Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What Now? Mixed Media Mosaics!

When and for how long I studied art and created artwork is another story for another time.* Let the record show that this, the summer of 2017, is when I came under the thrall of mixed media mosaics. 

Working with tiles, glass, beads, and assorted goodies I've collected over the years, I'm focused on creating (small) labyrinths and hamsas. Why those images? That, too, is another story for another time but these foci should come as no news to anyone who has followed me on Pinterest for years. Or visited my website. Or noticed my Facebook profile headers, at least ones posted before last November's election.

So this is what's happening now. Here are some substandard images that look better on Instagram. The mosaics will look a lot better when I reshoot them with a good camera.

5"x 5" Square

6" Circle

4.5"x 6"

* Short answer: From age seven through age 23. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Politics, Activism, and Identity (Part III: Activism)

Continued from Part II: Identity

Trump's election compelled me to recall my identity as an activist. Oh joy, I get to wander down the memory lane of young adulthood, something I'm doing a lot lately, so at least there's that economy of self-inquiry.

From my late teens through my late thirties, I was outraged about prejudice and discrimination in every possible form. The big systemic social inequality "isms" for sure, but that's not all. During the mid-1980s I was, for example, also enraged by things like pitiful menu choices for vegans. Equal opportunity outrage! When it came to activism, I was at times simultaneously fearless and naive but nevertheless coachable...about activism. Maybe not so naive, given what I learned from my parents.

For one thing, I was raised to support labor strikes. My father's grandfather, Rabbi Moses Gold, was a founder of the Workmen's Circle. My mother boycotted grapes from 1965 through 1971, even though the Delano Grape Strike was settled in 1970. Looking back, I'm surprised we didn't have a portrait of Cesar Chavez in our dining room. Crossing a line of picketing workers was unthinkable. Of course, I became the only clerical worker to ever walk with AT&T linemen during a wildcat strike in 1973. I also discovered Saul Alinsky.

You didn't have to persuade me that black lives mattered, either during the 1960s or in 2013 when the #blacklivesmatter Movement was founded. The coalition between blacks and Jews was strong and seemingly unbreakable during the 1950s and for much of the 1960s. My parents belonged to the NAACP which, in case you don't already know, had long worked in coalition with the ADL (aka, Jewish Anti-Defamation League). Looking back, I'm surprised we didn't have a portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in our living room. Of course, I became a non-voting member of my (first) college's Black Student Union in 1971.

Long before Trump arrived on the political scene with his white nationalist storm troopers, I'd realized this history of shared causes and activism, not to mention the resurgence of black antisemitism during the late 1960s, was either lost or being studiously ignored. What, if anything, did I want to do about that? Or, more accurately, what would I need to do before I could do anything about that?

Next on my list of activist passions? The Vietnam War. Like everyone else in my generational cohort, the Vietnam War was intensely personal. Protests at the Democratic National Convention in 1968, draft number lotteries in 1969, and the Kent State Massacre in 1970 contributed to my formation as a student activist. Of course, I organized a teach-in instead of blowing up buildings on my (first) college campus.

By the time I returned to another college after dropping out of the first one, Nixon had been elected, his impeachment hearings had begun, and he had resigned the presidency. Like so many outraged Sociology majors and wannabe Leftist intellectual-activists, I went from liberal Democrat to Marxist, with a side helping of Bakunin.

Women's rights and gay rights* arrived on my personal radar through the gateway of employment discrimination. Getting fired for organizing women clerical workers and suing a small multinational company was one glorious wake-up call in 1976. Of course, that involved the New York District Office of the EEOC (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Of course, I handled the case pro se for the first two years.

The focus of my scholarly work during and after graduate school would provide another wake-up call. Like so many women in graduate school at that time, I went from Marxist to Socialist Feminist to Radical Feminist to Lesbian Feminist to something I couldn't and wouldn't shove into a category. Later, in response to anyone's shock and awe, I'd quip that my intellectual-activist world was zoned for lavender. Of course, I was denied tenure in 1985.**  I didn't fight it. I was exhausted and would eventually ditch everything to focus on my nascent spiritual life. 

Ah, memories...those memories. Lots of righteous anger but also lots of exuberance and joyful exhaustion, especially after protest marches monitored by SWAT teams. All great and groovy, but now it's 2017. Now what? 

There will always be more for me to remember and think about, but I'm having T(hat)F(eeling)W(hen) time is of the essence. It's time to brush-up hard-learned and hard-earned skills. Time to infuse activism with faith and what I discovered during the spiritual journey of middle adulthood. While I'm ready to tell more stories and believe storytelling is necessary, I'm also aware that it's insufficient. Storytelling must inspire actionstarting with mine, of course. 

