Saturday, October 21, 2006

A Simple Plate Hanging on the Kitchen Wall
By Don Iannone
Click here to see Grandma's Plate

There is a plain-looking green and white plate
hanging on our kitchen wall,
that commemorates the 108th anniversary
of the West Wheeling Methodist Church,
where Mom and her family received the Holy Spirit,
when Mom was a young girl.
For some reason, someone decided
to have the plates made up in 1953,
remembering the church's 108th birthday.
Makes me wonder why the honoring process did not occur
on the 100th birthday of the church.
Why celebrate its 108th birthday?
Math was never a priority in most Appalachian hollers.
That could explain it.
Maybe the church's longstanding preacher decided to retire in 1953,
making it an occasion to remember the church.
Most likely, folks' attention was focused on just one thing in 1945,
when the church had its centennial: the end of World War II.
I suspect that had something to do with it.
In any case, I am delighted to have the plate.
It's the only material reminder I have of Grandma Secrist,
and for that I am forever grateful.
Grandma was a wonderful loving lady,
who always wore a hair net, and
who always fed stray dogs and cats roaming the holler.
She also grew the world's biggest petunias,
that spilled over the green flower boxes
on the front and side porches of her 4-room house,
where nine kids, including my Mom, grew up.
Like the old West Wheeling Church,
not a one of the children is still standing, even Mom,
who went home 20 years ago.
The West Wheeling Methodist Church
was a country church in every sense of the word.
The kind of a church with its windows wide open
in the spring and summer to cool off the congregation
from all that hot hell, fire and brimstone preaching.
Also it was the kind of church that had communion at Easter,
and quaint and colorful Christmas pageants
that all the kids played a role in.
It was also the kind of church that hosted too many funerals
because too many men died young in coalmine accidents,
and too many funerals for stillborn babies
because healthcare wasn't what it is today.
Mom and Dad were married in the church in 1947.
I wasn't there...obviously.
Nor can I even remember having been in the church,
but most likely I was, since Mom was the church-going type.
I'm glad the old plate spoke to me this morning
as I made my way to the coffee pot.


brenda said...

I really like this. It reminds me of the poems I wrote after staying with my grandmother for a month. It was a really special time and she told me so many stories. I have some of her dishes. My favorite things are the dishes and trinkets of my ancestors and the stories that go along with them. Thanks for the reminder this morning :)

Kathleen said...

This is lovely Don... a nice sharing...

108 is very significant, or so it seems, in the spiritual realm. Although I really have no idea what it means... maybe Dan knows...

and besides... 1953 was a great year..! (the year I was born... oopss, did I just say how old I am?!)

Dan said...

Ah. I know that plate.
108 beads on a mala:

Significance of 108 beads
Why are there 108 beads on a mala?
by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati

On a mala, or set of mantra counting beads, there are generally 108 beads, or some fraction of that number.

The question often arises:
"Why are there 108 beads on a mala?"

Below are some of the many reasons that have been given, as well as a few other points of interest. None of these reasons are being promoted here as more or less true than the others. However, you may notice that 108 appears to be somewhat like a road map of reality in general, and the human in particular.

Regardless of the meaning of 108, it is important that if a mala is used to count mantras, the mantra be remembered with sincerity,
devotion, feeling, and full attention.

9 times 12: Both of these numbers have been said to have spiritual significance in many traditions. 9 times 12 is 108. Also, 1 plus 8
equals 9. That 9 times 12 equals 108.

Powers of 1, 2, and 3 in math: 1 to 1st power=1; 2 to 2nd power=4 (2x2); 3 to 3rd power=27 (3x3x3). 1x4x27=108

Desires: There are said to be 108 earthly desires in mortals.

Lies: There are said to be 108 lies that humans tell.

Delusions: There are said to be 108 human delusions or forms of ignorance.

Heart Chakra: The chakras are the intersections of energy lines, and there are said to be a total of 108 energy lines converging to form
the heart chakra. One of them, sushumna leads to the crown chakra, and is said to be the path to Self-realization.

Sanskrit alphabet: There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. Each has masculine and feminine, shiva and shakti. 54 times 2 is 108.

Pranayama: If one is able to be so calm in meditation as to have only 108 breaths in a day, enlightenment will come.

Upanishads: Some say there are 108 Upanishads, texts of the wisdom of the ancient sages.

Sri Yantra: On the Sri Yantra there are marmas where three lines intersect, and there are 54 such intersections. Each intersections
has masculine and feminine, shiva and shakti qualities. 54 times 2 equals 108. Thus, there are 108 points that define the Sri Yantra as
well as the human body.

Pentagon: The angle formed by two adjacent lines in a pentagon equals 108 degrees.

Marmas: Marmas or marmastanas are like energy intersections called chakras, except have fewer energy lines converging to form them.
There are said to be 108 marmas in the subtle body.

Time: Some say there are 108 feelings, with 36 related to the past, 36 related to the present, and 36 related to the future.

