I haven’t quite started this new year off well. Weeks late on a first post and a couple weeks behind on my weekly photo shots. Ah well, better late than never.
In closing the book on the old year, it feels good to move forward and hope for the best. For many, for the world, 2015 had been a very rough year. People being shot for drawing pictures some found offensive, people being shot for no good reason. Rivers of hate speech flowing from every corner of the earth, from the pulpits, the media, the high level politicians. Cries of persecution from the persecutors, The only right that seems to be protected is the right to hate, to denigrate to second class citizen any who don’t share the beliefs of the bullies.
One would think that by this time we had figured out how to learn from history, but it appears to not be the case. We point fingers at one group, yet fail to see those same behaviors in ourselves. Too blinded by the hate frenzy to see the very human face of the person we will throw under the bus. Adding fuel to the already blazing inferno, we are in an electronic propaganda war where we are fed snippets that are either partial truths or outright lies.
And this, I believe, is the biggest part of the problem. We no longer connect. We no longer touch. We are too busy looking at our computers, our TV screens, our tablets to see the humans before us, around us, that are us. We do almost everything from an electronic device. We get our news from Facebook and Twitter and even the news outlets have gone to a captioned image format. And, as is the case and purpose of headlines, we are fed bites to incite, inflame, stir.
That has always been the case with the news and many other introductory arenas. What is different now is that it seems that is all that is consumed before moving on. There used to be discussions, in the coffee houses, at dinner, at breakfast, at parties and gatherings. The story was read beyond the headline, the person was questioned beyond the introduction. Conversation was a vital ingredient. Understanding the issue was a vital ingredient. The headline was simply to get your attention. You were supposed to read further, to seek understanding, knowledge, insight.
I miss long conversations with friends around a table. I miss long conversations on the phone with a dear friend. As dated as it makes me, I miss a written correspondence from a friend. And I miss the e-mail lists where there were discussions on issues, happenings,
People say it is just a sign of the changes of the times. However, not all changes are good. And though technology is, for the most part, a good thing, even a good thing misused can become a bad thing. We read our smart phones and get our news from twitter, have our emotions jarred by memes on Facebook and get our smiles from kitten videos. If we can’t say it in less than 140 characters, we know no one will trouble themselves to read it. I actually listened to a man at my writing group the other night say that he kept the chapters in his book to only a few pages because publishers say that is the extent of a reader’s attention span. Really??? I sincerely hope that is not true.
There have been a number of recent articles on what we have lost with the loss of letter writing.
I found this in the Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/culture/charlottehigginsblog/2012/oct/23/lost-art-letter-writing)
But still… O’Connell quotes this lovely passage from a piece by Catherine Field in the New York Times.
“A good handwritten letter is a creative act, and not just because it is a visual and tactile pleasure. It is a deliberate act of exposure, a form of vulnerability, because handwriting opens a window on the soul in a way that cyber communication can never do. You savor their arrival and later take care to place them in a box for safe keeping.These things, letters we can hold and read over and over again, conversations that inspire, delight, fuel us.”
Words are the keys to our hearts. They are the cement that bonds people together as they speak and learn and share and understand. They are a stew pot whose ingredients alone are a bland or harsh side dish, but when combined, form a sustaining meal that will nourish the soul.
You look at the political arena, the News Media, the Pulpit and from their words believe that we are all galaxies apart. Aliens living in a segregated landscape that is separated by a vast divide, impossible to cross. And because we don’t look up from that picture, we buy into it. We turn from people whose beliefs differ from ours, whose political stand differ from ours. The reality is that in most cases, if we can step away from those issues that divide and simply extend our hand in friendship, sit down and have a cup of coffee, share stories, and find common ground, we may find in most cases, we aren’t so different. We may find that we have missed that simple connection of laughing with a new friend. And blur that edge that a few have set between us to divide us. It is far more difficult (though not impossible) to hate someone you know than it is to hate a stranger.
