Christians are smashing metal songwriters? Really?

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I have a thing for Gregorian chants, my kids tend to roll their eyes and then flop themselves on the sofa when they see my cds come out, and you can do the same as this post is centred on that topic. Now that blog etiquettes (warnings) have been dispensed with, this is what I would like to ruminate about.

“As a metalhead I must say, The Christians are smashing metal songwriters!”

I burst out laughing as I read this comment which was in response to the translation of a 13th century Latin Catholic hymn, “Dies Irae”- Day of wrath.

The translation of this glorious hymn goes something like this…

Day of wrath and doom impending,
David’s word with Sibyl’s blending,
Heaven and earth in ashes ending!

Oh, what fear man’s bosom rendeth,
When from heaven the Judge descendeth,
On whose sentence all dependeth.

Full translation can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dies_Irae

Metal songs, not that I listen to any or that I even vaguely claim to posses any knowledge of the genre, are known to be powerful, intense and even demonic, hence the raucous laughter when reading a comment stating that Christians are great metal songwriters! Humour aside it drove home a very startling fact that often tends to be missed, there is fine line between right and wrong. Religion, I speak for the catholic faith but I doubt that other religions differ greatly, is about peace and love. Turning the other cheek, loving your neighbour as your self and most importantly loving your God with everything you have, mind, body and soul.

Yet, how many righteous religious wars have we fought? How many inquisitions, hangings, and witch burnings have we condoned? How many dark secrets have marred many a religious institution? A quick history lesson makes you sing the song of the black eyed peas, “where is the love?”

A religion of love and peace, where the son of God himself and many of his apostles thereafter, chose to surrender themselves to torture and death rather than speak one evil word of anger or hatred, yet we the disciples of that order have perpetrated war and murder in his holy name. Aren’t we the ones who are truly lost? Is it any wonder that today bystanders declare us ‘similar’ to a genre that is often associated with darkness?

Many Christian friends have asked me why I don’t evangelise, spread the word, and generally talk of my intimate relationship with the God. How can I? How do I explain that I ‘see’ all that is wrong and yet choose what is right? That there is so much that I do not understand, so many questions that I have no answers to, numerous mysteries that plague me night and day, and yet in the knowledge of him that matters most, my lord and my God, I am calm. How do you explain that which is too enigmatic to even define as a question?

The simple truth is you can’t find God without bumping into the devil first. Trust me when I tell you that Adam and Eve had no true realisation of God until they listened to the devil. Due to the unfortunate way the human mind, soul and brain works, we can’t truly understand or even recognise the truth until we are first convinced of that which is false. The proverbial other side always looks greener, and until we cross over and see for ourselves, like the famous doubting Thomas, we will never truly be convinced.

The Israelites when crossing the dessert were not impressed by the supernatural column of cloud by day nor the column of fire by night, the manna from heaven was too bland and the parting of the Red sea, old news. Christians, priests, nuns, deacons, preachers, like their predecessors tend to get lost in the dessert and the world only hears of their doubts and failings but not of their journey home. So to all the sceptics and watchers, rejoice when you hear of the lost for that’s when the shepherd goes out looking for his sheep and who knows you might just catch a glimpse of him.

That’s the beauty of Christianity, even when you are truly lost you are actually closer to being found, that’s the Christian paradox, only those who are truly lost can be saved, everyone else is just pretending to be found. Fear not if you are one of those who has never crossed the line or have been true to the faith since birth, God has not forgotten you. Life with a lot of help from the devil will visit you, will shake your world, will bring you to your knees and then from the depths of your darkest despair when you call out, the light will shine.

Now you know why I don’t talk of my faith but only smile and say, “Your time will come, hang in there!”

The Art of healing: Hoʻoponopono

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Hotmail delivered an email by a troubled soul I no longer consider as friend, refer to my emotional rant in the article ‘A can of worms’. Technology amazes me, how you can still receive emails from a ‘blocked’ person is one of the wonders of modern society. In this instance however, gratitude is the order of the day.

Her email, as always, was a forwarded email that goes by the subject line: “I’m sorry” and “I love you”.  I must be the only dyslexic in the world who just can’t resist reading a well-written email, even if it is from someone I have officially blocked from my life. What can I say? We all have our quirks; curiosity is mine.

This particular email was so intriguing it warranted a post, for those who are familiar with my musings you know that I rather stay silent than write for the sake of writing, yes all you social media marketers, I am guilty of the number one SMM no-no. I have never been one to conform and my viewpoints are different at best but never run-of-the-mill.

Hoʻoponopono is the ancient Hawaiian belief system that offers cures for a world steeped in pain and sickness. According to Wikipedia, “Hoʻoponopono” is defined in the Hawaiian Dictionary as “mental cleansing: family conferences in which relationships were set right through prayer, discussion, confession, repentance, and mutual restitution and forgiveness.”

