Thinking Small

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When I go for a walk, I often have my head down. So far I haven't bumped into anyone. Or they haven't bumped into me. I suppose social distancing has helped, when it comes to that.

I like to think that my fellow sojourners imagine I am deep in thought pondering vast questions of human existence. More likely, they think I am anti-social, which I suppose is partly true.

The real reason I look down as I walk is so I don't step on anyone (or more than one). I am convinced that after death, if there is a tribunal with St. Peter or Rhadamanthus or Anubis, the primary category of judging will be how many beings you have stepped on (or otherwise hurt) and how many saved. And I don't think  size matters - a being is a being in my ecocosmic view. Maybe you even get credit for thinking small.
 
I believe I am doing well in the Karma department, though I don't have an actual count to offer. Though I'm hoping that beings I can't see don't count, or better that I don't hurt them if I do step on them. There is more biomass in bacteria than in any other form of animal life, so that worries me a bit.
  
 All in all, it makes for a gentle life, seeking goodness where it exists, beauty where it is found, laughter as it comes, and joy in everything. Thinking small makes you a small part of a larger life, instead of a large part of a smaller one. It's worth the tradeoff.
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The three Cs

A friend recently reminded me of the power in kindness when she asked, what makes an urban area kind? My first thought was, how can an object or mass of solid be kind? What makes anything kind?

It’s a huge question, with a valley amassed in a field of flowers for answers.

Being kind is about expressing goodwill, whether emotionally, spiritually, physically or materially. It’s the act of being generous and considerate, looking out for the needs of others.

There’s such grace in being kind, just as there is in receiving kindness.

For some, it can be difficult to accept a kind gesture, especially those that give so frequently and don’t make time to receive. And then there are those who feel kindness is associated with the naive or weak. And yet kindness in any and all form is the epitome of courage and strength as it requires an openness that exposes vulnerability, especially when the kindness is being extended to oneself.

To give directions to a lost traveller in a city of skyscrapers

Or buy a second spare bike for yourself so you can give your other spare to a friend

For a son to text his mother late at night to tell her to look up at the moon if she’s still awake …

Kindness can melt a heart, crack a shell to ooze a luscious goo. It’s giving without expecting in return, giving with genuine concern.

Being kind is a gesture that is sincere and doesn’t occur because we should be kind or expect ‘good karma’ out of it. It’s not pity either; there is a clear line between the two. To pity is to be sympathetic to suffering, distress or misfortune, to show mercy and feel sorry.

A warm hug from someone who seems to feel your pain is kindness woven in care. Receiving help when you’re down and not when you’re strong, that’s pity. Pity is fleeting and insincere, can be demoralising; kindness stays with you well after the kindness has occurred.

Offering work to someone who isn’t working, mailing a care package of home-baked biscuits sealed with a smiley face to someone far away … they’re little gestures that can make someone’s day, turn an ugly mood into a gleaming uplift in both the giver and receiver.

Kindness can soothe the beastly harsh and thaw the biggest of ice bergs submerged in arctic waters. It can uplift to breathless heights and become buoyant in puffs of weightless jubilation; a gladness of glee.

Compliment someone on their new red shoes and watch their face light up

Hold the hand of a friend who bleeds out their heart

Be taken to lunch, or have the lunch bill unexpectedly paid … there’s such humility in kindness, a respectful, thoughtful and generous consideration for a person, animal or something.

Kindness comes with affection and warmth, gentleness too, to want to do something good. It’s the giving of time and patience, of wanting person, animal and environment to feel better than they are. Being kind is to love, whether in friendship, romantic, parental, environmental or spiritual love.

To sit with a family pet for two hours after her surgery

Be the angelic guardian of a brother’s galaxy

Talk to a friend who is reluctant to talk and after an hour, hear the glee in their tone.

That’s the bonus of course, the delight we can feel in imparting kindness, to know we’ve done something good, helped someone feel better or special, helped something, Mother Nature. But not pity them.

To see kindness in action is enchanting, captivating. It’s a desirous quality layered in modesty that can never be measured.

Kindness is a simple smile, a thank you, or a helpful hand to a stranger. As Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama, says:

The true essence of humankind is kindness. There are other qualities which come from education or knowledge, but it is essential, if one wishes to be a genuine human being and impart satisfying meaning to one’s existence, to have a good heart.

Be concerned, caring and considerate. Be kind. Accept kindness. Expose it in all its glory. And honour it, for it’s in us all.

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‘chicks bloody well can surf’

I watched the movie, Puberty Blues, the other night. I didn’t mean to, just found it as I was scrolling through for a movie to watch. It’s an Australian, coming-of-age movie made in 1981 about teenage life in the 70s on the coast — the beach, surf, sex and drugs. Not sure much has changed! It resonates with my teenage years and is one I watched many times over. That’s saying something for someone who doesn’t like to watch a movie for a second time, let alone a third or fourth.

