“Faith minus vulnerability and mystery equals extremism. If you’ve got all the answers, then don’t call what you do ‘faith.’ “~ Brene Brown.
You never know what will trigger a memory. I was sat in traffic the other day, and saw a small poster advertising a Bible bookstore. When I was a teenager, my Saturday mornings had a rhythm and a routine. I got up early and went to market to buy the fresh produce for the week. In Jamaica, ‘market’ is a place full of fresh smells, brightly colored fruit and vegetables, and even more colorful people. You would have your regulars, the people you always bought from, and they would have the choicest hand of ‘Gros Michelle’ bananas put aside for you; the best and fattest tomatoes; the most aromatic skellion and thyme. I would deposit my purchases in my father’s car (which he parked outside the market), then head to Tom Sang Lee’s supermarket to place the order for the rest of the week’s groceries.
After that was completed, I relieved my father in the market. He had a stall with a variety of Bibles (they ranged from large print; zippered; those with Jesus’ words in red; New Testament only; school sized; and special orders) along with other religious tracts: Daily Word; hymn books; and anything else he thought would appeal. Of course, he ministered while he sold (not sure which he did more of!) and people knew they could seek him out on a Saturday morning for a ‘private’ (surrounded by the press of a market crowd) word. I didn’t mind relieving him, there was plenty to observe, plenty of hilarious exchanges to overhear, and before too long my ‘shift’ would be over.
The beauty of my upbringing lies in the width of my horizons. I was permitted a view of life that was wide-ranging and diverse. Although I grew up within sight and sound of the church (and the graveyard!), my father’s religious beliefs were tempered with a realism, an acknowledgment that real people live real lives, full of complexity, pain and joy. Problems were not easily solved, they were often nuanced and layered. He would spend as much time listening as he did talking, so if you came to him for advice and perhaps admitted to some responsibility for the creation of your dilemma, he would not judge. He would not hit you over the head with his Bible and his beliefs. But he might show you another way of seeing your problem.
As we try to adjust to a planet where the effects of climate change seem to bring breaking news on a daily basis, we seem to also be facing extremes of political views which have caused their own breaking news. It is tragic to hear the first-person stories from frontline workers dealing with multiple deaths from COVID (again). It is criminal to know that the majority of the unvaccinated are basing their decisions on information which is political rather than scientific in nature. It is painful to imagine the suffering of those spending their last days tethered to a ventilator in the ICU, separated from their families.
Meanwhile, in Texas, an extreme law has gone into effect which reeks of totalitarianism. It is no longer ‘my body, my business’. A bounty has been declared upon anyone who ‘assists’ (gives a ride to, gives money to, gives advice to) a woman who tries to get an abortion beyond the 6th week of pregnancy. There is so much wrong with this law, it is hard to know where to begin. But the fact that it is based once more upon politics rather than science is more evidence of the extremism in this country. This obsession with women’s reproductive rights (or lack thereof) is scary. I saw a meme which cleverly suggested that those wishing to purchase guns should have the same level of restrictions as has been placed upon women seeking to abort an unwanted pregnancy (remember, this may be the result of rape, of incest, of sexual assault etc.,). It is ironic (but not funny) that it is often the same group of people who are so opposed to abortion that are also opposed to any form of gun control, in a country where the death from guns is ridiculous.
In my role as an instructor of nursing students, I had to go back to basics to learn to teach math. I don’t remember having a class in dosage calculation in my nursing program, perhaps we were expected to have enough mathematical sense to be able to figure it out ourselves? Or perhaps I just wasn’t paying attention. But in order to teach what is basically a fourth-grade grasp of ratio and proportion, I needed to remind myself of the steps. Solving for x was no problem. But setting up the ‘1 is to 250 as 5 is to x’ in a linear (not fraction) equation meant learning about ‘means and extremes’. In other words, the product of the two numbers in the middle (the means) is always equal to the product of the two numbers at the ends (the extremes) of the equation. (1 x = 250 x 5).
It is as if this country is now full of ‘meanies and extremists’; people so full of their own points of view that there is no room for any other perspective. It feels as if we are moving backwards instead of forwards at a time when it is clear that we need to be working together. When it comes to COVID, it is hard to imagine that people are risking a painful death over a political point of view, not only for themselves but also for their children and other vulnerable family members, rather than listen to what is in the best interest of their health. I cannot imagine how we will be judged in the future.
On this Friday morning, as we look forward to a long weekend, I hope that you can reminisce on the simple pleasures of your own childhood. May we all find a way to live together in this world, respecting each other’s points of view, and tolerating a wide range of perspectives. This Labor Day weekend is strange, since thanks to COVID we will not be greeting hundreds of schoolmates who would normally come together to raise funds in the name of our high school in Jamaica. Thankfully we have many photographs to remind us of prior years, and those of us who made it through will be able to celebrate joyfully some day soon.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!