Mexico Sings to the World

It happened again yesterday, like I’ve experienced so many times in Mexico. I heard heartbreakingly beautiful music, asked who was singing, or who had written it, and then spent to the wee small hours of the morning chasing links on YouTube and Google. I am continually dumbfounded by the variety and depth of Mexican music. From comments that unfold below the videos, I know I am not alone in the world. I would venture to say that more than mangos and tomatoes, Mexico’s chief export to the rest of the world is its music.

Ironically, though it’s me who speaks Spanish, it’s been my husband and his Harley motorcycle club connections that have provided us with a wealth of Mexican friends, mostly husbands and wives. Larry has hit it off with one man in particular, and his wife and I have become friends, as well. Mainly we are linked by the fact that Larry and Ernesto are about thirty years older than anyone else in the club. Ernesto’s wife Lucha had a birthday comida yesterday, and I was honored to be included. It was not like the ladies’ luncheons I was used to back in the States.

For one thing there was a lot of tequila and sangria involved. About three hours in, after the food had been cleared away there was dancing — the kind that women do when there are no men around and we’re just ecstatic to be alive. It was, of course, to live music. Live music seems to be a staple at any gathering involving over ten people. This was a school teacher/tenor from León, Victor Centeno, and his keyboardist, a surprise gift from Lucha’s sister.  Things got rolling starting with the strains of the traditional birthday song, “Las Mananitas,” and went on from there. He responded to requests, and most of us made quite a few.

The music didn’t stop the conversation, and with over twenty women, I smiled and laughed a lot at things I totally didn’t understand.  That can get me into trouble sometimes, but yesterday, for me,  it was all about the music.

My sister and brother-in-law recently bought a house near us here in San Miguel. For the both of them, it’s also all about the music.  Emily wanted a primer on Mexican music, so I put together the following email for her. I started out with Maria Grever (sometimes spelled Griber), because she’s a woman, and my sister plays the piano. Here’s the link to just the piano playing “Alma Mía,” though I hope you explore further and listen to the words.

Because I’m talking to YOU, who may not know the first thing about Mexican music. I thought I’d go ahead and share all this info I compiled for Emily and Jay to get you interested.  It is just a bare introduction to the basics, sort of like introducing Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney to people who don’t know anything about American music. Most of these people go way back. But look at the numbers of records sold by some of these singers! Prepare to be swept away in canciones muy románticas!

So here’s what I wrote to Emily

….Maria Grever’s name came up during an animated conversation about whether Buki or Juan Gabriel is the better poet/composer. So I had to google Buki (Marco Antonio Solis) because I’d never heard of him. The song of his the ladies were raving about was “Donde Estara Mi Primavera?” …..
Here’s more info:

Juan Gabriel is like a god in Mexico. The nation went into mourning last summer when he passed away. The link I’ve given takes you to Wikipedia.

Luis Miguel is another legend. He is not a poet or composer, but boy, does he deliver a song.

Jose Alfredo Jimenez is from the state of Guanajuato and his grave is in Dolores Hidalgo. Legendary composer.

Lola Beltran is definitely a woman worth mentioning. Iconic.

Lucha Villa  is another icon who is still living.

Amalia Mendoza I include, just to keep things even between men and women.

But they’re not. There are so many male singers that make my heartstrings flutter, including Alejandro Fernandez (son of Vicente Fernandez), Jose Jose, and I should also include Armando Manzanero, who I discovered when I was a student down here back in the sixties.

Think of it. I’m just putting Mexican musicians here. There are many Argentinian, Colombian, Peruvian, Spanish (I left out Puerto Rico!)….on and on artists that have huge followings. Though I think Mexico definitely leads the pack of Spanish language musicians — but I’m kind of biased these days. So many more. You could get lost in YouTube. It’s fun seeing the comments sections there. Evidently Mexican music has a huge following all over the world.

Important words to know: bolero, ranchero, canciones romanticas.

Also look on YouTube for “La Hija del Mariachi” which evidently was a Colombian telenovela based on Mexican ranchera songs. The clips available are enormously entertaining. Passion!!!

