Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Power, Patriarchy, and the Big P

I have to laugh with delight when I see six thousand years of rule by men brought closer to its end by the men themselves.

Gender politics--you've gotta love it.

Today's pillars of patriarchy are falling not so much because women are gaining political power but by their own hand--or other organ. 

Ex-General Petraeus and soon-to-be ex-General John Allen ascended to power in part because they possessed that all-important prerequisite--a penis.

Now they are falling from power because of that same little waggle.

The Roman Catholic Church, which holds out against women becoming priests, has lost tremendous amounts of prestige and money because of the child sexual abuse scandal.  Again, prerequisite to priesthood: a penis.  Downfall?  Same organ.

Petraeus and Allen will go down in history as joining the ranks of Samson (who literally fell for Delilah) and Holofernes, who was beheaded by Judith after getting drunk with her (pick up a Catholic Bible and look at the Book of Judith). 

Hoist by their own petard, so to speak.

Gerda Lerner chronicles the rise of male rule in her book The Creation of Patriarchy (Oxford, 1986).  This happened about the same time as the rise of cities and urban culture, which brought wealth and poverty, rulers and slavery, and other hallmarks of civilization. 

In the last one hundred years, women have been gaining a little ground.  We have the right to vote, a few presidents and premiers and members of parliaments and senates around the world.  We run some businesses, we are taking back God from the men in our churches, temples, and mosques.

But men themselves are ceding power at a much faster rate than we can win it through the ballot box.

It's like global warming: when the glaciers start to melt, the rate of climate change increases dramatically.

When the men who have commanded our respect and our armies start to fall--by their own foolishness--we will never have the same awe for those who replace them. 
We will learn that they are indeed frail humans like the man who proclaimed himself Wizard of Oz.

We will no longer give them the same tremendous power to wage war, drop bombs, launch drones, and kill  in the name of the USA. 

We will take back our nation.  We will demand that our leaders act with more humility on the world stage, and we will move toward making sure that at least half of those leaders are women..

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kathy's Spirit Leaving

Listening to Leonard Cohen last Monday night was profound, especially in the context of my uncle dying the day before and my friend Kathy on the threshold of death.

So many of his songs speak to death and the ends of relationships.  Here is "Alexandra Leaving" as I heard some of the words that night.

Say goodbye to Kathy's spirit leaving.

Then say goodbye to Kathy's presence lost.

Even though she sleeps and breathes and dreams before you;

Even though you want to wake her with a kiss.

Do not say this moment cannot happen;

Do not stoop to strategies like this.

As someone long prepared for this to happen,

Go firmly to the window. Drink it in.

Remember music: Kathy's happy laughing.

Your years together tangible again.

And you who shared her days and years of living,

With gratitude and wonder and with dance –

Say goodbye to Kathy's spirit leaving;

Kathy's presence with us now enhanced.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Malala: UN GLobal Day of Action

The UN has declared today a Global Day of Action for girls' education.

Today marks one month since Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head with other classmates for being an activist for girls' education in Pakistan.

A campaign is underway to nominate her for the next Nobel Prize for Peace.


She is recovering at a hospital in England, and the Taliban's attack on her has only brought the world's attention to the need for equal access to education for girls in the world today. 

"The latest Unesco figures show that 61 million children worldwide are not in school - 32 million of whom are girls - and that Pakistan has the second largest number of girls out of school in the world," reports London's Daily Mail.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Kathy 1943-2012

Kathy's moon is a smile hanging in the pre-dawn sky above a gauze of thin rose-colored clouds.

It's a waning moon, inching toward the sun, which has not yet risen here in Santa Monica.

She died yesterday, while the other side of Earth was turned toward this moon.  Today is the first sunrise for which her spirit is not present, witnessing it from a North American, earthly perspective.

Who knows where her spirit resides now? "Rock-a my soul in the bosom of Abraham--oh, rock-a my soul."

Anyway, her shrunken body lies in a morgue, awaiting cremation, that final fire after all the radiation and chemotherapy.

Yesterday it was still possible for me to rise before dawn, visit her in the hospital, hold her hand, and kiss her short curly hair, that monk-like style chosen by the chemo, not by her.

