Monday, May 26, 2008

Tips From My Mom #6

This morning as I was getting ready for church I discovered that the only shoes I had to wear were my white canvas Converse All*Star low top slips-ons. Now these are amazingly fantastic sneakers but perhaps not the best choice for worshiping my "Lord and Savior Jesus Christ".

I still retain a bit of the old school mentality of Sunday clothes, well if not exactly Sunday clothes I at least differentiate between church going clothes and hangin' by the pool casual. So what's a boy to do when faced with the dilemma of inappropriate footwear on a Sunday morning?

Skipping church altogether was not an option as this was the choir's final Sunday singing the anthem for the season. We are a small church with a less than thriving congregation (in numbers anyway) which means that our choir consists of fewer than a dozen singers and I am the only guy singing the bass line. So, if I am not there a vital element of the composition is left out.

As I got dressed (I did have a pressed shirt and pants in my car because I had picked up my dry cleaning on Saturday before heading over to my friends home for dinner/unexpected sleep over) I suddenly heard my mother's voice.

It is not important what you wear to church. No one should comment on what anyone is wearing on Sunday morning because you are there to worship, not judge.

So off I proudly went, in those shoes that at make me happy, to join my fellow choir members to sing a beautiful anthem dedicated to all of the men and women who lost their lives fighting for our country.

But this got me thinking. There is a whole lotta judging going on out there. We can't seem to stop ourselves from expressing our 'opinions' on all sorts of topics; from the cars others drive (Is it Eco-friendly? In poor condition? The wrong color?) to the way folks live their lives (That couple will never last. All gay people are going to hell. That fat girl should put down the bag of chips. S/he should be in school getting a degree instead of doing whatever it is s/he is doing, etc.)

I even had someone chide me recently because I prefer to use my American Express card over a MasterCard or Visa.

And I couldn't help but wonder...

"Is any of this really anyone else's business?" (That's my little shout out to 'Sex and the City'.)

As tempting as it is to pass judgement, which I too am guilty of, I think we need to take a step back and consider that everyone is simply doing the best they can with what they are given and show a little compassion. Isn't it a blessing that there is diversity? Is passing judgement on others just another way to make ourselves feel better about our own choices?

Who among us is perfect? Joseph Campbell wrote in Pathways to Bliss:
"Perfection is inhuman. Human beings are not perfect. What evokes our love - and I mean love, not lust - is the imperfection of the human being. So, when the imperfection of the real person peaks through say, "This is a challenge to my compassion." Then make a try, and something might begin to get going."

I believe that this is what my mom was trying to say all those years ago. To expect kindness and compassion from others and if it is not given to keep on our own path. My mom has remained true to her words and the things she has taught me continue to spring back to the forefront of my mind when I least expect it, like today. And I am grateful.


ciara said...

i don't think the judging will ever stop...society has been this way for years (unfortunately) but i love these tips from your mom. she sounds like a wise woman :)

marxsny said...

I think that judging other people is part of human nature. Persons who can say they NEVER judge others are either very strong, different sort of individuals or liars. The best way to deal with it is to just to not give a crap about what other people think. Church is probably the last place you would expect to find such petty things but church is also the place where for some, the end of the service is like the start of a race to the car to be the first one out of the parking lot and God help anyone who gets in the way.

Lynda said...

Hi Gary,

I loved Tips From Mom #6. What a wise women, your Mom! If people could just accept each other for who they are, the world you be a much better place!

P.S. Loved the shout-out to my favorite show, "Sex and the City!"



Mom said...

What a wonderful post! You give me way too much credit. But you hit the nail right on the head. You are so special as always; still my Happy Baby!!! Love, MOM

Dumdad said...

If only we could all follow these concepts then the world would be a better place. But the 1,000-mile journey starts with one step (or something like that apparently according to some Chinese sage).

My wife, The Frog Queen, is a great fan of your blog. "What, it's better than mine?" I ask.

"Oh, is that the time, I must dash," she says diplomatically.

You teachers! (Although, unfortunately, she's had to leave the profession she loves because it doesn't pay enough - to cover my wine bill - and the system over here treats teachers poorly; she still teaches English privately on Saturdays to a group of young children).

Joy Keaton said...

