Journal from My Balcony Garden #4

– English below –

10 lucruri pe care le-ar putea face preoții ortodocși în loc de a cere să se deschidă bisericile

Spoiler alert 1- să-și doneze averea nu este pe listă
Spoiler alert 2 – această postare nu este nici amuzantă, nici ironică, nici furioasă. Dacă sunteți în căutare de material în care se înjură oameni, nu îl veți găsi aici

1. Explicați-le oamenilor că Dumnezeu nu stă doar în biserică. Ei cred că Dumnezeu e în metrou dimineța când se duc la muncă, că este lângă patul lor seara când spun Tatăl Nostru, că este în spitale și pe terenul de fotbal. Voi i-ați învățat acest lucru. Și îi ajută pe mulți. Le dă speranță, le dă încredere. Pledoariile acestea înlăcrimate pentru deschiderea bisericilor cu orice preț îi sperie pe oameni. Adică îmi spui că Dumnezeu nu mă ascultă decât atunci când vin la biserică? Și oriunde altundeva sunt pe cont propriu? Înțeleg că pentru unii a fi în biserică este un moment de pace, de siguranță, de nădejde. Spuneți-le oamenilor că Dumnezeu e oricum peste tot și că îi așteaptă și în biserică după aceea.

2. Păstrați legătura cu enoriașii din parohia voastră online. Dacă îi știți că sunt online, valabil pentru acei preoți care se tânguiesc pe internet, faceți un live de rugăciune, un grup de postat pilde și sfaturi. Vorbiți cu ei în privat.

3. Păstrați legătura cu ei telefonic. Făceți-vă disponibili și în afara orelor de program. Unii profesori fac acest lucru și unii medici și sunt convinsă că și unii dintre voi. Puneți-vă pe ușa bisericii numărul de telefon sau pe ușile blocurilor, așa cum anunțați că veniți cu Botezul.

2-3 bis. La nivel de Biserică Ortodoxă Română s-ar putea face un fel de canal de comunicare oficial. Cu preoți voluntari care să răspundă oamenilor la un număr de telefon dedicat sau la mesaje pe o platformă online.

4. În strictă legătură cu 3 și 4, vorbiți cu oamenii. Întrebați-i cum o duc. Consiliați-i. Foarte multă lume este speriată. Întrebați-i dacă sunt în siguranță acasă, mulți trăiesc în familii dificile. Oferiți-le speranță și asigurarea că Dumnezeu ascultă oriunde ai fi.

5. Întrebați dacă au ce mânca. Mulți și-au pierdut joburile. Alții îi știți bine că veneau duminica la biserică sau se lipeau de înmormântări ca să primească ceva pomană și asta era toată mâncarea familiei lor. Ajutați-i cu niște pachete. Eu nu am pretenția să dotați spitale. E mai ieftin ce propun.

6. Țineți aproape de bătrânii din comunitate. Știți care dintre ei au rămas singuri. Ajutați-i cu niște cumpărături.

7. Când zic ajutați-i nu înseamnă că un preot va putea face cumpărături pentru cei 100 de bătrâni sau mai mult. Creați o comunitate de sprijin. Foarte mulți oameni ar ajuta în aceste timpuri. Poate puteți da un job unui tânăr care să aprovizioneze câteva familii. Sigur vor fi și voluntari.

8. Răspundeți-le la întrebări. Foarte mulți nu au acces la informație corectă sau nu știu să o filtreze. Voi sunteți educați. Puteți distinge adevărul științific de fake news și știrile alarmiste de recomandările oficiale. Ajutați-i să aibă informații corecte.

9. Nu vă poziționați într-o poziție antagonică față de autorități și de știință. Încurajați oamenii să meargă la doctor, să păstreze izolarea, să asculte de autorități. Nu scade cu nimic autoritatea lui Dumnezeu dacă oamenii ascultă de autoritățile de pe pământ.

10. Amintiți-vă că Dumnezeul creștinilor este blând și iubitor. El nu pedepsește copii nevinovați. Această criză nu este de la El, ci de la noi. Nu băgați frica în oameni. Pe unii îi veți îndepărta de voi și de credința lor,. Pe alții îi veți înverșuna împotriva semenilor lor. Nimeni nu are de câștigat.

Concluzie: Îndemnați oamenii să rămână sau să devină mai blânzi. Să aibă răbadare. Să facă tot ce le stă în putință să se ferească pentru că Dumnezeu ne-a dat liber arbitru și nu putem nici da vina pe El dacă ne îmbolnăvim și nici să ne riscăm viața aiurea în speranța că ne va salva. Dacă am înțeles ceva din învățatura creștină e că El dă putere să înveți dar nu rezolvă ecuații. Îndemnați oamenii să nu își bată joc de viața lor și de a altora testând limitele protecției lui Dumnezeu.

