Quote of the Week 41: Don’t let them make you feel less worthy

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This week’s quote has a strange place of inspiration: The Edinburgh Apple Store. Months ago I went in there hoping to purchase a new laptop since my current one was starting (and is continuing) to die a gradual, slow death. Rather than go online, I thought that since we now have an Apple Store in our city I could have the joy of going in and picking a laptop that I could try out and feel, rather than just seeing a picture online.

I went into the store one day and tried to catch the eye of the staff. Nothing. I did all sorts of things to make it really obvious I was interested in the laptops. Nothing. Eventually after about 20 minutes of being in the store I managed to get hold of a member of staff. Asked questions about the research I’d done, how much, could I get my student discount, was it possible to buy one today. “Um…yeah”. She couldn’t have been less interested in selling me anything. I was in total shock. She made me feel dumb for wanting a laptop with a DVD/CD drive in it (apparently they’ve stopped making them this way) and in the end I felt so rubbish, irritated and crappy that I just left the store. I later found out that others who had visited the store had got similar treatment.

Today I decided to give them a second chance. No one greeted me or so much as caught my eye. In fact most of the staff seemed to look and then immediately look away. I stood there for 20 minutes yet again, and eventually after standing next to three staff members chatting and staring at their handheld devices I cornered one and asked if I was able to buy things in this store, and whether there was some kind of system for being able to get help from the staff (bearing in mind they seemed to wander round with the iPads – I wondered if there was some kind of queue I was supposed to check in with, like the meat counter at the supermarket or the collection counter at Argos that I’d failed to see the sign for or something). I’ll admit the guy seemed more of a people person than the last person I spoke to, but still was evasive at giving me any information about buying a laptop. So I left again, trying not to voice the sarcastic responses in my head.

I felt angry that a bunch of staff ignoring me as a customer could make me feel that way. But then I think back to searching for dungarees the other week, and every shop I went into within a few minutes someone offered to help and were happy to answer my simple question “Does your shop sell any blue denim dungarees?” and I realised that my reaction to the staff in the Apple Store was a choice.

I let their dismissiveness make me feel inferior. Of no value.

In my head, I was Julia Roberts in that shop in Rodeo Drive.

And the sarcastic, feisty, ungracious inner Laurie kinda wants to find a shop with better staff who treat customers like humans, make eye contact with them when they come into their shop, go out of their way to help them and offer advice and information about their products when asked for it…and then go back to the Edinburgh Apple Store with a shiny new laptop and say

“Do you work on commission? Big mistake! Huge!”¬†

Just as a wee side note, I think it’s kinda nice that the actor playing the hotel manager who helps the character of Vivian get help from a woman in another clothing store, in another film quotes Eleanor Roosevelt in another film with a young woman who is being made to feel bad about herself. ūüôā

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Quote of the Week 11: Knowing what your values are

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I have this thing for commencement speeches. I’m a chatterbox, but public speaking totally freaks me out (ask my old Pastor in Aberdeen how I disappeared when they tried to get me to do a talk in front of a group of people) but I’ve kinda always wanted to have the¬†wisdom and stories to tell that encourage and inspire in key moments of your life – like graduation.

There are two commencement speeches that I love and watch over and over. One is the address Jo Rowling gave to the graduation class at Harvard University. The other is the address Julianna Marguilies gave to the graduation class at her alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College. Both ladies talked about their lives and decision making. But Julianna’s speech is the one I want to talk about.

In her speech, she talked about when she made the decision to leave ER – one of the most popular TV shows in the world at the time (and I loved the character she played, Carol Hathaway). She was offered a truckload of money to stay on the show. But she didn’t want to. She was told she was crazy. She was told turning it down would mean she’d never work again. But she wanted to leave L.A. and do different work and come home to New York. in the end, it was her values that helped her make the decision. With a little bit of encouragement from a Buddhist and her Dad. People gossiped and made fun of her after. They didn’t understand her values…she didn’t need the money. She was happy to turn the money down.

