Category Archives: Review

Video on new/old united

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The Greatest Showman

The film, The Greatest Showman (2017) entertained me immensely last night. It was clean. It had dancing, singing, and a story-line that doesn’t match history.

The protagonist is Phineas Taylor Barnum, most familiar to me as the guy who operated P. T. Barnum’s Grand traveling museum and circus in the 19th century.

I remind myself, most movies aren’t real and writers and actors are paid to entertain. It’s curious to me however that fiction can generate real feelings and emotions when I’m watching productions. And The Greatest Showman brought out feelings of good-will, dignity, spirit, and faithfulness.

In the movie, Barnum comes out as a man who celebrated the diversity of humanity. Maybe so in real life, but I don’t know. History has it that Barnum started his gigs after buying the right to rent an aged black slave. He told his audiences she was the 161-year-old former nurse of George Washington.

I have no idea how many people believed the tale, but human mind is pretty good at believing what it wants.

Thankfully, we have divine mind and a spiritual consciousness to decipher reality.

Quoting, from science & religion to God:

“The ideas of Mind are real and tangible to spiritual consciousness. Mind’s ideas have the advantage of being real and good, whereas objects and thoughts of physical sense are contradictory and not absolute.

“There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth, matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal, matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and person is God’s image and likeness. Therefore, person is not material, but spiritual.”

 

A Chapter from my book

A chapter from my book, I Am My Father-Mother’s Daughter

Keeping It Straight

The farmer’s market got a reputation. Officials from other markets, including from the Seattle Pike’s Place Market, visited Pasco to watch its operation. I’d give them tours and answered questions. They took notes. The standard comment to me was, “I can’t believe you don’t have theft problems.”

The comment tempted me to pat myself on the back. I diligently prayed for honesty and believed my prayers had positive effects. Cash was the main currency. In the crowded hubbub, purses were opened and closed. Pants pockets were dug through for money and dollar bills were handed to farmers, who threw the money in shoeboxes and crates.

In an apron tied around my waist, I carried thousands of dollars from paid vendor fees, even serving as the local bank for change. Theft was only mentioned once.

A vendor noticed a pair of handcrafted wooden earrings missing from his rack. Two weeks later he told me, almost incredulously, “Cheryl, those earrings reappeared on the table.”

My prayer for honesty was fine and good, but I knew the people and atmosphere had a lot to do with it. The customers genuinely appreciated the fresh produce, handed to them by the very people who put their hearts and souls into the products. The vendors were from family farms, not corporations. There was no middleman to dilute the authenticity. The good outweighed the bad.

Not that it was all hunky-dory. Irritation, jealousy, and plain old weariness crept in periodically to throw us off guard. Fortunately, we’d help one another get back on track quickly, even when we didn’t know it. Like the time a woman helped me correct myself.

It was a scorching August day when more than seventy vendors showed up. I wiped salty perspiration from my eyes and was menstruating, not always a trouble-free task for me. I moved cautiously so blood wouldn’t start rolling down between my legs. People kept asking me for help, keeping me from walking across the street to where the bathroom was located.

I watched three vendors walk up to me at once, all talking, or rather complaining. When they were standing within an arm’s reach in front of me, I held up my hand, palm out as a stop sign. They stopped and quieted. I pointed to the person I figured would be the quickest to deal with. “I need change for this $50,” he said. I made the change.

I pointed to the second person, who said, “I need plastic bags.”

“You can buy some bags at stall three,” I answered, and then looked at the woman who stood with an agitated, indignant expression on her face.

“You told me to sell from stall fifteen and there is no way I can get in that stall. Do you see all these people? I have a truckload of peppers and tomatoes and need to get them out of the sun. It’s impossible to get in stall fifteen. I’ve tried. There’s no way.”

In the middle of her verbal explosion, I saw a thought pass through my head that harkened unmistakably: Women like you are why we are considered the weaker, dumber sex.

Though feeling annoyed, I said to her, “Please take me to your truck and I will help you.” I followed and asked her if it’d be okay if I backed her truck into stall fifteen. She gave me her keys and within two minutes she was selling her produce, relieved and happy.

Oddly, I wasn’t happy with myself. I felt a bit chastened.

When walking to the bathroom. I quickly realized I’d judged the woman alongside the thought that some women feed male chauvinism. I’d spent my life dodging male chauvinism because plenty of men treated me with prejudice, as if I was weak and dumb. So, why would I entertain what amounted to a male chauvinist thought?

