Monthly Archives: June 2015

Reflections ~ SCOTUS and Equality Under the Law

Courtesy Creative Commons.org

Courtesy Creative Commons.org

 

Some time ago I wrote an article to be shared on a friend’s website. Patrick was kind enough to invite me as a guest blogger so that I could discuss something near to my heart that I was not prepared to share on my own site. Silly me, I thought it didn’t really fit. But it does. It fits very well. Why? Because I am a student of anthropology, philosophy, history and religion. I see in history and in literature so many facets of the human condition and one thing is clear: division destroys. Hatred destroys. Respect, equal access to law, genuine concern for fellow man – that builds. This rather long article is about the cultural approach to the union of two people (and ever so rarely more) into an emotional, physical and legal entity for mutual success and support.

Let’s start with a bit of history. Marriage, as defined by anthropologists, is a broad subject and the more we try to describe it the fuzzier things get. At the most basic level of understanding marriage was developed as an institution to provide two things: sexual monopoly (which may be with more than one individual), and some kind of birth-status rights for any offspring. This second issue also involves inheritance rights and rights to property. Some anthropologists feel that the marital status in some of these cultures did not actually protect the birthright of any offspring; it was simply a definition of status. What we do know is that marriage apparently developed as a way to (hopefully) ensure exclusive access to one’s partner and therefore grant some guarantee of the linage of offspring and to link kinsmen together in some bond. Cultures from the beginning of time have developed and supported various forms of this institution which included monogamy, polygamy, and polyandry (more than one husband). Group marriage is very, very rare; however marriage between two persons of the same sex is not.

In ancient Greece, no civil ceremony was required. Their tradition was something like modern day common-law arrangements where mutual agreement and public acknowledgement were sufficient to create the relationship. In Rome, a woman’s whole heritage transferred from the family of her birth to that of her husband’s. The only way a woman could keep her rights of inheritance was through something called a “free marriage” where she stayed under the authority of her father. However, she did not share in any rights to her husband’s family fortunes. Sounds more like a “friends with benefits” than some kind of commitment.

During the first century CE, Christian marriages were considered to be a private matter between the couple and their families with no specific religious or civil ceremony required. Around 110 CE, Ignatius of Antioch introduced the idea that marriages should be performed within the church under the authority of the bishop to ensure that things were going according to God and not the lust of the couple. By the 12th century women were made to take the name of their husband and such unions required the permission of a parent as well as the church. During the middle ages the churches registered marriages (this was not obligatory) and the mere mutual statement by each member of a union in the presence of a witness was sufficient to form a union. As the middle ages progressed and the Protestant faith began to expand, the Roman Catholic Church determined that offspring of a Protestant marriage (i.e., one not performed in a Roman Catholic Church) were bastards and could not inherit the fortunes of their parents. I’ll let you guess who did collect those fortunes.

History is just as rich in traditions and records of relationships involving people of the same gender. Anthropological studies have indicated that pre-industrial cultures were split fairly equally between those who didn’t care one way or the other and those who had some social taboo against it. Native American peoples considered homosexual or bi-sexual individuals as being of “two spirits” and really didn’t get overly stressed over the matter. In fact, if parents determined that their child was a “Two Spirit” the child was given the choice of which path they would choose to follow and he/she was raised accordingly. Many became shamans.

In Asia, recorded history for same-sex relationships goes back as far as 600 BCE. In fact, in the Thai culture these persons were treated as a third gender. They were and are generally accepted by at least some of the Asian societies. Records show that it was not unusual for Thai royalty to keep consorts of both sexes.

And, the list goes on. Every culture since mankind has had anything that could be called a culture has developed ways and means to deal with relationships between its individual members. In almost every case those traditions, rules and practices were meant to accomplish two things:

  1. A cleaving together in some form to indicate that these particular individuals are committed to each other emotionally and physically; and,
  2. The formation of a legal relationship that protected inheritance, lineage and legal status.

Even in modern times the arrangement of common law unions may start without religious or civil affirmation; but quite frequently end up with some sort of input from an official party to determine what obligations, rights and privileges belong with whom. In the least it generally requires a legal document filed somewhere that says the union is no more.

