The Illusion of Entitlement

In spite of all the political posturing and cacophony of the election year, the assertions of and protests about “rights” has not faded from the media’s attention.  It seems as if everyone is claiming a right and someone else has the responsibility of giving that right to them.  The claiming of a right is not new. For much of written history, kings, for example, have claimed divine rights.  Despite the claim of divinity, these entitlements in reality were yielded to them by the people.  How does one figure out a right or an entitlement?  Who exactly is entitled to what?  Who deserves what?

The proponents of  “new thought” or “new spirituality” tend to assume that people receive what they want or need because they deserve it, or at least, because they believe that they deserve it.  This is not completely wrong, but it still begs the point of who deserves.  The “deserving” seems to assume that only some are deserving because only some have; it is then the fault of  have-nots for not having because they don’t deserve enough.  In other words, they don’t need to be thought about very much.   This sounds as if another word for “deserving” might be “entitlement.”

Who, then, is entitled?  Royalty?  The wealthy?  Warriors?  The kind and gentle?  The populace?  Members of ethnic groups?  Or?     Again, entitlement assumes a right to having something without effort, something someone else has to yield to one.

How to determine, then, who is entitled?  What characteristics entitle one, or make one more deserving of even basic need than another?  If we are all One, as seems to me to be a valid assumption, then how can a part of One be more valuable than another part of One?  If we are all one, we are made of the same substance, and connected to each other in such a way that the benefit to one benefits all, and the misfortune of one also affects us all.  None is more valuable than another, and none is less valuable than another.   The concepts of deserving, rights, and entitlement begins to make very little sense.

In truth, we are all of equal value before that which some call God, some call Energy or Force, some call Nothing, and which has myriad names.  We are all equally deserving, and also equally undeserving.  This being so, the two polarities cancel each other out.  There is no such thing, and no better or worse valued people.   That judgment is an illusion.

We create our own sorrow by arguing over who is the most deserving or entitled, or who has the most rights to the topic of the moment.  If instead of spending all that energy in confrontation, trying to get what we think someone else owes us, we were to all put our minds to figuring out how all of us could have the means necessary to support life and grow in understanding, we would also experience more joy.  Perhaps experiencing that joy is what everyone claiming various rights is actually desiring.

As we put out love freely, we become enveloped in love.  As we work for the benefit of another, we benefit.  What we give comes back to us, sometimes in kind and sometimes in other ways.  There is wisdom in focusing on the well being of another, more so than on the illusion that we deserve to have another focus on us.  I am not saying that it is necessary to follow in the tradition of having nothing, but that the love between people is more important than the things or societal positions that one possesses.  Let us try, then, to give that thing which we think we deserve, and to be open to the ways in which joy returns to us.

Happy Valentine’s Day!              Peace,  Diane


An Apology for Babies

In the debate over the right to destroy an unborn child in the womb, called abortion to sanitize it, the term “choice” has always mystified me.   Other than the right to kill another human, women have always had a choice of whether or not to conceive, or whether or not to bear children.  Why should they be demanding this “choice” now, when they have always had it?   Perhaps the word is a misnomer for what is being asked.  True, there are some men who violate a woman’s choice, within marriage or without.  This is called rape, and if the campaign is for the right to choose not to be raped, then I think the vast majority of people would be in agreement with that.  However, that does not seem to be what is being asked.

Human life takes place over an extensive scale of forms, ranging from embryo, fetus, and baby to toddler, school aged child, adolescent, youth, middle aged, elder – I may have forgotten a few stages.  The common link is that at all stages, this life is human.  It cannot be rabbit, or frog or bird, or even simply non-living “tissue”.  It can be only human, and it is alive, be it embryo, fetus, baby or grandparent.  Each stage has different requirements for life support.  A born person, for example, needs food and water and air.  Deprive them of that, and they die.  Depriving them of that as an act of personal will is killing them.  Human life in the womb requires the womb itself to provide it with food, water and air until it is born.  Deprive it of that, and the human life dies.  Depriving it of that as an act of personal will is killing that life.    A part of that debate seems to be whether it is OK to kill some stages of human life, and not others.  In other words, it is assuming for ourselves the right to say that some human lives are valuable and others are not.  Especially vulnerable are those at both ends of the continuum and in general any who are weaker, poorer, in greater difficulty or causing inconvenience, however innocently, to others.

Then there is the argument that abortion is healthcare.  Healthy for whom?  Even assuming that the woman undergoing abortion does not experience any emotional or physical aftereffects, which more often than is reported is not the case, it certainly is not healthy for the human life being aborted.   Side effects of abortion can range from physical damage to the mother to persistent severe emotions of grief and regret, which can be difficult to express to a truly listening ear.  Sometimes abortion can even affect a woman’s future fertility.  However, abortion is a kind of care.  It allows the effects of copulation and conception to be avoided, the costs of raising a child to be avoided, the interruptions to a career path to be avoided.  It is convenience care, which is rarely talked about.  It is the choice to conceive a child without the attendant responsibilities of that act. This we allow, by allowing the killing of the human life that results.     Do we allow the irresponsible use of, for example, marijuana, even though killing another life is not required to expiate us from that irresponsibility?