As I write this, I’m in the house alone. It’s the first time any of our household have been in the house alone since we were burgled while our family was attending a wedding reception. My stepfather suggested that I invite a friend round, but I didn’t. Because I know that my Mum is now very scared to be alone in the house. I don’t want to live in fear. My head tells me that the burglars are interested in stuff more than physically harming any one of us. But even if they were, am I going to stop living my life because I’m trying to live in a protective bubble?

Sure, I do take precautions for my safety. Because sadly, there are violent people out there. I don’t generally walk through parks or lanes or lonely streets at night. I try to take the car where I can at nighttime. I make a point to let people know where I am so that hopefully if I went missing someone would notice! But I want to show my Mum that you can be alone in the house and it’s ok.

It was an easy decision to make tonight. Because my values are to not live my life in fear of what someone could do to me. If I got the chance, I would like to look those people who burgled us right in the eye because I’m angry at what they done, and I’d like them to know why. I’d like to know why they did it, and if there is something that I can do to prevent them from feeling the need to do the same thing to other people.

There are so many decisions that have been easy to make based on my values. Who to vote for in an election (or more to the point who not to vote for). What I will consume in the media. It’s an easy decision not to buy most magazines targeted at women and sadly, most newspapers because I believe that gossiping is a sin and I don’t want to buy into that. It was an easy decision to let my Senior Section unit change the words of the Promise they made years ago. Because I believe in honesty and not making promises you know you aren’t going to keep.

In fact, most of the big decisions in life are easy when I make them based on my values. These days the decisions I stupidly spend the most time on are what to have for dinner, which card I will buy for my friend’s birthday, which flavour of fruit juice to buy this week and which day I’m going to not do any work on.

Or maybe I should say decisions are simple to make. Because sometimes it’s not easy to follow them through.

Hmmmm….more thought required.

My main point though? It’s important to work out what your values are.

Quote of the week 6: Learning from those we disagree with

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I had a small rant on facebook last week. The previous weekend my twitter and facebook had filled with overjoyed atheists and angry Christians sharing a link to a video of Stephen Fry going off on one in response to a question about what he would do if he met God (or something like along those lines). I’m a¬†fan of Stephen Fry’s work – particularly on his documentary series raising awareness about endangered species, LBGTQ related issues and bipolar disorder – so I do follow him on Twitter and watch interviews with him on talk shows, so I’ve heard him and seen him talk in this way before. At times he is respectful of a person’s right to believe differently from him and other times he’s come close to suggesting or insinuating that being a Christian should be outlawed. And I do take issue with that latter take on things. It’s this kind of fundamentalism that I find quite terrifying wherever it comes from. Because I find the idea of trying to enforce people to sign up to one particular worldview (or that we should outlaw and stigmatise one particular type of worldview) very disturbing. Because you can take one look at recent history to see what it can lead to.

Genocide. Holocaust. Murder. Hate crime. Stigma.

A lot of people thought my rant was directed at what Stephen Fry said, but it wasn’t. It was at the comments several of my atheist friends had made while sharing articles and memes that the video going viral had inspired as a result which seemed to all take the view that if you believed in God you were uneducated and idiotic. I did make the mistake of taking them personally. My thought process on the sight of them was:¬†“well, if that’s what you think about Christians, that’s what you must think about me“. I’m sure that in reality they didn’t give it a second thought when they shared stuff or how it could come across. I know I’ve been plenty guilty of sharing opinions in a ten second ‘share’ on social media that could be misleading to my actual thought process.

But just as I was posting my ‘Quote of the Week’ on my facebook (which I do every Monday or as close to Monday as possible after the post goes live) this appeared on my feed after being shared and ‘liked’ by a friend. The comments underneath it were all talking about how stupid and incapable of thinking Christians are.

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It was as they say ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’. Had it not been the timing of seeing that, I probably would have sighed and moved on. But I do love my quotes, they do keep me going. Some of the quotes on my wall are passages that talk about love, grace and faith. Heck I have a Zulu word that means hope and faith permanently tattooed on my foot! Is it wrong to be inspired by acts of love, grace or faith? I’d had enough, and having spent the better part of the last 19 months critically thinking (whether I want to or not…just about my whole Masters is about critical thinking and questioning everything we are taught!) and the fact that pretty much anyone who has studied the bible or discussed matters of faith with me can most likely tell you how much I rant about the need for choice, to understand that preachers are capable of talking crap as much as they are capable of speaking truth, challenge and encouragement. Or my frustration at times when I’ve watched Christians lap up the words of the most currently fashionable Christian preaching celebrity on the block without critical reflection on their teaching (and whether it matches up with their application). Actually being church with me is probably quite exhausting.