Instead of getting on my 'church' high horse I will simply answer your Joey C. quote with one from another favorite wellspring of philosphophy: John Patrick Shanley re: perfection.

We aren't here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and *die*. The storybooks are *bullshit*. Now I want you to come upstairs with me and *get* in my bed!

I should start a "tips from Moonstruck" on my blog...

OH and I met someone over the weekend who had trouble with a Discover card and thought of you and your Amex!

Reya Mellicker said...

You should hear the opinions that people offer to pregnant women - not to mention people who are very ill.

I'm not sure what these people are doing is judging, an act that requires a lot of mindfulness.

I think it's just plain old rudeness: mindless, thoughtless, and careless.

Your shoes are fabulous. I'm certain Jesus himself would appreciate their sleek beauty. Was it wonderful to sing with the choir? That seems like the important thing to me.

Bless you dah-ling, you and your white shoes.

Gary said...

Ciara - My mom has the same reaction when she reads these. LOL. She loves reading about how wise she is but never thought of it that way before I gave her her own running feature. Must be something about putting it in print that makes it seem 'official'. I told her I am always on the look out for tidbits I can use. Thanks for dropping in today.

Mark - As you say, take communion and the hell out! You are right, we all judge but at least some of us acknowledge it while we are doing it :) so it cuts it a little.

Lynda - You know I couldn't pass up an opportunity to write "I couldn't help but wonder".

Mom - Keep 'em coming! (Love you too!)

Dumdad - Your wife, The Frog Queen, sounds like a truly enlightened individual. Well she must be, she married you. I had a dream once of taking a year 'off' and teaching in France at a school for the deaf. I envisioned that I would be like you - riding my bike around Paris and getting hit in the head with conkers.

Joy - Perfect quote to partner with Mr. Campbell. There is truly an endless supply from Moonstruck and I know you have them all at your fingertips. I am trying to think of an appropriate one to come back with but "I got nothing".

Reya - I really enjoy singing with the choir, especially when I am very confident of the music. I would enjoy it more I think if there were at least one other guy singing my part so I wouldn't be holding down the bass fort all alone. Oh, and bless you too dah-ling! xoxo

Aileen said...

What a wise woman, your mom!

Now here's the conundrum I always face when I write/talk about being judgemental:

By looking harshly at those that are judgemental, are we also being judgemental?


Gary said...

Aileen - Ab-so-lutely! Good point :) Are you judging me? But seriously, I don't mean to judge (in this post anyway) just point the spotlight on some things that have been on my mind (and justify my footwear).

Alice said...

Thanks for sharing!! I also have a same pair of white colored Converse All Star shoes.

Steve said...

Excellent post. Campbell is right...imperfections make us human, and they make us accessible to each other. Being perfect would be a cold, lonely place, I should think!

Christopher said...

Excellent got me thinking about just how judgemental I am myself...[sigh].

I see we share the same taste in shoes...nice!

ps: Mom is Gorgeous!

Mona said...

The complexity of life is such that one should not judge.Judgment belongs to stupid minds, because judgments are like, if you come across a small piece of paper which is a part of a big novel, and you read a few lines, & you judge the whole book. That is what you do. A Fragment of a person's life comes before your eyes and you judge the whole man as good or bad. No judgment is not for the wise...

Gary I was watching a Hindi Movie today " TAARE ZAMEEN PAR" & the whole time it made me think of you.

I think you must watch this movie as I am sure it must be available in the US with English subtitles; since this movie was nominated for the Oscars this year!

mouse (aka kimy) said...

another thoughtful and thought-provoking post with more excellent tips from mom. of course has me remembering various bits of biblical wisdom from my catechism days: judge not lest ye be judged....throwing houses... and various things about specks and logs being wedged in the eye....

filling our own heart with love and compassion is the best we can do. keep it at that.


lettuce said...

i love your mom posts so.

hey! i just saw your mom here in your comments! hello Gary's mom.

i think maybe being less judgmental goes along with caring less about what other people think?

(tho with some things, and some people, it does matter ofc...)

