|The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, circa 1504|
And that most people fail to see that it is our actions that speak for us, not our beliefs. You can say you believe anything, but if your actions display something altogether different, then your beliefs are meaningless.
This has been a particularly heavy New Moon. I have been contemplating the murder of a beautiful spirit, who just a month ago was such a bright face in my Tribal Fest workshop, the unending waves of sensational media attention on circumstantial fluff while more serious issues lay at hand, the relentless flow of politics that dehumanize most of the population instead of focusing on improving quality of life for all, the massacre of innocent people in their sacred spaces because they looked or believed differently, and so forth. Really, it's everyday news everywhere, but it shouldn't be.
Last week I finished reading "Jitterbug Perfume" and it crushed my heart reading within it the fictional event of an innocent black man being killed on the street by two white cops- pulled from the headlines of the early 80's (it was published in 1984)...and here we are in 2015 and what has changed in 30 years?
All I can see at the root of all of this suffering is one thing. It's not some manufactured construct or scapegoat with the face of evil. It's the inability to feel empathy and respect for each other as human beings, regardless of creed, gender, color, sexuality, etc.
It is not just about the sanctity of life itself and preventing killing - (It is an imperfect world, everything feeds on life...) - it is the lack of respect for quality of life that is at the heart of most human-inflicted tragedy. It's easy to dismiss the suffering of the less-fortunate as "they didn't work hard enough" or "they did something to deserve it" or "they are different from me" - but the line separating "us" and "them" is a haphazard game of chance.
Hate isn't expressed only through killing, but through other less obviously"violent" words and actions. Harm is done through ignorant speech, labels, and slurs, by voting to deny others clean water, air, nourishing food, affordable housing, access to education and healthcare, by failing to see we're all in this together, by excusing actions in this life for the next, by turning away from those in need when you can make a difference, and by blaming the victims. Every day, so much food and water goes to waste, safe and affordable housing is lost to progress and profit, hardworking people battle to make enough money to live, while the system pushes against them to make less to get what they need.
It becomes problematic for everyone when someone places more value on the next life, than making this life better, now. The modern concepts of heaven and hell were (and are) used to control people, keep them inline, to not question the system, and to fill the banks of churches. It essentially removes any and all responsibility a human has for their actions - that some divine entity made them do it, that you can do anything, be forgiven,and get into heaven when you die.
The problem doesn't sit only with Judeo-Christian concepts. If one interprets"Harm None, Do What Thou Wilt" to mean you can do whatever you want as long as it doesn't inflict what you consider to be harm, it's rather empty. Harm, as we can see, is not such a cut and dry concept. Likewise using the "Threefold Law of Return" as a precise system of doling out punishment and reward is far too basic. In reality, every action we do has a positive and negative reaction - and I don't mean good vs. evil, but a real scientific gain/loss equation. Nor is getting rewards or avoiding consequences isn't a healthy means of living responsibly either.
Yes, ALL of these concepts are merely guidelines, created with the hopes of constructing a better humanity. Again, no matter what divine origin they can be attributed to, they're only as good as the people teaching and practicing them.
Within the Modern Tradition of Witchcraft, we have several keys to apply to practicing:
-Know Thyself - be aware of your strengths and your weaknesses (mentally, spiritually, physically)
-Accept Responsibility - acknowledging both known and unknown consequences for your actions
-Maintain Balance - not just about focusing on moderation, but understanding extremes and working with them
These keys may sound easy, but it does take a great deal of critical thought, consideration, understanding, and dedication to follow them. After all, we're only human. But we also capable of great things and our imperfections shouldn't to be used as an excuse, but rather as a means to become better. We can use these keys to challenge our own prejudices and ingrained stereotypes, to break the molds of system designed to control and separate us, to question ourselves when we find ourselves reacting negatively to others because they are different from us...and in the end, create a better now, here on earth.
I think if we all can examine ourselves, our beliefs, and our reactions more closely, taking time to consider how they affect us and everyone around us, we can truly start building a better humanity. When we find ourselves being hateful to others, especially because of what they may represent to us, if we take the time to ask ourselves WHY, we can start to undo the cycle. If we teach our children to be responsible, considerate, capable of both critical thought and empathy, we are building a better now. And if we can see beyond our own needs (and wants, and the difference between those) to what others may need, we can strengthen society. Hope may seem like a fragile thing in this world, but a little goes a long way to change the now.