Posted by: mvhuff | June 22, 2017

Snow Blind

Sometimes I feel like my brain is a pinball machine, with thoughts randomly ricocheting throughout play area and me trying to block them long enough to keep them from getting away. When there are a lot of thoughts bouncing around it’s hard to express any of them coherently. The difficulty increases exponentially when there are weighty and important matters to consider, and so what follows may not make as much sense as I would like it to, but I feel compelled to say it.

I have many friends and acquaintances who are sick of hearing the complaint about white privilege. Even I sometimes bristle about it, particularly with memes going around about white people ruining everything. Sometimes it seems like we are fish that are unaware that we are surrounded by water – it’s there and it’s always been there, so we don’t really see it and know that it is there. We are blinded by the lack of experience.

I can see that in many areas, where there are few (if any) non-white people and all the people you know are suffering from economic or health or other woes, that there is nothing privileged about that. There is no prize benefit, it would seem, to being white if you cannot find a job. And then you see many non-white people who are very well off and you think that maybe they are not suffering for not being white. They have jobs or money or health or fame and the lack of whiteness has not seemed to have hurt them.

These days, also, there are laws meant to protect people from overt racism and discrimination. The signs saying ‘Whites Only’ separate entrances have largely disappeared. We say we believe our country’s founding documents apply to everyone when they talk about all men being created equal. We think we judge people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin (as the Rev. King dreamed would happen).

We look around and it seems okay to us. Nothing to see here – racism is dead and gone and there is no such thing as white privilege.

And yet. When I was much younger, someone accused a friend of mine of stealing something because she had been looking through it and then it disappeared. The thing was, I was with her when she was doing it – the only difference was she was not white.

I had forgotten about this for a while because I would really like to believe that racism is dead, but the evidence shows otherwise.

Videos have shown that a white woman trying to break a lock on a bike is likely to be helped, while a non-white person is more likely to be accused of theft. Police cameras show that cops often treat black people with less respect than white people. Riots are defined as exuberant when they involve white people celebrating a team win but thuggish when black people are anguishing over unfair treatment – even though the damage is the same or worse by the ‘celebrants’. People of color shoot or attack multiple people and the first question is whether it is terrorism – white people commit mass murders and the initial assumption is mental imbalance rather than terrorism.

Why? How did this happen? Why is it that there are so many who seem to view non-white people as somehow non-people? As some other thing that is not worth as much as white people? This attitude is wrong, but it seems to have permeated our society to such an extent that even people who do not hold racist beliefs sometimes act in ways that show dehumanizing assumptions about our fellow human beings.

Some view the Black Lives Matter movement as too radical and anti-cop and even racial (because, you know, All Lives Matter). But we don’t have to live with getting stopped in areas we are not ‘supposed to be’ because we are not white. We don’t have to live with centuries of ingrained dehumanization that counts us as less than a whole person. We haven’t been told in many thousands of little ways that we do not matter, at least not as much as white people.

I am sickened and saddened that some people consciously choose to believe that white people are the supreme race – it’s just not true at all. But I am convicted in realizing that even though I don’t want to I sometimes make assumptions or act in ways that betrays some kind of unconscious version of that. Even though I didn’t invent it and don’t support it, I can’t help but notice that some people have problems not because of their circumstances or their character but because of the color of their skin.

I don’t know what the solution is, but it is important to recognize that it exists. And as much as it is in my power, to let the people around me know that they are every bit as human and valued as I am no matter what their color.

Posted by: mvhuff | June 10, 2017

The Power of the Ordinary

When I was growing up, I thought I wanted to be an Olympic medal winner. I don’t think it was a real dream, because there wasn’t a particular sport I had a love for or skill at when having this vision. I didn’t develop the athletic skills necessary because I didn’t have anything concrete to focus on – I think I just thought that somehow some round metal object attached to a colorful ribbon would validate me as a person – tell me I was worth something. Or something – it’s hard to tell because of course growing up I wasn’t that self-aware and now I don’t remember a lot of details about the fantasy.

I was thinking about that because these days there seems to be a lot of discussion about dreaming big and aiming for the moon (or stars, I’m not sure). I suppose this isn’t that new as people have been dreaming for as long as they have been around, but it just seems like there is a kind of pressure to have really huge dreams – like you can’t find fulfillment if you don’t dream extremely boldly.