Why, say you, did I go into such great lengths to explain all this “relationship” stuff? Because it appears that our society has become terribly embroiled in a debate about relationships without really understanding what the issues are. Perhaps it is a bit understandable that after centuries of being bombarded with the terrible consequences of “forbidden love” some persons in our society may feel it is their duty to squelch even the appearance of such relationships, let alone any legal acknowledgement. They are entitled to their opinion. The scripture they quote, however, was directed to a people that wished to be “apart,” that wished to be “different,” and, consequently, to follow a certain set of rules. Scripture does NOT tell the Hebrews to march out into the world and destroy every homosexual that they find; it tells them how to conduct themselves if they choose to accept a certain way of life, if they want to commit to a certain covenant. As far as the fate of the infamous Sodom and Gomorrah, those two cities had problems that went far beyond the mere issue of homosexuality. For instance, there was human trafficking (Lot offered his virgin daughters to the crowd to avoid surrendering his guests), and kidnapping (people had to lock themselves in at night to avoid rampaging mobs), to mention a few. This was not a nice place to live by any civilized standards. And in the end? The cities would have been spared if only 12 righteous persons could be found. Think of that the next time someone says a whole state or country has suffered great loss due to “sexual orientation” or whatever.

So, we are back to who has the authority to tell a person how he or she should live his or her life (as long as said person is not causing injury to others). As it happens, the person that grants that authority is the individual. The authority over any life is granted to a leadership in a group by the members of the group. If you want to start a club where only people with green eyes and purple hair can join; then that is your prerogative. It is NOT your right to tell the rest of the world they must purchase green contacts and dye their hair. You are not permitted to insist that the whole population performs these requirements even if they are excluded from your group for some reason, or have no interest in joining in the first place. Yes, I know. The choice of one’s partner(s) in life is far more serious than this silly scenario, it is far more personal. And so, the choice should remain with the persons involved.

If you choose to adhere to a tradition that marriage is between one man and one woman and you feel that marriage should be blessed by a church; then by all means follow that path. Please be sure you do not run to the nearest steeple. Understand that if you accept the blessings of a priest, minister, rabbi or whatever that you are saying publically that you agree with their point of view regarding your union and what it means. The Catholic Church has this part down pat. Some denominations accept the validity of same-sex marriages and will respond accordingly. Some, obviously, do not. In any event this type of commitment is a spiritual one, one made based on the beliefs, dogmas and requirements of that particular institution. The adherents of any one belief system, however, do not have the right or obligation to enforce their point of view on the rest of the population.

If, however, a couple wishes to announce to the world that they have formed an emotional and intimate relationship, that they intend to go forward in the world building financial security and mutual support, and that they wish to have the legal protections and obligations available for such unions under the state in which they reside; then they should have that right, regardless of their gender or choice of mate. There is no requirement that any religion accept this union, many of them don’t even ask for that. These people simply want the ability to have the person in the world most important to them able to share financially, emotionally and legally with their successes and failures. They want the person closest to their heart in the hospital room with them at moments of life and death decisions. How dare we as a society deny an individual the comfort of a loved one in an hour of need? And yet by saying their relationship is not valid in some way that is precisely what we do.

I truly fail to understand why persons normally so committed to keeping “government” out of their own lives can be so insistent on using government to interfere in the lives of others. Yes, the country was founded by “god-fearing” men (and women). Those men, however, were deist who believed in the basic good in the heart of humanity. They were not evangelist trying to save the world. Perhaps they misplaced their faith in our ability to build a country based on the common good of people and blinded themselves to what seems to be our mutual drive to divide and destroy. Allowing committed individuals the legal protections and rights granted under civil or even religious unions is a matter of human rights and deserves the support of a civil authority. All citizens have an equal right of protection under law and in justice. Such a policy will not destroy the country. Really, it won’t.

One final word so that the record is complete and I ask that if I am quoted that it should be in context. One can at least hope. As it happens I am a Christian. Not a member of any particular institution, but, nonetheless, a Christian in thought process. The man attributed to the founding of that particular branch of human belief was quite different, in my eyes, than often described. He loved to feast with prostitutes and tax collectors. He was clearly able to display anger at the sight of bankers and merchants doing business in the heart of temple courts. He conversed with the outcast and never asked someone how they managed to get themselves in such a fix when they needed help. He chose to love, He chose to help. This is the one I choose to follow.

