A Triple Crown, Trifecta, Trinity of philosophical Musings on an “Eye for an Eye”

Three interweaving themes appeared in the inbox of my brain this morning:

  1. An “Eye for an Eye” reinterpreted;
  2. Differences in Perception – There are always two or more ways of seeing; and
  3. Is a writhing Division in thought all that new?

First, let me clarify that I am a Christian but with a deep, scholarly appreciation for Judaism, which I consider my spiritual foundation.  We come from common terra and are cut from the same cloth, in my view.  Our literature, the Torah (Old Testament) and Bible are invaluable foundational tools for forming what we believe and how we live.  But, our thoughts must go beyond a literal interpretation of these foundational tools. Thinking for yourself is at least part of the reason for the Reformation?

As to “an eye for an eye,” found in Leviticus 24, from the Torah and biblical Old Testament, interpreted literally and at face value, is defined as the law of retaliation or compensatory damages (intended in the strictest sense, to serve as a benchmark for judges of the law to pass sentence on criminal behavior). Talk about taking the law into your own hands, vigilante justice, and judge/jury/executioner culture, this Scripture, taken literally, takes the cake.  One cannot pass nary a crime drama without some “crim” or victim quoting “an eye for an eye” to defend his/her going after the “perp” whom he/she thinks did them wrong.

In the Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye, in response to the ordinary Joe’s literal understanding of an “eye for an eye,” says quite astutely: “Very good.  That way the whole world will be blind and toothless.”  My own interpretation of a literal use of the phrase results in “a culture of victims, all maimed by the overwhelming need to be right!”

Jesus, a humble Hebrew scholar (& much more) interpreted Leviticus 24 in Matthew 5.  It’s the turn the other cheek Scripture.  Billye Brim (Goggle her if you want), who studied Hebrew language and the deeper meanings of literal Scripture references, concluded that “an eye for an eye,” really means something more like Jesus’ turn the other cheek (if you’ve lost an eye, I’ll give you mine so that you will be whole) than the usual and popular, if you took my eye, I’m justified in taking yours – making us even, (but neither of you whole).  Which one sounds more like Jesus?

Sticking to the text on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 10 throws up a funny little paradox (of which He was well-known) in His statement that He did not come to bring peace but division (a sword).  Okay that’s weird.  My mind goes directly from this paradox to the Tower of Babel from Genesis 11.  Then, as the circle completes itself – I mused from the Divinely instituted linguistic confusion of Babel to the unity Divinely created in the form of the linguistic miracle in Acts 2 – where all the disciples spoke in different languages (colloquially called tongues), yet ALL UNDERSTOOD what was said in their own language, even though the uniting factor was an unknown language.

If you LOOK FOR COMMON GROUND, I say  – you will FIND COMMON GROUND.

“He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” (John 8:7) – If any one of you who reads this is uninformed at the horrendous act of stoning, I encourage you to find and watch the 2008 film, The Stoning of Soraya M. and open your heart.

 

A Good Person

It sounds like a line Charles Schultz might have put into the mouth of one of his characters, “You’re a good man, Charlie Brown.”  I know I’ve heard it out of the mouth of many a female cinema or television character – why female, I wonder – usually uttered through genuine tears, to describe a wayward, in trouble man in her life, sniff, sniff, “but he’s a good man,” by way of his defense.

What is, who is a good person?

If you’re not a good person, what/who are you?  A bad one?  An inferior, sinful, immoral, or wrong person?

Apparently if one notices the use of the phrase colloquially, one needs to be “good” in one instance or role, to fit the bill for being a good person.  For instance, in a television drama after a dirty police officer cold-bloodily, killed a man, his wife cried, “He’s a good man, a good father.”  It seems that good men in cinema are often if not usually starkly bad in some major form, but are redeemed by their fatherhood.  “He’s a good father.”

Do you think it has to do with getting into heaven?  One must be a good person for such an entrance?

I’m not so sure, theologically, on that point.  It so happens that the man identified as, the thief, who hung on the tree next to Jesus, was by definition not a good man, but  having acknowledged Him as the Savior, Jesus gave him entrance into paradise, promising to see him a few days hence.  So, this, along with so-called “death-bed salvation,” the good man theory doesn’t really stand as the ticket to heaven.

It seems like everyone is a good person to somebody.  In the eye of the beholder, we’re redeemed into the category by someone who sees something good in us.

Is it a universal aspiration to be good?  Does everybody try to be good?  Do some people, equally try to be bad?  They say there is no such thing as bad publicity, in this celebrity-driven culture of ours.  Some bad boys get the girl.  There is, after all, the bad-ass that some people look up to.  There is no commensurate good-ass, is there?

