Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hammock Dreamin'

This weekend was simply wonderful, like the last wink of summer before she leaves until next year. The coolness of autumn is already in the air, some leaves have turned already, maybe the last chance of shorts. t-shirt, and sandals for a long while. Today, we spent with my friend Kathrin and her family, who are stationed in Wiesbaden. After a 2.5 hour drive and great lunch we headed for the yard to enjoy the sun and let the kids tire themselves out; Emma insisted to get out the hammock as well along with all the other yard toys. After chasing down Lily for a while, I ended up in said hammock with little Violet; it was put up between two large trees, whose leaves were still green. The sun shone through them and cast an interesting pattern on us while we were just relaxing and looking up at the green canopy above us. Violet was scratching at the fabric of the hammock and chewing at her fingers. After a couple of minutes, Lily decided to join us and stayed for a while swinging before joining her new friend Julian for more playing again. Violet and I remained in the hammock, just being there and enjoying the here and now.

In our hectic lives, these moments have become so rare. On any given day I haste from A to B, not thinking, not stopping, not seeing the world around me. In these minutes today, I saw my tiny world in these moments, the hammock, the trees, the leaves, and the sun, more clearly than I have in a long time. It seemed as if time had stopped for a while, and I was simply calm and content. In this world of haste, stress, irritation, confusion, and other negative feelings, something as simple as a hammock on a sunny late-summer afternoon made an impression on me that makes me think: why don't we take time-outs any more? What keeps us from just taking a few minutes every day for ourselves; no children, no work, no chores, just us to reconnect with ourselves and recharge. I have already informed my husband that I would like to have a hammock at some point. Just to have my very own space for me-time at least every couple of days. I believe if people took more time to just calm down and give up the world around them every once in a while, this world would be a better place. Who could still hold grudges and negativities in the face of something as beautiful as this planet? I couldn't, and I feel very much refueled to take on the challenges of tomorrow, next week, and whatever comes after that.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11 Project

As announced earlier on this blog and my Facebook page, I have started reading the Qur'an. I am doing this out of personal interest, and to understand more of a religion that has been in the focus point of much criticism and misunderstanding since the horrible attacks by a few fanatics on this day 9 years ago.

Before I start writing about my first impressions, I want to clarify that even though I personally am an atheist, I do not hate religion, none of the many faiths out there. I even think that for many people religion is a good thing since it helps them to have someone to turn to in difficult times and definitely provide a good social network. This issue has even come up during a brunch of our Atheist/Agnostic parent group some time ago. Many atheists miss this type of social connection many churches provide but don't find it in their hearts to join just for the company and actively deceive the congregation on how they truly feel. I myself know several wonderful people, some of whom have invited us to join them in their congregations, which we had to decline. This, however, never hurt our friendship, because we agreed from the beginning to disagree on certain issues and leave it with that; additionally, we were always honest about our feelings and convictions. Our friendships are based on the most simple principles of love, tolerance, and respect, which most faiths teach to begin with.

Unfortunately, there are people, like said Mr. Terry Jones, the members of Westborough Baptist Church in Topeka, KS, and fanatics of any faith, who use religion as a tool and a justification to hurt others. This leads me to my preliminary favorite passage of the Qur'an. As in the translation by Sahih International, the Holy Book of the Muslims talks about these fanatics:

"2:13 And when it is said to them, "Believe as the people have believed," they say, "Should we believe as the foolish have believed?" Unquestionably, it is they who are the foolish, but they know [it] not. 2:14 And when they meet those who believe, they say, "We believe"; but when they are alone with their evil ones, they say, "Indeed, we are with you; we were only mockers." 2:15 [But] Allah mocks them and prolongs them in their transgression [while] they wander blindly. 2:16 Those are the ones who have purchased error [in exchange] for guidance, so their transaction has brought no profit, nor were they guided. 2:17 Their example is that of one who kindled a fire, but when it illuminated what was around him, Allah took away their light and left them in darkness [so] they could not see. 2:18 Deaf, dumb and blind - so they will not return [to the right path]."

Especially the picture of the lighted fire that will turn into darkness so reminded me of Mr. Terry Jones and his planned burning of the Qur'an. Indeed, he lighted a fire, even if by now only a figurative. He managed to be in the spotlight of attention from all over the world. But this spotlight was a dark one, which could easily ended in more deaths of innocent people. He, along with all fanatics, who call themselves "reformers" of their faith, are walking a dark path ending in nothing but chaos. The only way for them out of this mess they have brought themselves into by their very own pride and vanity is to turn around, go back to the beginnings, really READ the words and don't interpret them to fit their ideas.

This all might sound like a heavy load from an atheist like me, but as I said before, I respect religion and all people of true faith, it is just not for me. I am just a person who tries to leave a positive trace on this planet and who dreams of a better world for her children.

