Dragon Boat Racing and the Spirit

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Bill Atkinson
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Dragon Boat Racing and the Spirit

Post by Bill Atkinson » 15 Sep 2009, 21:04

I have just spent the last weekend, Friday to Sunday, at a Dragon Boat race in Penticton, B.C. There were 38 teams in the races, the weather was as close to perfect as you can get and it was a fabulous time and I must confess that not for one moment on Sunday did I regret that I was missing Church.

For those of you who might not know about Dragon Boat racing in its "modern" form (as opposed to the more traditional Chinese form that is still viable) let me explain a bit. In the 90s one of the responses to the devestating effects on personal image and self confidence caused by breast cancer (including the surgery and chemo-therapy) was to encourage breast cancer survivors to become "warriors" against the "dragon that was cancer", and go out and do something that showed their fighting spirit and their unwillingness to be swamped by a disease. A dragon boat is a long, bascially flat bottomed canoe holding 20 oarspeople, a drummer-coxswain-boss and a standing steersperson using a long sweep oar as the rudder. When 6 of those boats come racing down a half kilometre course neck and neck, oars rising and falling in hopefully perfect coordination, urged on by the shouts and the rapid drumming, it is a thrill all on its own. So the movement grew over the decades and is now a major movement of its own, in B.C. there are probably more than 20 racing meets a summer, and I expect it is certainly true for most other Canadian provinces and likely American states though I admit I don't know the American situation at all.

I am writing this in the "spiritual stuff" board because it is clearly a spiritual experience for the participants and the spectators at many levels and I find it such a testimony of the beauty of the human spirit and the striving to live the best one can no matter what the obstacles. Virtually all Dragon boat teams have cancer survivors as team members but the movement is more inclusive and readily accepts almost all comers. However there are teams that are exclusively composed of breast cancer survivors, there were 12 at this meet on the weekend.

At about noon Sunday they had a "carnation ceremony" in memory of those who had died of cancer and those beautiful souls still struggling with the dragon. After a "survivors only" race, the boats came to shore nose into the sand and the spectators crowded around (something like 400 hundred in Penticton, each waving a pink carnation above their heads in honor of the brave women in the boats in front of them and in memory of loved ones they had lost. When the song being played ended all the carnations were tossed into the water. It was one of the most moving moments I have experienced in several years only matched by the best moments I have experienced in the temple when doing work for very close grandparents. This was a spiritual moment of unparallelled power and I know that the Holy Ghost was there suffusing those about me.

This is one more powerful reason why I will never again utter a testimony that "I belong to the only TRUE Church". Though I know it is done with only fervent faith I now find it insufferably arrogant and excluding. That Sunday afternoon, on that beach, there was more spirit and testimony and love from Heavenly Father than in most testimony meetings. Many of these people will never experience the Church but they have surely experienced "opposition in all things" and have risen above it with powerful faith and determination, I have no doubt that they will obtain the Celestial Kingdom, they deserve it, and our smug, self satisfied, self righteousness will be standing outside wondering where we went wrong.
All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness.
Ernest Ludwig Kirchner

LadyWisdom
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Re: Dragon Boat Racing and the Spirit

Post by LadyWisdom » 16 Sep 2009, 14:51

I just wanted to say I read your post, loved it and totally agree with you!
Breast cancer has deeply affected many of my friends and family members, too.

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Bill Atkinson
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Re: Dragon Boat Racing and the Spirit

Post by Bill Atkinson » 17 Sep 2009, 06:39

Thanks Lady Wisdom I appreciate the post, its nice to know someone is reading!!! :lol:

All cancers are life changing events for an entire family and in my own experience it mostly builds family strength and love in the long run so there is that hated "silver thread" running through those events that you would cheerfully bash a person's nose in if they say it when the fight is ongoing and so personal and so painful, but afterwards you can see it. I've lost both parents to cancer, my father when I was in grade 3, and it has shaped a great deal of how I look at the world.

These Dragon Boat races as a response to breast cancer are such a great example of the human spirit simply refusing to give up.
All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness.
Ernest Ludwig Kirchner

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Dragon Boat Racing and the Spirit

Post by Curt Sunshine » 17 Sep 2009, 06:46

There is good and truth all around us. We simply need to be open to see it. Thanks for this beautiful reminder.

What we can't do is allow our vision of some manifestations of good and truth to blind us to other visions of good and truth - and that is as true for those who are struggling in Stage 4 as it is for those who are comfortable in Stage 3. Frankly, it's probably MORE important for those in Stage 4, since they are the ones in danger of rejecting all the good and truth that is in what they now are questioning - which can lead to bitterness and rejection of almost all good and truth.

Anything like this that touches our souls in the way that this experience did yours is an opportunity to see and realize beauty as an independent concept - as simply a fruit of love and creation. That perspective can aid tremendously in the reconciliation process and in simple spiritual growth. Thank God for these experiences.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Bill Atkinson
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Re: Dragon Boat Racing and the Spirit

Post by Bill Atkinson » 17 Sep 2009, 20:22

Thanks Ray, good advice

I would not make it a regular practice to skip out on Sundays to find such "moments" I have watched too many friends use the same logic only to end up in very barren spiritual places, bitter and angry at the Church. So though I do appreciate what last Sunday brought to me it will remain an occaisional time for I do greatly appreciate the Sacrament meeting and the moments it gives me to reflect on life and what is important. Then of course I get to teach my Sunday School class and that is most often a lot of fun with teenagers as long as you respect them as your brothers and sisters and not just "pests".
All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness.
Ernest Ludwig Kirchner

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professionalmom
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Re: Dragon Boat Racing and the Spirit

Post by professionalmom » 22 Sep 2009, 17:05

"If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, we seek after these things". This came to mind as I read your beautiful post. Thanks for sharing!
"The path that is best for you is the path that keeps the best of you in play."

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Orson
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Re: Dragon Boat Racing and the Spirit

Post by Orson » 23 Sep 2009, 14:31

-
Thanks Bill!
Bill Atkinson wrote:I will never again utter a testimony that "I belong to the only TRUE Church". Though I know it is done with only fervent faith I now find it insufferably arrogant and excluding.
Like you, I feel that if I made certain claims I would be "insufferably arrogant" and exclusionary. But I try to offer greater understanding and compassion to those who are in a different place than I am. They are in their shoes, not mine, so my job in making the world a better place becomes understaning their place in a way that reduces the tension between us.
My avatar - both physical and spiritual.

I first found faith, and thought I had all truth. I then discovered doubt, and claimed a more accurate truth. Now I’ve greeted paradox and a deeper truth than I have ever known.

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Bill Atkinson
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Re: Dragon Boat Racing and the Spirit

Post by Bill Atkinson » 23 Sep 2009, 17:50

Thank you Orson you are absolutely correct, from their point of view they are expressing their faith honestly and fervently, it is in my head that the disconnect happens. So I will strive (note that that is the word in temple recommend interview as well ;) ) to have more compassion and understanding for that point of view and in fact for all points of view. One more step to make on the journey to at least stage 4.75 :lol:
All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness.
Ernest Ludwig Kirchner

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Dragon Boat Racing and the Spirit

Post by Curt Sunshine » 24 Sep 2009, 19:01

Fwiw, there are certain things I feel comfortable saying, "I know . . ." One of the them is that God is the author of all things beautiful and uplifting - no matter how one defines "God".
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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