To prove the assertion that abortion is healthcare, some will cite the example of women whose life is in danger by continuing to carry their baby.  They are at risk of dying from pregnancy, and with them, their unborn child.  Is it right then, to kill the child to save the life of the mother?    The right of self defense is accepted by the vast majority of people, and of the institutions that they form.   It is an event of great sadness that an unborn life attacks the life that shelters it, threatening its very being.  In this case, termination of the pregnancy would fall under the right of self defense, not the right to choose to kill one’s child.  Still, there are mothers who would sacrifice their own lives if there were any chance that their child might live.

Then there are those who assert that children conceived through the horrific act of rape be aborted.   Whose fault is the rape?  Who should pay the penalty?  It is certainly not the child who is guilty of being conceived, and who deserves to die for that act.  Yet, we wish to blame the child by aborting it, and make it difficult to convict the rapist, who, even if convicted, more often than not receives a light sentence, is set free to do it again, does not have to pay child support, and who, often, is ALSO given access to the child, to the distress of the woman he raped.  No wonder women who choose to protect the life of their child then choose to have it adopted.   We don’t need more killing; we do need more certain ways of identifying a rapist (increasingly those ways are becoming available) and by penalties that ensure further rape will not be committed and requirements to provide financial support for the child conceived, without automatic visitation.

There are also those who cite the need to rein in a growing population.  Yet, none of them suggest the surest way of preventing conception, which is abstaining from copulation. We have a right, they say, to one of the most pleasurable acts existing, apart from the fact that that act of copulation is not only immensely pleasurable and promoting of emotional bonding, but also is present for perpetuating human life.  It is a two-stranded phenomenon.  It is a phenomenon which has existed from the beginning of human life as a two-stranded phenomenon, immensely pleasurable to ensure that it occurs for the purpose of the continuity of human life.   Abortion attempts to separate those strands.  If children and human life are separated from the act of copulation, then what is left is no longer glorious, sacred if you will, no longer the powerful, creative act that has existed from the beginning.  It is at best a temporarily satisfying means of mutual masturbation.   Is this what we are willing to engage in killing to acquire?     Better to avoid the conception itself, even if that means abstinence.  Abstinence is certainly a possible way of life, one engaged in by people by choice, in community and independently.  What are we doing, asking for the right to kill to create that which is less valuable

Ladies, not just from religion, but from knowledge from the beginnings of when we became aware, you are life carriers.  It is how you were created or evolved, whichever word you choose.  It is the essence of your being to carry and protect the life within you, and to nurture and guide it when it is born.   If you do violence to that life, you do violence to yourself, and the nature or essence of your being will be harmed thereby.   Men, you are callers-forth of life.  To you is given the privilege of calling forth life within a woman.  It is your being to protect and provide for that life, within its mother and without, and also to teach that life when it is born.  If you do violence to that life or to the woman who carries that life, you do violence to yourself, to the nature or essence of your being.  Those who upon reflection cannot see that, talk to those who are parents or hear the experiences told by those who have aborted.

Increasingly, people are now praying and working for a world that is peaceful, non-violent, and which contains the means for life for all who inhabit Earth.  How can we expect to achieve this if we ourselves are violent, if we condone the killing of others, if we judge some humans to be less worthy of life than other humans?   Let us begin the great task of birthing a gentler, more just and welcoming world by the gentle, welcoming birth of our babies, instead of the continuing violence.

Peace, Diane

Religion Is a Part of the Fabric

I have been hearing from those around me – more frequently than I would like – that religion is the cause of most of the troubles of the world, and that if a new and more just society is to evolve, religion must be eliminated (or, more gently, that it must disintegrate and crash by itself). I wonder when I hear this; it seems a skewed position, leaning heavily to one side of a spectrum. It seems like another try at the simplistic solution of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

It is not a secret that religions have their dark sides. The Crusades, for example, or the conquest of Canaan, the enmity between the grandsons of the Prophet, the ferociousness of Zen among the Samurai, are examples from the past.   Currently, there are examples from the fundamentalists of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, in particular the anti-Islamic persecutors, the continuing occupation of and unrest in Palestine, and, of course, ISIS. And, in the farther East, the religious frictions among Hindus in India or the persecution of Tibetan Buddhists is perhaps less vocal, but equally present. Plainly, religion is not free of conflict, even violent conflict. This raises two questions. Does its dark side primarily define what a given religion is about?   Is any individual among us free of such a dark side, thus able to “cast the first stone’?

