Writing into the Light…

Finding my way with words…


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Memories of Easter Sundays Gone By

In the northeastern United States we are still awaiting the first leaves on the trees and the trees and bushes to flower.  Planting season is weeks away and the visual and aromatic signs of spring are not yet evident.  This is the time of year this Philadelphia girl turned Mainer relearns the lessons of patience as we sit and wait for nature to come alive again.  One location in which spring is in full bloom is the floral department at the grocery store.

As I went through the door yesterday to pick up the last few items for Easter dinner I was immediately consumed by the smell of lilies.  I always associate the smell of lilies with Easter.  I used to teach a graduate level course for teachers on designing and delivering instruction for brain-based learning.  Scent is the strongest of all senses in producing imprints on the brain leading to retained memory.  Years of Easter memories came flooding back from childhood as I stood next to the heads of lettuce and clementines and was taken away, not by calgon, but rather by the scent of lilies.  I looked next to the lilies at the tulips and other spring flowers.  My eyes followed to a display I don’t remember seeing for years and years…small square boxes containing an orchid corsage.  Wow!!  That sight brought a tsunami of memories!  An orchid corsage, growing up, was always a part of my Easter tradition.

Easter was a benchmark.  It was an annual “graduation” of sorts leading to first perfumes, first lipsticks, first kitten heels.  Easter Sunday required a complete new outfit for church.  There was to be a new suit or dress with a coordinating hat.  If Easter fell too early in the year a coat was required to go with the dress.  Just before the big day a package would arrive from Gimbel Brothers from my Great-Aunt Margaret which would contain everything that went under the dress ~ it was time for new underwear and slips.  I got my first pair of stockings for Easter Sunday which meant Aunt Margaret would have to throw a garter belt in that box with the undies.

Shoes were always an issue since Mom was a stickler for fashion rules.  I knew these would be my only dress shoes for quite a while.  Some years I wanted white patent leather rather than the usual black… but Easter was before Memorial Day… a no-no.  The purse would match the shoes and the hat was always a struggle.  I’ve never liked hats, they squashed and messed up my hair forcing me to either leave it on all day or take it off and look like squirrels had been nesting on my head… yet, a lady always wears a hat to church.  The only year I actually looked forward to wearing my hat was the year I had picked a Jackie Kennedy pillbox number to go with my suit.  I even had the Jackie voice down to make it a complete package.  And… bless me, I always had my white gloves for Easter Sunday.  Soon after Easter, I would manage to lose ONE somewhere and couldn’t wear gloves until next Easter.  Funny how that happens!

Before that glove was lost and my new shiny shoes scuffed, Easter Sunday was photo day.  Pictures in our family were always taken on the front step walking out of the front door of the house.  We have DVD’s going back to the era of super 8 Kodak movies of the front door opening and people walking out of the door, pausing, then walking to the car, starting the engine and waving as they pulled out of the driveway.  The other standard spot was by the lamp post in the front yard.  It was the only spot where daffodils were planted.  I guess that means I spent my Easter Sundays as a child all decked out tiptoeing through the daffodils.

In addition to the religious celebration of Easter, it was a family celebration.  The Easter basket contained only Zitners (of Philadelphia) cocoanut cream eggs.  I still have them mailed to me in Maine every year!  The dying of the Easter eggs has always been a big deal.  Mine is a family of creative people.  It would be blasphemous to either just dye eggs a solid color and call it a day, or to repeat a method of decoration for more than one year…new year, new creative challenge.

As my brother and his family moved to MD in the DC suburbs, we began to take my youngest nieces to the Easter Egg Roll  at the White House on Easter Monday  .  Can you believe that some adults actually taught children to lie and say they had not received their souvenir wooden Presidential egg so they could have one of their own (being way above the cut-off age for receiving the souvenir children’s eggs)?  As my nieces got too old to participate we considered renting children to take to the Easter Egg Roll to continue the set of eggs.  I fortunately found out you can purchase the souvenir eggs and support the National Park Service all at the same time.  I was so excited that when I came back from sniffing the lilies at the grocery store yesterday I found that the Easter Bunny had come to my house to deliver my 2012 set of eggs.  Note the fuchsia egg front and center… it is the first White House pet to have its own egg.  Ta-da… the Bo Obama egg which he signed on the back and left a paw print (such a talented puppy!).

May all of you reading this post have a blessed Easter filled with your own traditions and benchmarks!

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Thomas Jefferson and The Jefferson Bible ~ Rim Walkers 3

Smithsonian Institution

To consider the life of Thomas Jefferson, we think about a heroic statesman, patriot and intellectual.  We visualize a man who knows what he wants and does not stop until he has manifested his dreams of how things should be.  We consider a man who, by all appearances, is known for “doing the right thing.”  To use my terminology from former posts, Thomas Jefferson was a “Rim Walker.”