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. But, I can hope for a New Year’s solution. That we add a bit of the old back into the new. That along with our smart phones and Facebooks and electronic gizmos, that we have a long phone call, take a walk in the woods, catch up with old friends, meet some new ones, some of whom don’t share our beliefs. Find a divide and cross it. Our real country motto is, Out of many, one. We destroy hate when we blur the lines. We blur the lines when we reach out to each other and touch. When we touch, the divide goes away and those that would teach hate lose their power.
Sin – According to the dictionary a sin is:
1. transgression of divine law: the sin of Adam.
2. any act regarded as such a transgression, especially a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle.
3. any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior, lapse, etc.; great fault or offense
We are living in a time where Nones (people who claim either no religion, or don’t identify with any religion) are at an all time high, counting between 22% and 31% of the population. Yet, in the face of this, it seems every politician, and an unbelievable number of the news outlets are pounding us with their religiosity and infusing every story, every commentary, every interview with litanies of sermonesse speeches akin to what you would expect from an evangelical fire and brimstone pulpit. And SIN seems to be one of their favorite admonishments to season their argument with.
Even given that you are applying only the biblical definition of sin which comprises the Judeo/Christian community, again of which between 22 and 31% of the population no longer embraces or is not a member of, you are talking about 613 laws. And for those saying that the Old Testament doesn’t apply because of Jesus, I tell them they need to read their book again. For it says that Jesus said that you must keep the laws of the Father. He didn’t wipe out those laws. Though, we should make a strong note of something else he said. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.That gives us 613 of those blasted things that we must avoid doing. Most of which have no bearing on modern society and I doubt even the Pope can avoid breaking many of them. However, even if they could be given a bearing in modern society, just the enormity of it can make any person’s brain ache. 613 laws??? Okay, I’m sure every state’s penal codes have more than that. But, how many of us bother to learn, more yet try and abide by all of them? And some of those are just as silly as the ones in the bible. And to any Christian that happens upon this, if you take offense at such a statement, you obviously haven’t read some of those laws. “Not to make human forms even for decorative purposes.” There goes the family portraits! “Men cannot shave their face with a razor.” Guess its time to start sharpening those stone blades! “Not to eat from that which is left over.” Well, there went MY lunch plans. There’s a lot more of them if you care to look them up. And again, they are not just for Jews. Jesus said you have to keep the laws of his father. So, that means Christians need to keep these laws too. Might do for them to remember that when they point accusatory fingers at gays and women.
However, I must say that if we go with the first definition, at Eve’s bequest, Adam ate of the tree of knowledge, and so was born “original sin”. By biblical accounts and the interpretations of a large percentage of Christian ministers, because of this act relayed in the “beginning”, we all hold the past due loan of “original sin”. For this, we come into life with the deck already stacked against us. A “bastard child” cannot get into heaven, nor can his descendants for 10 generations. There are others as well, but the point is, you could live a sin free and pure life (though I am at a loss to figure out how) but may still find yourself barred entrance into this “heaven” based on something your great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather did. Heaven has to be one damned empty hall, if you ask me.
However, let us return to that first sin. The sin of of eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge. I try to wrap my head around this concept. The sin that has been passed down to us from the “first parents” is the sin of choosing knowledge. Never mind the fact that the deck was stacked against us in this as well. You have Satan in that garden of Eden, dangling this delicacy of knowledge in front of Eve. If it was so forbidden, why was it in the garden in the first place? It was the original set up. How could we possibly refuse?
For knowledge, we are damned, as are our children, and their children, and their children, forever. So, if that is the primary definition of sin, I wish to be at the front of the line. Though it actually does explain much in the current trend of the more fundamental states in their opposition to critical thinking, science denial and insane levels of denialism and mis-information. I guess they are figuring if they go back to original sin and deny the value of knowledge, they can worm their way into heaven. And I must say that I take a great deal of satisfaction in the realization that it was woman who first chose knowledge and then wished her man to become knowledgeable as well. Course, this could also explain why so many men like dumb women. They are trying to turn back the clocks of time. Proof again that a woman with knowledge is a truly dangerous thing!