This particular email made references to Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, a therapist in Hawaii who cured a complete ward of criminally insane patients without ever seeing them, by improving himself. Total responsibility, the belief that everything in your life is your responsibility and not in a guilt tripping depressing way but in an uplifting empowering way.

I am not completely sold on the technique or the results, nor am I convinced of the authenticity of the claims, however what I am intrigued with is the underlying empowerment message. Yes, I am a sucker for inspirational, motivational and downright simple common sense. As a catholic, I can totally resonate with, ‘prayer, discussion, confession, repentance, and mutual restitution and forgiveness’.

For the longest time however, I always thought that all the above were for your own mental health. As a proponent of, ‘You have the power to change your past’ I found it quite interesting that I, me and myself encompasses the universe.

The question, ‘what have you done?’ being posed to the parents when any child was ill, really struck a nerve. The fact that one out of my brood of three is perpetually ill might have something to do with it. My counsellor, as my son might have Asperger’s, is always drumming the circle of parenting principles, one of her favourite being, the solution to all behavioural issues with children is to spend more quality time with them. To rejoice in them and delight in them, kind but firm is what every parent should aim for. Screaming, yelling and generally loosing it is my modus operandi, but Libby and I are working on that.

Apart from the fact that if you are at peace with yourself, everyone around you will also absorb that calming presence (a kindy teacher who is confident and calm always has her class attentive to her), the ability to heal others by taking responsibility for them mentally, seems to make a lot of sense. In this world where everyone is harping on their freedom to curse, insult and abuse, a message of peace, harmony, forgiveness and most importantly responsibility might just be what we need in these troubled times.

To heal the world, our community, our families, by first healing ourselves, makes a lot of sense. Every troubled teenager, criminal and war monger needs to be taken responsibility for, we as a community need to step out of our shells, our private little perfect worlds and embrace the troubled, lonely and even the criminally insane with love, forgiveness and acknowledgment. Distancing ourselves form the problem doesn’t make it go away, doing something about it does.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we all make a beeline to the prisons and hospitals; that would be nice, however what we can do is stop this mental demarcation of them versus us. Total surrender and total responsibility, at least mentally for starters, who knows we might just change the world and save it while we heal and love ourselves.

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Rejection is the new measure of success.

REJECTION

I was reading an article about rejections, Dr Seuss, the beloved author of children’s picture books was rejected 27 times. Just before he lost all hope, an old friend agreed to publish it and it sold 600 million copies. Two things come to mind, one that success is difficult and you should never give up; secondly, the decision makers (editors, publishers etc.) need to find a different line of work.

I have always been a writer and as a child I believed that one day I would see my works published. My educators seemed to doubt my supreme faith, luckily I was never one to blindly confirm. As a dyslexic I can understand their reluctance to envision me at some book-signing event. In retrospect, I must be the only dyslexic who wants to be a writer and loves words; I mean they rarely stay still. However, blessed with an overactive imagination it’s hard not to pen the echoes of strange worlds and capture the spirit of the glorious characters that abound in them. Dyslexia is why you have spell check, and why you enlist the help of friends and family to edit and proof read, not a reason to give up your passion.

For those who have been following my blog, you would agree that my take on life is anything but stereotyped. Some see a glass half full, while others lament a glass half empty, I however rejoice on the glass fulfilling its role and the fact that my thirst can be quenched.

My biggest grouse is with the naysayers of life, the judges, the evaluators, the critics etc. we all cross paths with them eventually to get the joy sucked out of our lives. These qualified analysts claim to have God’s ear, and hence the supreme confidence with which they declare you not fit, not good enough, not appropriate, will never succeed, will never amount to anything in life etc.

They are predictable and spend their lives demanding that we, the free-spirited, conform to their rules and reasoning. How do you pigeonhole creativity, passion, and talent? “Too different and silly” the unanimous reason for rejection is what makes the books of Dr. Suess so loved.

How many stories have we heard, of successful entrepreneurs who disagreed with the experts only to start their own common sense line that took them laughing to their banks? What we need is a little bit of Edison in our lives, ‘I haven’t failed 500 times but I have found 500 ways that don’t work’, this is how I remember the quote from childhood but today Google reports it as 10,000 times. The moral of the story still holds true, never give up and don’t listen to the naysayers. Rejections are the hallmark of the greatest achievers; the one commonality being they never accepted it.

 

Makeup is a woman’s right not a gender privilege.

