Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Hot Book Club Discussion: Serendipity or Divine Intervention?



I have a love-hate relationship with my book club down at the senior hall. I like that I get a monthly opportunity to read and discuss books I otherwise would not pick for myself to read. It’s like taking a college class without having to pay tuition. We need to challenge our thinking from time to time---if for no other reason than to confirm that our biases are based on something other than our imaginations. A book discussion can open up our minds to new ways of thinking about any given topic but the problem with my twelve member book club is I’m often the only odd man out, so I have to decide if I want to defend my point of view or put a zipper on my mouth. It’s an adrenaline rush either way.

At our June meeting we discussed My Mrs. Brown. (I wrote about a passage in the book in an earlier blog, about how the main character takes a framed photo out of her bedside table drawer every night and displays it, then every morning she puts it back in the drawer.) As the club facilitator went around the room asking everyone how we liked the book, ladies said things like, “it was a sweet book” or “it was a feel good book” but when it was my turn I said I thought it was mostly a boring book to which someone commented, “We can always count on Jean to have a different opinion.” When the laughter ended and it was time for the next woman to give her opinion she gushed about how the book was full of divine interventions. “It was so inspirational!” Say what? I couldn’t help it, I had to ask for an example of a divine intervention in the book. She said it was a divine intervention that the main character took a job helping to pack up the house of a wealthy woman who died. Finding a dress in the closet that Mrs. Brown loved was a “divine intervention.” Someone giving Mrs. Brown a book to read about fashion was a “divine intervention.” I had to say what I was thinking: “I’d call all those things serendipity. How do you define a divine intervention?” I asked.

She was a little---okay, a lot---defensive and miffed when she replied, “I don’t believe in serendipity, everything is divine intervention!” I took that to mean only non-believers use the word ‘serendipity’ and since it’s one of my favorite words and I call myself an agnostic I would have let it drop before the whole thing turned into a discussion of religion. But it happened anyway when someone else asked me if I thought serendipity was always happy little events. She threw me a life-line and I took it. “Yes,” I answered, “I just don’t think God has time to intervene to help someone find a dress when there are more important things in the world to attend to.” “So you’re saying that divine interventions are more like miracles,” the woman holding the life-line said, clarifying my words. Bingo.

When you use the word ‘God’ in that group we can count on one member to get into sermon mode. And so she went on and on about how there’s no difference between divine intervention, coincidence and serendipity or between wishes and prayers. Ya, I know, you’re thinking that I challenged that ‘wishes and prayers’ idea, too. Trust me, I wanted to say that wishing I had a bowl of ice cream isn’t the same as praying for world peace but I zipped up my lips. She’s got a Doctor of Divinity degree so I know better than to question her. But when she came up for air, words slipped out of my mouth with no forethought. Oops. “And with that sermon,” I said, “we don’t have to go to church next Sunday.” Everyone laughed including the divinity school grad. I’m just glad the parting of the Red Sea didn’t come up in her sermon because I probably would have suggested---for the sake of argument---that some would call it serendipity that a temporary land bridge from an underwater earthquake made it possible for Moses to cross the Red Sea. It wouldn’t have been much of a debate, though, because if I believed in divine intervention this easily-explained-by-science thing happening just when Moses and the Israelites needed it would qualify as a miracle---or serendipity on steroids if the word ‘miracle’ isn’t part of your vocabulary. When you go looking for reasons to believe or to not believe in a Supreme Being, you will find exactly what you want to find. 

On the way home I thought about how the book club discussion clarified that I don’t believe in divine intervention any more than my nemesis believes in serendipity. God controls everything, according to people in her camp of belief, like a puppet master, where I don’t see the world that way. We were pecking around the very foundations of world religions. Once I came to that conclusion it was easier to understand why she got her hackles up over the word, ‘serendipity.’ Her fatalistic view of a Supreme Being controlling our lives is polar opposite of my world view where I define God as the combined goodness of mankind aka when we come together in love and good intentions, we ARE God. Literally. But there are places where I do not dare speak those words of “heresy” out loud. ©


 

38 comments:

  1. This post made me laugh out loud. I could visualize the whole thing. Exactly why I take great care to avoid groups where there might be an opportunity for me to speak. It just isn’t safe. Let me tell you working 17 years in a seminary was its own education in the world of people, church, and religion. My thinking is too far out of the norm. I make people nervous and uncomfortable. I love a good lively discussion but it’s usually one on one and just the right one. That’s why I declined going to a grief recovery group. I might cause someone to hyperventilate.

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    1. I had forgotten about you working in a seminary! We bloggers sure are an interesting group of people when we get down to the bones of what makes us, us.

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  2. Well, I have no degree in theology, but I do consider myself a Christian, and I more follow your line of thought. If everything is Divine Intervention, then where does God giving us 'free will' come into play? If He handles everything? Answer; it doesn't. So either she believes in Free Will, or her sense of Divine Intervention. She can't have it both ways. (as I see it.)