I would think the last place I would want to spend eternity is with stupid people! Actually, when you add this in with the other things that are said about heaven, no earthly body (= no sex), eternity worshiping God (worship someone? Me??? Yeah, that one ain’t gonna happen) singing hymns forever (gads, nooooo!!) and no knowledge. Yeah, I want a ticket to the other place where I can sit around and shoot the shit with Mark Twain, Bono, Tesla, Sagan, and all the rest of the godless ones. Now, that’s a party, even if it is hot. Or cold. Whichever.
Which actually brings me to my point in writing this. The reality is that when we look at the actions that have been deemed “sins”, it gets rather entertaining. It almost seems as if pretty much everything that is pleasurable is a sin. Hell, I can’t even have lustful thoughts about the men wandering around in kilts at the Highland Games. And if pretty much all acts of pleasure are sins (we did mention knowledge is a sin, didn’t we?) what is the purpose of life? To spend it with dangly bits of chocolate and feathers and jars of massage cream wavering in front of us and never reaching out to pluck one? That’s pretty damned inhuman if you ask me!
Thankfully, we can walk away from the Judaeo/Christian God and take a look at other religions (should you have the need or desire for a personal god and religion). Yeah, you have Islam, but that is also an Abrahamic religion with near identical stuff that the bible has. Oh, except for the 72 virgins part. I don’t recall reading that one in the bible. Though god did offer all the virgins of a taken city to the victors. Damned nice of him, don’t you think? And yet another way for him to teach those uppity females who wanted wisdom.
There are other, somewhat more rational belief structures out there. Buddhism, which has no reference for sin. It does, however, have Karma. You do bad, it will bite you in the ass. Same for good. Its not really magic. Its simply common sense. When you are nice to people, it tends to make both of you feel good and fulfilled. Happiness and kindness are contagious. As are unhappiness and cruelty. All you need do to prove or disprove this one is to walk into a room full of people and begin greeting everyone with a warm smile and kind word. One person in a room with the right attitude can change the entire atmosphere. The same applies if they are angry. So, karma is the world we create.
If we abuse our land, our planet, it begins to turn on us, failing to produce food in the same way If we dump poisons in our water, we also poison our bodies. If we show a complete disregard for our fellow human being, we will be left without real friends. If we lovingly tend our little piece of earth, things will grow. And yes, its also a scientific principle. For ever action, there is an equal reaction. What you put out comes back.
This is a much more logical and acceptable rationale to me. I don’t need a god or a book to tell me these things. I don’t need a promise of a reward in an afterlife (especially with a bunch of out of tune hoohaws that think ignorance is a godly trait). I don’t need a bible to teach me to be a good person. I just need to realize that I feel good when I do good, I feel blessed when I help, change, and live life.
Do I believe in “sin”? Absolutely! But, not in the definition handed down by the churches or the media. My son loving another man is not a sin. I reject ANY god that says that love is a sin. If its between two consenting adults, it is just love. My friends that love in ways that I don’t understand, those aren’t sins either. I don’t need to understand them for them to be all right and good. If it makes their hearts glow, their insides warm and their spirits soar, it isn’t a sin. Choosing when I am ready to bring a life into the world is not a sin. It is choosing not to bring a child that is not wanted, can’t be cared for. It is waiting until the time when I am ready to make that commitment. Having control over my body, the decisions of my body is not a sin. It is my right. Choosing who I have a relationship is not a sin. Whether it be one or one hundred or more. (though it does become a sin in my eyes if you knowingly pass on an STD in this manner)
So, what is a sin? To me, a sin is the willful destruction of your planet for profit. Its harming a child. Its harming your partner. Its imposing your belief on others. Its in not rejoicing in this short journey we call life. Its in not trying to make it a better place than you found it.
Even if it is a tiny, minuscule improvement. Its a sin not to breath the life in and let it fill you up and then exhale it in a song of joy.