10 things that Orthodox priests can do instead of pleading for churches to open

Spoiler alert 1- donating their wealth is not on this list
Spoiler alert 2 – This post is neither funny, nor ironic, nor angry. If you are looking for a text in which people are being chastised, this is not it.

  1. Tell people that God is not to be found exclusively inside the church. They believe that God accompanies them on the subway on their way to work, that He is by their bed at night when they are reciting the Lord’s Prayer, that He is in hospitals and on football pitches. It is you who have taught them this. And it helps a lot of people. It gives them hope and confidence. These tear-jerking pleads for churches to open make people be afraid. Are you telling me that God does not listen unless I am in church? And that everywhere else I am on my own? I understand that for some being in church is a being safe, feeling secure, hopeful, peaceful. Tell people that God is everywhere anyway and that He will be waiting for them at church when this is all over.
  2. Stay in touch with your parishioners online. If you know them to be online, which is true for those priests who whine on the internet, make a live prayer on facebook, create a group to post sermons, teachings and advice. Talk to them privately.
  3. Stay in touch with them on the phone. Make yourselves available outside office hours. Some teachers do it, some doctors do it and I am sure of you are doing this already. Post your phone number on the church door or on their apartment building doors, just like you post announcements about when you are coming to share the Baptism.

2/3 extra – The Romanian Orthodox Church could create an official channel of communication. With volunteer priests to answer calls from people on a dedicated phone line or to answer people’s messages online.

4. Closely related to 3 and 4, talk to people. Ask how they are doing. Counsel them. A lot of people are scared. Ask if they are safe at home; many of them live in difficult families. Provide them with hope and with the assurance that God is listening wherever you are.

5. Ask whether they have enough food. Many have lost jobs. You know of others who came to church and joined funeral parties to take some food home to their families. Make some care packages. I don’t need to furnish hospitals. This is cheaper.

6. Keep in touch with the elderly in your community. You know which ones are all alone. Help them with some grocery shopping.

7. When I say help them I do not mean that one priest can go shopping for 100 or more elderly parishioners. Create a support community. A lot of people would help these days. Maybe you can create a job for a young person who could provide for a few families. I am sure volunteers will also show up.

8. Answer their questions. Many people do not have access to correct data or do not know how to filter it. You are educated. You can tell scientific fact from fake news and alarming rumours from official recommendations. Help them be correctly informed.

9. Do not place yourselves in opposition to the authorities and to science. Encourage people to go the doctor, to self-isolate, to obey the law. God’s authority will not be lessen if people obey secular authorities, as well.

10. Remember that the Christian God is loving and kind. He does not punish innocent children. This crisis is not of His making but of ours. Do not scare people. Some will become estranged from their faith and from you. Some will become resentful towards their neighbours. Nobody wins.

Conclusion: Teach people to remain kind or to become kinder. To be patient. To do all that is within their power to keep safe because God has given us free will and we can neither blame Him if we become sick nor risk our lives thoughtlessly hoping He will save us. If I understand anything of Christian teaching is that God gives you strength to learn but does not solve your math problems for you. Teach people to stop wasting their lives and others’ by testing the limits of God’s protection.

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Journal from My Balcony Garden #3

I don’t know who needs to hear this. I wrote it because I needed to read it.

You pay rent or a mortgage and may have difficulties if this crisis continues for too long. Your friend who is constantly complaining to you about money owns his apartment. You still have a job, he doesn’t. Who is doing worse?

You are recently divorced and have to manage your feelings and your kids’ feelings on top of this crisis. Your friend is happily single and lives alone. A couple of weeks ago she had it better than you. She feels lonely now. You have your kids. They are a handful but they give you purpose. Who is doing worse?

You are elderly, living alone, and must fend for yourself during this crisis. You worry about your health because you are at risk. Your friend is healthier, wealthier. His children won’t talk to him for a couple of years now. You talk to your grown-up kid every evening. Who is doing worse?

You are single and feel incredibly lonely now. Your friend is married and has a beautiful baby. She may not have a home after this. You live with your parents. Who is doing worse?

Do not compare your troubles to others’. You will always fall short. There is always someone doing better than you.

Do not compare your gifts with others’, although it’s tempting. There is always someone doing worse than you. It will make you feel better for awhile, but do you want to be the person who’s happy just because others have it worse than you?

Be kind to others. There are layers to every story, struggles and issues which do not make it into conversation.