Other women singers that deliver Mexican songs: Linda Ronstadt, Vikki Carr, Eydie Gorme and Los Tres Panchos.”

That’s where I left off, thinking that would give them a good start on their Mexican music education. I know I’ve left a lot of important people out — composers like Augustin Lara and Mario Talavera (Chris Raymond lived on a street named for him.) I invite readers to share with me who I’ve missed. I’m always up for another late night Google session!

I don’t want to talk about it.

I’m expressing solidarity with Mexico, for the earthquake in Chiapas and Oaxaca. No word from U.S. government of support for their neighboring country down here to the south, but also no word of support for the red state of Montana which is going up in flames. No blame here — honest. So much stuff going on, words and more words just seem — noisy. As usual, it’s the actions of individuals that are most meaningful — heartfelt, responsive. They always speak more than words.
 
I have to admit a short, ironic laugh escaped me at Frank Koughan‘s cryptic Facebook post the other day: “Oops. Maybe we shouldn’t have opened that seventh seal.” But it made me go reread Revelation, and no I’m not going to pontificate like some evangelical, hellfire and brimstone preacher about the open-to-many-interpretations-and-has-anyone-ever-heard-of-metaphor words you can find there. What did catch my eye, though, was the verse at the beginning of Chapter 8: “And when he had opened the seventh seal there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.”
 
Really? Silence? That wouldn’t be hell. I would call that heaven! Just QUIET!
 
Now I happen to be one of those heaven-here-on-earth types — you know, taking Jesus literally when he said “the kingdom of heaven is within you?” Between you and me, my heaven-on-earth has been severely challenged recently, and I admit that probably most of it has been the noise in my own head about what/who I perceive “out there” on many fronts.
 
I need to keep reading, researching, listening, going deep. Praying. I’ve learned when I do that last one first, and above all, it comes to me how I can be most effective  — what practical steps to take that would be most helpful.
But I need mental quiet to do that, and if I’m railing or ranting or reacting, I’m not much good to anyone. I remember a story about Elijah going through earthquake, wind, and fire and being told God wasn’t it them, but in a still, small voice. That’s the voice I want to hear. 
OK, so shut up, monkey mind. Let me hear that QUIET. I know it’s there, right in the eye of the storm. It is a LOW pressure system, isn’t it? Sort of the opposite of the high pressure stuff we’ve been assaulted with? Is there metaphor there? Don’t know.
Listening.
And this comes: A Fresh Air interview Terry Gross did with someone in the week following 9/11. It was a woman who was on the 98th floor of the first tower when the jet crashed through the window of the office she was working in. Her assessment of the experience has stayed with me all these years, and I quote as I remember it: “It wasn’t until the next day that I realized how horrible it was,” she said, “when I saw it on television.” (These are mine: !!)
She continued: “But in that moment, in all the chaos, all I was conscious of was the great love of those around me. We were checking on each other, caring for each other. Everyone was so calm. That’s what I remember most.”
That’s a first hand perspective from the middle of disaster. I think it’s worth contemplating — quietly.  Shh. Just think about it.
One more Bible quote, this one from Isaiah, who usually has a lot of words of comfort —
“For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength:”

Confronting where I’ve been.

I’ve been thinking about this panel discussion on healing which I’ve been invited to participate in tomorrow at St. Paul’s in San Miguel. I’m billed as a former Christian Science practitioner, a profession/denomination usually referred to as “those people who don’t go to doctors.” Right. I didn’t. Then I did. Now not so much anymore. It’s ironic that sometimes your credibility increases when you’ve failed spectacularly at something. One question I’ve been asking myself these past few days is “When was I healed of being a racist?” And “Am I well and truly healed?”

It’s time to speak about this. I hope I can do it with compassion for myself, for my parents (who are both gone), and for anyone who happens to read this. The events of the past few days, particularly the words and actions of the “leader of the free world,” have evoked a visceral reaction in me that I’ve been loathe to voice, mainly because I look at those tiki-torch bearers, and think “There but for the grace of God…”

I’m not going to say “go I,” because if you notice, they were all men carrying those torches. Now that’s a whole other riff, but not one I’m going to pursue at this moment. For now I’m sticking with blatant racism. I would dearly love to see some healing take place along these lines. I speak as one who has been in that fire.