I’ve heard people saying if your dreams don’t scare you they are not big enough. Or you have to chase the lion or having a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) that can change the world.

There is nothing wrong with big, bold, even impossible dreams. The world can never change without people daring to take enormous risks or explore uncharted territories or make seemingly ludicrous leaps of faith. It is just that maybe that is a lot of pressure for people who don’t have huge dreams. What if I cannot make a giant leap of faith? What if I have no desire to do something that will change the world?

Sometimes, we just have to appreciate the ordinary. We (or the infamous mysterious they that keep saying things) talk about how it’s the little things that matter, but we idolize the big things. And because we idolize the big things, we treat the little things as if they are not daring enough – that if you are not chasing lions you may as well not consider a fulfilling life a possibility.

The chasing lions analogy was based on a story in the Bible about one of David’s mighty men that killed a lion after pursuing it into its den. And we all want to be heroes so we admire someone brave that can do something like this. The Bible mentions that David had thirty mighty men, and named them and even described some of their exploits and amazing feats. But David had an army of other foot soldiers that just faithfully executed their duties – with only the mighty men, David probably wouldn’t have won and kept his kingdom.

For every Elijah that called down fire from heaven, there were thousands of other prophets who remained faithful to God without feats noted in the Bible. For every Peter and Paul preaching the gospel, there were thousands of other believers in the early church that remain anonymous to us. They did not plant churches, but they formed an integral part of church growth.

For every huge dream, there are others that have smaller goals. Maybe they won’t build a company or solve a complex problem that has been dogging society or create an amazing masterpiece of art. Maybe instead they will talk to the cashier like they are a real, valued human being. Maybe they will make someone laugh. Maybe they will restore dignity to a person not by being amazing but simply by interacting on a one on one basis.

I don’t want to imply that big dreamers are not good with people – many of them are. And goals do not necessarily prevent one from also treating people with respect.

For some of us, though, huge goals are not a thing. But we can, in our ordinary lives, treat each other with love, dignity and respect even in the most ordinary of interactions. And that can be powerful for people who need it.

Posted by: mvhuff | May 25, 2017

Detox Report

Lately I have been feeling like a voracious eating monster. I know about nutrition and eating well, but sometimes I just want that pizza or the chocolate or what have you. Or it’s just easier to grab a protein bar (it’s in the health section, so it must be okay, right?) than to prepare a balanced meal with protein and vegetables. It doesn’t help that I’m more comfortable and familiar with canned convenience and processed portions than with real and fresh food. Even though my mother grew up on a farm, I find it much more palatable to get my produce as far removed from the dirt as possible.

In order to counter some of these proclivities, I decided to do a 21-day detox program. I’m not so sure that I have toxins in my body from my usual diet, but I figured it would be good to follow something to get a handle on my eating and maybe even develop more of a taste and talent for using more real food.

I knew it would be a challenge because it requires giving up caffeine, dairy, gluten, and added sugar. I figured, a little discipline for 21 days can only help, right?

I went shopping last Saturday. A fellow shopper asked me where the watercress might be. I had to confess that watercress was one of the many vegetables I can only recognize with a label. Later at the checkout the cashier was certain that what I had thought was curly parsley was dill. Oh, well, it seemed to turn out okay in the recipe.

Day 0 – Sunday I started additional preparations by cooking some stuff for the upcoming week. I made a pot of vegetable broth according to recipe – boiling carrots, beets, kale, onions, and parsley (or dill) and then simmering for an hour. I have never seen so much broth in my life.

The recipe said I could toss the cooked vegetables or use them in another recipe, so I picked the latter. I have a great recipe for carrot waffles that also works with beets. It requires the juice of the vegetables, so I figured I’d juice the remnants from the broth. This turned out not to be the best idea – whether it was because they were waterlogged or cooked, when I put the beets and carrots in my juicer nothing seemed to come out until the very end – and then only a trickle of thick type of puree. I had naively assumed that all the rest was just being chucked into the waste receptacle of the juicer, but actually, the juicer had created a nice puree that just got stuck in the middle part of the juicer. I was able to extract enough to use in the recipe, but also had to clean up a lot of puree that got into parts it shouldn’t have – since it was mostly beet and there was dripping involved, my kitchen almost had the appearance of a crime scene. I won’t mention the debacle of the waffle iron.