Posted to Twitter by @CarolSnowBooks


*Do not send hate mail, that's what it was called during the 1970s. Also, transgender people were called transsexuals; "dyke" and "queer" were considered epithets with the "n" word and "lipstick lesbians" were regarded with disdain. Do feel free to ask me about in-group bickering among organizers of the NYC Gay Pride March 1976.

** I literally laugh-snorted when, circa 1998, I stumbled upon a paper copy of my curriculum vitae. How had I ever imagined I'd receive academic tenure? Almost every publication had some combination of the words sexism, heterosexism, homophobia, and patriarchy in its title.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Politics, Identity, and Activism (Part II: Identity)

What happened next was feeling an unexpectedly visceral need to reexamine my multiple and often competing identities in the domain of faith.

That one of my favorite hymns is the Shaker classic, "Tis the Gift to be Simple" demonstrates my ability to infuse wishful thinking with irony. When it comes to faith-based identity, mine is anything but simple and involves the dubious gift of head-spinning turning, turning.

Longtime readers already know this about me because every book I've published includes peeking into the varieties of my religious experiences and spiritual encounters.* Still, here's a synopsis of my identities:
  • I'm a Jew who follows the Way of Jesus because of its emphasis on repairing the world through acts of social justice and gathering in chavurot (fellowship).
  • I'm a church communications consultant who was spiritual but not religious long before SBNR became a recognized acronym circa 2001.
  • I'm becoming one of "the Dones" (aka, been there, done that, and done with the institutional church as a result) while also welcoming almost every opportunity to make the church better.
  • I'm an author whose books with Catholic publishers get bragworthy endorsements from leadership in mainline Protestant churches.

With one exception, nothing new here. The exception? Becoming one of the Dones. But when it comes to that, I seem to be in good and sacred, albeit agonized, company. Pretty soon I'll lose count of how many clergy have confessed, usually through private channels (e.g., DM on Twitter), their feelings of being done with church-the-building.

These clerics are typically ones who have served in pulpit ministry for eight to fifteen years. Many are what's known as "late vocation" clergy because they had previous careers in the secular world. Almost without exception, they tell me how they encourage wannabe pastors to explore other ways to fulfill a felt call to ministry. (To be written at another time and place: my own story about discerning what I initially thought was a call to ordination.)

So if I've been managing these multiple identities for decades, what's the problem? My problem seems to be handling my identities a lot more gracefully these days, but I'm not convinced that I can—or should.

Turns out that during this time of unbridled anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, misogyny, racism, and xenophobia what gets posted by some Christian clergy and most Jewish clergy often differs radically in content and tone. I didn't expect that, nor did I expect my gut-level reaction to noticing those differences.

Other than reconfiguring who shows up in my Tweetdeck columns, what to do about this latest challenge to identity?

I typically introduce myself during faith (church) community Twitter chats as having a "multiple spirituality disorder" and as being "fiercely ecumenical." Is it time to add "less Jew-ish and more Jew" or will that become evident by my activism? And what does it matter anyway? Aren't oppressors, not allies, the ones who keep track?

To be continued but meanwhile, let us pray...

To bow and to bend, we will not be ashamed
To turn, turn, will be our delight
'Til by turning, turning, we come round right

* As I often quip, "Don't get mad, get published." Being irked by the woeful lack of knowledge about Judaism among (some/too many) Christians, led to me writing, Why Is There a Menorah On The Altar: The Jewish Roots of Christian Worship. Further irked to report that this book never quite found an audience of readers.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Politics, Identity, and Activism (Part I: Politics)

Since the 2016 U.S. presidential election, I've been spending much of my contemplative time thinking about politics, identity, and activismmine. What do I believe? Who am I? What is my life's purpose? These core questions are not new to me. I've been exploring them for decades and, depending on the impetus, more or less willingly. Inward Ho, etcetera.

So what's different this time? To the best of my current awareness, it's the impetus. Current political events have revived memories that have, in turn, reactivated questions about identity. Once again, I'm reminded how the work of self, of being and doing, is the work of a lifetimemine. Some comfort in knowing that this is just the latest iteration of something that, too, shall pass. Less comfort in suspecting that this round of inner spelunking isn't going to pass anytime soon.