I don’t know if there is a god. If there is, I am sure they don’t give much thought to me. But, IF there is one, the only one that I can put my belief into is one that wants me to relish the life they gave me. One that wants me to live every second as if its all there is. One that sent me here to love. Not by a narrow definition, but fully, completely and with every cell of my being. Not one thing, but everything. I reject a god that would condemn love. I reject a god that condemns knowledge and wisdom. I show the hand to a god that lays 613 laws for me to follow. “That” is a sin. A sin against life. A sin against love. A sin in the truest sense.
July 3, 2015
Facebook, Twitter, even the major news sites, now word bites, scrolling headlines and momentary brushes with the world making people feel informed and in the know. The newspaper has fallen to the wayside. Investigative reporting focused more on the latest Kardashian trend and what Jaylo had for breakfast than world or national news that has real impact on our lives, our futures.
The more I contemplate this, the more bothered I am about it. Though the reality is that history is always written by the victor/conqueror, at least with a written account from someone, you can call to task the words that were said yesterday and hold them up as a mirror to the words today. Also dying to the point of near extinction is the expose journalism that spawned such shows as 60 Minutes and its ilk. The age of brevity seems to be sweeping the age of understanding into the dusty recesses of the room.
Now, I am not against technology. Nor am I against the quick dispersal of information that we have available with the information highway. It has its place and serves up to us the ability to have our pulse on the world’s happenings if we are interested. However, the problem is that too many have become headline readers only. They browse their Twitter feed, their Facebook feed, the headlines of whatever Reader they are using and call themselves “informed”. But, I have learned, from speaking with many that claim that they are “informed” and they do follow through and read these full articles. That in most cases, they do not. Nor do many check the sources of the stories they take as truth. “I saw it on Facebook, so it must be true.” And yes, we have all had moments where we react too swiftly to memes and such and get swept up in the flurry of messages and click that share button.
Additionally, the evening news is more like Good Morning America than a newscast. There seems to be a much greater emphasis placed on making it a feel good place to watch, like sitting in a room of friends, than anything resembling in depth clean reporting. You have Fox with an accuracy rating of 18% and dropping, MSNBC which though its accuracy is slightly higher, has been listed as being mostly opinion. I’ll argue that Fox is as guilty or more so in that realm as well. And even though CNN has almost double the accuracy points and reliability, that still is not a record to tout.
I wonder how much the folding of so many newspapers had to do with this. For now, you no longer have the archived stacks of papers to prove what was said last week, last month, last year. Yes, you have You Tube and Internet archives. But, it doesn’t have the same feel as that folded paper read over morning coffee.
The media, the power and money behind the media are fully aware of all of this, play on it and manipulate it to their greatest advantage. They know and make use of the fact that what was known today, incited anger yesterday, was the driving force last week, will either be forgotten or marginalized by the next election, the next battle.
I remember many years ago reading 1984 by George Orwell. He predicted all of this in the pages of the novel. Actually, “predicted” may not be the correct word, as it implies the gazing in a crystal ball or receiving visions or knowledge from a mystic oracle. His predictions were based on what he saw, where he saw technology going and how it would be used and manipulated based on human and societal natures. His Newspeak is becoming more prevalent in the media. News is being transmitted in feeds much like the ticker tapes of the stock exchange. Facts or details changed and rearranged on a minute by minute basis. The general population believing every word that is transmitted and dismissing lingering questions regarding what they “thought they heard” in a previous report. The enemies of the State today were yesterday’s friends of the State. And the country was involved in a never-ending war. I think I may need to pull this book off my shelf and read it again. Its been many years and I would like to see how much more I am missing.
The bottom line is we are dumbing down and becoming a surface only society. We view the world through a peephole. Its a place of safety where we can see what is out there before we open our door to potential annoyance or danger. But, it only gives us a tiny and distorted view of the world. We don’t see the truth through its lens. We see a partial image that blurs and twists at the edge. And we cannot live behind that lens forever. If we do, we condemn ourselves to a fractional life and a world we are delivering to the Big Brothers who are already far too powerful. There’s nothing wrong with looking through the peephole before we step out. To get a glimpse that we may brace ourselves for before proceeding. But, we mustn’t stop there. We must step over the threshhold and immerse ourselves into the reality of all that is. We need the full story, not just the first 144 characters.
