Victoria S. Hardy

Victoria S. Hardy

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Could Someone Move All These Boxes?

I have trouble defining my religious state, even the word religion makes me cringe just a bit, not because I don’t believe, but because I feel hemmed into a small box with the limits of words these days. And it’s not just words that sometimes feel confining, it’s the growing silence of independent thought. I see the talking points made, echoing the television or the latest gurus, I see the newest approved facts carried like a club of truth, and it appears we have all forgotten there is little truth down here.

Sometimes I want to regret being born again, because it was truly like waking a up a stranger in a strange land, all the things I’d not noticed before, were suddenly glaringly obvious. My experience of re-birth will please none of the box-thought people, my experience was real for me and therefore the proof that is needed to fit into a tidy container that pleases others simply does not exist, but that in no way takes from the truth.

We seem to have a battle of ideas these days, which idea is better than the other, which idea contains truth and which contains lies, but again, we have forgotten there is little truth down here. What there is, that is readily available to each of us, is a path of discovery. This journey is no easy undertaking, though, ripe with challenge, obstacles and fear and it seems as time progresses, fewer are seeking.

I believe we know truth when we hear it and I believe it is scattered all around us, we just have to see it. Sometimes when we are listening to a speaker we will hear a ring of truth and instead of following this speaker as a new guru and buying their products, we should take the nugget for what it is and continue down our own path, adding that solid piece to our collection. There is a reason we are called sheep, we are certainly herd animals, feeling safer as we follow the pack, but if the path is narrow, we must break from the pack.

Long have I lamented the way we are being pressed into one accepted package, our focus has shifted from the inside to the outside, no longer are we comfortable in our silence, simply experiencing our thoughts. Hell, according to many experts, it’s our thoughts that are the problem and we simply accept that as fact and try to align our inner world as much as we do our outer existence. And unfortunately many don’t see the manipulation.

We keep hearing how we are all one, like a single cell, but I believe we are meant to be individuals, different from the other, not just another herd of sheep in a cycle of humanity. I am not saying that we shouldn’t show compassion and empathy to our follow man, I am saying we don’t have to be just like him to express those things.

Back to religion, the word that causes so much angst in our society, the basket overflowing with our accusations of the harm it has caused. The dictionary defines religion as –

a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.

b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.

2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.

3. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.

4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.

Reading the definition it hardly seems threatening, but perhaps when we attempt to organize such basic concepts and emotions do we run into trouble. If I say I had a personal and unexpected encounter with Jesus, that puts a mental image in the mind, suddenly some reading have either gained or lost respect for me. Suddenly I become the woman in an ugly dress, swaying to in fro in a church, my arms raised above my head with a look of induced serenity on my face. Or I am standing on the street corner pounding my bible and judging all that cross my path. To some, if I say I know Jesus, I either become a threat or an idiot. The box is growing smaller.

When I say the holy spirit came to me, both surprising and terrifying me, again the mental image emerges and the balance of respect shifts. When I state that although I knew Jesus had touched me, I had no desire to attend a church, find a religious leader or settle down to read the bible straight through, I have created yet another image in the mind of the reader. When I state I didn’t just fall in line and do what is typically done, some will believe I turned my back on the call.

Of course, none of these assumptions are truth, they are just a testimony to how we like to stay in the lines. Not only do we like to stay in the lines, we feel safer if everyone else stays in the lines. It’s a sure case of “if you’re not with me, you are against me”. We are threatened by the sheep that wander off to explore on their own, we are threatened when our box of knowledge of the way it is supposed to be is challenged.

I do not believe faith can be managed, controlled or directed by outside parties and I believe by falling into the lines and boxes we are only harming ourselves. I also do not believe that the faithful, humble individual is the cause of any horrors, only those that seek to herd and profit from their beliefs are the perpetrators of violence and deceit.

So here I state, I believe that Christ’s teachings were truth, although easily disguised and hidden, and as I state this I recognize that there is not a handy box for me and all sides of the issue will find something wrong in my way of being and label me accordingly. For myself, I believe the path to what I am seeking is narrow, with no room for cliques, organizations or committees to clear the way before me. I do not believe that I should put another human in charge of my spiritual development and I believe as we grow closer to that which we seek, we will find more and more boxes left discarded along the trail.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

On Abortion and Finding Ourselves Pregnant

With the murder of Dr. Tiller a couple weeks ago, abortion is once again a hot topic and the different sides are angrier than ever. Reading the forums the divisions are clear, we are turning on each other once again. We’ve been led like sheep into our 15+ minute hate session and we stand divided and angry. We feel compelled to state our thoughts, to provide our opinions and for some of us, to weep for the state of affairs in our world.

I, for one, am not a fan of abortion and I speak from only my experiences with being young and sexually active in the early 80s. The kids I ran with in those days were smart, well read, curious and sexually active since their early teens. In my three years in high school I supported the aftermath of three abortions, I was the friend that listened and the shoulder to cry on; I heard, in detail, about the regrets, guilt and nightmares.