By way of congratulations, or kudos, I’ve heard, “good man,” often accompanied by a slap on the back.  And, haven’t you heard it said to a bachelor or wayward single fella, “you need a good woman” to get him sorted?

The good-person moniker is usually said in the context of some sort of criminal mischief, even posthumously, although I’ve never seen it in an obituary.  Most of us assume, what with “human nature” and all, that we’re peccable (sinful or fallible) even though most of us make an effort to be decent human beings, most of the time.

It occurs to me that maybe the good person tag comes from the humanity is basically good, but flawed (Hitler, Stalin, bin Laden, being more fallacious than others), theory -.  Oh, goodness, this begs a brief theological sidebar; which I usually avoid, preferring peace over debate.

“Christians” think, given the Adam & Eve story of Eve’s complicity with the serpent-devil in original sin, our archetypal ancestors changed the garden of paradise into a world infused with sin, pain, and evil.  Therefore, the overarching psyche in predominantly Christian societies is, if we try to be good people, we can redeem humanity from original sin and its consequences.

In another perspective, “Humanists” think, not theologically, but ethically motivated, humanity has the inherent ability to live compassionately and focused on the greater good.  Thus, we are assumed to be indigeniously good people.

So, no matter one’s belief system, it’s a human aspiration to be known as, a good person.  So it seems, this is a reachable goal in that everybody has at least somebody who thinks we’re one of the good ones!

 

 

Heralding one of the “Joys” of Aging

Let me start off with the caveat that I don’t generally mind nor complain about aging.  I’m reasonably content with my age of sixty-something.  I’ve learned some things, let some go, and I’m satisfied with who I’ve become, most days.  Oh, and I’m in generally good health, for which I’m grateful.

Here’s the problem, along with aging come, let me call them, aging syndromes that don’t so widely appear in younger populations and hadn’t appeared in me until the onset of my sixties, almost like clock-work.  What’s that all about?  In fact, when on occasion I’ve “Googled” said mild maladies, the only named cause – probably more accurately, correlation, is aging.  Something is mentioned in passing, like, “this has no known cause, but has been shown to occur significantly more frequently in those aged 60 and above, and is perhaps a ‘normal’ part of aging.”

Recently, it’s BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo), in my right ear.  It started suddenly and ferociously in the early hours of a Friday morning at the end of October.  I got out of bed and the room took off at jet speed but my feet and body did not correspond.  I sat down and the spinning continued, nausea nearly overtook me and I, Dorothy’s conjoined twin, abruptly leaving Kansas for Oz, was so disoriented that my husband insisted we go to the Emergency Department, which is not exactly Oz, if you get my drift.

Like a truly aged person, I made it only on his arm and with baby-steps or shuffling, to the car and through a torturous five-minute drive, with me not moving forward with the momentum of the vehicle but hovering above it doing circles like “crazy Ivan’s,” we arrived at the hospital.  With a description of dizziness, they took me right to a bed, where invited to lay down, I gingerly sat.  I felt certain I would lose consciousness if forced into a prone position, not the lack of control I wished to hazard.

The first nurse grumbled at me for not relaxing my arm for her to get IV fluids started.  How do you relax your body when your head is irrationally hyperactive , on jet fuel and I don’t mean strong coffee!?  Ditto for the much better at bedside manner lab tech, trying to coax blood from my stiff, guarded, and reneging veins.  After a CAT scan, X-rays, EKG, and lab work all came back negative, I was thankful I wasn’t dying or engulfed in a serious health train-wreck.  But, I still felt like I was on a runaway train going way too fast on the Horseshoe Curve in Altoona.

The only thing left diagnostically was vertigo, and I left the Emergency Department with a Meclizine RX for motion sickness, and a Scopolamine patch on the back of my right ear, for nausea.  The emergency room Hospitalist said we could do a maneuver where they would lay me down and quickly back up, to treat the vertigo, but feeling so sick, I sort of refused to lay down.

I made a follow-up appointment for a couple of weeks hence with an Ear/Nose/Throat specialist after only one fall in the bathroom and a few days of little improvement in my balance, nausea, and spinning sensations, especially when laying flat on my back or on my right side (my favorite getting ready to sleep side).  The ENT (ear/nose/throat) intake nurse was relieved to hear that I had finished taking the Meclizine Rx and stopped using  the useless Scopolamine patches as well as over-the-counter Bonine.  She called them band-aids, not treatment, as well as giving little credence to the usefulness of the Emergency Department labs and clinical tests – not in general as they ruled out stroke, heart anomalies, etc., -but  as to the diagnosis of BPPV.

The individual words in the BPPV diagnosis are definitive in understanding the condition.  Benign, simply means, you’re not going to die from this pain in the bum inner-ear disorder (I use this word quite deliberately because BPPV makes you feel very out of sync with reality and out of order.).

