1. the floor of a fireplace, usually of stone, brick, etc., often extending a short distance into a room.
2. home; fireside: the joys of family and hearth.
In the beginning, before mankind had hearths, we just had fires. A community fire offered protection from the elements, from darkness, from wild animals, from things that go bump in the night. A fire acted as a gathering place for the meal to be cooked, for generations of a community to come together to share their common bounty of food and story. When the community fire became the family hearth, it shifted the cohesion that shared protection, sustenance, and company offered directly into the home, and made it the province of those that tended the home. For many generations, in many cultures, the hearth tenders (and most deities of the hearth) have been female. This begins to change, but the stereotype of the Hearth as a “Woman thing” prevails (often even among women).
A lot of the historical context for honoring Hestia, and honoring the hearth (since this maxim can be taken to mean either…though, as all of the other maxims fail to mention any deities by name, I tend to prefer the latter as the meaning the Greeks were going for) is directed towards women, as a result of this stereotyping. I could talk about things like proper housekeeping, about nourishing food, about keeping a household shrine, about magic in the home…and all sorts of traditional and non-traditional, modern and historical ways to honor Hestia, and to honor the hearth as a physical place (and I do, among other things). But I think, as a kitchen witch (and a kitchen is just the modern hearth), honoring the hearth ultimately has very little to do with a physical place (even though most of what we do is centered there). The hearth is just a symbol, a tool, for the working of a certain type of magic…the type of magic that embodies honoring the hearth.
Honoring the hearth is really about honoring those you would share a fire with.
Check back on Saturday for The Bewitching Home blog party!
Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for rights.*
At the beginning of this Maxim Monday enterprise I wrote about “being overcome by justice”, and its intersection with the 2nd principle of the Unitarian Universalist Association. In it, I quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. a couple of times. Somehow in a stroke of kismet or coincidence, I picked its companion maxim for Martin Luther King Day, not really thinking about the timing, until just before I sat down to write. I had an entirely different post in mind until then…something in line with service (which I’ve talked about before) as a form of practicing justice…
The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.*
I think that this maxim happens to be one that Martin Luther King, Jr. might have been a fan of.
I’m not sure there is much I can say on this subject though, that he didn’t say. And on that matter, I’d prefer to let him speak for himself.
There will be hundreds of posts and articles and news clips on Martin Luther King today, as a historical figure, as an icon for justice and civil rights, and as a husband and father. I encourage everyone to watch or read them–the Civil Rights era is an important period of our time that we could all use to be more cognizant of…but this post is not about that, not precisely.
I think we all can agree that practicing justice is a good thing to do, even if we differ on what that means in our own lives, and how we feel compelled to express it. Men (and women) like Martin Luther King do (and have done) a far better job of orating and demonstrating how we can be more just than I will ever be capable of doing. But what I can do–probably my most important contribution towards bending the universe towards justice, is to teach my children what it means to be overcome by justice and to practice what is just, by talking to them about justice and our failings in living justly with honesty and integrity to the best of my ability and demonstrating just actions in my dealings with them and others.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.*
Today my Chickadee asked me a very serious question that I wasn’t quite ready to answer,”Why did a white man kill Martin Luther King? Is it because he was black?” For an almost six year old, this is a serious question that she just didn’t know the answer to. But for me…this question was just a little bit heartbreaking.
Just last week, my baby girl though of skin color as nothing more than nature’s Crayola box. Just last week, my baby girl would tell you that “I’m not white, I’m peach” and would correct anyone that might suggest her bus buddy with brown skin was “black”. As far as she was concerned, our skin colors were no more significant than the colors of flowers, and they should be accurately described. In a mostly white neighborhood, the most significant physical trait of her bus buddy was not the color of her skin, but that “Miss M has ponytails that are better than mine because they have poof.”
And now, not only did she want to know about The Man With A Dream (as she has taken to calling Martin Luther King)–a question much easier to answer than what would follow, but she wanted to know why someone would be mean to someone for having a different color of skin. And then she wanted to know why people would think that they were better than other people for having a different color of skin. And then she wanted to know why people had owned other people. And she wanted to know why we are white, when we are really peach, and why people that are brown are called black, and why any of that matters, because we are all just people. And then she wanted to know if having white skin made people do bad things.
