The hand of man has willfully, purposefully, altered the genome of crops and animals for thousands of years to suit its purposes. In our recent life time, we have witnessed artificial intelligence, our mechanical devices wondering barren fields of other worlds, two even leaving our vast solar system entirely, and the artificial cloning of mammals. We can freeze human embryos for decades, and thereby my son and my great-grandson can be delivered by the same unrelated woman at the same time. Let’s pause for a moment to appreciate just how bizarre and “unnatural” that really is.
If we create new life forms in much the same way as God has; as this article implies, with random molecules, forming random proteins and enzymes, further on to RNA and DNA – all subjects of which I, with a post-graduate degree, have only a rudimentary understanding of. Then is there a difference between life created by man and that created by God?
Such a life, so created by the hands of man, could then evolve in response to outside forces such as a hungry neighbor, climate change resulting from the natural rhythm of the earth’s rotation or an ill-timed collision by some stray piece space born rock, thus encouraging an adaptation (i.e., its evolution) in the same randomness experienced by all life that is now and ever was on this planet. Of course unlike God, the luxury of patience has not been engineered in our nature. We could not wait 4.5 Billion years to see what unfurls from our own creation. I imagine then we would encourage the process of adaptation as quickly as possible, thus allowing us to witness evolution first hand as only God has.
Now once such a life, a life created and evolved by the hand of man, becomes self-aware, would it have a soul – if there is such a thing?
We have engineered ways to artificially split human eggs to produce twins or more. No one I know would suggest that these twins share one soul or that one or the other is lacking a soul. Isn’t an identical twin essential a “naturally occurring” clone? I say “naturally” only because we have not yet found the catalyst within our DNA that make some people predisposed to producing twins (or maybe we have).
Cultures throughout history and the world over have expressed God in a human form, only far more superior and capable in every way imaginable to them at the time. Perhaps man has known all along that such a vision is indeed its own destiny.
Ms. Shelley Seale, a humanitarian and now guest blogger, shares with us a moving piece on the price and plight of innocence. It is a piece born from the heart. As you approach the end of Ms. Seale’s narrative, she also graciously shares with us general statistics on the day to day societal warfare waged knowingly against children. May peace be with you as you share your moments with Ms. Seale and pass on her moving piece, information and website to all that you know.
With no further introduction…
“The plane started its final descent, and my heart began to race. It was March of 2005, and I had been traveling halfway around the world for nearly two days to volunteer in an orphanage in northeast India, with the Austin-based nonprofit The Miracle Foundation. I had been sponsoring a child who lived there but had never visited the country before, and my stomach tightened as the plane touched down and I waited impatiently for the exit doors to open.
I had never expected to be in India. It wasn’t the exotic beauty that had drawn me. It wasn’t the storied, ancient history of the country or its rich and varied culture. It was not the colors or the spices or the sounds or the spirituality of the place. India is all of these things, to be sure; but they were not what pulled me close, made the place somehow a part of my soul before I had even arrived.
It was the children.
They are everywhere. They fill the streets, the railway stations, the shanty villages. Some scrounge through trash for newspapers, rags or anything they can sell at traffic intersections. Others, often as young as two or three years old, beg. Many of them are homeless, overflowing the orphanages and other institutional homes to live on the streets. Amidst the growing prosperity of India, there is an entire generation of parentless children growing up, often forced into child labor and prostitution – more than twenty-five million in all. They are invisible children, their plight virtually unnoticed by the world, their voices silenced.
And in the small town outside Cuttack, a hundred miles south of Calcutta, one man named Damodar Sahoo had dedicated his life to providing some sort of family for one hundred of these children, assisted by donations and volunteers from the United States. I had no way of knowing just how much they would change my life.