The movie had already begun but a beach scene hooked me immediately, no doubt because of my love of the beach and water. However, what struck me about the movie was its ending. It finished on the ideal high that many storytellers strive for, that thought provoking scene that's interpreted through book, song, movie, music or any other creative means. It’s that hook that catches you inside, pulls you to kind of do a double take.

The movie’s ending shows the two girls, Debbie and Sue, buying their own surfboard and carrying it together down to the beach where their ‘friends’ tell them that girls don’t surf. The scene is brilliantly set up to evoke the idea that the surf board is too heavy for one girl to carry, and requires two. Defiant, Debbie takes to the surf to catcalls and scoffs. The scene unfold with the two girls soon laughing as they swim out and surf the waves laying on their bellies. Their friends watch on in deriding disdain.

Until Debbie stands on the board, that is. Suddenly, Sue’s boyfriend is smiling as Debbie rides the waves as a professional, which actor Nell Schofield does so well as a former teen surfing champion. The friends with Sue’s boyfriend, both boys and girls, are gobsmacked and watch in awe. You can almost see the penny drop in the girls that the impossible of girls not being able to surf, is possible. What’s more, the boys see it too. It’s such an empowering scene, for the female and the male, set up so beautifully by director Bruce Beresford and cinematographer Don McAlpine: Debbie in her skimpy yellow bikini showing the boys how it’s done, defying the unthinkable.

It encapsulates a spirited rebellion that rises and leads to freedom, a liberation of the stereotypical of men and women in the 1970s. Baby steps, of course.

Around the time I was watching the movie, I had just spoken to my cousin in Austria. The tremble in her voice was something I didn’t usually hear in her. She was exhausted and in bed early with a headache that night. The limitations and isolation imposed because of the corona virus were getting to her, symptomatic of what’s happening all over the world.

It highlighted to me, that we’re all in this together. The whole big, wide world.

We’ve become one. While vast lands may be separated by distance and water, we are one community facing a virus which threatens us. One united community. And together, we’re doing what we can to minimise its impact on us. We’re carrying our surfboard together, no matter how rich or poor or what colour our skin or religion we may follow. We’re sharing that load. Sure there are some that don’t. There are always going to be those that don’t, those that live on the fringes of any community, for numerous reasons. That seems to be human nature.

It’s so heartening to see and experience the world uniting though, the kindness that’s been extended by so many, and the genuine care and help for one another.

It’s humbling. It’s courteous and modest, sending us back to basics. While we’ve grown into a human race that is rich in materialism, we’ve been thrown back to basics where food, medicine and water are all that matter. And it’s happening to all of us.

We’ve been forced to return to our homes and families, our friends who are our families, whether in physicality, online or over the phone. We’re thinking about elderly people and looking after them. And for those that have them, we’re spending time with our children.

Sitting outside in the glorious sunshine with two of my sons last week, we wondered how some parents and children who don’t often spend time together may be coping with this new togetherness. The eternal optimist in me believes the intrinsic fibres between parent and child have no option but to reconnect, to strengthen relationships and homes. The problem will be, in the homes and relationships that are broken. 

It fills me with such warmth when I sit in my spring blossom and peacock chair in the sunroom at dawn and feel the quiet and peace outside, with the French doors open to my Chinese Elm and birds chirping good morning. Only an occasional car drives by compared with the many that normally stream past on their way to work. Dawn in peace is a grounding gift.

My sons had commented on the lack of traffic in our street too, as they tuned into the stillness outside. This calm that shrouds us, us as in the world where we humans have been forced to stop. Our busyness has subsided and work isn’t as important as it used to be. It’s as if the world is on pause for a chance to catch its breath. It’s been so wacky busy, it needed to catch its breath. Yet as each day passes, it pants more slowly and less so.  

Many are anxious about where we now find ourselves. I like to see it as being in another stage of life that’s in a constant state of flux. Life is full of those, cycles of change, of difficultly and ease, challenge and triumph, and joy and sadness. Change is one of the few reliable constants in life. The key with any flux, flow or ebb in life, is to ride it out for it will shift. Take the action necessary to make the change, to come through it and be patient to believe that things will improve. I see many who are patient and accepting of this.

Some panic in change and adversity. But that’s the polarity of life, of the spectrum of experience and people — positive and negative, pure and filth, disgust and captivating. Even that needs acceptance, of life’s adversity and polarity that is building now as a collective adversity, a world adversity.

In any polarity, change and adversity, life continues. It’s a short life that we have and making the most of it and any situation we’re faced with is all we can do. Love. Kiss. Confront. Forgive and move on. And laugh, don’t forget to laugh, even in times like we’re in now, and especially in times like we’re in now.

Babies are born, people die. Love blooms, relationships end. Some are still at work while many have lost their means to earn an income. People are stressed, some are panicked, others are unperturbed.

