Judgment and Forgiveness

April Morning Rose
April Morning Rose

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” ~ Marianne Williamson

“The deepest fear we have, ‘the fear beneath all fears,’ is the fear of not measuring up, the fear of judgment. It’s this fear that creates the stress and depression of everyday life.” ~ Tullian Tchividjian

“If there’s any message to my work, it is ultimately that it’s OK to be different, that it’s good to be different, that we should question ourselves before we pass judgment on someone who looks different, behaves different, talks different, is a different color.” ~ Johnny Depp

If you’ve been reading this blog this year, you may remember that I’ve been studying A Course in Miracles. Last week I was studying a chapter on judgment and how when we judge another, we’re judging ourselves because every person on this planet is part of God. We’re connected and we’re one.

Interestingly enough, just as I was studying this concept two things happened that gave me a new perspective on just how damaging judgment can be.

Saturday my husband and I turned on the TV and the movie, Judgment at Nuremberg was on. It’s about the last of the Nuremberg trials of high ranking Nazi officials of all kinds after WW II. In this case it’s about the trial of several judges who were part of the Nazi war machine. They had followed orders to condemn anyone, even if they were innocent of committing any crimes, who was not considered by the party to be a desirable citizen. So those who were Jews, Gypsies, Liberals, the mentally impaired or anyone else not pure enough to be a German citizen were condemned to sterilization or death. I have always loved this movie partly because of the extraordinary performances, but also because of the message: That we are all capable of terrible deeds and that when those deeds come to light we must stand up for what’s right.

However, when I saw the last few scenes this time, I had a shift in perception. It’s ironic that the Tribunal judges in this movie were all from the United States, a country that had dropped two atomic bombs on Japan to end the war. No one in the international community put us on trial for that. Lots of innocent people were killed when those bombs were dropped. But no one questioned our “right” to commit that horrendous deed.

In the very last scene of the movie, Ernst Janning, played by Burt Lancaster, is an internationally renowned judge and a defendant in the trial asks to see lead Judge Dan Haywood, played by Spencer Tracy. I’ve always found their exchange to be a most devastating moment.

Ernst Janning: Judge Haywood … the reason I asked you to come: those people, those millions of people … I never knew it would come to that. You must believe it, you must believe it!

Judge Dan Haywood: Herr Janning, it came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.(Haywood and Janning look each other in the eye for several seconds then Haywood walks out leaving Janning with a devastated look on his face framed by the jail cell door.)

When I saw that scene this time I asked myself, “What would have happened if Judge Haywood had forgiven Ernst Janning? What would have happened if everyone on both sides of the war forgave each other for all the death and destruction the conflict caused? What would happen if we forgave the annoying neighbor, or the nasty teller at the bank, or our loved ones when arguments arise? What would happen to the world if forgivingness was the rule instead of judgement?

The next day after the movie Judgment at Nuremberg got me thinking, Barry and I were talking about an ongoing problem he has with his weekly chats via computer with his parents. I started to make a long drawn out correlation to the microwave dish used to connect us to the internet and our satellite dish. My point was that they may both be out of alignment. But instead of just saying that, I started to tell the whole story of how I came to that conclusion, which irritates Barry. When I do that, he interrupts with questions, that sometimes have nothing to do with where I’m going with the story to make my point. When he did that this time, I got really angry with him for not listening, for not waiting to find out what I was going to say. It’s a situation that we have faced often in our thirty-five years of marriage and it never seems to get better. We never change our modus operandi. Of course all communication between us stopped for a while. During that quiet time, I began to make a correlation between the movie situation, and my own personal situation. What would happen if I apologized for yelling at Barry and said he didn’t deserve that? What if I forgave him for what I think are his offenses against me instead of demanding that he conform to some ideal I have in my head? What if I just modify my way of communicating? And, what would happen if everyone did that on all kinds of levels?

I have to say, I’m so tempted to justify my position just like Judge Haywood did in the movie. I’m tempted to take the moral high ground and point out that I sit and listen until the end when Barry is telling me a story and then I ask my questions. I’m tempted to feel offended that he thinks I’m illogical, or not very smart, or that he doesn’t value what I have to say. But I would be wrong on all those counts. We just have different ways of communicating and of processing information.

To attack another person is to attack yourself. That’s another lesson from A Course in Miracles. So attacking Barry, or anyone else doesn’t bring peace to me personally, or to the world. It only causes more conflict. I very much want to bring peace to my home and to the greater world rather than conflict. The question I ask myself is, do I have the courage to give up having to be right? I’m working on that one.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment and connect with me on any of my social networks listed below.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Why is Change Hard?