We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.*
…And I had a hard time answering some of her questions. I was raised in a family where skin color was treated like eye color…and I come from a place of racial privilege–I’ve experienced prejudice, but never on the basis of my skin color, and never as overt as that sort of prejudice can be. I might intellectually understand that racism exists and where it stems from (we *do* do Civil War reenacting), but I don’t really understand the depths of hatred that it can and has descended to–I don’t get that kind of hatred, and I sure as hell don’t want my children to. I might be guilty of saying something that is prejudiced simply because I come from a place of racial privilege, but that would be/would have been from ignorance, and not maliciousness (and I sincerely apologize if that has ever happened).
How do you explain all of that to a six year old? Especially a six year old with a heart like butterfly wings (seriously, the kiddo gets upset at the idea of hurting someone’s feelings on accident), especially when there are six year olds around the world that LIVE this, on a daily basis. And if not now, from us, when and how will this lesson be taught?
The Hubby and I did our best to explain that people’s minds and hearts can and do change over time. And that people that lived a long time ago had different ideas of what was right and wrong from ours, and that even then they argued over what was right and wrong like we do today. Just because something was right (or wrong) then, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way…as our sense of morality grows into one that is more compassionate and more just, we can change what we do and say to be more equitable and to embrace equality…not just on a basis of race, but everywhere, for every quality that makes us different from one another.
We tried to tell her that sometimes people are afraid of people and things that are different from what they see or do on a daily basis and that sometimes people are afraid of change. That sometimes when people are afraid, they think they need to fight against what they don’t understand, that the fear makes them hate, that the hate can poison their hearts, that poisoned hearts can make them do bad things. We talked about the fact that people are just people, different and beautiful for it. We talked about Martin Luther King, and that he believed in justice for all people that were disadvantaged, whether it be because of skin color, or economic status, or any of the other things that divide us, and we watched The Man With a Dream talk about the day when “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
I think that he might have liked to see Chickadee and Miss M skipping down the sidewalk, hand in hand, on their way for a play date. I think that maybe, for all that practicing justice often means protesting, it can also means two heads bowed together over a coloring book, drinking cocoa, and watching My Little Pony. Practicing justice is about doing what is right. And what is more right than two six year olds than playing, together, oblivious to the controversies that might have stirred before they were even born?
I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out just what, exactly, can be said about these two (fairly redundant) maxims, that shouldn’t be patently obvious. And then The Hubby pointed out something else that should have been even more patently obvious–these maxims can’t be all that obvious, considering the economic issues over the last few years. So, I guess it might be a good idea to talk about just acquisition after all.
1) What does it mean to acquire things justly?
I’d guess that part of the problem here is that people have different ideas of what a “just acquisition” is…but here are my ideas (in brief):
Paid for with a fair price
Purchased from a reputable source that treats their employees equitably
Manufactured in a manner that has the least harm for the environment
2) What keeps us from acquiring things justly?
Ignorance–Sometimes we just don’t know. It would take more time, effort, and energy than most of us have to research each and every supply and supplier we dealt with on a daily basis.
Need–Sometimes we might know, but can’t do too much about it. When the pennies are being pinched, you might be stuck shopping at the cheapest store, regardless of how they treat their employees, or you buy the less environmentally friendly *whatever* because it costs about half as much.
Greed–Sometimes we know, we don’t need (or can afford otherwise), and just don’t care.
3) Where does that leave me?
I never ended up blogging about it, but last year I did a little social experiment. One week, I tried to do my shopping entirely with American-made products. The following week I tried to only buy things that didn’t use plastic packaging, and then I tried to not buy anything where I couldn’t understand the words in the ingredient list, and then I tried making a list of everything I knew I wanted to buy and researched the “best” brand, and then the stores that they could be found at. It was the worst month for shopping ever. All four weeks I was over-budget without getting everything we needed, all four weeks it turned a two hour shopping trip into an all day inconvenience, and the third week left me with more work during the week than I was able to get done (and I already do quite a bit from scratch/the long way). I can’t imagine if I had tried to do all of those things at once…
So I guess that leaves us doing the best we can, and the best we can afford in our day to day lives…and hoping the people at the top are making decisions that we (and our children’s children) can live with (and supposing that they probably aren’t).
