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“Why am I afraid to dance, I who love music and rhythm and grace and song and laughter? Why am I afraid to live, I who love life and the beauty of flesh and the living colors of the earth and sky and sea? Why am I afraid to love, I who love love?”

— EUGENE O’NEILL

The Native Americans were bewildered by the white man’s religion, which focused on worshiping one day a week. They viewed tithing to the church as little more than trying “to bribe the Creator,” a concept they found ludicrous. They did not understand the white culture’s view of a punitive, vengeful God, who gave man one life to get it right in spite of so many temptations. Robert Roskind

Do we feel free to be human in our Western religions? I for one always felt watched and criticised for being me. I found myself trapped in an unloving and unforgiving system, always in danger of “sinning.” Looking around at other systems, Buddhism for example, I began to suspect that the beliefs I grew up with were unnecessarily repressive and narrow.

Who is primitive then, us or those from other cultures and races? It’s hard to look in the mirror sometimes.

Life is to be lived, but we can forget that if we buy all the “Thou shalt nots.” The principles I live by encourage kindness, forgiveness, beauty and intelligent questioning. Administering pain, even if it’s sanctioned by academia or religion, is not a good way to form a humane human. We live so much on the surface of things that we hardly notice how painful our way of life is or how unnecessary that pain is.

The time has come when we are faced with the results of our social, political and financial constructs. Our system is starting to collapse under the strain of an ungenerous vision of things. Excluding kindness, making money the object of every human act punishes everyone, making life harder for us all.

I don’t think a system can change humans fundamentally, but if enough people agree that kindness is better than unkindness, they can create a system of governance that will reflect that spirit. America is not there yet. Those countries that have turned away from a dog-eat-dog culture tried it and suffered the consequences. They eventually decided kindness is actually cheaper and works better.

I’m not encouraged by what’s going on in America right now. It may have to get worse before it gets better. The problem is, America has an outsized influence on the rest of the world. We don’t know if nature can take much more punishment. We don’t know if human beings can see the error of their ways in large enough numbers to make a difference and turn the tide.

Those of us who can think and speak have our work cut out for us.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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