This weekend we celebrate our fathers and the notion of family, hearth and home. But this year it happens after a spring that has been unkind to so many families with raging floods and tornadoes and wildfires while still more families are separated by a decade-long war. Yet I find that I am inspired by the triumph of the human spirit on display by footage of those directly affected by disaster. I recall hearing a man interviewed by CNN after his house was destroyed by a tornado say, "I love everyone, I love everybody."
I thought to myself, "Is this what it would take to swear allegiance to compassion -- the fear of death and possible hell and damnation, the begging for mercy?" As each new tragedy plays out across our headlines, I am aware of the lack of bipartisanship in any of this. I'm also aware of the suddenness of my own response that without judgment or even interest in whether the victims are born again Christians, Republicans, pro-lifers or any of it. I just feel pain and compassion for these people as human beings.
For the moment, I don't even want to prove a political point or seek a victory or defeat for Obama or anyone else. As I watch communities band together, I feel inspired by their caring for one another.
I guess you could say these stories give me a feeling of connection to these particular people, the kind of connection that I would like to see between all of us, from each of us to the other, no matter the race or the wealth or the voting policies. It's the notion that we are all made up of good and evil, that we are born with the potential to cooperate and even the wish to do so as much as we are capable of heaping disasters on each other.
I am again given to wonder (as I often do), that if we can come together as human beings and see the heart of so many matters and stop feeling like we have to pledge allegiance to the belief systems that are set up to divide us, could this be the true revolution for our society?
Our national lust for winning is not something we enter the world carrying as a weapon. As children, we want to feel we are enough. We can exercise our bodies, our excitement, our curiosity, our anger, our love, our playfulness. When we are fed a culture of worst vs. best, worth vs. worthlessness we so very much lose the compassion that ironically is preached by most religions whose threats of damnation or promises of a hereafter seem more important to most than the commandments for generosity.
So I ask, can we talk? If we leave behind the terms "civility" and remember that the Civil War was not all that civil, can we get to the heart of the matter? Can we learn that there is a heartbeat in those of us who dare to be alive or come alive in the face of human devastation and tragedy?
Of course we have different points of view and for some the science revolution is key while for others such evidence hardly matters at all. The point is that when we see what we believe, when we decide that certain points of view are hubris and forbidden, and when we challenge the actions of ourselves or others as threats to the welfare of our society, then we exercise a prejudice.
I have to look to my own life as an example. As much as I try, I cannot easily escape my own cultural orientation as a Jew and how that can sometimes paint my perceptions. One of the reasons I love certain films is that I find them transforming. In the movie version of "The Reader," the Nazi death camp guard played by Kate Winslet first entered my heart as the illiterate and ashamed human being who yearned to be read to by her lover, played by Ralph Fiennes. Yet, by the time she stood accused, I saw the terror in her eyes, the humiliation of a human being rather than the criminal. And I suspect many felt or would have felt the same way.
Outside of the cinema and very much in reality, I believe we are all suffering from slower but just as insidious storms that afflict our human potential to get beneath the surface of our competitiveness and self righteousness to the true equality that makes human dignity exist for all. This is certainly the case for those who suffer heartbreak and damages from the natural disasters, and even those of us who have lost a heartbeat. But if what we learn from these storms and fires and floods fails to include the kindness that might extend to each and every one of us, it will only be a temporary bout of enjoying a ritual.
Kindness, to be lasting, has to begin or extend with ourselves; it is not about who is right but that all of us deserve the generosity of a basic acceptance merely because we are people and people living on one planet together.
None of this is impractical; we just have to get together to invent ways of implementing solutions. By the way my new web site, is as we speak, inventing a therapy. I hope you'll join me.