A message from Abigail Adams to the women of the future

Perhaps you will remember me as the wife of the second president of the newly formed United States of America. I would rather you knew me as I was, a woman who thought deeply and who acted with care. The times of my life placed many limits on the actions and engagements of women. But I believe the women of my time stretched and strained those limits to the best of our abilities.

Our times were times of greatness and of grief. They were times of hope and of desolation. They were times in which a genius would wish to live. Your era has said, ‘keep calm and carry on.’ I think that a calm is not desirable in any situation in life. Humans were made for action and for bustle too, I believe. Indeed, it is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. It formed the habits of a vigorous mind in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. All history will convince you of this, and that wisdom and penetration are the fruit of experience, not the lessons of retirement and leisure. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman.

But let no person say what they would or would not do, since we are not judges for ourselves until circumstances call us to act. No one is without difficulties, whether in high or low life, and every person knows best where their own shoe pinches. Great difficulties may be surmounted by patience and perseverance.

I beseeched my husband and the men of my time to remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than their ancestors. I urged them to not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands; to remember, all men would be tyrants if they could; to remember that members of your sex are naturally tyrannical is a truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute, but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of master for the more tender and endearing one of friend. I cautioned them that if particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.

Well, my entreaties went unheard. To you women of the future, I say, if we mean to have Heroes, Statesmen and Philosophers, we should have learned women. The world perhaps would laugh at me, and accuse me of vanity, but you, I know, have a mind too enlarged and liberal to disregard the sentiment. If much depends upon the early education of youth and if the first principals which are instilled take the deepest root, great benefit must arise from literary accomplishments in women. Even while I argue that knowledge is a fine thing, remember that while mother Eve thought so as well, she smarted so severely for hers. Most of her daughters have been afraid of it since. Women of the future, set aside that fear. Take up your books. Take up your lives of action. Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence. To be good, and do good, is the whole duty of human beings, comprised in a few words. Learn each day. Each day, do your best, for your soul, for your family, for your community.

(the above is a collection of quotes from Abigail Adams, woven together and elaborated with words from my heart.)

Stages

I just finished reading The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George.  If you haven’t read it yet, stop what you are doing, get a copy of the book, sit down and start reading it.  Read it to savor it, like a fine wine. Yes, it will break your heart. Yes, it will frustrate you. But, oh, it will open your heart and invite you to breathe — TO BREATHE deeply — to inhale like your life depended on it, to exhale and let go of the past, to cherish the moment, in all of its unpoetic, unromantic grit. And, AND, there is even a bibliography at the end of the book!! what could be better than a work of fiction with a bibliography!! (Well, maybe a really well done new Harry Potter book, but that is another subject all together).

so, here is one of the poems that Nina George works into the story line of The Little Paris Bookshop . . .

 

From  “The Glass Bead Game”  by Hermann Hesse (Translated by Richard and Clara Winston)

Stages

As every flower fades and as all youth

Departs, so life at every stage,

So every virtue, so our grasp of truth,

Blooms in its day and may not last forever.

Since life may summon us at every age

Be ready, heart, for parting, new endeavor,

Be ready bravely and without remorse

To find new light that old ties cannot give.

In all beginnings dwells a magic force

For guarding us and helping us to live.

Serenely let us move to distant places

And let no sentiments of home detain us.

The Cosmic Spirit seeks not to restrain us

But lifts us stage by stage to wider spaces.

If we accept a home of our own making,

Familiar habit makes for indolence.

We must prepare for parting and leave-taking

Or else remain the slaves of permanence.

Even the hour of our death may send

Us speeding on to fresh and newer spaces,

And life may summon us to newer races.

So be it, heart: bid farewell without end.

 

on how I want to be famous

I was listening to the audio book version of a book that promised it was about mercy. The first word I heard was ‘famous.’  I was not happy. I don’t give a flying fig newton about being famous. Especially now that I am retired.  But I was walking on the treadmill, so I kept on listening. Finally I heard these lines:

I want to be famous to shuffling men who smile while crossing streets, sticky children in grocery lines, famous as the one who smiled back.  I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous, or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular, but because it never forgot what it could do.

