Steadfast I stand in the world

Edwin Blashfield - Spring Scattering Stars.jpg

Steadfast I stand in the world
With certainty I tread the path of life
Love I cherish in the core of my being
Hope I carry into every deed
Confidence I imprint upon my thinking
These five lead me to my goal
These five lead me to my existence

Rudolph Steiner 

 

Image via wikimedia – Edwin Blashfield – Spring Scattering Stars

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Soon they’ll know Santa’s not real.

public domain Santa

My eldest child’s teacher sends weekly emails to the class to keep us up-to-date on what is going on in the classroom. The most recent email included a section headed “What to do if your child hears that others don’t believe in Santa” as the class is learning the story of St. Nicolas (a very real man) and there has been talk of Santa.

What to do if your child hears that others don’t believe  in Santa?
     If your child has older siblings he or she might hear them say that they don’t believe in Santa anymore. Then your child comes to you and asks you if Santa is real. What can you do?
     First of all,  have a talk with your older child. Remind them of when they were young and how Santa  was real for them. Ask them to be the “keeper of the magic” and not discount the imagination of the younger child….
Secondly, this is a teaching moment for tolerance. When your young one tells you that his or her friend said that there is no Santa you can share how  people believe in different things and celebrate holidays in different ways. Share that  “in our family we…. believe in Santa but in other families they may not and that is okay…. This phrase…”in our family we…” will become your mantra in the years to come. So many things come up where families do things in different ways. We can’t change others. We must show tolerance of other people’s  believes and journeys but still hold on  to what we want for our own  family.

This morning in the car I brought up Santa – how some children believe in him, and how in our family we know Santa is a story. The children were in full agreement – we’ve never really pushed the Santa myth, one of the grandmothers tried briefly, but it never really stuck. Silly grandma, Santa is a story.

In the car this afternoon the little one piped up:

Kid2: Everyone in my class believes in Santa, except me. I know Santa’s not real.

Me: Did you tell your friends Santa is not real?

Kid2: No. They all believe in Santa.

Kid2 then got quiet, and didn’t say much more.

I decided to use some of the teacher’s suggested language. Me: It is okay for them to believe in Santa, people believe a lot of different things, and … at this point Kid2 interrupted me, and in a super-sweet kindergarten voice, informed me:

Kid2: Soon they’ll know Santa’s not real.

I’m not sure what to say to that. I think we may have to have a conversation with the teacher.

banishing the darkness

We recently gathered together to celebrate the start of Advent at my children’s school. The adults sat in the gathering darkness as the children entered the room, careful to avoid stepping on the pine branches and stumps arranged in a spiral on the floor.

The teacher spoke a few words about our inner light of kindness, and compassion, then she went and lit the candle in the center of the spiral. The one candle did little to light the room, but from it, all the others would be lit.

waldorf spiral

One by one, each child walked the spiral, holding an apple with a beeswax candle in it. They walked to the center, lit their candle, and walked back, placing it on one of the stumps placed throughout the spiral.

Slowly the light from the candles grew, and when all the children had finished, there were around thirty candles lighting up the darkness. The teacher reminded us that together our lights shine more brightly than they would on their own, banishing the darkness.

My inner light is feeling pretty burnt-out right now, but I will continue to attempt to be kind and compassionate, in the hopes that it rekindles.


Martinmas Meditations

Our school recently celebrated Martinmas. As darkness fell, we gathered in the cozy classroom and were told the story of Martin, a young Roman conscript who gave half of his warm cloak to a beggar on the side of the road. Later that night Martin had a dream (vision?), an angel was wearing half of Martin’s cloak, and it told Martin that it had been the beggar on the road – Martin went on to convert to Christianity, but that part was left out of the story. The focus was on Martin’s kind heart, and willingness to share what he had with someone less fortunate than himself.