Paroxysmal, means that it has a sudden onset and lasts briefly, usually seconds.  In fact, the ENT doc, in diagnosing BPPV in my right ear, asked me to lay on my back with my chin wrenched toward the right corner of the floor, and when my instinctual reaction to the severe vertigo that ensued was to tightly close my eyes and hold my head “steady,” she said to leave my eyes open and tolerate what would be about 20 seconds of extreme discomfort so that she could watch my eyes dart in cartoony and unreasonable motion.  No such thing when I looked to the left, in that same distorted position.  Thus the right ear being the culprit of errant particles rattling around  in my inner-ear, out of place and not where they belong, like stray socks, car keys, and drink cups strewn about the house, not where they belong.

Residual episodes have been much less distressing as I’ve learned they are paroxysmal or extremely temporary.  Peace of mind goes a long way in many of these aging-syndromes“It came to pass.”

Positional, provides a hint of a cause of the disorder.  The inner-ear is the place.  The triggers for the vertigo are certain positions or movements.  For me, laying on my right side is a trigger.  Bummer, since that is habitually my favorite position for getting ready to sleep, to actually fall asleep on my back.  In fact, when I was heavily pregnant, it was recommended that I sleep on my left side; what a challenge.  Who knew I would find myself these many years later, facing the same challenge, with BPPV.

Another trigger is prolonged looking up, such as searching for something on a top shelf and not finding it immediately.  Or, I found looking up to be a trigger the first time, when I started cleaning the bathroom ceiling.  Whoa baby, that was a trip.  Hubby had to finish the job – reminds me of the story of a person describing to their doctor, “it hurts when I do this…,” and the doctor says, “then don’t do that.” No more cleaning ceilings for me, tee hee.  It’s the BPPV!

So, living with the threat of BPPV symptoms is about putting those mischievous crystals back into place so they can no longer lie to you about your movements.  But, as most offenders are, these little buggers can be cantankerous.  My crystals seem to want to jump off-sides at the least provocation, or  is it me that’s stubbornly refusing to embrace the joys of an aging, new normal.

Pregnestation & Self-Control

I’m writing this on the anniversary of my beautiful daughter’s birth, colloquially called her birthday, but also it was the awaited conclusion of my own pregnestation.  I coined this term through ardent study of the birth year, for my master’s degree, all those years ago.  I’m not sure it ever caught on in the literature – of course, I always thought it should.

I’m reminded of the cultural, social, or psychological (I don’t know which discipline explains it best) truism that most moms feel that those first baby gifts (some of the clothes, toys, books & accoutrements) are theirs, not their child’s.  Am I right?  That stuffed lamb, Dior onesie, zoo animal soft-as-butter diaper cover, stuffed lion rattle, miniature huarache shoes, “Who’s Your Daddy?” book, etc.  These are part of mom’s memory arsenal; part of her pregnestation, and of course equally a part of the life of that one whom we celebrate today.  Happy Birthday Eleni Miranda LeVan-Miller.

If anyone ever prepared more for the conception and pregnestation (pregnancy {mine} + gestation {hers}, with NEST in the middle – the experiences of both fetus and mother, combined), of a child and mother, I’d like to hear about her.  I don’t believe it’s a typical process for a mother-to-be, first time, at that, to study the pregnancy and birth year, academically, at the master’s level.  I studied hundreds of articles on midwifery, maternal/infant nutrition, prenatal psychology, & the physiology of pregnancy and birth in journals, books, & official documents related to the birth year and conducted interviews, most important to me, the one with my own mother.

My birth experience a short while after all the academic study, was a struggle between satisfaction with what I knew, and control over what I had no control over; a battle between holding on and letting go.  I’m reminded of the fruit of the Spirit: self control (Galatians 5:23), when I reminisce about our birth process.

I exercised every ounce of the self-control within me, like an Olympian.  I labored at home, and up and down our quiet street for over 24 hours with one or both of our midwives, my husband and sometimes my mother-in-law, with me.  They could testify that I only moaned gently on occasion and stood, swayed, and walked for miles throughout that very long day & rarely stopped to rest.  Even the police officer that happened by while we walked the pre-dawn neighborhood carrying a wine glass with grape juice inside it, to sustain me, fled pretty quickly (lol) with the confidence that I had everything under control.

I held on, fighting the good fight of self-control until it was clear as the light of day that our birth plan had to change and off to the hospital we fled.  With my husband’s help we ambulated to a hospital bed.  Soon I was aware that I had been hooked up to monitors, IVs, and among the beeping and commotion my midwife, Betty whispered to me that I should “let go now(tear drops hit the paper I’m writing on).

