Category Archives: life

Right Speech, or Lack Thereof

Today I fell victim to chose to succumb to the allure of gossiping and judgmental words. What I said was unnecessary, and potentially harmful, as I discovered a moment too late that the person I was speaking about was sitting just at the next table. I was assured by my table mate that the person didn’t seem to have heard as the next table was deeping involved in their own engrossing conversation, but still, I worry that I caused pain.

Gautama Buddha developed the Eightfold Path as a way to alleviate suffering and achieve insight. Rudolf Steiner spoke similarly of this path as a way to tame our astral cravings and unconscious desires and actions. Here is how he describes the fourth principle, right speech:

[A person] must strive to give true expression to what he desires to communicate to the world, having first acquired the right view and right judgment of it; not only his words but every manifestation of his being must express his own right view — that and that alone. This is right speech.
The Gospel of St. Luke, lecture three, 17 September 1909

I certainly failed to have right judgment, in my choice to make humor out of shallow judgments and useless talk,and to have right view, in displaying such antipathy toward the person and situation. I forgot the wise words of Steiner about truth and love:

[The] lie is the direct opposite of the actual facts and those who yield themselves lovingly to the facts are incapable of lying. The lie has its roots in egoism — always and without exception. When, through love, we have found the path to wisdom, we reach wisdom through the increasing power of self-conquest, through selfless love.
–“Love and Its Meaning in the World,” 17 December 1912 (my emphasis)

Clearly, I still need to work on that “self-conquest” part.

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Pardon me while I sigh with contentment.

This morning we woke up to a little bit of snow. The red apples still hanging on the tree out back looked like Christmas ornaments. We made pumpkin pancakes for breakfast, and immediately afterwards the kids ran out to shovel the front walk and sweep off the car windows. Without being asked. I’ve got beef stew in the slow cooker for dinner, and a cup of warm apple cider by my side.

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Filed under Family, life

Why Am I in This #$*)&(% Lifeboat?

This morning in the car Anthropapa and I were having a discussion about affirmative action and the fact that there have only been 3 African American US senators since Reconstruction, and how maybe President Obama will be a positive role model to increase that number. Yes, at 7:45 am, we were discussing that. I guess the coffee had already kicked in.

Anyway, we were stopped at a busy intersection, and I made another comment in our discussion. Then I noticed that Anthropapa hadn’t responded. I said, “I’m sorry, are you trying to pay attention to the traffic?” He said yes in what sounded like a slightly annoyed tone.

I felt myself get angry all of a sudden. Like, hey–I was just continuing the conversation, why are you annoyed at me? I felt really irritated at how I thought he was judging me.

Then I stopped myself and looked at that angry reaction. What was that all about? Why anger in that moment?

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Recently my pastor lent me Donald Miller’s Searching for God Knows What. Miller writes in a sometimes profane, sometimes silly, sometimes profound way about how Christianity cannot really be broken down into bullet points and structured dogma without losing the fundamental purpose behind it: a relationship with God. He says that we all have a “lifeboat mentality”: constantly comparing ourselves to others in formulaic ways and placing value on transitory and truly meaningless things to see who comes out ahead and who gets thrown overboard. We do this because we have lost that sense of relationship and have forgotten the love God has for us. If he were Buddhist, Miller might have said the same thing in terms of attachment, and a skewed vision of self that leads to separation from the truth of oneness. There’s a fundamental human truth there, whatever the religion.

Whether you see it as literal or figurative, the Fall in the Garden of Eden presents a picture of that loss of relationship: one minute we had perfect, all-encompassing love, and then we didn’t. And since then all we’re doing is trying to get that love back. We somehow equate that loss of love with a lack of self, a judgment against us, an isolation and fear and trembling. We try to assuage that lack by buying things, judging others to prop up our self-image, even making checklists of things to do to be a better person. We feel so many things in life as tiny reminders of that huge loss, and so we act and react out of fear.

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As I thought about my angry reaction this morning, it occurred to me that it felt almost like what I imagine being a baby feels like. Have you ever seen the look of perfect outrage on a baby’s face when the baby feels pain? It’s an instantaneous, loud, and passionate response. It’s like a very primitive sense of un-rightness that neither I nor the baby could explain rationally, but surely feel strongly.

Then I thought about how the Christian answer to that moment of pain would be to remember that God’s love is sufficient. I’m not sure I can fully get there in my mind and heart, but I can at least realize this: whether Anthropapa was really judging me isn’t really the issue, but rather that I don’t need to feel fear or lack or low self-esteem in the face of any perception I might have. And there’s an important point: it’s my perception. My little ego gets in the way of my higher self and clouds my consciousness with such primitive reactions, regardless of what’s really going on. Anger like that is a semi-conscious reaction at best. There’s no higher self involved there.

The Bible gives Jesus as the model of the higher self, and here’s what he and his disciples say is the answer to pretty much everything: love. Love one another. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Of the highest virtues, love is the highest. Over and over again, because even the ones you would think would have totally understood, like St. Peter, needed a lot of repetition to really get it.