I like to think that when push came to shove, my father and brother and uncles would not have been in such a crowd. But let’s just say that sweeping racial generalizations and stereotypical judgments were pretty standard fare in our house. Dad and Mom were ardent Goldwater supporters, and in 1967, (this is so difficult) Dad was the local poll representative for George Wallace’s American Independent Party.

There. I’ve said it. But I need to say more, because at the time I thought my Daddy was the smartest man in the world and if anyone thought differently, I at least didn’t hear them voice what needed to be said then and needs to be — no, must be said now. Dad was wrong, wrong, wrong. And my mother was wrong when she questioned President Obama’s birth certificate, and when she said Michelle didn’t “look like” a first lady.

I loved these people. They loved me and I believe on the whole they raised me well. Many would say I don’t need to say these things about them now, raking up the rotten and exposing the yuck. But if there’s anything I’ve learned in these last few years of studying history on sight, it’s that the most important stories, the ones that most affect the course of countries and of the world, are seldom written down.

My purpose in writing this story down now is that I know from my own experience, that racism can be healed. I hope I stand as living proof. I have to admit that even as I write this, a nagging inside voice says “Don’t be a Pollyanna. We’re not going to get through this by joining hands and singing Cum By Ya.” (or however you spell it.) But my higher self asks me to consider the alternative: As a people, the American people, we need to hold to the fact that healing does happen — even when confronted with all those young white male fire-lit faces in Charlottesville. Racism has to be recognized, called out and condemned as evil. That’s where Number 45 has failed so miserably. But despite what anyone else does or doesn’t do, we ourselves can make an effort to follow the Jesus-example. He cast out the demons, and healed the individuals. He didn’t fight fire with more fire or fury. He snuffed out insanity with his unconditional love and moral authority.

So in this healing process, I have to start work with myself and my history. I have to recognize where I’ve been, how far I’ve come, and acknowledge how far I have to go. I have to cherish every honest human heart, even though that heart is misdirected, misguided and mistaken. That goes especially for my own. We human beings are always works in progress.

My parents did raise me to “seek truth righteously,” even if in retrospect there was a lot more self-righteousness in their manner of seeking than any of us recognized at the time. But because of this innate love of truth, the opinions I so passionately parroted in junior high and high school quickly became cringe-worthy and repugnant when I was actually exposed to and engaged with people of color in college and in the workplace. I trust, I hope, and I pray that Mom and Dad have moved on in their life-after-life experience like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. In the meantime, on this side, I will continue with deeper attention to the prayer I learned in the Sunday School they sent me to, Mary Baker Eddy’s “daily prayer:”

“Thy kingdom come.”
Let the reign of divine Truth, Life and Love be established in me,
And rule out of me all sin.
And may Thy word enrich the affections of all mankind,
And govern them.

Gratitude Part Deux

having a birthday 2

Well, it’s pretty easy to be grateful when you’ve got Facebook Friends by the minute wishing you a happy birthday, and memories like this one from last year cropping up. (As I post this, I realize I’m wearing the exact same shirt today as I did one year ago, so I’ll start out by saying I’m grateful I still (choose one) a) like my clothes, b) fit in my clothes. Oh, heck. I’ll choose both.

This was taken in France in the company of a group of remarkable women and a few fine men. Many of you know that I’ve been traveling these past five years on the trail of early Christian history in Europe. Travels have taken me to Turkey, Spain, England and France. Especially France. Such special stories from France, all ultimately centered around Mary Magdalene. For those of you who are not familiar with Mary Magdalene’s history and presence in France, maybe if I say “Madeleine” instead, the pieces may fall into place. Yep, that wonderful church in Paris where all the fashionable weddings take place. Yep, that cockle-shelled cookie the crumbling of which launched Marcel Proust  on his 3,000 page epic A La Recherché Du Temps Perdu — Remembrance of Things Past. Why am I “mansplaining?” You people have read The DaVinci Code. But before that, there was Margaret Starbird and her Woman with the Alabaster Jar, as well as all the research done by Kathleen McGowan which resulted in her bestselling Magdalene series of historical novels. (Kathleen is who I’ve been traveling with this summer and the two prior.) My point is, Marie Madeleine, Mary Magdalene, Maria Magdalena, is in the spiritual DNA of southern France and much of Western Europe.

