What I Meant to Say

Wendy Babiak's Visions and Revisions

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Thank You to All the Haters

In Buddhism (as in some other spiritual traditions) we’re taught to thank those who make us angry for being our teachers. Without them, how would we have so much to work with on the zafu? In that same spirit, I’d like to thank the Mormon church and the rest of the people responsible for Proposition 8 in California, and the National Organization for Marriage, and all those other groups allegedly out to protect “traditional marriage” from the scourge of same-sex marriage. Without them the struggle for civil rights for homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgendered folks would not be at the forefront of public discourse.

When my husband and I married almost twenty years ago, I confess that I never gave a thought to the fact that some of my friends could not make the same kind of commitment and enjoy the same kind of social celebration and support that we did. It’s not that I agreed with the status quo…it’s that changing it wasn’t even in the realm of my consciousness. And it most likely would have stayed that way if it weren’t for all the reactionary groups now venting so much hatred at the LGBT community.

I’d like to send a bigger thank you, though, to all those religious people who are responding to the hatred of some within their ranks by remembering that the central message of all religions is compassion. I was overjoyed yesterday to see that some of them have come together and drafted the Charter for Compassion.

Here’s where you can add your name to the charter. The more people sign on to this, the more our leaders will realize that they need to operate from a compassionate place in order to retain their power.

Here’s the text:

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

Who could disagree with that? So all you Islamophobes, all you homophobes, and all you jihadists and wannabe-witch-burners, abortion-doctor-killers, liberal-hunters (I’m looking at you, Glenn Beck), whomever you may be, you’ve got it wrong. God doesn’t want you to hate your fellow humans. Don’t wait until you’re dead yourself to find out that you let yourself be led by your own insecure ego into believing illegitimate scriptural interpretations. When you open your heart and discover that you’re surrounded by kin, you’ll be amazed at how it changes everything. Go on, feel the love. We’re waiting for you.


Back in the Saddle

Okay, so I took some time off from blogging. To be honest, I got a little freaked out when I became aware that someone local had become a little obsessed, someone for whom my ideas are problematic. But I’m over it. If he’s reading, he’ll have to learn to deal. And realize that if my ideas piss him off, maybe he needs to examine his attachment to his own.

I’ve had all kinds of ideas bubbling up, too, ideas about human rights, the ridiculousness of a binary conceptualization of gender, the personhood of the nonhuman, spiritual practice and meditation, and, of course, poetry and how it can engage all these things. I’m working on my second collection, which I’ve decided needs to revolve more closely around ecological issues, our relationship with our ground of being, which is inseparable from all that is. The first one, as I felt was necessary, revolved around our relationships with each other (women’s rights, war, religious intolerance, etc.). I figured if we’re not recognizing the personhood of our fellow humans, we certainly aren’t going to manage to find the rest of the (nonhuman) world kin.

So stay tuned. But first, let me leave you with this gorgeous quote from Charles Darwin, who has apparently been greatly misunderstood and misrepresented in regards to his stance on altruism and compassion (it was actually Spencer who coined the phrase “survival of the fittest”), from an article by psychologist Paul Ekman, “Survival of the Kindest,” in this month’s Shambala Sun:

As man advances in civilization, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races. [If they appear different] experience unfortunately shews us how long it is before we look at them as our fellow creatures. Sympathy beyond the confines of man, that is humanity to the lower animals, seems to be one of the latest moral acquisitions…This virtue [concern for lower animals], one of the noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from our sympathies becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until they extend to all sentient beings.

We’ve got a long road ahead. Let’s learn to travel it together.