A friend recommended this book by an Indian-Canadian writer to me even while saying that it was full of bitterness. Indeed, there is bitterness. But I loved it as it spoke to my woman's heart. The themes involving traditional women's lives in India over several generations dovetailed for me with the series currently available on Netflix: "Stories by Rabindranath Tagore." Tagore was a famous Indian writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, the first non-European to do so. He keenly observed facets of the lives of women in the contexts of the Hindu caste system, marriage customs, and aspirations for education, change and modernization. I read "Tamarind Mem" through the Tagore's lens which I had just acquired, but I also read it simply as a woman. There are, first of all, the issues connected to arranged marriages. The central character, the Tamarind Mem, is a young woman who is married off to a complete stranger in spite of her vocal protestations and desire for advanced education and independence. She has always had a sharp tongue, something that seems common to many Indian women in stories. Considering the distresses suffered and the lack of power in traditional situations, it is no wonder that the women resort to using their mouth to provide many tongue-lashings. Tamarind Mem is not happy. Her daughter is not happy. She is an unhappy woman making everyone unhappy. The somewhat older man she was married off to copes somehow, but is distant. He provides no friendship for his wife, no talk, no intimacy, while he proves to be a wonderfully warm father and storyteller. There is a split in his personality. The woman's upbringing also does not allow her to approach him in a more relaxed or playful way. There is only Dharma, duty. Spouses don't call each other by their names. One of the men says this: "A woman is for bed and breakfast."
The wife's isolation from her husband is crushing her. She is indeed bitter and she is often nasty. Through the book we learn to see the damage she does but also learn to understand her.
Many problems are connected to Indian customs. We see here a sensitive critique of these customs. But also, the difficulties of coping with lack of communication, of being cooped-up in a house, the crushing disappointment of failing to form a deep relationship with your husband, abandonment in marriage, lack of vulnerability in the most intimate of relationships, are universal. The pain is raw and palpable. Her daughters seek out different paths in different lands, escaping the limitations of living in Indian society. Tamarind Mem, however, also seeks out a different life and contentment after her older husband dies.
Honestly, it could have been the death of me. Now that we have winter, and the need arises to find different ways to exercise, my friend invited me to aquasize.
It snowed plenty overnight, and I take myself onto the road to head to the indoor swimming pool in town, which I have spurned for several years now. In my bag are some watershoes that I have been using in my house for flexible foot movement and utilizing all 33 foot joints, as is recommended by my yoga teacher. So far so good. The watershoes are coming in handy as they will also help keep me safe on the deck of the pool which can be slippery. It is sensible to get a bit more cautious with "advancing age" (cough, cough).
It turns out that with the snowfall, the road is rather treacherous as the rear end of the truck swings out at the three-way stop, then the big intersection at the highway, and the several other left-turns I have to navigate every so slowly. This town happens to have a lot of freight-truck traffic rumbling through it, frightening me as I try to steer my little, slip-sliding vehicle. Has there been no sanding, yet, today?
I get to the pool, and into the water five minutes late but safe. One surely needs to budget more time for this sort of expedition, this time of year.
The ladies--an no men, by the way--are already busy with their warm-up exercises, jumping, splashing, turning. I am finding that the watershoes are marvelous; they cushion the blow of the heel coming down on the pool bottom, and I can feel the whole foot planting on surface which gives a good calf stretch every time the foot goes down. Well, now that we are comfortable, we can try to follow along with what the teacher is doing. My friend seems to have no trouble and I can always ask her and follow her. The instructor's voice is piercing above the noise of the water splashing. She sounds like Bernadette in the Big Bang Theory. My goodness, the poor soul is straining her voice.
Now, that I have sort of figured out what to do, I can have a look around at the other ladies. Most of them have grey hair and seem very cheerful. In fact, a good many of them are having animated discussions with their friends over top of the intrepidly, screeching instructor--and the music, and their exercising. They are laughing and sharing the latest stories. I can hear words floating by such as "gall bladder", "pregnancy", "wedding". Some of them wear crosses. I am beginning to think that the entire Catholic ladies' aid is in aquasize, today.