Eleven dazed Americans emerged into piercing sunlight and walked across the tarmac to the small terminal. As we entered Caroline Boudreaux, founder of The Miracle Foundation, was immediately spotted by Damodar – known to all simply as “Papa.” He pulled Caroline into a hug across the metal bars separating the passengers from those waiting for them. He lifted his large, thick 1980s style glasses from the bridge of his nose and dabbed at his eyes with a handkerchief, overcome with joy at seeing his American “daughter” again and the group she had brought along to visit the children he cared for. Alongside him were his wife, two women who worked at the orphanage, and three of the children. As we showed our passports and entered the gate, one by one, the little girls handed us each a bouquet of flowers, kissing their fingers and bending down to touch our feet in a blessing.
The visitors and our luggage were crammed into vehicles and we zoomed down the main road, which was dirt peppered with potholes, narrowly missing bicycles, pedestrians, cows and rickshaws. India was everything I had imagined it would be – only more so. More colors, more noises, more smells, more people, more everything. It was an assault on all the senses at once: The throngs of people, the muddy dirt roads, the constant beep-beep of the horns. The deteriorating buildings, the ragged street vendors, the ramshackle homes for which hut was too grandiose a term. The wonderful and the abject co-existed side by side, for the most part peacefully. There was what everyone, myself included, expected – poverty, ugliness, despair, filth.
But there was also much beauty, in the midst of it all. The warmth and shyness of the people, the colorful saris, the upscale shops next to the vendors, the swaying trees surrounding it all. I was enchanted by a brief glimpse into an ornate Hindu temple, candles glowing and people bowing their heads to the ground in prayer. Beauty was not its own thing to be separated out, sanitized, and kept apart for its own sake. The true measure of beauty lay in its imperfections; to see it, one must embrace it all. India immediately wrapped itself around me and refused to let go.
And in the children beauty seemed to come alive, almost making me believe it was a living entity I could capture in my hands.
Without warning, we lurched around a village corner and turned into the orphanage entrance. In a second the cars had stopped and a hundred children lined around in a semi-circle, waving and chanting "welcome" over and over. I opened the car door and they were all around me, touching my feet in blessing. The children were shy at first, obviously excited but reticent. One little girl, about seven years old, summoned her courage and touched my arm, then grasped my hand. "Hello," she said softly, looking up at me and just as quickly dropping her eyes, giggling. As soon as she did this, the crowd of surrounding children shed their reserve and instantly moved in closer, putting their hands out for me to shake. There was a never-ending supply of hands raised in front of me and I shook them over and over.
I was overwhelmed and unsure what to do, blindly following behind Papa and Caroline as they moved into the ashram. It was almost surreal, and happening so quickly. I didn’t have time to look around or get any sense of where I was in the darkness. There were just the children, all around, and my feet moving forward until we arrived in a courtyard. The children, as one, left our sides and began climbing a staircase in an orderly fashion. We followed with the dozen staff members, removing our shoes at the top of the stairs and entering the prayer room.
The children were already lined up and sitting on rugs on the floor, boys on one side and girls on the other, ages progressively going up toward the back with older kids sitting behind younger. I was handed a small bouquet of red roses and marigolds, and led to a spot on the mats. At the front of the room was an altar holding flowers, small trinkets of devotion, a picture of the guru Sai Baba and a statue of Vishnu, an ancient Hindu god. Tacked to the walls on all sides were pictures of other Hindu gods – Ganesh and Krishna – as well as Jesus, Mary, Mother Theresa and Mohammed. Ceiling fans whirred overhead to stir up the warm air. A staff member lit incense at the altar while another blew a horn softly. The children sat up straighter and ceased any fidgeting or whispering.
Then the prayers began. It started with a simple chant: "Om….om..," the small voices resonating deeply. The chanting gave way to a song, a hundred sweet voices dancing in the air and filling the room. Beside me on the rug sat one of the smallest girls, with glossy black curls and deep dimples. She was sitting lotus-style with her middle fingers and thumbs pressed together on the knees of her yellow and green flowered dress, eyes squinted tightly shut in concentration. Her strong, clear singing distinctly carried to my ears apart from the others. The voice of this three year old rising so pure and true was one of the most powerful sounds I had ever heard.