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Applying makeup is more than just a fashion trend it’s part of being a woman. For far too long women who love makeup have been labelled as superficial and by a fanatical few as dissolute. As a girl I grew up with a mother who shied away from makeup and was the ultimate ‘au naturale’. A devout catholic prayer warrior she was more like a nun than a woman of the world.
I on the other hand loved to paint my nails, face, dolls and once even attempted to beautify a calf in my granny’s farm! My mother unlike all the other religious stoics who tend to shame girls like me, encouraged me saying, “If you’re gonna paint yourself try to do it right!’
Yes, my mother had an extremely unique modus, a sincere matter of fact style that didn’t involve any sugar coated nonsense. For me she was the ultimate woman, she did whatever she liked out of choice, no fear propaganda or social norms that she felt obliged to adhere to. There was only one person to please and that was God, if her actions would shame her in front of her creator then that was all the deterrent she needed.
Which isn’t to say she wasn’t flawed, a lot more than others because she was transparent, she never felt the need to hide or pretend and so was always pointed at. A great learning model for me because it taught me that there is no pleasing anyone and there is only one who truly matters and he is on my side. Armed with that knowledge and conviction I can proudly inform you that I have battled some of the worst traumas one can possibly face in life and you know what? I’m still standing strong, bat ready to face whatever life can possibly throw at me and I do it in style! Fingernails painted and makeup on, I am ready.
So you have a colicky baby that doesn’t let you sleep through the night, an illness that drains the colour out of your face, personal crisis that makes you crawl into a corner and bawl your eyes out, who says you need to look the part. I know I don’t and if you want to it’s ok, I respect that.
I grew up loathing pity; I hated if anyone felt sorry for me, and did all I could to look strong and confidant even if I was falling apart inside. Makeup empowers me, I may not be able to make my baby sleep through the night but I can sure hide those dark circles. Life doesn’t have to win all the rounds.
According to research people have been painting themselves since the beginning of time, it’s a way of establishing control and reinforcing one’s identity. No wonder the first thing most religious dictatorships do is to ban cosmetics. Strip a woman of her right to celebrate her individuality and establish her identity and you have a broken, lost soul ready for manipulation. Allow only women in the sex trade access to cosmetics and you subconsciously reinforce the idea that a woman’s beauty is only for male pleasure.
A research by Dr. Richard Russell, a psychology professor at Gettysburg College, sates that the only way a face gets classified as male or female is by facial contrasts. Women tend to have lighter skin, darker eyes and lips than men. No wonder that the basic elements of makeup consists of foundation, mascara and lipstick. All we are trying to do is stress our identity, we are female and we are beautiful.
For all the opponents of cosmetics I ask, “Who are you?” 9 times out of 10 we all reply with reference to our gender. This is who I am, a woman, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife and a writer. I don’t love makeup or fashion but they are an integral part of my life, I brush my teeth and I apply make up. I am a woman, why shouldn’t I do what I want and look how I feel inside, which is beautiful? There are days when I want to look plain and ordinary, and many, many more days when I want to look gorgeous, why shouldn’t I?

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Is it superficial to enhance your feminine attributes? Do you do courses to enhance your trade? Do you eat right and exercise to look fit and healthy? Do you dress well because you feel good about it? Do you get a haircut and groom yourself to look polished? Most importantly do you smile when you look at a beautiful person? I do and I like to be that beautiful person too.

 

Perception, it’s all in the mind!

Every drop makes an ocean

Every drop makes an ocean

Richard Bach had written in his book Illusions that ‘You’re always free to change your mind and choose a different future, or a different past’. As an 18-year-old I never quite understood what he meant and I shelved it as one of those mystical sayings that are so deep that you float! Today 18 years later I have finally understood what he meant, or in Richard Bach’s words, I already knew it, I just happened to remember. It finally dawned on me that your past is just a memory, yes the events were real and many times painful which is why some events are etched in our memory like stone, which even the waters of time cannot erase. I always thought that forgiveness, like our Lord Jesus preached could change our past and present and definitely our future. Perhaps this is what Richard Bach was trying to imply in different verbiage?

Apparently not, imagine any event that shattered you emotionally (dramatic effect) or even a simple one but something that created a ripple effect in your life. For a bit of drama, imagine Spiderman (yes I love spidey, this is the second time I have mentioned him in my posts.) he chooses a path of the vigilante because a criminal he refused to stop ended up killing his uncle. The latest version spins a new tale in which the criminal was not the killer but an out of luck dad trying to save his critically ill daughter.  Has his past changed? YES.

For a less dramatic version imagine a little girl whose best friend steals her favourite doll then lies about it. She grows up with trust issues and turns into an introvert, years later when she moves to college her parents renovate her room. One of the builders hands over a dusty old doll that they found when moving a heavy wooden cupboard. This little girl is shocked at the discovery and yes her past has changed. Hopefully she makes up with her friend and overcomes her trust issues.

The point I am trying to make is that reality is how you and I define it. The exact events have nothing to do with it. What might seem like absolute, irrefutable truth can in fact be a lie and vice versa. The only permanent feature is our own interpretation of the events, which then translates into emotions, giving rise to either good or bad memories. These memories then shape our personalities, our beliefs, our ideologies and invariably our present, which soon becomes our past.

Lets look at natural childbirth, it is considered as the most physically demanding and painful experience in life. Yet, since the beginning of time women have happily volunteered for it and in many cases undergone more than one in their lifetime. Why? If only the ‘real’ facts were to be taken into consideration, which are intense physical trauma, excruciating pain, copious amounts of blood, loud screams that can curdle your blood, need I go on? For the record, I had three elective caesareans, and in no way lay any claim whatsoever to these multitude of brave women. The entire concept of childbirth is looked upon as a very natural and even beautiful process involving the birth of life through the selfless love of the mother.