So, what it occurred to me to do is observe my anger, and see where I am lacking in love. Why am I feeling in that moment like I’m going over the side of the lifeboat? When did I put myself in the lifeboat in the first place, and why? Why do I perceive the lifeboat as limited–why isn’t there room for everyone in there? Why am I so busy staking out my spot in the boat that I can’t see the fear on someone else’s face, and another that is feeling so seasick, and another who’s worried about catching enough fish to eat, and so on? Why am I letting my little self get in the way, when I’ve got this marvelous higher self just dying to get out there and love my shipmates?

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Filed under Deep Thoughts, life, papa, Religion

Be It Ever So Humble…

…We’ve Finally Got a Home.

I’ve been feeling a bit too overwhelmed to create blog posts lately and have just been updating Facebook. Then I realized that not all of the people who read this blog are also on Facebook, so to update you:

We bought a house. It’s more or less right across the street from the kids’ school. It’s a tri-level, with 4 but technically 5 bedrooms (one room doesn’t have a closet and has a door to the backyard, but we’re going to use it as a bedroom). The yard has an ancient sandbox that needs some rehab work, and a mature apple tree that has lovely little sweet apples.

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By far the most unusual feature of the house is the finished crawl space in the lower level, which we refer to as the “play cave”. The previous owners had finished it with drywall and carpet for their kids to play there. We hope to do the same, but we’ll have to do some work down there first. Last weekend, when we got the keys, we found a wet area down there, around the furnace. We think that rain got in through an exterior vent that was pointed upward when the previous owners replaced the furnace for us. Anyway, we’re concerned about mildew and might need to rip out the carpet. And we’d like to put in a real wall and door under there to block off the furnace from the kids’ space.

The other lovely homeowning adventure we’ve already experienced was with the hot water heater. It sits in the downstairs bathroom in a little curtained recess in the wall beside the clothes washer and dryer. Yesterday we had the gas company come out to turn the gas back on, for the furnace and the hot water. Turns out the water heater violated city code in not being sufficiently separated from the living space, and the chimney that had been shared by the water heater and furnace was no longer up to code with the new furnace! At one point we had the city inspector and the furnace installer there; then a bit later we had two water heater installers plus an electrician to install a new electric water heater; earlier in the day we had two delivery men bring the washer and dryer! So it was a very expensive, Grand Central Station day at the Anthrohaus. We were also informed by the inspector that the water softener was cracked, so we’ll be buying one of those pretty soon too (we have incredibly hard water: Anthropapa told me that the existing water heater, which we think is only about 4 years old, literally had rocks in the bottom!).

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We took advantage of the $8,000 tax credit (or will, when we get the money) to either pay off credit cards or pay off the appliances we had to buy. I’m excited to think that by next year our finances will be much more positive and under control, even as we take on this larger debt. We can add value to the home, as the kitchen needs refinishing and the yards need work. We’re also excited by the neighborhood, which is quiet and has tons of kids. I am sad to report, however, that the neighborhood has CC&Rs that prohibit backyard chickens!

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Filed under Family, Homemaking, life

Pre-hiatus Update

Dear Bloggy Friends,

I must pause. Not to reflect, but to get everything else done.

We plan to close on our house on Sept. 8. Of course this has meant numerous phone calls, meetings, and appointments. We’ve got a lot of financial wrangling yet to do — buying appliances, applying for our government’s wonderful offer of $8,000, and much more. And at some point I need to start packing.

I’m registered for History 101, and have made myself known to much of the history faculty. In doing so, I got myself signed up to do a Public History internship, in which I will help research and fact check on an upcoming book celebrating the anniversary of the Idaho Museum of Natural History here on campus. In the future I might also assist with the scholarly journals the department produces. I saw the gleam in a few professors’ eyes when they heard I was an editor of scholarly humanities books, so that might be a source of future paying work, as well. And at some point before December I need to take the GRE and figure out who can write references for my grad school application.

The kids start school tomorrow. In trying to balance my work, my classes, and their needs, I’ve signed Napoleona up for after-care three days a week, so that I have the entire day free for work and my courses. But the other two days, I’ll be taking Anthropapa to work at 8:00, the kids to school at 8:30, returning to pick up Napoleona at 11:15, returning to pick up SillyBilly at 3:00, and picking up Anthropapa at 5:00. Clearly, we need a second car. And at some point I need to figure out when I can volunteer in the kids’ classrooms.

I’m plugging away on my current manuscript, an examination of the role of emotions in US history. Then I’ve got 2 or 3 more to do next month. The next few months will be a huge test to see who I can balance maintaining my work load along with going to school. And at some point I need to find some new clients.

I’m also volunteering as the Chapter Development Coordinator for the EFA. It’s not too onerous, but some days it seems to take up more than a few hours of otherwise precious time. I like contributing to the organization that has provided me with so many benefits, but right now it’s yet another thing in the mix. And at some point I need to write up all the policies and procedures that go with the job.

So, my friends. I can’t keep up. I can’t even get to read all of your wonderful blogs, no less comment thoughtfully. No less write my own blog posts. So I’m officially going on hiatus, until such time as I have enough time and energy to share. Retaining the right, of course, to pop up at any time randomly.