But most importantly, be kind to yourself. No matter how much you think you’ve screwed up and it will be all your fault if this crisis hits you bad.

Be kind to yourself. Count your blessings. Stay safe and take it one day at a time.

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Journal from My Balcony Garden – #2

The world will not be the same for a while.

Dear child, I wish I could say that I know what is in store for you and what the world will look like when you are older. But that would be presumptuous and irresponsible of me. I am not sure what the world will look like tomorrow. We are, as a nation and as a whole planet, in deep denial about the magnitude of this issue.

I had a kid today use the word magnitude in a homework video. I felt really proud and I realised how much I miss these kids and how lucky I am to be having these conversations with them. I felt like hugging them all who had the courage to sit in front of their phone and record the homework I gave them (pre-pandemic virus-free bear hugs). They are more used to this than I am, anyway. When I made my own video as a model for them, I nearly pooped my pants out of embarrassment although I was all alone in my kitchen and I could do as many takes as I needed and I had the necessary skills and tools to edit out the blunders. But I didn’t. I sent it raw, unedited, without removing background noise, or fixing the contrast or even without adding any beautifying filter to smoothen my hormone blotched face. I said, if I’m gonna step out of my comfort zone for this, I might as well step out of a cliff.

Until this year, vlogging had never occurred to me, and now I am actively looking for ways to start my own vlog. What topics, what background, how to edit videos, should I show myself or just use my literary persona, the Reading Reed? But for many of those kids, this is very common. I am 34 and I already feel ancient, this is what they meant when my folks were saying they were old at 30-something. Technology gets ahead of you eventually, if you stick to your comfort social media. How to reach them? How not to become a fossil in the classroom? Will I still care when I am 50-60-70? Will I still be here?

A collaborator/boss said something today that really stuck with me – that this is a crisis situation and that we have to adapt( or fall off the wagon… he didn’t say this part, it’s my own interpretation). It is time to stop whining about loss of comfort and to stop patiently waiting for all this to be over. It might be over but the world will be a very different place in the aftermath. Adaptation is how life thrived on Earth for billions of years. I just watched a TED talk the other day about the many times Earth faced mass extinction and still life prevailed. The weaklings, the underdogs, the ones who went into hiding, but also the ones who learnt how to eat different foods, how to swim when land wasn’t enough anymore, those are the ones who make it. There are different kinds of survivors and therefore, I don’t believe that the world will automatically become a better place, as some of my more optimistic friends believe.

Take businesses for example, two kinds of businesses will be strong in the aftermath of this whole ridiculous situation: the ones who adapted, who went online, who stayed in touch with the clients and protected their employees. They will come out of this a little or a lot disheveled but they will survive. They will not look the same, they will be the land mammals who grew fins and went in the water, who learnt how to eat fish when there was no more chicken. And they will try to keep afloat, to make the world a better place, to prevent future crises like this one; the new business model will be based on adaptation and flexibility, rather than on rigid structures. They will continue to run business based on values and principles, for the greater good, primarily.

The other kind will be the opportunistic rat who came out of the shadows when the dinosaurs were gone, to gnaw on their bodies and to take over the world. The ones who have pulled out their assets from the market as soon as crisis hit. The ones who hid their money under the mattress and let go thousands of employees to minimize loss of capital. They will have the resources to reboot, and to seize whatever gaps will be there to be found in the economy afterwards. They will continue the same business model as until now – the one which is primarily based on cash cows and trends or dire necessity.

This is by no means a proper analysis of any kind. I have absolutely no factual knowledge about business and economics. I am assuming, playing with analogies and jumping to conclusions based on what I see around me.

And there is no right answer to my riddle, because if you look back into the history of nature, if I may continue my analogy, you will find that both creatures are our ancestors. We have both genes in us – the opportunistic rat and the noble dolphin. Which one will prevail? Well, how does that story about the wolves go? – the one that thrives is the one you feed the most. Choose your services wisely during this crisis and afterwards.

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Journal from my balcony garden – #1

Some stats:
Cases worldwide: 630,000*, deaths: 29,000
Top 3 countries : USA – 112,000 infected*, 1900 dead
Italy – 86,000 infected*, 9000 dead
China – 81,000 infected*, 3200 dead
Romania – 1500 infected*, 30 dead

Currently ReadingJournal of the Plague Year, Daniel Defoe

#1 – The Three Things That Annoy Me

When I start writing this, we have already been staying mostly indoors for about two weeks. It is March 28th 2020, in Bucharest, Romania and the whole world is more or less shut down because of a new Corona-type virus, which causes extreme respiratory issues among the most fragile – elderly people and those with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer and the like. Younger healthy people experience milder symptoms and usually can recover without permanent damage. Young children appear to be the strongest in this particular case, supposedly because of an immature immune system which does not try to attack the virus so potently that would cause damage to the very body it should protect. It began in the Wuhan province in China and has now spread all over the world in just a few months. At least this is the data we have so far. And this is a very brief version of all the information circulating at the moment.