My parents were politically active the way Jews have been active throughout history, thanks to a powerful combination of ethics and necessity. Their political activism was also typical of American Jews during the 1950s whose desire for assimilation was anchored in complex and often competing motivations.*

I was raised to evaluate every political event by whether it was "good for the Jews." In almost all instances this question was purely rhetorical because I was also raised to know that the answer would almost always be "no." It's a deeply embedded question I'd revisit over the years, but rarely to the extent I started asking it during the third and final presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

To refresh your memory, that debate included Clinton's frighteningly instructive commentary about Russia's interest in and interference with U.S. politics. A CNN/ORC poll declared Hillary Clinton the winner. Want to revisit the audio and visuals? Here's a link to "Third Presidential Debate: 7 Moments That Mattered."

Meanwhile, since June 2016, I'd been tweeting, "no one should be surprised if Trump wins" and getting a fair amount of pushback. Oh well! I self-soothed by making "I love being a sociologist" my new mantra. Still relatively dormant? Any urge to reboot the political activism of my young adulthood.

As it became apparent that Donald Trump would win the Republican party's nomination, I tweaked the key question a bit to ask how bad his presidency would be for the Jews, especially given his bloviating about having Jewish grandchildren. When Trump won the Electoral College vote, I managed my anxiety by quipping, "I'm sewing diamonds I don't have into the hems of dresses I don't wear."

Hahaha, right? My plunge into collective and personal memory about identity and activism became real. I didn't expect what would happen next and maybe that's a good thing?

To be continued...

Because Nothing Ever Dies on the Internet

*I recommend reading National Jewish Book Award winner, Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry by Samuel G. Freedman, especially if you're a non-Jew. Or, Jewish and under age 62-ish.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Spring Cleaning for the Digital Age

Springtime! A time to celebrate renewal and growth. To celebrate freedom from bondage during Passover. To celebrate freedom from the tomb, real and symbolic, during Easter. To seek freedom from drek and schmutz, no matter what your religious tradition.

That would be the drek and schmutz of wayward dead leaves and twigs in the yard; crumbs and spills in cupboards. Also, digital detritus. For years, I've set aside time during Passover and Holy Week to search and purge digital detritus. Here's a short list of my best practices. Do try this at home!

Online Security
  • Ongoing erosion of cybersecurity for individuals, not just famous ones makes updating passwords a top priority. Although there are similar services on the market, I use LastPass to remember and generate new passwords. 
  • Check your browser. If you see "http://" secure your browsing change it to "https://" with HTTPS Everywhere, an extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera that encrypts your communications.
  • Enable two-factor-authentication. PITA, but necessary. 
  • Review and upgrade virus and spyware protection. I use AVG and Spybot.
  • Review and delete browser extensions and smartphone apps you no longer need or use.
  • Check for updates and install them immediately. 
  • Tidy up multiple email accounts by pointing them all through one email address. Unless you have a strong reason for not doing so, set up a Gmail account and point all other email accounts through it. Use Gmail's "Labels" and "Filter messages like these" functionality under "More" to sort stuff into folders...or immediately to trash.
  • Clean out and delete the email accounts you don't use.
  • Review and delete subscriptions to eNewletters and feeds to blogs you no longer read. Exception: this blog.
Social Media Platforms
  • Review and update branding on all platforms so you're consistent across platforms. By branding I mean your: bio description, header images, color palette, logo/avatar use.
  • Review your scheduling/management software (e.g., Buffer) to ensure the accounts you want linked actually are. 
  • On Twitter: 1) Clean up follow and followers. I use a combination of WhoUnfollowedMe,  Crowdfire (previously known as JustUnfollow), Tweepi, and manually scrolling through. Use a Google search to find out other methods. 2) Review and tidy up lists, including whether you want them to become public or private. 3) If you use Tweetdeck, review and reconfigure columns to reflect your current interests and needs.
  • On Facebook: 1) Clean up your friends and Page "likes," shifting to "unfollow" if you don't want to "unfriend." 2) Tidy up the entire mess that is Facebook by using Social Fixer to filter and hide almost anything you don't want to see. 3) Review your personal timeline and delete whatever comes under the heading, "What was I thinking?"
As for hardware, I devote more time than I usually do to cleaning my desktop computer, laptops, and smartphone. I deploy a powerful combination of a compressed-gas duster, vacuum cleaner, screen and monitor safe cleaners, and cotton swabs. Don't ask how much time I usually spend.

If I add hard drive defragging, new backups, and a tour through various external drives, the whole process makes for a very pleasant day, especially if I'm listening to Mozart, the composer and Mozart, the cat, is napping.

And you? What does your digital spring cleaning include? When will you be hunkering down to do it?