The Perfect Path?
I am, as so many other people have proclaimed themselves, only human. I see so many of my own words and deeds that I know are wrong in my heart but I so seldom understand that they are not creating the world I want when I say them or act them out but only realize them late at night, when my mind wanders back through my day, when I can no longer alter them. I do not know which is the perfect path to follow in order to behave in a consistent fashion each day so that I can reflect back on my day and my life and believe that I have done the right thing as often as possible. There are so many paths that man has invented but I do not believe that any god is responsible for the sickness we call “religion“. So which of all those paths leads to the perfect path to follow?
I have lied and stolen and harmed other human beings and done innumerable damage to others in my life. I look back at so much of my life with shame, particularly the time in Vietnam when I found how low a human can go when encouraged by his own government and those around him. I still fail no matter how hard I try to avoid doing so. I am imperfect in every sense of that word. I look at myself and who I am and who I know I should be and I am so fatigued at the loss of time I’ve wasted. Is recognizing my mistakes a first step or is it just spinning my wheels if I still find myself repeating the same mistakes again and again?
I know, generally, what the right path to follow is meant to be and yet I fall off even that wide path constantly. I wish I were perfect, or at least far less imperfect, I wish I could follow the lessons of the great teachers like Jesus (mythical figure or not) and Buddha and the early Muhammad. I read their lessons and try so hard to understand them and include them in my daily life but I still fall off the path constantly and, when I recognize that I have again fallen, then my heart becomes heavy with grief at my inability to follow such simple teachings.
I look at the simple life of Jesus. I see very few so-called Christians that follow the real teachings of Christ. I see the happiness of Buddha but see so few Buddhists that reflect the peaceful nature he taught. I read what Muhammad first taught before Muslims and Christians went to constant war over who had the best invisible friend (and are still murdering one another centuries later and neither god seems to be winning.) and I see how even those teachings of peace and brotherhood became warped into violence and hate.
I see that it is possible to be a decent, loving person. Yet I know I am not that person. If I could ever grow to contain 1% of the wisdom that even Gandhi, a mere mortal among common men, offered to the world I would consider my life fairly well spent. If I cannot find a person in today’s miserable world to show me how to be more than “only human” and to live a life that reflects that, where do I turn?
As I go through my life I find a very few people that seem to be happy and seem to seek to do the right thing in all of their daily acts. Interestingly, nearly all of them are given labels that separate them and make them different from “us”. Either they are “liberals” or “crazy” or “anti-this or that”or any number of other base name calling that is meant to indicate that they are different and should be ignored or. worse, harmed for who they are.
My son is autistic, Asperser’s Syndrome, as well as severely ADHD and he has psychotic hallucinations. The latter two issues we have controlled very well with very light dosages of medications. The Asperser’s is a different story as there is no “cure” for autism.
The most significant differences between him and what we like to think of as “normal” people is that he doesn’t understand the basic social cues that most of us take for granted. He has had to learn what an angry or sad or happy expression looks or sounds like because the clues that we use make no sense to him. He has had to be taught how to recognize all of that and, well, he’s done a wonderful job of learning. He has had to take an enormous amount of hardship from “normal” people that were, in reality, simple-minded, mean, filthy bullies that preyed on those they considered weak.
What’s interesting, though, is that once he understood what sadness or fear looked like he immediately gained a sympathy for those exact people. He cared about those people and sought them out and then did what his small talents allowed him to do to make them happy again or, at the very least, to lift just a tiny piece of the weight from their shoulders. This isn’t something I or anyone really taught him, it was just the most natural way that he saw to behave. His heart hurt when he saw people in despair or sadness and his first instinct was to help, not to turn away and ignore them but to do some small kindness that would lift the darkness for even a moment. This was his lesson to me.
Yes, I have tried to teach him that everyone is equal, that everyone should be treated fairly, that decency is always the best form of living but he has taken those simple lessons and has become someone I am stunningly proud of. He is, in his heart and actions a good and decent person and one that Jesus or Buddha would take into their arms instantly as their brother. He found his own perfect path in his own way.
So, why am I still battling to gain even a tiny bit of that decency in my life?
I suppose the best I can do is to distill those teachings down into a form that my mind can comprehend and hope against hope that this act illuminates a path for me that I can follow and not fall from so very often. I suppose the best I can do is acknowledge that I am, and will remain, “only human” and that my steps towards living what I believe in my heart to be the perfect path will be small. So, where do I begin?
So Many Gods and So Many Perfect Paths Disappeared
What must I consider my first lesson to learn? Well, whether we are all of the same “god” or “creator” or just from the first single celled creature billions of years ago that have probably been duplicated in every environment capable of supporting any sort of “life” in this vast universe then we are all related. Perhaps distantly related but related. If we are related then, in every sense of the word, we are one family.
