A human life is a journey and an unpredictable one at that. Sometimes, I feel like I have lived many lives in one. Each year these past few years feels like a distinct, unique lifetime, as if I have gone through a metamorphosis in my own personal chrysalis, embracing change at my own pace re-creating I am through each transformation.
All of these changes have been far from linear. I still remember the words of a fellow student in my cohort at Prescott College, who began a sentence with the words “If time were linear…” Those words have stayed with me, and as I think, reflect, and write about my own human dance on this earth, I imagine a linear line that I am holding onto from one end. Grasped tightly in my little fist, this line represents my journey from an unsustainable to a sustainable life, which has been far from linear.
While I dance in my own marieke way to my own marieke rhythm, I create a fleeting kind of poetry in the air with this line, waving it through the air and creating swirling patterns that ripple out from the deepest center of my being to the furthest reaches of the cosmos. My journey because began from within, but it continues far beyond me. I can only imagine the trajectory of the energy we each send out into the universe.
This process is becoming me over and again feels like trying on shoes and trying to find the pair that fit just right. I’m picky about the way my clothing fits, and I am equally, if not more, picky about the person I want to be and the ways I want to change the world.
One ideal I try to embody is that change is always possible and nothing in life is completely static or irreversible. I refuse to accept that there are ways of knowing that will remain static and tainted for all eternity based on cultural stereotypes. For example, a coworker brought me a box of dangling earrings. This gesture of generosity came in response to the gift of earrings I gave her. It is like a rippling effect of sharing and exchanging the things we love with the people. These are the some of the best kinds of gifts.
The most cherished of the possessions she shared with me was a bracelet and earring set she had bought for herself in South Africa. The bracelet was composed of beautiful, wooden tiles, each with a symbol of peace painted on it. On a whim, she had bought the earrings to match.
I was so touched by her gesture, and I put the bracelet on right away. She then lifted the earrings out of the box, handed them across the table, and gently place them in the palm of my outstretched hand.
“Oh, these are beautiful,” I exclaimed, and I put them on right away in place of the earrings I was wearing.
I went to look in the bathroom near to admire them. They really were beautiful. I came back to the table and thanked her again.
Before I left to open another museum site, a coworker took me aside and mentioned that the symbols reminded her of swastikas. A gassed aghast, I inhale deeply. I was horrified. I walked all the way across town thinking about it. When I arrived at the museum, I marched into the bathroom to take a second look. Where I saw beauty only moments before, I now saw something twisted and horrible.
I asked another coworker if the symbol reminded her of swastikas as well. I told her that swastikas were taken from an ancient symbol that I believe possessed significant meaning in a positive realm far from promoting genocide and human suffering.
“Well,” she responded. “A swastika’s a swastika.”
How was it possible that I hadn’t noticed the similarity in symbolism before? For most of the morning, I reflected on this idea.
I felt disturbed. For one, these beautiful earrings were now sitting idle and dejected beside my laptop on the counter. They were given with love, so why could they not be worn with the same intention? The more I thought about it, the more irritated I became. When visitors came in, I was partially relieved that I wasn’t wearing them. Wearing the federal National Park Service uniform, I am representing ideals beyond my own. I am a symbol in another itself. As such, I am expected to be careful about my appearance and to keep my religious and political opinions to myself.
So I was torn. I feel very strongly about educating by example and creating opportunities for people to experience a shift in awareness and perception of ideas. What kind of example was I setting by hiding these earrings? Was I making a silent statement of acceptance? Was I letting Hitler win and perpetuating the negative meaning in the symbol?
Furthermore, earrings are meant to be worn, particularly those with a symbol that means something like this:
The word “swastika” comes from the Sanskrit svastika – “su” meaning “good,” “asti” meaning “to be,” and “ka” as a suffix. The swastika literally means “to be good”. Or another translation can be made: “swa” is “higher self”, “asti” meaning “being”, and “ka” as a suffix, so the translation can be interpreted as “being with higher self”. (Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swastika on December 22, 2012)
So, here I sit, writing and undecided as to how to proceed. I am of Jewish descent. I would not be here in the United States if the Nazis hadn’t destroyed most of my bloodline. If I wear these earrings, will passersby think I am some kind of neo Nazi? Yet, my very existence demonstrates that life continues and perception can be change. We are each powerful instruments of change. The mind, body, and spirit of a human being are incredible tools. We can use these realms to create the reality we want to see in the world—for better or worse.
I welcome your thoughts on the subject.
4 thoughts on “If life were linear”
I think it’s time for good to reclaim this ancient and beautiful symbol. It’s time for us all to be educated on the meaning (of a very different symbol anyway, as it is backwards and lacking the dots, correct?). In India this symbol was everywhere, especially during Diwali. People saw it for what it was. I wonder what Europeans would see, as they have a more blended culture and perhaps a better understanding of the history of the symbols. In the US we are so naive about non-western culture and history. It’s time we all gain a more holistic understanding of our world’s shared history and symbolic language. I say, wear with caution in the right time and place, and be ready to share the good word. Carve out a pocket of understanding around you.
I inherited a black and white scarf which is apparently rife with references to palestinian causes of the recent past. I know that the scarf is used in the desert to keep sand out of the face and the design and fabric are much older than the current associations it brings to certain minds. I had some reservations about wearing it today.
I think your gift looks very Indian.
If you wear a black & white scarf, the terrorists win
By Holly on 5.24.2008http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2008/05/24/if-you-wear-a-black-white-scarf-the-terrorists-win/
This is a comment from a dear friend who lives up in Alaska:
i just read your blog entry about the svastika earrings. and, it’s funny how perspectives change meanings. before i had traveled to india, i saw someone wearing a hindu svastika t-shirt in thailand and i was surprised by it. seriously, who would wear such an inappropriate shirt? then, i went to india. there’s svastikas everywhere…on walls, on foreheads, on clothes, on jewlery, everything. i own plenty of stickers, scarves, etc. with svastikas on them. there’s svastikas on my car. they have an entirely different meaning to me now. when i first saw the photo of your lovely new earrings, i immediately thought of a hindu temple, of happy ganesha, of incense and candles. not of nazis. a svastika with the little dots just doesn’t look like a nazi swaskita to me anymore. they are different. but, i can see the dilemma, you being jewish and all. especially when so few people in our country are familiar with the hindu svastika.
I want to thank everyone who shared such thoughtful comments. I agree that it is time to embrace beauty in every form possible and to free this symbol from the unfortunate, tainted meanings that have been placed upon it. Thank you for reading and for sharing.