SYW: On Doing Art, Having Courage, & Showing Gratitude

On this Monday Memorial Day, Melanie presents us with some food for thought questions for Share Your World.

QUESTIONS

What activity instantly calms you?
Art, both the pictures I create myself, and those that I color. Both are very relaxing and because I’m good at it, it is usually quite satisfying. I attend a weekly art workshop, where women from our senior community go and do whatever they want to do in their artwork. We admire each other’s work and give each other encouragement. There are two retired art teachers who help us learn new techniques.

What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve done lately?
I can’t remember – my short-term memory is terrible. I don’t tend to be spontaneous in big ways.

If people receive a purple heart for bravery, what would other color hearts represent?  (Example yellow heart = cowardice)
Red heart = love and compassion for others
Yellow or orange heart = optimism in the face of adversity
Blue heart = calm, keeping one’s wits about oneself.
Green heart = advocacy and contribution toward improving the environment, helping our planet; such as an innovation that contributes to a reduction in plastic waste, for example.
White or pink heart = volunteerism
Rainbow heart = tolerance, acceptance; extraordinary acts to create diversity in our society

What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done or witnessed someone else do?
Another hard question! I guess in my case it would be making the decision (and following through) to change careers. I was comfortable & competent, but bored, in what I was doing for a living. When I remarried, it became possible to think about finding a career in which I could use my skills in a more meaningful way. I went into teaching because I felt that what teachers do is so vital; every time I walked into my son’s school, I felt a surge of excitement, like something important was happening there. I did it in spite of advice from my husband and others, in spite of knowing it would be very challenging and difficult for me due to my ADHD, in spite of a it being a time of great tension in the field of education due to increased pressure to show student success through standardized tests (or losing funding if scores were not at a certain level. Remember “No Child Left Behind?” What a disaster!) Bilingual and special ed teachers were especially stressed because our students tended NOT to get great scores on these tests. We were watched more closely and there was little tolerance for mistakes or non-traditional classroom techniques.

GRATITUDE SECTION (Always optional)

How do you show gratitude to the people you respect?
First, by thanking them, hugging them or maybe sending them a card. But mostly by being generous, doing things for them, giving them a gift I know they would particularly like. For example, I have a friend of many years, since our sons were little and playing together. She has been through a lot in her life, including the loss of her husband to cancer and her son to an overdose. She sacrificed much of herself for her son, who had disabilities that were difficult to deal with. She has always worked, and even now cannot afford to retire. She always shows her caring toward others, calling when someone she knows is in difficulty, or visiting someone who is homebound. Unlike me, she has never had a chance to travel abroad except to Canada. She is a very Christian person – I mean strong in her faith, more so than I, so when there was an opportunity to visit the Holy Land with a group from our church, I knew how much she wanted to go, and I paid for her trip. I had the money and the trip was fairly inexpensive. Otherwise, she could not have gone. It made me so happy to see her enthusiasm and awe about everything she experienced while we were in Israel.

This is a group photo of the “Green Bus” tour group, upon our arrival in Jerusalem.

I don’t do generous things for people very often, not because I don’t want to, but because I don’t remember to do so. Therefore, when I feel strongly that a generous act – something I have the ability to do for someone else – would help a person I love and respect, I do it if they let me.

I used to be impatient and often didn’t bother to understand others, but I think that as I have aged, I have become a better person in that way. I wish I were more of a risk-taker, so I could do much more for others, but I’m not; I’m too comfortable and selfish about my own life and what I want. I’m not a person who jumps to volunteer for a big project, but now I look for opportunities to help someone I care about, in some small, individual way.

SYW: On Belief, Morality, and the Order of Nature

I always look forward to Mondays, when Melanie issues a new set of questions for Share Your World. Her questions this week are quite thought-provoking, so I’d better get started!

QUESTIONS

What do you believe but cannot prove?
The existence of God. God is seen differently by people; there may be almost as many ideas of God as there are believers. For me, God is within each individual and in nature. God is a force rather than an actual being. But I do believe in the power of prayer, so I guess sometimes I believe – when it’s convenient – that God does “listen” to prayers and perhaps helps things happen (or not). It is a comfort to me, at least, and it also is a comfort to others to know that people are praying on their behalf. In fact, there have been scientific studies of the power of prayer, and what was concluded is that knowing that a community of people who care about you bolsters your will to get better (or improve whatever the situation is). People are saying that they support you and are concerned about your suffering. It can actually motivate people to fight harder against a disease like cancer.

