Archive for January, 2012

Where Does Love Go?

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

Ah, love. Sweet, pure, healing, spiritual…we can’t see it with our eyes, we can’t touch it with our fingertips, and yet it is unquestionably there. It stirs somewhere between my head and chest when I see a fellow human suffering – hold my baby in my arms for the very first time – watch the figure of my lover walking toward me smiling – behold a problem solved or pain erased without my effort.

Such a beautiful and real thing is love. Probably its most wondrous quality is that it usually is focused on another person or object, seeking to bless the other as much as it does me. Thus, love is a gift that spreads outward and can transform both the giver and recipient. Precious and seemingly so fragile, but able to withstand and endure great strain, great sacrifice.

Sadly though, the gift of love – the source of which can only be God – can cause great pain. We give our love to the wrong person, who spits it back because they can’t or won’t embrace it. It seems to disappear into a bottomless pit, fruitless and unreturned. The daughter who rejects my love because she is lost on her own journey. The friends who can’t appreciate it because they’ve never truly recognized it in themselves. Those people who accept my love, but cannot reciprocate because of their slavery to other forces like drugs or money or sex. Tragically, we have all had our love declined at times.

Having my feelings be rejected is traumatic, certainly. Depending on the intensity of affection I’ve given or tried to give, having it refused or misused is capable of rendering knife-like damage to my emotions. Unreturned love is not a new phenomenon to me, yet on every occasion it occurs, the pain feels as fresh and keen as if I were a baby being slapped or hollered at for the first time. Sometimes the agony feels so overwhelming, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to love again.

But I know also that to love or not is my choice.

After each debacle in this regard, the same question comes into my mind: what happens to the love I feel – so intensely sometimes, it almost is palpable – that is rejected, unrequited, spurned? Does it simply die like unpicked fruit withering on a vine? Or does it live on somewhere in my soul’s deep recesses, out of view and out of thought? Does it drift upward, back to God, who created it in first place? Where does all this “wasted” love go? Is there some emotional stock-pile where it’s “archived” for posterity? Or is it deposited into a spiritual landfill of sorts, where it’s layered over with denial, anger, and fear, until it can’t be seen or touched without some in-depth digging? The question comes to me, back and back and back.

Obviously, this is one of those questions with no answer… Or perhaps everyone’s answer is different. For me, I like to believe that no love is ever wasted. Every time I love someone or something, regardless of what happens or does not happen as a result of that love, I am changed in a positive way. My emotional range is widened; my soul expanded by this miraculously selfless feeling. I become a more understanding and compassionate person. To know love is, to me, getting a glimpse of God. And if I am hurt as a result of that love, God sends His grace to soften the blow, as well as another big portion of love to keep for myself this time. Because at that point, I need it to heal my own wounds.

This is why, no matter how many times I’ve “loved and lost,” I’ll not shut down my heart, nor close myself off from loving again. It’s always worth it, whatever the cost or consequence. In fact, for me it’s a necessity to stay alive as a whole human being. I know that ultimately, any love I can feel – even if it doesn’t come back to me from a person – has somehow made me better, made me just a little bit more of a reflection of its Source.

Book Review: THE MEANS OF REPRODUCTION

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Michelle Goldberg’s New Book Gives Insight into Worldwide Perspectives on Female Reproductive Rights

The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World

In her latest book, The Means of Reproduction, author Michelle Goldberg addresses the global battle over women’s sexual and reproductive rights, fought at different levels and in a variety of ways all over the world. Often in these struggles, the United States plays an important role. According to Ms. Goldberg, she was drawn to investigate and report on this issue, so woven into the larger fabric of gender, cultural, religious, and political power struggles, yet never comprehensively addressed in a book. She wished to impart a “very rich story” that she was surprised to learn had not been fully told. The author’s thoroughness in researching her book – involving extensive travel to Nicaragua, Poland, Kenya, India, Britain, Uganda and Ethiopia – is evident in its insightful and  fascinating perspectives on women’s rights and their interplay with such primary issues as universalism versus multiculturalism; modernism versus religious fundamentalism; and individual rights versus group norms.

Certainly, the ability to decide whether and/or when to have children has grave effects on women at every stage of their lives, further yielding broad repercussions for society as a whole. Ms. Goldberg reports that in some cultures, women are forced to leave school young and marry, consequently having far less power within their relationships, including their power to decide about becoming pregnant. Having children before their bodies are fully developed, or having them in rapid succession, increases these young women’s risk of dying in childbirth. The children left motherless in the wake of this catastrophe become much less likely to survive themselves, or attend school. Conversely, according to the author, when mothers are educated, have some level of power within their relationships, as well as access to resources for family planning, they rarely have more children than they can care for adequately. In addition, their sexual behavior tends to be more responsible in that they protect themselves from sexually-transmitted diseases. Their children are more likely to be healthy and educated like their mothers, benefitting the whole society.

Regarding the subject of abortion, Ms. Goldberg notes that prohibiting this option brings destructive results to both women and their society when abortions are obtained furtively and unsafely. Latin America demonstrates this point, having the world’s strictest anti-abortion laws in addition to its highest abortion rates.Upon visiting hospitals in cities such as Nairobi, Kampala, Managua, and Addis Ababa, the author observed that doctors in the obstetrics/gynecology wards spend most of their time treating victims of bungled abortions. Aside from the tens of thousands of females damaged physically and mentally from this experience, the effects are devastating on fragile health systems with limited resources. Further illustrative of this point is the comparison of abortion rates in Latin America to those in Western Europe, where birth control is fully accepted and widely available; and abortions are generally funded by government health insurance. Here, particularly amongst the Scandinavian countries, abortion rates are the lowest worldwide.

As citizens of Western society, living in the United States, we may feel that with all the advances made over the past century in the area of gender equality, we don’t have reason for concern as do the women in other countries such as Iran, where women have won rights only to have them subsequently usurped. However, Ms. Goldberg points to backward movement even in this country, citing recent cases of women being arrested and prosecuted for attempting to end their pregnancies.

All women can gain new insights from the book’s in-depth and thought-provoking comparison of how the common struggle over reproductive rights is being enacted across different countries, cultures, and political and religious regimes. Informed literature such as Ms. Goldberg’s book is supportive of globalization by virtue of its availability to a diverse readership. And globalization, in the author’s opinion, is key to the positive evolution of women the world over.

Ms. Goldberg recounted interviewing a women’s rights leader in Uganda, asking her how she had decided that things had to change. “Because the women are suffering!” was the leader’s answer. The author agreed, but pointed out that the women had been suffering for a long time; why were they rising up just then? The Ugandan explained that for her, it began when she was invited to speak at an international conference about HIV prevention work in her region. Meeting and talking to women from all over the world taught her that there were other, less oppressive ways to live. New information provided her the realization that she didn’t have to accept customs like widow inheritance and polygamy, traditions so ingrained they seemed impervious to change. Ms. Goldberg argues that patriarchal systems tend to foster the illusion that they represent the eternal, unchangeable laws of life. But fortunately, once women become aware of the falseness of this premise, they become much less willing to submit to it.