I am not a religious scholar, nor have I spent many years studying religions. However, from what I have read, heard, learned, the basic precepts of ANY of the religions of which I am aware seem pretty consistent, and pretty much the same. Different words may be enunciated, different expressions may be enacted, but the central IDEAS are strikingly similar. And none of them seem to say, “Go out and harm and kill those who are different from you.” Conversely, there seems to be agreement that God (or Energy, the Force, Primal Origin, or the like) is essentially Love, a love which humans may not fully understand; Those who have grown in the understanding of their religion are equally aware that the “prime directive”, so to speak, is to love God as God is understood by that religion, and to love one another. Human beings are fallible, but those who are truly religious can be recognized by their unfailing efforts to learn and live up to that prime directive.

Another objection that people make to religion is that it has too many rules, that its major purpose is to control them. This view tends to be prevalent among those who perceive regulation as being punitively imposed from without, and among those who have not yet arrived at individuation, growing into a knowledge of themselves and their inner strengths as well as their limitations. They have a point. There are rules, and often those rules interfere with the desired action of the moment. They seem to limit one’s freedom. The problem is not the rules. The problem is that often people have not managed to think about them long enough to understand the reasons behind the rules; not the political reasons, but the deeper reasons over time, timeless or eternal reasons. For one thing, if there were no guidance or structure to human behavior, there would be the chaos of anarchy as each struggled to get as much of his or her own way as possible and avoid any responsibility towards anyone else. We are experiencing some of that energy in the world now. The paradox is that when one has arrived at a deeper understanding of the rules, one freely chooses them, knowing that they are in design an expression of love, ways that keep oneself and others safe and free to grow and experience the abundance of the universe. In its essence, religion does not deny one the freedom of choice; it actually enforces it. A choice to not choose is still a choice. As humans, the necessity to choose is built into us, and the responsibility for those choices is irrevocably attached to them. There is no need of punishments or fear. There is only choice and responsibility.   Religion recognizes this, even though that seems restrictive to those who touch the surface of religion.

It would seem, then, that the desire to eradicate religion is premature. Yes, there is a dark side, as people have also dark sides. Throwing out religion or throwing out people does not solve much. Encouraging people to grow in depth and understanding of their own religious traditions, and sometimes of others’ also, seems a more constructive path. Perhaps we need more religion in our lives rather than less. After all, religion is part of our fabric.

Peace, Diane

Give Thanks for Differences

There is a great cry nowadays for the equality of people, a needed focus on the ways in which many are exploited and marginalized. It is a needed step in the growth away from greed and violence and judgmental attitudes which purportedly justify the greed and violence. Yet, in spite of the (at least theoretical) embrace of human Equality, we have failed to recognize a simple yet obvious fact. Even though we may all be equal in value, and proceeding to making that goal a reality, we are decidedly not all the same. Women are not the same as men, black is not the same as white or brown, European is not the same as Native American or Japanese, homosexual is not the same as heterosexual, bricklayer is not the same as accountant, even identical twins are not the same. They have differing personalities and sometimes small differences in body, too. In our rush to be equal, we risk losing precious differences in the hurry to be same. Equality is not sameness; it is the equality of value of each of the billions of different people on the Earth. Extended, it is also the equality of value of each life form Earth contains. It is this equality, this non-judgmental stance, which we have veered from, and which needs to be re-established.

Differences are the stuff of which Creation is made. They define each creation, distinguishing it from the undifferentiated eternal energy from which it is created. Without differences we would all be an amorphous mass indistinguishable from that from which we sprang.   All would be simply one great conglomeration. There would be no creation. Yes, we are all linked to each other in an underlying oneness. We all spring from the same Source.   Yes, within this Creation, we are all joined in categories: all humans, all mammals, all fish, and the like. Yet each of us, within our categories, within our oneness, is distinct. It is the miracle of Creation. We do wrong, in the efforts at justice, to deny our differences. We are each a spark of the Divine (or of Original Energy, if one prefers that wording), and our happiness, growth and well being depend upon our embracing who we are and the differences which describe us. And it depends on allowing others to embrace their differences as well.

It is sad to see the categories we humans seem impelled to set up, categories which value some people over other people, which deny even basic needs to some, which cause groups to demand the same recognition given to others instead of demanding celebration of their own differences. For example, forbidding all public expression of recognized religion (atheism is also a kind of religion, a deny-the-existence- of-a-God kind of religion), ending in public recognition for only those groups which deny formal religion. Such action results in a generic sameness.   Instead, why not be inclusive, allowing non-violent public expression of whichever religion desires to make such expression, including perhaps an atheistic display declaring that there is no God? It is possible to embrace the truth of our own beliefs without attacking the beliefs of others. In this way, we celebrate and respect our differences.

There is a kindergarten lesson that many of us learn. In order to be “good”, it is not necessary to make someone else “bad”. That does not mean that we all eat the same lunch, wear the same clothes, speak the same words, color the same way, or are all equally good at math. It does not mean that we want to be the way someone else is. It is recognizing that we all can be “good” just the way we are. In this new year, let us all recognize that we are not in fact same, that we can all be good. Let us release any envy to be what someone else is, or do what someone else does, and instead celebrate our differences.

Peace,   Diane