religious controversy), and the general population has followed. But for every famous author or playwright, there are more than a dozen like the author of “Fox” – whose works are wonderful, every bit worth reading or listening to. Their creators work steadfastly, with hardly any financial renumeration, for the divine joy of writing itself, and for the blessed opportunity to edify a few people’s lives. I know I am one of these artists.

I hope and pray that God will continue to grant me the creativity, time, passion, discipline and motivation to write. Should God bless me, after good work and perseverance, with the opportunity to share my work with more people, I pray I would be continually grateful for both the process and the “product”. Should it not be the case, I pray that God would help me to focus on the sheer joy writing gives me, the way in which it makes me more human, and the relationships I have garnered through the writing process so far. Amen!

Jesus Pedals his Bicycle (based upon & inspired by Mary’s Song, Luke 1:46-55)

December 14th, 2008

Every cell of my body
shouts-screams-dances forth with
the wild goodness
of God
abandon myself to
joy,
celebrate Him

Because he’s seen me all along,
smiled at me,
laughed
his great tumbling laughter
spilt overflowing into my life,
my body,
in spite
of sometimes feeling – being – invisible

This moment in time is a
single
drop of
water
after drought of miserable parch

Now on
every drop of water
an
ocean’s tide
creates

People in the future
will remember this single drop of water
started the earth’s quench

And me – tongue stuck out
like a child waits for a snowflake
water droplet
ocean of relief
on my own
parched
tongue

God’s first name is pure and separate
his mercy
sound
of
breath
folding
in and out
of lungs
constant, sure
(easy to ignore)

God flexes divine muscles
the earth ripples

Dictators clutch at their kingdoms
like greedy children with favoured toys
stumble,
their kingdom toy
slips out of grasp
empty-handed
they bray

Rich ones
gather cash towards chest
bear-hug wealth
as though
cash
was a
warm blooded daughter
to hold,
but
cash,
like a rebellious daughter
leaves arms

But the forgotten-invisible-scorned

Aboriginal lady with bulging beer belly
an empty laundry basket
cries from cold,
finds
the basket full
clothes warm with the scent of God

Panhandler squeegee man
an empty pan, dried up squeegee,
finds
a pan full
a pocketful
God’s everflowing
pennies

Teenage boy big ears, hairlip, too loud accented voice
peers sidestep him in hallway, fail to acknowledge
as chatter gossip chatter,
finds
he’s
God’s most anticipated guest
at
God’s
party

Divorcee’s chest aches
needles
of
a thousand bitter, pointed
words, looks
dreams vacation from pain,
finds
herself in God’s tropical hammock
warm breeze of his spirit
divine mai-tai
in hand

but the pastor
rich voice
recites every verse
by memory
theological king
an armory of words
to smite
the unrighteous
does not
find
the cavern of his heart
does not
look
the cavern of his need
just
words
words
words

For God drives his car
My Jesus pedals his bicycle
The Holy Spirit rides the rails
to
the run-down-shack
hearts
of the ignored-invisible-forgotten
and step through
splintered
doorways
into
our
lives

Just like God promised he would:
he saw everything
and he never forgot us.

Time (Inspired by Ecclesiastes 3:1-11)

November 8th, 2008

I know a man who doesn’t believe in time
He says it is a social construct

So he
wakes when he wants to
sleeps when he wants to
eats
breathes
labours
when he wants to

Late for work
loses his job
Late for church
leaves his wife

to brush the children’s unruly red hair
feed them their oatmeal – hot –
nag them to put on their Sunday-best-hand-me-downs
wash their faces clean of oatmeal – hardened –
rush them, breathless, into their rusted, hiccuping, barely working van
drive them to church

where she sits with her four children
alone
until
he
shows up

He likes to sleep in
he shrugs
His children pale and thin,
rubber boots stuffed with extra socks and scraps of material

Time is just a social construct,
he says,
yawning,
stretching,
smiling.

Massive Recap 1: The Tour

October 10th, 2008

Okay, so I teased you with the last entry, as I was beginning the Winnipeg Fringe. I let you know about the whole process of writing a play, dramaturging and rehearsals, and then failed to give you the lowdown on the product. What can I say? Sorry! You can’t imagine – or quite possibly you can, if you’ve ever been self-employed and busting your butt to make a few nickels – how busy I was. Mostly it was publicity work. From sun-up to sun-down, if I wasn’t performing, I was yacking at people about how fabulous my play is, in an attempt to get bums in seats.