Later in the day, I took the time to answer that question the best I could. It dawned on me chauvinism wasn’t gender specific. It was simply narrow-mindedness, a laziness that doesn’t help others. I would be adding to it if I accepted that thought about the woman that had passed through my head earlier. I mentally re-routed my thinking to admit it was chauvinism that annoyed me, not the woman. I affirmed that I didn’t help the woman because she was daft, but because I could help her in a way she understood. We were equals.

It was an exercise in breaking apart thoughts and reconnecting useful thoughts to get a more inclusive picture. The exercise helped me later when reading the Bible at home.

I read the story about Elisha who met a distraught mother in debt. She was about to lose her sons as payment for the debt. Elisha asked, “What do you have in your house?”

The mother had some oil.

Elisha instructed her to borrow a bunch of jars. When she poured her little bit of oil in the jars the oil multiplied miraculously. She sold the oil and paid off the debt.

It was the question, “what’s in your house,” that shifted my mental strategy. Instead of thinking and acting from the premise that I lack, why not ask what I have?

I had food, shelter. I even had stuff in storage, nearly forgotten. We certainly had family love. And then whomp, the thought to foster children landed in my creaked-open mind. I needed to share family love.

I went to the phone and called the State Social Services Department. A social worker came to our house to start the process of licensing me and Doug as foster parents. She examined our house, nodding in approval. Where I saw puny, she saw modest. Where I saw ugly, she saw practical. Where I saw cheap, she saw affordable and clean. Within a few weeks, 2-year-old Junior came to live with us.

Leah and Carly didn’t mind a stitch when we moved their clothes dresser out of their bedroom into the kitchen so we could fit a crib next to their bunk bed. The girls had fun showing Junior the swing set and forts.

Unexcitable by physical color, shape, or size, Junior ambled as fast as his chubby legs could carry him to keep up with the girls. He adored hugs and book reading time.

Junior helped solidify in my mind the concept of a Father-Mother God that cares for us all. With a divine Parent, the temptation to condemn his human parents died off.

We continued fostering children for the next fifteen years.

I learned that I never lost what I didn’t have. I learned that I can increase what I have.

final book cover2018front cover image small

Advisers speak

Last night, Hamilton College, in Clinton, New York, hosted a discussion between Condolezza Rice and Susan Rice, with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell moderating. Even though I was headachey, I went.

The benefits far outweighed the hassle. The nearly two hour drive went fine. I sat next to a couple who told me about Hamilton College. And, the women forum was fantastic.

They spoke intelligently, eloquently, and on topic for an hour and half. The occasion substantiated the reality of people learning to get along and trust good, yet knowing it involves hard work and challenges.

I better understand world events in Syria, Iran, and Russia, with less fear of the unknown. Human beings can work things out.

Condolezza said, “I learned to respect correct timing.”

Susan said, “If I can’t change my opinion in light of new information, then I shouldn’t be in this business.”

The women showed me that they are like me and you: people willing to work twice as hard, who knows there are no victims, and won’t take on the prejudices of others. There is good work to do whether in government, in church, on the job, or at home. Diplomacy is crucial. Don’t enable dictators. Encourage the democratic nations and people.

hamilton stage susan mitchell condelezza

Movie and book

Okay, I admit, I liked watching the flick, Spiderman: Homecoming, 2017.

Casting was superb. Acting was fine. Script was catchy enough. A few times, I got bored and of course there were too many of what I call, chase scenes.

The writers managed, however, to bring out the importance of family and looking after one another.

Now, at the same time, I’m listening to, In the Footsteps of Paul, by Richard Rohr, and I really like it too.

The topic is superb. The spoken words are fine. Ideas shared are catchy enough. A few times I doubt his conclusions, and of course it sometimes seems like I’ve heard it all before.

Rohr manages, however, to bring out the importance of thinking for oneself, and only criticizing one’s own religion and not others. Speaking for oneself, not others.

Quoting from science & religion to God:

Divine Truth is known by its effects, not words. When you do experience spirituality, you may not be able to explain the experience in words that others will understand. Human thought doesn’t immediately capture an understanding of the divine equation and its solution. We feel stuck on this material plane, stuck in problems, stuck in words that have multiple meanings. We must educate our thought to the higher meaning where substance is understood to be Spirit.

How we interpret life affects not only our outlook and expectations, but also the consequences. Interpretation is either literal or spiritual.

