Friday, September 3, 2010

Aspergers, Meditation, Tolerance and a Loud Pump

I spent the morning, and part of the afternoon, in St. Cloud, Minnesota, today: getting tested for Aspergers syndrome. Among other things. I know: Aspergers is something that's diagnosed in children. The screening I took for that is clearly aimed at pre-teens. What I'm doing now is following the 'better late than never' principle. About a half-century late, in my case.

I'll be going back in about two weeks. The testing was supposed to be a one-day thing, but after talking with me, the doctor decided that she'd cast a wider net. I sometimes inspire that reaction in people.

All of which explains why I saw a sign that would have read something like "chapel" back when my hairline was near the front of my head.

Not a "Chapel"

A sign in a sort of vestibule reads:
---To Rest
---To Think
---To Pray
---To Be
I thought having a room like this - and presenting it in this way - was a pretty good idea.

"Meditation Prayer Room" at CentraCare Health Plaza, St. Cloud, Minnesota. September 3, 2010

I also realized that someone could be terribly affronted, offended, and/or appalled at those words. For a number of - reasons? Let's say for a number of points. I'm not convinced that reason has all that much to do with this sort of negative reaction.

I'm exaggerating the points for the sake of clarity and brevity. Not by much, though, in some cases.
  • The name of the room is wrong
    • Those rooms are "chapels"
    • Meditation is Satanic
    • Prayer is superstition
  • The words in the vestibule are wrong
    (To rest, think, pray, be)
    • "To be?!" That's New Age evil!!
    • Those rooms are "chapels"
    • I don't like it
Most folks, I think, at least in this part of America, have gotten used to the idea that this isn't the fifties or sixties any more, and have the common sense to use the room for the uses outlined: to rest, think, pray, and just to "be" for a few minutes.

The room itself is quite restfully designed and decorated. In my opinion. I hope it's a sunny day two weeks from now, when I come back: I'm curious to see what it looks like with sunlight coming in through the skylight.

Restful colors, water sculpture: and a loud pump. September 3, 2010

That dark shape is a sort of water sculpture - and represents the only criticism I've got for the place. The sound of running water is quite pleasant and soothing - and water has symbolic significance in my background that could start useful meditations.

Just one problem: The pump inside the water sculpture makes about as much sound as the water running over the shapes. I like mechanical sounds, as a rule: but this didn't fit the ambiance.

The stained glass is in a pleasantly abstract pattern - without religious significance as far as I could tell.

The chairs, the colored glass, that sculpture and the loud pump are what first caught my attention when I entered the room. Looking around, I found - what else, in a place like this? Gideon Bibles.

Gideon Bibles: They're everywhere. September 3, 2010

Also a Bible without "Gideon" on the front, and some other literature.

"Meditation Prayer Room" - Why am I Not Offended?

Rooms like that were generally called "chapels" when I was growing up. Then, as now, they provided a place where folks could sit and sort out thoughts, feelings, and memories. It's nice to be able to do that in a quiet setting - particularly if we're either waiting to learn what 'the results' are, or have just gotten unsoothing news.

If it were just for me, I'd like a place like that to have a crucifix where that water sculpture is, pictures of saints on the walls - St. Jude comes to mind - and a basin of holy water at hand. Naturally enough, since I'm a practicing Catholic.

Not everybody in central Minnesota is. We've got Protestants (Lutherans, Baptists, you-name-it), Jews, folks who don't approve of God being around, and - for quite a few years now - Muslims. Also, in all probability, Buddhists and folks who follow quite a few other beliefs.

Millions of people live in this state: and we're not all alike. (U. S. Census Bureau) I like it, but even if I didn't: that's the way it is. It isn't reasonable to expect a public facility to cater to my own preferences - or that of the various groups I'm part of.

Tolerance in America: Sometimes Grudging, but There

American isn't perfect. This country doesn't have a perfect record on anything: from Olympic gold medals to tolerating people who aren't 'regular Americans.'

'Real Americans' have been trying to 'protect' the Anglo-Saxon States of America from Catholics, foreigners and other dangerously un-American influences for centuries. (September 26, 2008) Which I think is rather silly - but then my ancestry and family isn't all that 'pure.' Good thing, too - look what happened to the Hapsburgs. Which is another topic.

Happily, from my point of view, 'real Americans' have been profoundly unsuccessful at keeping everybody who wasn't just like them out. Arguably, one of the reasons that this country has - haltingly, grudgingly - accepted the idea of religious tolerance is that folks who settled here weren't all alike. Many left the British isles so that they could worship the way they wanted: not as their king said they should.

By the time 1776 rolled around, there was quite a patchwork of believers in the 13 colonies - some of whom had been at each others' throats back home. Instead of restarting religious wars, they decided to bury the hatchet. Not, surprisingly, in the other fellow's back.

And that was just with the mostly-English colonists. Those troublesome Irish were already here: but they must have seemed positively British, compared to the waves of immigrants that started sloshing ashore.

Over two hundred years later, we've still got folks coming to America: which I see as a considerable vote of confidence. Yet another topic.

That "Meditation Prayer Room?" Okay: so it would have been called a "chapel" when I was in my teens. I might like a room with its function to contain a crucifix.

I'm just happy that a room like that is there. There are folks who really don't like to acknowledge the spiritual side of human nature - and I see that "Meditation Prayer Room" as an affirmation that people are more than a mass of protoplasm and cultural conditioning.

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I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.