Hot Air Balloons Above Dallas
Hot Air Balloons Above Dallas

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” ~ Maya Angelou

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” ~ Alan Watts

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” ~ Margaret Mead

The beginning of this month my car died. It was thirteen years old and served me well. At first we, the people at our car dealership and my husband and I, thought all it needed was a new hybrid battery. That would have been expensive enough. But it was discovered that it needed a new inverter as well, which put fixing the car out of range for our budget. So … what to do? We live in the country half an hour from town, so unfortunately, since my husband still works full-time, we need two cars. Most people would be panicking about the situation. For some reason I’m not. When the car was safely at the dealership, I relaxed. Hmmm. Things are changing. How exciting.

In reality things are always changing in our lives. We don’t notice or care about the small changes most of the time, but many times we get all bent out of shape, or depressed about the big ones. I’ve always wondered why? Why do we resist change so much?

Right now we’re experiencing great changes in the world and there are lots of people determined to stop it, or to go back to a time when they felt more comfortable. The thing is, you can never go back, nor can you stop change. It’s inevitable. So, the wiser, better course to take if you want your life to be happier, is to embrace change.

Maybe it’s because of my upbringing, but my family faced lots of changes and we embraced them. That doesn’t mean the changes were always smooth or easy, but they were good in the end. One of the changes we faced pretty often was moving. All-in-all I moved ten times before I went off to college. After a while I came to embrace the possibilities of the new life in a new place with new people. Though it was hard, I learned some great lessons from moving so much. The foremost of those was to assess the new situation and see where I could fit in as quickly as possible. That one skill has served me very well over the years.

Most of us dread change because we are used to where we are. We are a body at rest and we want to stay at rest. We see the motion of change as bad or disruptive. However, there are advantages to change. You get to see the world from a new perspective. Travel can do that for you, especially if you travel outside the country. But even traveling from region to region within your own country will do that for you too, if you’re open to it. Why would I want to change my perspective you might ask? Because that’s how humans are designed. We’re designed to grow, and explore, and learn new things. If we don’t we atrophy.

Our culture is so into anti-aging that there is enormous business in creams, exercises, diets and the like to keep us young and vital. But what about our attitudes and our minds? If you don’t learn new things and gain a new perspective on your life, you “gradually decline in effectiveness or vigor due to underuse or neglect.” The quote is the second definition of atrophy from the dictionary. I definitely don’t want to atrophy. I want to remain as vital and effective as I can for as long as I can.

So, change is happening at my home whether we like it or not. However instead of panicking, we’re taking our time to look at all our options and to choose the best one for us moving forward from here.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share my post or connect with me on one of my social networks below.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Possibilities

Pumpkin Possibilities
Pumpkin Possibilities

“You’ve done it before and you can do it now. See the positive possibilities. Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination.” ~ Ralph Marston

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” ~ Gloria Steinem

“That is the exploration that awaits you! Not mapping stars and studying nebula, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence.” ~ Leonard Nimoy

“To be hopeful means to be uncertain about the future, to be tender toward possibilities, to be dedicated to change all the way down to the bottom of your heart.” ~ Rebecca Solnit

Every fall feels like a new beginning because of the resumption of school. I’m not a parent, but I assume many are glad to have their children back in school so they don’t have to plan activities for their children every minute of the day. Though, I suppose many parents are glad to have extra uninterrupted time with their children during the summer months.

As a teacher, I always feel that the summer is too short, but on the other hand a new semester stretches out like a new sheet of paper waiting for us to write upon. New possibilities are always attractive. However, it’s what we do with them that makes all the difference. Even if it’s just loving myself a little more, that’s a positive thing I can do create more possibilities and change the world in some small way.

I don’t know if it’s just me, or if it’s because I’m a teacher, I see possibilities in everyone I meet and in every situation. The other day, one of my friends called to say that the book club group that I’m taking a sabbatical from, was having lunch together and she wanted me to come because as she said it, “we miss your positive spin on things”. I know it’s difficult to have a positive outlook on life and to see the possibilities of what’s going on. Even I, who was born with a positive outlook, sometimes wonder if I’m being a Pollyanna. But here’s the thing, being positive and seeing the possibilities, and the opportunities is a choice and many of us think we don’t have a choice. But we do.

My thinking on what I’d like to say today isn’t fully formed, but here’s something that might point you in the direction my thoughts are going. I’m used to collaboration. Having over thirty years experience in the theatre has helped set my modus operandi to look for ways to collaborate with others, whether it’s in a project or in a new way of being and thinking. On the other hand, in this country we admire the maverick. The man or woman who stands out from the rest and who gets the job done alone on shear willpower. Yet no one becomes successful alone. Being a self-made man, or woman is a myth. We all have lots of help along the way. Granted we have the power to interpret what’s offered to us. But without each other, we’d be sunk. There would be no new possibilities for us to work toward. No fresh ideas would come forward. Those happen when we collaborate. Something new is born.

