Memorial Day Reminder

What with all of the sales flyers that have filled my mail box this past week and the celebratory posts and invites that have been floating through my Facebook feed nonstop, it seems like many people in this country have forgotten what this day means. The photo below truly captures what Memorial Day symbolizes.

Despite what the car dealers or Macy’s or the party planners would have you believe, it’s not about the excellent deal on that gas guzzling SUV or the 50% off sale on shoes you don’t need or that rowdy beer infused BBQ party you won’t half remember on Tuesday at work.

Memorial Day is about giving thanks to our nation’s heroes as we honor those who have fallen in their service to our country.  So enjoy your day, most definitely, in whatever way you decide to do so. But let’s just remember those who made it possible.

“At its core, the nobility and the majesty of Memorial Day can be found in the story of ordinary Americans who become extraordinary for the most simple of reasons: They loved their country so deeply, so profoundly, that they were willing to give their lives to keep it safe and free.” – Barack Obama

People Are Alike All Over

And now for something completely different. And no, this has nothing to do with Monty Python. I swear. Though maybe I’ll get to them another time.

There’s an old saying: “People are alike all over.” To me, that means that despite all of our apparent differences, if you boil people down to their true essence, you’ll find that most of us are pretty much the same despite color, creed, nationality, or wealth.

I’ve thought about this saying and think it can be expanded to include not just the foundation of Mankind, but religions as well. Because to me, it seems that religions are alike all over, too. At least for the most part. It may seem like the different spiritual paths out there are entirely separate entities, but are they really? I may be overly simplistic in my thought processes (or perhaps in the alternative, I over-analyze things), but I believe that when you trace back many religions to their roots (much like moving down a family tree) you in fact will find all sorts of similarities at their base.

Look at the myths that exist in each religion to explain their belief system. A lot of them are really, really similar. It’s almost as if centuries ago a lot of religions were actually based on one single religion and as people started migrating to different parts of the world, their stories shifted to suit their new surroundings. Or perhaps it’s like that game of telephone we old folks played back in kindergarten. The story changed ever so slightly as it got retold down the line.

I wish I could take credit for this idea, but sadly I can’t. If I could, I’d be reaping the rewards of all the books I would’ve written on it, living a much better life right now on a beach or in a cottage somewhere in France with a much prettier view. What I just described, in a nutshell, is a branch of study called “comparative religion/mythology.” The idea being that religions, by and large, are fairly complementary at their core.

So, let’s start with the basics: creation myths. That’s my favorite. How did we get here? There’s no getting around that question. Everyone wants to know that, so every religion has an answer ready to go.

According to the Old Testament, God the Supreme Being created man. Eventually he got around to making a woman too and soon the two of them were prancing around together in a garden east of Eden. Satan, in the guise of a snake, butted in and got Eve to disobey God’s word. Then, she got Adam to do the same.  (Yep, the fall of man was all Eve’s fault! Go figure.) There’s a whole thing involving another of God’s little creations known as Lilith. Yeah, don’t get me started on that one. I’ll get into that story another day.

Anyway, we know this as the story of Adam and Eve, but if you take a look at the creation stories from around the world, it’s hardly a unique tale. In reality, the Babylonians told it first. This was centuries before Judaism and Christianity even existed.

Then there’s the stories told by a multitude of Native American tribes that lived an entire continent away. They all have a similar progression. A “Great Spirit” created everything and men and women came from the Earth. I have to admit, I like these stories better than the ones that say we were created out of God’s snot. (I swear I remember reading that somewhere, but when I went back to look for it, all I came up with was webpage after webpage devoted to our snot — and I don’t think I want to go there. Yuck.)

Getting back to Native American myth, the Great Spirit had an enemy (i.e. Satan) who sought to destroy the Great Spirit’s creation.  Then comes the part of the story where the humans rebel against the desires of the Great Spirit and then there’s a great flood that destroys everyone, except a handful of people the Spirit decides to spare so they can repopulate the Earth and well, we all know how that goes. We just heard it a bit differently.

Which brings me round to the popular flood story.

There’s an old Babylonian flood story in the “Epic of Gilgamesh” that predates the Hebrew Bible story by centuries.  The gods who lived in a city by a river wanted to create a flood. One of the gods warns a human to tear down his house and use it to build a ship so that he will survive. Sound familiar? It’s not the only flood story by a long shot. There are several.

Then there’s the story of Jesus. The ultimate tale of death and resurrection. Except…this story shows up in other religions around the world as well.

For example, Egyptian mythology features the god Osiris, whose death and resurrection resembles that of Jesus. (And, of course, the whole culture of ancient Egypt was about ensuring that those who died would live happily ever after in the Afterlife — or paradise.)