I’m going to be writing more about Mary Magdalene, a lot more. Turns out she’s in my spiritual DNA, as well. I first encountered her in the Christian Science Sunday School where every Easter Sunday I could look forward to a new scratchy petticoat and singing one of my favorite hymns. The first verse goes:

What brightness dawned in resurrection/And shown in Mary’s wondering eyes?               Her heart was thrilled with new affection/She saw her Lord in Life arise.

I liked that idea of light reflecting back out of a woman’s “wondering eyes.” There was a lot I had started “wondering” about, myself. Still wondering, if truth be told.

My birthday misses her Feast Day (tomorrow) by just one day. It was funny, or “coincidental” (you know what they say about that word…) that out of that group of around forty people, there were four of us with birthdays on July 21, and three with birthdays on July 22. We each got a cupcake with a candle. Kind of sweet and special.

So winding up this edition of my gratitude journal, I’m grateful that my husband wanted to do something special for me this evening, and I’m grateful I had the courage to say what I really, really want: order in pizza, early into jammies, and a night of binge-watching Outlander. (I know! I know! But I’ve just found it!). I’m grateful I love my life and my husband so much I just want it to go on and on like this. Blessings on your day!

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Like gratitude and prayer.

In the interest of sanity (mine) I am starting a gratitude journal. I’ve done this in years past, but I need it now more than ever. This time, though, I’m not going to choose some pretty blank volume that I’ve bought on impulse and whose blank pages serve as a constant rebuke. I’ve got a blog I’ve not been using. I’m going public with this, hoping my friends and followers will hold me accountable. Please! Rattle my cage if you don’t see something I’ve written filled with joy coming up on your screen, let’s say, well….at least three times a week. I know JOURnal means daily. I don’t want to set myself an impossible standard. I promise they’ll be short. Not like this one. Brace yourself.

The truth is I’ve found it really hard to write anything since the final days of the campaign and then the cold water shock of the result. Everything seemed to draw my attention back to the Elephant in the news. I’ve felt like the energy has been sucked out of me. Oh, I’ve signed petitions and occasionally marched in the streets, but basically I’ve read the lamentations of others and nodded in agreement. There has been no lack of opportunity to indulge this recent tendency of mine.

It has to stop. None of it has made me feel effective.

Now, I know these gratitude journals work. I’ve used them before in the face of frivolous lawsuits, federal red tape, unjust circumstances of all stripes. WHY they’ve worked I never analyzed, until several years ago, I found this in Eugene Peterson’s translation of a section of the Sermon on the Mount. Here’s the way he puts Jesus’ words:

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves.”

The “energies of prayer,” may be just what I need. It is no secret to those who know me, that before and after the election, the enemy I’ve had in my head has been Donald Trump and those who surround and support him. I’ve found a lot to be angry about. Honk if you agree. I’m not quite ready to say I’m capable of “loving” that enemy. But perhaps I can learn to love the opportunity that enemy presents. Here’s how I’ve evolved to this point.

I caught myself the other day laughing gleefully, rejoicing in another example of STUPIDITY by the current administration. I think it was an article about no one having thought to make hotel reservations for the U.S. delegation to the G20 Summit, and how 45 and his wife were sleeping in the guest house of the Hamburg city government instead of at The Four Seasons, and others in the delegation were finding accommodations wherever they could — like in the U.S. Consulate. True or not, I thought it was hilarious. Then I caught my breath mid-haha.

The problem with being raised with an intimate acquaintance of the Bible, is that relevant verses keep surfacing to bite you in the butt when you get off track. What came to mind in the middle of my laughter was that litany of things in First Corinthians, Chapter 13. (Not “Corinthians One,” as our illustrious leader….Oh, God, please help me. I can’t resist! Do you see why I need to do this?!) Anyway, there in that chapter is a list of things that LOVE (also referred to as “charity,” “affection” in various translations) doesn’t do. There are sixteen, more or less. Down there in the middle is one about not rejoicing when things go bad for others.