Whats with the american express thing? i don't get that. is it another "oh you americans!" thing? is that judgmental?

i still have oh such vivid (horrid) memories of realising, on the way to church (in the car), as a very self-conscious teenager, that I still had my slippers on. My parents WOULD NOT go back for me to change. The depths of my humiliation and embarrassment still haunt me.

i wonder if anyone else noticed tho? if they did, they were far too nice to comment.

this was a long comment, wasn't it? making up for my recent silence

Arielle said...

Kudos to mom.

An yes, we all do judge each other relentlessly. Sometimes we even do it without realizing.

I'm glad you chose to go to church in the sneakers. They were not the focus of a Sunday morning and shouldn't be.

I try not to judge, but I know I am guilty of it at times as well.

I guess being aware of it is the best thing.

Lovely post. :)

WAT said...

A great post. The #1 mistake we humans make is to judge without knowing the circumstances behind someone's actions.

I have gotten ripped to shreds sometimes for some of the clothes I wear by other fashion-conscious gay dudes, and it irks me! Don't they realize that I'm frugal? That I'm trying to save my cash? That clothes are pretty expensive and that what I do wear is pretty cool regardless and that I'm not such a disaster as they claim?

It's all vanity and low self-esteem which causes so much of this.

LadrĂ³n de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Judging others is a challenge I face, and I always regret it when I do. My mother always said that society went to hell when women started wearing pants to evening church. She'd say that's not being judgmental, just a statement of fact. I'm glad you held up the bassline, and I love that little church that looks like it's out of Appalachia or the Ozarks. I sporadically attend the Unitarian and UCC (apologies to Obama) where Converses would be welcome, but they have special rows for the "fragrance intolerant". Only in San Francisco.

Pod said...

see you in hell dude...
i shall look forward to it

"Just David!" said...

Reading that has put a whole new light on a problem I've been having lately. Thanks for sharing! And your Mom sounds divine! And by all means, your feet should be comfortable when your belting one out for the big guy upstairs!!

J. David Zacko-Smith said...

Opinions are long as they are taken for just that...opinions! Funny, as I read the beginning of this post, I was going to say what your mom's voice said inside your head myself! *WINK* Is that church the one you go to? Doesn't look like it's in NYC!

Mikey T said...

This line stuck out for me : "I think we need to take a step back and consider that everyone is simply doing the best they can with what they are given"
Not sure if I believe that is true. I have a great friend who is constantly pushing me to strive for my potential and not be complacent with circumstances. He doesn't judge me necessarily, but is frustrated when I am not doing the best I can. Like if I bitch about my weight and then dive into a bag of chips, or if I take a nap in the middle of the day when I could be taking a guitar lesson or a pilates class, his question would be "How's that working out for you?" I guess the point is that if people are truly doing the best they can and make decisions based on their personal mission, then judgement can be cruel. But for those who settle and aren't "following their bliss" then perhaps there is cause for a little judgement from the outside. I guess the difference is knowing the situation and coming from a place of compassion like you said and not looking for ways to call out people for shortcomings that are only perceived rather than discovered. So for you to wear sneakers to church when the reason youre there is to improve your life and the lives of others is definitely not worthy of judgement. If you hadn't gone to church because of fear of judgement, then that in itself would ironically be a choice I wouldn't support for you. Yet that only comes from a place of love and a desire to see you achieve your goals and fulfill your desires. Anyway, sorry to ramble on and on, but this really resonates with the place I'm at in my life right now and I needed to explore it in words. My goal is to find a way to live the life thats tight for me and make the choices that are right for me and not take action that I would deserve to be judged for. Make sense?

Lehners in France said...

Gary,that was a wonderful post. The one thing I love about Rural France is that you are judged as a person. Not by your clothes, jewellery (sorry English spelling), the car you drive or the company you keep. You are just you. Baubles are not important.

Today I spent helping my neighbour clean a holiday home. Guests due Monday, owner won't pay for maintainance in the winter. Mouse poo everywhere! she asked how much she should pay me, I said "your friendship is enough." Debs x

P.S. Talking friendship, she bought me "THE KITTY CLOCK." I went to the shop today, no more kitty's, but there is a Wabbit with a Wibbon on her ear. f you want it let me know. Send an address to my email on the site. No fee, it's peanuts.

la bellina mammina said...

I love your mom's tips too - I hope I can hand down whatever I've learnt to my kids, and they in turn can think about what I've taught them like you do with your mom's tips - thanks for sharing Gary:-)

Gary said...

