Irreverent Mama

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"... all life on earth can be viewed as a competition among species for the solar energy captured by photosynthesis..." (The Omnivore's Dilemma).

The sentence caused a flicker of response, a spark something interesting begun in my mind. I set the book down to consider, to let that spark develop. Just think about that sentence for a minute. All life on earth derives from the sun. Amazing, that. A flash in my mind of solar particles streaming to earth, warming the soil, spurring to growth, and the whole rest of everything else on this tiny planet in a distant solar system in a backwater galaxy burgeoning out from that soil. It's mysical, it's miraculous. Just because we can explain certain bits of how it all fits together doesn't detract from the wonder of it all.


It's been a while since I've attempted to pray, but this seemed to call for it. For along with the wonder, the awe at the intricacy and inter-twinedness of it all, was gratitude. Maybe I'm just globally grateful to be the recipient of life, maybe I'm grateful to a specific entity -- yes, god -- but whatever it may be, it seemed appropriate to express that gratitude.

So I tried to form a prayer, and...

it didn't work.

The salutation... "Oh, lord"... seemed pompous and false. "Father God", which (being fatherless) I relished in my adolescence, didn't work, either. I shied away from both... with a surprisingly visceral revulsion. Wrong. They were just wrong.

Okay, so skip the salutation. On to the meat of it. I struggled to line up the words in the best order, to best express what I was feeling, and again, it didn't work. It was so damned artificial. Like I was composing a stiff and proper thank-you note. And it wasn't so much the tenor of the thing -- formal, casual, ponderous or light -- no matter how I tried it, whipping out phrases and tossing them away like discarded garments, none of them worked. The problem wasn't the tone of voice, the problem was the words themselves.

Not which words I was choosing, just words. Language, at all.

I love words. I think it's possibly humanity's highest achievement, language. There are few things I love more than the puzzle of trying to fit the words to express the meaning, playing with them, ordering them, picking and choosing to get just the right nuance, feeling, to connect my mind with yours. It's profoundly satisfying to me.

But in this instance, words were not bridging gaps. Words were taking the feeling and reducing it, channeling it, limiting it.

In fact, the more I struggled to package up my responses and mail them off to that great ear in the sky, the more the whole endeavour just became ... embarrassing. The words didn't fit. They were profoundly limiting, and, thereby, false.

Limiting not just of my feelings, but of where I was sending them. The expressions of God that I grew up with don't really fit my perception of him/her/it now. "Father" God doesn't do it. (Nor would "mother".) Those words make whole thing too concrete, too specific, too bounded in physical reality, in human experience. "Lord"? Good lord. I think not. I don't think that way any more. Once more, embarrassing.

Instead, I simply focussed on the feelings of wonderment, satisfaction, appreciation for this mystical, miraculous, marvellous world, in all its astonishing intricacy.

If there is (as I believe) a god out there, and if he/she/it notes and cares what the specks in creation think or do (I'm largely dubious), then surely he/she/it doesn't need words -- words of one particular language from one particular speck (me!) on one of uncountable millions of planets in the myriad of galaxies -- to grasp what I'm trying to convey.

So I focussed on the feeling and tried to keep words out of it -- harder to do than one might think -- and trusted that it was being received. And if not, if god doesn't listen to the burbling of the teeming masses, then certainly the exercise is good for me. Awe, gratitude, appreciation are all good for the soul. (Or, if you will, the psyche, or,if you wish to reduce it that far, simply something as prosaic as your mental health.)

I did, and, though I was stumbling and clumsy in my efforts, it, unlike my abortive attempts at formal prayers, felt right.

I think I need to learn to meditate.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Series of tweets from a young mother:

Baby just tossed himself off of bed and onto hardwood floor. Am worst mother, ever.

Seconds later: (He's fine. I'm not.)

Six minutes later: 6 and a half months old. Husky fella, but still: BABY

Two minutes after that: It was a high bed. Will berate myself forever.

