The other day, as someone was (uninvited) spouting her version of God at me, I stopped her, saying, "Hold on a minute. You're assuming that I not only share your vision of who or what God is, but that I believe at all. While I enjoy some Judeo-Christian traditions, I do not believe in the Judeo-Christian version of God."
Her response was snide, and one I've experienced often - the eye rolling scoff followed by, "Well, then what do you believe?"
My response is one that I've honed over the years. "Why is it so important for you to know what I believe? What I believe is very personal to me and has no impact on what you believe."
Right on cue, she became defensive. "Well. Like. What if I wanted to pray for you or something?"
"Then pray for me."
"Yeah, but you don't believe it. So why even bother?"
"But you do. Isn't that what's important? As it so happens, I think any positive energy is a good thing, and prayer is positive energy."
"No, it's talking to God."
"Um. Talking to God isn't positive energy?"
Out came The Incredulous Look. "How can you say that when you don't even believe in...aggh!"
But this isn't a post about spirituality, or we'd all be here for the next five years. I like typing, but not that much.
Here's what I believe:
I believe we all have the right to believe whatever we want to believe, so long as it isn't causing harm to anyone else. This isn't an American right (our forefathers mostly just wanted the King off their backs - they never thought in terms of Buddhism, or Islam, or The Flying Spaghetti Monster), it's a human right. We also have the right to keep those beliefs to ourselves, if we so choose, discretion being the better part of valor and all that. That's why we won't be discussing my version of God - which is really just a big universal conglomerate of stuff that feels right to me. I don't even like using that name because it confuses the shit out of people who think only their version of God exists.
I believe that beliefs have the capacity to change and evolve as we change and evolve. They don't have to be the static stuff that was crammed down our throats just in case we'd reach the age of reason without having a proper brain to figure it out for ourselves. When I was 8 years old, I had a huge stuffed doggy that brought me comfort: at 54 years old, artwork brings me comfort. Things change. Why cannot beliefs be one of those things?
Why do I celebrate Christmas? I celebrate because although I can't believe in the virgin birth of a savior king, I can believe that the spirit of Santa Claus lives in some people. I believe in peace and goodwill.
I believe that patriotism is not about chanting the name of your country and boasting about how great it is. I believe that patriotism is in how you conduct yourself. Every day. It's in the respect you show others and the kindnesses you do. It's in the way you support your fellow countrymen, even if all that means is that you brought an elderly neighbor a fresh batch of muffins. That's patriotism. That's saying, "Let's do this together. We've got this." A great country isn't about sports superiority, or actors, or food, or music or, egads, religious beliefs... it's about its people, people who are willing to stand up and be authentic.
So, be authentic. I believe that every person has a right to be exactly who they need to be and to surround themselves with whatever makes that person. Get a full-body tattoo, pierce your hoo-hoo, dance to music only you hear, eat the hotdogs, sip the kale smoothie, color your hair or don't color your hair, wear a tiara or a baseball cap, be fat, be fit, be glamorous, be plain, dig rock-n-roll or rap or classical or jazz, drink coffee or tea, wine or beer, sing, oh please do sing.... You get the idea. Make your life your life. I believe we get to do that. No, wait. I believe it is our responsibility and an imperative that we do that. The happier you are, the better off the world around you will be.
I believe that we have absolutely no right to judge any other person. I also believe that all of us do judge others all the time. It's in our nature - we constantly compare stuff and we have a mental bar to which we hold our fellow humans. Like it or not. So, stop saying, "I'm not judging." Because you are. Just be aware of it and counter it. Quietly. Within yourself.
Under the auspices of judging others comes shaming. I believe this is one of the single worst things we can do to another human. If you're fortunate enough to never have been on the receiving end of shaming, trust me on this one. It sucks and it hurts and it sticks. Long after the "fuck them, what do they fucking know" attitude kicks in, it's still there, like a cancer. Oh, and shaming rarely ever comes out as, "Shame on you." Most of the time it's as subtle as a look, but it's spoken in all kinds of passive-agressive ways. It's the overheard whisper of, "Oh my god... did you see how short her skirt is?" It's the parent saying, "Do you really need that second scoop of potatoes?" It's the coach saying, "Stop acting like a girl. Man up." It's even the friend saying, "There you go again with your big words." Shaming runs a whole range of flavors and sizes, but it's wrong every time.
When you start a sentence with, "I'm sorry, but..." I believe you've misunderstood the meaning of "I'm sorry." You can't quantify an apology. And you can't put conditions on love. The most difficult people to love are those who have the most to teach us about ourselves. Yeah, it's not fun. In those instances, I'd rather be getting a root canal while cleaning a toilet, but not everyone on this earth is here to give us warm fuzzies and blow hot air up our skirts. Doesn't mean they're any less deserving of our love. You don't have to respect them. You don't have to hang with them, watch a movie and have pizza. But you've got to love them. I believe that. I believe that, but I suffer from no illusion that it's easy.
I believe that time does not heal all wounds. Some stuff just hurts forfuckingever and all you can do is try to distance yourself from it a little bit. That doesn't mean you don't confront the hurt; it just means that "getting over it" isn't always an option. Living around it, and maybe even in spite of it, is.
I believe we are here to love and to be loved. And until someone proves our reason for existence otherwise, that is what I will continue to believe. I believe we're here to do good things for the humans in our lives, be it those we love and hold dearest or those we barely know. Yes, cook your beloved his or her favorite dinner, but while you're out shopping for it, smile at the cashier, ask how her day is, and maybe slip her a gift card for a latté. Do little kindnesses until they become a habit.
I believe we should live as though we're constantly writing our own eulogies. What's going to be said of us when we're gone? I know what I'd want to hear, and I try to live my life in a way that will make that happen. Do I fail? Sure. All the time. I'm just one of your fellow humans, you know - full of love and my own brand of bullshit. I'm reminded here of the old paradigm: All I can do is all I can do.
And I will. I believe that.