(Photo by the brilliant Ben White)
You know, I talk a great deal often times about things that I don’t like or things that upset me. Yet, I am not always vocal about the things that I believe.
Today is Sunday – and when I was a kid we went to church on this day as an appeasement to God of our faith in him as well as an affirmation of what we as a family believed. So, since I woke up this morning and started my day, with music playing in my head as always – I started thinking about who I am and what it is I believe.
I think a person has all the right to establish these things for themselves. I also think it’s surprising – when you sit down and take time to think about things – just exactly what it is you believe.
Often times we like to insert ourselves in other people’s lives, most the time without their permission, and start a running commentary not just on what it is they believe but who they are as people. It’s a really peculiar thing – as I see people who demand perfection from those who’s lives they invade and refuse to accept anything less when they themselves lack this sort of perfection in their own lives. It makes them hypocrites.
Yet I think – in the long run – just saying that makes me one because we all are.
1) Everyone is capable of everything. A few years ago I run across a statement made by a former slave of a Roman Senator by the name of Terence – homo sum humani nihil a me alienum puto or I am human, nothing human can be alien to me. This was an act of forgiveness toward his former master. It was an “I understand” statement. It was sage wisdom because if you think about it – given the right set of circumstances, pressure, sociopolitical, and social economic status – everyone is capable of anything for good and for evil. I believe that.
2) Everyone is also capable of redemption – I am a Christian. That is the foundation of our faith. Yet, these days I think there can be a great gulf fixed between those who call themselves that and those who are that. The difference between a noun and a verb. One is a title and one is a way of thinking and while the first is easy to label oneself with, and we see the effects of that title going out before them, its much much more difficult to live. Yet regardless of faith – I think people are capable of change, great change, and change for the better. You are not obligated to be the person you were five minutes ago. But that change, or that desire to change must come from within, for you and for no one else God or man.
3) I do not believe religiosity or the lack-thereof is a good indicator of goodness. (SEE Number 1)
4) I also do not believe religiosity or the lack-thereof is inherently bad either. (See number 1 and number 2)
5) Along with booze, drugs, sex, gambling, and social media – there lurks a far more deadly addiction out there and for me that is certainty addiction. Fundamentalists. True believers. Whether they are some crazy preacher, a crossfitter, a vegan, non vegan, atheists. etc. There are people out there who have found something that works for them and because of that – feel that others must be a part of it and if they don’t then they’re the worst of all humanity. There’s a franticness about them – and it makes one wonder if they really believe what they believe and if they have any faith at all in what they say they are. There lingers in them a doubt that they – nor the rest of the world – can shake off. There is virtue in the statement, ” I don’t know.” That’s knowledge seeking wisdom and I think the latter is extremely lacking in the world. No one runs into an abortion clinic to shoot the doctor shouting, ” I don’t know!”
6) I believe before every soul is born, they once existed with Truth, Beauty, Love, Justice, Wisdom, Compassion, in it’s truest form. These ambiguous terms are planted in our being so when we see an example of it – we know it. These things are a reflection of another time and another when. And I think our entire lives are revolved around, whether we are conscious of it or not, trying to reconnect to that in various ways. Whether you call that being God, Allah, Yahweh, the source, the universe -I think we are given glimpses of this ‘when and who’ when we see the beauty of a rose, when we hear the swell of an orchestra, when we feel the touch of a lover etc. That’s why I think drugs, booze, and other addictions are so terrible – because they are a distraction. They simulate but cannot duplicate that pure euphoria often to the detriment of themselves and everything and everyone around them.
7) I believe brilliance or the potential for brilliance exists in all people. I love to write – but there are those people who can take a car apart and put it back together and to me: that’s art, that’s a skill I will never have. But because they can’t sell their product on amazon or won’t be featured in a gallery – we lower them in terms of what they do.They are no less profound than someone who can sing the roof off a stadium. I think we disregard these creators, these laborers, to our own peril.
8) I believe people ought to earn a living wage. I think denying people one based on WHAT they do and not WHAT they need – is selfish. It’s a value judgment placed on people because certain things are deemed as lesser than what we do. It boggles my mind how an ambulance driver or EMT – the first responders, those who are often the difference between life and death for a person are paid so low. The moment they get you into that hospital suddenly the pay spikes happen for the nurses and doctors. Isn’t that a little backward? Or a cook, wait-staff- I mean, you eat what they give you.