Day 1 – Got up and started with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and water. I do not recommend it. I also made a protein smoothie and then set off for my day at work. I had warned my co-workers, so they were prepared for my sudden withdrawal from so many different addictive substances. Had a nice salad with chicken for lunch and had some herbal tea in the afternoon. I had a problem with a huge headache but managed to make it to the gym – where one of the coaches told me that I needed to have more carbs to fuel myself. It was kind of odd to think that I managed to have a low carb day without even trying.

I was going to have some brown basmati rice and other stuff for dinner, but when I read the directions I realized it had to simmer for 50 minutes and I thought, I don’t have the time or the energy for that. But I did manage something within the program and went to bed early because I was worn out).

Day 2 – Discovered that I probably will not get used to apple cider vinegar. It seems to make me nauseated, but there could be other factors at play in my intestinal issues (you know, adjusting to a different diet and such). This morning I had overnight oatmeal with chia seeds. It was pretty tasteful. I didn’t think I was particularly sloppy with it, but I found myself discovering dried chia seeds stuck to my clothing all day. I’m glad they are quite small and unnoticeable.

That night I did have time for the rice, so I had that and peas for dinner (I love peas, so that is actually a good thing). One thing I am not doing so well is that my dinner is supposed to be at least 3 hours before bedtime, but I can’t stay up that late!

Day 3 – This time I tried to add a bit of honey to the apple cider vinegar, but I didn’t want to add too much so I just dipped the spoon in the jar and stirred it in the water. Sadly, the honey stuck on the spoon and the bottom of the cup, so it had no effect at all on the taste. This was followed by another protein shake.

Part of the program involves staying hydrated, so I’ve been trying to drink at least 2 liters of water a day. On the second bottle of day 2 and this day, I added a bit of a drink mix that has stevia (allowed) in it. I thought the ingredients were all allowed, but it turns out it also had a bit of cane sugar, so I have inadvertently cheated. But I think it will be okay and not require a restart.

Day 4 – I gave up and just tossed the tablespoon of apple cider vinegar down my throat and then drank the water. It was much better this way. I think that maybe my body had finally gotten rid of all reserves of caffeine (I know, that probably isn’t how it works), and was falling asleep as I was getting ready for work. I decided I should probably just stay home as I wasn’t feeling the best. Kind of bad timing on a Thursday before a holiday weekend, but it was a smart decision as I slept most of the day.

Tomorrow is day 5. I think it will keep getting better, but we will see.

Posted by: mvhuff | March 4, 2017

Paleocracy

If you follow any food or healthy eating trends, you’ve probably heard of the paleo diet. It’s based on the idea that our Paleolithic ancestors lived long and healthy lives because of the food they ate – that our bodies had evolved in time with the meat we killed and the plant-based items we foraged to extract maximum nutrition and minimize any potential mis-digestion issues. Then our brains figured out ways to raise and process the food in many ways to make it easier to obtain but we outsmarted ourselves as our bodies were not able to adapt quickly enough to keep pace.

Of course, there was less starvation with this advancement, but we leapt ahead too quickly, or so the story goes. Our bodies are still designed to eat the way our ancestors did, and we would be much healthier if we ate like they did – only what you could kill or forage. I suppose we are now allowed to have someone else kill or forage for us, but the idea is the less processed and the closer to what they ate, the better.

Now I am not an expert in the Paleolithic lifestyle, but I’m open to the idea that they lived long and healthy lives as long as they weren’t cut short by predators or accidents or disease. But I now suspect that the real reason that they lived longer was not due to diet but due to the lack of another prominent feature of our modern lives.

Imagine an early hunting party gathering to go off for the hunt.

As they are milling about in preparation, Gonk the leader sharply calls out, “Thak, what is that spear you are carrying? Didn’t we tell you that we were hunting mastodons today?”

“What, this?” Thak responds. “It’s a spear – isn’t that what I need?”

No, you have spear SP-950, for BUFFALOES, you need SP-960 for Mastodons. Gonk shakes his head in disbelief.

What’s the difference? They all look the same to me.

Clearly the spear tip is on the wrong end, Thak. Even Kul here knows that.

At which point, Gonk asks Kul, “What are you doing here? Have you passed the exam and gotten your mastodon hunting license?”

“Yes, I did – I have it right here,” Kul presents the special rock authorizing him to (finally) join the hunt.

Gonk examines it and declares that it is all in order. He is about to dismiss Thak for having the wrong weapon, when Grzk speaks up – “maybe Thak can join us just in case we run across some buffalo during the hunt. That way we wouldn’t have to pass them by because no one else has an SP-950.”