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Reflections ~ Father’s Day

Courtesy Pixabay.com

Courtesy Pixabay.com

Years ago I was approached by the pastor of the church I was attending. Since I was a speaker and teacher within the church, he thought it would be easy for me to “throw something together” for the Father’s Day service. I was given less than 12 hours to contribute an original piece of inspiration. Me? For Father’s Day? Provide inspiration for a national observance that caused me nothing but annoyance each year as I sought a card that was – well – appropriate? What could I possibly come up with that would not appear insincere or flippant? I arrived at this poem. Not my best work by far, but suitable for the purpose intended.

What does God require of thee,
O man that gave my life to me?
Where in His book has he described
The rules by which you should abide?

It seems that every verse I read
Establishes the need
For me to take a major role
In fatherhood’s end goal.

Oh Lord, I pray I’ll learn to see
My father by Your light to be
Not great or small, but just as one,
For whom you gave Your only Son.

Father’s Day, 1992

I believe that this bit of fluff did, in many ways, crystalize where I was at the moment. A place in my life when I was more and more convinced that my future, my destiny, belonged in my own hands and was not, completely, predetermined by my past.

Without providing details, let it suffice to say that “fatherhood,” in my mind, had little to do with nurturing and much to do with things not always discussed in public. (Insert apology to Mother). It did, however, cause a great deal of thought about roles, what is or is not acceptable behavior, and how much one should expect in the way of protection from persons at varying degrees of separation. And what one should do about one’s own interpretation of the cards dealt in life.

I know that is all somewhat vague, but until I was around the age of 30, my mind wandered into a number of areas on a tentative basis, trying (sometimes desperately) to grasp a sense of stability. A sense of goal. A sense of control over my own destiny. It seemed to me that there were not many souls around me that were driven in that direction. People did not think of “destiny” as I did – they seemed to drift along the course life took, given their circumstances, with little direct thought of taking the wheel themselves. Perhaps they were happy, or at least complacent, with the road they were on. I, however, was not.

From a relatively early age I was determined to find answers to why, where and how I had ended up in the specific role the universe had left me in, and if there was anything I could do about it. I recall a number of “moments of clarity” as early as grade school. Doing something about these accumulated insights took many years. Years of making micro-decisions regarding my outward behavior and inner interpretations until one day, around 30, I reached out and grabbed hold of the wheel that would guide my future. I’m afraid I did not take a very direct route to wherever it is I thought I was going, but at least I was motivated to try. Fighting the residue of that dark and “troubled” childhood took a great deal of effort.

Each individual is really a sum total not only of what they experience in life, but also what they choose to extract from that experience. The old question of nurture vs. nature. That seems obvious, I know, but I don’t see many actively, persistently dealing with that interpretation. It is far too easy for us to say, “he had a troubled childhood,” “she didn’t have the advantages necessary to overcome _____,” and several other platitudes and clichés we use on a daily basis. You see it in the media every time there is a violent crime, a tragic “accident,” a moment of lost control. Or, we separate ourselves completely and resort to various forms of “us” and “them” to explain why someone could be as utterly uncouth as to _____.

And that is where we will remain until we stand up and say, “no more.” It is an individual decision and it is made no matter what the societal, economic or religious pressures are to the contrary. It is rare enough that when it is done vocally, publically, we demonize or glorify the individual daring to stand up against the tide of human perception.

I am convinced, however, that there are millions of individuals who, each and every day, make decisions that place them in the driver’s seat. People who step up to protect the less fortunate, care for those uncared for, champion those with no other protector. Quietly, persistently, and with no thought of recognition. These people are my heroes. They are the “nurturers” I seek.

I am sincerely grateful that there are fathers in the world that are looked up to and thought of as genuine guides to the development of their offspring. Men who look to that responsibility as a sacred trust and who do all they can to allow that spirit entrusted to their care to develop to his or her highest and best potential. For the rest of us? Don’t allow the circumstance of your birth to infect your view of the universe around you – make it a tool to give you clarity, honesty, and a deeper sense of the needs not always seen by others. Be the quiet voice that says, “no more.”

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Filed under Humanties for the Unbound Mind, Personal Journeys

Appropriate Footwear

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A few weeks ago I made a journey to the sea. It was a short journey. As I tell my friends, close enough to visit but not near enough I may have to run. Way out here on the far western edge of the Washington peninsula we have the choice of the Pacific shores or the beaches of bays and coves. My new home is less than an hour away from both Ocean Shores and Westport. My visit this time was to Westport.

