Monday, July 13, 2015

The Church

You are the Church.
I love you, despite that you don’t offer me solace.
I sit in your pews, participate in your rituals, and pray to your God.
I see through your achromatic mirage and tolerate your deceitful shine.
I quietly rationalize that we are all victims of time,
And that your good intentions can justify your faults.
I forced a blind eye and turned the other cheek,
Ignoring the way you treat me,
Waiting for you to speak to me.

I allowed you authority in the desert of consensual tyranny,
I was so thirsty for the oasis you promised me, that I partook.
I drank the hot, dry sand—
While still yearning to drink from the waters of truth and equality.
But when I drank the sand, you praised me.
You loved me.
So like an innocent child,
I lapped up the heat of its emptiness and bathed in your painful praise.

You told me,
Believe.
Serve.
Marry.
Conceive.
So I did.
Just like my foremothers crossing the plains in His name.
Dead women—with heirs that bear the names of men.
They are buried along the dusty trails of your empty promises.
Thatcould have been me.

Yes, motherhood is my greatest calling.
If I am coerced, it worked.
I believed it and I still do.
Yet the God you tell me to worship is void of the Mother I hold dear.
To pray to Her would be my sin.
Is She not worthy of Her children’s communion or adoration?
What does that say of motherhood?
What does this say of me?

You strip my sisters of their nuance and glorify their obedience.
You use my daughters to adorn the thrones of men.
You silence the voices of my foremothers to preserve your version of truth.
Then you ask me to give you my time? My talents? My life?
All to uphold your masculine religion and then try to put limits on my abilities?
You don’t know what I’m capable of.
How dare you try to limit my service, worship, and compassion.
You can sharpen your blade and fashion your noose to purge me of my sin,
But let’s be clear before you do,
My sin was love.

I loved you and I still do.

For as much as I want to be free of you, I know I never will.
You are a part of me—woven into the fibers of my body.
I cannot deny you have shaped me into the woman I am.
From my great, great, great, great grandmother, sealed to the Prophet,
I’m from a long line of women who believed.
You are my heritage, blood, and home.
So don’t you think for a moment that I deserve to be here any less than you,
I am not your enemy.
I’m simply everything you can’t control,
And it frightens you.

Have you forgotten who I am?
I am your ally—
The legs you stand upon.
The back that upholds you.
The voice that professes your truths.
The body that bears your posterity.
I am you and you are me,
And there’s no escaping each other.

So go ahead.
Burn another witch at the stake.
Burn as many witches as it will take,
For you to understand the problem that’s at hand.
Even when you cast me in the fires,
I am not gone.
I have risen above the ashes.
Your flames have freed me.
My crude flesh may bear the scars of obedience,
But I will no longer be ignored.

I see you for what you really are—imperfect.
You are a hypocrite and a sinner,
Yet so am I.
For as flawed as we are, I still see love.
I see charity, forgiveness, compassion.
I see service, selflessness, kindness, inspiration.
I see family, friendship, hope.
I see us.

I know you.
I cannot pretend you are evil to simply easy my pain.
My lips must confess what you are.
You are childhood memories filled with laughter.
You are the stories I read as a girl.
You are the songs of joy that sprang from my heart.
You are the teachers who showed me kindness,
And the ears that heard my prayers,
When I poured out my soul searching for comfort.
You are friendships beyond the grave.
You taught me to stand as a fortress of truth despite opposition.
My character is molded in your halls.

I cherish the religion of my mothers.
I will tell my daughter your stories.
I do not fear our convoluted past.
My daughter will know her bloodline.
Her heart once beat within me—
Beating like all the hearts of your daughters, sisters, and mothers.
Our voices combined,
Like tears falling from the sky creating a symphony of persistence.
You will eventually hear our cries.
Maybe not today.
Maybe not tomorrow.
But you will inevitably hear us,
Because you need us.

I forgive you.
I will not reject you the way you have rejected me.
I simply reject this ruse of absolutes.
I have left the innocence of the Garden,
I have tasted the fruit as did Mother Eve,
And I am disillusioned.
I acknowledge both good and evil.
Yes, I value honesty above positivity, transparency above bliss
Because I have little use for your illusions.
Can’t you see there is beauty without perfection?
There is love in our flawed existence.

I have given you my mind, body, and soul.
Is my request for reciprocation so unreasonable?
You cannot clip my wings,
When your doctrines command my evolution,
And I am here—ready to evolve,
To fly beyond mundane obedience into my promised heavenly inheritance.
I am simply seeking what you taught me.

