Everybody’s talking at me
I don’t hear a word they’re saying
Only the echoes of my mind
People stopping, staring
I can’t see their faces
Only the shadows of their eyes
I’m going where the sun keeps shining
Through the pouring rain
Going where the weather suits my clothes
Banking off of the northeast winds
Sailing on a summer breeze
And skipping over the ocean like a stone
I won’t let you leave my love behind
No, I won’t let you leave.
(Fred Neil / Harry Nilsson, “Everybody’s Talkin'”)
If I had to ever define myself on relationships or beliefs, this song best captures my mindset.
We are often told that there are three topics we should not discuss in polite society: sex, politics and religion.
Yet pick up any newspaper, visit any chatroom, watch any news program, and what is being discussed?
Sex, politics and religion.
As well there seems inherant in any discussion of these topics an undertone that suggests that having the discussion itself automatically means that sides must be chosen, that one must choose an allegiance and stick to it through thick and thin whether it is sensible to do so or not.
Speak your mind and, lo and behold, others will assign you a pigeonhole to describe and define you, thus limiting your ability to look at or discuss an issue from more than one point of view.
Express a preference and voices will be raised suggesting that you must then be against anything that is not that preference.
For example, try a discussion about communism or gay rights or immigration or birth control, begin to talk about one side of an issue, then sit back and wait for the coyotes to attack.
Sometimes I despair that intelligent open-minded objective debate can ever happen anywhere at anytime.
I acknowledge that sometimes I too have to back away from my own opinions, to consider other points of view, other histories and ideas than my own.
But as dangerous a minefield as these discussions are, I think we still need to have them as they are what makes us human.
So, let’s look at religion today.
(See Buddha on the Mosel of this blog.)
In my circle of friends scattered worldwide I am proud to acknowledge that they share more than one religion amongst them.
I love and respect them, whether they be Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist or Christian, as they happen to be.
Some of them are quite devoted to their beliefs.
Others are believers more in name rather than spirit.
I embrace no one particular religion but instead search for a commonality of humane belief amongst them.
I admit to having a problem with the idea of a personal God / gods, as the biggest argument used to prove the existence of God / gods is the inability to disprove it, the idea that because God / gods can not be proven not to exist that therefore He / they must exist.
I also admit to having a problem with the mentality that some religious followers have of an Us-Them mindset, the idea that if you are not with us, if you are one of them, then you are therefore wrong and an enemy of ours.
I think every religion has something valuable to teach us – about morality (the difference between “bad” and “good”), about dealing with the shortcomings of life (sorrow, pain, disappointment), about making sense of the world when unseen forces are at work (sickness and death, natural phenomena such as the weather), about dealing with the inevitability of death and finding comfort and solace in the idea of some thing or some place beyond the reality of this existence.
This is why religion exists, why it should exist and why I think it will always continue to exist, despite it often being a source of conflict throughout the history of mankind.
What causes this conflict is the inherant inability of so many of us unable to “live and let live”.
So many of us have an unquenchable zeal to convert others to our way of thinking whether others desire this conversion or not.
Sometimes this conversion attempt has been made through the power of persuasion.
Too often in our dark history this conversion attempt has been made through the force of arms.
Centuries have passed and yet even today the “hard sell” attempt to convert others continues.
So, here it is, an idea that is tried very rarely, yet seems to be the most powerful method of all.
Lead me to your religion by example.
If I see that your religion makes you happy…
If I see your devotion to it unfailing, regardless of environment or circumstances…
If I see your religion as a source of comfort and solace for you…
If I see your religion as a guide to your behaviour which embraces others humanely…
Then no religious broadcast…
No sermons on the mount…
No knife to my throat or gun to my head…
None of this will be necessary.
Because I will see the contentment and joy your beliefs give you and this will make me curious and make me want to know more about the source of your well-being.
If you can be a Hindu in a Christian environment and still remain true to your faith and your faith sustains you, I will notice.
If you can be someone who will not eat pork or beef or drink alcohol when all those around you eat chops and steak and consume spirits, I will notice.
If you can don a turban or conceal your body modestly even when doing so alienates you from others, I will notice.
I may not automatically agree with all of your practices or tenets but your example and the security it gives your life will make me stop and ponder and pose questions.
And, perhaps, maybe one day, I may find myself sharing time with you in your home and in your place of worship once I begin to understand the faith that sustains you.
So, my religious friends…
So to religious leaders and followers…
Learn the virtue of patience and lead by example.
This barbarian will notice.