Oh. That.

Now don’t get me wrong. I hope things go bad, REALLY bad, for those who have connived, lied, and worked against the interests of democracy, or are standing by like cowards, making excuses while others do it. I’m not about covering up wrong doing and “moving on.” What I’m concerned about is what this constant barrage of bad news is doing to me, on a personal, individual level. Since when have I become the kind of person to be constantly looking for the next example of idiocy and taking pleasure in it? Yech!

“The abiding consciousness of wrongdoing, tends to destroy the ability to do right.”

I love the English language. It’s one of the few idioms where a writer can write abstractly without pointing a finger at YOU or at ME, or even at HIM or THEM. Mary Baker Eddy, when she wrote that statement I’ve put in quotations above, didn’t say WHOSE abiding consciousness. It could pertain to any individual, any culture, any mental or moral atmosphere. I know it pertains to me. It’s probably played a part in this stagnation I’ve been experiencing.

Well, this is me, “responding with the energies of prayer.” Anne Lamott says there are three kinds: Help! Help! Help! is the first. Please! Please! Please! is the second. I’m moving right into the third: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

First entry in this prayer-filled gratitude journal:
I’m grateful for having set up this blog, and grateful for God giving you the patience to read this far. More to come.

How big is your “all”?

This blog entry started out as a Facebook post, a response to a post which read (with some editing):

People with the privileges keep saying: “It’ll be OK!” “It is what it is now.” “Oh, well, better luck in four years.” “He’s our President now. It’s time to accept it.”

All my friends without those same privileges are saying: “Will my marriage stay legal?” “Are we safe?” “What will happen with my health care?””Will my trans child be safe at school?” “Will this increase the militarization of the police in my pre-dominantly black neighborhood?” “Will I still have sovereignty over my own body?” “Will my autistic black son be safe in public places?”

If you tell people to accept this and move on, your privilege is showing.

 

As one who has been privileged, so very privileged, I share this. I had a Sunday School teacher who would ask me “How big is your ‘all’?” She was talking about the concept of God as All-in-all, and she wanted me to recognize my individual infinite potential. As a white child from a prosperous upper middle class family, it was pretty darn easy to see a lot of possibilities. Even if I was limited by a 1960’s vision of women’s roles, the horizon for me and my desires stretched pretty far.

But I’ve grown to understand that it’s not all about me.  My concept of that “all” (the lower case part of the All-in-all) has to billow out, grow and stretch to cover the vast expanse of humanity, the earth, and the universe. I’ve discovered that the more I’ve recognized the existence of the challenged, the disadvantaged, the infinite variety of those other-than-me, the more my concept of the “All” part of the “All-in-all” has developed.

To widen our view of humanity and the world it inhabits is to see new aspects of the face of God. To belittle their existence diminishes our own potential.

My tendency over this whole election process has been to say “I love humanity, just not that man.” Watching Mr. Trump, listening to his speeches has evoked in me a visceral reaction, a bodily sensation of snakes in the stomach, a foreboding of evil to come. I have been repulsed by trolls, disheartened by friends who support him. I know who you are, even if you have not openly trumpeted your political leanings. You’re the ones talking about the weather and casseroles instead of mourning the end of the world. I’ve been caught up “with us or ag’in us.” I am tired of living like that.

I am surrounded by sisters in warrior mode. Oh, how much I love and respect you! I will march with you today, and my heart will be with you in the coming days on every battlefield you choose to fight on. But I know myself, and I cannot sustain a warrior mentality. No, I am not “getting over it.” I am not “moving on.” but the very term “resistance” implies that what we are resisting has power. “You belong to the power you acknowedge,” counseled the apostle Paul. I refuse to acknowledge the power of what Trump represents.

I have to go back to what my Sunday School teacher asked: “How big is my all?” And just how big is my All, the one with the capital A? What is that All?  I know that  All in all of us is Love. It has to be. For what other purpose are we here on the planet than to live that Love?