Much debate is going on currently regarding the rights of individuals, groups, organizations and whose rights take precedence. This is dangerous territory when we begin to allow the wills of a church or group to be forced upon an individual’s personal freedom. And it is dangerous in far greater reaches than it is presented to us.
Most prominent in the spotlight right now is on whether companies have the right to exclude the coverage of birth control and if pharmacies have the right to refuse to dispense them based on their personal moral and religious beliefs. On the surface, this can cause many to think that these groups have such rights as their religious beliefs prohibit such things. And this makes one hesitate on if they should be compelled to go against such dictates of their beliefs.
But, what we fail to take into account is the myriad of areas this can be expanded to. It also fails to allow for the respect of the beliefs of others that may be different. It fails to respect the right to privacy of others to live their lives by their conscience, their beliefs. And it also leaves them open to others imposing laws and rules that could compromise their lives.
It also asks, where is the line drawn? If one argues that a company has the right to refuse to allow coverage for birth control or that a hospital or pharmacy has the right to refuse to administer them based on their moral and religious beliefs against them, what is next? There are thousands of people who believe that gays are an abomination. That AIDS is God’s punishment for an immoral life. Does that mean these same employers, hospitals and pharmacies have a right to refuse medical coverage for AIDS medicines and treatments based on their beliefs? What about the interracial couple? Many believe that is also against God’s dictates. Can they also be refused? Or children born out of wedlock? There was a time when they could not even be buried on consecrated ground. Or of any people that practice a religion, live a lifestyle, hold a belief that is contrary to their’s?
And whose rights take precedence when your beliefs say to use prayer instead of seeking medical aid? Whose rights take precedence then? The parents, or the child who will die without that medical intervention? What of the religious conviction of many Muslims who believe that a woman’s genitals be carved up for her moral good? Or that she be hidden behind veils and locked doors? What of the rights of the child? Or of the women being forced under the knife? Are their rights overshadowed by those of the group?
The truth is that we open the door to all these possible scenarios when first we crack it for the first time. It is a Pandora’s box, that once open, can unleash a firestorm that will quickly race out of control.
It is the selfsame argument as of free speech. We cannot limit it because we do not like it, because it goes against our beliefs, our religion, our morals. To be truly free, we must also defend the rights of those we do not agree with, that do not share our religion. So too, must we defend the freedom of a person’s body, their lifestyle, their private choices.
Yes, the practitioners also have rights. But, they must evaluate their beliefs when they enter into a profession that might put them in contact with people who do not share their beliefs. If that vocation involves making available those things that they find immoral, then maybe they need look for another vocation. Just as one who is a member of a pacifist religion, like the Amish, can be exempt from being drafted into the military, so too can they make a choice to not enter a career that forces them to go against their beliefs. It does not give them the right to go into that vocation and then impose their beliefs on others that don’t share it. You cannot join the military and expect to hold the belief that you can refuse to carry and use a gun of moral or religious principles. You can only stand on those principles to not serve in the military that such a thing is a part of the job.
I think it was best said by our president.
“Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all. Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what’s possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.”
February 23, 2012
Does an employer have the right to impose restrictions on the ways is which an employee uses the benefits and compensations that are earned by an employees labor? Do they have any right to such privileged and private information? I would like to think that this would not even be a question that ever needed to be asked in this country. Most especially given all the fights in our history to gain workers rights to do with their pay as they see fit.
This has, however, become an issue lately with church run hospitals, employers with religious beliefs feeling they are within their rights to make such mandates on how the compensation to their employees is used. They offer health benefits, yet feel they can tell you that you cannot however, use it for birth control or other things they, as your employer, have “moral” issues with. And many think that they are within their “rights” to make such conditions. I don’t. And they are backed by many vocal politicians who feel they are in their right to impose such conditions.
There was a time in our history where companies owned entire towns. The people they employed were required to live in their houses, buy their good from the company store, conduct all their business transactions through company approved sources. Employee uprisings and union support eventually put a stop to that. I am not a huge supporter of most of the unions today, but I give credit for the changes they made in the past that have carried over into the present day; better safety standards, reasonable work hours, employee rights and the right to use your pay in any way and at any place you see fit.