There was a mood of reverence as we walked from the classroom with our lanterns. In the dark, with only the quiet singing of the children, I contemplated the story. Martin did not give the beggar his entire cloak, he gave him half of it, this was not a story of total self-sacrifice, but of sharing what he could. Would Martin be cold with only half a cloak? Certainly, but the beggar would be warmer with half than if he had none at all.

The Martinmas Festival marks the middle point between Michaelmas and Christmas, the light of Martinmas fortifies the soul for the dark winter. I’m not feeling a lot of light right now, the darkness feels pretty overwhelming.

I have been struggling this past week with the election results. I feel both compelled to speak out, and compelled to withdraw and protect my family. I have been saddened by the news of attacks on people based on who they may or may not have voted for, their gender, the color of their skin, or their religious views.

As a former Christian Scientist, it would be easy to revert back to my old ways, to “only see the good” and to “know all is harmonious.” That is not how things work. The question, could I be doing more haunts me. I know the answer is yes, but I’m not sure what “doing more” looks like right now.


More on St. Martin & the Martinmas Festival

Image via https://www.pinterest.com/taoofcraft/waldorf-lanterns-martinmas/

Where we go from here

I don’t have much to say right now. I’m feeling numb and overwhelmed.

First and foremost, please support the ACLU. Go do that now, I’ll wait. 

Second, if you’re having a hard time today, ExChristianScience.com ran a post today about self-care. It is worth reading.

Third read this: What do we tell our children? 


If you feel things are really bad:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Lifeline Crisis Chat: https://t.co/UXJqH6Y0KA

Please. Use them. We need you.


ZOMBIES, CHILDREN & RELIGION: GRUESOME AND VERY FRIGHTENING AFFAIRS

Previously published on October 26, 2014, a few musings on Halloween, sin, disease and death. For other truly terrifying Halloween-related issues, see my October 31, 2012 post on the Protestant Reformation


We recently received the following e-mail from Kid1’s teacher:

IMPORTANT NOTICE: I am suggesting that you avoid downtown this Saturday. The now annual Zombie Walk Contest and Race is happening throughout most of the day and into the night. It is a gruesome and very frightening affair for young children. I do not want these awful images living in your children, or coming into the classroom.

Young children trust that the world is true. They take fairy tales to heart in a real way recognizing archetypal truths. A child can be told that something is pretend, then parrot that back to the adult. The truth for them is more that everything they encounter is real and they are in some way part of the encountered things or events.

Please shield your children from this zombie nonsense while they are so young, receptive and imitative.

The last sentence of the e-mail really stood out to me:

Please shield your children from this zombie nonsense while they are so young, receptive and imitative.

You could easily replace zombie with any number of things, as it is not just fairy tales that children take to heart in very real ways. They are quite observant little creatures and you should be mindful of the behavior you are modeling as well as what you say.

The idea of shielding children is not new, they’ve popped up time and time again in parenting books, and in Science and Health, Ms. Eddy reminds us that “children should be allowed to remain children in knowledge (Science & Health, p. 140). If Ms. Eddy was writing the e-mail today, she would likely replace zombie with the Christian Science Trinity of Doom — sin, disease and death — because really, isn’t that what Halloween is all about?*

I am not going to expose my children to the Christian (or Christian Science) notion of sin. The idea that without God they are nothing is harmful, the idea they are born sinners is ridiculous, the complex dogma that has grown around the mythology of a 2000 year old Jewish carpenter who may or may not have existed, and that has been translated and reinterpreted numerous times is not something I plan to expose my children to until they are old enough to realize it is a story, just like the stories of Zeus and Hera in Greek mythology, or the numerous other stories explaining creation.

Disease is a tricky one, there is a line between exposing children to things they are not ready for, and acknowledging that they are not feeling well. I am not going to tell my children about the Ebola outbreak in Africa (that would worry them unnecessarily), but I will comfort them when they are congested and can’t sleep well at night. When the children have questions, I will do my best to answer them in an age-appropriate way: Kid1 saw a photo of some men in hazmat suits cleaning up after some ebola victims and asked what was going on. My husband explained the men were wearing “special suits, like firemen wear” and they were “helping people” — both of these things were true, and Kid1 was satisfied with the answer. I’m sure my answers will change as they grow older, by then I hope to have gained more insight into how to answer difficult questions.