“There is nothing on earth that can withstand the power of Love. Whatever it is we are going through, whatever anyone has done to hurt us, it is a gift, an opportunity to learn how to love more, to learn more about love.” That’s what the priest in charge of the relics of Mary Magdalene told our group, when we visited the church built to honor her in St. Maximum Le Beaume in the summer of 2015.  So I choose love. I will find new ways of directing and reflecting its beam, new ways of reaching out, new ways to let people know they are safe. It will be my privilege.

 

An old, old story, and hope for today.

I woke up this morning thinking I might have overstepped some boundaries, after I’d posted on Facebook links to two news articles. (see below) I mean, comparing Donald Trump to the Pope? I will grant you I may have offended some.

But it’s not about personalities. It is about ideology, the deep-seated one that takes as its primary tenet that half of humanity is inferior to the other half, and must be suppressed at all costs. No matter that the face presented in one case is benign, the other not so much. One might even ask, which face is more dangerous, the one that is blatantly “out there,” or the one that eludes detection by appearing to be something other than it really is?

This pope has been seen as inclusive, forgiving, reaching out….in short, different than his predecessors. But I was witness to this pope’s agents trailing our tour group this past July, one of them taking photos of us through a long telephoto lens, making themselves known to us and specifically the woman who was leading the group as a form of intimidation. She is Kathleen McGowan, an historical novelist, author of a meticulously researched series of books dealing with early Christian history and the role of Mary Magdalene. She has been threatened before, verbal threats directed specifically against her children, if she were to continue her work of exposing history that the church of Rome has done its best to erase from written accounts. Make threats like that against a mother’s children, and that mother remembers who you are. Yep, this was the same guy. He was back on her trail after several years of absence.

These past two summers, traveling through the south of France with Kathleen, learning the history that has been suppressed re the Christian vs. Christian brutality that culminated in a century and a half of unmitigated genocide, has given me a perspective on present day events and attitudes that makes the very hairs on my arms stand on end. It all came down to the role women could play in the church. When you stand on the spot where women were systematically raped and then thrown down a well and left to die, all at the hands of soldiers fighting at the behest of the Vatican and professing their love of Jesus at the same time….well, those troll-like remarks on Hillary websites don’t seem so harmless and inane.

I was raised a Christian Scientist, and anyone who has followed me or read my book which appears on the masthead of this website, knows I’m not the most outwardly devout or church-going representative of that faith. Both my husband and I have had adventures in Mexican medical care, and I do love me a margarita or a cold beer from time to time. In fact, the new memoire I’m working on has a tentative title Mary Magdalene and the Third-Rate Christian Scientist. I’d like to work Mary Baker Eddy’s name in there somewhere, but I don’t want it to get too unwieldy. But it was in fact Mary Baker Eddy who epitomized that leadership role of a woman in church that has been so anathema to so many for so long. In fact, during construction of the original edifice of what came to be known as The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, the local Catholic diocese opened an office directly across the street and staffed it (oh, I don’t have to be politically correct here. They manned it) with priests charged with praying specifically against the Christian Science project.

Before I go further, here are the two links I shared on Facebook:

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/11/01/opinions/2016-and-the-return-of-the-double-standard-robbins/index.html

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/11/01/pope-women-banned-priesthood-forever/93118528/

Mary Baker Eddy and Hillary Clinton could compare notes on being maligned in the press and excoriated from pulpits. In 1898, Mrs. Eddy instituted a speakers bureau to carry her story and publicly defend her. Members of that board were able to go places a woman in her mid-eighties might find difficult. The board and its work continue to this day. It was my privilege to serve nine years on that board, so defending Mary Baker Eddy and more broadly, the rights of women everywhere still comes as second nature. It helps that she wrote amply on the subject. One excerpt here, seems prophetic of these times. In her work, No and Yes, she writes:

Let it not be heard in Boston that woman, “last at the cross and first at the sepulchre,” has no rights which man is bound to respect. In natural law and in religion the right of woman to fill the highest measure of enlightened understanding and the highest places in government, is inalienable, and these rights are ably vindicated by the noblest of both sexes. This is woman’s hour, with all its sweet amenities and its moral and religious reforms.