my head bathed by the blithe air,
and uplifted into infinite space,
all mean egotism vanishes.
I become a transparent eye-ball;
I am nothing; I see all;
the currents of the Universal Being
circulate through me;
I am part or particle of God.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (Nature)
Is one word that brings peace.
Better than a thousand hollow verses
Is one verse that brings peace.
Better than a hundred hollow lines
Is one line of the law, bringing peace.
Gautama Buddha (The Dhammapada)
IT WAS OSCAR WILDE who wrote: In polite society, one does not talk about politics or religion. Of course Oscar made a name for himself doing just that, though he really succeeded by pointing out the petty foibles of mankind and by making light of them. Well, almost. A Woman of No Importance is seriously funny.
I'm no Oscar Wilde, and I should probably thank the gods for that. I wouldn't mind being a manic depressive William Blake or Virginia Woolf.
William Blake wrote about religion, of course, inasmuch as it is generally associated with God. It is probably fairer to say of Blake that he lived, wrote and created his pictures under the close influence of gods and angels and the Ancient of Days. Blake, apparently, felt that these otherworldly creatures were sending him messages that he felt compelled to pass along.
I once read that the farthest that William Blake ever travelled from the home in which he was born on 28 November 1757 (in Golden Square, Soho, London) was 59 miles. And one might argue that one who remained so close to home should refrain from commenting on national issues, much less international issues, even less on issues spanning the Cosmos. In 1757, I'm guessing a journey of 59 miles, if one had a horse-drawn vehicle and didn't meet a highwayman (Dick Turpin was, at least, dead by the time Blake was born), took a few days. One would overnight at some country inn with none of the charm we associate with such places in 2009.
In September 2008, one gentleman, Yves Rossy, from the Continent, crossed the English Channel, with some sort of jet-propelled wing strapped to his back, in a matter of minutes. Not as fast as Hitler's Doodlebugs, but someone will be working on a way to ride a rocket as I sit here typing, one can be assured.
Blake, of course, saw Chariots of Fire. Here's a mathematical problem for anyone interested in such things: If it takes Apollo about twelve hours to cross the sky in his chariot of fire, at the Equator, at mid-summer, what sort of speed are we talking? What horsepower? Even a non-mathematician such as I can appreciate that one must know at what height above the Earth (and must know the Earth is a sphere) the chariot is flying. Religions have depended on such facts and figures. Men have been excommunicated, men have died, good men, for suggesting the inexpedient.
It is remarkable that Popes, after consulting with their gods, have made pronouncements on things they really should not have, given that, quite often, they are proved incorrect within a fairly short time. Ask Nicolaus Copernicus! Copernicus was not the first heliocentric theorist, and his work lead to enlightenment, but he was denounced by the representatives of the One True God as being not only subversive, but immoral, and in opposition to Holy Scripture. Whew!
An issue that bothers some people, perhaps many, in particular in North America, is gay marriage. I should start this paragraph by mentioning that I am a proponent of family life, of a father and mother of different sexes, married wherever they might choose in some sort of legally binding ceremony. If children come along, I believe the best way to raise a child is in a two-parent heterosexual home. I think, I believe at least, that Nature is compelling on this matter. I do not have a stack of books, reports and statistics on biology, but it seems to me that we've evolved (yes, I believe in Evolution!) into what we've called, since 1947, the nuclear family unit. Actually, we may have been nuclear long before we had the bomb.
I do not think there should be a gay marriage option: a pair of husbands, or a pair of wives. I understand, from the very few articles I have come across, that approximately 90% of the population in the civilized world, at least, is pretty much heterosexual (straight), and I like the idea that this clearly natural order is respected. A homosexual world wouldn't last more than the current generation.
If the gay or lesbian couple cries: We only want what the straights have! I have to ask why marriage? If a man is born missing a limb and has a prosthesis attached, it is still artificial, and can be removed at the end of the day.
Pope Benedict XVI, the successor to the popes that parented the Inquisition and burned idolaters and unbelievers at the stake, and successor, I might add, to several popes who have apologised for disbelieving Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler and Copernicus back in the day, has recently said that homosexuality is a problem that must be dealt with, much like saving the rain forests from destruction. Benedict said that behaviour beyond traditional heterosexual relations was a destruction of God's work.
The pithy response goes: You don't play the game … Don't make the rules!
The Mormons jumped on the bandwagon - perhaps they provided the bandwagon - regarding Proposition 8 in the recent Californian elections. Together with the Roman Catholic Church, the Mormon leadership advised their membership to vote for Proposition 8, an amendment to the California State Constitution that would outlaw same-sex marriages.
One might recall that the foreigners who settled in America did so to escape unjust kings and religious persecution, even state religions.
The Mormons make no secret (for a church full of secrets until recently with the advent of the Internet and whistleblowers) of their belief that the Roman Catholic Church is the Great Whore of Babylon. So it is most odd to find the Mormons and the Catholics in the same bed, even if it is on such a heterosexual matter.
The Mormon Church leaders, from their pulpits (I cannot speak for the Catholics), encouraged their flock to not only vote for Proposition 8, but to contribute financially to making it happen. To help buy the Election? I believe in the separation of politics and religion, except in an essay such as this one I'm writing, as I take a chance in polite society.
The Mormon leaders, from Joseph Smith onwards, have called for Mormon political power outside of the chapel walls. The traditional Christians of the Middle Ages had their Crusades. The Taliban are those seeking religious knowledge, but even they have corrupted this to become those seeking religious and political power. Could the peculiar garments of all be cut from the same cloth?
Nearly $75 million was spent by groups in favour and in opposition to Proposition 8. How many hungry, dehydrated children could be helped with that sort of money?
I believe this whole business should have been resolved as a matter-of-conscience vote. And the result not predicated on how many souls could be bought and sold.
Proposition 8 was passed, just, and it is now against constitutional law in California for same-sex couples to be married in the way heterosexual couples might be. And, when all is said and done, this is the result I believe in, but it should never have been, I believe, a matter for the churches. How many voters for and against actually attend church, actually pay their tithes and offerings?
The pronouncements by the Mormons and the Catholic hierarchy could only serve to divide people. The Pope's suggestion that homosexuality must be tackled, corrected, is very nearly an incitement to violence, isn't it? Pitch a brick at a fag. The Pope, speaking for God, said it was okay! The Mormons used to attach electrodes to the genitals of gay members of their church willing (or unwilling, perhaps fathers and mothers forced it on their sons) to be cured, and then showed them homoerotic pictures. Zap! Has Elder Boyd K. Packer apologised for that yet?
Gay rights. If homosexual and lesbian couples cannot have a marriage ceremony, with all that that entails, then they should be able to make some sort of very serious and legally binding commitment. A coupling, if you will. Gay rights: Freedom from oppression simple because of a preference they, apparently, are born with. Gay rights: The ability to be so much a part of society that eyebrows (much less swords) are not raised.
And, before I go, a request to some of my gay friends: Rethink these Gay Pride parades. They seem to be awfully vulgar by intent. It cannot do the cause any good. You hardly look like people who could raise a child who - nine times out of ten - has been born to turn out straight.
Ralph Waldo Emerson suggested: A man is a god in ruins. I think we can return to a more divine state if we just think things through before they get out of control, and note that over the centuries so many unalterable pronouncements have had to be retracted.
One word: LOVE