Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pulling a Barbara Cartland

I had an idea. Actually, I had two and neither of them is really rock solid, but both of them kind of encapsulate the oddities in my life - of which I would be the largest. The first one had to do with ergonomics.

Depending on weather and other issues, sitting up can be uniquely uncomfortable and tiring. I have tried standing desks, loved them but then didn't like what it did to my lower back as I was standing on concrete. It also gave the Mad Kitten more opportunity to pull my pants down so work consistency suffered. Sunday I was tired and had unavoidable hours of computer work to do so I decided to pull a Barbara Cartland and work from bed. I propped myself up, arranged my version of bonbons and the Mad Kitten enthusiastically plowed face down beside me and snored the day away. The problem with this arrangement began Monday.

We even look alike :)

On Monday I woke up bright and early and went to go work at my deskish area. This was unacceptable to MK and we fought on and off throughout the morning. I have posted a picture of my amply compensated cat a few posts ago so you can imagine what she weighs. Now, add in that she is feral, smart and very determined. She literally would launch herself at me from all sides to bite and claw, taking aim at my neck, arms and legs. A fun time was had by all. By 5am, I moved the laptop back into bed and life calmed down.

The second idea I had also occurred on Sunday, in between naps, bonbons and working I went out to feed Ralph and friends. When I opened the door, Ralph (the amply compensated white pigeon) barreled over to me on a complete mission so determined I thought he was going to crawl up my leg. He stopped at my feet and did his "I'm hungry" dance which confused me. There was still rice left out from earlier in the morning. None of the other pigeons were eating it, Ralph was dancing away and that's when I realized the rice had frozen to the ground. Then the thought came, "I need a whistle." I am saying nothing more about this idea for now but by Spring, I may have an entire flock to do my nefarious bidding that will make Amazon drones look amateur.

Being the good Buddhist that I am, I just ordered a copy of Mother Theresa's letters. I have read about her letters but never pursued getting them because I knew that I wasn't ready to learn from them. Now, I feel like that point has arrived.

To say that she was a complicated woman is to commit an error of understatement. To realize that she did all of her work from the depths of despair after having lost her faith is astounding. We have such a need for the structure and stories that faith gives us to make sense of life that many who suddenly lose faith, don't survive to recover their life. Yet here is someone who lived, worked and sacrificed for years in the name of something that strengthened the belief of so many and powered so many good works and all along she was without any comfort or belief from the very faith that now seeks to canonize her. In many aspects she embodies the reality of working to improve community and also its greatest conundrum.

If the community is the most important embodiment of life, and it is best served by helping the individuals within the community – who helps the helpers and is that something that should happen at all? Part of the role that Mother Theresa embodied was that of someone powered by faith and vows to be self-sacrificing for the good of the whole. It is by the sacrifice for others that others were helped and could create a stronger community. So if this means that one must put others and community before your needs in that role, is there anyone who will ever do that for you and is that a just expectation? And how to you reconcile that she was the most extreme example of what a faith espoused, and that she was an icon of, without believing in it at all?

The one thing that none of the articles ever addresses is to whom Mother Theresa was writing. I am very curious to know the nature of her confidant. Is it, as is sometimes suspected, that the taking on of these types of roles embodies the Buddhist call to let go of all desire, self, ego and attachment? If then – what is the connection that is left to suffering and despair? There are Buddhist teachings on this but they are of a very deep and esoteric level, what they say is something that has a ring of truth but would completely undo its attraction to the Western world.

There aren’t really answers to these questions, and a good teacher will tell you so. To try and find a solid and final answer means you have stopped being willing to learn. Life is full of new situations for which we have no direction. We may have a misremembered past experience to draw from, or maybe we have adopted a belief with a set of rules to tell us how to act, but every second is new. Whoever said that everything has been done before really had no clue to the depth of the experience of living. Nothing has ever been done. From that point the experience of life can begin to look less bleak, and yet more sparse than ever before.

One of the things I am learning about building community is the definitions are not important, infact over defining a community can start the process of it coming apart before it is even in existence. It is in creating the space to voice unanswerable, and sometimes unthinkable, questions that begins to build a sense of belonging, safety and strength. It is in having a place to go where there are examples of people having made it through, not because they did things right or overcame something, but simply because they survived not knowing - that can make it such a supportive well.

I think I mentioned that I had purchased battle ropes for Dragon Mountain. I decided on them because of me. Since there is so much cardiovascular activity I can’t do anymore, I needed to replace it. I had to find a way to get that kind of activity in place in a life where it could no longer be done the normal way. Also, martial arts fairly well is awful for cardio activity. It can have its moments, but there are few styles that maintain a way of teaching that can include it because it is just downright unappealing to people.

I researched and researched and the battle rope won out as the best, low impact, varied form, full body and high cardio activity. So I got one. The Mad Kitten hates it. One day of watching her treatball and her turkey tangle get caught up in the ropes and thrown around and she takes off to hide the moment it uncoils. I love it. The students love it. It wiped out the first 2 hour Kung Fu class in 19 minutes last Saturday.

On Monday night, the 8 year old girl showed up. I knew she would want to try it so I came up with some safer exercises and we played around with it. Then she got tired. Then she got bored. Then she started trying to pull herself along with the rope in a kind of bunny scoot across the carpet. I am not sure what got into all of us but that launched 30 minutes of profound experimentation with clipboards, cutting boards, standing and sitting that resulted in her father being on one end of the room and I being on the other with the ends of the battle rope wrapped around our waists as she sat on my plastic cutting board and pulled herself across the room just laughing and laughing.

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