Soon the singing faded into silence and Papa prayed. He said there were many religions represented and respected in the ashram. “Here, there are Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and Muslims. We pray,” Papa said, “to God and Allah and Jesus and Mohammed. The meaning of life is to love all. The purpose of life is to serve all.”
It was a simple prayer, reminding me that life need not be complicated unless we made it so. A soothing peace palpable in the air filled me, and I breathed out deeply. The past forty hours of travel and little sleep fell away as if they were nothing. There seemed no other world outside this place. As Papa spoke my eyes traveled over the faces all around me. I wondered when each of them had stopped wanting to go home, or if they ever had. As much of a loving community as the ashram seemed, it was not the family that most of the children had once known, distant and ghostly memories for the most part.
Home is a fragile concept – far more delicate than those of us who have always had one can imagine. When a person no longer has a home, when his family is taken from him and he is deprived of everything that was home, then after a while wherever he is becomes home. Slowly, the pieces of memory fade, until this strange new place is not strange anymore; it becomes harder to recall the past life, a long ago family, until one day he realizes he is home.
Post Script: Excerpts provided by Ms. Seal
What to know:
More than 25 million Indian children currently live without homes or families – in orphanages or on the streets, where they are extremely vulnerable to abuse, disease, and being trafficked into labor or the sex trade.
Another 4 million children join their ranks each year.
India is home to the most AIDS orphans of any country in the world – approaching 2 million, and expected to double over the next five years.
By some estimates, as many as 100 million child laborers work in India.
Hundreds of thousands of Indian children go missing each year, kidnapped or trafficked – and three out of four of those are never found.
A poor child in India is three times as likely to die before his fifth birthday as a rich child.
More than two million children themselves die every year from preventable infections for which education and medicine are lacking.
One of every three of the world’s malnourished children lives in India.
Fifty percent of childhood deaths there are attributable to malnutrition or starvation.
How you can help:
The first step is awareness – thank you for reading this article and for caring. You can sponsor a child at Miracle Foundation.
You can make a donation at UNICEF, the leading champion for children worldwide. Be a conscious shopper. Is it really worth getting something a few dollars cheaper if it is made by slave labor or children? Check out The Better World Shopping Guide. You can take action by signing petitions and/or financially supporting organizations that are working worldwide to end child labor. Some of them are: globalmarch.org | endchildlabor.org | earthaction.org
I read a post daring the readers to break out and expand our consciousness and awareness:
She invited me and a few others (and doubtless the entire world if all are so inclined) to join in and challenge a belief.
Shouldn’t be so hard, should it?
I challenge many things, I challenge the appearance or the illusion of truth. I challenge perception. I challenge myself.
I find that many of us have been taught to not forgive, for if we do, we are then fools or soon to be a ready-made fool. I find that we are not taught that the lack of forgiveness many times hurts only ourselves and always in fact hurts somewhere internally. That is a given. That is a “fact”.
When we do not forgive, we take up room within ourselves, we create labyrinths with mirrored walls, pitfalls, dungeons and all sorts of traps that we have hidden the locks to, even though we were the original locksmiths.
I received a lovely parable yesterday, and share it with you today, to challenge your belief, and sometimes my own, on forgiveness.
I leave it below for you, in its entirety as I received it. I do not know the author of the piece.
TWO FRIENDS WERE WALKING
THROUGH THE DESERT
DURING SOME POINT OF THE
JOURNEY, THEY HAD AN
ARGUMENT; AND ONE FRIEND
SLAPPED THE OTHER ONE
IN THE FACE
THE ONE WHO GOT SLAPPED
WAS HURT, BUT WITHOUT
WROTE IN THE SAND
TODAY MY BEST FRIEND
SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE
THEY KEPT ON WALKING,
UNTIL THEY FOUND AN OASIS,
WHERE THEY DECIDED
TO TAKE A BATH
THE ONE WHO HAD BEEN
SLAPPED GOT STUCK IN THE
MIRE! AND STARTED DROWNING,
BUT THE FRIEND SAVED HIM.