Nearly every group that begins a “religion” terms their view of the creator that they have invented either a female or male figure, a “Mother” or “Father”. Very seldom does a religion create an asexual god, they nearly always create a god that reflects them in color and skin and shape and other very human attributes and failings (for instance, Jesus was not white with long, wavy hair in a place of dark skinned, fairly curly haired people like the bible describes but that is what Christians demand to be his image). This is an effort to show that they are the children of whatever parental figure they’ve chosen. By following that particular version of an invisible friend in the sky that is now responsible for everything that surrounds them they feel that worshiping that being is the perfect path to whatever rewards they have also invented.
But each then creates rewards that only those who believe as they do can receive. Seriously, if there is a god, he or she or it must be very, very busy creating heavens and hells for every religion that has ever existed and there have been thousands of “perfect paths” in a thousand cultures and tribes that eventually lost their faithful and the flock drifted away towards the next invisible friend and the next heaven and hell and perfect path and rewards and punishments. Where did all those billions go when they died and where did they go when their friends and relatives ceased worshiping those old gods and invented new ones? Were they all just left to drift through eternity? What of all the hells? When people stop believing in a god does that mean that that all the people that died believing in that god disappear into eternity? Just POOF and they’re gone because no one believes, has “faith”, in the old perfect path anymore?
And when a person stops believing in one “faith” that describes its own heaven and hell and goes to another “faith” with its own heaven and hell, is that person abandoning their dead friends and relatives to some unknown fate for all eternity? Is that a good and loving thing to do to them? What would their old god or new god think of such an act of disregard?
And what about this idea of each of us having a soul? Where do we get that from? Is it a part of the sperm or the egg? Is it a part of the neurons that eventually start firing away in that tiny brain as it develops? And what happens to it when we die? We’re told it either goes to heaven or to hell but once the god that sends the soul to those places loses all power because that god is left behind and forgotten, what happens to all those souls? If the soul is, as I have heard and come to believe, simply another human construct and all we have are neurons firing away while our bodies exist and that when the neurons cease electrical activity then the soul is no longer as well, what happens to us?
And what of the billions who have lived and died without even a notion of a “soul”? What happened to them? Where did they go before heavens and hells were invented by ancient minds in order to frighten the children into behaving?
Are Souls Only For Humans?
Is it true that only humans have souls as some religions teach? The Native Americans and many other religions believe that every living thing contains a part of the Great Spirit or of a god or goddess. Is that not a soul? Why do so many “religions” demand a belief that only humans contain these invisible and undetectable “souls”? Is it because only humans have created a language that can be used to invent ideas from nothing and then blindly follow them? Is language our soul?
Scientists are learning that whales and dolphins and bees and ants and many other creatures have their own forms of communication that we are, as yet, too uneducated in the ways of the world to understand. Humans have a very bad habit of placing themselves above the rest of creation not because we are better in the eyes of any god but simply because we can say we are. How do we know that dolphins and whales aren’t speaking and following their own perfect paths each day? How do we know if ants, with their chemical and tactile conversations, aren’t passing along a level of wisdom that we human are simply too stupid to understand yet? How do we know, with certainty, that the dance that the bees do is not a complete conversation about things we will never be wise enough to understand? How do we know if the majority of the animal kingdom have not found the perfect path and follows it without the distraction of spoken and written language and the trappings of what we think passes for civilization and religions?
Consider the plants and animals and bacteria. Certain plants and animals and bacteria thrive where there is sufficient water and nutrients for their needs and avoid those places where there is not. Those places they leave to the other plants and animals and bacteria that have adapted to thrive in those conditions. There is no place on this planet that some form of life has not found a way to thrive in. Has each found their perfect path within their small niche in life? Nature is not perfect, I know and understand that. But nature seldom creates creatures that are so dependent on artificial means of sustaining life as it has when it created humans. We move from environment to environment destroying what was there so that we could replace it with what we felt we wanted in order to base our homes and cities and nations as we went. If god has created everything we see and sense, does it see our destructiveness as even close to a perfect path?
Consider the tick, for a wonderful example of a completely different perfect path. They exist in a world which consists of mammals, beings so large that their tiny brains probably cannot fathom their actual existence. Instead, a mammal is simply a milky smell to which it is attracted, hair onto which it can hold while it attaches itself to the skin and blood that nourishes it and allows it to live and grow and, with any luck, reproduce. Is this the tick’s perfect path? It is all it knows.
