I bet you thought my next wish would be for world peace.
I don’t want to waste birthday wish magic on something that, at our present stage, is impossible. It’s not that I don’t want some kind of peaceful resolution to the conflicts that plague us, but that I simply don’t believe that humankind has developed enough to be able to overcome our innate greed, protectiveness, war-like sensibilities, or our desire to define ourselves by an “us and them” mentality.
On an individual basis, however, I believe we can work toward peace and harmony. I believe that peace begins within. If individuals have confidence in who they are, what they believe, and where they fit in this world without trying to force those same thoughts and beliefs onto others, then they have taken a step toward creating a more peaceful world.
Today another good friend is celebrating her birthday. Tanya is an amazing woman who impresses me with her own inner confidence and faith in herself. I wouldn’t describe her as peaceful (she’s more like lightning contained in a bottle), but her inner peace always gives me hope. So today I borrow from her birthday wish magic to wish for internal harmony for all.
This wish actually comes from reading a comment on my post yesterday, a comment that made me ask some serious questions about myself. Am I too close minded when it comes to religious extremists? Do I practice what I preach when it comes to not trying to force my opinion onto others?
The comment refers to a post I wrote a long time ago called “Hell is Living in the Bible Belt” where I express my disdain for the religious road signs that dot the highways throughout Kansas and Indiana. I re-read my own post to ask myself these difficult questions. In the post I say that I believe in freedom of speech as well as freedom of religion. I also say that I envy people who have true faith because I’m not sure what I believe. In reality, I have no problem with the signs that say things like “Trust Jesus” or “Jesus is love” or contain actual quotes from his words.
I have more of a problem with signs that say “If you don’t find Jesus you will burn in the boiling fire pits of hell for all eternity!!!!!!” (Okay, I never saw a sign with those exact words, but you know what I mean).
I find those signs especially unappealing when hurtling down the highway in a machine. (Did I mention that Nathan, Sarah and I had a very near miss the other day, when an accident happened right next to us?)
I have the same problem when a fellow Jew tells me that I am not Jewish enough if I don’t ___________. In other words, I have no problem with people believing what they believe and talking about what they believe, but I do have a problem with being cursed or told I’m going to hell or told I am inferior because I do not believe the same thing.
I try not to do that with my own words.
Today a friend posted this on Facebook.
The message against bullying is one that I believe. I don’t think its right to make fun of others. I don’t think its right to make jokes about others. I don’t think its right to judge others based off of one aspect of their personality or appearance. However, I wouldn’t share this post on Facebook because of the last line. Telling someone they will be heartless if they don’t share the post is bullying.
Telling someone they are going to hell if they have doubts or don’t believe the same thing as you do, is bullying and threatening.
Telling someone that their love is going to damn everyone simply because you believe it is sinful, is bullying, and threatening, and unfair.
What does all of this have to do with inner harmony or peace? I think that believing in something is important. Having a moral compass and following it with confidence is priceless. Having faith in yourself and your thoughts and dreams is invaluable. However, if you feel the need to push those beliefs on someone else in order to validate them, then you have not achieved inner peace or harmony.
I suppose that simply writing about these things could be seen as an act of trying to push my beliefs onto someone else. Or teaching about arts and theatre and their value to society could be seen as trying to validate my own belief system.
The difference lies in expectations. I don’t expect my words to change people’s minds or thoughts. I don’t expect everyone to leave my classroom passionate advocates for the arts. I do hope that my words or my lessons encourage people to think, or question, or wonder.
I don’t ask people to think the way I think in order to be my friend or to achieve some specific goal in the after life. I don’t say “If you think differently than I, then I will not talk to you, tolerate you, or have anything to do with you.”
Inner peace comes from the ability to say, “I believe this, they believe something different. Their belief doesn’t hurt me, my belief doesn’t hurt them. That is all.”
Now, I’m not saying I’ve achieved this inner peace. If I had, I wouldn’t have worried about the comment on my post, or worry at all about what other people think of me. I would just be who I am.
That is why I make this wish today. I wish for all of us to achieve inner harmony. To find that place inside ourselves where we can be content with who we are without trying to change anyone else or justify our beliefs on the backs of someone else. Only through that could we ever hope for world peace.