At the 35 min mark, even the instructor lets herself be distracted to throw in something about someone's premature labor and delivery, the baby coming out with some sort of suction machine and having a rash. Or maybe the mother had a rash. Whatever. I suppose this is better for the women than having a coffee clatch and just sitting around, as they are using their time rather efficiently. At the 37 min. mark, a lady next to me, not grey but sporting a beautiful hair coloring job, starts to complain about her full bladder, and having to decide whether to go to the bathroom or not, since it may not be worth her while, at this point in the class. I decide to encourage her, though I have no experience with this yet. I tell her, that it will take her one minute to get to the bathroom, one minute to go to the bathroom, and one minute to get back in the water. She goes.
All the while, some men and women have been floating more or less without moving, in the deep end wearing flotation belts or using pool noodles. I am not sure what good it is doing them to float like that except that the easing of the pressure on the joints might be pleasant. They make and odd sight, I suppose like the rest of us. Perhaps, there are a variety of mobility issues.
In the very end, we all settle comfortably into the hot tub sharing more stories. This hot-tub-sitting takes me back to a holiday we had this summer in Iceland. It happens that Iceland Air flies from Edmonton to Europe via Keflavic Airport near Reykjavik and offers longer lay-overs for travellers, at no extra cost. On the way, there, and back, I watched several Icelandic movies, getting to know more about the lifestyle in Iceland. We spent two days touring Reykjavik and environs. In a way, the Icelanders and we Albertans share this treacherous, cold weather, with the difference that they have natural hot springs absolutely everywhere since they are living on a fault-line, where the European plate meets the North American plate. They have pools in every corner of the city and all over the place, they love to soak in. Well, at least, in my cold, icy Alberta town, situated very much right on the North American plate, we intrepid northerners also have our public indoor pool, even though we may have to gather our courage to make our way to it.
Where I live, we are already deep in the winter season, on November 10. We are reminded that it is Martin Luther's birthday, today. As we know, he was named for St. Martin, whose feast day we have tomorrow, the day Luther was baptized. (Babies were quickly baptized in times when neonatal death was more common.) As children in Bavaria, we had very memorable St. Martin's day celebrations in the evening with lantern trains, bonfires and reenactment of St. Martin sharing his coat with a poor man.
I just feel like posting some pictures we took in Wittenberg, this summer during the "Kichentag" (church day/convention). We enjoyed a tremendous month in Germany, this year.
Thanks be to God for the rediscovery of the Gospel, and the passing of it down all the way to our generation, and to me. It is the most precious thing in all the world, the pearl of great price. With our deeds we can accomplish nothing. The Spirit of God does all the work, by pointing us to Christ and leading us to faith. And before that, we must realize that we cannot keep the law, that we are all worthless and have gone astray. This is the truth.
Thank you Father, for loving even me in Christ who bore our weaknesses and sins. We live in the great hope of the communion in heaven and on earth, when we will see face to face. And our hearts are glad. A mighty fortress is our God. We do not fear. One little word can fell the enemy though he he is crafty and on the prowl. The kingdom ours remaineth...
Most of all the enemy wants to tear the word of God out of our hands and out of our hearts. We need to be firm and vigilant and plant ourselves on the clear promise of the Lord, for which we praise him. Amen.
In clearing out some files in my old filing cabinet, I had come across some interesting articles that were required reading for a philosophy of education course I had taken eons ago.
In the clearing out process, there remained a little pile of articles on Paulo Freire, that I caught my attention and I wanted to read again, which I managed to do this evening.
Freire seems to be a mixture of liberation Catholic, revolutionary, educator of adults for literacy, Marxist dialectician, critic of traditional arrangements, colonialism and promoter of just society helper of the poor and oppressed. There seems to be a little Freire for everyone, and certainly I can find a lot of places where I sympathize with him, from what I can glean.