I just returned from a trip to Washington, D.C. to visit family, attend a Women’s History Month Symposium  at the Capitol (more on that later) and go in search of the last of the premature cherry blossoms who could not wait to celebrate their 100th anniversary year.  A stop at the Smithsonian Museum of American History held an adventure that was unanticipated.  I noted that the “Jefferson Bible” was on display.  I battled my way through the crowds of American schoolchildren on spring field trips and headed in that direction expecting to view the small Bible that Jefferson held at his inauguration and consulted frequently.  I left the museum later wondering, “What rock  have I been hiding under?”

Thomas Jefferson, I found out, was more of a spiritual man than a “religious” man.  His views on religion were, at the very least, complex.  Those views he held private.  He rarely publicly wrote of religion, nor did he speak of religion.  He shared his views, and this ultimate creation, with only his closest friends in confidence. Jefferson was, as we know, the author of the Declaration of Independence.  He was one of the champions of Religious Freedom.

Thomas Jefferson was a devoted student of the teachings of Jesus.  That being said, the intellectual Rim Walker in him, intellectually challenged the validity of the writings of the Apostles in the New Testament.  He considered their interpretation, as published, to be untrustworthy.  Thomas Jefferson was considered to be a religious renegade, and in the 1800 presidential election he was declared an “atheist” by his opponents.

At the age of 77 Thomas Jefferson embarked on a project that settled his confused feelings about the life of Christ  and his own belief system.  He purchased six Bibles published in English, French, Greek and Italian.  He set  them side by side, and took knife to page in what many who define the Bible as the undeniable Word of God consider a blasphemous act.  Jefferson began cutting passages that accurately expressed his belief system, passing over the rest. These passages were then pasted into a new volume he titled “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.”  This was Jefferson’s second attempt to “edit” the Bible.  His first attempt was 16 years earlier, and lost.

Hugh Talman/NMAH-SI

Jefferson was a product of the intellectuals of “Age of Enlightenment.”  The same world view that created the Declaration of Independence also created “The Jefferson Bible.”  Jefferson once wrote that he was “a sect by himself.”  He was born into the Church of England (Anglican).  The Church of England was the official religion of the State of Virginia.  He studied under Anglican clergy from elementary school through college.  He attended Anglican services all his life.  That being said, Thomas Jefferson was a brilliant intellectually curious man.  That trait caused him to question everything (hence his ability to visualize and script The Declaration of Independence).  He consistently defended his right to make his own judgements in regard to religion and encouraged others to “question with boldness even the existence of God” and to form their own judgements.  As outrageous as that sounds, especially on this Good Friday, one of the characteristics of creative people who have historically changed the world for the better is that they continually challenge assumptions about the world and commonly held beliefs.

Jefferson’s belief system was based on rational thought.  He believed that nature itself proved the existence of God.  Biblical stories of miracles such as the story of feeding the multitudes with only two fishes and five loaves of barley bread will not be found among the passages in the Jefferson Bible.  The Jefferson Bible ends with the entombment of Jesus following the Crucifixion.  There is no Resurrection in Jefferson’s rational thinking Bible.

Was Thomas Jefferson truly an atheist and an “enemy of God” as described by John Adams and the Federalist party in the 1800 presidential election?  Despite repeated attacks Jefferson won the election.  Jefferson wrote, “I am a real Christian, that is to say a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.”  He described the teachings of Jesus “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.”

In 1895 The Jefferson Bible was purchased by the Smithsonian from Jefferson’s granddaughter.  In 2011 it was completely restored and repaired.  The “new” Jefferson Bible is currently on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History until July 15, 2012.  A copy of the Jefferson Bible can be purchased in numerous forms, including one from the Smithsonian Institution itself.

On this Good Friday it is an appropriate time to ask ourselves what role, if any, religion should be taking in the upcoming presidential election.  We, are a society that rewards creative thinkers who challenge everything and provide us with a new perspective on the world.  Is it just, then, that we then turn around and delve into personal and private belief systems involving religious beliefs to evaluate and chastise whether a particular candidate should be running/elected in the presidential race based on those very private and personal beliefs?

Would we elect Thomas Jefferson in 2012?  Unfortunately, probably not.  What a loss it would be to lose his intellect and well defined belief system.  I, for one, welcome a candidate who challenges everything before making a plan of action.  That behavior, after all, is what brings about change which we say we desperately want.  That plan of action would then need to be clearly defined and concisely publicly presented based on thorough research of all aspects of the issue and designed to anticipate success with a plan A, B, C… to manifest that solution.

Do you challenge commonly held beliefs or accept them (because they come from an “authority” you are taught you should not question)?

Do you question everything and create your own world perspective?

Would you vote for Thomas Jefferson today?

Is it possible to be a believer, yet question?

Some thoughts to ponder this weekend.  I wish you a blessed weekend.

Additional Resource: “The Bible According to Thomas Jefferson” ~ http://thehumanist.org/march-april-2012/the-bible-according-to-thomas-jefferson/