It is the age of information; this is what we’ve been calling it lately. However, for years now, we have also been calling it the age of misinformation. Words are abundant but they do not always carry truth. Sometimes it is human error arising from misunderstanding or misinterpretation of facts. At other times, it is fault by omission, minimization or exaggeration, for the sake of click bait and monetary gain. Too many times, it is fabrication, purposeful reinterpretation, out-of context quoting for the most horrible reason – MANIPULATION. This is the age we live in and it is the one thing that scares me more than the virus itself – the fact that we are not being told the truth.

It is the age-old saying, that history is written by the victors, which bothers me a lot right now. Because although it is mostly true, if you really want to see more sides of a story, there are always witnesses’ statements, journals and diaries, which have escaped censorship. And while they might be accused of bias and of presenting a single point of view and missing the whole picture, that is exactly what we should look for. The insight of individual accounts and not the ‘whole picture’ as it is given in history books. History books, I am sorry to say, are anything but objective. I cringe remembering one particular lesson among the first chapters in the Romanian History textbook, which taught Romanian students how to counter Hungarian arguments about the wrongful annexation of Transylvania. This is not the place to go into THAT discussion, but the fact remains that the history book dedicated a whole two pages on how to argue with Hungarians about a moment in history that implied a lot of trauma for a large population, aside from any economic, political or patriotic outcomes. We don’t talk about it. We, as patriotic Romanians, refuse to listen to the other side. And this is the second worst thing about the world today – the ease with which we can choose to not listen to points of view which are unlike ours.

And because all horrors come in threes, my third annoyance today and forever is that, although we like repeating cliches such as, history repeats itself and those who do not learn from past errors are bound to repeat them and so on and so forth, we actually do not learn because we do not read and we do not educate ourselves and we do not do a good job of educating others.

I am currently reading A Journal of the Plague Year, by Daniel Defoe and, in the given context, it is the worst book I should be reading right now. It is infuriating, frustrating and every two pages I feel like going out in the streets and slapping people over the face with it. (Not an entirely brilliant idea since I am reading on my Kindle and I would be ruining my trustworthy companion). But I would just shout loud and clear for everyone to hear:

  • WE HAVE BEEN HERE BEFORE!
  • WE HAVE ALREADY MADE THESE MISTAKES!
  • STAY THE FUCK HOME!
  • DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE CONTAGION!
  • FIND A WAY TO STAY CALM AND KIND TO YOUR FELLOW MAN!
  • DON’T FUCKING HOARD TOILET PAPER! (I mean, seriously, how First World is this particular concern? You have fucking running water. If need be, wash your damn bottom!)

OK, rant over. For now. I will keep reading and I swear to all gods old and new, when this is done, I will do a better job at educating people not to be selfish idiots in the face of crisis.

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#14 – 52 Books Bingo + 4

Last update: January 26

Complete : 1 of 56

1. Reality Check : Born A Crime, Trevor Noah; a story about institutionalized racism and what seggregation for a few generations does to a society. To read and beware.

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Aussie author reading challenge – #13

Last updated: January 6

Complete: 0%

Find full challenge here: https://bookloverbookreviews.com/reading-challenges/aussie-author-reading-challenge-2020

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Down the rabbit hole challenge – #12

Last updated: January 6

Complete: 0%

Find full challenge here: https://rabbitholeblogger.com/2019/12/24/2020-reading-challenge-overview/

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2020 Alphabet soup authors edition – challenge #11

Last updated: January 6

Complete: 8% (2 of 26 books, … P, …, V…)

Find the full challenge here: https://www.escapewithdollycas.com/2020-reading-challenges/2020-alphabet-soup-author-edition-reading-challenge/

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2020 Alphabet Soup Titles edition – challenge #10

Last updated: January 6

Completed: 0%

Find the full challenge here: https://www.escapewithdollycas.com/2020-reading-challenges/2020-alphabet-soup-reading-challenge/

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52 books in 52 weeks – challenge #9

Last updated: January 26

Complete: 13% ( 7 of 52 books)

Find the full challenge here: https://mommymannegren.com/2019/11/13/the-2020-reading-challenge-52-books-in-52-weeks/

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