As I have been lurking on the fringes of my blog lately - too busy or preoccupied to post or even comment - it has been wonderful to see so many of my 'family' gathered together to share their thoughts. So, thank you!

Steve -

I like that "accessible to each other" idea. As I get older I appreciate more and more the honesty of not pretending that everything is perfect when it isn't. From strife we can muster compassion, which I hear is a true mark of humans at their best. We are all in this together - like it or not.

Christopher -

Yeah, we are all judgmental but through this post and all of the comments I have started to question what is judgement? As Zacko-Smith pointed out there is a difference between opinion and judgement and Mikey also brought up the notion of intent. I guess judgements are negative and unhelpful? Originally I had thought that even judging in favor of something is judgement but no one seems to mind those so much. It seems like a simple concept but when it is dissected it becomes rather complicated.

Thanks for 'judging' my mom favorably. At 68 (almost) she is still quite the looker and an overall amazing woman and friend.

Mona -

You always have such great insight and can state things so clearly. I looked up that movie (which has it's own website) and am really flattered that you thought of me when you watched it. I will definitely check it out!

Kimy -

I was thinking of you as I wrote this post because you told me you liked the "Tips" posts. Thanks for bringing in a bit of scripture too. I was trying to find a passage from the bible to quote but nothing spoke to me. The good thing is it kept me reading my bible in church, and afterwards, as I continued my search. And there you are with a few different ones at your fingertips. Bravo. Luckily, it was easier to find something from 'ol Joe to fit my intention.

Lettuce -

Mom says 'Hi'. I was just in Florida for my nephew's wedding and passed along your salutation. The American Express issue came about because AmEx is not accepted everywhere because they charge a fee to the merchandisers/stores for the honor of accepting their card. Therefore, as a card holder, it is sometimes not an option to use that credit card in all locations. The Visa/MasterCard tend to be accepted at more places. Also, many of the AmEx cards charge a yearly fee to the holder of the card as well. However I have the AmEx blue card which is free.

I you still go to church? Or has the slipper experience turned you off?

Arielle -

Once again you have hit upon my intention which I think is an awareness. I was talking with my friend Mark about this because after I wrote this post I noticed that I was 'judging' everyone on everything. And the only thing that made me feel better about it was acknowledging that fact and getting over judging myself. LOL. I am getting better and working on that.

Wat -

Oh lordy, you are not going to escape judgement by anyone who is fashion conscious. After all, if you can't put someone down how can you justify your expensive clothing? But I run the risk of being quite judgmental about particular groups of folk here so I'll stop myself before it gets ugly. :) My advice is to dress in what makes you happy. I think your satisfaction will show through in all that you do.

JT -

Yes, that is my little church. Funny you should mention the fragrance issue. My choir director got a little serious with me one night for wearing a little something something at rehearsal. Very dramatic. He would be a strong supporter of that fragrance free pew.

Pod -

With a very large cosmopolitan no doubt.

David -

Isn't it neat how one person's thoughts can affect us? I guess you came across this post at the right time - timing is truly everything. Glad it could help and I hope you have worked out whatever you needed to work out. Oh, and mom is divine. I love that word for her.


Opinions! Yes, that is the difference. I go to a church in New Jersey. I only work in NYC and suffer a 4 hour daily commute. At least I get a break from that soon!

Mikey -

You make great sense, as you always do.

You have a good point. Maybe not everyone is doing the best they can after all but how do you really know that. Only someone who truly knows you can see that - not a stranger. And if it is someone who knows you at that level their advice or prodding would no doubt be coming from a place of love, not judgement. It is hard when our friends won't let us settle for things that are easier rather than better isn't it? But I also believe that we each know what is best for ourselves and will reach the stars we need to reach in our own time.

Lehners -

Another reason to love France! I will shoot you an email about the clock. I am totally into it.

La Bellina -

Keep doing what you are doing and I am sure that one day a "Big Prince" will hear your words in his head when he least expects it too. Thanks for reading.

Barbara said...

Good advice from your Mom. I'm sure the music was beautiful and would not have been nearly as nice without the anchor of a bass voice. I would welcome you barefoot in my choir!


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