Saturday, May 24, 2008

Worse than irony

It was recently reported that the SC Dept of Prisons is now spending $1.43 per prisoner per day for food. That would be an increase of 15 cents over what they were spending last year. My usual meal at McDonald's is a Snack Wrap ($1.29) and a medium Diet Coke ($1.39). The amount I spend on one small and relatively cheap lunch would nearly feed two adult inmates in SC for a whole day. When I was a child, I was often warned that the food in jail would be bread and water. I believed it then, but I'm horrified to learn how close to the truth that warning turns out to be, especially in a state where ostentatious religion is a "value". SC is, after all, in the Bible Belt. Did Jesus not say that whatever was done to the least of our brethren, He would consider as having been done to Him? Did he not specifically mention concern for prisoners?

So it seems particularly ironic to me that the same legislature that has budgeted so little for inmate food, let alone the whole prison system, including rehabilitation and education programs, has zealously permitted a new "Christian" license plate design. Of course, a license plate with stained glass art and a cross may not make it past the ACLU and may go the way of the "Choose Life" license plate design. That one resulted in a lawsuit where $150,000 of public money was forked over to Planned Parenthood for legal fees.

Can it be that SC legislators are so cynical as to believe that voting for anything with a religious theme AND defending it in court is a winning proposition no matter its actual cost? Can it be that they really don't believe at all in a God who can do math and Who means what He says?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Life en masse

So I left the couch for a while. I guess everybody has to move some time. I took a nice four-tanks-full drive through five states, and it was lovely. At certain times of the year the colors in the Appalachians are kaleidoscopic, and as I drove I saw trees blooming in every pastel color. America the Beautiful for sure, and a blessing. I'm into counting my blessings, or as Oprah recommends, "keeping a gratitude journal."

Some days I begin my list of five things to appreciate intentionally by being grateful that things aren't even worse. Actually, those days have been rare of late. And as I grow older, I can easily list five just by naming the senses of hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling and touching, since those are all still working for me. But there are those interesting days when I find something new to think about, and that discovery in itself prompts gratitude. Yesterday, back on the couch and once again watching Oprah, I was caught up in the idea of "past life regression." That's not an idea that is new of course. Shirley MacLaine years ago brought to our attention the belief that she was aware of having lived before.

The experts on yesterday's Oprah were compelling though. One was Dr. Mehmet Oz, the heart surgeon who has done a lot to provide practical information about the care and feeding of the human physical body. Another was Dr. Brian Weiss, a psychiatrist who has made PLR a special interest. These are not quacks. Maybe they're here to teach us something. (Let's hope, though, that they don't go the way of Dr. Phil, also introduced by Oprah, who originally had some good ideas but now seems to have turned himself into a $90 million-a-year marketing machine of schlock and sensationalism.)

Anyway, the economy of life recycled has long appealed to me and has given me comfort when I see horror or injustice in this one. I'm not at all bothered by the fact that most Western religious thought eschews reincarnation. It hasn't always. I think it was about 500 years after Christ's crucifixion that the powers that were at that time took us that way.

For me, the hook in all this is not learning about what past life I might have had but rather a sort of encouragement of my feeling that all humans, and maybe all life, are connected in ways that are about energy. If we could really accept the fact that we are nothing more than masses of energy, as individual as snow flakes until we blend into a Greater Energy the way snowflakes form a drift and then a river and then an ocean, perhaps we could get over our conceits about who we are in this life. Does it really matter which is the best snow flake or ice cube or hailstone once they're all absorbed into groundwater and then on their way?

P.S. Here's an interesting link about reincarnation and the early Christian Church.