Carefully Taught

There is a family I want to highlight because the little girl is already so compassionate and non-judgmental that she will certainly grow into an amazing adult and probably do remarkable things.  I doubt she would ever point and ask What’s wrong with that man? or turn away from a disfigured face or hate people simply because they’re different.  She is learning to see the heart of an individual and to love without regard to appearance.

There is so much hate, violence, and dehumanization burning in this world.  You can say it’s culture and history and poverty and huge and a juggernaut and institutionalized and irreparable and unstoppable.  But a child must be carefully taught.*  What if they weren’t?  What if a generation said, Enough!  Most of the atrocities committed by humanity are done by individuals following someone else.  Why can we not raise sons and daughters to stop following horrible people? Maybe it’s too complicated or too far outside my experience to understand, but I follow a man who lived in one of these historically “troubled” lands.  He has been described like this:

A radical, non-violent, revolutionary who hung around with lepers, hookers, and crooks; wasn’t American and never spoke English; was anti-wealth, anti-death penalty, anti-public prayer; but was never anti-gay, never mentioned abortion or birth control, never called the poor lazy, never justified torture, never fought for tax cuts for the wealthiest Nazarenes, never asked a leper for a copay; and was a long-haired, brown-skinned, homeless, community-organizing anti-slut-shaming middle eastern Jew    (~John Fugelsang)

Maybe it’s a stretch from a little girl who kisses her faceless cat (yes, Chase is hard to look at the first time, but she’s not in pain and has lived 9 years like this with her wonderful family) to the man Jesus to an outbreak of peace in humanity.  But change will never begin with those who already have the power.  There must be a better way than passing it from those who had the most guns to those who have the biggest rockets.  Society must change; that change can only begin with the character of the individual members of it.  Every one of us.


*You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught from year to year,
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

We’ve made some progress since Rodgers&Hammerstein penned this in 1949, but not nearly enough.  I’m afraid it’s as true and as sad as ever, even with a catchy tune.

More Stories From the 19th Century

Recently I wrote about the warm-fuzzy quaintness of it all, sun-dried linens and doctors’ house calls.  But there are two sides to every coin.

This first story is laughable only because it ends well (and didn’t happen to me), being a scenario of such jaw-dropping conceit as to leave one bug-eyed and gaping.  It took seven years of semi-annual pilgrimages to a Florentine criminal court, criminal not civil, to resolve the matter, but in the end wisdom and reason won out.  My friend was acquitted of the felony.  Huzzah!  He is not in danger of losing his job, as he could have been.  Sounds quite serious, no?  To begin with, my friend did not do the thing of which he was accused.  Although no one in the civilized world would have blamed him.  If you were riding your bike in a reasonable manner and were struck by an automobile, mightn’t you disparage the driver, his character, and possibly his ancestry?  Fortunately, the complaint included direct quotes in the local ~and antiquated~ dialect, which my English friend would not have had the personal wherewithal to utter in the most composed of circumstances.  Dear Reader, do not suppose my mind is wandering.  I did say felony, yes?  Yes.  To insult a man’s honor is a felony in Italy.  Full stop. <reflect on this for a moment>

The second story is tragic.  It is also quite disturbing because it begins with the most common and joyful scenario in the world:  birth.  A friend, an Italian, younger than we, smart and modern, was married a few years ago.  They were expecting their first child, first two in fact.  They would have twins.  The babies were delivered by caesarian section, not an unusual procedure.  I entered the world in the same fashion over forty years ago with a mother nearly forty years old herself.  But this was in an Italian hospital, in the north even.  One month later, our friend’s young wife and new mother died from septicemia resulting from the operation.

It’s such a shock that I have no words.  Except to honor her life and his loss, to anyone who believes that living here is a gelato-filled dream, I tell you everyone has troubles, but it’s a real kick in the teeth if you believe we’re beyond those of the Victorian Age.

Strength & Beauty

We are complex creatures of spirit, mind, and body.  To neglect any part is to impoverish the whole.  To ask less than full participation is to miss out on some of the blessings in this life.

