Sin is that which separates

This is a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche – not, I must confess, a person whose writings I’ve read, nor a person with whose life philosophies I am familiar.

Truth to tell, all I really know about Nietzsche is that he memorably said, “It is hard enough to remember my opinions, without also remembering my reasons for them” & “We have art in order not to perish of truth” & “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”

Sounds like he was kind of a smart dude, I gotta say…

Personally, being a big fan of walking (& the great ideas I often get while doing so), & also a big believer that we human beings really need a decent-sized community to belong to – to feel affirmed by – I’m at the very least a fan of these wise things Nietzsche said. (I can’t guarantee anyone I’d like or agree with each & every thing he ever said. Heck, I can’t always agree with myself from one day to another. If you’re looking for iron-clad, 100% consistency, you’ve come to the wrong place!)

Right now a debate is raging about the possible construction of an Islamic community centre near the “Ground Zero” site in New York City. I can’t believe some of the rhetoric I’m hearing from people like Sarah Palin & Newt Gingrich.

Geez – get a grip, dudes! Have you forgotten that American society (the white piece of it, anyway, during & after genocidally tromping all over the folks who’d already been living here for thousands of years), was founded by people who wanted to be able to live according to what they believed?

Don’t we all want to be able to believe what we believe, & live peacefully while doing so??

Do any of us know even two people who believe exactly the same things about…anything?? Religion. Politics. Women’s “rights.” The way children should behave. Taste in music. The weather, for heaven’s sake…

I came across this neat quotation several years ago: “The demands – heard from pole to pole, for freedom, justice, security, equality, education, a safe environment, and a better life for the world’s children – are all grounded in, and reach downward to, this elemental human need: silence, solitude, and the right to rule one’s own thoughts: the sanity of the inner life.” (Noel Peattie, poet/librarian, from the publication ‘Inner Life,’ quoted in Utne Reader Sept/Oct 2005.)

That sure resonates for me.

Now, personally I’m a “believer.” I belong to no particular religious denomination (I was raised in a nominally “Christian” & church-attending household where the non-Christian behaviour I witnessed daily was so off the charts, I kinda walked in the other direction).

I quite admire the precepts of Buddhism – but don’t consider myself Buddhist. I’m just…me. I take my wisdom wherever I happen to find it (& btw, there appears to be plenty of it – in all religions).

My ex-husband is (as far as I know, still) an atheist – married to a devout (& quite lovely) Catholic woman. My daughter, who is, shall we say, not “religious,” is married to an observant Muslim. These two rather inspiring relationships give me great faith that we grown-up human beings can actually believe whatever it is we believe about “religion” – & feel no need whatsoever to try & convince others of its “rightness.”

My son-in-law is without question one of the most peaceful & tolerant people I’ve yet had the privilege to meet here on Planet Earth. Born in Bangladesh but raised in Canada since the age of 5, he is no more a candidate for terrorism or noisy carryings-on of any kind than anyone else I know (actually, much less so!).

These two give me great faith in young people! I meet quite a few young environmental activists, too, & the common elements I so much enjoy are great flexibility & tolerance, a natural respect & recognition for the attributes & abilities (& weaknesses) of both sexes – & confidence in their ability to “change the world” – even when they’re utterly unaware that’s what they’re actually engaged in doing.

The folks I have a problem with are the ones who are fundamentalist/intolerant – whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist or…whatever.

F.R. Scott, poet & professor, said, “The world is my country. The human race is my race. The spirit of man is my God. The future of man is my heaven.”

I do believe we humans are all one tribe. And that we each have a deep need to feel we belong.

“Sin is that which separates.”

Seems like a most propitious time for all of us to “get” this. We have much bigger fish to fry than obsessing over exactly what someone else conceives of “God” to be, wouldn’t you say?

Janet

P.S. Kurt Vonnegut, a writer I mention & am reminded of frequently, always wrote about how destitute most modern human (North Americans) have become, being so cut off from our extended families. Building community is what we need to focus on – not our (mostly imagined) differences. Is it not so?

A Few Relevant Quotations:

“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right.” Thomas Paine (Introduction to Common Sense 1776)

“The best political, social, and spiritual work we can do is to withdraw the projection of our shadow onto others.” – Carl Jung

“Just imagine how good it would feel if we all got together once in a while in large public gatherings and admitted that we don’t know why we are alive, that nobody knows for sure if there is a higher being who created us, and that nobody really knows what the hell’s going on here.” – Wes Nisker, meditation teacher, Inquiring Mind (Spring 2005) – quoted in Utne Reader, summer 2005

“Conflict is everywhere: water hitting rock, teachers pushing students to learn, or wolves trying to coexist with ranchers. It is our call to evolve. It challenges us to look beyond our current views to an expanded reality. It is a relentless teacher that asks us to see unity where before we found opposites.” – Deidre Combs, mediation specialist, quoted in ‘Sacred Journey’ (Feb/March 2005) – quoted in Utne Reader May/June 2005

“Our hearts are not pure; our hearts are filled with need and greed as much as with love and grace, and we wrestle with our hearts all the time. The wrestling is who we are. How we wrestle is who we are. What we want to be is never what we are. Not yet. Maybe that’s why we have these relentless engines in our chests, driving us forward toward what we might be.” – Brian Doyle, essayist, Orion Jan/Feb. 2005, quoted in Utne Reader May/June 2005

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” – Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn, exiled Russian novelist, quoted in Yes! (Winter 2002) – Utne Nov-Dec 2002

“When I despair, I remember that all through history, the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it. Always.” – Gandhi

“Love doesn’t just sit there like a stone: it has to be made like bread, remade all the time, made new.” – Ursula K. LeGuin

“I would not interfere with any creed of yours or want to appear that I have all the cures. There is so much to know… so many things are true… The way my feet must go may not be best for you. And so I give this spark of what is light to me, to guide you through the dark, but not tell you what to see.” – Author unknown

“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards out of men.” – Abraham Lincoln

“When one does not see what one does not see, one does not even see that one is blind.” – Paul Veyne

“Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.” – Benjamin Franklin

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” – Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)

“The miracle is this the more we share, the more we have.” ~ Leonard Nimoy

“Back on the rez, a grandfather was talking to his grandson about his feelings after the attacks. He said, “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one. The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one.” The grandson asked him, “Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?” The grandfather answered, “The one that I feed.” [no idea where I got this one; so sorry!?]

“I still believe the model of the peaceful world is the potluck supper.Everyone can make a contribution, everyone can gain fellowship and nourishment, and we can all learn from one another.” – Ursula Franklin