Now that kind of famous I could aspire to. And then I heard, that the lines were from the poem ‘Famous’ by Naomi Shihab Nye. She is still one of my most favoritest poets. Her words still take my breath away and open my heart to the wonders of our world.  Here’s the poem  . . .

 

 

Famous

Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952

The river is famous to the fish.

 

The loud voice is famous to silence,

which knew it would inherit the earth

before anybody said so.

 

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds

watching him from the birdhouse.

 

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

 

The idea you carry close to your bosom

is famous to your bosom.

 

The boot is famous to the earth,

more famous than the dress shoe,

which is famous only to floors.

 

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it

and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

 

I want to be famous to shuffling men

who smile while crossing streets,

sticky children in grocery lines,

famous as the one who smiled back.

 

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,

or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,

but because it never forgot what it could do.

 

On Life

 

 

From Rilke’s Book of Hours, Translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

I live my life in widening circles

that reach out across the world.

I may not complete this last one

but I give myself to it.

 

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.

I’ve been circling for thousands of years

And I still don’t know: am I a falcon,

A storm, or a great song?


I love this poem. It just opens my heart and makes me want to fly.

In memory of Amjad Farid Sabri

In the beginning, in the lands of southern Asia, there were the Riwat peoples. That seems to be as far back as we know. In the north of Pakistan there is evidence of a Paleolithic site, the Riwat, where people lived at least 45,000 years ago. That is a long time for threads of something like civilization to weave.

Over time the land came to be called India which at times included what we now know as Pakistan. Think civilization, culture, and conflict.

And then the British East India company said, let there be tea, and the sun of British colonialism rose over the India, and the British Empire brought its version of  western ‘civilization’ to the lands and the peoples of India, including what we now know as Pakistan.

And then Mahatma Gandhi and others stood up and said, “This land is our land.” And there was conflict, lots of conflict. Finally in 1947 the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan were created and gained their independence. This was followed by more conflict.

Throughout the lands there were Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs and Muslims.  And among these religions and peoples of peace there was conflict.

In Pakistan most of the people were followers of Islam, people we call Muslims. Among the followers of Islam, there are divisions. There are Sunni Muslims; Shi’ite Muslims; Sufis who some people understand to practice a mystical kind of Islam and who other people say do not practice Islam at all; Ahmadiyyas are an offshoot of Sunni Islam; Baha’is are an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam. And, yes there is conflict between and among all of these groups, even as each of these groups practice a religion of peace.

Among the Suffi’s there is a devotional music known as qawwali. Qawwali emerges from the conviction that, before the majesty of God and the span of Creation, reason fails; only art, only music can possibly evoke the deepest feelings stirred in the human soul. So you have a musical form that reflects, in its very effect on you, the nature of faith as Muslims once believed it to be: A deep, romantic love, between a dependent human being, and an all-powerful Divine.

Those who sing in this tradition devote their lives to singing the praises of the prophet Muhammad, continuing the centuries-long tradition of musical veneration, Poetry, often Urdu or Punjabi, is set to music, usually in praise of God or the prophet Muhammad. A band of singers joins together to deliver songs that ecstatically convey the deep love of God, which classical Muslims expressed in secular metaphor: an intoxicating beloved, or an intoxicant itself. Masters of qawwali, known as “qawwals,” are world famous.

Amjad Farid Sabri born on 23 December 1970 in Pakistan. Following in the tradition of his father, he became one of the most famous qawwals in the world today. On 22 June 2016 he was on his way to a performance in Liaquatabad Town, Karachi, Pakistan when he was gunned down by two motorcyclists who claimed to be part of the Taliban. The Taliban have banned all music. They killed Amjad Farid Sabri because his singing violated their ban on music. I say let the music live!

Amjad Sabri was only 45 years old.  He was a man who devoted his life to the praise of his God and to peace. I expect that he had his flaws, he was human after all. But still, he was a human being doing his best, giving praise where he could, honoring the awe that surrounds us. And for the gift of his music, he was murdered.