Your health care benefits are part of your compensation package. They are a part of your paycheck. That’s all there is to it, plain and simple. They are the property of the employee. An employer should have no more right to impose how your insurance is used than they should have in how you spend your earned dollars. For, they are one and the same. You earned them, they are your’s. Stating that you can’t use those earned dollars to purchase birth control pills, get any other medication or procedure is the same as telling you what stores you can shop at, what purchases you can make, what you do for entertainment.
Once you leave the company for the day, what you do is of no business to them. You would have every right to cry foul if they handed you a list of “approved” stores where you could spend your money, activities you could engage in, food and sundry items you were allowed to purchase. I doubt there is a single person who would not be outraged at such a concept.
Yet, many seem unable to see that this is the same thing. Its not “their” insurance”. Its your’s. Just as your pay is. Its the same thing. Its part of your earnings. Period. What you do with it is your business, not their’s It is your funds to do with how “you” and you alone see fit. You worked for them, you earned them. You have the right to spend them where you want, squander them, gamble them away, give them to the beggar on the corner or make purchases from your employer’s competitor. Your insurance is a matter that is only between you and your health provider. I don’t understand why or how this has ever become a question.
Or are we on our way back to the company store?
In the news today is Washington ratifying the rights for gays to marry. It awaits just a single signature, and one that has been promised will be given. As expected, a fire storm has erupted over this issue. The standard argument that marriage should be reserved for a single man and woman. Its against the laws of God. A promise that it will be protested and fought and attempt to overturn.
There was an amazing speech given by a Republican woman, Representative Maureen Walsh before the state legislature. She speaks of the life she had with her husband, the love they had, the things they shared. And she speaks of her daughter, who is gay and quite obviously one that she loves deeply by the passion she has in her voice as she speaks of her. That she believes that her daughter has the right and deserves the ability to have the kind of relationship she had with her husband. That it is just the right thing to do.
Listening to this woman speak echoes all the feelings and emotions I have on this issue. I am not gay. I do however have a child that is. I have a best friend that is. I have known more than I can ever begin to count. I have been their friend, their parent, their confidant. And what I have found is that they are equally wanting, equally gifting, equally just as human as anyone else.
I come from a generation when gays hid safely in the closet. Rarely was the time when you knew that a person you had spent time with was gay. It was a time of great bias about many things. Racial inequality, women’s right and the question of sexual freedom. As children, we were fed a myriad of misconceptions and prejudices about anyone that was different, that dared to challenge the way things were, “had always been”, that God had decreed.
I was raised by a man that was a small town born and bred Georgia boy. I lived on two different occasions in that rural area near where he was born. I even remember overhearing my grandmother tell someone that I was only “technically” her grandchild, because my mother was a Yankee. I went to schools that though they were “integrated”, they were only barely so. The separation was there. Held by the beliefs that had been instilled in the children by their parents and their community. We went to the same schools together, but we kept apart. The blacks knew their place and kept to themselves. They didn’t cause problems, didn’t talk back, didn’t do anything to make themselves stand out in any way. It was a time and a place where a black man didn’t walk on the same side of the street with a white woman, more yet, dare to hold her hand or touch her in any way.
By the second time we moved down to Georgia, I had pretty much lost most of my southern accent. And I found myself in a place of being shunned for being a Yankee girl. The blacks wouldn’t associate with me because I was white. So, I was effectively shunned by all. After a while, the blacks noticed that the whites had nothing to do with me other than harass me for the way I talked and befriended me. They took a great chance opening their circles to me. And I learned that they were no different than others. Well, they were down there, because they were able to step past their rules and accept one that was not one of their own.