And yet in all that, has come one of the greatest revelations: that of kindness and compassion extended to those in need, and to those that aren’t earning an income. Such fortitude emblazons. They won’t be beaten.

It really sends my heart gooey when I think of the compassion around us right now. Yes, there are some desperate and hoarding and only thinking of themselves. But the giving out number them and in reality, compassion can only be extended to those in such panic for they’re in fear.

Fear can be so consuming and at the moment, it’s consuming millions. Eckhart Tolle describes fear as thoughts where people project themselves into some future moment.

If we try and pause with the world, sit in this quiet time to plant our feet on the ground and not get caught in the madness, we may become less fearful. Accept that this time now, is a pause in life. Plan for the future but it’s not possible to think too far ahead as these are new times unfolding in ways we’ve not experienced before. It's new for everyone. Deal with each day as it appears. Plan for the future but live in the day that exits. More easily said than done for some, I know. Compassion and patience is called for those struggling with fear and panic.

Compassion and patience is giving, as the driver coming out of his truck to share his toilet paper with the elderly lady weeping when she couldn’t buy toilet paper, and in the tray of mince and bread left on an elderly woman’s fence and toilet paper left on a door step. It’s in the man asking people that had congregated after playing soccer at the local sports oval to move on and disperse, and those people doing so. And in the phone calls and facetimes, messages on every app possible, of people checking in on friends, family and neighbours, on those alone and isolated. It’s in the support groups and services established to help people unable to go out and buy food or medicine or simply can’t move from their home for anything at all. Organisations are making extra funding available to help people who have lost their income. Even businesses and banks are showing compassion, providing extra services without cost and deferring mortgages for those who have lost work. Business partners are supporting one another, offering jobs to those working for partners who have lost theirs.

People are helping people. If you ever thought human kindness had left the planet, look around for it’s galloping in right now. Even my niece offered to help me. I giggled at first, then that gooey heart got going again. Such care. And love.

The fragility of life has been waved before us. But flapping madly in front of that is the human spirit. It’s strong, alive and kicking, just as it was when Debbie and Sue surfed those waves at Bondi. We are a singular community bound in belonging by a virus threatening us, bound by a humanity that comes with humility. It’s a humanity emerging within humanity.

I’ll finish my rambling in the spirit of humanity loving to laugh, with Lulu taking the piss out of Corona

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Something is Missing

No sense arguing right or wrong, for me it's quite simple.
An essential ingredient is missing. 
 
I attended a talk at a recollection.
The priest lectured about who can receive Holy Communion.
He explained the 3 factors:  state of grace, conscious, transubstantiation.
 
I am writing not to argue on the three factors.
I respect the parameters after all I am a catholic.
It's something else that does not sit well with me.
 
The gist of the lecture centered on the elderly and special children.
"If an elderly is suffering from dementia, forgetfulness or Alzheimer’s should he receive holy communion?"
I heard whispers from the crowd, "yes!” "why not?"
 
The priest answered, "No."  And then surprise and silence.
He explained that for anyone suffering from dementia, the elderly for example, they lack the consciousness.
Consciousness and comprehension to understand transubstantiation, the body and the blood of Christ.
 
With Alzheimer’s and dementia or severe forgetfulness one is unable to distinguish the body and the blood of Christ.
Therefore, no communion.
For special children, (I wanted to correct him because he used the word retarded) same logic.
 
How can a child with Down syndrome understand what the body and blood of Christ is?
They probably don't commit sin because they are not in the right state of mind.
These were the assumptions of the priest.
 
 The arguments and discussions will run until my last breath.
Forget about going down that road.
When it comes to the elderly and special children, compassion rules in my books.
 
 My mother who was unable to speak because of numerous falls from her stroke never lost her mind.
Prayer, hearing mass and Holy Communion were sacred to her.
There is no way I would ever have deprived her of receiving Holy Communion.
 
Whether she actually recognized the body and blood of Christ, I don't know.
This is precisely my point.  Who am I to assume?
Much worse, who is any priest to assume and not give Holy Communion to a wheelchair bound elderly in line at the altar?
 
I have no doubt in my mind the priest giving the lecture meant well.
It's just very sad in my eyes that he lacked deeper compassion.
Special children are called Angels because according to him they don't sin.
 
However, because they lack the ability to comprehend and distinguish what the body and blood of Christ is, they should not receive Holy Communion.
Hmmm.... so why bother having these children baptized in the first place?
I couldn't make full sense of the talk.
 
I left with a heavy heart.  It was confusing for me.
I wonder if Pope Francis would have the same sentiment regarding the elderly and special children.
Dementia, Alzheimer’s, severe forgetfulness, Down syndrome are all brutal diseases that afflict humans.
 
But I've heard many miracle stories of small openings amidst illness where one remembers or becomes conscious.
What if at that moment of consciousness the desire to receive Holy Communion is rejected?
And then that person slips back into the state of illness?
 
 Sad.
 
 

 

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