goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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A story within a story and a concept to consider

Years ago my maternal grandfather would preside over the Passover Seder. For hours and hours and hours he would intone the readings and prayers in Hebrew while my cousin Nancy and I would compare the levels in our glasses of diluted wine and water. It was all but a meaningless process and once Grandpa died and my father started to preside, I asked my mom if we could perhaps use another Haggadah.

“Oh no!” she replied with shock that I would suggest such blasphemy. “This is the ONLY one.”

(unsaid) Really, Mom? This wine-stained freebie from the liquor store where we buy the Manischewitz?

I tried again when Dan and Lisa were really young. “Mom,” I pleaded, ” Can I revise the Haggadah to reduce it to 20 minutes so the kids really understand and participate?”

“Oh no!”, she replied. (Repeat with me) “This is the ONLY one!” More wine stained than ever.

So, when Graham and I got married and we decided to host a Seder I told him a bit more emphatically than I needed to that I would be finding one that worked better for us. He didn’t care, of course. There are literally over 1000 versions of the Haggadah, each very much following the prescribed order, as Seder means “order”, and telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt.

That’s the first story. The second is next:

The story we share at the Seder is not simply what Cecile B. DeMille’s movie with Charlton Heston shows. We talk about what went on in the minds and hearts of the people affected there and then. And then we try to make it into something we can relate to.

IMG_1033I don’t know about you, but I can not relate to working my entire life building the pyramids or other structures.  I’ve done some physical work and I work pretty hard at the food processing business, even when my body hurts, but to FEEL like a slave takes a stretch of imagination. Growing up here in the United States in the 50s, 60s and 70s, my freedoms expanded and my opportunities were ahead, ready for the taking.

And yet, each of us are enslaved to something that we know we would be healthier without. Me, it is easily sugar. Someone else maybe their tobacco. Someone else their wine or beer or pot or whatever. We can identify people in public life enslaved to the concept of power and how that has warped their view of what is healthy.

Once we can recognize that item for ourselves we can begin to think about how it feels to get rid of it. And not by our own choice. That freedom from slavery in Egypt was not desired by many. Afterall, there is some peace found in a routine that is not desired but has no responsibility. To become free means to take on a huge change. And we know most people do not like change.

In the Seders I host I try to get the people attending to recognize their own enslavement and how they (and I) fight the change that provides freedom.

So that’s the second story. And now, to the concept I hope you will consider.

In the news today one of the issues is the brouhaha about transsexual individuals using the public restroom for the sex they feel is their identity. There is so much fear about perverts attacking children.  There is so much condemnation for the wrongness of these people. There is not the loving (supposedly Christian) acceptance that they have a difference we might not understand but can respect.

We also have grave concern, all of us, about ISIS and other terrorist groups and how they seem to be difficult to stop.  It is horrible how a few people continue to flow to those groups from western society here and in the UK. Why? But the more difficult concept for me is the hatred of ALL Muslims based on these extreme groups. The people I hear who are so afraid seem not to recognize that all fundamental ends of all religions have their extreme and narrow definition of what is acceptable and believe all others who profess to practice the same religion but in different ways are NOT that religion. And need to be changed. It is true in Islam. It is true in Judaism. It is true in Christianity. Meanwhile, it seems hate of the others is easier than acceptance of the other.

I wrote a blog a few months ago in answer to a friend about whether I would welcome a Syrian refugee family into my home. You can read it here.  That issue, as well as a myriad of others supporting people who have had incredibly horrible events occur simply because they were both where and how they were are not hard for me.

I merely remember that I was once a slave in Egypt and was delivered out of bondage. It is my modern role to help others who desire to, escape their slavery.freedom


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I Hate You I Want You Dead

This morning, as I scan my Facebook feed I see so much hate.

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Watching the news videos of the situation in Ferguson, Missouri reminded me of the riots following Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in 1968. Not much has seemed to change for people who feel powerless. And now the police are armed with military surplus, the better to control this kind of protest. Has there been unlawful behavior? Yes. Has there been inappropriate response by the police for peaceful activity? Yes. Is there something very fishy about the the issue that caused all this protest? Oh yes. And until the police come forward with the truth, there will be continued anger that will be displayed in a way that will cause additional turmoil.