AFTER HE RECOVERED FROM
THE NEAR DROWNING,
HE WROTE ON A STONE:
“TODAY MY BEST FRIEND
SAVED MY LIFE”
THE FRIEND WHO HAD SLAPPED
AND SAVED HIS BEST FRIEND
ASKED HIM, “AFTER I HURT YOU,
YOU WROTE IN THE SAND AND NOW,
YOU WRITE ON A STONE, WHY?”
THE FRIEND REPLIED
“WHEN SOMEONE HURTS US
WE SHOULD WRITE IT DOWN
IN SAND, WHERE WINDS OF
FORGIVENESS CAN ERASE IT AWAY.
BUT, WHEN SOMEONE DOES
SOMETHING GOOD FOR US,
WE MUST ENGRAVE IT IN STONE
WHERE NO WIND
CAN EVER ERASE IT”
LEARN TO WRITE
YOUR HURTS IN
THE SAND AND TO
BENEFITS IN STONE.
T HEY SAY IT TAKES A
MINUTE TO FIND A SPECIAL
AN HOUR TO APPRECIATE
TO LOVE THEM,
AN ENTIRE LIFE
TO FORGET THEM.
SEND THIS TO
THE PEOPLE YOU’LL NEVER
I JUST DID.
IF YOU DON’T
SEND IT TO ANYONE,
IT MEANS YOU’RE IN A
HURRY AND THAT YOU’VE
FORGOTTEN YOUR FRIENDS.
TAKE THE TIME TO LIVE!
DO NOT VALUE THE THINGS
YOU HAVE IN YOUR LIFE, BUT VALUE
WHO YOU HAVE IN YOUR LIFE!
AND IF I HAPPEN TO GET IT BACK,
THEN I KNOW MY PLACE IN YOUR LIFE
“Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”
I HOPE this message finds you in good health
To God be the Glory for the great things He has done!
I feel as I imagine it would be to be the river or a gurgling creek.
I find that there are moments when I have what some may call an intolerance for words. It is ironic because I earn my daily bread with words. It is ironic because I live to read. It is ironic because some of the greatest beauty I find in this world is how words sing, hum beyond the confines we put upon them, caging them in with alphabets and dialects.
Words though carry power. The absence of words also carries power.
I have met people in life that need words but appear to me not to even know they need them. Words rush from their mouths in torrents, chronicling minute details of their days and I sit and watch the mouth of the person speaking, the person’s eyes, the way the skin on their face moves and all of this observation somehow takes the place of me being able to hear the words themselves, I hear something beyond them, so when the pause comes as it does inevitably, I find myself still in this other dimension, the land of lost words, and nothing comes out of my mouth. I am in a place where I don’t know how to convert this “new” language, the language that goes beyond mere letters and I am silent. It does not mean I have not heard, thought, analyzed, emoted…I simply can’t translate these sensations into a comprehensible language.
When I say as I did above that I feel peaceful, it may not be the generally understood meaning of peaceful. I mean instead not that I am free of issues or “troubles”, but I am free of my need to hold onto them. Yes, they exist, but I also know a moment will come when those same issues will not exist, perhaps they will have taken a new form, but they do not weave themselves tightly into the fabric of the internal me. And this is what I mean by feeling like the river or the gurgling creek, I flow.
You can hurt people considerably by not being able to deliver to them what they need from you in a particular moment. It does not make them wrong, it does not make you wrong, but the hurt sits there, like an elephant in the room.
The question becomes, what do you do with the elephant? In my case, nothing, I walk past it if there are no peanuts in my pocket. Does it mean I don’t care about the elephant? No. It simply means that some things are bigger than us and have their own rhythms and the best we can do is flow with our own rhythms.
By flowing with our own rhythms, we come closer to allowing ourselves to be, and in doing so, stand a fair chance of also letting others simply be. Perhaps this is how I envision harmony or Heaven, where the levels of energy flow and do not push against each other.