“Good point, plus, if Thak leaves, we will not have minimum number required to go on a hunt, and then any kills would be invalid and we wouldn’t be able to eat them.”

“Okay, gather around everyone, I’m going to show you the authorized route.” Gonk draws out a map to the valley in the east.

“But,” Thak interrupts, “I saw mastodons across the hills in the west. I think they have left the eastern valley.”

“Do you know more than our esteemed committee? They have clearly authorized the hunt to go to the east. We cannot deviate from this plan now.”

“But Thak is right,” Kul added, “the mastodons have moved on from the east to the west. If we follow the plan we will not find them.”

“You young people think that just passing the test for the hunting license makes you know everything there is to know about hunting. That’s insufferable.”

After some grumbling and continued milling about, someone pointed out that the sun was now setting, so they couldn’t hunt today.

“This is the fifth day in a row that this has happened. We are going to have to have another committee meeting tomorrow to determine the appropriate plan of action. Everyone should be ready to hunt after the decision is reached in 2-3 weeks.”

“But we don’t have enough food.”

“That’s not the point.”

Yes, not only did they have more bioavailable nutrition, they did not have bureaucracy.

Posted by: mvhuff | December 23, 2016

God With Us

I wrote this several years ago, inspired in part by the song Mary, Did You Know?

Immanuel

How did it feel, Lord Jesus, when,
After holding the Universe
You were held, by tender hands then
Wrapped in cloths and lain in straw?
You’d seen the world before it was
And then opened new and tiny eyes
Whose sight was filled by just one face.
How did it happen, that the hand
That moved the waters and placed the sun
Now barely grasped a mother’s thumb?
Oh, what was it like, when as a boy
You gazed at night skies that You had formed?
Did You remember each star by name?
Were You ever surprised in childhood games,
Or ever bored with daily routines?
Or, sitting close by Joseph’s side, did You ever yearn
For the heavenly worship at Your throne?
Did You weary working for Your bread
Knowing the time You’d needed none?
And, walking down the dusty roads, did You recall
When You had watered all the world?
Did You often tire of human failures
Or blame us for Your earthbound limits?
And do You now know if we will ever
Recognize the gift You gave us?

 

 

Posted by: mvhuff | December 4, 2016

Political Correctness

At some point in the eighties, I had a book that claimed to be a politically correct dictionary – it was a parody that mocked some of the extremes of political correctness. What I remember as the most egregious examples were, supposedly, official Government designations of a plane crash as either a ‘failure to maintain clearance from the ground’ or a ‘controlled flight into the terrain’. Clearly these and some other examples of Government-speak were ridiculous and eminently mockable.

Over the years, many have continued to disparage what they call political correctness and say they value people saying what they mean rather than dancing around a subject or being delicate to protect someone’s sensibilities. It gets a lot of attention because, I think, people want to be able to say what’s on their mind without worrying about offending people – some because they fear inadvertently offending and some because they just don’t care about potential offense (at least to others – their own offendedness may be a different matter).

While this is not new, it ideas of political correctness got additional attention this year due to some colleges trying to tell kids to be so sensitive and many applauded this saying that kids have to learn to live in the real world.

It’s all well and good to say you’re going to call a spade a spade and it works fine when you’re discussing shovels. But when you start talking about people, some labels are not really used to identify what sort of person you are discussing but to intimate, sometimes subtly and sometimes not so subtly, that that other person is not really a person. Somehow they are less or alien or something. Not only do some labels seek to reduce the status of people – some outright dehumanize them.

But labels are one thing, and intellectual discussions are something else. We should be able to discuss disagreements with clear terms and clear and civil heads. No one should feel the right to require others to always respect their beliefs by not disagreeing with them – but to respect their beliefs and their humanity.

I believe that everyone should, though, be able to have a safe place where, when they want to get away and even be in a bubble they can. I think that is the best thing about home when it is full of people that get you and accept you and love you – that sometimes you can just be the delicate mess you are and let the confrontation wait for later.

Colleges are odd places in that the students live there – so that it makes home a bit dicier. When you want to be safe but people are putting bananas at your door to imply that you are closer to monkeys than people, that’s just not right and it has nothing to do with the so-called political correctness.