Love,

Anthromama

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Filed under editing, Family, freelancing, life, Napoleona, papa, School, SillyBilly

Preparing for Harvest

I know it’s still summer, but I’m already thinking about autumn. It’s my favorite season, not only because of birthdays and anniversaries but just for that beautiful, almost wistful feeling I get watching the days grow shorter and nature beginning to fall asleep.

Summer is a time of growth, and heat. But I also see it as a time of preparation. All the fiery summer festivals have an aspect of pointing to the future: St. John’s Day — making the path straight. Midsummer — a time to burn away what is unneeded and ask for abundance in the coming season. July 4th — the beginning of a new American nation. Bastille Day — a turning point in French history.

I feel that I am in a strong period of preparation in my own life. We’ll soon be buying our first house, and our finances are being radically transformed. We’re making plans to buy what we’ll need for the house, and I’m already thinking of next year’s gardening. Next week, school starts for my kids, and the week after, I return to the college classroom for the first time in 16 years.

What are you preparing for?

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Filed under Deep Thoughts, holidays, life, Nature

Trial by Water

Today was rather momentous. At one point this afternoon I realized that the entire day was like an initiation of some kind or another.

Rudolf Steiner wrote quite a bit about initiatory experiences, religious, meditative, and quotidian. The quotes I have given here are from his book, How to Know Higher Worlds: A Modern Path of Initiation, available for free online in a previous edition here.

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This morning I was baptized into the Missouri Synod Lutheran church here in Pocatello. It’s the church that runs the school my children attend. I started attending services regularly last spring and went through the adult confirmation class.

It’s not something I ever expected to do. I’ve never attended regular religious services before. But it just felt like the right thing to do, for me, right now. I found that at least once in each service, I would get teared up, even a bit wobbly-chinned. And this was at the early-morning, traditional, formal, organ-music service — not where you might expect an emotional response like that. So, I was intrigued about what that was all about, and kept going.

This trial is known as the Water-Trial, because in his activity in these higher worlds the candidate is deprived of the support derived from outward circumstances, as a swimmer is without support when swimming in water that is beyond his depth. This activity must be repeated until the candidate attains absolute poise and assurance.

Now, I’ve never been a big fan of standing up in front of large groups of people. I’ve done it before: performing in plays, leading business meetings. But it’s always been profoundly embarrassing.

I had gone through confirmation, was attending regularly, and had agreed to be a member of the congregation. So, it was time to be baptized. When I arrived at church this morning, I noticed that the sanctuary was more full than it has been recently (summer vacations, you know). I thought, great, even a bigger crowd to witness this! But I thought about how fear is really an illusion, a kind of self-centeredness blended with a certain lack of courage. I thought about what the Lutheran church teaches about grace, and what I’ve read in many places about surrendering oneself to a higher power.

I wasn’t nervous after that at all.

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Silly Billy and Napoleona spent most of the day today outside, playing.

Now, we live in an apartment complex. We’re looking for a house to buy, but for now we’re here, and so the kids don’t have a backyard. They play in the playground areas, they ride their bikes and scooters around, they climb trees. For an apartment complex, it’s not too bad.

But today they crossed a boundary; they erred in their decision making.

For even as it is difficult for those who have not learned to spell correctly in their childhood to make good this deficiency when fully grown up, so too it is difficult to develop the necessary degree of self-control at the moment of looking into the higher worlds, if this ability has not been acquired to a certain degree in ordinary life.

Anthropapa and I heard a knock at our door, and there was a woman with SillyBilly, saying something about he and Napoleona getting into people’s cars, and that Napoleona had run off. Anthropapa tracked down Napoleona, and we sat down to talk about what had happened.

They had evidently been opening unlocked car doors and getting inside the cars. Worse, they had a plastic bag with a few odds and ends they had taken from some of the cars!

They were really, really upset. SillyBilly told me that some of his friends had told him there was jail for little kids, and was that true, Mama? Napoleona just cried and cried.

We talked a bit about why opening cars is wrong and unsafe, and about how wrong it is to steal. We reassured them that there is no little-kid jail, but also made sure they knew that their actions have consequences.

Later in the evening, while I was combing and drying Napoleona’s hair after her bath, I started talking about forgiveness. I told her the story of the Prodigal Son, how the son made big mistakes (a kind of initiation we can all have in daily life) and how parents (and God) forgive us if we are sorry about and try to learn from our mistakes. The parent might be upset at the mistake, and our desire to learn from the mistake is necessary, but the forgiveness and love are always there.

Should [the candidate], in the course of his activity, introduce any of his own opinions and desires, or should he diverge for one moment from the laws which he has recognized to be right, in order to follow his own willful inclination, then the result produced would differ entirely from what was intended. He would lose sight of the goal to which his action tended, and confusion would result. Hence ample opportunity is given him in the course of this trial to develop self-control.

A day of trials, of initiations, of waters and tears.

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Photos by Vanessa Pike-Russell.

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