Don’t be afraid.
You don’t have to clutch to your orthodoxy with raw, bleeding hands—
So fearful of what will happen if you let go.
Your pride is paralyzing,
So you tighten your grip searching for safety.
But you know as well as I do,
There is no safety in the unknown.
There is no safety in the future.
Only trust.
Only faith.
Only us.

Where is your faith?

Let us unify the masses
Diverse in gender, race, and classes
Infinite hearts beating as one—
Achieving our common goal
To heal, comfort and console.
We’ll celebrate our diversity while synchronized in purpose
Creating the future,
By improving the world.
As creators of compassion,
We can redesign a heaven out of this hell.

There are foes far worse than I—hate, disease, hunger, war, death.
These are our enemies, not each other.
We can defeat them together.
We can defy our restrictive boundaries—
In an effort to lift one another.
Have we forgotten our ancestors?
They suffered, bled and died.
We let it continue and I don’t know why.
Imagine what we could do.
Why wait for the next generations,
When we are capable of greatness now?

Let us fill the future with our love,
And saturate the unknown with compassion.
Put your faith in me as I have in you.
I am still here—waiting to catch you.
Please, let go and embrace me too.

Yes, you are the Church,
but so am I.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Mummies of the World

(Image courtesy of Orlando Science Center)

Our family recently went to the Orlando Science Center to view the Mummies of the World exhibit. The mummies were displayed in a large dark room with multiple spotlights illuminating the remains of the bodies. The room was lined with small alcoves displaying artifacts, small mummified animals, shrunken heads, and stunning sarcophagi. The spectators were respectfully reverent as they gathered around the bodies that were once among the living.

The first mummy on display was astonishingly well preserved. A small woman, or what was left of her, lied on a table enclosed in an air-tight, temperature controlled, acrylic case. I read the information provided on the plaque and noticed her body was over 300 years old. The man she was married to was of great importance which deemed her worthy of the mummification process. The plaque also noted she was an estimated 37 years old we she died.

I noted my own age of 31 as I looked into her distorted face. I felt sad thinking that everything and everyone she ever loved and cared about was long gone, hundreds of years in the past. She was nothing more than memories—memories that quickly dissipated upon the death of her loved ones. Her life was too short, too fleeting and all that remained was the decomposing matter lying in front of me. I thought to myself, “I am 31 and my life has only begun. This poor woman didn’t even get a half of a century. Everything and everyone she ever loved or cared about was long gone. Perhaps if they had access to better technology and medical care she would have been able to live longer. Forty years simply isn’t long enough. She deserves better.”

I felt a tinge of anger, but it quickly dissolved when my toddler pulled on my leg to indicate she wanted to be picked up.

With my two year-old daughter resting comfortably in my arms, we walked across the opposite side of the dark room. We noticed a small mummified child lying on a linen cloth. The child’s little body was hardly anything more than a brittle skeletal structure wrapped in dark leathery skin. The child’s chest was open exposing a small perfectly preserved heart. The detail was astounding. The child’s tiny heart was neatly intact with the ventricles and atriums clearly visible. The various arteries expended outward, but abruptly withered into dry stubs. It’s not a sight you’re likely to forget.

At the sight of the child’s lifeless heart I instinctively placed my hand on my daughter’s chest as we stared at the remains of the small child. For as illogical as it may be, I simply wanted to feel the beating of her young healthy heart on the palm of my hand.

The plaque indicated little was known about the child. Scientists had not confirmed weather the child was male or female, but estimated the age of death to be a little older than infancy. The child most likely suffered from malnutrition with cause of death being infectious disease.

I couldn’t help but think of the vaccinations my children had received and modern medical treatments that had extended the lives of my three children. I wondered had this child had access to better technology and medical care they might have lived longer.

The anger returned as I thought, “Two years wasn’t enough. This child deserved better.”

The last alcove of the exhibit was a small family of three: a mother, father and infant. I looked at the plaque of the tiny woman and saw she was estimated to have died at age 32. I could help but lament, “Thirty-two short years? She deserves better.”

I left the room frustrated. 

As I walked out of the exhibit, I imagined myself a mummy on display in the future. Living, breathing human beings would walk respectfully past my remains. They would see my plaque indicating my age of death to be 93. Cause of death could be any number of enemies: stroke, disease, cancer, age. A beautiful mother of age 90 would look into my decomposing face and think to herself, “I am 90 and my life has only begun. This poor woman didn’t even get a full century. Everything and everyone she ever loved or cared about was long gone. Perhaps if they had access to better technology and medical care she would have been able to live longer. A hundred years simply isn’t long enough. She deserves better.”