Never having lived in conditions of poverty myself, I can probably not grasp the breadth and depth of his passion and vision. I have been to northern Canadian aboriginal reserves that might provide some similar conditions. There was hunger, poor education, despair and isolation. My father was a refugee, and I know terrible conditions from stories told in the family. I am only one generation away from the family having had nothing and running for their lives. But the family was not spiritually dead or impoverished, partly because the great works had been passed down, because people knew things by heart and because they were Christians. There, I disagree with Freire's emphasis on letting go of what he calls "banking" education. This is a grave mistake. And also Dewey was wrong on a lot of things. (This is why we have American presidents who can't speak English, in the land of sects.)
However, as a Lutheran, I also see that in some sense Freie is a "Lutheran". Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther posted theses to be debated that highlighted the oppression of the church by the Roman Catholic hierarchy. A great revolution of sorts resulted. Humanistic education and freedoms of the university, literacy, including biblical literacy, a proper care of souls in the congregation and social assistance were brought about.
Portuguese Catholicism may have brought something to Brazil, that Freire knew in his day that was wrong, but that had been let go in other places quite some time before. But bringing in a type of Marxist communism or National Socialism (Nazi's), any sort of leader-focused revolution toppling existing orders of society have proven to be some of the most oppressive systems ever invented by man. The next elite fights its way to the top, inevitably quite quickly to oppress now without conscience or impediment. We did not know some particular horrors before these leaders and revolutionaries invented them in their great reflective creativity. They became monsters. We must see this with clear eyes. There is something very wrong with the theories. We may let go of Catholic hierarchy and of edicts from Rome and councils, but as Luther said, we must not let go of the word of God. Where we abandon it, we get into deep trouble. In some places, a Catholic political party has stood in the way of oppressive alternatives. There are all sorts of scenarios.
The poor we always have with us, and we should deeply involve ourselves in the troubles and needs of this world and our neighbors. This is true. Love cannot just be a word or theory. Freire is right, there. But some of the centuries old Reformation ideas already came to grips with some of these issues without jettisoning what was right from before. It was a conservative revolution.
In briefly checking the history of Brazil on Wikipedia, I see that it interestingly concludes with this point about the changing religious landscape:
Until recently Catholicism was overwhelmingly dominant. Rapid change in the 21st century has led to a growth in secularism (no religious affiliation). Just as dramatic is the sudden rise of evangelical Protestantism to over 22% of the population. The 2010 census indicates that fewer than 65% of Brazilians consider themselves Catholic, down from 90% in 1970. The decline is associated with falling birth rates to one of Latin America’s lowest at 1.83 children per woman, which is below replacement levels. It has led Cardinal Cláudio Hummes to comment, "We wonder with anxiety: how long will Brazil remain a Catholic country?"
If I get around to it, I would like to read more about his ideas on adult education and literacy.
This fall, I am privileged to spend some time teaching music to families with young children, again.
My husband and I have begun accumulating a little library of books with songs, for young children. There is a book series we enjoy tremendously. The songs are adapted by John M. Feierabend, with very creative artwork from various artists to add illustration and give fodder for discussion with children.
Our little toddler knows each book by the title and knows all the songs. Every time she comes over, she pulls these books out for Opa to sing to her. Opa has never had so much fun in his life. The first one we purchased was "The Tailor and the Mouse." We love it especially for the tune in Aeolian minor tonality and its bouncy rhythm, all while the poor mouse has to live through several stunning adventures.
Which brings me to a new little children's illustrated song-book from Concordia Publishing House.
I also bought it on Amazon, due to Amazon's efficient way of finding books for me...
Thank you, to Martin Luther for writing the hymn. Thank you to Karyn Lukasek for her illustrations, and thank you to the Publisher. This is a great addition to our well-used children's illustrated song book shelf.
Below, also see Grandma's music studio supplies and reachable bookshelves for self-service for little people.
On the internet... I have met people who have considered all matters in the light of "Power" and power-plays. Generally, I flatter myself with the opinion that I don't have this mindset but seek out the freedom of Christ for every person through the work of the Spirit of God. We don't have power over each other. Our relationships are ordered by our relationship to Christ.
