22 April 2017

Two Visions

I was at Norwescon 40 Easter Weekend. The Science Guest of Honor was Ethan Seigel who is both a a theoretical astrophysicist and a costumer. I saw him in his "Neptune" costume on Friday of the convention and in his "Rainbow Dash" costume on Saturday.

Norwescon is an all-volunteer fan-run convention that has been going since 1977. I've been attending regularly since 2006 and went a few times in the 1980's when I was in college. One of the best things about it is that it is full of 'both/and' people. Everyone there has a day job from baristas to, well astrophysicists. We are at the convention because something about Science Fiction and Fantasy media speaks to us on a deep level. For me it is the fundamental hope for a better future that was embedded in much of the science fiction I read as a teen combined with the wealth of creativity I see in the fan community.

Fans of all ages from toddlers to great-grandparents attend the four-day convention. Many (me among them) wear costumes they have made (or talked friends in to making for them). I love seeing what everyone has come up with.

One of my best moments of the convention was seeing Mr Seigel in his "Rainbow Dash"* complete with having dyed his beard rainbow hues. While he was walking through the convention I saw one child spot him and squeak excitedly "Mom, Look! It's Rainbow Dash." Less than 30 seconds later another child about age 6 came up to Mr Seigel and said: "Are you the science-man?" Mr Seigel said yes, he was. The second child said, in an solemn, passionate tone, "I love physics."

In an instant, two children saw one man dressed as a make-believe pony in two different lights. They were both thrilled to see the embodiment of something they loved manifest before their eyes and their joy lit up the hallway around them.

The best thing was that the child that loved science was not disappointed that 'science man' was blue with a rainbow colored beard and the child that loved Rainbow Dash was not disappointed that Mr Seigel was also a human theoretical astrophysicist. In that moment he embodied the concept of 'both/and', enchanting two children (and many surrounding adults) simultaneously.

I don't really know what this has to do with the scripture for Friday. The daily office readings didn't speak to me this week. However, I do think that we all can get locked in certain roles in our lives and forget about other aspects of ourselves that need our care and attention.

Fear can play a part in locking down parts of ourselves. Some are rational fears-- society isn't always a very safe place for folks. Some are irrational fears-- that we carry with us that none of our friends or loved ones would suspect because we mask those fears so well-- but in masking them we lock away critical parts of ourselves that we need to be present in the world as Jesus would have us be.

Christ comes to tell us over and over that God does not want us to fear. God wants us to love. To love is to be vulnerable. To love is to put your tenderest self out in the world like a spring flower sending up fresh green shoots. Sometimes we will become beautiful daffodils and sometimes the deer will eat us.

But when we get that moment to flower, when the child comes up and says, in an awed voice: are you the science-man?, or are you the beautiful pony? not only will our own heart fill with joy, but bystanders on all sides will be able to receive the joy of that moment of open vulnerably, and open a little more themselves to love.


* Rainbow Dash is a character in the animated series "My Little Pony, 2010".

06 April 2017

Ceasefire Prayer

A few weeks ago I participated in an online yoga class. The teacher is a member of the body positive movement and the class was being offered as part of National Eating Disorders Awareness week so the teacher said a few words before the class started.

One of the things she said that stayed with me was that she treats her yoga mat as a ceasefire zone. All of the negative cultural messages about being fat, all of the disordered thinking around what shape she 'should' be are left behind while she is on the mat. She focuses on what she can do and on being present in her body as it is now.

I've been thinking about her words for weeks now and they inspired me to start a home prayer routine. In the past, my prayer life has been sporadic and impulsive.

My relationship to prayer has been complicated because I don't believe that God gives us things, or heals us, or any of the other tropes about the power of prayer. I believe that prayer is more like going to a therapist. It is a way to work on personal issues and to open myself up to opportunities to be brave in my life. It is a way to gain courage and a way to think about what I have done wrong and what I could do better in the future. Giving that all to God as part of prayer helps me remember who I want to be.

Much as I feel I don't need a therapist when I'm healthy and happy, it is hard to remember to make time for prayer when things are going well. However, therapists, be they mental or physical, frequently give patients homework to do to improve their lot.

Daily prayer for me has be come like doing my physical therapy exercises, if I do them every day I become stronger and less prone to injury.

Prayer keeps the muscles of my faith strong which in turn gives me the spiritual energy and resilience I need to be in order to be present and active in this world even when it is painful. Prayer reminds me to be my best self, to be brave, and to do things that are out of my comfort zone.

My prayer routine has become my own ceasefire in the cycle of news, stress, and anxiety. It is a time when I can give my worries to God with no expectation that God will do anything more than listen-- and that is enough to give me strength to go on.

This essay was originally published at the Episcopal Cafe in April 2017.