Rain fell from a heavily overcast sky yesterday for the first time in six months.  The hot Santa Ana winds and bright sun that have paralyzed our November weather were banished.  The sky turned sober in observance of Kathy's passing.

Because I had walked from my car in the chilly darkness, my hands were cold and I tried to warm one under my arm before taking her hand, but it turned out that her hand was colder than mine.  Five days of breathing on a respirator, sedated by propyfol, had taken their toll. 

Visiting her in the ICU last Friday, I'd been shocked by how deep each breath was, almost a gasp, her chest working hard to inhale.  I didn't realize she was "on a respirator."  I didn't know what that looked like--the only clue was the clear mask in front of her mouth, hooked to oxygen tubes.  Did something force her to inhale so mightily?  I don't know.

"Baruch Atah Adonai," I prayed with her.  "Melech ha Olam--Malcha ha Olam."  (Blessed are you, Lord, King of the Universe... Queen of the Universe.)

Taking out Gates of Repentance: The New Union Prayerbook for the Days of Awe (1978), I read from the Yom Kippur memorial service, the only thing I could find that seemed appropriate.

Our days are like grass.
We shoot up like flowers that fade and die
as the chill wind passes over them,
yet Your love for those who revere You is everlasting.
YHWH, Your righteousness extends to all generations.  
                            (from Psalm 90)
YWHW, I yearn only to be near You,
though at times I seem remote.
YHWH, I cannot find the way unaided:
teach me the faithful service You would have me do,
show me Your ways, guide me, lead me,
release me from the prison of unknowing
while I can still make amends.
Do not despise my lowly state.
Before I grow so weak, so heavy with mortality
that I bend and fall,
and my bones, brittle with age,
become food for moth and worm,
be my help, O be my help!
Where my forebears went, there go I.
Yes, I know it.
Their resting-place is mine.

I know it.
Like them I am a stranger passing through this life.
Since the womb of earth is my allotted portion,
and since I've chased the wind from the beginning of my days,
when will I come to set my house in order?
The passions You Yourself have made a part of me
have kept me rapt within the passing scene,
and how, enslaved to passion as I've been,
a prey to fierce and fiery hungers,
how, I ask, could I have served You as I needed to?
But now the time has come to ask:
why all this ambition, why the quest for high estate,
when tomorrow I must die?
Why this expense of spirit,
when tomorrow I mourn the passing time?
These days and nights combine to bring me to the end:
they scatter my thought to the winds,
they return my frame to the dust.
What now can I say in my defense?
What brave words remain to shield me from my truth?
My nature has pursued me, possessed me, driven and flayed me,
a doubtful friend from childhood on.
What then do I really have besides Your presence?
Stripped of my pretensions, naked at the last, here I stand,
and only your goodness can clothe and shelter me.
For nothing now remains but this:
YHWH, I yearn only to be near You!

I closed the book, kissed Kathy's curly hair again, and left.

Today, Friday, again I awake at 4:45 am.  The crescent moon shines in my window--Kathy's moon, but today if she sees it at all, it's from a different perspective.  Perhaps it's an opal on a necklace adorning Earth.

Anyway, I can't go to visit her today.  I can't touch her, speak to her.  She never learned that President Obama was re-elected, news that would have made her shriek with delight.

Today I'm alone with the crescent moon and the predawn sky  No use going to the hospital or to her home.

I can't visit her, but perhaps she can visit me. 

Two weeks ago she was wondering fearfully about death and about afterward. 

Today she has crossed that line--fear is gone and she knows things I cannot know.

Or perhaps she knows nothing--perhaps she has entered that grand "OMMMM," the cloud of unknowing where we are close to the Creative Energy that flashed the cosmos into being, but our minds are not filled with ideas and facts.

Perhaps her state of mind is closer to Nothingness.  Perhaps her spirit holds that great Nothingness that is the goal of all meditation. 

I believe that her Spirit lives on in some way I can't understand.  Jesus said, "In my house are many rooms" (John 14:2). 

How funny that my favorite agnostic now knows.