What I’m Reading: The Expected One by Kathleen McGowan

How this book fell into my hands, I don’t recall now.  It made a strong impression on me several years ago, memorable enough to be read again recently.

I have long been drawn to the Divine Feminine.  She comes in so many guises, as Sophia, Shechinah, Mother God, and the Virgin Mary.  In India, she has multiple aspects in the goddesses Shakti, Kali, Sarasvati, Lakshmi, and Durga.  Greek mythology offers us Hera, Demeter, Aphrodite, and Athena. We have Kwan Yin and the White Tara.

I grew up culturally Jewish, if not the child of religiously observant parents.  I had negligible familiarity with the New Testament.  So when I picked up The Expected One, I started out on a new and wild ride through early Christianity.  And I met up with the controversy over Mary Magdalene.

Back in 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicaea, Roman Emperor Constantine I and church bishops chose which gospels and doctrines would be the official documents of the Catholic Church.  They rejected some existing gospels, which resulted in a specific viewpoint.  The chosen books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John painted Mary Magdalene as a prostitute, a woman possessed by seven demons.  One part of the story, though, couldn’t be eliminated: that Mary Magdalene was the first of the apostles to see the resurrected Jesus.

Other ancient documents came to light hundreds of years later.  These told a different story, one that challenged the traditional Christian theology. In these writings, Mary Magdalene had a close relationship with Jesus.  He chose her to continue his teaching.  Joseph of Arimathea brought her safely to Alexandria, and from there, she traveled to southwestern France where she taught The Way.  Her followers were known as Cathars, and their descendants live on in that part of France.

That’s one layer of the story.  But the region’s folklore goes further, stating that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’s wife.  They had children, whose descendants can trace their line back to one of the offspring.  And this is the story McGowan tells in The Expected One.

This novel offers the fascinating and surprising journey of Maureen Paschal, writer and professor, who gets swept up in a quest for the gospel written by Mary Magdalene.  If you choose to read the book, be sure to read the Afterword as well, in which the author includes parts of the Magdalene gospel she couldn’t fit into the novel. 

I was so intrigued by this information that I bought The Gospel of Mary Magdalene by Jean-Yves Leloup. 

Two more books by McGowan that continue the story are The Book of Love and The Poet Prince.

Your Hands

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dedicated to all the medical workers, and especially those at Pomona Valley Hospital

Your hands are my hands,

since I can’t be there

to raise the bed,

to bring the pudding

to hold her hand.

Your voice is my voice

since miles muffle mine

to say words of comfort

to speak kindness

to tell hard, compassionate truths.

Your heart is my heart

since I’m so distant

to offer a warm smile

to give a gentle touch

to rest a cool hand

on her precious forehead.





The Karakesh Chronicles

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What Is Truth?

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If you believe it, does that make it true?

What is truth, anyway?

This question has come up more than once lately among my friends and writing colleagues.  In this age of “fake news,” what have the sages said about truth?  I thought I’d take a look.

truth

/tro͞oTH/

noun

That’s from Oxford Dictionaries online.  Not much help, is it?

Here are some thought-provoking excerpts from Psychology Today:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201808/what-is-truth

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. –Thoreau

…In Plato’s Cratylus, on the philosophy of language, Socrates says that aletheia (Greek, ‘truth’) is a compression of the phrase ‘a wandering that is divine.’ (I love this phrase) Since Plato, many thinkers have spoken of truth and God in the same breath, and truth has also been linked with concepts such as justice, power, and freedom. According to John the Apostle, Jesus said to the Jews: ‘And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’

…Today, God may be dying, but what about truth? Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, claimed that ‘truth isn’t truth,’ while Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s counselor, presented the public with what she called ‘alternative facts.’ Over in the U.K. in the run-up to the Brexit referendum, Michael Gove, then Minister of Justice and Lord Chancellor, opined that people ‘have had enough of experts.’

Truth is a property not so much of thoughts and ideas but more properly of beliefs and assertions. But to believe or assert something is not enough to make it true, or else the claim that ‘to believe something makes it true’ would be just as true as the claim that ‘to believe something does not make it true.’ For centuries, philosophers have agreed that thought or language is true if it corresponds to an independent reality. For Aristotle, ‘to say that what is is, and what is not is not, is true.’ For Avicenna, truth is ‘what corresponds in the mind to what is outside it.’ And for Aquinas, it is ‘the adequation of things and the intellect’ (adæquatio rei et intellectus). Unfortunately for this so-called correspondence theory of truth, the mind does not perceive reality as it is, but only as it can, filtering, distorting, and interpreting it.