One thing that happened to me online was that if you discuss something about the Lutheran Reformation, some thought pops into the thread about how Luther exerted his power by blaming the victims ("victim-blaming being a great injustice in the world, no doubt, but some like to find victims everywhere through so-called "consciousness-raising" and then we get the favorite victim of the day.) --That person has lost complete sight of how the Reformation freed all sorts of people from dominion that was oppressive and corrupt.
Some of these people on-line mentioned a book, that seemed to a sort of Bible to them, called "The 48 Laws of Power". Here it is.
In the end, you guessed it, I succumbed to the temptation and bought it. It sat on the shelf for a while, as it is quite a thick and thorough anthology, though broken down into many manageable sections. Overall, it reminds of Machiavelli's "The Prince".
The introduction explores why a person might be interested in reading this type of book and what might be gleaned for various purposes.
Lately, I have begun to tackle the book, being at the moment about half through, by reading a little bit every evening as an aid to going to sleep. This is not meant to be derogatory, but the heavy stuff, in small bites, as presented, allows the cognition to switch from the troubles of the day to the ideas presented which can be quite knotty but in story format. There is something for the brain to chew on. Meanwhile, the body says: "Enough of all that." And the eye-lids get so heavy. It's perfect for that. After one more story, you decide that you have had it for the day.
As to the contents, as I am chewing on it in bite-sizes, it does furnish nutritious food for thought. Certainly, it is not the stuff my parents taught me, my teachers taught me, but maybe life has taught me through experience and observation. There is certainly truth here to be witnessed to. Some of the anecdotes are even from the Bible.
Literary-wise, the stories are also valuable and engaging reading coming from some great books. So, while one may not wish to employ the stratagems discussed here, even some Biblical ones, we recall the words of our Lord Christ, who taught us to be as wise as serpents but innocent as doves. Also, he tells a parable to explain how the world works and manipulates matters to its favor. In this manner of being wise and observant, we can profitably study a book like the "Laws of Power", I think. In some ways, I must admit, that at this late date, some coins are dropping in my head, looking back on some decades now... Still, we pray the Lord preserve us from manipulation and cruelty.
A book from my own library came across my path. The author is the well known Joerg Zink, theologian, poet, activist. Along with poems it features lovely nature photography. The tittle is "More Than Three Wishes" ("Mehr als drei Wuensche")
We received it from an Aunt and Uncle, as per signature on the front page, and I am guessing, they gave it when Stefan was suddenly taken from us.
At this present time, I am considering passing it on to a relative in Germany who has taken seriously ill with a brain tumor.
But before I pass it on, I have to quickly read it again. :)
This is a poem that caught my attention:
"Was ich dir wuensche?
Nicht, dass du
der schoenste Baum bist,
der auf dieser erde steht.
dass du jahraus, jahrein
leuchtest von blueten
an jedem Zweig.
Aber dass dann und wann
an irgendeinem Ast
eine Bluete aufbricht,
dass dann und wann
etwas Schoenes glingt,
ein Wort der Liebe
ein Herz findet,
das wuensche ich dir."
Along with the poem we find a picture of tree branches that are very bare, except for scattered, scarlet irregular blosssoms.
Here it is in English translation (mine).
"What is my wish for you?
Not, that you are the very most beautiful tree,
that stands on this earth.
that you shine,
year after year,
on every branch,
but that from time to time,
on any branch,
a blossom opens up,
that, from time to time,
something Beautiful succeeds,
that at times,
a Word of Love,
finds a heart,
--that is, what I wish for you."
It almost makes me cry because it so humble, yet profound in its aspirations, a prayer, a hope, slim or wide, taking into account all the suffering and frailties we experience in a lifetime...
The language, too, is humble. It reminds us of the fairy tales with three wishes for oneself, but here someone has a wish for someone else, for that person to receive and give some things of beauty and love, any thing, any time, any place.