Do animals have morals?   Exclude human beings from the equation please. 
Why exclude humans? Are we any more moral than animals? Sometimes I think not!

Anyway, I don’t believe animals have morals, not really, although some do have compassion. Having morals requires one to be able to imagine different scenarios and outcomes, and to be able to judge others’ actions. I am not convinced animals can do that. However, there is much about animals – particularly the most intelligent ones – that we don’t know. Dolphins have been observed helping people in trouble. Elephants also help each other when one is in distress. Whales use a complex system of sounds to communicate with each other. I always marvel at the natural world, because animals have developed adaptations to all kinds of environments and situations. But I don’t think that they can imagine the future or alternate situations. Possibly chimpanzees or gorillas, but only in a limited capacity.

People often pose the question of what makes humans different from other animals. It is our brain’s capacity to reason, analyze, synthesize, and imagine. Unfortunately, these capacities do not necessarily lead to better behavior than an animal might display. We make choices, often the wrong ones, which affect not only our own lives, but also the lives of others, including animals.

Is there inherent order in nature or is it all chaos and chance?
I believe there is inherent order, but we do not understand it completely. Science is constantly revising its hypotheses about the universe/natural world, as new discoveries are made. There is an order, but we have yet to really know that order. I read an article recently about scientists at Fermilab discovering erratic behavior by the tiny particles called muons. They have observed the muons deviating from whatever it is they do, which can alter scientific theories about how the universe works. It’s amazing that this tiny particle, whose existence has only been known for a few decades, can influence so much of scientific theory that was believed to be based on solid evidence.

Where is your least favorite place in the world?
Somewhere that I’ve never been. Someplace cold and desolate. I probably will never visit places such as Antarctica or Greenland; I have heard that Antarctica, at least, is well worth a trip, and I would love to see the penguins. But I cannot imagine living through months of darkness and frigid cold day after day. Alaska is beautiful but I wouldn’t want to live there. So my “least favorite place” might be different depending on whether that place is my least favorite place to visit or least favorite place to live.

There is one place that I don’t think I would even want to visit – it’s the only place in the world that I can think of – and that is North Korea.


GRATITUDE SECTION (Participation Always Optional)

Feel free to share something about the seasons that makes you smile!

I am capable of smiling during any season, but I will focus on the current season of spring. I love flowers and they make me smile. Here is a poem I wrote several years ago about my garden, which is mostly about the flowers of spring.

HAIKU: THE GARDEN
4/26/14

Snow drops rise early
to cheer the winter weary:
delicate white orbs.

Crocuses give hope
when purple flowers appear –
spring will arrive soon.

Yellow daffodils
herald the coming of spring
with their bright trumpets.

Tulip leaves unfold,
hiding their buds until May
brings colorful blooms.

The lilac bush makes
fragrantly scented flowers
in lavender clusters.

The rose bush’s thorns
keep gardeners at bay for
red blossoms in June.

Aromatic herbs
spice up the gardener’s meals;
worthy of wild growth!

Gardeners’ reward
is the harvest of summer:
Beauty, fragrance, food.


Speaking of fragrance, lilacs are in bloom everywhere here! They are beautiful and smell heavenly!

An Easter Hallelujah

This video has gone viral because it is so beautifully written and performed by two Canadian sisters, Cassandra Star (aged 10) and Callahan (aged 19) Armstrong. It uses the melody of Leonard Cohen’s famous song “Hallelujah” with words written by Kelly Mooney that tell the Easter story. The sisters originally recorded it as a gift for their grandparents as their grandmother battles illness and the family is separated for the holiday. Their grandmother is a religious person and has been unable to go to church since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Listen and watch – the lyrics are printed on the screen as they sing.

Source: CBC News Canada

SYW: Evidence vs. Belief, Happiness vs. Sadness, and Gravity

I love Mondays when Melanie issues a new Share Your World!

