SOME THOUGHT ABOUT SOME BIG QUESTIONS:
For all of us who feel surrounded by internal and external chaos these days, I wonder if you, too, find yourself cherishing more than ever the simple pleasures of life: time with family and friends, rewards from a successful day’s work, and appreciation for even a modicum of good health. Does all that seem to you to be at a premium when the world is becoming overwhelmed by the flu epidemic, when the politics and economics around the globe seem to be nothing short of disastrous, and when – perhaps due to all the stressors incurred – we find too many people acting in irresponsible, inconsiderate, unacceptable ways?
Regarding the title of this Blog: one of the big questions that consumes my thoughts – more often than not – is man’s inhumanity to man, and not just on the battlefronts of war. I fear people who taut their religiosity but who act in ways that betray their own definitions for what it means to be good and/or religious. Surely, I don’t judge them by how often they attend church or temple or whether or not they pray or give money to charities.
Rather, I consider a person to be religious based on the deeds he or she manages to accomplish. To my way of thinking, people who are narcissistic, thinking and acting only when it suits their needs are not religious . Those who are willing to abuse the rights of others (whether it be one country abusing another, a man abusing a woman, parents abusing children or children abusing parents) … such people are not religious, nor are they spiritual (two words too often used interchangeably).
I agree with historians who claim that most of the world’s wars were and continue to be fought for so-called religious differences, greed, and all sorts of sacrilegious reasons. Yet, life experiences have taught me (as I am nearing 70) that it matters not whether people are religiously affiliated or even whether they believe in one God, many gods or no God. What is significant is what they do in their lives: the acts of kindness they perform; their ability to love and be in healthy, give-and-take relationships; the knowledge that being in control of themselves is challenging enough but that they do not have the right to control others … and that applies to all relationships – not only to those between nations, but those in the workplace, as well as those in any given marriage or friendship.
Returning to my current thoughts about religion: I find myself meeting (as I assume you have as well) too many people who use their religion to hide behind, giving structure to their otherwise empty lives and protecting them from superstitious beliefs that bind them to ancient history but don’t allow them to participate in making history.
When I travel through the countryside and feel wonderfully overwhelmed by nature’s beauty, I think it impossible that wars are actually occurring on almost every continent; that man has forgotten about the need to nurture his environment despite the fact that his environment has nurtured him; and that people have yet to learn – if they ever will – to live in harmony with one another and with the world that has been given to us. After all, what is the pay-off for being discordant with nature’s bounty?
Yet, in spite of all that I have just said, what keeps me going and what allows me to remain heartened is the spirit of some of our young people who are attempting to heal our planet and our people, giving freely of their time and energy. They include the thousands of people who will be marching in N.Y.C. and elsewhere tomorrow to raise money for the research/treatment and cures for cancers (my youngest daughter amongst them); the scientists and physicians (men and women) who are volunteering all over the world to help treat those who are suffering from diseases that are still destroying too many lives; the scholars who are attempting to give women the tools needed to negotiate for the preservation of their God-given rights in places as far away as Africa … these are the people and this is the spirit that give me whatever hope I have.
So, while the big questions remain … including the ones about how we ultimately define ourselves as human beings and decide what goals we wish to attain, I am reminded of what a friend refers to when talking about aging. He thinks of those of us who are “seniors” as being in our “saging years.” In that spirit, I choose to believe and share with you my belief that good will outwit evil, that given the law of averages, no matter how long it takes, whether or not we consider ourselves to be “religious,” our deeds will always and forever define who we are and count for whatever contributions we make or do not make to preserve a world that is civilized.
Please share with me what you think defines who we are as individuals and nations in this 21st century and how we can best maintain our dignity, safety and sanity.
Best to all ~ Linda