So how to recap? Here are some of the most vivid memories from the Fringe tour:

WINNIPEG

1. It’s my opening night, and I’m praying that more than five people show up. I’ve been passing out postcards to the crowds, confidently telling people about my fabulous play, and I’m ready to open the show! It’s a 10:40pm show on a Thursday night, and as time goose-steps closer to the appropriate time, I begin to falter. There is no-one in the audience. However, I tell myself, it doesn’t matter. I will play to whomever shows up. 7 people show up, and I play my heart out to them. I even manage to ignore the man in the front row who keeps falling asleep. It’s a good performance, and the miniscule audience is appreciative. This kind of thing continues for the next two nights; teeny-tiny audiences that give me standing ovations, cheers and hearty feedback.

2. It’s Saturday of the first week, and my show still has not been reviewed. I am stewing in a brine of frustration. This is my first Fringe, nobody knows me. Why are the papers first reviewing folks who’ve been at this game for six or seven years, who already have a great reputation to fuel their audience numbers? My audience is small again, but Eric, my technician lets me know beforehand that there are 3 critics in the audience. Finally. He tells me one of the critics present is Morley Walker from the Winnipeg Free Press. I’ve been warned about Mr. Walker. He’s the primary critic in Winnipeg, and apparently a very tough guy to please. A colleague tells me, “He doesn’t like ANYTHING.” Great.

I perform, well enough, and wonder how the critics will respond. Normally, I don’t check my reviews, but this is the Fringe. A four or five star-review can make you, anything lower can break you. And you need to be able to tell people all about your reviews, as you yack at them about your play. After my performance, I go to a colleague’s play, in the same venue. Morley sits a few seats from me. He taps me on the shoulder, “Thank you for that. I really enjoyed that. Very nice”, he says. I breathe a sigh of relief. I don’t need the critics to tell me my show is good, but I do need their help in getting greater audience numbers.

3. It’s Sunday morning. I check the newspaper. No review. It’s Monday morning; No review. Tuesday; nothing. I am in the brine of frustration again, pickling away my anger. I’m lonely, I’m all alone. My audiences are tiny. I feel like I can’t do this anymore. I feel ignored, isolated, unknown. All the artists are so busy publicizing, there’s no socializing going on, and I feel so very, very, very alone. Every performance, I go backstage, by myself. There are no friends in the audience, no family members waiting in the lobby and no co-workers in the green room. It’s just me. I tell myself, before each performance, when the seats remain incredibly empty and a great wall of quietness surrounds me as I perform, that numbers don’t matter, I don’t need that wonderful zinging energy a sizable audience brings. I can do this.

There are two things that keep me going at this point: the knowledge that I have an incredible support system back home (people who believe in my artistry and have formally commmited to encourage me), and God’s presence. Seriously. God is there backstage with me, so I am not completely alone. We pace the green room together, we both get an adrenaline rush before walking onstage and have to bounce up and down for a few minutes, and once onstage, he’s up there acting with me. My co-actor.

4. It’s Tuesday afternoon, I’m about to go for some dim-sum, when my cell phone rings. It’s my husband. My review from Mr. Walker is on-line. He reads it out to me, says I need to listen to it. What I hear is this, “Gorgeous brunette, expertly dileneates between characters, strength in writing, poetic, suspenseful, no distractions, holds our attention with our talent alone. Four stars.” I breathe a sigh of relief (and a chuckle about the gorgeous brunette comment). Thank you, thank you God. From here on in, the loneliness remains, but my audiences are sizable and appreciative. I get that wonderful ping-ping energy from my audiences. The other reviews pour in. They’re positive. I start to make some money.

SASKATOON

1. I’m in a Chinese restaurant in Saskatoon with a bunch of artists, and we’re talking. We’re having a real conversation, and not just about ticket sales or promo spiels or performing. The food is pretty bad, it’s mostly all fried, but we talk about all sort of things; childhood, eating patterns, spouses. My loneliness, so apparent in Winnipeg, like a strange taste in the mouth, an ache in the lungs, begins to subside. This is what Saskatoon is about; hanging out with the other artists, seeing their shows, conversing. I do a lot of this in Saskatoon, and soon I forget that I am a solo performer.

2. It’s Sunday night of the first week, and I am hanging out in the performer’s lounge, once again, conversing. My friend Julia is on the internet, and has found her review for her most amazing show, JAKE’S GIFT. It’s a perfect review; well written, overwhelmingly positive. She deserves it – the lady is one of my favorite actors and her show is beautiful, funny and tender. The performers congratulate her, and they really mean it. There isn’t any competition in Saskatoon. It’s a small city with a tiny audience base, and all the artists support each other. There’s a lot of postivity and love going around in Saskatoon. It’s really, really wonderful.