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    1. I wish I would have thought to ask about Free Will in that discussion. I know at least one who doesn't believe in it. She's a widow year-out and she's talked about how she's waiting to see God's plan revealed in taking her husband, has to be a good reason because "God always does what is best."

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    2. Agree with Silver on the free will and in fact was thinking that as I was reading your blog. Divine intervention over a dress. Good grief!

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    3. There wasn't a single thing in that book I'd call a divine intervention but most especially not finding a dress you like in a closet. Good grief, indeed!

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  3. Here here! I concur!
    I give you props for saying so.
    I did a book club once. I hated it. They were so rigid in their book choices and I found all but 1 incredibly boring and trite. One time I recommended a book that was popular at the time. Heavens no, we don't read that garbage here. (gone girl) After partially reading Gone Girl I gave up because at that point I dispised the characters so. I went to the end of the book and read how it ended. I wanted to talk about it and see if any one else felt these characters were so self consumed and narcissistic as I did. They would wax poetic about such inane things that I wanted to scream. And heaven forbid you have a different opinion. I thought it was to discuss all views and think about them. But after being ripped to shreds where I had to say to all the ladies, "this was supposed to be about conversation, not a lecture" I quit. The books and the women that chose them frankly bored me. So now I read alone.

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    1. "This was supposed to be about conversation, not a lecture" What a wonderful exit line when you quit, worthy of a best selling author. I get what you mean about "waxing poetic about such inane things" that you want to scream. In the above book discussion that's how I felt when the one lady was wanting to turn finding a dress in a closet into a mystical experience.

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  4. Then what in the heck is God waiting for in all these Huge Matters, like school shootings and forced migrant child detentions? I see: he's too busy helping old ladies find a dress.

    Yeah, now I get it.

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    1. Exactly! I don't get how you can say finding a dress in a closet is divine intervention but not wonder why your God isn't intervening in life and death situations that effect masses.

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  5. BTW, God doesn't have a plan. Seriously. He gives us free will. We have control of how our life goes or doesn't go to a certain point of course(you didn't lose your job by your hand if the place closed down) This theory is weak and usually made by the weak. Okay off my soapbox now.

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    1. Most Christian denominations believe we have free will,,,but here's the rub. Some believe that means we have the free will to choose or reject God. Period. If you choose God then you must obey Him and His plan for you thus you are giving up your own free will to God's plan for you. A catch-22 for some of us who don't want to believe in fatalism, so to speak but don't want to be disrespectful to those who do.

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  6. Ya done good gal and you left them laughing which was wonderful.

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    1. I've never minded being the butt of a joke...or poking fun at my own expense.

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  7. Jean :

    I love your blogs & your thinking on life, God, politics everything in general. It opens up my world. I believe the way you & my husband believe, things happen in our life, good or bad, nobody controls anything, sh*t just happens, but we do create our own destiny by our free will & decisions we make in our life some good, some bad. But after going through my own set of troubles in my own life, I have started believing things happen for a reason & best is yet to come.

    Asha

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    1. You have such a good attitude and I know it didn't always come easy for you after your stroke to get to that point. Hard times do have a way of getting us to reevaluate our life choices and make corrections that lead to a better understanding of what is truly of value in our lives and to appreciate what we formerly took for granted.

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  8. Amen sister, you are right on

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    1. Always nice to hear from the choir. LOL

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  9. I am so glad I found your blog recently. I belong to a book club too and this represents the down side that I have experienced as well. I have very similar views as you Jean. Finding your blog was pure........serendipity! Thanks for sharing. Jackie

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    1. I just love that word! If I had a daughter I would have named her Seren or Dipity---just kidding. I think.

      I couldn't find the link for leaving comments on your K.D. Lang post but I sure do love her version of that song. I haven't seen her much in recent years.

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    2. Try my Butterstone post for Nov 12 2016. I posted it on there as a tribute to Leonard Cohen. You probably saw it on Convergence which is not set up for comments. Glad you enjoyed it. That is my favorite version of the song too. I agree we don't hear much from her anymore. She is SO talented and talk about someone who is not afraid to speak her mind!

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    3. Yup, it was on your Convergence blog where I saw her. Totally agree about her talent and speaking her mind. What a voice!

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  10. If I was in your book club I would have countered with " we can always count on Jean to tell her truth, and to use her thoughtful powers of observation to cut through the bullshit." You go, girl.

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    1. Man, I wish I could hire you to have my back at book club, especially if we ever read The Handmaid's Tales. :)

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  11. I sat on a long bus trip behind a couple loudly arguing about lack of funds at their destination. The husband's response was a constant: The good Lord will provide.

    I read the news about millions of people left homeless and hungry through no fault of their own. I wonder if they have less access to the good Lord's provision.

    I steer clear of the overly religious. Let your actions speak louder than words.

    On a related note, someone commented to me re a racist and bigoted local politician that she liked her because "she speaks from the heart". I asked if she would like to hear words from my heart about that politician's well-known ignorance and prejudice. The commenter was a religious person; she made a moue and did not respond.