Do we truly know more than that in our tiny part of the universe? Is the planet earth our “mammal” that we have attached ourselves to in order to suck out our sustenance and hope only to reproduce? We certainly cannot survive away from this planet without stunningly sophisticated equipment and, if any of that fails, we are doomed. If we remove the tick from an area where mammals congregate it, too, is doomed. How are we different?
Thousands of feet below the oceans surface are areas where the magma that makes up this planet’s interior is trying to escape due to pressure from all sides and through cracks where the crust is thin. From these cracks spew chemicals and heat into a pressure that would instantly kill almost all surface dwelling creatures yet life has still found a way to survive and thrive in this hostile place. Have they found their perfect path that cannot be followed by any other living beings? Do they, in their dark world, have any notion of any other perfect path that they might follow if they simply let go of the smokey chimneys they call home? Do they ever dream of distant places or is that small vent their entire universe? How can we say for certain that there are not Einsteins and Newtons and Buddhas among them that simply speak in ways we are too dumb to understand? Does their perfect paths have anything that we can learn from or do we simply see them as curiosities and samples to be collected and dissected and photographed and then discarded?
Human Teachers of the Perfect Path Forgotten
If we cannot understand the teachings of creatures whose languages we are ignorant of, how many human teachers have existed whose voices were never heard? How many Einsteins and Newtons have toiled in the field, the “property” of another human being? How many young Buddhas have wasted away in windowless buildings manufacturing meaningless crap for people preoccupied with insane and useless distractions? How many Muhammads have died on the field of battle when they might have spoken in their lives those few words of wisdom that could have set our species free from the yoke of hatred and greed and violence? How many Jonas Salks have died in senseless wars that benefited only the wealthy and powerful but who might have, in their lives, cured so many diseases?
How much wisdom have we allowed to be wasted while we engage in petty squabbles over mere money or ideology or religions that can never be proven? Why exactly don’t we even begin to recognize that waste and begin the process of ending this evil? Why do we allow so many who might lead us down that perfect path to be sacrificed to the god of the Almighty Dollar and power hungry false prophets?
Guideposts Along The Perfect Path
Okay, I can’t change how the world works. I can’t stop stupid, senseless wars that the wealthy begin and then send the children of the middle class and poor off to fight and die in, all the name of profit for the few. I can’t convince people to stop buying useless crap manufactured by children in windowless factories. I am really pretty powerless on all levels except for my own behavior. As much as I crave a world that makes sense and that benefits all equally I must acknowledge that there will never be such a world simply because people are, let’s face it, too stupid to care enough to want to change things. In fact, that stupidity shows in the absolute fear of real change that is the basis for most politics in my country. Going into a brighter, happier future sounds good but that future demands changes in our attitudes and efforts that are frightening to some, so frightening that they label those who advocate change and call them names and belittle them. The people are so used to the ignorance and racism and hate and anti-god religions that they grew up with that they will grasp onto that yesterday with all their might and hate and murder anyone that offers a perfect path into the future.
Don’t believe me? Then one only has to look at the fates of those that tried to lay down easy to follow guideposts for everyone to follow that would result in a happier, more just world. Some major examples of that were Jesus (mythical or not), murdered for calling people out of the temples and into the fields where god could see and hear them and he preached a lesson of love and harmony and against greed and hate. Lincoln was murdered for freeing human beings from the tyranny of ownership by one race of another and lifelong slavery. Gandhi was killed after he peacefully freed an entire nation from the shackles of poverty and Empire and called for the nation to remain whole while so many were demanding that their personal hatreds of the “others” be recognized by more borders and more governments and more armies and more war. Kennedy was killed, among other reasons, because he did not want to begin a major war in Indochina that was 100% encouraged by the wealthy and the military and had nothing to do with Communism or “protecting America” or any of the other lies that were later told to justify the murder of tens of thousands of Americans and millions of Vietnamese and Cambodians and Laotians. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered because he was leading a movement of equality for all and standing against the right wing racists that are now running our country. Louis Farrakhan was murdered because he moved from a position of hate to a position of love and brotherhood and called for inclusion of ALL people in the society of mankind.
Every time anyone stands up for the rights of every human being and who tries to show the way down a more perfect path they are struck down by the hate filled animals that cling to a past where only they were all powerful and the “others” were property and “knew their place“. This is the world we inhabit.
I see no hope for it to become better because all I see is either hate or indifference, the two greatest enemies of progress. If I speak to nearly anyone about a better world I am ignored or called names or told that I am anti-Capitalism (which I most assuredly AM). When I try to engage people in conversations about what is happening in the world, the pain, the suffering, the starvation and death, I am nearly always told that there is nothing that can be done and they go back to watching TV or playing video games or making small amounts of money in exchange for making massive amounts of money for their wealthy owners or worshiping uneducated people running around with a ball making millions of dollars while millions starve in the cities in which they “play” in the stadiums and arenas built with the tax dollars that should have been used to improve the people’s lives..