I had been controlling my breathing for more than a day and it was time to stop controlling this process and let it be; to let others take over for me.  Dr. Vanderslice, our friend from the college, and his team had arrived and it was determined, with preeclampsia now evident, that a C-section was in order.

It was no easy task, Herculean in fact, to make the sudden transition from an all natural, physiological, and well-planned birth plan to a spontaneously high-tech birth process.  Nor was it easy to see that the gift of self-control involves the exercise of grace or letting go of one’s will as mightily as it involves the fight to utilize our will to conquer our willy-nilly desires.

Selah, pause and think about that.

Eleni, we did it together; and what an outcome!:)

AFTER you’ve had a “minute to be in it”…

I’ve made an observation that one can capitalize on encouragement, positive thoughts and forward thinking only AFTER you’ve passed through that moment of discouragement, sadness, negativity or even despair.

Truly and honestly we seem to need that time to feel the pain of whatever it is that has us down.  We maybe even need to feel sorry for ourselves for a minute in order for the upswing to take place.

It might even be a misplaced gesture to attempt to “cheer someone up” when they are IN “that place.”  They don’t want or need frivolity, humor or even contact, but understanding from a distance, and a moment to wallow.

When you see them showing signs of coming out from behind the cloud*, then it’s time to encourage, insert some humor, care for them and lift their spirits with positivity.

But, only “AFTER they’ve had a minute to be in it.”

*SEE THE HOLE IN THE OTHERWISE DARK CLOUDS – That’s your opportunity!

Author’s note:  Please note that my thoughts for this post focus on a brief time (probably circumstance-related & temporary) of sadness, discouragement or the blues, NOT on any protracted pattern of depression.  As friends, we are obligated to guide people we know toward professional help if they are depressed for any length of time beyond a “moment.”

Facebook & Depression – A Cultural Observation

Facebook escapism –

Perfect people are found only on Facebook, that alternate Stepford universe where only happiness, success, and beauty exist.  The whole of reality is hidden from the glow that is Facebook.

In the pate of celebrity suicides in the last couple of weeks (Kate Spade & Anthony Bourdain) as well as returning soldier suicides running rampant, and suicides of young people escalating, one ensconced in a Facebook world wonders why.

Why are these people so overwhelmingly depressed that they would take their own lives when everybody seems so happy, together, and living life to the fullest, on Facebook?

Does the Facebook fantasy, like a virtual Stepford Village in a 24/7 365 day life on a movie set, make our culture think Facebook is the norm and “my” life is useless, ugly, unnecessary, below average, dull, depressing, and wrong, in comparison?

Oh, mon cherie?  We need a cultural and social reality check!

Facebook might as well be a collective, media broadcast, dating site where most people post only their best self images and dressed up moments.  The few who post the “other” stuff, contrary or ugly or real stuff, are routinely unfollowed or at least unliked.  Who wants to be unliked, on purpose?

So, to be liked, we hold back reality to deal with behind closed doors just like we did with sex, drugs/alcohol, and mental illness in the “olden days.”  Are the “olden days” so long ago after all, Facebook?

Inside a mind with attractive pictures on the walls – Home

“How essential it is…to be able to live inside a mind with attractive and interesting pictures on the walls.” William Lyon Phelps

Home, is not so much a concrete place built of brick and mortar, as a state of mind; a comfortable, safe place; filled with diverse contributions of this thought, that idea, a thing – or a zillion things, and people who’ve deposited bits of matter into the place.

Home is a tapestry that tells a coherent story on the front, but underneath is a rather ratty, gnarly jumble of multi-colored threads that couldn’t possibly produce such a purposeful design, could they?

Home is where you are.  When I taught college-level  Marriage and Family classes, I based all underlying theory of the family on where we are now; not where we were or where we might be, but where we are and where might we go from here. (Random thought – Sex researchers, Masters and Johnson’s theory of human sexuality was based on the responses of prostitutes; how’s that for a biased sample?  I say this because home and one’s state of mind is really about being real, genuine, flawed, and a variation of normal – not some ideal, fake, dating site model of citizenry – and moving on from here.)

Home is where you dwella state of mind?  Yes.  Furnishings, stuff, are just reminders, cues, tokens of a life lived; things that assist with memories that remind us of experiences, along with the feelings those experiences stimulated – all of which are the substance of happiness.

Why do we want to stay home, or come home?  Is it because that’s where the things are that define us, that remind us of who we are; and reassure us that all is well?

This might be why there is such a lot of emotion bound up in the buying and selling of homes.  Perhaps home is the seat of memories and the place where we reconcile our past and plan our future, while living in the present.  More than anything, I want there to be “attractive and interesting pictures on the walls” of mine🙂.