I chose Westport because, unlike Ocean Shores, I had never been there. I had, of course, hoped that my husband would be with me on this adventure. It was not to be. So for my first visit to the pounding surf I chose a safe route – a new memory.

There were a few hiccups. I no sooner arrived at a lovely sunny and windblown beach than I discovered that the batteries on my camera were about to die. For some reason beyond me, the backups I usually keep in my camera case were not there. Well, wasn’t that lovely. The second issue was that I, well, didn’t seem to be in appropriate footwear. It was tempting to just carry my shoes and stroll barefoot through the sand. I’m not quite ready for that.

I still spent time, watching and listening to the surf. Letting that timeless beat ease some of the pain of being there alone. I always loved the ocean. Whenever I was stressed, unsure, tired, frightened, worried that things in life had just gotten “too big” for me – I escaped. To the shore, or to a mountain, or a vast moonless sky, but always somewhere bigger than me. Somewhere that made “stuff” smaller, more manageable, more doable. This time it was the ocean surf. The heartbeat of the earth. How much closer to nature can you get and still be a separate entity?

I drove into the tiny coastal town of Westport and wandered through the shops, found some batteries, and had lunch at a seafood place. I walked the piers and managed a few pictures. Hesitant, first steps toward being a “me” and not an “us.” All in all, it was a pleasant, though bittersweet day.

This weekend “holiday” from unpacking, rescheduling, house fixing and whatever else is going on in my life, helped me pause and take inventory. There are times when you lose someone who truly was your soul mate that the loss grows into a deep and hungry black hole sucking the life right out of you. But there are also times when that love is so great that it won’t let you quit. Will not let you forget the dreams that can still be lived, or the person you have grown into because of their care. I think I’m learning. I just need to do better at having appropriate footwear, oh, and a few extra batteries.

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Reviews ~ How Old is This?

Bones, Rocks and Stars by Chris Turney Available for $12 -25.

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As I unpack all those books we’ve had for years I find treasures that I meant to read but, well, never got around to. It’s like Christmas in my house these days. This title is one I probably acquired through a book club. It was purchased to answer a question an avid history nut, such as myself, finds perplexing – how do we know how to date things?

This is no easy question in the world of historical and archeological investigation. It gets even touchier when we talk about the age of the earth, the universe, or the advent of man. For instance, you may hear something like, radiocarbon dating is unreliable. Fine, but why, and when? I felt it was time that I read the science and left the media hype to the tabloids and those with specific agendas. This book opened that door, and in an entertaining way. A lot of science, but an easy read.

Before I address the book itself, I would like to posit a thought. I have friends and followers with varying positions on evolution, creationism, and all the emotional baggage on both sides. I’ve been there, and reading up on the science is part of what gave me some sense of clarity.

For those who are more concerned with scriptural interpretations, I’d like to point out a few things that helped me. There are several chapters in Job where God puts forth on the wonders of the natural world. They are introduced with the question, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the world?” Yes, indeed. The message in these passages burned in my heart was – don’t make assumptions. Look to creation for your answers, there is a reason things work the way they do.

Fast forward to New Testament times and the apostle Paul (whatever his reputation may be) and we find in Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (New American Standard). Again, things evident in nature are meant to tell a story. There are many more similar references.

So, why the mini-sermon? Because if I am to believe that we have some direction, that the ancient holy books of our species have something to say about the place we find ourselves and what we should do about it, then I have to believe that there is value in what is said. My thought is this. If we are admonished to look to nature for the creative power within — if the ancients of many religions tell us to look, to see, to contemplate the marvels before us—then why should we expect something other than truth? Should we expect to find an “appearance of age” to mislead us? Should we find things that are not what they appear to be? Man’s knowledge is not perfect. However, we do have the ability to seek, to find, to follow where the evidence leads. What’s more, I sincerely believe we are commanded to do so.

Thus, we get to the book. How do we date things? Turney leads the reader through a step by step process of what amounts to the history of sorting out just how old things are. Starting with how we date things using calendars, and how we convert ancient historical documents to modern calendars to get a sense of time. He describes the fascinating science of dendrochronology: the use of tree rings to count the years and study climate changes. Comparing these records with journals and legends we can better understand when events occurred and some of the reasons a culture changed or died out.

