Archive for December, 2008

How many calories are in that Bible verse?

December 17, 2008

Counting calories and checking off Bible chapters … it’s like chocolate and peanut butter … no, make that oil and vinegar. Yep, it’s an emulsion of fear. A sad salad of limitations.  And it’s awfully hard to undress a salad.

While other lessons in the Christian Charm Manual can be vague about what exactly the sweet girlies should do to deserve their salvation, this two-page spread stuns with its specificity: holiness through calorie counting. This pairing manages to turn spirituality into both a simplistic process and an unpleasant one. Now that’s what I call empty calories, chickadees.


Mmm, donuts and Revelation.

Although the charts open onto the same page, it’s unclear whether they work in tandem. For example, will the Charm Marm excuse an extra soda cracker (25 calories!) if we throw in an extra Bible chapter? Or maybe just a verse or two will do for such a slim indulgence.

It’s as if the Powers That Were sat around their dour conference room table and said, “Hmm, let’s give these sweet girlies the sense of an impending,  omnipresent measuring stick to inspect their dull duties at every turn. Yes, that sounds about right. Let’s drain the goodness out of every last activity, shall we? Let’s give them a sense of trepidation related to the very food they need to survive. Oh, let’s do.”

Let’s go to the source on this one. I’m sure all Christian Charm School drop-outs remember the story about Jesus and the hungry crowd. You’d think the Charm Marm would have noticed that that the miracle didn’t provide just enough bread & fish so that the women attending wouldn’t be tempted to take in more calories than they should. The story says at least a dozen baskets were left over after everyone was full. In fact, doesn’t the very idea of a miracle (which occurred, as I recall, right after the Beatitudes) seem at odds with restrictions?

Undo the Charm Marm: Counting is for math class. You deserve to be fully nourished. Just because I call you “chickadees,” don’t eat like one. A little seed here and there does not a charmed life make. Your soul is your long-distance power source, and it doesn’t count calories. While I’m at it, self-deprivation is more perilous than any number of calories, counted or otherwise.

Of course, it’s good to be healthy. I’m friendly with certain fruits and vegetables. I walk a lot and sometimes run, but only while listening to super fun music. I regularly eat ice cream and chocolate. I try to eat animal products of the hormone-free, antibiotic-free and free-to-roam varieties … but I can occasionally be seen eating fast food. In sum, I recommend the following plan: Be healthy most of the time. The rest of the time, don’t worry about it.

If you happen to be fond of lists (as I indeed am) just make sure they’re more helpful than bossy. And, you know, don’t let anyone suggest that you might burn in hell for all eternity if you veer off-spreadsheet. Replace the mean charts with the idea that nothing less than a feast will do, metaphorical and otherwise. What if instead of going at life with a checklist in hand, we did everything with a sense of abundance? To the feasting tables, chickadees!


14th-century poet to the rescue

December 3, 2008
Ralph Waldo Emerson called Hafiz "a poet for poets."

Emerson called Hafiz "a poet for poets."

Today’s Charm School Break is sponsored by the 14th century.

The Persian poet Hafiz was born about 100 years after the better-known Rumi. They both wrote mystical love poems, but Hafiz is slightly more surreal.

His work has this odd mix of earthly references and heavenly insights – the effect is jarring and undeniably joyful. Here’s an excerpt from one of my favorites, Of Course Things Like That Can Happen:

The sun rolls through
The sky meadows every day,
And a billion cells run
To the top of a leaf to scream and applaud
And smash things in their joy.

Of course things like that can happen.

Rivers stay up all night and chant;
Luminous fish jump out of the water
Spitting emeralds at all talk of Heaven
Being anywhere else but – Right Here!

Clouds pull each other’s pants down
And point and laugh.

O my dear,
Of course things like that can happen.

Light stretches its arms
Open even more
And shouts to you, because you are His lover,
To forget your harsh actions of the past
And just Dance!

Oh my … the Charm Marm certainly would not approve of clouds pulling each other’s pants down. She wouldn’t likely encourage the little girlies in her charge to forget their harsh actions of the past and just dance, either. So I’d much rather have a holiday meal with Hafiz, who both inspires and reassures me. Here’s to getting medieval on the Charm Marm.

I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy, $10.20 at