This morning, I read quickly through all the theses, realizing how the indulgence trade sparked the reformation debate. The indulgence sale for the sins of those in purgatory, was the opposite to the Christian faith, a perversion, a greater one could not be imagined. The sheep were being fleeced while deprived of pastoral care, without the preaching of repentance and faith in Christ. A wolf was pretending to be shepherd. The indulgence salesman was authorized by the papacy.
Former critics had been put to death. Savonarola, Hus, were the first martyrs of the Reformation, even before Luther came along. He, too, was to be killed, but he lived, and wrote, and spoke, and argued, and set the world on fire for freedom in Christ who is the true Lord and lover of the church.
I love here, the reversal of how the gospel makes the first, last, and indulgences make the last, to be first. The Gospel is a reversal, but indulgences reverse the reversal: the ones with the most money to spend can make it into heaven the fastest. The closest to the ecclesiastical levers of power, can even be the ones to profit from it all monetarily. It was as sick, as sick could be. And how does Luther go about it? He writes and calls for debate.
"The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." The church of the day, asked the sheep to lay down their lives for the false shepherds.
1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent,” he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.
62. The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.
63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last.
64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.
94. Christians are to be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death, and hell;
95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations, rather than through the false assurance of peace.
Blogging is such a thing, pro's and con's. On one hand, it lets you get stuff off your chest, and vocalize what moves you. On the other hand, it seems to become too easy to just complain and oppose, and that about many and various things. So.
Lately, we observed, that families fall apart. A wife moves out with the children or the man is kicked out. One or both partners find new partners, and the children live with a step-parent. It so then turns out, that a man lives with a woman and her children (they don't actually get married but talk about their "fiance"), and somewhere else the father lives in another new family. Both men will be required to pay spousal and child support. So in each household, money flows out to another household, and money flows in from another household. You would think, all could be considered well, but obviously, the parents are living in biblical sin, and the children are mostly separated from their fathers.
There are many sides here that could be discussed, but one we talked about over dinner was, that in the end effect the money ends up in the mothers' hands to support the children, whereas before, the fathers, unfortunately, especially in Alberta, might have spent the money on "drugs and trucks". Many a fellow made a lot of money in the oil patch, and was--sadly--gone from home a lot. And so it went. Such are some everyday tragedies that happen in these parts.
There has always been something particularly festive and beautiful about white linen. Not only is it very clean and bright, it signals a special occasion and joy, also seriousness, decorum and good manners.
For Canadian Thanksgiving, yesterday, I had decided to reconfigure my little living/dining room to be able to seat 12 people and also be able to remove the tables again. I ended up with using five bistro tables from IKEA--two I owned already, and purchased three more. To cover them, I cut in half several white table cloths in my stash.
(I used to own some monographed heirloom linen, passed down through the generations from unknown individuals. They were incredibly tough and irregular, the real item, something everybody should have a chance to handle once with their own hands.)
So, in the end, I had five tables covered in white. Afterwards I realized that my meal might stain the cloths fairly permanently, with the type of sauces I had chosen to make. I almost opted to run to Home Hardware to get some custom size vinyl covers. But no, vinyl covers ruin the whole effect. NO, no, no, no, no. We will see how it goes.
OF COURSE, we ended up with some spicy red stains on the table cloths. Thanks to our trusty new programmable washing machines these days, I could choose a nice long, very hot wash with extra long spin cycle, etc. All, said, by washing the cloths hard and adding some bleach, they came out beautifully white and shiny, again. --Whew.
My husband asked me about the cloths, afterward, as I folded them after drying. "How did the stains come out?" I said to him: "This is the beauty of white. You can wash it like crazy, add the bleach, and voila, it is white again."
You can always clean and bleach white again.
All of which reminded me of the multitude of Saints who are before the throne dressed in white. It is a white that has been given them, by the lamb, through trials and tribulations. There is nothing easy about this white. And it needs tough rewashing all the time. It needs very hot water, and lots of tumbling, to get the stains out. It is a beautiful and costly white, but one that can always be recovered again. Such, also is our life.