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Questions:

Must we have evidence to know the truth?
Yes. However, people have different ideas of what constitutes evidence. For example, if someone commits a crime and goes to trial, it is up to the jury to examine the evidence presented in order to assess whether the person is guilty or not. Many times, prejudices get in the way and the person – especially a person of color – may be subconsciously judged which taints the evidence. Juries are supposed to be selected carefully in order to minimize that, but as we all know, our system of justice isn’t perfect.

On the other hand, there are people who don’t believe in God because they say there is no evidence. How can God’s existence be empirically *proven? Some would point to the wonders of nature as evidence. Some would point to the Bible. But neither of these are empirical evidence. And for many people, it’s not just blind belief either. I myself have struggled with faith for years. I am a strong believer in science and the scientific method, as well as in empirical evidence. However, I do believe in God, but I cannot prove his/her/its existence. I may have a different concept of what God is, and I do not believe in many of the dogmas or tenets of Christian belief, yet I call myself Christian. Bill Maher, of HBO fame, seems to believe that if you believe in God, you are stupid or naïve. (This is one of the reasons I stopped watching his show, even when we had HBO.) Some of the most brilliant minds in history also have had faith in a god. But I don’t want to write a treatise on the evidence for the existence of God.

So, we get back to the question, which I answer with another question: what constitutes evidence?

How much control does a person have over their life?
Not total control, but one does have the ability to deal in different ways with the things that happen that are out of one’s control. I do not believe there is some supreme being controlling our movements like a marionette. There are things that happen that are out of our control. What we do control is how to react to those situations, and what we can learn from them. Sometimes it’s just “shit happens.” Other times, there is a lesson to be learned as far as how to handle the shit that is happening.

After professing my belief in God, I must say here that God (as I perceive him/her/it) does not intervene in our lives. Sometimes, I say, “that was a God moment,” meaning a mini ‘miracle’ has happened, but not that God is controlling that moment.

What is gravity and how does it work?
Gravity sucks.

Can a person be happy if they have never experienced sadness?  How about vice versa?
I don’t believe there is such a thing as never experiencing sadness. Everyone experiences sadness. There are degrees of sadness, and happiness, I suppose. But I do think we appreciate happiness more if we have a memory of sadness to compare it with, and vice versa.


Gratitude:

Please feel free to share a song, a poem, a quote or an image or photo to show what you were grateful for during this past week.    (Optional as always).
I am grateful for the small things of “opening” – such as:
I am grateful that the Arlington Heights library is open again.
I am grateful that I was able to gather with three friends in person last week.
I am grateful that I, along with every other resident in our senior community, was tested for COVID-19 and the results were “negative.”

I am grateful for ducklings!

*It was pure coincidence that while writing this, I realized I had also fulfilled FOWC!

April Square Tops: Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Since it is Good Friday, I thought this “top” would be appropriate – it is the dome inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem,  which was built on what is believed to be the site of both the crucifixion and the tomb where Jesus was buried.
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The church as it stands today is the same church that was built in the 12th century in the time of the Crusades. Here are some more photos I took there.

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Entrance to the courtyard of the church

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Courtyard outside the church

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Lots of tourists file past the elaborate altar.

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It was the most ornate church I had ever seen.

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The church has several chapels and altars.
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Within the church are the last four stations of the cross on the Via Dolorosa, the route Jesus walked carrying the cross.

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Stairway to the lower level

 

Monday Window: Dominus Flevit Church

(Visited January 13, 2019)
This little “teardrop” Catholic church outside the walls of Old Jerusalem is called Dominus Flevit, which means “The Lord Weeps,” representing Jesus weeping about the future destruction of Jerusalem.
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Here is the same window from the inside, framing old Jerusalem with the Golden Dome as a recognizable landmark.
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The church is flanked on four sides with pillars, atop which are jars in the shape of teardrops.
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The interior is very simple. The altar is not much more than a table and a cross, but set in front of the beautiful window overlooking Jerusalem.

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Worshippers face the altar in front of the window.

Here are a few details of the interior: the dome, one of the stations of the cross, along one of the side walls.