There’s the crux of the matter: our minds interpret “reality,” (whatever that is) and so we have the premise of the old Rashomon film: one event, multiple interpretations of the situation.

“The Rashomon effect describes how parties describe an event in a different and contradictory manner, which reflects their subjective interpretation and self-interested advocacy, rather than an objective truth.”— www.enwikipedia.org/wiki/Rashomon_effect

My quest for an answer quickly lands me in theology:

https://www.gty.org/library/Articles/A379/What-Is-Truth  (John McArthur)

Here’s a simple definition drawn from what the Bible teaches: Truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory, and being of God. Even more to the point: Truth is the self-expression of God. That is the biblical meaning of truth. Because the definition of truth flows from God, truth is theological.

Truth is also ontological—which is a fancy way of saying it is the way things really are. Reality is what it is because God declared it so and made it so. Therefore God is the author, source, determiner, governor, arbiter, ultimate standard, and final judge of all truth.

OK, but if we go with this, then who relays God’s truth to us?  Trump?  The Pope?  Is anyone out there getting the word directly from God?  The author of this article claims that truth is found in nature and in Scripture.  He continues:

Truth is not subjective, it is not a consensual cultural construct, and it is not an invalid, outdated, irrelevant concept. Truth is the self-expression of God. Truth is thus theological; it is the reality God has created and defined, and over which He rules. Truth is therefore a moral issue for every human being.

I can accept that truth and morality are closely connected. Onward!

From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, we find a gathering of many thinkers on truth.

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth/ (Michael Glanzberg)

The problem of truth is in a way easy to state: what truths are, and what (if anything) makes them true. But this simple statement masks a great deal of controversy. Whether there is a metaphysical problem of truth at all, and if there is, what kind of theory might address it, are all standing issues in the theory of truth .* (for the complete outline, see below)

  • The basic idea of the correspondence theory is that what we believe or say is true if it corresponds to the way things actually are – to the facts.

The coherence theory:

  • A belief is true if and only if it is part of a coherent system of beliefs.

I don’t know about you, but this hasn’t gotten me much closer to the meaning of “truth.”

It is, as the Oxford Dictionary points out, easier to say what truth isn’t.

And that’s the truth.

*

Arugula

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for Jan

In the container of arugula,

past its sell-by date,

I pick through

the serrated leaves,

toss out the yellow pieces,

the slimy green bits

In the container of your abdomen

people in green scrubs

pick through your sad intestines

(long past the sell-by date)

all stuck together,

threatening rot.

Chop out the bad bits,

sew the good bits back together.

It’s easy with the arugula,

just toss it in

with some romaine (chopped)

a few cherry tomatoes

maybe some sunflower seeds

or leftover green peas.

The salad is ready

no time at all.

For you, though,

your skin tubes and tunnels must be reimagined,

reconfigured,

cleared of obstruction

for your digestion to proceed

according to precedent

for time to heal

for salad

to pass safely through.

The Karakesh Chronicles

Available from

www.handersenpublishing.com

and

http://www.tangledmind.blog – for caregivers

Coming soon: Growing Magic–Book V of the Karakesh Chronicles

Bimi Lightfoot’s faerie mother gave him away when he was a baby.  But who is his father?  Someday, Bimi promises himself, he’ll seek out both his parents.  That day comes sooner than Bimi expects, when his faerie cousin, Liri Flare, sweeps him into the sky on a mission to steal a horse.  Once away from his adoptive family, Bimi sets out to find his mother and learn the truth about his father.  He gets help from some of the magical folk of Karakesh, but other encounters are downright life-threatening.  Does Bimi find what he seeks on his quest? 

Look for Growing Magic (I’ll let you know the launch date) and the other Karakesh Chronicles at

www.handersenpublishing.com

and

Collage

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Today I glue strips of colored fabric

on a round cheese box

to hold my bobbins

I think of your small intestine

glued together by scar tissue

As I spread Elmer’s glue

with a brush

your friend rushes you

to the emergency room

Strips of speckled blue cloth

along the edge of thin wood

strips of scar tissue

form adhesions

a blockage in a pink tube

Green ribbon shot with gold

orange flowers on pink

in a fan pattern

You in your blue cotton gown

tubes in your nostrils

turn the glue bottle upside down

waiting for the drip

while far away

the IV drips glucose into your veins

No solid food for you.