Then there’s the Indo-Iranian Mithra myth whose story so parallels that of Jesus that it’s downright uncanny. Born to a virgin mother (Anahita), he gathered 12 followers, and traveled around performing miracles. His sacred day was Sunday and when he died, he arose from the grave three days later. In the end, he sacrificed himself for world peace and ascended to the Heavens.

Some religions are ancient. Some religions are relatively new. Yet many of them share a common core of mythology. But what do I get from all of this?  My personal conclusion is that perhaps people really have more in common than they think.  And to me, that is a good thing, a very good thing. I wish more people could see that. The world would be a better place.

It’s most definitely interesting though, isn’t it? Compare all these similar stories, or these “parallels” to use the technical term…and it makes you wonder about our beliefs and where they really came from and how we’re all connected.  It does me, anyway, even though I’m not what you would call a religious person.

It’s Not Just a Ball Dropping

Once again, New Year’s Eve is upon us.  Some see it as a reason to celebrate the end of a year. Others, especially the seasoned partiers among us, call it “Amateur Night.”  Still others view it only as an excuse to stay up late to watch Anderson Cooper get picked on and the ball drop in Times Square. In its simplest form, it’s a day that marks the completion of a specific period of time, and while that sounds boring, it’s not really. We celebrate the fact that after 365 days, 6 hours, 8 minutes and 38.4 seconds, this large chunk of rock and water travelling at 67,000 mph (yes, that’s faster than a speeding bullet) we call Earth, has arrived at the same spot in the universe it left 12 months ago without hitting something and spiraling wildly off into space killing us all. Hmmm, I guess that’s a pretty good reason to celebrate.  Before I go on, let me take my Neil deGrasse Tyson hat off (and hope that the smarter ones among us, I’m looking at you Paul, don’t end up correcting me on my figures – I worked hard on that).

As we complete each year, New Year’s Eve holds a special place in my heart. And while I’m not big on the whole resolution thing, it’s always been a moment of self-reflection. New Year’s Eve, especially this year, is for me a confluence of emotions that bring back a lot of memories and presents thoughts about what might lie ahead for me as I make plans for some serious changes in the coming year. I know, heavy, right?

This year, I’m celebrating my own version of the ancient Roman holiday of Carmentalia. It was a festival celebrated around this time of year in honor of the goddess Carmenta. She had the power of looking back into the past, and looking forward into the future based on what she learned from the past. Pretty nifty gift if you ask me, and don’t we all wish we had that power? The power of using what we’ve learned from the past wisely.

I feel that I should take a moment to explain. The time around New Year’s Eve always represented a personal trifecta for me. I was born on December 30th, a last-minute tax deduction for my father. I won’t say what year it was, just know that the AARP has me in their membership sights. Discounts at Denny’s are great, but yeah, not yet. Of course, there is the “normal” reason for celebrating.  I made it through another year without blowing anything up, or getting sued for anything I’ve written here. And miraculously, my kids and animals are all still alive, as is the one plant I’ve laid claim to. Go me! And this December 31st would have been my 19th wedding anniversary. I say “would have been” because my divorce was final this past January, hard on the heels of my 18th anniversary.  Believe me, that was a positive event despite also being a disappointing one. And since then, the dating world opened up in front of me in all of its anxiety-inducing glory. I know, it’s weird, right? Glorious and exciting, but weird nonetheless.

Anyway, as I said, I’ve decided that I’m going to celebrate Carmentalia. And I’m going to have a little chat with Carmenta herself. I need answers. Where have I been, where am I going, just what the hell is up with Tinder?

I have big plans for the coming year and life changing events are on the horizon. It’s a thrilling and good-scary time, and long-overdue. Ever the realist though, the raging introvert in me shouts, “Yeah, okay, so you’re starting a new adventure in 2018, but let’s not go overboard, okay?” I guess I do have a New Year’s resolution after all. And that’s to put my hands over my ears shouting “la-la-la-la-la, I can’t hear you!”

In the meantime, placating the introvert in me actually sounds like a peaceful way to usher in the New Year and ready myself for what’s sure to be a wild ride. So, this New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day will find me ensconced on my sofa – with some equally introverted company, grazing on leftovers and sipping on a lovely Moscato a friend gifted to me, while the TV alternates between a 24-hour marathon of “Psych” and the showing of all 6 “Thin Man” movies. I know, I know, it won’t be the chaos that is Times Square when the ball drops. But, hey, it’s not like I can completely disregard who I am after all. And why would I want to? Plus, this will no doubt ease my mind and prepare me for the next 67,000 mph race around the sun.

Bring it on 2018 and Carmenta. I’m ready.