8 extra beads: In doing a practice of counting the number of repetitions of the mala, 100 are counted as completed. The remaining
are said to cover errors or omissions. The 8 are also said to be an offering to God and Guru.

Chemistry: Interestingly, there are about 115 elements known on the periodic table of the elements. Most of those, around or higher than
the number 100 only exist in the laboratory, and some for only thousandths of a second. The number that naturally exist on Earth is around 100.

Astrology: There are 12 constellations, and 9 arc segments called namshas or chandrakalas. 9 times 12 equals 108. Chandra is moon, and kalas are the divisions within a whole.

Planets and Houses: In astrology, there are 12 houses and 9 planets. 12 times 9 equals 108.

Goddess names: There are said to be 108 Indian goddess names.

Gopis of Krishna: In the Krishna tradition, there were said to be 108 gopis or maid servants of Krishna.

1, 0, and 8: Some say that 1 stands for God or higher Truth, 0 stands for emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice, and 8 stands for infinity or eternity.

Sun and Earth: The diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth. The distance from the Sun to the Earth is 108 times the
diameter of the Sun.

Moon and Earth: The average distance of the Moon from the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Moon.

Silver and the moon: In astrology, the metal silver is said to represent the moon. The atomic weight of silver is 108.

Numerical scale: The 1 of 108, and the 8 of 108, when added together equals 9, which is the number of the numerical scale, i.e. 1, 2,
3 ... 10, etc., where 0 is not a number.

Meditations: Some say there are 108 styles of meditation.

Breath: Tantra estimates the average number of breaths per day at 21,600, of which 10,800 are solar energy, and 10,800 are lunar energy. Multiplying 108 by 100 is 10,800. Multiplying 2 x 10,800 equals 21,600.

Paths to God: Some suggest that there are 108 paths to God.

Smaller divisions: The number 108 is divided, such as in half, third, quarter, or twelfth, so that some malas have 54, 36, 27, or 9 beads.

Hinduism: 108 is said to refer to the number of Hindu deities. Some say that each of the deities has 108 names.

Islam: The number 108 is used in Islam to refer to God.

Jain: In the Jain religion, 108 are the combined virtues of five categories of holy ones, including 12, 8, 36, 25, and 27 virtues

Sikh: The Sikh tradition has a mala of 108 knots tied in a string of wool, rather than beads.

Buddhism: Some Buddhists carve 108 small Buddhas on a walnut for good luck. Some ring a bell 108 times to celebrate a new year.

Chinese: The Chinese Buddhists and Taoists use a 108 bead mala, which is called su-chu, and has three dividing beads, so the mala is divided into three parts of 36 each.

Stages of the soul: Said that Atman, the human soul or center goes through 108 stages on the journey.

Meru: This is a larger bead, not part of the 108. It is not tied in the sequence of the other beads. It is the quiding bead, the one that
marks the beginning and end of the mala.

Dance: There are 108 forms of dance in the Indian traditions.

Praiseworthy souls: There are 108 qualities of praiseworthy souls.

Don Iannone said...

Wow! I guess this one resonated. Dan, thank you. I wonder if you're right about this 108 thing. Now, I will REALLY have to find out the answer. In any case, thank you Brenda, Kathleen (not so old!), and Dan. Cool.

samuru999 said...

I loved this Don!
Wonderful poem!
I am glad that old plate spoke to you this morning also.
Beautiful sharing!

polona said...

great souvenir, great tribute, great memories!

and i enjoyed dan's exhaustive comment.

Imemine said...

In any case, 108 has more significance in Eastern tradition.
According to Wikipedia in mathematics,
One hundred [and] eight is an abundant number, a tetranacci number.

It is the hyperfactorial of 3 since it is of the form .

108 is a number that is divisible by the value of its ? function, which is 36. 108 is also divisible by the total number of its divisors (12), hence it is a refactorable number.

In normal space, the interior angles of an equilateral pentagon measure 108 degrees each.

There are 108 free polyominoes of order 7.

In base 10, it is a Harshad number and a self number.

Don Iannone said...

Thanks Margie, Polona, and Imemine.

I guess this 108-thing is major. My guess is there was a more practical reason why the church was remembered in 1953 and not 1945. But I appreciate the wonderful numerological insights. Gottfried Leibnitz would have agreed with you.

kathy said...

ahhhh these things we have from our families are precious. I have a bible that belonged to my Grandmother and some cut-outs that she keep inside. precious.

kathy said...

wow! I came back in here to read comments. I'll never look at the number 108 the same again after reaing Dans and imemines comments!

ufukhati said...


Wonderful moments again.

We, the Muslims are celebrating Idulftri, (the first day of Syawwal) when Ramadhan (the fasting month) has ended.

We offer to the world the meaning of peace and brotherhood.


Don Iannone said...

Thanks to everyone. The 108 has struck a cord. Neat!

Ufukhati...and may you find peace and brotherhood during this holiday season. Special blessings to you.

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