In this sense: Let's commemorate the victims of 9/11, who were of many races, nationalities, and faiths. Let's commemorate the innocent victims of two wars that ensued these attacks and together as one work for a more peaceful future for everyone.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Letter to Mr. Terry Jones

Dear Mr. Jones:

I am writing this letter on behalf of every right-minded person on this planet. First of all, let me congratulate you on getting world-wide attention for your despicable plan. If I had a say in matters like that, an utter and total media ban would be ordered for spectacles like the one you are planning for this Saturday. The reasons for that are simple: your master plan all along was to get attention to humiliate and provoke an entire religious community over the fanaticism of a small minority. In my opinion, NOT reporting about your “protest” would have been the way to go, because it would have been the only way to counteract your malicious plan, because that’s all it is. Your behavior has nothing to do with being a good Christian, even an educated atheist like I can clearly see that, and I am sure that true Christian communities all over the world are turning away in shame from your actions.

I think I am speaking the minds of many if I say that your behavior resembles more that of a stubborn and unruly child than that of a reasonable adult. Are you even aware that your actions will endanger Western peace and developmental aid workers all over the world? In burning the Koran, you plainly display the ignorance many Muslims dislike about the Western societies. Instead of educating yourself about what Islam truly teaches by actually READING the Koran or invite Muslim scholars and members of the Islamic community to open discussion, you display a disregard, disrespect, and unbelievable ignorance towards a religion that is clearly the younger sibling of Christianity and its millions of faithful followers.

You should be ashamed of yourself, and everyone who supports you as well. I definitely know that Jesus, who you claim to be your Lord and Savior, would cringe and turn away in disgust knowing of your plans. Jesus’ message only contains love and tolerance for EVERYONE, not just the ones who think like you. I obviously know what I am talking about, because even though I am an atheist I care to educate myself, and even though we dare to disagree I have nothing but love and respect for my religious friends, whichever religion they may follow. All those dogmas and concepts are clearly foreign to you, a pastor, who should lead his congregation in the true words of Jesus. When have you last dared to open up the Bible and truly let Jesus’ words speak to you? I bet it has been a long, long time, and in the meantime, hatred and ignorance has consumed you to a point where you spit on Jesus’ message by burning the Holy Book of your brethren.

As a small attempt to counteract the magnitude of damage to the entire Western world and especially the true Christian communities, I will take the opportunity on this Saturday, September 11, 2010 to buy a copy of the Koran and start reading it. I have planned on doing that for a while, so why not start now? And I call upon every enlightened and truly tolerant, open-minded and loving person to do the same. Instead of allowing that this 9th anniversary of a tragedy caused by a fanatic minority will be marked by yet another act of ignorance and provocation, let it become known as a day where people come a little bit closer in tolerance, respect, and understanding. Let’s reach out to a community, which does not think so much different after all, and attempt to understand them a little better. Thus, I am calling for “Read the Koran Day” this Saturday; join me and others to broaden your own horizon by READING, not BURNING the copy of the Koran you obviously already own. In the end, you might be glad you did.


Stephanie M. Powell

Monday, September 6, 2010

Of Happiness and Woes

It's been a while since I've written a post, life has just been too busy, sleep has been a luxury with our teething baby, and work just crazy but so interesting. I think I've learned more useful things in these two months than ever before, for which I am really glad and grateful. I finally feel as if my hard work is somewhat paying off and just hope for the best toward the end of the year.

Well, in all that craziness that is still called my life, I found myself at the grocery store last Saturday morning to pick up some pizza and cake for lunch and coffee since our friends were about to come over to help us put up our monstrosity of a wardrobe. Pushing little Violet in the shopping cart through the store, I was suddenly stopped by an older couple wooing over our little girl, who was at her best and decided to smile at them with her adorable toothless smile. I our little conversation that followed, the man said something along the line of "Isn't it amazing how little they need to be happy; it's because they know so little about life's woes yet". I was somehow too confused about that remark to reply right away, but it stuck, and on the way out to our car, I thought, that it's not only our kids learning from us as they grow, but if we allow it, we can learn so much from our little ones.

Just looking at both of our girls and watching them teaches me so much about the beauty of life itself, and what life is REALLY about. People, and I am no exception, worry too much about lesser issues in life that they lose their focus on what really counts. How often has you smiled today? I am looking at Lily and Violet, and they smile constantly about seemingly meaningless things. I remember Lily's eyes lighting up when the doorbell rang today and her friend was there picking her up to play downstairs. Or Violet being just content as she lays in her bed with her pacifier and one of my t-shirts to soothe her while she falls asleep holding my finger. She had a full tummy, a warm bed, and someone who loves her right there to feel safe, this is all she needed.

When were we last truly grateful for just not being hungry, having a warm home and loved ones around? Most of the time people complain that the house or the TV aren't big enough, they needed a new car because the one they have already has a few years under its belt, and so on. Next time you think this way, just switch on the TV or check the news online to see that for the majority of people in this world these simple needs cannot be met. People are still going hungry or even starving in most countries in the world. Parents have to watch their hungry children unable to feed them, don't have a home of can provide even the most simple needs like shelter or medical care. At this point, we should really take a second to step back and look at what WE have rather than what the person next door has. Let's take a second and learn from our children what's really important in life, and maybe this will eventually make a difference and help us lead a happier and more content life. I personally will go now and watch our girls sleep, kiss them good-night a final time for tonight and turn in myself. To a better tomorrow, everyone!