Perception, is the difference between trauma and celebrated; routine and ghastly; torture and edification; not reality. So next time life, an event or a person breaks your spirit ask yourself how does nature trick mankind into forgetting the pain and glorifying the end and do the same. Go forth and change your past into whatever you want it to be!

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Gangnam style is it the harbinger of doomsday?

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There is a new doomsday prediction floating around cyber space, which has arrested my attention. After the Gulf war way back in 1991, Nostradamus had been revived by doomsday predictors and it remained a hot favourite especially after 9/11 when one of his predictions that

The sky will burn at forty-five degrees latitude; 
Fire approaches the great new city

(The two brothers will be torn apart by chaos was an imaginative interpretation of the actual text), piqued the interest of many.

Gangnam style follows suit with a Mayan prediction that the world will end on 21/12/2012, A Nostradamus quatrain that predicts the world will end when

From the calm morning, the end will come When of the dancing horse The number of circles will be 9”.

The translation goes thus, Psy of Korea, the morning calm; the end, Mayan prediction of the end of the world 21 December 2012; Gangnam style, the dancing horse; 1 billion views, circles will be nine. Needless to say that the previous prediction post 21 December 2012 is now that it has begun, with dead fish washing up ashore and with North Korea declaring war is eminent, they have believers.

As a kid I was intrigued by predictions and end of the world predictions, I remember making a bucket list of sorts to do before I turned 24, because the world was supposed to end in year 2000. Well into 2000 they said that because of a numerological error it would be 2012, today is 2013. The rapture did not happen, no rain cheques for all the people who sold/donated their possessions and are sitting alone in a cave somewhere.

The most intriguing aspect of all these predictions and the ones that will come after they have long been forgotten, is that each one claims to have predicted or base their theory on a line of reasoning that HAD predicted all that has happened. See the funny part about this logic is that it doesn’t take a genius to manipulate data (alphabets in to numbers, numbers into alphabets, vague quatrains of Nostradamus’s predictions etc.) to read into what has happened. The future is another ball game altogether.

Tell me what will happen tomorrow without disclosing it to anyone else and if it does, you’ll have a believer. The irony about predicting the future is when you disclose it you tend to influence it into happening, and that is NOT the same as predicting it. If anyone should know about the ludicrous aspect of predicting the future, it is me. I am a mild psychic of sorts and ever since I was a child I could see into my future in bits and pieces but nothing clear enough for me to make sense of until it happened. I still made the very mistakes I had been warned about making and just because I evaded one didn’t mean I escaped it all together, complicated is the least that I have inferred. The truth is that the future is not set in stone, it is a result of a multitude of choices that we make. Each choice leads to a multitude of options and just like the fluttering of a butterfly on one side of the world can cause a hurricane in another (do not agree with this notion but the underlying principle is correct) the collective choices of the entire planet weaves our present.

A beggar child that begs for alms moves the heart of a man rushing to work and because he stops to check for loose change misses his bus, that explodes a few seconds later. As he escapes his death he goes home a reformed man and starts to spend time with his family, more importantly his troubled daughter. With this extra attention and unconditional love of her father this child, who was earlier destined to fall into drugs and quit school, grows to be a renowned scientist and discovers a cure for cancer. Millions are saved, but they wouldn’t have if that beggar child had not stopped that man on that fateful day. Incidents like this abound in our lives that make us take complete detours in our life. Very few detours are as obvious as in the story mentioned above.

Every time we click accept on an FB friend request or the opposite, we have changed a timeline. As a writer every thought that I pen down and every post that is read changes mindsets or reaffirms one, fate is challenged. Many of the stories I read as a child has shaped me into the adult I am today. Would I be the same adult with the same thoughts and ideologies if those great writers, C.S. Lewis, Jane Austin, J.R. Tolkien, Isaac Asimov, Jules Verne, Roald Dahl, Rudyard Kipling, Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie, etc. had failed to pen even one of their legendary works?

How I bring up my children is a direct result of a conscious decision made by every one who has influenced my life starting from great literary writers, to teachers who instructed me, my role models who inspired me, my parents and even the insignificant billboard I happened to read.  The list is endless, every kind gesture, rude encounter, heart break, failure, achievements etc. shapes whether I turn right or left at the next cross road of life. This is just me, there are 7 billion more out there who contribute in some way or another to the fluid, dynamic, concept we call the future. Then how can one be so blasé to claim that they can predict the future? How more foolish are we to believe such a claim?

Body Acceptance struggle, the sad tale of every woman.

Fighting for what you believe in!

Fighting for what you believe in! Stand up for yourself!

