A Source of Inspiration: Linda May

15 02 2010

This entry is more of a personal reflection than a chipper and newbie-friendly “how to” post.

Many different people in life touch or affect us in some way.  Today I’d like to write about someone who recently passed away, but was an inspiration to me in the way that she lived her life.  Linda May Reines Bishop was a unique and independent soul.  She was kind and sweet, but her approach to life was very different from most.  Linda was an artist through and through.  She would hand-design little birthday and greeting cards that she sent to members of our community.  She felt music acutely and would wear lavish artsy makeup, not applied according to the latest norms but to how she thought looked beautiful.  She was sincere but because she was a bit different, some shied away.

Her son recently told me a story that affirmed my understanding of Linda as a kind and caring individual, a real person.  When the rain would come, Linda would tell him that it was time to put on a jacket and go outside – to be with nature and see the world as it was meant to be.  Linda explained that animals were less scared when it rained because fewer people were outside.  When a bird was hurt or dying, Linda would hold the animal in her arms and comfort the creature.  Linda would dance with real feeling to the Friday night Sabbath service while others would sit by with their prayer books in hand, just mouthing the words.  Linda was a hero of mine and she was so incredibly cool.

We can admire our heroes without entirely emulating them.  Part of the beauty is being able to take their attributes or values and incorporate them into your own life in a way that works and is your own.  I can’t throw caution to the wind in the same way that Linda did.  Being an active and accepted member of my community is almost as high a value and priority as expressing my individuality.  I would like to create my own colorful outfits out of scarves, paint warrior lines on my cheekbones in lieu of blush and donate my bras to Salvation Army once and for all, but I’m not there right now and maybe I’ll never be.  As I navigate the path of being true to myself and not being intimidated by my environment while remaining a part of the community that I cherish, I hope to keep Linda’s spirit and her bravery close to heart.

posted by amybetho




7 responses

15 02 2010
Michael in the Great Plains


Those are touching sentiments, and insightful thoughts. Linda May sounds like she was an unusual person, unusually able to free herself from sometimes-limiting social norms. There is a price to pay for such individuality, however, and as you imply not everyone can walk that path.

As a species, one of our great paradoxes is how accomplished and unique we can be as individuals, but how much we are, and need to be, connected to others.

15 02 2010

@ Michael: There is such a fine line between maintaining individuality and achieving communal acceptance, and I don’t think that most people find a satisfying balance between these two pulls. (I would say that 90% of the population favors the latter.) Have you? I would love to hear about your personal observations or experiences navigating between society and self.

16 02 2010
Michael in the Great Plains

@Amy: Undoubtedly, the tension between individuality and communal unity/conformity is one of the consistent challenges making life complex. Different influences bear upon the question, it seems to me, as to how much individuality vs. how much conformity we want or need. One’s culture and time, of course, can be rather more communal or more individual, and this encourages or discourages certain behavior and thoughts/emotions.

Less obvious to some is the influence of innate temperament. Two elements of temperament weigh in strongly on such matters. One (in MBTI-related terms) is introversion vs. extroversion, and the other is judging vs. perceiving (structure/stability/rules/belonging vs. flexibility/options/freedom/independence).

Then, of course, there is the question of which individuality or withdrawal from the group is healthy, and which not. After all, schizophrenics and certainly schizoid personality disordered people often isolate, and do things very differently from the group. And in a more moderate sense, those who are emotionally wounded, or insecure in various ways, tend (especially if not strongly extroverted by nature) to limit engagement with the group…and may behave eccentrically. Also, how to separate rebellion (which is reactive, thus not particularly authentic) from healthy departure (which is more authentic)?

Okay, those are some random thoughts that might stimulate other thoughts.

As to individuality vs. conformity in my life…Well, that’s a long story. I’ve separated from my religious community of origin and written a book on the topic… I’m also self-employed… So, yes, I’ve mostly chosen the individual path. But I’m introverted by innate personality, and have a relatively low need for communal involvement.

There’s far more to be said, but this comment is already overly long.

18 02 2010

@Michael: Wow – thank you for your thoughtful comments and for taking the time to lay out your observations and personal approach to the independence vs. community discussion. Your distinction between rebellion and healthy departure was particularly interesting to me, though I find that many young people grow from rebellion to health departure. What’s the name of your book?

19 02 2010

What a beautiful acknowledging of your appreciation and admiration for your friend Linda May and her inspiring affect on you. May her neshama have an aliyah and may her memory always be for a blessing.
Yasher koach

23 02 2010

@Devorah: Thank you for your loving words and kind comments. I’m sure that Linda would very much like you if she had met you.

19 02 2010
Michael in the Great Plains

@Amy: I know you and Jay are acclimating to your new adventure at the resort, and you may not be checking the comment thread from this previous post anymore… But here’s a response in case you should.

Good point you make–many young people begin with rebellion and move on to healthy initiative. And, a little later in the life cycle, though perhaps less commonly, the progression can go in the other direction, too. Sometimes people begin with inspiration and ambition upon an independent course, and when they don’t find the success they hoped for, they can–if pride and jealousy speak louder to them than humility and contentment–turn bitter and reactive, and focus their efforts on rebellion and opposition (public or private) against those who’ve enjoyed more acclaim.

Thanks for asking for the name of my book. I wrote it because I wish I had had a book like that available to me 20 years ago, or so, when I was grappling with such matters and trying to make sense of the profound issues relating to the spiritual quest. The book title is: “The Sage and the Seekers: The Search for Truth, on God, Religion, and Life’s Meaning.” The tone is gentle, sometimes poetic, the style is literary but accessible, and the overall message is one of reverent agnosticism.

I mention that the book presents the case for agnosticism, because I’ve inferred that you and Jay are involved in religious community. For some, such involvement precludes reading material from other perspectives. It may help to know that the respectful, even compassionate approach taken in the book is the only way I think such sensitive topics should be discussed, and is in marked contrast to some of the angry atheist books popular of late. But I certainly understand people not wanting to read that which conflicts with their point of view.

If for some reason your excellent resort adventure leaves you with some time for exploring online, feel free to check out the book’s website and read a few of the posted excerpts. Then, though it’s available at online book sellers like Amazon.com, if you or Jay would be interested in seeing the actual book, I’d be happy to send you a complimentary copy. The website is http://www.SageAndSeekers.com, and if you’d like to take me up on the offer of the free book, simply send me an email from there. By the way, I will in no way be offended if time pressures, religious commitments, or other reasons leave you unable to take me up on the offer.

Best wishes to you both, for continued courage and joy.

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