Friday, December 10, 2004

On Compassion and Belief

I grew up Baptist. And not the cool, singing and roof raising Baptists of movies about the South. I grew up in an anglo Baptist church with a fat bastard for a preacher. Not only was he a bastard, he also had this nimble mouse of a wife who wasn't allowed to wear slacks. A good 50% of the congregation was labeled "ex-convict" and girls who lost their "purity" were pointed out and given reprisal in the middle of service. THAT kind of Baptist church.

Now, I am all for religious freedom per se. I don't mind those who call themselves a Christian. I try to be tolerant of their belief. However, I don't buy into the notion that religious beliefs should surpass secular laws, and I don't even want to get into an argument about any of the following: sex, sex or sex.

I don't care who you worship, so long as it doesn't spill over into preaching your faith at me or telling other people what they should do within the extent of the law. Other than that, you are free to worship carrots as far as I am concerned.

My grandparents are good hearted folks - some of the few remaining Christians for whom "faith" meant something and is best expressed privately. I respect their faith because it has been used to live compassionately. To me, this is the basis of any religion worth its weight: Love.

The church I grew up in taught lessons rooted in hate and fear and ignorance. I'd venture to say a lot of "lost souls" out there are welcomed into a community only to be fed this type of malignant nonsense.

People forget the deeper connect - our relational basis of survival as a species. Rather we have lost touch with our place in the grand scheme. Individualism is confused with self interest. Altruism with blind allegiance.

When I trace the fabric of my existence, I find animals, plants, forests, water, air, and yes, other humans. When we identify with the afterlife and with a marvelous and punishing creator, we identify with death. Those who identify with death will only find unhappiness, and in turn will try and cause unhappiness for others.

There is loneliness in this, a loss of truth that creates a need in us to fill that void. And boy do we try.

We fill it with lots of stuff, addictions, religious zealotry, sexual partners, children, etc. Still, the loneliness remains... but not connection, which is the very thing we need.

The Damai Lama pointed out the obvious need for connection we have from the very beginning, when we cling desperately to our mother, minutes from the womb. The innate need for nurturing compassion will, when denied, bring death to a newborn. We are hardwired to seek connection and compassion from and with others.

This holiday season I am reminded of the earliest moment of compassion I can recall in my life. This is when I was three and had been seriously scratched and bitten by a feral cat I attempted to befriend in my great grandmother's barn. Although I was hurt and frightened, I remember feeling strangely sorry for the barn cat. After being bandaged, I returned to the barn, this time, respecting the cat's space and range of movement. My kinship with the cat remained, despite the hurt.

Sometimes we try to force our desire in life for happiness, or desire for that which we think will make us happy. We forget to pay attention to the truth of others, ignoring their needs.

Compassion is silent yet enormous. Compassion helps us ultimately find that sense of belonging because it teaches us that everything, from the smallest reptile, to old growth forests, matters and is a part of us. Compassion is the best gift we can give, and costs absolutely nothing.

For more inspiration on meaning during the holidays, read David Suzuki's weekly article...



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home