The first gay person I consciously know of having made friends with was a woman that I went to school with. We became very close friends for a long time without me knowing that she was gay. I was stunned when I found out about her. I had undressed in front of her when we were trying on clothes, spent the night in the same room with her on numerous occasions. The truth is that I felt betrayed that she hadn’t told me as I felt I should have been made aware of such things given the things we had done together. I avoided her for a while after learning the truth. Not sure what to do about it. In this massive internal battle over the fact that I felt deceived and the fact that she had become one of my best friends.
She finally cornered me one day in the hallway and demanded that I talk to her. I told her what I had been feeling. She told me that there was never any doubt in her mind that I was all female and one that was completely heterosexual. That she never looked at me as anything other than a friend. She had no desire for any woman that did not share the desire to be with women. We talked and we talked, and we laughed and we cried and we laughed some more. And I realized that I had nothing to fear from her. Her sexuality did not change who she was or what she was to me. She was my friend. None of the rest of it mattered. She didn’t care that I was straight. She was just my friend.
Maybe that is why I have so often bonded with people that were so very different in my life. Because they have the ability to look past such things as skin color, sexuality, etc. Maybe it is their difference that allows them to see past the superficial things that make most find comparisons of better or less than. Sometimes it seems that the outcasts often have a greater capacity to love and accept. And to ask so little in return. They don’t ask you to share their beliefs, their color, their station. They just rejoice when you extend your hand to them, give them a smile or wrap them in your arms in a hug. They just want to feel that they are accepted.
I have been touched by so many of these truly beautiful people in my life. Their differences at first seemingly so alien, so daunting. But, they have taught me so very much. They have allowed me to see how far my own heart is capable of opening and loving. They have allowed me to peer into another alien realm through their eyes. Maybe not one that I would ever want for myself. But, I can see the love and joy they have in that world and I can rejoice that they have found a world that brings them such joy.
My own son came out to me when he was 18. I still don’t know why he found it so hard to tell me. Why he would even think there was a chance that it might affect how I loved him. I have come close to understanding it after talking to another friend of mine, who is a lesbian. She said that as much as he might have known how devoted I was to him, that he feared putting that to the test. For, what if he was wrong and it lessened what he was to me? That I was so very much to him and it was one of those things that one was afraid to put to the test on even the tiniest chance that you could be wrong. That I needed to understand how very many kids are thrown out for such a revelation. Shunned and disowned by those that were most important to them. It didn’t matter that I could never conceive of doing such a thing to my child. It is a fear that all who are born different harbor within them. I understood better after listening to her. But, it also filled me with the most immense sadness that a child, any child, should have to hold such fears. That “my” child would have such fears.
My son is one of the most brilliant, wonderful, compassionate people I have ever known. With both of my children, I wonder what I ever did to be given the immense gift of their being bestowed on my life. I don’t know what or who I would be if I had not had them in my life. They are my breath and my universe. And they are two of the most beautiful incredible people I have ever met. Not because they are my children. But, because they are. Last night, my daughter helped a total stranger on the road. He had been missing for over a week. He said he had been drugged and kidnapped. I don’t know if that story is true or not. What I know is that she helped him. She called the authorities, she stayed with him. And yes, she was smart enough to keep constant contact with friends and gave them her location. She took a great chance. But, she did a beautiful thing.
They deserve to love and be loved in whatever way meets with their nature, that brings wholeness to their lives. There are many that say that allowing gays to marry undermines what marriage is. Marriage is a bond and commitment that is made between two people. It is not something that should be subject to the influence of the world outside. It should be a sanctuary from that world, a place of solace and trust. The only thing that can undermine what it is is the people who make the commitment. It is defined separately and uniquely by each when they enter into it. It is inviolable. It is what you believe it to be. It is NOT what others believe it to be. If it is in danger from outside influences, by others who choose a different definition, then it it a danger that you injected into it.
My children, my friends, have the right to whatever happiness they reach for. So long as they are not doing harm in the process. Their loving one of their own gender or the opposite is not harming anyone else’s definition of marriage. They make that vow solely with the person they take the vow with. You make it with the person you make it with. Its between you and your beloved. You may choose to share it with others. But, the vow is a secret bond connecting you to that other. Vulnerable only if you allow it to be. Defined only by those making it. Its not “our” vow. We don’t have to understand. We can make our own vows. And if we wish the freedom to make our own vows freely, we must allow others to do the same. They’re our children, our friends. We must allow them to find their happiness. That’s what love is.