9) I believe everyone should have access to the health-care the 21st century is capable of providing. There is no excuse for not allowing this other than greed. I find it ironic that noun Christians often have a problem with this. If you can send mission money to churches to send throughout the world you can take a tax increase in your paycheck to pay for it. And if everyone made a living wage – that wouldn’t be too much to ask for. And Charity – starts at home.
10) I believe if it looks racist or bigoted in anyway – it probably is. Since I became a disciple of sorts to the late Dr. Maya Angelou – I’ve learned to start taking people seriously in the ways they describe themselves. When someone shows you who they are, or tells you who they are, when they try to ‘whitesplain, mansplain, straightsplain, womansplain (See number 1), or cisplain something to you about anything you fundamentally know to be true – they’re a bigot or their words are at the very least. Believe them the first time. Especially in terms of race – people often hate it when race is brought into a subject not because it isn’t true – but because it hits too close to home for them. When the slave ship captains brought slaves to our shores for the first time not only did they bind the African to their skin color and all the grief that buys them, they bound us to our ignorance and if we as a society do not break this – it will break us. There is no inherent superiority in a skin color nor is there an inherent inferiority. Same goes for sexuality and gender. Seriously, watch a documentary, read a book, or at the very minimum keep quiet about it.
11) I believe in the power of love. I think that if love goes out in front of us, if it proceeds us in all we do, people see that. I think they feel it. And therefore I think that perhaps the hippies were right. I think love changes people. And I am not just talking about romantic love – that love is ego centric. I am talking Agape, Storge, Philia, types of love that English has a hard time describing but the Greek (the original language the Bible was written in ironically) understood. But also Self love – I think we often times are willing to be forgiven by a deity or community or family – but we have a hard time forgiving ourselves for our mistakes. We also have a hard time in establishing boundaries in our lives that we keep sacred to ourselves and ourselves alone. That pure place where we go to pray, to be still for a moment, that place set aside for introspection and reflection. That should be cultivated as I believe its necessary for our survival. It allows a person to stand up for themselves. And as such, I believe it comes from that space that allows a person to disregard other’s comments about their lives, faith, and whom they choose to love. Frankly, its no ones business. Furthermore, not everyone has the support of a loving family that can reinforce them in positive ways. I think a lot of ‘bad people’ in the world are that way because they’ve been told all their life that they have no value. So they go out and do things that would reflect that.
12) I believe personal responsibility is a catch phrase too often used as an excuse for people who have none or who lack the fundamental understanding that every action made has an equal yet opposite reaction. All our lives are interconnected as we hurtle through space and time. I believe that while individuality is important – it is also important to understand that you are also a part of a greater whole as a member of a family, community, state, nation, specie. In short – you are your brother’s keeper. Turning a blind eye to suffering, to need, to dire circumstances, or turning away from love – is irresponsible and while it may not affect you now – it will one day. As one Jacob Marley once declared before a trembling Ebenezer Scrooge, “Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” While the realization of just WHAT we are responsible for may be intimidating – I think there is virtue in understanding that.
13) People in relationships get to establish the parameters of those relationships and its dynamics. Other people’s running commentary on those dynamics are not wanted, butt out and mind your own damn business.
14) Art is an act of compassion not only for the consumer but for the artists as well. People who tell artists to sit down and, shut up and, go and – don’t seem to understand that those people extract their gifts, their words, etc from humanity overall. People often don’t like it when you hold a mirror up to them and say this is you as you’ve presented yourself to me. The artist is a truth speaker and truth often doesn’t take your feelings into consideration. Like it or not, like them or not, making them go away not only robs you of the truth but it also robs you of the chance to change and grow. (See number 2)
15) No man made institution is perfect as mankind itself is incapable of perfection. Demanding perfection from those who are fundamentally imperfect is not only self defeating, it’s irresponsible and flat out ignorant. Change comes slowly to an individual and it comes slower still to an institution. Those who call for revolutions should understand that in times past – these things have killed more revolutionaries than the institutions they attempted to destroy. If you’re really interested in overthrowing ‘the man’ start off with the Man in the Mirror and then take another look at the world before you go off all barricades and future subject matter for musical on Broadway.
16) Identity politics will destroy a country. Ideological purity is the product of over simplification. Human beings are a complex specie. Cultures, societies, etc. are all multifaceted. What works for one, may not work for another especially in the melting pot of our country. Those who champion this – while they may be smart, aren’t very wise as they lack the wherewithal to know compromise is key in solving most of societies problems. One must be willing to give a little to get a little. Anything less is asking for a disaster.