Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hitting the books: gay marriage

Bible Thumping

I’m a Catholic with a brain. I get that my faith is based on the Bible. But I also get that the Bible has to be interpreted with some application of common sense.

Ponder: who even originally wrote the Bible? Men. Arab men. Three thousand year-old Arab men. Call me crazy, but I’m wondering if modern-day Catholic (or other Bible-based religious group) Americans have a lot in common with the original authors. Do you suppose any of our beliefs have evolved to become different than theirs? I'm guessing so, since we no longer stone our criminals, we don't consider it dishonorable for men to have long hair and women to have short hair, and adultery no longer carries a death sentence. Yup, these things are all commands the Good Book (still) gives us.  Yet, somewhere along the way, we decided to tune out these particulars.

How did we decide (and who decided, anyway?)  that we could ignore those directives and still consider ourselves good followers?   Perhaps, at some point, we reviewed the writings and realized that they were based on ancient, outdated points of view and that we needed to do some updating to our rationalization of the text.

Huh.  What an idea.

Dictionary Thumping

You know I love words.  I get great pleasure out of extracting their true meanings and promoting their proper usage.  I’ve been thinking about three words in particular:  Christmas, traditional and marriage.

Christmas breaks down into two parts:  Christ + mas.  Literally, Christ + mass:  mass, meaning celebration, Christ, meaning…well, Christ.  It’s a celebration of the birth of Christ.  A birthday party, folks.

Traditional – customary, conventional, usual, habitual.  

Marriage – a close union, blend or mixture of two things.

So when someone says “traditional Christmas”, it can be taken to mean “a customary celebration”, or “a celebration we do out of habit”.   What it brings to mind is a pine tree with lights, presents, carols, turkey dinner – all of our standard little rituals and customs that we do in order to celebrate the birth of our favorite VIP. 

I know a family that doesn’t exchange presents at Christmastime, choosing, instead, to donate that money to charities.  In my own family, it just wouldn’t be Christmas dinner without lumpia (Chamorro eggrolls) on the table.  Some choose to spend Christmas in exotic places, rather than gather around the hearth at the homestead.    All quite un-traditional practices, but do they diminish the heart of the celebration itself?  Not in the least.  Put another way:  as long as I show up to the party and am mindful of what I’m actually celebrating, then I don’t think the Birthday Boy cares whether I bring traditional cupcakes with frosting and sprinkles or I bring an untraditional fig tart topped with crushed macadamia nuts, drizzled with a chocolate liqueur glaze with a lit sparkler shooting out of it.  It’s all for the sake of the celebration, and it’s all good.  It’s all about the “Christmas” and not the “traditional”.

Then how about “traditional marriage”?   In that phrase, “traditional” is not the subject at all; it’s merely the adjective used to describe the subject, which is “marriage”. 

We can all agree that marriage is a union.  We also agree that marriage should be rooted in love.  How can we impose sanctions on a union based on love?

Love (noun): affection, adoration, friendship, tenderness, feeling, fondness, devotion, passion.  These are the things we want to have the power to red-light or green-light at our discretion?  In these uncertain times, when grim news comes down the wire every day, these are the values that we would rally against?  And why? Because we would stand on tradition?   The words that now come to mind are:  preposterous, ridiculous, unreasonable and outrageous. 

Because I like words so much, I tend to use a lot of them.  But there’s something to be said for coming to the point as quickly as possible.  I think Lenny Kravitz did a great job of it and he did it using only three words:  let love rule. 


Monday, July 2, 2012

Take a compliment, give a compliment

Maybe it’s because I witnessed too many people give insincere, kiss-uppy compliments to one another that I made a subconscious decision to never give out gratuitous compliments of my own. I say 'subconscious' because it wasn’t until recently that I realized I am very, very stingy when it comes to doling out compliments. Oh, I give my kids compliments all the time. It’s good for their self-esteem and all that. But grown ups – and especially fellow womenfolk? Nope. I mean, not even my mom. Not that I don’t admire things about people, but I guess I have a deep-seated fear of coming off as disingenuous and would rather keep my praise to myself than sound fake.

I think I hated that most compliments seemed to place emphasis on shallow, unimportant things.  I would grit my teeth to hear a conversation between two ladies that would start with a squeal followed closely by, “Ooooo! I soooo love your shoooooes!” Dry heave. And no, I wasn’t jealous that it wasn’t my shoes that were being fawned over. I received a designer bag for Christmas and carried it, in part, so that my mom could see that I liked her gift. But I got disgusted when a couple of ladies from work, who never talk to me otherwise, went way out of their way to compliment my bag. Ugh. As if only now that I carried a status symbol on my arm was I interesting enough to speak to. Barf, barf, barf.

After that, I went away for a Girls’ Weekend with six other ladies – some old friends and some casual acquaintances. It was fun and over too soon and before I knew it, I was back home, replaying random moments in my head. It was during this internal lookback that I noticed there were compliments flying every which way all weekend. Not always about important things, but at the same time, not necessarily insincere.  And in the case of the girls that I didn’t know as well as the others, complimenting each other was an icebreaker of sorts. Kind of like when you were in kindergarten on the playground and went around asking people, “Do you want to be my friend?” – but only in a more sophisticated, grown up way. I also noticed that, amongst friends, it can be an amiable and charming way to express fondness and acceptance.

Would I rather be complimented on something I achieved than on an accessory? Sure. Will I still wretch when I hear sugar-coated compliments preceded by double-cheek air kisses? Yep. But I’m learning that, while some compliments can be gratuitous, they aren’t automatically empty. Taken – and given - in the right context, they can brighten a day or even kick-start a friendship. Huh. Whaddya know.