I squeeze the plastic bottle,

air wheezes back in

The tubes in your abdomen

suck the material away

I slide my brush over woven material

squares and rectangles of blue

and green hospital walls

I have a little cheese box covered with bright cloth.

I cannot cover the distance between us.

Written February 28, for my sister having surgery

The Karakesh Chronicles

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The Problem with Rayon

The fabric known as rayon or viscose originated as an alternative to silk.  Back in the 1860s, Count Hilaire de Chardonnet developed a way to produce artificial silk fiber from cellulose.  Almost one hundred years later, in 1955, a newer, better rayon called “high-wet-modulus” (HWM) proved to be stronger and suitable for sheets and towels.  HWM rayon had the advantage of being machine washable and easy to care for, as opposed to the viscose type that had to be dry-cleaned.

The invention of rayon gave a big boost to the fashion industry.  Fabrics that looked and felt like expensive silk could be marketed to a less monied demographic.  Designers and clothing companies forged ahead, ignoring the problems of manufacturing rayon.

Rayon is made from cellulose derived from trees: hemlock, pine, and spruce, along with cotton linters, the residue fibers remaining around cotton seeds after ginning.  The cellulose must be extracted and purified—and there resides the problem with rayon.

Steps involved (from https://www.contrado.com/blog/what-is-rayon/)
• Sheets of purified cellulose are steeped in sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), which produces sheets of alkali cellulose. These sheets are dried, shredded into crumbs, and then aged in metal containers for 2 to 3 days. The temperature and humidity in the metal containers are carefully controlled.

• After aging, the crumbs are combined and churned with liquid carbon disulfide, which turns the mix into orange-colored crumbs. The crumbs are then bathed in caustic soda. This results in a viscose solution that looks and feels like honey. The solution is filtered for impurities and stored in vats to age for 4-5 days.

• The viscose solution is next turned into strings of fibers by forcing the liquid through a spinneret into an acid bath. The acid coagulates and solidifies the filaments resulting in regenerated cellulose filaments. Next, the filaments are ready to be spun into yarn.

• Once the fibers are sufficiently cured, they are ready for post-treatment chemicals and the various weaving processes needed to produce the fabric.

Look at the amount of chemicals used in production!  Carbon disulfide is powerful enough to burn through skin to the bone. 

Paul David Blanc, author of Fake Silk: The Lethal History of Viscose Rayon, discloses the true hazards, both environmental and human, in the making of rayon.

From the book description on Amazon:

Viscose, an innovative and lucrative product first introduced in the early twentieth century, quickly became a multinational corporate enterprise. Blanc investigates industry practices from the beginning through two highly profitable world wars, the midcentury export of hazardous manufacturing to developing countries, and the current “greenwashing” of viscose as an eco-friendly product. Deeply researched and boldly presented, this book brings to light an industrial hazard whose egregious history ranks with those of asbestos, lead, and mercury.

I am just one of many consumers who has bought “greenwashed” viscose clothing, patting myself on the back for purchasing a fabric touted to come from renewable resources.  We have been duped into believing that viscose, rayon, modal, and cupro are conscience-free fabrics, when in reality, their production threatens both the environment and the factory workers.

Green America, a nonprofit organization based in the United States that promotes environmentally aware, ethical consumerism reports:

Sustainability: it’s not a word usually associated with the fashion industry, yet one that consumers are increasingly seeing more when we go shopping. But is sustainability just the next “trend” in fashion – or something that companies are actually moving towards?

Currently:

  • Approximately 20% of industrial water pollution comes from textile manufacturing. 
  • Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water globally. 
  • The fashion industry alone emits 10% of global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping. 
  • 43 million tons of chemicals are used in textile production every year. 
  • While none of the major brands are true leaders in the field, Green America identified the following companies as having better environmental and labor practices – Target, VF, Nike — and several companies that were clearly laggards – Carter’s, J.Crew, Forever 21.

  (https://www.greenamerica.org/unraveling-fashion-industry/unpacking-toxic-textiles#:~:text=Degradation%20also%20occurs%20at%20the,%2C%20Parkinsonism%2C%20and%20birth%20defects.)

I don’t know how to respond to this information. What do I do now, knowing the provenance of rayon and its relatives?   Write outraged letters to H & M? 