We need to realize that all people are people and we are ALL at the same level. We may have different beliefs or different looks or different values but we are all human. We should be careful that we don’t avoid political correctness by trying to use labels that dehumanize anyone. So, call a crash a crash and a spade a spade, but realize that human beings are not shovels and using language to affirm, rather than diminish, our co-humanity is not a bad thing.

 

Posted by: mvhuff | November 20, 2016

What am I Afraid of?

Feeling a bit poetic today

At first, nothing

Because I knew nothing

But then I learned – that people

Could hurt, things could

Go wrong.

I feared what I

Didn’t know – the future,

What others thought.

Then came fear of

What I did know – me

All the thoughts and quirks

That would push others

Away.

But God – He made me

On purpose and

Chose me despite

My broken mess.

Though I trust Him,

Still I fear

Because I am prone to worry –

About failure or

Wasting time or space

Being useless and alone.

So many things – which

Is biggest?

Though God surpasses them

Their presence often

Overwhelms me

And I forget to trust.

 

Posted by: mvhuff | November 13, 2016

Election Reflections

In 2000, George W. Bush was elected president under a contentious process and many in the opposition spent some time, some up to all 8 years of his presidency, doubting the validity of his being president. They may have claimed the loss of the popular vote versus the electoral college or the issues with what went on in Florida, but they claimed that he should not have been the president.

In 2008, Barack Obama was elected president and many in the opposition spent the next 8 years of his terms claiming that he was not legitimate and not their president. Some claimed he was not actually born in the country, that he was really Kenyan or secretly Muslim or somehow just not eligible. One senator even went so far as to say that he would do everything in his power to make sure that Obama was a one-term president.

Now comes 2016 and Donald Trump has been elected president. The sides switch once again – with one group claiming he is not our president, that he lost the popular vote, that they don’t think he represents America. Only time will tell if this lasts for his entire term as president.

I frankly cannot remember if there were protests during the pre-inaugural periods for Bush or Obama – there are certainly protests now. And protests, when peaceful, are okay in America (although not always helpful, but that’s another thing). I can’t help but think, though, that those currently protesting would be mocking the ones upset at a Clinton win and disparaging the protesters of her victory. At the same time, I think that many of those mocking the current protesters would be likely to be out in the streets protesting – or certainly bemoaning the outcome of the election as a sign that our country is falling apart or changing irrevocably in a bad way.

Just as not everyone who disagreed with Obama or his policies was a racist, neither is everyone who supports Trump. Maybe they wanted more conservative justices on the Supreme Court, maybe they wanted someone who seemed like he spoke for the common man.

Without claiming that racism was the motivating factor for every Trump vote, I think it is clear that the campaign itself provided a veneer of acceptability, if not respectability, to a particularly virulent form of racism, that is white supremacism. There are those who are so convinced that making America great again means putting white people back in the positions of power and influence, and maybe getting rid of non-white people. And with this year’s campaign they have become more vocal.

Even though I do not experience racism personally, I have no reason to doubt that racist incidents occur in this country. It is all too convenient to think that because I am not racist that no one is and that everything is great for everyone because I don’t see a lot of evidence to the contrary. But it is real, and it is happening, and in a situation where people who espouse it in its most reprehensible forms have come to feel that their viewpoint is good, I can understand why many people are afraid of the consequences. Just because you worry about racism increasing does not make you extra sensitive or pathetic.

As I said, I am convinced that those mocking people bemoaning the election results would be bemoaning the results if it had turned out differently, just as people bemoaning the election results would probably be mocking those who would be upset if the election had gone the other way. We are all hypocrites.

I can only hope that we can all rise above our worse natures and try to work together now. And also to make it clear that ALL citizens of this country are Americans, regardless of what they look like or how they act or what they think. I have no control other than voting over what goes on in the government, but at least I can act as someone that believes we were all created in God’s image and treat people accordingly.

 

Posted by: mvhuff | October 23, 2016

My Trip Report

I’m beginning to suspect that I have some kind of magnetic personality. Not the cool kind that allows me to move cars out of my way or fling threatening guns out of the hands of potential attackers. Not even the kind that would draw people to me and have me be the toast of the town. No, my ‘magnetic’ powers seem to be limited to screwing up electronics at the most inopportune times. Or maybe just airplane entertainment outlets.

