Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Idea Soup

This afternoon, I had a major late-summer weeding, pruning and watering session in my backyard.   You know what that means - my brain was in full-on mull mode for several hours, simmering with thoughts and ideas like a big pot of soup. 

Here, along with a dozen photos that show the results of my physical labor in the garden, are some of the notions that were boggling around in my brain while I worked.

One of the most important jobs of parents is to teach daughters that they are treasures worthy of protection, and to teach sons that they are guardians of the women in their lives. Instilling and reinforcing these messages over and over during our children's childhoods is the best way to prepare them for their inevitable journey into the dating world, and through the life-changing process of choosing a husband or wife.

Too often, parents believe the lies our culture tells us about our young men and women. Yes, as they reach the end of their teen years, they are capable and intelligent and full of promise. In many ways, they are ready to live independent lives. But when it comes to sorting out the complex emotions and  vulnerabilities of romantic relationships, our grown children still need a considerable amount of our support. 

Young women need to know that they are surrounded by older, wiser adults who are looking out for them and their own best interests. Gathered around them in a tight social circle, young women need mother figures to help them make sense of their complex emotions, and they need father figures who will protect them, symbolically or quite literally, from the bold young men in their lives.

In different ways, young men also need the support of older and wiser men and women. Usually they benefit from a bit more space in these relationships, and they often thrive on fewer words and more action. But the importance of these strong bonds is just as vital: mother figures remind young men to be tender and considerate with the women they love, and father figures hold young men accountable to a high standard of honor and respect.

The cultural notion that the job of parenting is completed when we send our 18-year-olds off to university is a joke. The truth is that when our daughters and sons hit their twenties, and begin to think seriously about finding their partners for life, they need us parents more than ever. 

I fully accept and embrace my Muslim friends' religious beliefs. As much as I am committed to my own faith as a Christian, I totally respect their faith and I love learning from them about Islam. When I was first acquainting myself with Islamic customs, I used to ask a billion questions. But there was no aspect of Muslim culture that fascinated me more than the women's practice of wearing hijab

I'll say it all over again - I am totally fine with women who wear hijab and I think it's great that my hijab-wearing friends are very quick to say that they truly enjoy the practice. I am happy that they are happy, and that's what matters most.

But I wanted to understand hijab on a rational level. I wanted someone to explain to me why wearing a headscarf and long sleeves and pants in a tropical climate makes sense. I was looking for a logical explanation to this religious practice.

Now at the same time, in the back of my mind, I reminded myself that every Sunday morning, I eat a tiny little piece of bread and drink a tiny little cup of wine, and say that I'm eating Jesus' body and drinking his blood. I'm totally devoted to this Christian practice of taking communion, yet I will be the first to say that on a purely rational basis, it's kind of weird. So my search for logic in the hijab world wasn't meant to be judgmental or hypocritical...it was just pure and simple curiosity.

As I badgered my Muslim friends with questions about hijab, the answers disappointed me. Hijab was explained as a solution to premarital sex and adultery, a cure to unwanted pregnancies, and a surefire way to protect men from the tempting qualities of a woman's body. It was also explained to me that hijab was a way to prevent women from suffering rape. More than once, it was implied to me that women who do not wear hijab are immodest and asking for trouble. These answers did not make sense to me.

Brimming with frustration, I went back to my first and best Muslim friend, and asked him to help me understand. As he often does, he said something incredibly wise to me that resolved the whole dilemma once and for all: Muslim women wear hijab because they believe that is what God asks of them.

Oh. OH. Ohhhhhhhhhhh!! I totally got it. 

Muslim women wear their headscarves, and I eat my bread and wine. Really, we are not so different at all, are we. 

Back among some bushes in my backyard, I found a dead bird. There was a hole in its neck. I hate to say this, but I suspect my darling little Luna was responsible. 

My first instinct was to feel guilty for letting my cat out to prey upon the innocent birds of my neighborhood. 

My second instinct was to recall that my first cat, Blackberry, almost certainly met her fates in either the jaws or claws of a local coyote. 

And my third thought, which lasted much longer than the other two, is that we cat owners make a certain bargain with the devil. If we lock our cats up inside our homes, in the desire to protect either them or the creatures outside, from harm, we deny our cats' nature as animals. To me, this is an act of insufferable selfishness, and I can't do it. So I have no choice but to let my furry babies roam, as they are designed by God to do, and allow them take their place in the middle of the food chain. 

Heaven help us all: cats, birds, coyotes and crazy mixed-up humans.

So there you have it..a ladle full of Idea Soup, from my brain to yours. 

As for Ranger, he's not impressed. He just wants to know when I'll be done so we can go on our walk.

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