Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Offense

People are quite a mixed bag, and always interesting to watch.

I met a woman who is an artist, teaches art within the local school system, and makes jewelry on the side. She makes an pendant called the tree of life, in many different incarnations, and for whatever reason, I am taken with this. I'm not a jewelry person, except for earrings and the occasional bracelet, but I like these pendants. I have this vague idea of creating them, in a larger-than-jewelry size, and putting them on a plaque to give to my children, a reminder that they have the same roots, that we are branches from the same tree. Perhaps use the dream catcher idea, and just put them on a ribbon to be hung at a window. Not sure. But like I said, I'm taken with the idea.

I don't know why I just feel compelled to remind them of that, but it is important to me. For Christmas, I bought a set of porcelain angels, exquisitely detailed, and broke the set so that each kid had an angel for their own tree, in hopes that each Christmas, they will hang that ornament remembering that the rest of the family has a matching ornament on their tree.

So I struck up a conversation with the artist, and it wasn't long and I was offering to host the classes at my house. So we meet here once a week, and it is fun sitting around a table and working together, making jewelry. They hit the front door callling, "Where is my kitten!" and Paddy comes running. 

We are a disparate group: me, a woman I worked with long ago, a masseuse who's moved back to the area from South America, our artist friend/teacher. As we talk, we uncover connections as will happen when you live in a small town. 

A new student joined us, and she does not talk much, but she's easily frustrated with the process, and nervous. I wondered about her history. Being a self conscious person, I thought perhaps she was uncomfortable being in a room full of new people who all had established a friendship. I felt sorry for her a little. She complained bitterly to the teacher after class that we all talk too much and the fact that we talked about religion offended her. 

I was a little shocked. We talked about our faith because the masseuse was headed to Mexico on a mission trip to build a house for a ill man and his family, and we all thought that was a very cool way to spend the holiday. We talked about faith in action. It was a lovely talk. I couldn't imagine it being offensive to any one.

Offended. Such a strange word. The woman comes to my house in a shirt cut down to there, with her bosom pushed up to there, her breasts in danger of spilling over and out. She has "JESUS" in great big huge letters tattooed on top of her breasts. I worked hard on my jewelry, and I tried to mind my own business, but I found myself staring at that tattoo without meaning to, and I was embarrassed that she might noticed and be offended. The questions spilled over in my mind. I was dying to ask questions about that tattoo, but I didn't, because I did not want her to be offended. 

But she was anyway. A simple conversation of faith and helping others offended her. 

People are a strange bunch, aren't they?


8 comments:

Kelly said...

Very strange, indeed.

If she had it displayed for all to see, I think you should have asked. Easy for me to say, though. I'm here and you're there.

Pudge450 said...

OK, here goes. This may seem way out there. My thought is there must be something symbolic to her. My only conclusion is ...Jesus on the mountain. Maybe some perverse humor.

Bob said...

You just never know. If she's offended, then I believe there are some inner problems there she is not disclosing. Maybe an opportunity to show her God's love. Just a thought.

Debby said...

At tonight's class, she was quieter. Her hands are very shakey, and she works much more slowly than the rest of the class. Our teacher is unhappy with her re: a copyright conflict, and no longer wants her in the class. The woman asked not to be dropped because she loves the class and does not have a lot of women friends. As a person who is socially awkward, I found myself feeling kind of sorry for her. I believe there are issues that she's not disclosed. It was also an opportunity to show patience.

Bob Barbanes: said...

Deb, your patience and compassion for the new girl is commendable. Then again we would expect nothing else from you.

But as Kelly said, if someone displays a tattoo openly, then I have no problem asking about it. If you don't want anyone to see your tattoos, don't get them in a place where they'll be seen. Or wear a turtleneck, sweetheart.

As for her being offended, perhaps she is one of those people who believe in God but not in organized religion. Like me.

I believe that we were definitely created. And I believe that our Creator sent us an example in human form to show us how to live our lives. Neither of these things is illogical. But I stop short of belonging to a man-made (and man run) organization, no matter how much the leaders profess to be ordained by "God" (who, I might note has never spoken word-one to me). I am a Christian in spirit but shy away from the dogma of most Christian religions. And yes, I see the inconsistency and irony of that.

The Bible is a great book of stories - some worthwhile, some not (1Samuel:18 for a truly bizarre story you would not read to your children). My Catholic Bible cautions us that the book is not the "Word of God." It is not to be taken literally, as a boss would dictate a letter to his secretary. Rather, the Bible is the "inspired" word of God. Inspired as a painter gets inspiration for what he puts on the canvas.

Furthermore, in a startling revelation (no pun intended) that Catholics downplay like crazy, their Bible allows that there is doubt that Christ actually said all of the things attributed to Him in the New Testament! See, the writers of the Gospels did not actually know Christ, you know...personally. They were third-party stories of, "Oh, you shoulda been there! Wait'll you hear what my dad said that Christ guy said!"

These instructions (in the front of the book) do not sit well with my Bible-believing, Scripture-spouting mother, who unsurprisingly disagrees with the opinions of the Cardinals in Rome who wrote the Preface that tells us how to use our Bible. Meh- people believe what they want to believe.

And if people want to use the Bible as their *own* personal guidebook, I have no quarrel. Just please don't demand that *I* use it as such. And please don't demand that I leave my male lover and go off to kill and circumsize 100 Philistines just so I can marry your daughter-with-a-man's-name(??), or that it would be in any way justifiable other than in some bizarro-world.

Perhaps this is where the new girl is coming from. Maybe she actually read the Bible and came away as disturbed as I am about its content.

Or maybe she just has a Hispanic ex-boyfriend named Jesus.

jeanie said...

Debby - sometimes when people don't have friends, its because they haven't met the right people.

But sometimes, when people don't have friends, its because other people cannot walk the impossible tightrope through unseen minefields for fear of creating offence.

I have met these people and tried to befriend. There is always one outcome - but sometimes there is a long period of trying desparately to understand why this great person has not friends BEFORE you get dumped because you didn't tell them you were going to a barbeque at the neighbours and therefore weren't as available as they needed you to be at that particular moment in time.

Just saying. I speak from experience.

rhubarbwhine.com said...

Goodness. Yes, sometimes trying to understand people is trying to smell the colour 9. I do like your empathy in your above reply, D. You are a god person.

Debby said...

Bob, you are your own person, and you have been your own person for as long as I have known you. I believe also that the Bible is not meant to be taken literally. The stories are meant to teach us. I believe that the difference between the Old testament and the New is the greatest teaching of the Bible. Mostly, I believe that Jesus is a yardstick by which we are to measure OURSELVES (as opposed to the rest of the world) by. In the end, we stand before God to be judged on our own lives. This woman has a snake tattoo coming up her spine and around her neck. The disparity of the two tattoos, Jesus across her front, a serpent across her back...all this means to me that the woman has a chaotic soul, that she can veer between two extremes. It represents a dichotomy of spirit to me that is borne out in her speech. She told one person that she hated her neighbors and was disappointed when their house burnt down that they did not die. You know for a fact that her faith is incomplete when you listen to her. But I know many people with an incomplete faith. I believe myself to be one of them. I think that in the end, you simply try to be a peaceable presence in this world, and the fact that she wants to remain part of our group indicates to me that there is an opportunity there.