 

Women tend to be their worst enemy and what a formidable enemy we make. Nature has made women beautiful and strong, when used for the greater good blessings abound, however just as every coin has two sides, so does the strength of women. As mothers we are nurturing and kind but as adversaries we can rip the very foundation of a fortress.

It is rarely the boyfriend, the husband, the father, the brother, the son or any man who calls you fat and worn down. It’s usually your rival, mother, sister, girlfriend or daughter, not to forget the woman you meet in the mirror and the voice in your head. It’s not the image of the handsome ripped male in the magazine that makes you self-conscious but the gorgeous flawless bronze goddess.

So why are we so brutally critical of ourselves and the ones we love? Why do we expect so much from our children, our husbands, our lives and ourselves? There isn’t a single woman I have come across in my life who doesn’t live with some form of regret and as mothers we drive the longest train of guilt. There isn’t a single woman I know who is truly happy with her body image, whether she is fat, thin, slim, athletic or drop dead gorgeous, it doesn’t matter, she will always find herself too fat, too thin, to lanky, too muscled, right eye bigger than the left or with a big nose!

We are harshest with respect to our body image, we chastise ourselves, shame ourselves and always focus on our failures, never on our strengths or our gifts. We keep asking what’s wrong with us and why we can’t do this or that; we never look at what is so right with us and how we managed to this and that, despite everything.

It is time we stood up for ourselves; it is time to defend and cherish all that is beautiful within. No we won’t get proud and conceited if we appreciate the good, great and wonderful within us. We only get that way of we say that we are the ONLY ones with that trait and everyone else is without or lacking. Universal love and acceptance is the true way forward. Let us dream again and sprout wings to fly to heights far away from regret and guilt. In the immortal words of Sister Corita Kent, “Maybe we are less than our dreams, but that less would make us more than some Gods would dream of ”.

Halleluiah! White smoke from the Sistine chapel. Viva il Papa!

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

849508-white-smoke-pope-electedYou don’t have to be a catholic to realise the significance of white smoke bellowing from (atop) the Sistine Chapel. The Roman Catholic community has been blessed with a new pope (266th pope), Pope Francis. The bells of the basilica pealed across St. Peters square and the devout  crowd jubilantly chanted Viva il Papa (Long live the Pope in Italian).

ARGENTINIAN Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio is the first of many; He is the first Jesuit to be elected Pope, the first to hail from Latin America, the first non-European pontiff in 1000 years and the first Pope Francis, though technically he can’t be called the first until there is a second pope Francis.

Pope Francis appeared on the balcony to be greeted by a deafening roar of joy by the crowd that had been chanting Viva il Papa for over an hour after the smoke was sighted.

“You know that the work of the conclave is to give a bishop to Rome. It seems as if my brother cardinals went to find him from the end of the earth. Thank you for the welcome,” he said before thanking the former pope Benedict, blessing the city and all the men and women of goodwill.

Thousands of miles away, I could not help myself beam with pride when the following facts were made to light, as I sipped my morning coffee. Pope Francis is known for his humility, his belief in social justice and for living a simple lifestyle. As Cardinal of the Catholic Church in Argentina, he passed on the right to have a chauffeured limousine and instead used public transport. Instead of a bishop’s palace, he lived in a small apartment and reportedly cooked his own meals.

These are indeed exciting times for a catholic, for the first time we have a former pope (pope Benedict) to guide us and a new pope (pope Francis) to lead us, a double blessing, Viva il Papa indeed!

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Pope Francis

Pope Francis


Read more: http://www.news.com.au/world-news/new-pope-jorge-mario-bergoglio-to-be-known-as-pope-francis/story-fndir2ev-1226596864238#ixzz2NSxNUklE

Perfection is Ugly!

You knew

You knew (Photo credit: James Broad)

