Thursday, January 29, 2009

A holy place

I dropped into a run-of-the-mill Chinese take-out restaurant today, in the shabby strip mall near my house, to order dinner. My attention was immediately captured by a huge picture on the wall, in a stainless steel frame, of the place that you see above. I looked at it for several minutes while the pseudo-Chinese food I had ordered was being prepared. I wondered about the characters on the brilliant blue background at the top of the building -- what they meant. But most of all, I wondered what this building was.

If you already know, then congratulations, you are smarter or at least more geographically knowledgeable than the average bear.

I imprinted its distinctive design in my mind, then chafed for several hours until I could get home and open up one of my literary treasures: The World's Greatest Architecture.

And there it was: The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, in the Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China. According to my book, it is "probably the most familiar building in China."

According to a website about the place:

"Construction of the Temple of Heaven began during the reign of Emperor Yongle and was completed in 1420. It was used by all subsequent Emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

The Chinese Emperor ruled "All Under Heaven" by divine authority. The Temple of Heaven was central to his authority as he prayed for blessings for his people.

In imperial China, the emperor was regarded as the Son of Heaven, the intermediary between Earth and Heaven. To be seen to be showing respect to the source of his authority, in the form of sacrifices to heaven, was extremely important. The Temple of Heaven was built for these ceremonies.

The most important ceremony of the year took place on the winter solstice, when the emperor prayed for good harvests. After three days of fasting, the emperor and his entourage, wearing splendid robes, would make their way to the park on the day before the solstice. It was forbidden for the commoners to catch a glimpse of the great annual procession; they had to bolt their windows and remain in silence indoors throughout the event.

Upon arrival at Tian Tan, the emperor meditated in the Imperial Vault, ritually conversing with the gods on the details of government. He then spent the night in the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests."

Spring will bring Byzantium

I got down on my knees this morning and examined a bit of ground near my house. Sure enough, the first tight tips of crocus buds have pushed up into the light and in a few weeks, these pioneers of the spring season will bloom.

Winter storms may still come, but they will go, too, and the seasons will change. My family members who have lost jobs in this ruined economy, will survive, with our arms of support wrapped around them. My grandmother, who fell and badly hurt herself this month, may yet have a few joyful years left with us.

I read through Gnosticism this winter and do not regret the time spent on it, though it was terribly hard to understand. Now I am reading the very last of the "pagans" before I enter the literature of the Byzantine Empire, prelude to the Middle Ages.

This weekend, I read Longus' "Daphnis and Chloe." After the Nag Hammadi library, this book seems almost unbearably simplistic.

More later.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A win for Women and all people

It is wrong to pay a Woman less than a man for doing the same job.

This seems to me to be so commonsensical as to hardly be worth discussion. It is also wrong to pay an equally qualified Hindu, or a Texan, a Toyota driver, a redhead or anyone with the middle initial J. less for doing the same job.

And if you keep this discrepancy hidden from the employee against whom you discriminate, you still deserve to be punished, regardless of how long it takes to discover your wrong-doing. If you don’t like that, then play fair, pay fair, and it won’t be an issue for you, will it?

Finally, the United States is coming to its senses in this regard, with passage in Congress this week of the so-called Ledbetter bill.

Miss Ledbetter was a Goodyear worker who of course was not told, for years, that She was making less than Her male colleagues. That’s not exactly information that employers make available to their employees. Yet She was expected to figure it out within a certain “statute of limitations” – the onus was on Her, in other words, to play detective.

And, in other words, since the company failed to do what was right within a certain of time, the company – and our government, until now -- felt as if Ms. Ledbetter should be the one punished.

That seems to me to be nonsensical as to hardly be worth discussion.

I am very conservative in most of my politics. I find that supporting this bill does not violate my conservative viewpoint at all. If you do the same job, having the same levels of expertise, educational degrees, whatever, then you deserve equal pay regardless of whether you wear boxers or panties under your uniform.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It is all up to Her

Meditation upon Youth:

They will ask Her:

So, what do you want to do with your life?

Become a lawyer? Scientist? Teacher? Veterinarian? Chef? Librarian? Soldier? Minister?

Perhaps an auto mechanic? Model? Bank teller? CEO? Concert pianist?

Maybe a writer? Waitress? Airline pilot? An actress?