And so with anger and hurt I took to my iPad…

Apologies to those disappointed in the atheist republic community that my quote of the week choices so far this year have not included fluffy flowery words such as love, faith and grace. Blessed was included last week so hopefully that counts and gives you a little fuel to make me out to be a brainless idiot who doesn’t think for herself. You may think I’m weird for believing in a God who gave free will to choose what we say, do and believe in because of course it does mean we have the ability to both help as well as damage the world. Maybe I’m weird for being glad we are not all programmed to think and act the same way. I kinda like having friends who can both share and differ with me on their beliefs about all sorts of things in politics,artistic taste, lifestyle choices, family culture, laws and the existence of god(s) or lack thereof.

People on Facebook seem to love a good quote meme. And most of my friends who told me I should keep sharing my favourite quotes and reflections on them don’t believe in god so I’m guessing they don’t find my thoughts on life totally offensive? I’m hoping they would tell me of they did. So I’ll keep sharing my “fluffy” quotes each Monday.

I’m off to wash my hair.

I just want to thank two of my atheist friends who were the first to hit ‘like’ on that status, and another who asked me about the rant the next day – leading to a great discussion outside a lecture theatre about religion, atheism, history and the way the institutionalisation of education is affecting our abilities to critically reflect and consider beliefs¬†that we don’t hold ourselves. I really appreciated that and encouraged me that even if we don’t believe the same things about the existence of anything spiritual, we do believe in freedom of speech, freedom of religion (for want of a better term) and mutual respect. Because I do love having discussions about the deeper issues of life…values, culture, morals, ethics. And I especially love it when I can radically disagree with a friend and yet our friendship not be damaged by disagreeing because we will take time to try and understand where each other are coming from.

I had respect for a friend who made this comment in response to my facebook rant:

I may not agree with your beliefs but I respect the fact that you stick to them. I admit, I find the idea of religion silly and I can only hope someday you leave your faith and come over to the dark side (we have cookies btw) but until then, by all means, post whatever you want.

I loved that, and had to giggle because I feel the exact same way РI respect my friends for sticking to their beliefs and feeling able to voice them, but at the same time would love them to know God the way I feel I do. But I would never in a million years want any of my friends to feel that I think they are dumb for rejecting the idea that there is a God or worse (as one friend once mistakenly believed) that I thought they deserved to go to some weird cartoon like hell with horned creatures, flames and pitchforks.

I feel I should also point out that I constantly question God, and spent a long time during my first years of faith being really angry at things that had happened in the world and to me as a child. A couple of years ago I really questioned if God even existed as I questioned the teaching of church leaders who I believe abused the authority they had been given. And I questioned whether the God of the bible had values that I felt I could follow. Did God and I agree on issues I felt passionately about? So I’m not sure how much I really ‘stick’ to my beliefs! Certainly I will stand up for them and voice them. But it would be wrong to say I have not had doubts, questions or that they’ve not changed as I’ve studied the bible and reflected on life experiences, books, art, culture and other media I’ve been open to learning from.

Oh, and PS I love this response to the Stephen Fry video very thoughtfully written by my good friend Rebecca. Rebecca is one of the most un-judgmental people I know and I don’t think she’d mind me telling you that we’ve had many conversations about life’s big (and small) questions. I was most disappointed to hear that, a bit like when our mutual friend shared about her atheist beliefs on her blog, some Christian bloggers stopped being friends with them. Their loss, I say. And I reckon Dudley Field Malone would agree.

Because we learn most when we disagree – and we continue learning when we learn can see past that to the human being, the experiences and thought processes that have led to their conclusion, and have them be willing to listen to how we came to ours too. Sometimes it means we will be shocked, sometimes it means our beliefs will evolve into something that looks a little different, sometimes it leads to us deciding we aren’t sure what we believe is right or wrong, and other times it plain just doesn’t matter but it has been an interesting conversation.