Ms. Eddy goes out of her way to emphasize the unreality of death. There are nearly 100 references to death in Science and Health, and she includes a definition of it in the Glossary. On p. 531, she defines death, as

An illusion, for there is no death; the unreal and untrue; the opposite of God, or Life.

Ms. Eddy goes on to rail about matter, unreality and the flesh, and I lose interest. Ms. Eddy and I live in two very different worlds: Ms. Eddy has returned to the universe, and I am still here. The children have asked a few questions about death, and I have tried to be honest with them. No, [the deceased] is not coming back. We will only see them again in photographs (and possibly on video), we will always have our memories of them, and we can honor their memories by living a full life.

When they are a little older, I will share with them the piece from NPR’s All things Considered: Planning Ahead Can Make a Difference in the End that talks about why you want a physicist to speak at your funeral. I will also share with them the piece by Rev. Michael Dowd, Death: Sacred, Necessary, Real, which beautifully touches on the theme of the positive role of death in the Universe without being creepy.

Young children trust that the world is true.

The children have already been exposed to “zommies” — they’ve watched my husband play Minecraft, but those are very different than zombies walking down Main Street, SmallTown USA. They know the zommies in Minecraft aren’t real, that would be silly, the world is not made of pixelated bricks!

image via http://www.planetminecraft.com/project/zombie-arena-1244230/

This zombie is OBVIOUSLY NOT going to be walking down the street any time soon.  image via http://www.planetminecraft.com/project/zombie-arena-1244230/

Why do they know these things? Mommy and Daddy told them so, and they’ve seen for themselves — they don’t look like Minecraft characters. There is the grey zone, with things like Santa Claus, and angels — I’m still sorting out how to deal with those, but I feel quite strongly that I will not pile upon my children the burden of nonsense that sin, disease, and death are somehow their fault. I will not fill their nightmares with images of zombies, the false idea that sin brings sickness, or the confusing mental gymnastics required to pretend to comprehend unreality of matter.

* I’m being sarcastic there. I don’t have any problems with Halloween, but I do feel it can be a Bit Too Much for small children so we stick with very low-key celebrations.

Misunderstood Dragons

Musings on Michaelmas, inner darkness, and dragons

This fall marks three years since I was first introduced to the festival of Michaelmas, and I find myself processing my feelings around the issue. My children love stories about dragons, and most of the books we have on their shelves come to a harmonious conclusion where the dragon(s) and people can live together, or at least have a truce.

This is all well and good, but the knight is good, the dragon is evil. Evil must be defeated, right?

Yes, but not all dragons are evil, let’s not make generalizations. Some dragons are good, some grow gardens, others come to the aid of princesses, some plow farm land, and some open BBQs with the knight that tried to kill them.

If dragons and knights (or angels in the case of the Archangel Michael) are used in stories to acknowledge that people have inner struggles between their “dark” and “light” sides where do the alternative stories leave us?

Instead of defeating evil lets have it over for lunch, perhaps we can work through the evil and come to realize it isn’t really that evil after all. Where do we draw the line? Is attempting to kill the knight an irredeemable offense? What about kidnapping a princess or torching villages? At what point has the dragon gone too far? What if the dragon isn’t really evil, what if it is merely misunderstood? It might be a good dragon.

Do good dragons do bad things? Does that make the dragon bad? Are dragons inherently bad, or just misunderstood?

How does this apply to us? Outside the zoo you are unlikely to encounter a dragon in your day-to-day so these dragons must be allegorical. In nature, light may triumph over darkness, at the Winter Solstice, but good triumphing over evil is far more subjective. Don’t rush to judgment, talk and try and work out your differences. Try to be guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience.

Maybe I’m over-thinking all this.