My trip to Barcelona started with an 8 hour flight where each seat had individual monitors where you could select your options and view movies at your convenience. I was able to watch one movie (of the kind where you think, I’m glad I didn’t pay at the theater for this, but it was a relatively innocuous way to pass the time). But then the system broke – and the system was required to turn on the light so I had to use a flashlight for some non-screen time. The flight attendant did reset it once, but it broke again, which reminded me of the last time I was on a transatlantic flight and the same thing happened.

But that was a minor inconvenience and a poor way to frame a report on my trip. Barcelona was a beautiful city. I cannot believe the number of people before the trip and after the trip that were surprised that I was spending 10 days in one place. Moving around from place to place and site to site does have its charms, but when there is so much to see and do in one place I can’t imagine getting bored. I feel as though I only scratched the surface of the city (and really, can you get the feel for any place in ten days?).

It turns out that Barcelona is part of the Catalunya or Catalonia region and that some want to separate from the rest of Spain. They speak Catalan as much as they speak Spanish – perhaps more. I tried to learn a little Catalan before the trip, but it might have been wiser to brush up on my Spanish. That did help me with the signs in the city as Catalan usually came before Spanish – at least, the signs that had actual words. The picture signs were a little more challenging to translate at times.

It’s always harder to communicate with ‘real’ people than how it goes in secondary language classes – practically no one wants to talk about whether Susan is in la casa en la sala in normal conversation. I like to try to speak some of the local language though because it is the polite thing to do. And generally people are pretty patient with me. I went to one place and requested a ticket and the person rattled off something that sounded vaguely like ‘today is free’ and ended with adelante. Since I was expecting something more along the lines of ‘that will be 5 euros, please’ I was a bit stumped. Even English is hard for me to process at times, and as I stood there trying to determine what was said, the man asked, “English?” and I nodded. At which point, he explained that the site was free due to a neighborhood day. I felt kind of embarrassed by my desperate deficiency in real communication. I might have arrived at the right conclusion without translation, but the guy would probably had to leave for the day at some point.

We stayed in an apartment in an area on the outskirts of Barcelona – I think it might have been called the Gracia area. We arrived using the metro from the airport (side note – I really appreciated the Barcelona metro – wish DC’s could be more like this). Following the instructions to the apartment, we left the metro entrance and were faced with the steepest road I’ve seen in a while. Not quite straight up, but a challenge when you’re lugging rolling suitcases! The apartment was quite nice though and we had some conversation with the lady that was helping out the owners. She was from Venezuela originally.

In Barcelona, the first Sunday of the month is often free for certain museums and other attractions. We went to the Picasso museum, then the museum of world cultures (they were across the street from each other). We went to a market place but that was closed. We had lunch at what was probably a tourist trap, but the food wasn’t horrible. Then we saw the cathedral, which was quite nice.

Monday we were going to take it easy by walking to the seemingly nearby Park Guell, which was originally intended to be a planned community but is now more of a large park with architectural flair from Antoni Gaudi (side note – anyone who appreciates architecture has got to go to Barcelona). It was actually a nice walk, but the steepness factor increased the difficulty and at one point we weren’t even sure we were headed in the correct direction. All was well, though, and we got our tickets for the monumental area and headed into the park. We saw the house that Gaudi lived in for a while, and it seemed he was quite pious – he had a separate prayer room.

We also saw some performers in the park – one was a flamenco group and was a wonder to behold. Another was an instrumental group that played beautifully. And then the monumental zone there was all the ostentation Gaudi is famous for – including a large lizard fountain and another, tamer, dog head fountain. We had lunch at a fantastic place a short walk from the park.

Tuesday was the day for the Sagrada Familia – Gaudi’s masterwork. I was expecting something almost hideous from some of the things I’d read, but it is beautiful and fantastic and also has a somewhat Seuss-like quality to it. It is still under construction but they hope to finish by 2026 – only 144 years since it was started from what I read. There are two main entrances, representing the creation and the passion. The passion was done by a different sculptor but still fits in with the building. Inside is phenomenally beautiful – the stained glass windows are blues and greens on one side and oranges/reds/yellows on the other side. Gaudi intended the space to be bathed in coolness in the morning and appear to be lit with fire in the afternoons – beautifully accomplished.