He carefully explains how we compare the ratios of compounds in samples, check for luminescence, uranium content and even radiocarbon dating. Yes, it is true, radiocarbon dating has it limits. Due to the half-life of the Carbon 14 atom it is only accurate to somewhere near 40,000 years. I also learned that these methods work not because of one test, but because of a series of tests in and around a sample to plot curves in order to reduce the chance of contamination skewing the sample.

The steps taken on specific claims show how the frauds are discovered, and how science corrects itself. He speaks with clarity and provides headline cases and inside adventures to show the reader how the conclusions were constructed. How we learned and how our knowledge is growing.

We live in an incredible universe of unbelievable wonder. Our own history is filled with lessons, information, wisdom that we cannot ignore. If we do not put these events in proper context, we cannot learn, we cannot be all that we are created to be. Check out “the science of when things happened.” I think you will find much to contemplate.

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Filed under My Bookshelf ~ Before Current Era, My Bookshelf ~ Current Era, Natural Sciences from the Observation Deck

Guest Post ~ Why do we love Fantasy?

Dragon

A 9′ by 3′ original oil by Dianne used for the covers of her trilogy.

My friend and colleague, Dianne Lynn Gardner agreed to visit today.  She is deep a project that will bring her beloved Realm to the screen. It has been quite a journey.  After writing Ian’s Realm, a trilogy, and then expanding the story to include two more books due to be published, she fell in love with the idea of bringing the Realm to the screen. To have something worthwhile to show, you have to know how to build a world other people want to visit!

Please welcome Dianne Lynn Gardner during one of her short stays here with us in the reality of the the Pacific Northwest.

From Dianne:

It’s not enough to lay on the grass, dandelions by your ear bouncing under the weight of a bumble bee, clover blossoms tickling your toes, as you stare at the white puffs of moisture changing shapes against the blue. No. It’s not enough to just lay there and listen to the breeze as you absorb the warmth of the day. You aren’t satisfied until you squint at the clouds and see the shape of a giant lizard morph into a dragon, and then as moments pass the formation becomes a butterfly stretching its wings over you, hovering between you and that burning star you call the sun. Soon it dissipates into nothing again. A cloud again. The shadow that had shielded you, gone.

Your imagination took you into a portal of time. For a few moments you weren’t really on your front lawn. Cars didn’t drive by, airplanes didn’t fly over your house. The phone didn’t ring. In fact, in the fantasy world you just left those things didn’t exist. Your stay was ever so brief. Completely harmless. But you were there.

Some people choose to stay longer.

Though it’s my opinion that all fiction is fantasy because it was made up in the mind of the author, the genre has a skeleton more exclusively defined. Speak the word fantasy and castles and battles fought with broadswords and bow manifest in the mind’s eye.

 

There are other kinds of worlds and the more imaginative author will seek to find different scenery to entertain the reader.

Two questions. How and Why?

“How” is left to the artist who paints a dream. It could be a combination of places the author loves. Maybe there were fields where he once walked. Perhaps in his childhood he remembers a house at the end of the street that had a basement unexplored. Sometimes a forest is so dark and deep he might remember hearing voices screaming from its core. Many memories and imaginings can dream up a fantasy world, and to build that universe in detail is an art. An exciting journey, with endless possibilities. All one needs to do is squint a little as though looking at the clouds, and pretend.

Why?

Stories such as Through the Looking Glass, the Wizard of Oz, Narnia, Lord of the Rings and many other fantasies take their main characters into worlds with incredible obstacles to overcome. Those obstacles represent trials common to us here in the real world. Good- versus-evil-type trials. In a fantasy story, magnifying the consequences of wrong choices, and glorifying the triumphs of perseverance, loyalty, courage and honor prompts the reader to consider issues they are facing in reality. In some way, those prompts can help to influence decision making — hopefully for the better.

This is why we love fairy tales, dragons, castles, princesses and knights. It takes us away from this world, if only for a while. And the really good stories give us something to bring back.

Dianne has just released the third in the Ian’s Realm Trilogy, Rubies and Robbers. 

Also check out Deception Peak (book 1) and Dragon Shield (book 2)

Visit her at her website http://www.gardnersart.com/ where all things Realm are explored!

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Filed under My Bookshelf ~ Fiction