Moving on/from 8-31-2013
by And the White Lion Roars!
On the same day that I was held prisoner by a man, and the subject of his religious fervor, I was also brutally forced to experience the very lack of compassion that made me begin to question the religion I was brought up with. There is a minister’s wife who has showed a dramatic, extreme lack of compassion for someone who was clearly sick, and suffering terribly, and it made me hurt for the sufferer. Why was I, the atheist, able to feel for her, when this woman, whose guiding book tells her that “if I have not love, my faith is nothing but noise.” (Paraphrased from Corinthians,) and “God is Love?” At the end of the week in which I had, not one, but two incidences with this woman, my sister and I talked on the phone at length about these incidents and my feelings about them. In my opinion, not loving one’s fellow man is a choice. Any of us can learn empathy, if we have the motivation, which Christians allegedly have by the presence of Jesus in their hearts, and the Holy Spirit’s presence inside them from the moment of faith forward. My sister reminded me of the Eastern religious point of view that we all have both dark and light within us, and that is the right way of the world. I mentioned that Paul, in the Book of Romans, wrote that we all struggle against a sinful nature, and that we can’t always win, but becoming loving like Jesus is the goal that all believers have. This, I told her, is used as an excuse by many believers to make choices that they know their god would disapprove of, and they claim it is all okay because they are forgiven. I stand by that opinion. I’ve heard it used too often to excuse behavior that is hateful and wrong. But did I know, in this particular case, she asked me, did I have any knowledge of this woman’s journey with the type of suffering that we had experienced this week? Perhaps she had a relative with the same problem who drained her family of resources and she was bitter about that, and emotionally unable to feel compassion in these cases. Perhaps she just had no knowledge of mental illness and didn’t know how to spot it. She is a medical professional, so that would be inexcusable, but it is possible, I guess. Either way, my allowing this to mess with my energy was not helpful or healthy because her behavior is about her, and I was taking it on. But these whole events reminded me that compassion and love for our fellow man is not a religious thing, it is a human thing. Some people have it and some don’t, and it isn’t a matter of anyone’s religion.
This season of reflection, and my “advancing years” has also lead me to regret the things we criticized in older people when we were kids. For example, we used to notice that many older women couldn’t seem to put lipstick on anymore. It would often appear to be all over the place! Now, I, admittedly, have never had those lovely, desirable, pouty lips. So trying to shape a “pretty mouth” has always been a goal. But now, when I use a pencil to line my mouth, and then put on some color or gloss, it looks great for about five minutes, and then the pencil is faded and spotted in the lines around my lips. And the thinning lips as gravity inevitably pulls everything downward, never look as if I have any idea where my lips are…I can’t see as well, so apparently what I, and all the old ladies of my childhood, were doing is trying to use the memory of where our lips used to be to put on lipstick. And they just aren’t there. Now I know how wrong I was all those years. And I wish I could teach the young people in my life, when they make sarcastic remarks about old women and lipstick, that they too will have thin lips, and lines, and their lipstick just won’t work the same way it once did. Sigh.
Mars is cold. There is some gathering evidence that there was water there, and perhaps even rudimentary forms of life, though we don’t know that for sure yet. And my feelings about climate change and trashing our earth are clearly back and forth. But I do read the studies that say the last three-hundred plus years have been getting progressively hotter, and the people who deny climate change tend to look at very short term events, such as an unseasonal cold snap. I also know that in geological terms, less than four-hundred years is less than a blink. I’ve heard scientists talk about the “super volcanoes,” and their historical regularity of eruption, and they’re all late, so we’d better be ready. But what if all the volcanism and meteor battering that lead to historical extinctions and other climate shifts on earth were all just part of early earth, and all the energy that was spat forth from the Big Bang, and it is all slowing now? What if we are on an inevitable march toward becoming Mars? Just a couple of active volcanoes, but not enough of anything to make the changes that would lead to another ice age, or to the actual conversion of dead animals to oil again? See, I’ve been thinking for a time that the “super volcano” would take care of all the plastic in our landfills, and all over the planet. But now I’m not so certain. Just after the theories of the Yellowstone volcano being overdue to erupt, another story came out that postulated that geysers may be releasing the pressure that would cause the volcano to erupt. So maybe we are just a dying planet that will one day be dead, cold and just orbiting around our star, waiting for that star to die and take us completely with it?
I mentioned earlier our current march to war with Syria. Let there be no mistake, the sight of dead children is horrifying to me. It makes me question that our better angels will ever win the battle with our lack of compassion and understanding for anyone who is different than we are. But there is no excuse to cause that much suffering. Ever. But many bad things were done to the colonists by the empire at the beginning of this country, and we had to rise up and drive them out. Ourselves, no one else. We now have the capacity to wage war in which no one gets hurt? Yah, right! How many children will be collateral damage in our “targeted strikes,” as they have been with our “surgical drone strikes” against “enemy targets?” How cynical can our government leaders be as they make impassioned speeches regarding the moral obligation of the United States to “punish” Syria for this abomination of power? Really? We have the moral authority to do this? The obligation to teach the Syrian president a lesson? No. We don’t. We lack the moral integrity to teach anyone a lesson. We’ve been fighting a war in Afghanistan for almost eleven years, even though the enemy we were supposedly fighting there was defeated a year or two after we went in. So, who’ve we been shooting at? It must be non-combatants, which makes our moral stance ridiculous. So what do we do? Do we arm the opposition? How many times has the U.S. done that and lived to regret it? Saddam Hussein? Osama bin Laden? They were both fighting our previous ‘enemies’ and we armed them, only to have them rise up to fight us. There is no positive historical reason to do this. Not one. None!!! And we say that “regime change” is not the goal? So we’re going to spend days and days warning President Assad that we’re going to drop some bombs to punish him, and we’re going to then drop a couple of bombs and he’s going to learn his lesson and never commit war crimes again? Please!!! If we do that, he’s going to kill more of his own people. In fact, let’s watch, he may do it again just to let us know he’s not afraid of our bombs. And who made us “parent” to all the naughty children in the world? Now we’ve warned the currently acting out child that he’s going to be punished for long enough that he’s had time to stuff tissue in his pants, so the belt is not going to hurt him at all, but he will become more obstinate.
On a lighter note, I have been preaching for years against our fear of germs. And there was a recent study that showed people who own dogs get sick less-even if they are outside dogs. Apparently exposure to germs helps our bodies to fight them better. So, this Labor Day weekend, I heartily recommend that we all go out and hug a working person. Or shake hands with a working person. We have lost our appreciation in this country for people who actually work for a living, while we lionize the people for whom these people make fortunes that they don’t share with their workers. This is backward in my opinion, but that is not what I’m discussing here. I’m just suggesting that we hug and shake hands more, not less. It’s good for our psyches, and good for our bodies. Not to mention what all those appreciative hugs and handshakes will do for the recipients.