Taken literally the words, “Clean your room,” produces decent results. But when dealing with less concrete concepts, open to wide interpretations, such as, “Be nice,” the results can vary. Spirituality comes to our rescue.

Divine interpretation gives us the deeper meaning our hearts yearn for. Spiritual interpretation maintains our life purpose and makes our experiences, words, expressions—even myths—useful.

Book recommendation

I just finished a book that portrays fairness and intelligence. It also allowed me to get to know Islam a bit better because the author grew up in a Muslim home. I want to rid myself of bias or prejudice against other religions and this book helps.

The book title is, The Blindfold Horse: Memories of a Persian Childhood, and it’s written by Shusha Guppy.

The first chapter is about a blindfolded horse and to be honest, it confused me some because I don’t really see how it tied into the rest of the book. But the chapters are short, so I was able to get to the second chapter quickly and read about Guppy’s life and memories, which were written very well.

I could identify with her life in that God, love, trust, friendship, and courage are important.

Guppy talks about the dangers of religious fundamentalism and how it sadly affected the Persian countries in 1979, when the Shaw was overthrown, and religious authorities took control.

The book reminds me of the importance of keeping state and religion separate and to put God before religious organization. It reminds me to follow divine rules before I follow church rules.

I recommend The Blindfold Horse.

History of women fades quicker

The attention given to women during March annoys me. It only takes half a minute to look back and see the future. A month of admiration given to women, then comes April Fool’s Day. Just joking, women are on the front line in the fight for equality and respect and our casualties outweigh the survivors.

A study on the 2017 state of women in corporate America reported that women, especially of color, remain underrepresented, hit low glass ceilings, get less support on the job, and then, 54% of them go home to do most or all the housework.

What are we up against? The human system. It’s rigged for inequalities by its very nature of diversity, yet we keep giving it power. And that power is abused.

Through research, social scientists find that when participants are assigned positions of power, they often willingly take candy from children or give near-lethal shocks to strangers for no reason other than being told to do so.

Professor of Psychology at University of California, Dacher Keltner reported last fall in Harvard Business Review, “These findings from laboratory studies tell us that abuses of power are predictable and recurring.”

I talk about recurring abuses of power in my memoir, I Am My Father-Mother’s Daughter. I also talk about stumbling upon better strategies to expand equality and respect.

First, I learned how to isolate the enemies.

The enemies aren’t men, they aren’t submissive women, and they aren’t nature or nurture. Whether believed or not, the enemies are inequality and disrespect.

It’s that simple and yet that complex. And to keep it simple, uncomplicates a better plan of action. An example from my memoir.

I grew up learning about Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) and about Christian Science as taught through her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.

Christian Science is a divine system sourced to help improve the human system.

Eddy developed Christian Science into a religion by founding a church in Boston. Her accomplishments struck powerful chords early 20th century. Individuals were transformed, the church flourished, and then branched out worldwide, as successes far outweighed failures.

Mary Baker Eddy was a household name. Respected more than not.

By the 1980s, however, when I was in my twenties, her storyline backfired.

The backfire can be traced to contemporary controversies about the practices of healthcare and prayer, especially regarding children. Arguably, these sharp challenges are necessary to expose spiritual failures on the part of Eddy’s self-professed followers, but the result is Eddy’s original reputation and her accomplishments plummeting to obscurity.

Another female casualty. It’s tiresome, even if she’s used as a tourist attraction.

But, I uncovered and confronted my own guilt of being pretty proud of myself for admiring and following a woman. Basically, my arrogance pushed the limits of respect into a reverence for Eddy’s personality and her words. I admired the wrong thing. It was disrespect disguised as respect.

I pulled back to figure out a better plan of action: Use the power of admiration correctly.

The power of admiring women can’t go unchecked. What are we admired for? Sex appeal? Stop it now.

Intelligence and skill? Okay, but don’t let your guard down, because the power to approve of feminine intelligence and skill is limited and quickly slips into disapproval with any prodding from envy.

Are women admired for patience and empathy? Fine, but arm yourself, everyone, women and men. Arm yourself with better teachings and better learning, untainted by annoyance.

I just learned something.

Yes, the fight to give power to equality and respect is teachable and learnable. It means not trying so hard to give power to gender or positions in life. It means fighting correctly during Women’s History Month, instead of complaining about what I don’t like.

Bio: Cheryl Petersen is a freelance writer and student of Christian Science living in upstate New York. Her books are: 21st Century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: A revision of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health, and, from science & religion to God.

 

 

 

 

 

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