What the hell, it’s just been Christmas and today is New Year – just the right time for some religion.
This post is inspired by a conversation I finished 5 minutes ago with my father-in-law. I’m staying here tonight to escape the dread noise of parties in my home city. I’d be alone on New Year, and I didn’t think I could stand the sound of so much happiness crashing and shouting it’s way past my window all night.
We started our conversation by talking about what a mad, ridiculous world we live in. How is it that we can be so mean to each other? Why are we so scared of budget deficits when money is nothing more than a consensual illusion we can opt out of any time we want? How can governments give tax breaks to the rich and force the poor from their homes at the same time? Why is our education system trying to move backwards when it’s already badly out of touch? Why do we allow governments to consist of people with no experience of the fields they govern? Why are the poor not rising up in their millions to crush these bastards?
Big questions – and we ran around them for some time and came up with at least twenty different ways for improving things – Here are some examples:
- MP’s do not make policy – a forum of experts who work in the appropriate field make the policies – the MP’s just present and enact them.
- Children should not be taught facts but how to think – giving them transferable skills
- Dynamic classrooms that engage children through familiar media
- Since anyone who seeks power is unfit to hold it, parliament should be populated by the random ‘jury’ system
- MP’s paid minimum wage
- No-one is allowed to have more than £100,000 while there is a single child in hunger – excess taxed off to charity
Which only led to another question. If we can think of these things and we are no experts, surely someone out there has the answers to our political woes? Someone smarter than us MUST KNOW how to fix this!?
Then I went to my fathers area of expertise. “I think that part of the problem,” I said, “is that we have lost our spirituality.”
These are dangerous waters these days. Mention spirit or being nice to people and the ruling profiteers will laugh with derision and dismiss you as a ridiculous hippy, god-squad fool or childish idealist. But my ‘relationship’ to the spirit is a complex thing.
I do not believe in a God as a ‘being up there’, or some entity. For me the universe consists of realities and energies in extraordinary symbiosis, containing within each part and each junction an image and analogy of the whole – and this interconnected miracle is worthy of some significant awe and wonder. No God required.
As for religion – rarely does this have anything to do with God. Generally religion is what happens when some men realise they can exploit other people’s beliefs in order to obtain power over them. It is not God that causes war, it is religion, and that’s all man-made.
Faith, however, is different again. One can have faith in humanity, in oneself or in ones family. Faith is essential to keep us going, to offer hope – faith is the engine of our lives.
I don’t want us to all return to living in mammoth-fur knickers and bronto-sandals (Rara would be gutted! Literally!!), but while we did toil the earth it kept us in touch with how amazing things are. Flowers grow – just like that – from seeds, and they’re beautiful and smell nice. Sunrises are remarkable, snow is awesome, mountains are majestic and all that jazz. When we see the beauty of life it offers us faith – there must be hope is we are surrounded by such majesty.
Faced with space-opera films, adrenalin fuelled computer games, a-change-a-second status updates and the thousand shocks of our new digital life – caterpillars becoming butterflies is boooooring… But there is no hope and no faith, no life in these things. They are fun and I don’t want to lose them, but they are so central, so pervasive and we are so immersed in them that we have lost sight of things of real awe.
My father-in-law is a devout, lifelong Jehovah Witness. He buys the god thing most sincerely. On the other hand, he agrees that religion has done more harm than good – especially to the reputation of Christianity. He gave me the example that, within days of the Philippine disaster, the JW Church has shipped out 100 homes to help rehouse people. This, he told me, was true faith in action. The JW beliefs galvanised their community and gave them a united commitment to do good.
Whatever kind of cynic I am, I can’t argue with this – it is the best of what a religion should be doing.
We then discussed the bible for a long while. I tried to convince him that while the bible had some useful living advice in it, few will listen because it’s couched in such archaic language and examples that no-one can relate to it any more. Couldn’t we just update it? Father thought not and I couldn’t convince him, because for him the bible is inspired by God and must be as it is. Then we ended on Corinthians 13, a passage whose message survives very well. You can read the whole chapter, but this sums it up:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
Once again there’s no real argument here – but also still no God required.
Yet it takes a God to convince you I see no harm in it – as opposed to the harm caused by religious fanatics – and I see faith as integral to our recovery – it’s just that I put my faith in love.
I’ve said before that economic considerations are stifling us – we have become so obsessed with making money that our education system is little more than a factory to produce workers. We work for so long that there is no time to actually live. Our government seems utterly fixated on repairing the deficit, cutting the cost of welfare, fighting inflation. Yet money isn’t real.
We made up money. Go to a bank and get a loan – where does that money come from? Nowhere! The bank just writes in some numbers and presto! More money exists. It is illusory – a fiction, and we have become so hypnotised by it that we have forgotten that it is a dream, a choice, an invention we have the capacity to discard. Yes there would be complications and pains, but they would be birth pains, bringing wonderful gifts.
Our government – every government, should be primarily concerned with the well-being of its citizens, not with a financial delusion that has gone beyond insanity. We should be governed not from an economic standpoint but from a loving one – however unfashionable, however it may be derided – love remains the only truth at the root of our lives. Come from a place of love and you will do good things. Love never fails.
This post has not captured things at all, as I knew it couldn’t. I want somehow to get across how clear it is that we are killing ourselves by enslaving ourselves to money, and how important it is that we find another way. But the golden glow of my conversation with my father has dissipated and I cannot nail it down here.
So I will finish by saying that I loved my wife, and no-one needed to pay me to be with her. I loved my job and did it despite that I could have found a job with better pay. I love music and no-one needs to offer me money to write songs. No-one pays me to blog!
If we love what we do we will do it gladly – so if we could learn to love each other, learn to make education about finding the things we love; so allowing us to move into jobs we love; if those in power loved those they governed they could not leave them in desparate poverty; we would not be so greedy – because greed is only caused when we don’t have enough love to fill the hole inside us; we would not be cruel because cruelty is caused by fear, and fear is a lack of love.
Yeah yeah – I know, I’ll never change the world like this… but just maybe one person will try harder to put love first next year and make this planet beautiful again.
Peace for 2014