What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable. ~ Socrates

ESPN’s Body Issue 2014 is out.  The athletes are tastefully photographed to showcase the beauty and strength of their bodies.  Yes, nekkid.  Probably NSFW.  They are professionals; physical fitness is their stock-in-trade.  Yet, even these, in their days of perfection, are still very different shapes.

His body, that’s what Socrates said.  No one else’s.  I am barely an athlete, and only because I play a team sport for fun.  But even I, 46 – Housewife, want to be good at what I’ve chosen to do.  So I work harder to be stronger, faster, better.  Not more than anyone else is, only more than I was yesterday.  Then, when I experience success, I am in touch with that strength and beauty of which Socrates speaks, my own.

Benefits to Living in the 19th Century

This village where we live is quaint, old-fashioned, not quite of the modern age.  It has progressed dramatically during our time here; at least 3 bars have wifi where there was none 8 years ago.  We have a biological grocery store now.  Months pass where we lose not power, water, nor interwebs.  In the beginning, it was a good week when they all functioned all day every day.

But laundry still happens without a dryer.  The power upgrade required to run one effectively deters most locals from bothering.  Besides, they’ve not had a dryer in the family for 500 years, why start now?  It’s the way we’ve always done it. Not having a dryer doesn’t really bother me.  Time I do have and it’s ecologically more responsible to hang it out in the fresh air and sunshine ~when it’s available; when it’s not? better to have clean clothes hanging about the place than dirty.

However, the oil-fired boiler in the basement of our building which “heats” all the flats is not at all ecological.  It’s also out of our control, burning only between sometime in November and mid-April and from 11 in the morning until 8 at night, not when it’s most needed.  The fingerless gloves I wear, enabling me to write, leave me feeling a bit too much in touch with my inner Dickens.  It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… indeed.

But occasionally the way we’ve always done it  does in fact intersect with the best of times.  The man found himself in need of a doctor on Saturday morning.  I called the one I’ve visited.  No answer, but I’ve sat in that waiting room, listening to the phone ring while the receptionist chatted on her cell.  So we walked over to see.  No, the office was really closed.  Hm.  What now?  It wasn’t so serious as to risk the more dire consequences of being admitted to the hospital, an experience to be avoided at all costs.  I called an Italian friend.  She said doctors are out of the office on weekends.  Ack.  But, I could call the Guardia Medica La Spezia ~not Pronto Soccorso, the emergency squad, more of an urgent care set up.  Local doctors do their shifts, real doctors, she said, not students.  I loathed the thought of driving and, more to the point, parking in the city, but I had no choice.  I called.  The very nice lady listened to my description of the man’s malady and said her colleague would arrive during the morning.  That same morning?  At our house?  Yes, of course.

Doctors in the 19th century made house calls.  They still do in Italy.  Score one for living in the past.

Yes, it's probably been in her family for generations.

Yes, it’s probably been in her family for generations.

What’s For Pudding, Mum?

Today’s post is something light & refreshing, good for body & spirit.  Aspiring toward veganism, with the understanding that I may never give up honey or not need a solid pair of leather boots in the closet come winter, anytime I find something really good to eat that doesn’t make me even a little bit sad is cause for celebration.

I’m just going to throw this out there for you.  It’s not even a recipe:   firm tofu (non-GMO) + cocoa + sweetener of your choice (my choice is stevia) meet stick blender, then chill.  That’s all.  1 block of tofu yields 2 servings of thick, creamy vegan pudding at 100 calories per.  Sub in a favorite extract instead of cocoa for another flavor.  Same deal.

The  [Ease : Joy : Satisfaction] calculation is so high on this one that it’s in my weekly treats rotation.  The next time this mood strikes, I’ll tell you how to make vegan ice cream out of a banana.  Oh, okay, I’ll tell you now.  Cut up a banana.  Freeze it.  Blenderize it.  There you go.  It’s kind of amazing.  Add cocoa or other flavors to the blending and/or mix-ins at the end and it is satisfying enough to skip the sugar, dairy, and fat of that other stuff.  Just eat it before it melts and don’t over-blend.

There you go, 2 awesome happy-list desserts you can make in your sleep.  Enjoy.

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