16 December 2007

Bow Down? And Save the (Birth)Day

I’ve been reading Alan Morinis’ Everyday Holiness, a book about the ancient Jewish spiritual path of Mussar. In the appendix is a soul-trait inventory to “help you identify the soul-traits that are part of your own spiritual curriculum.” It’s an interesting list, ranging through awareness and humility to honesty, kindness, fear, and strength.

Mussar recommends identifying 13 soul-traits on which to focus, one at a time, rotating through them four times over the course of one year. So I went through the list, seeking to name the traits on which I needed most focus. Some of them, I discovered, were traits I’m actually strong in: gratitude, simplicity, order. Others jumped out at me as obvious weaknesses: patience, equanimity, trust… Coming up with 13 wasn’t that difficult.

Except for one trait, to which I responded vehemently: Obedience. What? Hell no, I will not work on being obedient. I don’t believe in obedience, for me or for anyone else. Freedom is one of my highest values. Obedience sounds like patriarchal domination crap, nothing I want any part of. (I have issues with the patriarchal construct of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim religions. But that’s another discussion.)

I know I’m not alone in my reaction to Obedience. My colleague Barbara says she would toss the Obedience angel card back in to the pot anytime she drew it. But if I have such a strong negative reaction to it, I thought, does that mean I must add the trait to my list of 13?

No. If I’ve learned nothing else so far, I’ve learned to honor and trust myself. If I feel this strongly about the rightness of humans not being obedient to each other, then I shall honor my belief. I will not work on being obedient to others.

Oh, but wait! Maybe Obedience doesn’t mean between humans. Obedience can also speak of our relationship to our Higher Power. It can mean listening to and taking direction from our intuition, or God, or the Goddess, or Universe, or whatever we call he/she/it/them. And this I’m not only okay with, I’m actually pretty good at. I take orders from HP on a regular basis, usually delivered in the form of Inspiration. (Okay, sometimes I kick and fuss first, but not too much and not for long.)

I guess my initial reaction to Obedience was a case of kicking and fussing. But once I looked at the concept from a different perspective, I shifted from feeling pressured to include Obedience among the 13 soul-traits of my soul’s curriculum to recognizing it as already being among my strengths.

Anthony’s mom’s birthday is tomorrow, and she’s driving up today for her birthday dinner with us. Anthony’s making spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread and salad. I’m in charge of the chocolate cake. So this morning I made the cake. Followed the directions on the box of Dr. Oetker’s organic chocolate cake, but jazzed it up by mixing in about a cup of little Sunspire chocolate chips. Can’t have too much chocolate, right? Wrong. Once the cake cooled, it collapsed in the center. Too much gooey warm chocolate chips! What to do?

Talk about inspiration… I cut out the middle so that the cake looked like a ring, then spread the goo over the top and sides instead of frosting it with a chocolate glaze. Then I cooked up a package of Trader Joe’s organic raspberries, some Triple Sec, and a couple of (very) heaping tablespoons of powdered sugar (adjust quantities to taste) until the sauce had thickened some. Once it had cooled, I spooned the raspberry sauce over the cake. It looks lovely, and I’m sure it will be delicious. The only problem is where to put her birthday candle (a question-mark candle that has become a tradition with Anthony and me). Anthony suggested filling the hole inside the cake ring with Satsuma orange segments. I like the idea, and the image, so we may do this and balance the candle in among them.

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