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Oneness of Humanity.

Yesterday was unusual; I was up and on the road before 6 am. That is unheard of! But for good reason, I needed to be on campus early in order to attend the Common Ground for Peace Conference’s morning panel discussion entitled “The Rise of Democracy in the Middle East.” The panel had as its central speaker His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. For me this conference was a joy to attend and an amazing opportunity to learn from some of the greatest minds available.

The discussion was profound, the messages deep and I learned. I learned that the former head of the CIA, James Woolsey, is adamant that as a world we need to eliminate our need for oil. Not just foreign oil by the USA; but our dependence on ALL oil as a world. We must stop using it altogether. It was also enlightening to know that he reads bumper stickers – especially ones that state “if you want peace fight for justice.” I have a new-found respect for Mr. Woolsey; he truly is an advocate for peace and the human race as a whole. Then there was Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer and human rights activist. Democracy and social justice were the battle cries that she carried quietly with her. She was correct when she stated that the true measure of democracy and social justice with in a society can be seen in how it treats its women. In my opinion we are failing in this respect, some countries and states worse than others but on a whole we are failing. I took pause when Irshad Manji spoke of everyone’s basic right to question the world around them. I had always considered free thought a right, but for some reason today it became highlighted even more. Not only should we be able to think freely but also question freely without fear of condemnation or imprisonment. All of the speakers were amazing, but it truly was his Holiness that I came to see.

He was the last one to be introduced and as the Dali Lama entered the room I could feel a wave of energy spread throughout the crowd. What he brought with him was the feeling of peace; the feeling of pure spirituality. When he spoke his meaning was clear: children have figured it out; they find the common amongst each other. They find what is common and good and that is what they hold on to when they play. Children get along because it is the right and fun thing to do; they find the oneness of humanity that as adults we so often lose. As he continued to speak it was the lesson of inner peace despite what else is happening. To create peace in this world we need to find it within ourselves first. He talked directly to the students in the audience because they are the next generation, the generation of this century as he put it. They are the ones to create peace in this century. Do I believe they will? I think they can if they remember to do so. As he stated to us all, it starts first with the individual finding peace within themselves and then carrying that peace to those around them. As a reminder he reiterated peace is not the absence of violence but something else, an acceptance of peace within and then finding that peace in others. In that way we can place value on the individual, more emphasis as a society on peace than on war, and more value on each other as humans rather than on possessions or monetary gain.

In the end his message was simple: find the oneness of humanity, find the peace within.

Community is an amazing thing. It is a word that means something different to many people and over the next few days/weeks I fully intend to discuss as much as I can about it. But to begin with why I find community amazing, I must go back to the beginning of summer and the conference at Yale that I had such high hopes for and was sorely disappointed in. What has transpired since then has been nothing less than amazing.

I have been included in many discussions, panels, interfaith initiatives and much that physically prove that things are changing. But a more important thing is occurring on a much smaller scale. It is the interaction between individuals that say “I see you and I find value in you.” What a wonderful place the world would be if we all could look at a stranger (or a relative for that matter) and realize that one thing – we all have value.

I find that this is the single most important thing that each person I run into values. They have been recognized and appreciated by another for who they are. At the same time as I was dealing with the conference I was having conversation with my daughter who now lives in Southern Alabama. It was a great move for her and her little family. Work opportunities were better there as well as her husband’s family. Needless to say her health benefited from a warmer climate as well. Unfortunately Southern Alabama is not the easiest place to find other Pagans.

As we talked about being alone it hadn’t dawned on me, nor had it her prior to her move, that there are places in this country where crickets are louder than the local Pagan community and, therefore, almost impossible to find. She told me that she had always practiced solitary as an adult, and she has, but there was always a shop, family, friends, drum circles and festivals to be found where “community” could be found. In her new home there is virtually nothing. No Pagan Pride Day in the state, only two shops that she can find in all of Alabama that she “thinks” are Pagan and a silence that says don’t tell anyone your religious views. New challenges with new surroundings shouldn’t have to include feeling that you have to hide a part of yourself.

So, where does this bring me in my rambling? Last night’s debates contained a statement by Mitt Romney that went as follows:

“…I believe we must maintain our commitment to religious tolerance and freedom in this country… We’re a nation that believes that we’re all children of the same god…”

Unfortunately these two statements rip at the fabric of community and the diversity that it represents. I do not believe in this statement. No, I do not believe that we are “all children of the same god” nor do I believe that there is any religious tolerance in the statements made by Mr. Romney. His statements contradict themselves, you cannot have tolerance and state that we all believe the same thing; it doesn’t work that way. Sadly my daughter is living in a place she loves but must practice her faith in secret because to do otherwise would subject her entire family religious discrimination.

Community is a beautiful thing, treasure it wherever it is and however it is, but when you do so understand that not everyone experiences it the same. Do your words hurt or harm and more important if you are Pagan and very much out of the closet don’t judge those that haven’t taken that step yet. Support them in their decision on who to tell or not because you don’t know what it is they experience when they are alone.

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