Ever thought about becoming an artist? A doctor? A dancer? A union organizer?

When their chatter ceases, ultimately,

the decision is Hers to make.

All the world is open before Her

like a soft, spring field

in whose soil Her feet have yet to leave a print.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sadness in Happy, Texas

By chance I flipped to a movie on television last night of which I had never heard.

It promptly put my Beloved to sleep but I watched it to the end.

"Happy, Texas" is the tale of two escaped cons who steal an RV belonging to two gay men and end up hiding out in Happy, Texas, pretending to be those two guys. Unfortunately, those two guys had just been hired to help a class of little girls win some regional talent show. Obviously, it was supposed to be a comedy and it was funny, in parts.

Imagine a guy who is as hetero as can be, having to pretend to be someone completely different -- and pulling it off so well that it inspires a certain town resident to come out of the closet -- with him.

Yeah, funny so far -- mistaken identities have made people laugh since the beginning of time.

For me, however, the discomfort began at that moment and peaked when the con finally told that poor man to get lost. For several minutes, the movie shows the man in emotional agony, crying his eyes out, utterly heartbroken.

If this pain was supposed to be taken seriously, it didn't feel well with the comedy of the rest of the movie. If we were supposed to laugh at what was portrayed as very real heartbreak, I just can't do it.

Hearts are hearts, gay or straight.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

You are beautiful!

Oh, that this website I have found, could be viewed by every Woman and Girl on Earth!

What an awesome concept! My deepest admiration goes out to the exemplary Ladies who have created it!

Their credo: "Our mission is simple: to create a world in which every woman and girl can proudly proclaim, "I Am Beautiful!"

"How do we redefine feminine beauty to make it more inclusive? How do we combat the damaging media messages and distorted cultural ideals about women and beauty? How do we show our daughters, sisters, friends, mothers and grandmothers the power in naming their own beauty?

Self-acceptance is the first step.
That is what the I Am Beautiful Project is all about: self-esteem through

And They even quote the delightful Audrey Hepburn, one of my most favorite people, who was and eternally will be beautiful in body, mind and soul:

"For attractive lips, speak words of kindness;
for lovely eyes, seek out the good in people;
for beautiful hair, let a child run her fingers through it once a day."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My kind of book

There is the vast library of ancient literature whose membersI am insanely attempting to read, one by one, over the course of my life.

There is modern fiction, which for the most part does not interest me at all.

But the genre of book that sets me to salivating, that takes a terrible toll on my wallet, that evokes a sad sigh of resignation from my Beloved, eludes categorization. It is history, but something more. It is the concept book, for lack of a better term. It is a great author taking some noun -- some person, place or thing -- and probing carefully and specifically and entertainingly into it, whether the historical ravages of some famous disease like syphillis; the pre-Columbian American world; or the birth of the universe.

I found such a book today that looks SO tasty, so deserving of being read. Please don't tell my Beloved!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Thought of Norea

Who was She?

Who was the ancient author whose ecstatic poetry is preserved for us in the ancient Gnostic hymn entitled "The Thought of Norea"?

I say She, for scholars believe this may very well be a rare Gnostic tractate composed by a Female hand.

Who was She?

The text (this translation being found in the James Robinson edition of the Nag Hammadi Library) seems to follow the Gnostic pattern of redeeming a Biblical villain -- or, in this case, a villainess, Na'amah of Cain's line from Genesis -- Norea being a Greek version of Her name, and given here a salvatory role.

You may not grasp much of the meaning -- I certainly didn't -- but still, the poetry sings:

"Father of All, Ennoia of the light,
dwelling in the heights above the regions below,
Light dwelling in the heights, Voice of truth,
upright Nous, untouchable Logos, and ineffable Voice,
incomprehensible Father!

It is Norea who cries out to them.
They heard and they received her
into their place forever.

They gave it to her in the Father of Nous
Adamas, as well as the voice of the Holy Ones,
in order that she might rest
in the ineffable Epinoia,
in order that she might inherit
the first mind which she had received,
and that she might rest
in the divine Autogenes,
and that she too might generate herself,
just as she also has inherited
the living Logos
and that she might be joined
to all of the Imperishable Ones,
and speak with the mind of the Father.