So, be a river today, be a gurgling creek, just be.
I ask myself, no, I hesitate as I type this, do I really ask myself?
I think not. I think I know, no, I know I know, what enrichment is….
It is a day not long ago, a trying one, and just when a pause interspersed itself, Louis Armstrong came on, singing Hello Dolly and I heard my grandfather singing, singing like Louis. Yeah, I know, no one sings like Louis, but if you heard my grandfather, you too would shake your head.
I read Ronnie’s post on The Door to the Universe is You and it fit, it resonated, and I said, damn, I thought my landscape was limited, I thought, with my headlamp, flashlight, and pickax meandering through the labryinth of my mind that I could find the creased bits of parchment to give me the map to the treasure chest, but you see, in my mind, in my search, the treasure chest had boundaries…I read Ronnie’s post, the door to the universe is you, and my heart exploded.
Let me add, as I wrote this, my husband, that beautiful man, was trying to get us ahead, up on a stool, changing lights and before I could type the word “exploded”, well, the bulb crashed to the ground, and yes, it exploded everywhere.
So am I enriched? More than I can describe. It is the hug of a child, slippery from the bath, throwing him upon a deep comforter to cushion the fun, the giggles, the sheer delight in the moment.
We are what we decide, no matter what life hands us. And yes, I have been handed lemons, but heck, it’s easy make lemonade. The thing is, I can’t help the lemons I have been given, so what choice is there? I’m in charge of me, I decide how I feel.
I have learned, I have many hats, I decide which ones I wear and when, and sometimes, just sometimes, I wear them all at once.
How do I meet you, where you want to be met?
How do I speak to you as you want to be spoken to?
How do I hear you as you want to be heard?
Do I need to anticipate your words and thoughts, before I put my own on the page?
I am struck, today as many days, by who will be our next statistics.
Reading the news, I realize, you are removed from me. Are you the heart, the soul, the courage I call to with these words?
Are you who I write to without knowing as I read stories or hear stories in and on the news, more “numbers”, more “statistics”, God forgive me, you are removed from me.
Because today I am ok.
Today I am here, in a country I love, in a place where I am adored, in a world where the best of all dreams have manifested. To me the best of all dreams is what I inhabit, the love of a select few, so pure; yet, not without its moments of impatience. Within and around this world, I have food, a roof, electricity, I have the ability to pay bills. I have feet, legs that carry me to my car to start my day, I have a career, esteemed some would say, but that is not the pivotal signifigance, the pivotal signifigance is that I have and embody, at least to this day, the wherewithal to carry on.
Who would I be without it?
Where would I be?
And despite this awareness of fortune and luck, I read the news, devour the news, surf for different versions of the same story, wanting, panting over the search, the journey for the truth to figure out how it is any of us could treat each other as if we were not part of the “us”.
Can I see a mother in the news grieving, struggling despite the news to carry on, because really, what else is there to do?
I wonder at the ones we mark as misfits as this global world closes into itself, where will they go? Trapped where they are not wanted and don’t belong; yet, marked from exit? And suppose, just suppose, we are wrong in our adjustment of perception, so much so, that we brand the innocent guilty? Can we live with that?
I know, statistics can meter out that the price of a few innocent lives are worth it to capture the maybe guilty ones…but something deep within my heart cries out, screams and says, suppose, just suppose, it was you or I? or a beloved child that we knew, as well as we can know anything, who was and is good, what then?
I have never spent much time on the depth of literature or biblical studies, not that I don’t have degrees, learning or education, it is simply that my mind seemed to discard that which did not ring true with the collective human heart.
I don’t care. I simply don’t care what the Bible has to say, I think the truth for humanity lives within us and resonates so true and so pure from the most beautiful part of our hearts and souls, that truth of that nature is hard to disavow.
I think our society has succumbed, has bowed itself to the inevitability to evolution on an industrial and technological level. Really, I have no better choice, no better solution, I know not what a better world would be for us, I do know this, we are culpable, day after day, in the moment exiting sleep and upon awakening, that is the breath within which we embrace the best version of who we are and we shrug it off, most of us, and don a suit of clothes, to play charades for the better part of our days.