Posted_Japanese_American_Exclusion_OrderThen I read an essay declaring that all Islam is evil and the writer will be boycotting all businesses owned by any Muslim and will be encouraging all others to do the same. While I am horrified by the ISIS activity and am angry about the way Islamic street protests in Europe and the US have targeted synagogues and churches, I am also deeply concerned by this kind of one-size-fits-all declaration of hate. It is the same emotion that hated all Native Americans and worked to kill them and then drive them to reservations, the same emotion that rounded up American-born citizens of Japanese heritage and put them in detention centers during WWII, it is the same emotion that restricted Jews from admission to universities and country clubs, it is the same emotion that holds Latinos and African Americans and all poor people as undeserving of equal opportunity.

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While Robin Williams’ death caused most people to realize we just can’t really understand the depth of despair that drives someone to suicide and we need to help people with emotional illness more, some people have attacked his daughter’s Twitter account with hateful words. While I personally, even in very stressful times, seem to be able to believe in my pathway through it all into a calmer place, I understand not everyone has that level of certainty. Why add to the turmoil?  What gives you the right to make someone who is already in pain feel worse? 

So much hate. So much “mine is the only right way” attitude. That is not be a way to healing. That is the way to more divisiveness.

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I have a COEXIST bumper sticker….have had it for years. While not all people are deserving of a hand in friendship, most people respond well to an attitude of acceptance and tolerance. I welcome hearing your views, but can really only listen best if the strong emotions you may feel are explained calmly. If you feel strongly that your way of thinking about something is correct and want to convince others, present it in logical steps so others can understand your rationale. You may not get any more believers but you will have communicated, not just ranted.

And stop choosing to hate…..we all have much more in common than the minor differences that seem to be more apparent. Look for those commonalities to rediscover your own humanity. And, really, in a world where so much is beyond our individual control, the ONLY thing you have 100% control over is your attitude.  And realize, if you choose the path of hate and support restricting civil rights to others here in the US, you are on the pathway to a kind of right wing totalitarian society, similar to what allowed Hitler to grow in power. Is that what you truly want? your ACTIONS show YOUR choice.attitude wordle


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Appreciate

Yesterday, waiting in line in the subfreezing temperature for the REI garage sale to open, I started chatting with the woman standing in front of me. Probably not a surprise to anyone who knows me; I like to chat with people and hear their stories. This one is worth sharing.

Born in Romania over 50 years ago, the constraints of the Communist rule bothered her so much she planned to escape. We take travel for granted, and although we grumble quite a bit, we don’t make plans to leave because life is intolerable here. It is a bother to get a passport and perhaps we need a visa, but we can go go go, where ever and when ever, based on how we allocate our money.  Simple as that.  Imagine a life where travel to a place you’ve heard of, say Paris, is impossible.

But this desire to escape was not to see the sights. It was for the freedom we are so used to we don’t even think about it and we don’t appreciate it.

She wanted it. Together with 3 other people they got a raft and headed out. She didn’t know how to swim, but she had faith in God that she would be free.romania map

They were caught and she was put in prison. She did not tell me how long. But she told me she tried again.

This time with 9 other people because the raft needed to be designed better and they needed more money. They used some of the money to buy a cottage by the sea and built the raft inside. She said if it was built outside the neighbors would have reported the activity to the authorities.  She did not bring her 7-year-old daughter. Leaving her behind was a painful decision, but she knew she could die in this attempt and did not want her daughter at risk.raft

The little putt-putt motor they were able to obtain snarled in some fishing nets and broke, so they had to rely only on their sail. They managed, despite waves four stories high and constant seasickness for 10 days, to sail down the Black Sea to Turkey. She headed to the American Embassy and requested political asylum.

After three years in Turkey, she received her papers and was confident to travel back to Romania to get her daughter out. They then headed to Portland, Oregon where another friend was living.

She was an electrical engineer in Romania, but decided not to bother with the additional certification she would need here. She worked in an electronics factory and now is thinking, at 56, of going back to school to become a physical therapist.PDX-Hood

Her name is Cleopatra and she hikes and climbs Mt. Hood regularly. She appreciates the freedom to do what she wants here.

Do you?