Julia suggests I check to see if my review is on-line, and I think, sure, why not? We open the review, and Julia gasps. The first thing we see is the posting of “2 stars”. Eeek, what the heck? We read on, and I feel strangely tinny. There is not a single positive statement. I think it’s possibly the most horrible review I’ve ever read, and I can’t believe the reviewer saw the same show my very appreciative audiences did. The reviewer likes nothing about my show – the acting, directing, writing, props, set. Nothing. It’s all shit to her. And, if I may say, her review is incredibly poorly written.

I walk home through tree-lined streets, a little numb. My audiences in Saskatoon have been small so far. And now, they will continue to be so. I know my play is poetic and touching. What was that critic thinking?

I wake up the next morning, ready myself to perform with the knowledge that the on-line review will now be in print in the city’s only newspaper. I go backstage, get into my costume, do all the normal warm-ups. I wait backstage at 15 minutes to performance.

It’s five minutes to performance. My tech approaches me cautiously, an apologetic look on his face. His voice is unusually quiet. “Um, uh, Tina, so it’s five minutes to performance, and uh, not a single ticket has been sold.” My heart drops in a rapid elevator dive, right into my shoes. I say, “Okay, well, if even one person shows up, I’ll perform the show if they’re comfortable with that.” He tip-toes away, a worried look on his face. Shit. “I can do this. I can do this.” What if only one person shows up? I feel completely humiliated. Like I’ve been stipped naked, and someone is pointing at my exposed body and laughing uproariously. Metaphorically, I look at my body and think, “It’s a great body; it runs and cycles, and hikes up mountains, laughs, cries, and experiences enormous sensations.” Nevertheless, it is disconcerting to be naked and laughed at. The thought of performing for one or two people, the words of that critic hanging between us, is too much for me. My courage fails. I phone my husband, tell him what’s going on. He prays. I pray. About 7 people show up, and I gulp, walk onstage. The acting is when I am NOT crying today. I make it to the end of the play, walk backstage, and begin to howl.

A performer calls me back onstage, and gives me a hug. He tells me I have nothing to cry about; that it was a great performance. He tells me some ladies were in tears as they left the theatre. Oh, he adds, there’s a guy from the local radio station who wants to interview you. I quickly change out of my costume, wipe away my tears and blow my nose. I did it. That reviewer can point and laugh all she wants at my naked body; I have nothing to be ashamed of!

3. Performer support. The next few days are awash with performers communicating their support and their disappointment at my shoddy review. One performer actually writes in to the newspaper, expressing his regret at the mean natured reviews lately, of which mine is included. Another performer tells me she is going to e-mail the paper because she’s seen my show, and really can’t understand how it deserved such a poor review. One performer notes, “But yours isn’t even a show you CAN give a bad review to. I mean, some shows, they can go either way, but not yours!” It is such an unexpected gift to be so generously given this type of support and understanding. I fully expected that I would simply have to tough it out alone. I am suprised, shocked and delighted. I’m pretty honest with people about how things are going – I’m losing money, my audiences are small, but, strangely, I am not unhappy. Most of my contentedness comes from the fact that every day I make a new friend, and in spite of the low numbers, I am performing my play, and it’s a priveledge.

On the last night of Saskatoon, there is a funny awards show. I recieve the award, “Performer with the Most Idiotic Review.” When asked what I would like to say to the critic who reviewed my show, I say, “Thank you for helping me out. You know, I wasn’t really The Saddest Girl in the World before.” It’s meant to be funny, but people think I’m serious, and a big sad sigh fills the room. Oh vey! It’s a joke, people! But thanks, anyways, thank you very much for your wonderful empathy and understanding. Adios, Saskatoon!

4. I guess, for publicity’s sake, I shouldn’t tell you about that bad review, but I wanted to be honest about the reality of being a solo performer on tour. The really exciting thing is that, from that bad review, I received a whole lot of kindness and care from my fellow artists. I was suprised, because my basic assumption was that this “biz” is cut-throat and competitive and full of egoists. My experience in Saskatoon proved me wrong. (I have reasons for that former assumption, none of which have to do with my experience at Pacific Theatre, but I thought PT was the exception, not the norm.)

So, there you go, my most vivid memories of the tour. A lot of hard stuff, but some really wonderful stuff too. Stay tuned for the recap of the Vancouver production!

The Winnipeg Fringe Begins!

