During the period I met the man who would become my first husband I am a religious person. My quest for “spiritual” knowledge lands me in the Honolulu chapter of the Religious Science Church. Although I don’t think of my minister as an ascended master, (nor does he pretend to be one) Frank is the first person I meet who is willing to actually teach me stuff in lieu of just talking. I mean practical application. I read a lot of books, and stumble across meditation, and generally experience psychic phenomena – and still, I lack an effective instructor for an amazingly long amount of time. All the old traditions recommend finding a mentor, a guru, a master. New tradition is suspicious of manipulators, abusers, exploiters and cults.
I like Frank. I often say I wouldn’t have changed my religion if I hadn’t left Hawai’i. His church meets my social needs. His classes fill my hungry mind. Frank is kind to my son. They even share the same birthday. Frank is unassuming, not a control freak. From him I learn “tolerance.” Before Frank I don’t think I properly appreciated people who are very different from me. I am an introvert not extrovert. I guess I wasn’t curious. I’m not interested in sussing people out. But that was my loss. . . people are fascinating. I realize “allowing” is liberating. Through Frank I came to see that my world view is different yet not necessarily correct when compared to other world views – If I fail to allow for other world views I fail to gain alternate perspectives. How lame is that? ? ?
With my new and improved tolerance I gave up “being right” for Lent. I gave up having the last word. Word. Namaste Dickhead! My nearest neighbors in Lockwood tacked a white supremacist flag to the side of the shack and I went right on. Never said a word to them. Adjusting their world view was not my responsibility. What a load off my mind. All I have to do is be my self. And they never did like me, nor warm up to me. This isn’t one of those pieces that ends with a heartrending tearjerking moment. My point is, and I do have one – I don’t like everyone, certainly everyone doesn’t like me. I allow for that. I started this piece by mentioning my first husband because my revelation had a direct effect on my first marriage.
Bob and I were ostensibly the same religion, i.e. Religious Science. I imagine that we will have a loving, spirit filled household. That we will find our inner children and share soul secrets as soul mates. I mostly didn’t understand that new religions, like Religious Science, are loosely configured. They haven’t solidified into doctrine. Anything goes. After I move to be with him in Southern California, I must accept the fact that New Age religions are a hodgepodge of quirky rituals, feel good practices, and pretty much anything Bob’s “inner child” demands. In B’s church bookstore astrology books, tarot cards, Goddess groups, Urantia, Course in Miracles, happily coexist with the work of Ernest Holmes. Church of Religious Science is spritual-ecumenical, “church-lite.”
Frank had taught me to allow for the existence of practices that I do not necessarily like or agree with, to allow for without interference – I regarded my self as “tolerant.” I was disappointed to be told by my angry first husband that I was being “intolerant” because I did not feel his church was equally “correct” as the church I had attended in Honolulu. Tolerance, I tried explaining to Bob, is not the same thing as giving all world views equal endorsement – “tolerance” is the capacity to endure something I don’t necessarily agree with. Tolerance is a shade of forbearance, an acceptance of sorts. I didn’t interfere with Bob’s church or beliefs. But Bob? His bone of contention with me is that I don’t promote his church and beliefs. That, according to Bob, brands me as intolerant and intolerable.
During my second marriage (did I marry the same man twice?) my fundamentalist second husband has a similar philosophy. Howard imagines himself persecuted because the government won’t promote his church and beliefs. Anything short of personal endorsement strikes Howard as persecution, as intolerance. Perhaps joining an organization signifies to me that have forsaken all others. The yogic path is sometimes lonely. In my last post I mentioned being wary of rules, I should add beware of rigid adherence. Regulations are for lazy people. If I don’t want to take the time to analyze a situation properly I sit smug in my knowledge of law and pass judgement. That is a poor prison to live in.
I have heard the argument that if I let go of religion then all the atheists will kill and rape and steal everything. Mayhem will ensue! Take a poll, there’s no evidence to support this theory. Christian people kill (crusades), rape (Catholic Church molestation fracas), and steal on occasion. Morality doesn’t stem from moral codes. The doctrines merely reflect what we know to be altruistic, ethical and kind. How then do children learn to be moral if not from commandments and codes? They learn from having experiences. From making decisions and facing consequences. For example, if I don’t want to share my chocolate there’s certainly more for me, but i may be less popular. If I don’t want to steal chocolate I may have fewer of a certain kind of friend and the respect of others.
Children learn how to reason? Allowed to make choices? To know how they feel? It’s not for the deceptive of heart. I let my son make friends where he wanted. Some of the friends had very different values than me. Allowing, while liberating, requires us to understand situations and contemplate. We may not be able to make blink decisions, we may have to get more information, but we make decisions so much better, so much more effectively. Children raised in highly controlled environments grow up to be very stressed and angry when asked to make decisions on their own. They generally prefer to have someone else tell them what to do. If this happiness in “slavery” can not be replicated in adulthood, they are left to soothe jangled nerves with toxic substances.
If I learn how to pay attention to me, my Self – Bad becomes self-evident. My former neighbors in Lockwood were bad. Stress is bad. Stress turns my hair grey, piles fat on my hips and disturbs my sleep cycle. Ignoring my crummy neighbors decreases my stress. Problem solved! I did not have to resort to alcoholism to address the issue. If I had to guess why Greg and Dee hate people of color I would say because someone told them to. A parent, or both, minister, pastor, teacher or scout leader – told them what to think as children. Having never been allowed to make their own decisions they failed to develop necessary brain function for personal discernment. With bigotry firmed rutted into their nervous systems they react to each new acquaintance with hatred and fear. They were never allowed to grow-up. Even in their 60s they continue to comply, flag with burning cross and all.
Can non-thinking people be saved? Perhaps, if we are willing to allow for the stress, anger and turmoil which is sure to bubble up if they are forced to create new neural pathways as adults. The older people get, the less plasticity remains. Learning anything, let alone critical thinking, gets increasingly difficult with age. Why then can some old people invent new things? Have ideas? Because they continue to stretch and work out their thinkers over a lifetime. Start young to encourage young people. Don’t leave them alone with a tablet, which by virtue of the program is a closed circuit. Allow them three dimensional playthings of varying colors, textures and sizes to literally (not figuratively) create an open mind.
What to do with life-long bigots ? Take them through their (new) paces gently, slowly, expecting anxiety and resistance. A white person might have a crack at expanding a bigot’s narrow world view, a person of color? Not so much. Expect fear. Expect distrust, and work to gain trust. Belittling a bigot, acting dismissive or bullying doesn’t win them over to my side any more than it wins me over to their side.
Now y’all play nice!