The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” These words appear in some form or another in most of the religions. Many consider that if one applies just this single rule to their lives, it covers all of the others.
So, why is it that it seems to be the one that is espoused so often, yet so rarely adhered to?
We are meant to be our brothers, and sisters, keepers. That does not mean that we have the right to regulate and demand their lives or their choices. It means that we are to care for them, regardless. That we are to come to their aid when needed. That we are to be a community with them and help them to be the best that they can be, offering support when needed, guidance when asked. But, as their keeper, we must allow for them to make their own decisions. To love and accept them as much in their differences as in their sameness. So long as they are not harming others in their choices, it is not up to us to mandate what and who they are.
These thoughts come to me with all the things in the current news. Komen Foundation withdrawing funds from Planned Parenthood, politicians opposing gays in the military and wanting to police the internet, doctors, employers and insurance companies wanting the right to refuse birth control, stores wishing the right to refuse to service same sex couples.
One of the most amazing and beautiful things about the human race is the diversity of it. Left to blossom and flower naturally, it is a cascade of colors and variations. Not all of the blooms will be to the liking of every person that looks upon it. Some will love the stark expanse of the desert with its thorny monuments and jutting rock faces. Others prefer the tree studded mountains where moss creeps and wraps about everything it touches. Still others revel in the marshes and swamps where the heat and moisture hang like a blanket and fill every breath with its layers of decay and growth. All, if not worthy of worship, at least worthy of their place in the universe. All worthy of fostering and maintaining.
We, none of us, can know the true mind of the divine. We speak in contradictions. We decry a woman terminating a pregnancy, yet applaud heroism in battle and the slaughter of our enemies. We say we have no right to play god by terminating that pregnancy, yet we defend sustaining a shell of a life which is kept alive with the machines of man. We set ourselves apart from the rest of the creatures of this earth, then turn and compare ourselves to them. We exclaim scientific knowledge when it backs what we want and decry them when it goes against.
We are all of us members of this human race. We are all of us gifted with the brains and free will that we can make our decisions for ourselves. We are all both cast out of a similar mold as well as there being unique variations in each casting. Some of us have red hair, some blonde, some brown. None is better or less than the other. Some of us move to math and the sciences. Some to the arts. Some to healing. The fruits of our labors, in all these areas are what we are meant to be shared freely, with all of our brothers and sisters. We are not being our brother’s keeper when we refuse him the right to seek and reach the goals that are his heart’s desire simply because he loves someone that is not one we would love. We are not being our sister’s keeper when we withdraw funding for medicine because the caregiver’s ideology differs from ours. Are the funds being used as they were agreed on, toward the purpose they were given? Does the man or woman do the job that he has committed himself to with dedication and excellence? These should be the only things that matter in such issues.
Do you feel pain when someone turns from you because you see things differently, feel things differently, want different things or look different? You would not be human if you did not. For, one of the amazing things about humans is their capacity for caring. For their ability and willingness to be their brothers and sisters keepers. We don’t have to be the same. We don’t have to agree. We don’t have to even understand. All we need to do is to think how we would feel if we were in their place. And if in that place, how we would wish to be treated. We would want to be seen as a viable contribution to our community. We would want people to look past those things that are different and look instead on what is the same. The need we all have to be loved and accepted. It all seems so very simple to me. Love them even if you don’t understand, disagree. Right will show itself on its own. And we may find that right comes in as many colors and dimensions as humans do. As life itself does.
Do unto others as is written in the most well known religions:
Christianity: All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.
Confucianism: Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state.
Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
Hinduism: This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you.
Islam: No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.
Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman. This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.
Talmud, Shabbat 3id
Taoism: Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.
Tai Shang Kan Yin P’ien
Zoroastrianism: That nature alone is good which refrains from doing another whatsoever is not good for itself.
Wiccan Rede: And it harm none, do as thou wilt.