When I found myself pregnant at 17 (funny phrase, huh? “found myself pregnant” – I was sexually active and rarely used birth control, it was really only a matter of time) I was encouraged, almost bullied, into getting an abortion by both my peers and the authority figures in my life. To say I was pressured would be an understatement, but I knew instinctually that what was growing in me, was not me. It wasn’t a group of cells, like a cancer, it was life and I could feel it, in times when I was relaxed and quiet, as a small warmth, pulsing softly.

My dad was an odd and frightening man, quick to temper and unpredictable. He carried a gun everywhere he went, even sleeping with one under his pillow and he was no stranger to pulling it out to express his opinion. My first concussions came from my father’s hand, so I knew that confronting him with my pregnancy could potentially be life threatening, but I also knew no one was going to make me do what I considered to be murder. My father, strangely enough, accepted my decision without arguments, chaos or trauma, but he made it clear I would be married in a week, as an illegitimate child was unacceptable.

The marriage was, of course, doomed to failure, we were both too young and immature, but my son was a gift that I will always be grateful to have received. To say life as a single mother was easy would be a lie, it wasn’t easy, it was hard, challenging and exhausting. To say it was a mistake would also be a lie, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Having a child takes you outside of yourself; it’s no longer just about you. Suddenly, you must sacrifice, you must consider another person at every turn. I am a better person for having experienced it.

As I read the debates about abortion my mind returns again and again to that group of girls I was a part of in my youth and the lackadaisical way we viewed sex. As I read the well thought out discussions on the merits of abortion and how it is rarely used as a birth control method, my mind returns to those girls and others I have known throughout the years. For the girls I knew, abortion was a birth control method. With very few exceptions, most of the women I was acquainted with through my teens and twenties didn’t have just one abortion, but several.

I used to wonder to myself how they could make the mistake again and again, wasn’t the emotional toll from just one enough? I noticed, though, that as my friends grew into women, a hardness grew in them, the tears over their actions from their youth had grown into a solid wall of cynicism and abortion just became a weekend spent in bed.

When my son was young and I was working hard to keep a roof over our heads, I wondered if I would choose abortion if I found myself pregnant again. I understood the challenge of being a single parent, though, and I practiced birth control, protecting myself from having to make such an, in my view, unacceptable choice. I understand abortion is a necessary evil, but to say it is not used as a birth control method is simply untrue.

I think that one aspect that gets overlooked in the abortion discussions is the emotional toll a woman undergoes; I’ve seen the tears, the drinking binges, and the self-hatred women experience. I’ve heard the nightmares and regrets, yet this aspect of emotionality is often not mentioned. We are in control of our reproductive choices, yet, we are still women, emotional and nurturing and an abortion often alters us in a very real way that can’t be seen from the outside, but only felt inside.

We believe that we can alter biology with no repercussions, but it is my opinion that life doesn’t work that way. I believe all actions have equal and opposite reactions or what we put out into the world will come back to us in some fashion. The young girls I knew, 15, 16 and 17 years old had no concept of the suffering they would endure due to what is sold as a simple medical procedure. The grown women, now hardened and bitter, perhaps don’t see the correlation, but I do.

What often gets lost is that abortion is a business like any other, and to stay in business, a business must have customers. A wise woman, Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt, author of the book, The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America, once said that the purpose of subjects like sex education or drug education taught in our schools are not what they seem to be. She has claimed, after years of working in the Department of Education, that programs such as decision-making or critical thinking are simply brain washing techniques used to promote behavioral and attitudinal changes. “And basically the purpose of them is to do exactly opposite of what they say they are meant to do.”

We girls, back in the day, knew how to prevent a pregnancy, but we also knew the local Planned Parenthood was just a couple miles away and for middle class kids, the money came easy to us. Of course, Planned Parenthood was just as close for procuring birth control, but that was something we never did, we gambled, we took chances and we joked about it. We had taken our sexual education classes and we knew no matter what happened, we had a convenient way out.

In discussions of abortion it seems there are only two sides and both sides are angry. I understand many aspects of both sides of the debate and I know there are cases in which it would be untenable to carry a pregnancy, such as in rape, abuse, disease or incest, but let’s face it, those cases aren’t keeping the abortion clinics busy. We women say it’s our body and we will do with it as we see fit, we are empowered by our reproductive choices, but if we were truly empowered I don’t think we’d find ourselves on an abortion table. If we were truly empowered we wouldn’t be gambling with our health and our future in such a manner that we would need abortive services.

The issue of abortion goes far deeper than the right to have one and perhaps that is the reason the discussion grows so hostile. In focusing on abortion, we are distracted from the bigger picture, like why in this day and age, with all we have at our disposable, the technologies, the access to information, the medical breakthroughs, we still are “finding ourselves pregnant”.