So, as we move into a new season, think of finding a buddy or small group with whom you can collaborate to turn the negatives in your life, or your community into positives. Find someone to help instead of complaining. That’s one of the reasons I like a new semester. I get a whole new set of students to collaborate with to make their dreams come true. When I help them, I help everyone around me. And I try to help them see that when they can change their lives for the better, everything around them gets better. It’s a ripple effect.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Writer Expectations

My book shelves
My book shelves

“Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.” ~ C. S. Lewis

“My literature is much more the result of a paradox than than of an implacable logic, typical of police novels. The paradox is the tension that exists in my soul.” ~ Paulo Coelho

“Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.” ~ Helen Keller

“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.” ~ Barbara Tuchman

“In my teaching, I try to expose my students to the widest range of aesthetic possibilities, so I’ll offer them stories from Anton Chekhov to Denis Johnson, from Flannery O’Connor to A.M. Homes, and perhaps investigating all that strange variation of beauty has rubbed off on me. Or perhaps that’s why I enjoy teaching literature.” ~ Change-Rae Lee

At present I’m writing a novel. I’m in the revision stages and I’m struggling with a fundamental problem for writers. A writer friend of mine said, “You’ve got to get your main character into trouble and keep her there.” I know she’s right. That’s been the rule for literature since story telling began. It’s been that way because stories imitate life. However, just recently, I’m feeling worn out by conflict.

That might not be a good thing for my writing because readers expect adventure from their books. Yet I feel drawn to create characters who learn from the things that happen to them, and who find peace in the process. My protagonists could be a new kind of character. For the most part they stay calm while helping to solve the conflict around them.

I have to say that my favorite books are ones much like that. It’s not that the protagonist doesn’t face problems, it’s their attitude in facing them that is different. Jane Eyre is one such character and many of Jane Austen’s heroines are the same. They are determined to make the best of any situation in which they find themselves. Because they look for ways to be useful and happy no matter what, good comes to them. Maybe it’s the difference between male and female writers. I’ve read lots of exciting books by male authors, books I loved, but they’re a little bit different than the books that I love by female authors. The male created protagonists struggle and push to make things happen, while the female created protagonists look for subtler ways to get what they want. I don’t mean to imply one approach is better than the other, they’re just different.

The Harry Potter series, all of Jane Austen’s books and many other books written by women seem more intimate. The Mists of Avalon and The Crystal Cave series by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Mary Stewart respectively, are completely different tellings of the Arthur myth than those written by men. What’s going on inside the characters and what they’re learning along the way is more important than the plot.

I guess I’m thinking about all of this because I’m just finishing a fantasy series that I found through BookBub. I loved the first three books, but as I began the second series, I had battle fatigue. The books are written by a man with a young woman protagonist. It’s one of those series where one person has to save the world she lives in. But there is no respite from battle at any time. No time for reflection on what she’s learned. Mostly, she just reacts with no chance to assess the situation and to use her wisdom. Another thing that bothers me about the series is that story lines are left unfinished. It’s a great adventure series but what good comes to the society at the end of it all? Admittedly, I still have a little bit more to read in the sixth book and maybe the unfinished storylines will be resolved, the main characters will have learned something and find a measure of peace. Or maybe he’s planning another series that will do that. But as a reader I’m left unsatisfied. I don’t want to write books like that.

Recently I saw links on Facebook to articles by movie and TV critics of the Outlander series. I love those books because there is a strong female protagonist who finds herself in an extraordinary situation. She doesn’t panic. She finds a way to cope with her situation and in the process, affects everyone around her, including the men. One of the things that was controversial about the book and TV series is a horrific rape scene. But it’s not the rape of Claire, the main character, but her husband. After she saves him, they have to find a way to heal. They do that together. The rape is an integral part of the development of Claire and Jamie’s relationship. It’s not there for exploitation, or because there was a hole in the plot and “so why not put a rape scene in.” When I read that section of the book, I was amazed at the courage Diana Gabaldon showed in writing it. We find ourselves in horrific or traumatic situations at one time or another in our lives. Often we ask ourselves how can we cope with the pain. Ms. Gabaldon is one among many authors who have shown us a way to heal by writing honestly about life.

To me, literature should help us go places, both inside and outside ourselves, that we have never gone before. The beauty of reading is that we go on a journey with the characters and learn from the mistakes they make or the situations in which they find themselves so we don’t have to experience them ourselves. That’s the kind of literature I want to write. I want people to have fun while getting something to take away with them and use in the future.

Writing isn’t an easy profession. Even those who’s books aren’t huge sellers, I hope their work touch someone. I hope my book touches someone too.

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a great week. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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