There is a small building outside the church…
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…which houses a necropolis, containing graves of Jews from the 1st to 4th centuries C.E.
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There is also this plaque on an exterior wall of the church.
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Ludwig’s Monday Window challenge

SYW Holiday Edition: On Beating the Holiday Blues, Jolly Jolt, Jesus’ Birth, and Christmas Music

Melanie’s weekly Share Your World this week is about celebration of the winter holidays.

Questions:
What’s your remedy for the Holiday blues?
Sing carols or if singing is not your thing, listen to cheerful holiday music. Go to a light show at your local botanic garden or zoo or wherever there is a holiday light show. Stay inside, curl up near the fireplace (or some other warm spot in your home) with a hot beverage and read a good book.
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Your favorite beverage (if it differs) during the holiday season? If it doesn’t differ, just answer the ‘what’s your favorite beverage” part.
In our family, the tradition is to serve “jolly jolt” on Christmas – this is hot apple cider with cinnamon and cloves, and possibly spiked with a bit of liquor – this is added to taste (rum, vodka, brandy, wine), so the children can enjoy jolly jolt without the liquor!
This one has been asked before, but what’s your take on pumpkin spice?
I like pumpkin spice, as in cake or cookies.
Is there is a person or god connected with your holiday?
Yes, the “son of God” or Jesus Christ. As a Christian, I was raised that “Jesus is the reason for the season” and while I do believe that and I love to celebrate and put up a creche or nativity scene in my house, I don’t actually believe literally in the story of Jesus’ birth. It just doesn’t make sense to me that three wise men followed a star or comet that led them to his birthplace or that angels appeared to shepherds and told them to go to Bethlehem to worship him.
jesus-birth.jpgI’m not even sure that he was born in Bethlehem, although I did go to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem last January and was just as excited as anyone to see the place where he was supposedly born. In my opinion, Jesus was just a baby, born like any other baby and probably “worshipped” only by his parents and other family members. But it doesn’t matter – the Christmas story is symbolic and it is the spirit of the holiday that counts. As well as all the traditions having nothing to do with the birth of Jesus, such as Christmas trees, decorations, snow, etc. I enjoy giving gifts and also receiving them and I enjoy singing carols and spreading the love of the season to others. Love, family, friends – that is what Christmas is all about.
• Who are they and do you believe in them?
I do believe in Jesus Christ but not as literally the “son of God.” He had an earthly father and mother and was conceived like any other baby. Call me blasphemous, but that’s what I believe. He was a man of peace, a very pious Jew who nevertheless challenged the Jewish establishment; he was the Messiah, as it were. But to me he isn’t technically a god.
• If you do not believe in these people or gods, does the celebration/honoring of that being, bother you in any way (e.g., ignored, dismissed, angry, etc.)?
I believe in freedom of religion and respect everyone’s faith or lack thereof. My husband is Jewish and every year is bothered by the onslaught of commercialism and Christmas-in-your-face from October through December. I sympathize with his feelings in spite of thoroughly enjoying the season myself.

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My husband has this bumper sticker on his car; I used to also, on my old car, but have not bought a new one for my new car.

Gratitude:
Share a song that you enjoy during this Winter season (whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, The Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa and so forth.
It’s hard to choose just one. I enjoy Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs, and many secular songs of the season. I guess my favorites are Angels We Have Heard on High and It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, as well as the Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah. As a classical music lover, I enjoy Handel’s Messiah and other oratorios of the season, as well as madrigal groups singing medieval and Renaissance carols. I also enjoy singing a Christmas cantata every year in my church choir as well as the traditional carols and secular songs.

 

Here is a nice French carol sung sweetly by a children’s choir: He Is Born, the Divine Christ Child.

This song, Lead Me Back to Bethlehem, is from the cantata our church choir sang last year,  (but this is a different choir – we don’t sound this good!!) – I loved singing this cantata, called Lead Me Back to Bethlehem by Pepper Choplin.
https://youtu.be/vwWt-e1–xs

 

 

 

OHC: Religious Traditions in Chicago; Part 1: ISKCON and Moody Church

During Open House Chicago, one has the opportunity to see many architecturally and historically interesting places, but some of the places I choose to attend during that weekend are churches and temples. Chicagoans represent all faiths and worship in a variety of ways (if they worship at all, which many of them don’t and that also is OK with me). I intend to feature two faiths in each post on this subject.