And she began to speak with words of Life,
and she remained in the presence of the Exalted One,
possessing that which she had received
before the world came into being.

She has the great mind of the Invisible One,
and she gives glory to her Father
and she dwells within those who
[lacuna] within the Pleroma
and she beholds the Pleroma.

There will be days when she beholds the Pleroma,
and she will not be in deficiency,
for she has the four holy helpers
who intercede on her behalf
with the father of the all, Adamas.

He it is who is within all the Adams,
possessing the thought of Norea
who speaks concerning the two names
which create a single name.

Women in leadership ...

With permission from American Forum (please see link), I am posting this very profound editorial because I agree with it passionately.

Despite my reservations about President-elect Obama, I am not posting it as a chance to score points against him, anymore than its original author intended it to be thusly used, which obviously She did not. Please note that in Her column, She also points out Pres. Bush's egregious error in eliminating several means of Women's high-level contributions to White House political discourse and I agree emphatically with Her that that was indeed a serious error on his part.

Women absolutely belong at every level of government and in every corporation and organization, every place that They have a mind to be, fully active, fully equal, speaking Their minds freely, doing, being, achieving, not just on behalf of other Women but on behalf of all humanity. -- ECD

"To Achieve Change President-Elect Obama Needs to Bet on Women."
Posted by American Forum, written by Linda Tarr-Whelan

"President-elect Obama has now moved swiftly to name talented and creative people to Cabinet-level offices and the key members of the White House team. But a nagging thought keeps coming back to me: Why isn't he naming more women to bring our experience, creativity and energy to address the problems that face us?"
Until only recently it looked like Obama's Cabinet-level composition held only three women. But the announcement that Gov. Bill Richardson will not be taking the Commerce Secretary slot leaves an open position to fill, and one more chance for diversity.

Whereas the presidents of Chile and Spain, also elected as change candidates, appointed women to one-half of their Cabinet seats, Obama has named (including Richardson), 12 men of 15 Cabinet-level departments heads. Leaving his team very diverse in terms of race and ethnicity -- but not in gender. This is a diminished representation from both Bush presidencies and the Clinton administration.

More important than numbers is the talent that is missing and how out-of-step we are compared to the rest of the world in terms of who leads and why it matters. Since 1995 the global standard has been at least one-third women at power tables to revitalize economies and advance democratic participation.

Here we are stuck or moving backwards compared to the rest of the world.
The U.S. is ranked 27th on the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Report and 71st in terms of women's representation in Congress. Outside of government representation at the current rate increase it will take women 73 years to reach parity on corporate boards.

Why does Obama -- and all of us -- need more women making decisions?
Women "get it" about the importance of education and have gone to school in droves. Women now earn 58 percent of college and master's degrees and are at least even in professional and Ph.D programs. Women-owned businesses, despite persistent obstacles, generate sales equal to the gross domestic product of China. Women make 80 percent of the consumer decisions. As almost one-half of the workforce and the bulk of nurses and teachers, women are the secret to achieving improvements in the economy, education and health care.

Failing to maximize the power and potential of women as leaders for change is neither smart politics nor good business. Women were the majority of all voters -- and with a 7 percent gender gap over men voters, the majority of Obama voters. In part that was because the campaign specifically addressed pressing problems in women's lives where there has been little action for decades -- family and work, health care, equal pay and violence.

I've had my time to serve in government. Based on my experience, I would recommend a plan recently presented to the Obama-Biden transition by the heads of 38 prominent women's organization who represent 14 million women. They proposed the creation of a Cabinet-level Office on Women reporting directly to the president, an Inter-Agency Council on Women and an Office for Women's Initiatives and Outreach.

As the former head of the White House Office on Women's Concerns for President Carter, I know first-hand the importance of the coordination between the president, the administration and women across the country.

In the Clinton administration, as the CEO of a nonprofit, I worked closely with Betsy Myers, later head of Women for Obama, and others who headed the Office of Women's Outreach. All of us found it difficult to deliver the president's agenda for women without Cabinet status. In my role as ambassador I met women ministers from around the globe and saw how their work informed progress for women and their countries and participated in the work of the very effective Inter-Agency Council on Women.