“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—
And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—
I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.
A warm and brightly lit winter night is a modern invention. Its fairly easily forgotten by us, in our place of technological privilege, but before the inventions of the gas heater (1856), the electric heater (1883), and a modern central air style-heater (1919), winters could be quite perilous. Combined with the uncertainty of a community or farmstead’s food supply, of medical care in case of illness, and other hardships, it should be of little surprise that people from many cultures have chosen the time of the solstice for celebration in their own ways. The Longest Night comes at the apex of winter, a celebration that the sun will strengthen and return prosperity. We celebrate this time as a time of hope. Hope is the gift of life.
Hope is not your typical form of positivity. Most positive emotions arise when we feel safe and satiated. Hope is the exception. It comes into play when our circumstances are dire – things are not going well or at least there’s considerable uncertainty about how things will turn out. Hope arises precisely within those moments when fear, hopelessness or despair seem just as likely.
Hope literally opens us up. It removes the blinders of fear and despair and allows us to see the big picture. We become creative, unleashing our dreams for the future. This is because deep within the core of hope is the belief that things can change. No matter how awful or uncertain they are at the moment, things can turn out for the better. Possibilities exist. Belief in this better future sustains us. It keeps us from collapsing in despair. It infuses our bodies with the healing rhythms of positivity. It motivates us to tap into our signature capabilities and inventiveness to turn things around. It inspires us to build a better future.
It seems like we are living in a time where cynicism is now fashionable. Just take a look at the TV or the internet for more than 5 minutes, it should be fairly obvious. But I think, perhaps, the Greeks called it right on this one. We should be praising hope, not making fun or condemning those that have it, even if we perceive the source of that hope, or what they hold hope in as foolish. If you ask my daughter what she wants to be when she grows up, she will tell you that she wants to be a mermaid. When I foolishly advised Chickadee that this might not be an wise choice in careers–or even a career at all, she responded with “But momma, you always told me that if I worked really hard and tried my best, I could be whatever I wanted to be when I grew up.” Darn if she didn’t have me there. Even better, the reason she wants to be a mermaid? To teach people how to live in peace with Mama O’shen and her creatures.
I’m willing to bet that my Chickadee will find a way to be a mermaid.
And I hope that she can teach people to live in peace with Mama O’shen and her creatures.
…so the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
finding faith and common ground the best that they were able…
Before Jesus (as reported in the Bible, specifically Matthew 5) said “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”, the Delphic Maxims said “Live together meekly” (Ομιλει πραως).
Meekness isn’t really a value of modern Western society.
Of course, the meaning of the term “meek” has shifted from its original use quite a bit. Meek used to mean something like: gentle, quiet, benevolent, kind, and modest. Today though, meek means docile, submissive, spiritless, and tame. In those terms, I don’t really consider meekness as an admirable trait either.
But I do think that there is something to be said for finding ways to live together.
Perhaps, considering the time of year it is, we could start with opting out of the so-called War on Christmas. I’m not sure that anyone other than Fox News (and people that actually take Fox News seriously) really thinks that there is actually a War on Christmas, but I think there are better rebuttals than “Christmas was stolen from Paganism” memes, billboards for reason, etc. How about we say “Thanks” when someone says “Happy/Merry ______” and get over it? The existence of people that celebrate a day differently than me is not a personal attack.
Perhaps, considering the time of year it is, we could begin with starting a tradition of service to our communities–to volunteering our time, effort, energy (which may or may not be represented as money) into programs that support our ideals. Wouldn’t it be great if this time of year was when we renewed a tradition of giving that lasted all year long, rather than salving our holiday conscience?
Perhaps, considering the time of year it is, we could start by examining our consumption. Choosing how and why and where we buy things more wisely. Maybe we could consume less by buying better quality, longer lasting things. Maybe we can worry less about the current trendy gadget, after all, it will be replaced in about six months.
If we start here, now, in learning to live together with intention, perhaps we can begin to live together softly. We can live together with gentleness and live together kindly, together in quiet, in peace, in benevolence.