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No, that’s not a typo, it reads exactly as it should. Beauty is imperfect, natural and spontaneous; everything else is just the opposite. Perfection comes out of an assembly line from a lifeless machine, each product exactly like it’s predecessor. A masterpiece is unique, has soul, its flaws make it even more valuable and it doesn’t get better than a human being.
Show me anyone and I can point out a million faults but what always intrigues me are the quirks. As a writer I am always seeking out the nuances that distinguish a character, my heroes are always the least brave and the dysfunctional. The only common trait they have is the willingness to learn from their mistakes.
It was probably a self-absorbed writer who remarked that creative people are like God, breathing life into ideas and colours. As lofty as the comment is you can’t deny that artists share the mindset of God. We celebrate the flawed, the broken, the lonely, the meek and the humble. There is always so much depth in the songs of the broken hearted and the mirth of a man well versed with misfortune is heart warming, not to mention inspiring.
So what’s with the fascination with perfection that has got the world all twisted? Why does beautiful only mean flawless? When did our definitions get so limited and shallow? Why should handsome only mean muscles and a defined jawline? When did acne which meant that you are now officially a teenager, become a symbol of shame? Freckles used to mean cute but now a concealer promises to hide it. People on the heavier side used to be known as jolly and large hearted, today even Santa is a size zero. When did we get so insecure that being natural meant foundation, lip-gloss and mascara?
The human mind and heart are instinctively tuned to beauty, the real kind. All the bright colours, the glossy lips, the darkened eyebrows and the bronzed cheekbones are so perfect that after a while they begin to look ugly. Have you ever had a friend who always wore glasses and then switched to contacts? Do you remember seeing them for the first time and remarking that they looked different and that you liked them better with spectacles? I have two beautiful little angels and they love to play with my makeup, they climb on chairs, reach for my lipstick, colour themselves silly and then run to me asking, pretty?
No, a compassionate heart, a genuine smile, a hearty laugh, kind words straight from the heart, soulful eyes; these are the things that are pretty and warm my soul. Masking all that with paint in a bid to be perfect is what kills the human spirit. I am not against makeup, in fact I love to experiment but I can step out with out any on and not feel uncomfortable. I apply makeup because I like it and not because I am defined by it. It saddens me that there are some women who are uncomfortable in their own skin. Who told them that they are not beautiful or that beauty only means looking perfect, all the time, and every time? Like a wise person once said, you maybe one among a million but for that special someone you are one in a million. That person will find you beautiful even when your hair goes grey and wrinkles cover you entirely, because beauty truly is in the eyes of the beholder. Try to remember that when you look into the mirror next time.

Freedom without boundaries is chaos.

Freedom of Speech (preliminary version)

Freedom of Speech (preliminary version) (Photo credit: cliff1066™)

Freedom is the hallmark of a civilised society and so is mutual respect! Free speech is not a permission to indulge in defamation or libel. Why am I writing a post on the freedom of speech? I had written a post earlier on free speech https://antoniarapheal.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/free-speech-or-just-an-excuse-to-be-insensitive/

And I came across very interesting comments. Many held the opinion that reprimanding commentators, writers etc. to be more sensitive and curtail their insults or jokes that satirize individuals by drawing inferences to the disabled was a hindrance to free speech! Although thoroughly upset with the behaviour they still defended it in the name of free speech.

This post is to illuminate my well-intentioned fellow bloggers (no, I did not want to argue on a discussion forum) on the basic tenets of free speech. In the wise words of a great thinker (if memory serves me right its Abraham Lincoln but Google doesn’t support my notion), “You are free to say whatever you like but not in any manner you like!”

Freedom is indeed precious and the birth right of every individual, as is the right to a person’s emotional and mental well-being, in simple terms no one has the right to poke fun at you because you are different in the name of free speech. While I am not calling on a crack down on name calling, what I am trying to highlight is, when did we as a society begin to shy away from our moral responsibility to defend the oppressed and abused? Which school of thought has brainwashed us into believing that people have every right to deride and joke at the less fortunate or different all in name of free speech and those derided have no rights to respect and equality?

When did the right to an opinion get distorted into the right to abuse and discriminate? It is not a right but an offence and it saddens me that in today’s age we have evolved to such a tolerant degree that we have incorporated an offence as a basic human right. What’s next? Declaring schoolyard bullying as the right to freedom of expression? For those still in doubt here is the multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly that covers Freedom of speech:

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

Article 19

1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals.

Yes, the right to freedom of speech carries with it responsibilities, to be mindful of the right of an individual to mutual respect. Power without control is useless and freedom without boundaries is chaos.

Mean Girls morph into highly critical women.

English: Crying boy

English: Crying boy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I stress on the word morph, to highlight that there is no change or improvement just a repackaging. I studied in an all girls school, went to an all girl’s college and worked in a women only department, talk about BAD luck. When the female species decides to be good, it is a blessing, like rain on a parched land, it is refreshing. The reverse is also true, with memories that can haunt and sometimes traumatise the victim for years.

Individually they are rendered quite powerless though I have had the greatest misfortune to cross paths with the evilest types (yeah more than one!) who can singlehandedly wreck your life. Now before you roll you eyes and brush aside this post as another emotional rant, read on, it is nothing like that.

I will spare you the details, I see many sigh with relief, what I want to highlight is emotional bullying. As I prepare to send my oldest to school, I was reading upon the school literature aimed at educating parents with children preparing to attend school for the first time. School bullying is a growing epidemic, and even in a peaceful, friendly city like Adelaide, it is becoming a problem.

I was reading upon some articles and instances of bullying, when I realised that many of the emotional side effects mentioned were very similar to what I had experienced. I always thought that I had just crossed paths with some really mean characters, but as I study the type and scope of bullying I realised that I was subjected to emotional bullying which is as bad if not worse than physical bullying. While physical bullying can result in instant public humiliation, harmful gossiping, spreading malicious lies and general defamation in private circles can erode one’s confidence and inflict invisible wounds that fester and infect your very soul.

Before you start feeling sorry for me don’t, like I told my mom, “Don’t worry I am too shallow for these things to affect me!” To which she replied, “Oh thank God!”