All of these offices were cut out by the Bush administration -- our next President will face a clean slate and a pressing need. President-elect Obama -- and all of us -- will be well-served by taking on board the full recommendation of an integrated approach on women led by a Cabinet-level Office on Women.

An Obama administration will move the whole country forward when it effectively tackles existing inequities, eliminates possible disparate impacts of supposedly "gender-neutral" policies and taps the full potential of our women. Women are not a special-interest group. We are the current and future talent for the economy, the anchors for most families and the change agents for a better future.

Women have embraced the Obama call for change. Now we want to be sure it happens.
Tarr-Whelan is a Demos Distinguished Senior Fellow on Women’s Leadership. Her book, “Women Lead the Way: Your Guide to Stepping Up to Leadership and Changing the World” will be published in 2009. She is the former Ambassador to the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
Copyright (C) 2009 by the American Forum. 1/09

Friday, January 9, 2009

Happy Picture of the Day

From Microsoft Clip Art.
Have a great Friday.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

What matters

I have not posted nor responded much lately nor visited my blog friends. Been busy. Will get to it.


With each passing year -- and yes, I am still quite young -- I become more aware that the greatest challenge of a person's life may well be this: how one responds to the reality of aging and the certainty of death.

Perhaps that sounds morbid. But I didn't invent the concept.

One can Botox from head to toe, squeeze into clothes designed for teenagers or sport a toupee -- and fool no one.

Or the opposite: One can let one's appearance slip to a frightful state, dressing like Hapless Harry or Frumpy Fran in oversized plaids and pastels and never trimming one's nose hair.

But one can also choose to walk the middle road, of staying clean and presentable without screaming for attention, being attractive for one's age and as fit as it is still possible to be.

Pain will come. Nobody will like your kind of music anymore. Your glory day stories will become boring. How will you deal with it? Will you become a complainer, a recluse, a grouch, a crank, a crone? Will you become obsessed with death, feeling intensely sorry for yourself and insisting to all and sundry on a daily basis that you are surely dying?

This week, an old friend of mine, a mentor to me when I first joined the staff of a local newspaper, passed away. His health had been poor even back then, but he still worked hard, stayed involved in his community and looked for ways to be of service whenever he could.

I will never forget when he drove all the way from another city when my car broke down and nobody at my then-office could be bothered to help me get home.

He was a good man -- no, a great man -- all the way up to the very end. Still jovial and loving the next-to-last time that I ever saw him, though confined to a hospital bed. Silent and virtually comatose the very last time I saw him, but that was no fault of his own: he was finally on his way out, after years of physical suffering -- a subject upon which he never dwelt.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


My new shoes are polished for church tomorrow. I have made a decision this new year: though lacking empirical or emotional evidence, I will choose to believe.


I took my Beloved, aka Sweetie, to historic Williamsburg today. While She browsed through a store to Her liking, I sat on a bench in the unexpected sunshine and enjoyed the fragrance of a nearby Marlboro menthol being enjoyed by a Woman as She read a novel at the other end of the bench.

Sensory pleasures: sweet sunshine and the faint fragrance of fine tobacco shared gently, without words, without animosity ...

"Why is it that the only things you ever buy in these places are food?" my Beloved asked me. She had purchased a candle and some decorative doo-dads and stocking stuffers for next year. I was happily cradling a sack of Muscovado sugar and a jar of Zanzibar spice blend.

"Food makes memories," I told Her.

The exotic sugar will be perfect for making a loaf of dark, Grant bread.

I can't stand commercials that show only Women cleaning homes. We are not in the 1950's anymore, and there are plenty of men who vacuum, mop and otherwise help care for the homes they live in.

Likewise, I would like to bounce a brick off the head of whatever advertising moron has recently put out a commercial declaring that "men don't bake."

Like hell we don't. I can chop up a log into kindling, pitch a tent, fix my car or do other supposedly manly chores. And I bake. I can deeply appreciate a fine set of swaying Feminine glutes gliding past me or, more appropriately, the charms of my own Beloved. And I bake.

In fact, I find a man fearful of his own kitchen to be quite pathetic.

I tried out a new bread recipe the other day but failed to take a picture. It was a rich, whole wheat, British granary cob, round as a pillow and crusted with cracked wheat.

Guess I'll make it again and record the evidence.

We are home with our treasures -- the ones we bought and the ones in memory.