I probably should have done this ‘report’ much closer to my return, but I had brought back a souvenir virus. Anyway, on another day I went up to the park area in MontJuic and saw the Miro museum. I’m not a big fan of Miro and this did not change it. I also went to the National Museum of Catalan Art which was wonderful – probably my second favorite place in the city. Other places we saw included the Boqueria marketplace (so much wonderful food!) and the art nouveau hospital Sant Pau. We saw the Casa de Amatller, another architectural wonder that just happened to belong to a chocolatier, so they had a chocolate store and café as well. Very good chocolate!

I’m sure there are things that I’ve forgotten, and many things I missed, but I will remember it was a beautiful city. So much left to discover there, particularly if I can hone my language skills.

 

Posted by: mvhuff | September 10, 2016

Body Shaming/Body Image

Some time ago I helped give a lesson in children’s church. There being none of the usual props around I decided to illustrate using a marker on whiteboard. So there I was, drawing a walled city (or a castle?) which was easy because it’s basically a flat square (these kids weren’t getting a lesson on artistic perspective drawing). And then a wagon, also relatively easy due to squareness and the roundness of the wheels.

Then it came time for the people. The people were mostly round heads because I was trying to teach some kind of lesson while drawing and because drawing is not one of my gifts. When I say mostly round heads, I only mean that the heads were roundish – and that was all – these people pretty much had only heads. This led to an array of questions such as how did they move (obviously, they just rolled everywhere) and how did they stop (they stuck their tongues out to use as brakes).

There was a lesson in there somewhere about listening to God, but I am not completely certain how much the kids got that. I have not helped out in children’s church since, but I’m pretty sure that’s just a coincidence.

This, and many other instances of my drawing skills, has led me to believe that if I had created the world, we’d all be stick figures. Every last one of us. Probably all with the same color. I’m not sure there would be many differences – unless, of course, I didn’t use the cosmic equivalent of a copy machine – then there would be variations among them because one straight line is never like another in my drawing book – to say nothing of circles and other more complicated geometrical shapes.

I wonder, though, if even in the dullness of this very minor variation of body types, we’d still find things to criticize, shame, and ostracize. Most of us have experience body shaming in one form or another, and I wonder why that is. Does it help the shamer to feel better about their body (or their self)?

Part of the reason it may be so effective is that we cannot escape our bodies. As much as people talk about inner beauty (which is real) and the importance of who you are deep down in your soul, who you are right up there on the surface is an inescapable part of your identity. It is, for all the platitudes about beauty being only skin deep and discussions of the importance of personality, part of who you are. Your identity encompasses not only your insides but much of your outsides.

Which is why body shaming can hurt so much – it isn’t like saying that someone has poor taste in clothes or looks bad in neon green. These things can be changed if desired (or not if you actually like those clothes or that green). What you wear or the makeup you do or do not put on is an expression of who you are, but those expressions can change and be modified – they are not who you ARE.

But your body is different. Yes, there are some changes you can make to your body –from piercings to tattoos to weight loss or gain to plastic surgery. You can make changes, but they are not as easy as tossing away a frumpy shirt. They go with you wherever.

Not only does body shaming go to core identity issues, it tends to circumvent logic as well. Once a young relative told me that I was the fattest person in the world. This was not remotely true at even my heaviest, but man that hurt – the pain wasn’t any less because of the ludicrous nature of the statement. Even things said in love, like I love to hug you because you’re fluffy, can hurt.

And once the hurt sets in, it can start to modify your personality. So you are your body shame – and you feel ugly and worthless and unlovable. And you are easily annoyed at people who have other body issues but not the ones you deal with – like people who might have been shamed over being skinny or relatively skinny people that fret about gaining a few pounds.

If you are lucky enough to mature, you can start to realize that your body is part of who you are but you do not have to be ashamed of it. You can take care of it without wishing it were gone and be happy in your own skin.

I am still on this journey, and I wish I could say that not only am I mature enough not to be hurt about what others may say about my body (like, why are they even bothering to mention it anyway?) but that also I don’t shame anyone. So far, what I have managed is to keep the thoughts to myself. They sometimes come unbidden but they can remain unsaid.

Because I don’t have the perfect body and I know that I didn’t get to my heaviest on purpose or by a one-time binge of calories, and I know that I didn’t get to where I am by simply deciding to reverse my eating and exercise behavior. I’m where I am because I had acceptance, help, and love. The least I can do is not be a hindrance to anyone else regardless of where they are in the body journey. The most I can do is to accept and love.

Every body is different – and everybody is different. We are at different places but we, whoever we may be, are beautiful and our identities, our selves, are of more worth than we realize.

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