This madness has to stop. Hatred never conquered hatred. Only love can conquer hate. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me, and with you and with each of us. Let us each do one loving thing today in memory of all of the senseless conflict, violence and murder that is plaguing our world.

Let us remember, forgive, and do better. Let us all find a way to love our family, friends and neighbors, remembering that everyone is our neighbor.

God and the Professor’s Brain

I found this story on People for Others, Paul Brian Campbell’s blog. While I have not spend inordinate amounts of time pondering the link between God and college professors’ brains, this story shines a nice light on the parallels . . . illuminating, I think!

Enjoy.

A college student was in a philosophy class, where there was a class discussion about whether or not God exists, the professor had the following logic:

“Has anyone in this class heard God?” Nobody spoke.

“Has anyone in this class touched God?” Again, nobody spoke.

“Has anyone in this class seen God?” When nobody spoke for the third time, he simply stated, “Then there is no God.”

The student did not like the sound of this at all, and asked for permission to speak. The professor granted it, and the student stood up and asked the following questions of his classmates:

“Has anyone in this class heard our professor’s brain?” Silence.

“Has anyone in this class touched our professor’s brain?”

Absolute silence.

“Has anyone in this class seen our professor’s brain?” When nobody in the class dared to speak, the student concluded, “Then, according to our professor’s logic, it must be true that our professor has no brain!”

 

On Pauli Murray’s Dark Testament

I’ve been reading Patricia Bell-Scott’s “The Firebrand and the First Lady” which is about the friendship between Pauli Murray and Eleanor Roosevelt, Murray being the Firebrand, Roosevelt being the First Lady. Throughout the book Murray’s poem, “Dark Testament” is mentioned several times. Of course I had to go find it. And yes, as I read it I found myself struggling to catch my breath.  Have a look see for yourself.

DARK TESTAMENT: VERSE 8

Hope is a crushed stalk

Between clenched fingers

Hope is a bird’s wing

Broken by a stone.

Hope is a word in a tuneless ditty —

A word whispered with the wind,

A dream of forty acres and a mule,

A cabin of one’s own and a moment to rest,

A name and place for one’s children

And children’s children at last . . .

Hope is a song in a weary throat.

Give me a song of hope

And a world where I can sing it.

Give me a song of faith

And a people to believe in it.

Give me a song of kindliness

And a country where I can live it.

Give me a song of hope and love

And a brown girl’s heart to hear it.

 

Of the Many Ways Confession Can be Good for You

This comes from facebook, but it really is too funny not to share … along the lines of things are never quite what they seem to be ….

‘Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I have been with a loose girl.’

The priest asks, “Is that you, little Joey Pagano?”

‘Yes, Father, it is.’

“And who was the girl you were with?”

‘I can’t tell you, Father, I don’t want to ruin her reputation.’

“Well, Joey, I’m sure to find out her name sooner or later so you may as well tell me now. Was it Tina Minetti?”

‘I cannot say.’

“Was it Teresa Mazzarelli?”

‘I’ll never tell.’

“Was it Nina Capelli?”

‘I’m sorry, but I cannot name her.’

“Was it Cathy Piriano?”

‘My lips are sealed Father.’

“Well then, was it Rosa DiAngelo?”

‘Please, Father, I cannot tell you.’

The priest sighs in frustration. “You’re very tight lipped, and I admire that. But you’ve sinned and have to atone. You cannot be an altar boy now for 4 months. Now you go and behave yourself.”

Joey walks back to his pew, and his friend Franco slides over and whispers, ‘What’d you get?’

‘Four months’ vacation and five excellent Leads.’

Problems of the Heart

A visitor to an insane asylum found one of the inmates rocking back and forth in a chair cooing repeatedly in a soft, contented manner, “Lulu, Lulu…”

“What’s this man’s problem?” he asked the doctor.

“Lulu. She was a woman who jilted him,” was the doctor’s reply.

As they proceeded on the tour, they came to a padded cell whose occupant was banging his head repeatedly against the wall and moaning, “Lulu… Lulu…..”