Although I posted about the Krishna tradition last year, I am including it as part of this post’s topic of diverse faiths. The International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is the official name of the religion and place of worship.
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Krishna is a major deity in the Hindu religion, one of its principal gods. Krishna can be portrayed as male or female and is not especially identified with either gender, I was told when we visited ISKCON last year.
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According to Religious Tolerance: Hare Krishna and ISKCON web site, “ISKCON and Hinduism both trace their beginnings to the Vedas and to the Bhagavad-Gita text. Whereas mainstream Hinduism regards Krishna to be the 8th incarnation of Vishnu (the Preserver and one of the Hindu trinity of deities), ISKCON regards Krishna to be the supreme Lord over all deities, including Vishnu. They are therefore a monotheistic faith group, one that stresses bhakti, the way of devotion.”
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The spiritual leader of ISKCON is His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who introduced Westerners to the faith by publishing 60 books in only 12 years and over 60 million published in 30 different languages. He initiated over 4,000 disciples of Lord Krishna, established ISKCON which has more than 100 temples, and he travelled around the world 14 times preaching the message of Krishna consciousness.
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Musical instruments such as drums, keyboards, and sitars are used in Krishna worship.

The roots of the faith can be traced to the advent of Krishna, 5000 years ago in an Indian village, and was revived in the 16th century by Guru Caitanya Mahaprabu who is considered to be the reincarnation of Lord Krishna himself. He taught that Krishna was the one true deity and that anyone can gain a personal relationship with the god through sankirtana, congregational chanting of God’s names, specifically the Hare Krishna Mantra, also known as the Maha Mantra.

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Worship takes place in this large hall.

 

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As Krishna worship is an offshoot of Hinduism, I now turn to one offshoot of the Protestant Christian tradition. This year we visited the Moody Church. This non-denominational evangelical faith was named after Dwight L. Moody, an evangelist of the mid to late 19th century. The present church building, completed in 1925, combines Byzantine and Romanesque architecture, meant to bridge the gap between the Roman Catholic cathedral and the typical Protestant church buildings of the 19th-20th centuries.

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In this vast sanctuary which seats 3,700, people of all faiths are welcome. The Moody Church is fundamentalist and evangelical in its beliefs, including the belief in the Second Coming of Jesus, published on their web site.  
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Here are some excerpts of their Doctrinal Statement:

Article I
God is triune, one Being eternally existing in three co-equal Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; these divine Persons…work inseparably and harmoniously in creating, sustaining, and redeeming the world. …

Article II
The Bible, including both the Old and the New Testaments, is a divine revelation, the original autographs of which were verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit. …

Article III
Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God…He is Himself very God; He took upon Him our nature, being conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary; He died upon the cross as a substitutionary sacrifice for the sin of the world; … He will come again personally and visibly to set up His kingdom and to judge the quick and the dead. …

Article IV
Man was created in the image of God but fell into sin, and, in that sense, is lost;…[unless a person is] born again he cannot see the kingdom of God; …the retribution of the wicked and unbelieving and the reward of the righteous are everlasting, and as the reward is conscious, so is the retribution. …

Article V
The Church is an elect company of believers baptized by the Holy Spirit into one body; its mission is to witness concerning its Head, Jesus Christ, preaching the gospel among all nations; it will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air ere He appears to set up His kingdom. …

 

 

 

 

 

A Photo a Week: Signs at OHC

Nancy Merrill’s A Photo a Week challenge has the topic signs.

Here are some signs taken at Open House Chicago on Saturday. Open House Chicago is an annual event that takes place on a weekend in mid-October, in which over 300 buildings around the city open their doors to the public. Docents inside answer questions about the architecture, the place and its function, etc. This is the second year we have attended, visiting places we never could or even think about in the city of Chicago.

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Sign listing prayers to be recited during a weekly service at the Muslim Community Center.

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We visited Dank Haus, a German cultural center, which was celebrating Octoberfest.

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Order of service at the Zen Buddhist Temple

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This huge, U-shaped building used to be a grand hotel.

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The Moody Church, an evangelical Christian church, is massive inside – there is seating for 3,700 people!

I hope to write more about these places in future posts!