Four minutes pass, then: Thanks, all, for the reassurance that I am not, in fact, the worst mother ever.

It does occur to one that the trauma could not be oh-so-bad if she could turn her back on her baby and occupy herself with her invisible friends in the computer. One could even be a bit scathing about emotional aggrandizement/grandstanding and self-indulgence, if one were of a cynical turn of mind. (And an unkind one.) You would also be missing the crux of the messages.

It's the last tweet that reveals the core reality. Did she truly think she was the worst mother in the world? No. She is an intelligent woman. (She is. Highly.) She knows there are vastly worse things a parent could do (and have done) to a child than a mere moment's inattention.

Was she, however, shaken and in need of reassurance?


And she got it. In spades, within seconds, and from a variety of sources. For all its flaws, the Internet can be a good and kindly place.

Which is why we're all here, right?

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

This is not the post I was going to write.

I was going to write about something I overheard the other day while walking home through the park after an afternoon's Christmas shopping. A most exquisite and delightful piece of concrete irony. Two young women were chatting as they strolled toward me, and one, in all sincerity, said something to the other which was so totally at odds with their dress and demeanour as to cause a snort of appreciative laughter irony-loving me, and which gave me the seeds of a most excellent blog post. I had it all sketched out in my mind. Short and pithy, it was going to be, and in less than a hundred words I'd give any readers (I hoped) the same delightful jolt of laughter I'd just enjoyed.

I was going to write about that. I would still be writing about that ... if I could only remember what it was. But I can't. I've lost, completely and utterly, the kernel of the post. I cannot remember what the girl said.

I can remember where I was. I can remember the weather, what I was wearing, who I'd just gone shopping for, and even much of what I purchased. I know the young women's approximate ages. I can remember that what I overhead was very brief, one, perhaps two, sentences. I can remember it was totally at odds with something very obvious about them. I recall making a mental note and telling myself it would make a great blog post.

I can remember all that. I cannot remember what was said. I cannot remember what it conflicted with.

This happens all the time. It is utterly maddening.

Why, oh vagrant memory, do you torture me so? Why torment me with that sense of incompletion, why tantalize me with an almost-memory, the memory of an intention without its substance? A fusty nut with no kernel, indeed.

If my memory is going to drop the key element, why not just drop the entire damned thing?

With all the surrounding data, you'd think I'd be able to reconstruct the memory, but oh, how sadly rarely does this happen. I lay in bed in the very early morning, before I was quite awake -- the best time, I've discovered, for this sort of exercise -- and let the thoughts drift around this image, trying to hear their words again. I got close, once or twice. I had that "aha" feeling... and then, nothing.


I suppose this is better than losing it entirely. A semi-recalled conversation can be brought to mind if the other party is there to fill in the gaps. They don't even need to know there were any gaps, because I can recall enough to fake it. A semi-recalled intention can often be accomplished anyway, if enough wisps of surrounding memory lead you to the point of action.

I am not going senile. I watched my lovely grandmother slip steadily away into a smiling, peaceful senility, senility which caused this woman who was my second mother, who lived next door and whom I saw every day of my childhood and adolescence, who taught me to sew and to cook (my mother being a little domestically challenged), to now welcome me with the kindly graciousness she bestowed on all strangers. I'm not going senile, but don't think the fear hasn't run through me once in a while.

No, I'm just middle-aged forgetful. And yes, that kind of retention is to memory and overall brain function what parrotting the times tables is to higher math -- a useful skill, but low-level, and usually pretty easy to live without. I can do all sorts of high-level brain stuff: I'm creative and analytical; I can think laterally. I've developed a decent supply of wisdom, I think, which will only increase as the years go by. I'm good in a crisis, I can retain my ability to reason clearly despite massive amounts of stressors. I can separate emotion from reason, and balance the interests of both sensibly. (Try doing that one as a teen or even as a twenty-something.)

So. The old brain is ticking along just fine, thanks.

But, damn, I wish I could recall what that girl had said.

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