July 14th, 2008

Very excited. I arrived in Winnipeg last night after a 30 hour bus ride from Toronto. In spite of leg cramps, butt aches and little sleep, the ride actually wasn’t so terrible. I sat beside a lovely, amiable (and small framed) Dane named Tina, so conversation went well, and personal space was not such an issue.

Today begins the Fringe adventure. I will pick up posters and postcards this morning, then am off to talk to “the media”, and then to a technical rehearsal. After preview performances in Wells, Vancouver, and then for both my family and my in-laws, I am ready to start performing. A few more run-throughs on my own to ensure that all my transitions are lickety-split, and I will be in great shape. I am looking forward to meeting other Fringe performers, talking meaningfully with audience members, and going to see other Fringe shows. I am more blase about hours of handing out postcards and being super-outgoing to strangers in order to sell my show.

I need to come up with a great one-line statement, so that I don’t wear out my voice trying to explain the premise of the show. “You think your life is sad? Come see The Saddest Girl in the World!”, might be insulting. “The Saddest Girl in the World will make you happy!”, might be okay, though it’s a little vague. How about, “I am The Saddest Girl in the World. Come see my show and you’ll be happy.” ? Any ideas, folks?

The bus: A bastion of rudeness?

July 8th, 2007

When I take the bus, I become a pessimist. I begin to envision the downfall of our so-called polite Canadian society.

One particular day, when I was standing in the aisle, a couple of very elderly, frail women tottered onto the bus like a pair of ill-guided marrionette puppets. The entire front section, which is supposed to be reserved for seniors and those with disabilities, was full of teenagers and young adults. None of whom got off their duff. So, being an assertive (some might say aggressive) person I asked a couple of young adults if they would move to give their seats to the tottery ladies. My suggestion was met with a scoff and a scowl, with an added snarky “I have arthritis, okay?” At this, I didn’t know what to reply. I have heard of arthritis which diseases young people so I said something like, “oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize”, to which I recieved several more saucy comments and looks. Maybe that 20-something did have arthritis. Probably not.

Experiences like the one above cause me to wonder about parenting, and on a larger scale, about our society. Are people not taught to respect others, and to look out for and protect the weak? Our culture greatly disrespects old age. If you rifle through any magazine or flip through TV channels, it is apparent that we adore and respect youthfulness, not wisdom and experience. Is the reluctance to give up one’s seat for an elderly person a manifestation of our culture’s obsession with youth? Or are parents failing these days to equip their children with very a basic knowledge of etiquette and social behaviour?

Another day I was on the bus when a man who appeared to have some kind of mental illness or addiction -he was rapidly muttering to himself – plunked himself across a row of seats. It was raining outside and his shoes dripped muddy water all over the cloth seat. I was aware that other passengers were getting annoyed with his actions. I heard many people sighing and saw several eyes rolling in the man’s direction, but no one said anything. I think people were afraid. He did seem an unpredictable type. I was nervous also, but I felt that someone needed to say something to him about his behaviour. So, I decided that a soft confrontation was needed. Something that wouldn’t get the guy’s back up, but would illustrate that it’s not okay to make a bus seat wet and dirty for the next unknowing passenger’s backside. So, I said, “Hmm, somebody’s going to have a wet seat”. The man looked at me with an aggravated face and said “what?” I responded by asking, “oh, your shoes aren’t wet?”. The man peered at his shoes, glanced at me, and promptly sat up straight, with his dripping feet on the floor.

My frustration that day was directed at both the wet shoe man and also at the other passengers on the bus who were clearly uncomfortable with his actions, but unwilling to say anything. Is there no such thing as a polite confrontation anymore? Perhaps this is an outcome of our sensationalist media, which feeds us the idea that confrontation in our society is simply not safe any longer, that conflict with strangers results in somebody shoving a shotgun to our head or plunging a knife into our belly. I am often frustrated with people’s lack of assertion on the bus. Is it really doing someone a favour to let them act so poorly? Politeness is not about never conflicting or confronting. It’s about respecting the other person. I feel that I actually respected the shoe man more than the others on the bus. I respected him enough to express myself to him in a nice way. I expected more out of him, mentally ill, addicted or not.

As you can see, the people’s behaviour on the bus make me think. I often get pessimistic when such glaring rudeness and ignorance is displayed. But I have to remember those few people who bounce out of their seats at the sight of an elderly, pregnant or handicapped person. Or my tiny friend who angrily (and righteously) confronted a large group of menacing, loud gay-bashing young adults and forced them, and their fear mongering ways, off the bus. So, there are people out there who are polite and who will stand up for what’s decent and right. I just wish there were more of them.

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.

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.