    Serendipity is one of my favourite words. ~ Libby

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    1. "She speaks from the heart." I hear similar things about Trump from his fans and I'd really like to say "then he's got a black heart." Just because someone says what's on their mind doesn't mean what's on their mind is quality, moral or ethical thoughts. Two people I know well who support him vocally consider themselves very religious. I find that so confusing and contradictory.

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  12. This will be the fourth time writing a comment to you. Something always interfered with me trying to write. So here's the fifth time.
    First never zip the lip. You've got so much to say and it's always important. Divine Intervention, interesting and you & I would spend a great deal of time discussing that.
    I was brought up Catholic, I was an alter boy, went to church every Sunday, went to confession and the whole thing. But something happened to me. Two priests changed my mind. I still believe in God and I do believe in Divine Intervention believe when I had my stroke, I was to die. Later I found out that people throughout Canada and the U.S. prayed for me. People that didn't even know me but they did pray. Well that's what I call Divine Intervention not the one that lady regarding the book she was reading. She'a nuts there. I believe that I was lucky to meet all of my blogging friends but can I say Divine Intervention, I doubt it but we'll never know. All I can say is that I;m lucky to be able to discuss things with you.
    You must have a great time when your book club gets together. Maybe you should create a blogging book club. No way, it would be just me and you. Ha,ha,ha. Have a great day my friend.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Divine intervention or a whole lot of good people sending you healing thoughts---it doesn't really matter what label we put on it because you are here to appreciate life with a whole new depth. And that's what counts.

      I honestly can't say I have a great time at book club. It's a rush, it makes me think on my feet. But it's often too tense and I worry that I'll reveal or say something I shouldn't. We are not friends like those in the movie, Book Club and we never will be.

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  13. I have to add this to the discussion. I attended my book club today (similar to yours it seems) and it was my book choice - Driving Miss Norma. We are all "older" people so naturally the discussion turned to dying with dignity. I shared with the group that I have been a member of Compassion and Choices for years and am a strong supporter.........THUD. SILENCE. People are so afraid something might not be "God's will" that they are paralyzed and unable to think for themselves. Drives me nuts. This is the second time at the same book club that NO ONE spoke up but came privately whispering to me later "you know, I sort of agree with you"... drives me nuts.

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    1. Bugs the heck out of me that people will admit privately to agreeing with me but they won't speak up/back me up during a particular book discussion. I've faced those SILENCES too. Our group has never discussed assisted suicide (which I'm assuming Compassion and Choices is about) but I know without a doubt that no one would finish a book with that theme.

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  14. Wow! I’m so proud to know you (a little). I don’t think I could handle the things those blind faith members of your club say. Do they not have brains? And the Dr of Theology? I think she needs to return to school.

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    1. It's not just the women in my book club. Lots of people around here have blind faith, been running into them my entire life. About half the women in this club were teachers---a couple at the college level. They are smart, just not open minded about religions other than their own. It's only been in the past few years when I've spoken up in public regarding religion and even then I'm careful.

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  15. Oh my goodness. I believe in Divine Intervention AND Serendipity. I seem to be able to see the difference and don't think they are anything alike, and I have a real deep faith in God. Hm-mm. I wonder what is wrong with me?

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    1. Nothing is wrong with you. You were just brought up in a different denomination of Christianity than many on my side of the state. LOL

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  16. I'm late to this post, but brava, sister! You know I agree with your worldview (spiritual view?) on this. One more thought...all that literal Biblical interpretation amuses me. I had an Old Testament teacher in a World Religions course in college who explained that a misinterpretation of the words for "Red Sea" explains the "miracle". It was actually a swampy "reed" sea area and when the tide went out, Moses led the people across, as the story was told in ancient times.

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    1. They amuse me too. Anyone who has ever played the old telephone game where you sit around a circle and whisper something in someone's ear that get passed from one person to another to see how it comes out when the circle is completed knows you can't pass down the Biblical stories word of mouth for 400 years without changes being made in the basics of the stories. Never heard the 'swamp reed' version but it sure has a ring of truth to it. In my World Religion class we were taught the Bible is the early history of mankind, told word of mouth before people could wrete or read or understood natural science.

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  17. You can come over to our book club anytime. You would fit right in. And I agree with you one hundred percent. If everything is divine intervention then we have no choice. And I'm a strong believer in free will. I'm looking at all these kids separated from their parents with the immigration crisis and thinking a little divine intervention would be nice right now -- you use it for the big things. And I'm not seeing it!

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    1. You live almost close enough that might work out. LOL

      I second your wish for a little divine intervention on our border right now!

      I saw something on Facebook recently that said words to the effect that "I'd rather live next door to someone who walked across a desert with the hope of being an American, than to live next door to an American who wouldn't walk across the street to help a foreigner." We could use a little human and/or divine intervention with our immigration crisis.

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