Yup, that’s closure in our family, if it hasn’t killed you; it’s good for you. Apart form the whole martyr syndrome that we Catholics tend to love so much; ironically my worst tormentor was catholic and we were studying in a catholic convent, there is a bigger picture.

Before I continue, let me please stress that in no way am I endorsing emotional bullying nor am I negating the pain and trauma, experienced by fellow victims. This is about me and my personal journey of how I have evolved through pain; especially that bone crushing, soul ripping kind tends to either break you or remould you. If you are rigid you break but if you surrender to the mercy of God, it renews your mind and spirit.

For the longest time I ignored dealing with the pain and just ignored it, hence the shallow aspect. As a mother whose child could be either a victim or a perpetrator or hopefully neither, I have been forced to confront my hidden issues, the pain that I had brushed aside has welled up.

In a moment of prayer, a why me moment as I call it, I hit upon a revelation, it was painful and at first I wanted to brush it aside as nonsense. There was a moment of, this is so cruel and I thought God is all love, which finally abated into God knows best. In his wisdom I remain.

I am a fiercely opinionated woman and by my own admission I am rarely wrong. Yeah, you get the hint; I have all the classic makings of a mean girl or critical woman. However, because of the trauma inflicted on me, I know when not to cross the line. Having suffered first hand for thinking different, I now respect different lines of thought and I am more understanding. Being constantly targeted out of sheer jealousy and spite, I can honestly say that I do not experience jealousy, that ugly emotion has no place in my life.

My repeated affliction with girls/women who considered themselves more cultured and intelligent, their constant verbal assault of my happy, giggly nature as immature and childish has led me to appreciate, not just tolerate, women (in their thirties) who like to dress in princess outfits and crowns.

For all of those women who roll their eyes at these happy childlike women and remark, “OMG! She is so fake, it’s annoying!” my message to you, close your eyes or turn away but please keep your comments to yourself. Words hurt so if yours don’t bless then practise silence, after all being cultured and intelligent also means allowing for freedom of expression.

As I sit on the fence, I am grateful I didn’t turn into a mean critical woman, and if experiencing first hand the trauma they inflict was the only way to keep from becoming one, I say, “Bring it on!”

Meditation, or is it just me?

meditation

This musing is a reaction to an article about another blogger’s journey with vipasana mediation. 10 days of doing nothing but sitting 12 hours straight, in an attempt to still one’s mind. As a blogger and writer the whole purpose of stilling one’s mind is beyond me. I am like the NASA probe searching for a thought wave, constantly on the prowl for some illuminating thought that I can transcribe into words. My mind is a podium for unceasing debate, in the words of René Descartes,

I think therefore I am.

Even as I sleep my mind is in constant chatter, my dreams are more tangled than Shakespeare’s web of lies. I am always on the Internet absorbing news, ideas, latest research, discoveries and constantly analysing theories. I relish religious discourses where I can logically defend my faith. I am constantly scouring anti-Catholic sites, assimilating all their objections and I try to find valid answers to all their contentions. If there is a point that I cannot clarify then I thrash it out mentally and devour religious literature until I find the answer. Offcourse, all this goes on internally, I never voice my opinions publicly, for me religion is a very personal matter and not for public debate, which brings me to my point, I love to think.

Unfortunately there are days, mostly when I am on a zero sugar and low carb diet when my mind just goes blank. These periods that I dub as writer’s block which are more like thinker’s block are the most boring and depressing episodes of my life. No thoughts, no emotions, no adrenaline, no reaction, just empty space, floating through a void; most depressing. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to be in that state! It’s like dying; at least it’s for me.

Oh the joy to be alive, to feel emotions that cause your heart to pound, the blood to rush into your veins, to experience your head throb with anger or excitement. Why would anyone want to give all that away, even for a nanosecond? As a religious person I know that there are times one should be still and listen to the Lord, but for me that is usually when fear or trouble crowd my existence, which is very rarely. Usually I am in an animated discourse with the Lord about this and that, or I am usually bugging him for an answer or just in awe of him. Stillness is not a prominent feature of my religious life and the Lord hasn’t led me to doubt my journey.

As I watch my 4-½ year old, run wildly around the house chasing an imaginary animal, whilst screaming at the top of his voice, I can only smile and say, “yeah, he takes after me!”

Lent- Peace and love to all on Earth.

 

Nederlands: Lent (Nijmegen) H.Hartbeeld bij RK...