“Same Lulu?” asked the visitor.

“Yes,” said the doctor. “He’s the one Lulu finally married.”

Lesson?  Be careful what you wish for! And keep your heart open to visitors, but be careful who you invite to live there?

I read this recently on People for Others, the blog of  Paul Brian Campbell, SJ. He cites Tony de Mello as his source. Where ever it came from, I’m still laughing!

Armadillo’s Song A Bolivian Legend

As retold by S.E. Schlosser

There once lived an armadillo who loved music more than anything else in the world. After every rainfall, the armadillo would drag his shell over to the large pond filled with frogs and he would listen to the big green frogs singing back and forth, back and forth to each other in the most amazing voices.

“Oh,” thought the armadillo, “Oh how I wish I could sing.”

The armadillo would creep to the edge of the water and watch the frogs leaping and swimming in a frantic green ballet, and they would call back and forth, back and forth in beautiful, musical tones. He loved to listen to the music they made as they spoke, though he didn’t understand their words; which was just as well – for the frogs were laughing at this funny animal that wanted so badly to sing like a frog.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” sang the frogs as they played. “Armadillos can’t sing.”

Then one day a family of crickets moved into a new house near the armadillo, and he was amazed to hear them chirp and sing as merrily as the frogs. He would creep next to their house and listen and listen all day, all night for their musical sounds.

“Oh,” sighed the armadillo, “Oh how I wish I could sing.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” sang the crickets in their dulcet tones. “Armadillos can’t sing.”

But the armadillo could not understand their language, and so he just sighed with longing and listened to their beautiful voices laughing at him.

Then one day a man came down the road carrying a cage full of canaries. They were chirping and flittering and singing songs that were more beautiful even than those of the crickets and the frogs. The armadillo was entranced. He followed the man with the cage down the road as fast as his little legs would carry him, listening to the canaries singing.

“Oh,” gasped the armadillo, “Oh how I wish I could sing.”

Inside the cage, the canaries twittered and giggled.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” sang the canaries as they flapped about. “Armadillos can’t sing.”

The poor tired armadillo couldn’t keep up with the man and the cage, and finally he fell exhausted at the door of the great wizard who lived in the area. Realizing where he was, the armadillo decided to beg a boon of the man.

Timidly, the armadillo approached the wizard, who was sitting in front of his house and said: “Great wizard, it is my deepest desire to learn to sing like the frogs and the crickets and the canaries.”

The wizard’s lips twitched a little in amusement, for who had ever heard of an armadillo that could sing. But he realized that the little animal was serious. He bent low to the ground and looked the creature in the eye.

“I can make you sing, little armadillo,” he said. “But you do not want to pay the price, for it will mean your death.”

“You mean if I die I will be able to sing?” asked the armadillo in amazement.

“Yes, this is so,” said the wizard.

“Then I want to die right now!” said the armadillo. “I would do anything to be able to sing!”

The wizard and the armadillo discussed the matter for many hours, for the wizard was reluctant to take the life of such a fine armadillo. But the creature insisted, and so the wizard finally killed the armadillo, made a wonderful musical instrument from his shell, and gave it to the finest musician in the town to play.

Sometimes the musician would play his instrument by the pond where the frogs lived, and they would stare at him with big eyes and say: “Ai! Ai! The armadillo has learned to sing.”

Sometimes the musician would play his instrument by the house where the crickets lived, and they would creep outside to stare at him with big eyes and say: “Ai! Ai! The armadillo has learned to sing.”

And often the musician would visit the home of his friend who owned the cage full of canaries – who was also a musician – and the two men would play their instruments together while the little birds watched with fluttering wings and twittered in amazement: “Ai! Ai! The armadillo has learned to sing.”

And so it was. The armadillo had learned to sing at last, and his voice was the finest in the land. But like the very best musicians in the world, the armadillo sacrificed his Life for his Art.

 

I kind of like this story because it reminds me about the power and the cost of dedication to one’s life passion – literally, it costs your life. but then, what is life without passion and commitment?