            Kassia St. Clair, author of The Golden Thread:How Fabric Changed History, writes:

            Research is being done into the creation of fibers that are genuinely environmentally friendly to produce and are biodegradable…Perhaps the biggest change, however, needs to come from those of us doing the buying.  (p. 221)

            Here you can watch an old (amusing) film about the making of rayon.  Note the lack of PPE for the workers.  Some wear goggles, but everyone is breathing the fumes from the chemicals.

For more in-depth information on the history of rayon and contemporary production, this video is a good resource, especially for a conscientious consumer. 

The Karakesh Chronicles

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www.handersenpublishing.com

and

This Door

This door leads to No Body.

It leads to Never Mind,

Forever Mind.

The cool blue light that pulses

and the tiny black seed in the golden circle.

Where peace is a kind horse to ride,

rocking, gentle,

through the surging and resting surf.

And then it all dissolves

into soft gray feathered space.

She comes then,

the warm shadow of a cat,

curls up around you and in you

and settles in your lap.

Welcome, new followers! Thank you so much for reading.

I have a new blog, devoted to caregiving and dementia. Find it at www.tangledmind.blog

The Karakesh Chronicles

Available from

www.handersenpublishing.com

and

The Ticket

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The bike was new and silvery blue, with streamers fluttering from the handlebars.  I had graduated from my learning bike to a real almost-grown-up-size two-wheeler, and I had permission to cross Victory Boulevard at the light.  Our street, Victory Place, was only three houses long, so I was eager to exercise my ten-year-old privilege and explore new territory.

Under a smoggy but sunny blue sky (it rarely rained in Los Angeles), I walked my spiffy bike across the four lanes, mounted up and pushed off into a new neighborhood.  The warm wind lifted my hair, the wheels ticked along propelled by my thin, strong legs.  The houses here looked much like those in my cousin’s neighborhood: wide, dry lawns of stiff Bermuda grass, driveways capped by a garage, a sprinkler whisking water, the smell of wet pavement. 

Up one street and over and down the next I rode, proud to be out but also wishing I had somebody to ride with, a girl with a bike, a friend that didn’t live a car’s ride away.  The street came to a T and I turned right.

Red light flashing behind me.  Black and white car on my left.  Window rolls down.  “Pull over,” the officer calls.  “Stop your bike.”

The day and my eyesight go momentarily dark.  I brake with my pedals.  I can hardly hear for the terrified roaring in my ears. What have I done? 

He gets out of his car, carrying a clipboard of papers.  Writing.  “Well, young lady, do you know why I stopped you?”

I shake my head.

“Did you see the stop sign back there?” he asks, writing on yellow lines with a ball point pen.

I shake my head again.

“Stop signs mean stop, for bikes and cars,” he says. 

I get it now.  I didn’t know that car rules and bike rules were the same. 

“Where do you live?”

I tell him.

“Well, take this to your parents.  We’ll see you at the station on Saturday,” he says.  He hands me a folded yellow form and swaggers away. 

I wait for the police car to drive off before I make my trembling way back home, walking all the tear-blurred streets.

My parents’ reaction to my ticket has not remained in my memory.  I was too mortified, sobbing too hard, to recall anything they said. 

The following Saturday, my mother forces me into a dress, with white socks and my good patent leather shoes.  She has persuaded my cousin Patty, who is my age, to come with my father and me.  Patty is also dressed up.  At the police station, we are shown into a large meeting room with a linoleum floor and rows of folding chairs.  Several teenage boys are already seated, slumped in practiced attitudes of defiance.

I sit between Patty and my father.  My feet don’t touch the floor.  An officer gives a short introductory talk about following traffic rules.  Then he starts the projector at the back of the room. 

Here is Jiminy Cricket, singing, “I’m no fool, no Sirree, I’m gonna live to be a hundred and three,” and telling us how not to be a fool on a bicycle.  He uses chalk to draw the fool, a goofy looking boy with buck teeth.  Then Jiminy animates the boy, who messes up on his bicycle in several ways.  He rides with no hands.  He doesn’t look where he’s going.  He gets smashed flat by a car.

I swing my legs, impatient to get out of there, to get home, to change into my pedal pushers and t-shirt and play with my cousin.  The film ends.  My father ushers us from the police station and takes us out to lunch at the Hot Dog Show.  I order my favorite hot dog, the Boston Bull, with baked beans. 

I never cross Victory Boulevard to ride my bike in that neighborhood again.  Instead, I ride on the quiet roads in Pierce Brothers Mortuary, across the street from my house.  I can go as fast as I want, and there are no stop signs.

The Karakesh Chronicles

Available from

www.handersenpublishing.com

and