It was an auspcious weekend for Declan, who was blessed twice in the presence of the Heart Shrine Relics. He smiled through the first and slept through the second as people around us meditated upon and prayed for loving-kindness and compassion. If the worst of all of my fears about the direction of this country came true, this would be one form of peace activism no one could control.
Meanwhile, peace through laughter is is main modus operandi. While fist-chomping was once the primary signal for “I’m hungry,” there’s now rarely a moment when my baby isn’t drooling all over his fingers, gagging himself, sucking his thumb or grabbing things to shove in his mouth (a skill that seemed to develop overnight). It’s beginning to look a lot like teething around here.
The new signal for hunger is grabbing mommy’s hair and pulling himself forward to suck on mommy’s face, punctuated by brief spurts of maniachal laughter.
Haven’t had much time for blogging since we held a Welcoming Ceremony for Declan this past weekend.
“What the hell is a Welcoming Ceremony?” you might be asking. And you wouldn’t be alone.
Basically, we felt that it was important to have a ritual rite of passage – a day when people gathered just to honor the birth of our son. So we enlisted the help of interfaith minister Joseph Hambor to help us design something and asked a few family members to share a little of their own wisdom.
It turned out to be a tender event, in spite of the fact that it was a million degrees and humid. Declan’s three cousins made him a welcoming sign, his dad wrote him a poem and I wrote a story about him. Joseph called in the four directions, performed the ritual of the four tastes and anointed him with a special oil to welcome him into a wider community of family and friends.
One grandma said the Hail Mary, the other shared a family story about honesty and his grandfather read one of his favorite poems.”Nature Boy” was performed by local singer Nikki Wonder and pianist Jim Maneri. We chose nine guides to help him throughout his life – and remain participants in ours – who each got a chance to hold or touch him.
Declan, of course, slept through most of it because of the heat, but he remained good natured as people kissed and held him throughout the day.
Some people seemed to feel stymied by the concept of a ceremony being “interfaith.” The fact is, Declan’s father and I are, I believe, very moral and ethical people who aren’t practicing in any particular religion but still value spirituality. Neither of us wants to impose a particular organized religion on our son as we both feel that the institutions of religions – not the faiths themselves – are the source of many of the world’s problems.
Our son will know what faiths he belongs to culturally, just by virtue of birth. But we will also expose him to many others and let him make his own decisions about how and if he wants to participate in religion.
We went to a lecture By Lama Kathy Wesley at Karma Thesum Chöling about being Buddhist in the modern age on Friday night. We tend to go there a lot when she speaks – we’re not practicing Buddhists, but I have been finding what I hear in the lessons highly practical for everyday life.
She mentioned the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day” as an example of a Buddhist movie, because his character isn’t able to break out of the cycle of living the same day over and over again until he learns compassion – the ability to anticipate everyone’s needs – for everyone in the town. (I also heard Robert Thurman make the assertion that all Bill Murray movies have Buddhist undertones at a lecture a couple of years back.)
As she spoke, I kept thinking that having an infant – and I imagine having a child – has many of the same lessons. We nurse, change, carry, rock, walk, sing to, talk to, read to and make faces with this new being and do whatever we can to anticipate his or her discomfort and head it off. Our bodies even become compassionate without our conscious help if we breastfeed – I still wonder how I got to 35 without knowing that a lactating woman automatically leaks milk at the sound of a baby crying.
What a gift.