I do not have the one answer, the one path, the signs or the miracles that point the way.
Sometimes though, what doesn’t work, can point the way.
We spend so much time afraid of each other, who has what, who will do what, that we cannot live.
What would happen if 98 percent of the world chose differently? Chose to have a voice and use that voice and live in whatever best version of the Divine we could embody?
Is it really so far fetched?
Isn’t that truly part of what we search for, this life cycle of questions and answers?
Can’t we just accept there are many things we do not know, but despite that, acknowledge there are things we can agree upon to honor each other?
I sat here, for a blessed moment or two, doing nothing but seeing.
I saw that despite my attempts to clean up my shelves, a piece of paper had a mind of its own and somehow became lodged between one shelf and another, in a space which served to highlight it: A Novena to St. Jude.
Now I have always known St. Jude is powerful and clever, but this beats all, quite a funny way of reminding me I owe him a few prayers of gratitude.
I sat again, unwilling to pick up the novena prayer, not quite yet, this is my stillness and prayer to me is active in a way mere thought is not.
I had just stopped working on a memorandum, research, the pursuit of questions without quantifiable answers, but whose answers, when found exonerate or impose liability and to be frank, I was done, I was “still”.
So I continued to stare thinking about a series of email exchanges regarding how much is too much, when does thought and excavating the past liberate us and when does it encumber us?
My eye glanced to a lovely book, an older version: Little Pictures of Japan. And I was drawn to its cover and wanted to jump in and indulge myself in its ability to take the complex and make it simple but I didn’t.
I continued to sit and stare.
My mind became drawn to a book: Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. One of my absolute favorites from childhood.
I stood up, I picked it up, walked back to my chair and sat down.
I love it just as much today: the child on a journey, confronting and meeting his fears, and regarding them unblinking.
Yes. It was the perfect ending to that line of thought if I had not just stepped outside afterward and for the second time today heard a long forgotten song playing from a neighbor’s home which propelled me to view myself remotely as a beautiful and pure child and to want to smother that child with kisses and thank her for her dreams, for her courage to believe, for her vision and to promise her, I would begin to take down the walls that stood in her path.
See Ronnie’s Out of My Head piece: Where the Wild Things Were
There are days when there is nothing I want to say or post.
It is a period of being devoid of having anything new to say or an opinion that is not expressed elsewhere.
Perhaps it is uncertainty. (And no, the “perhaps” was not a play on words).
Many people out here in Blogland have volumes to write in a seemingly endless and reliable fashion.
I am not one of those bloggers.
I find that silence is sometimes my best friend. I have days where I absorb, I hear and think and feel what is going on around me, but I let it pass through without grabbing on to see what will settle and to not push myself into believing one thing or another.
A recent post here related to Widows in India, arguably only a very small percentage of a vast population, but the subject induced a long series of comments. I understand why, the title alone: Widows in India, did nothing to demonstrate that the subject was less than the entire class of Widows. I could understand why someone who has lived and breathed in a Society, and has taken on obligations and watched others around take on obligations, would feel the need to enlighten us further. I also understand the varied responses and different interpretations of others who commented on that particular piece.
It made me realize, not for the first time in my life, how much of this world is an illusion. I say this because we all see the world with a different vision, different senses, different emotions, etc. All of these “reactions” play out what our individual world amounts to, whether accurate or not, I am not convinced that there can ever be only one version, one vision.
I read a lot about spirituality, powers untapped of the universe, etc.
Tonight, I enjoy a piece that Ronnie at Out of my Head wrote about how to take simple steps to make it happen.
Maybe some of you are like me, you need a picture drawn, not The Last Supper, but a small and well defined cartoon, few brush strokes to get to the heart of the matter.
Well, Ronnie did that for me, and yes, I guess I spurred her on a bit, but so what? I wanted the answer.