Nederlands: Lent (Nijmegen) H.Hartbeeld bij RK kerk. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s the Christian holy period of Lent, 40 days of introspection, fasting and prayers. Not many Christians observe it and as there aren’t any fixed rules, many just don’t let it affect their lives. My mother is a very staunch Catholic and my father; a merry soul believes his special relationship with God exempts him from ritualistic traditions. It was very interesting growing up in my home, my mother a fervent prayer warrior who prayed unceasingly on her knees through most of the night and hurried about the housework all day, exhorting us to keep praying. As a kid I hated school but I remember preferring to study than join my mum in her never-ending novenas and rosaries. My Dad was way cooler, rarely went to church and was well versed with the DE Silva method, mediation, psychology, mind control, hypnosis, and the like. He had a well-stacked library with rare finds like Ben Sweetland’s I WILL, ESP, Works of Carl Jung, Psych symbology, along with regulars like Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie, Edward De Bono etc. While most kids read fairy tales, I would read Napoleon Hill and Dale Carnegie. My elder brother and I used to play mind games, like trying to materialise the family TV into our bedroom cupboard. When thoroughly bored we would try ESP, I would draw a symbol and mentally project it to him and he would clear his mind and try to receive it. I was 8 and he was 10, in hindsight we should have played more in the park! My mum though staunchly religious never brushed aside any of these new science practises and in fact encouraged us to explore the sciences. I remember she would keep telling us, Einstein says we use only 2 % of our brains, so use more! This dialogue was especially more prevalent during exam times. That was mum, madly in love with God but so fiercely intelligent and she found a perfect balance. Science and religion were never in conflict, God had created all, including science and mankind only discovered what the almighty had already set in motion. Dad on the other hand always struggled with religion, the traditions were nonsensical to him, the rules and regulation another form of thought control. He was always intrigued with conspiracy theories, the Bermuda triangle, secret societies and was always researching the latest theory. Mum, whom dad called a brainwashed sheep of the church was always at peace and never lost her faith. Dad, the wise one, was always deeply troubled and made many hurried decisions based on fear, doubt and insecurity. I learnt early that what is right varies form society to society but truth varies form an individual to an individual. Personal truths are what empowers a person, a solid one like the one my mother had, grounded her and gave her stability; a varying one like my father’s made him a boat tossed about in the stormy sea. It is for this very reason that Lord Jesus had declared, “know the truth and the truth will set you free.” So as we enter this holy period of fasting, prayer and self-reflection, I take time out to quite my mind and to find out my truth. I intend to reaffirm my beliefs and strengthen my resolve. I hope I can be half the role model my mother was and instruct my children in the way of our ancestors. Peace and love to all the inhabitants of the Earth.

 

Free speech or just an excuse to be insensitive?

English: Kids at shore

English: Kids at shore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Humour at the cost of hurting another individual, that’s cool? Really? How is it ‘Free speech’ if it costs a tear and stabbing pain to another? Here is an excerpt that got me agitated, again.

I’m not surprised you get along well with all the other neighbours. If you put fifty children with Down’s syndrome in a room there is going to be a lot of hugging.

The only way the writer could ‘get back’ at a mean neighbour is to compare him to someone with disability? So according to the writer people with challenges are to be looked down upon, ridiculed, basically the children of the lesser God? I have worked with Down syndrome children and I assure you there is nothing derogatory in being compared to them. They are sensitive, kind, honest and the gentlest creatures on God’s Earth.

I know he was trying to be funny and was exercising his ‘Free Speech’, but I beg to differ. It isn’t ‘free’ if another pays the cost of expressing it, with tears and pain. I love humour and often do indulge in a little ‘smart alec’ dialogue delivery where the recipient, usually my mom, decides to chase me with her rolling-pin. However, I do respect the fine line between hilarious and insensitive. I was once laughing my head off at a Friends episode when my elder brother walked in, took me aside and spoke these words to me, “It’s ok to laugh with someone but never at someone. Is this entertainment for you, laughing AT someone.”

I know he was being a little too critical, since these characters were universally loved for being comical and not because they were ‘stupid’. However, it did highlight something in my mind, the fine line between respect and entertainment. I never watched another episode of friends again, as I wasn’t comfortable with the idea that I was laughing at someone, even if that was someone I loved and admired. In hindsight, it should read, especially because it’s someone whom I love and respect.

I had a friend who rationalised her name calling as, ‘it isn’t mean if it’s true’. For e.g., A horrid teacher can be labelled a B*&^% if she truly is mean and obnoxious. I agreed with that reasoning until I met a dog lover who remarked, “Who says female dogs, a bitch is mean or obnoxious?” That got me thinking and I realised that dogs are faithful and basically a man’s best friend, it isn’t an insult to call a man a dog but it’s insulting to the dog if the man is horrid. Unless off course, if you consider dogs to be repulsive or to be despised.

Which is exactly what the writer is equating people with Down syndrome to be, despised. If you meant to insult someone and you did it by comparing them to people with disability you are insulting people with disability, that’s not free speech that’s mean, rude, backward and unintelligent. You can’t justify your statement saying it was targeted towards the mean person and you meant no disrespect to the people with disabilities. You just compared them to a mean and obnoxious person, how is that not insulting?

Wake up people, just think before you speak or write and if you do, then have the humility to apologise and say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t realise what I was doing.” There is nothing more painful than someone justifying his or her wrong; it’s like being hurt all over again. Spread a little love people, I’m done with the hatred and the name calling, aren’t you?