My Personal Perfect Path
Since I cannot determine the reality or disprove the existence of a god that is so vastly beyond my comprehension, what do I have left? I have me. I can control how I think, how I feel, how I behave. Doing so may bring me grief and anger from others but if I truly seek only my own personal perfect path then what others think of me is of no value if they are not truly seeking their own. Their own path may differ from mine but if we both seek only a perfect path to kindness and love and inclusion and sharing then the path is irrelevant, only the destination is important. As has been said, there are many paths towards god (however you conceive of that word) but the reality is that traveling on any path towards that destination makes it a perfect path.
The difference between that reality and the reality we live in is that so many people demand that everyone follow their paths and not other path. They DEMAND, through coercion or brute force or violence, to drag everyone from the path they feel most comfortable on to the one they deem the perfect path. That is wrong on every single level possible. There is no single path to kindness and decency. It is only a heart that gives without expectation of thanks or rewards that is the true, perfect path. If there is no reward in some imaginary heaven then there is the reward of knowing that our lives touched and improved one other life.
But what am I to do when I see the evil and trickery and theft and murder that is happening in my name using my tax money and the children of my friends and neighbors and even family? What am I to do when I see cities take tax revenues and build huge stadiums where grown men play children’s games for millions and then the city closes schools and limits the number of teachers because “they can’t afford” these things? What am I to do when, as is the case right now, that a million dollars is being spent to widen a road to a huge, empty, weed-filled field where an industrial park “will someday be built” while the roads that lead to that half mile of four lanes are pitted with holes and lined with debris? What am I to do when I see services for the most defenseless of our children and adults, those that are disabled and desperately need help, reduced over and over because the state refuses to increase taxes even a penny or two to pay for helping them? How can I concentrate on some perfect path for myself when I see such misery and pain and evil all around me? Isn’t that the act of a selfish, self-centered person?
What Perfect Path Would A God Have Me Choose?
My heroes are all the ones that caused huge societal uprisings. Most did so without ever shedding a drop of blood but still managed to bring about massive changes. Gandhi spoke often of violence and war and all the evils that are brought from that.
When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it–always.
Gandhi found his perfect path but it led to his death from the evil people that still demanded that violence and separation and armies and wars are the answers to questions that never needed to be asked.
Jesus, too, spoke of the need for peace and harmony and nonviolence.
But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. Luke 6:27-32
Nevertheless, as much as he taught love and understanding as the perfect path, Jesus also found death at the hands of those whose love of money and power rival even the Republicans of today.
Does Seeking A Perfect Path Always Lead To Death?
So, if two great teachers who tried so mightily to preach peace and decency and sharing found only death at the hands of those who only desire wealth and war and evil, what chance do I have to find my own perfect path? If there is a god, what would it expect of me? Should I turn the other cheek even knowing that I will be struck on that cheek as well? Should I try to organize a resistance to the massive power structure that controls everything we see and hear every day? How can I ever hope to make my small voice be heard? If I stand up, will I immediately be struck down? Do I even have the courage to stand up? When money is the cause of nearly all evil in the world, how do I justify asking for people to give me money to organize a resistance to those who use money to control and enslave the masses of people?
These are not idle questions. I grow old and I see the destruction of my nation and the absolute worship of money and power and I realize that it was these exact same evils that killed Jesus and Lincoln and Kennedy and MLK and countless and nameless others who stood up for the defenseless majority against the disgusting minority. All of these words mean nothing if I still can’t find the perfect path for myself. All of this life that I was given in this instant in time will be wasted if I have not aimed myself down a perfect path that will leave behind more than just ashes and plastic bottles when I die.
If I can’t even understand if there is a god or what it would have me do, if I cannot even decide what I should do to leave a better world then what have I done with my flash in eternity? If god spoke directly to people in the bible and Quran and such, why won’t he come sit at the foot of my bed and tell me why I am here, what I must do, where I must go. I’m actually sick at heart from these questions. They are not just words to fill a blank page but truly questions that I cannot find answers to. Must I wait until I die before I’m told if I did what was considered right or not like so many religions teach? Why can’t I be told directly what perfect path I should follow in order to do my tiny part in creating a world that loves and accepts and seeks to become better day by day instead of becoming wealthier day by day and buying more crap day by day?
I want to know what I am to do. I lie awake at night asking that question of the darkness. I ask if my past is that by which I will be judged or what I do tomorrow or is the fact that I want to do the right thing but constantly fail evidence of something? I want to know if all of this is just random noise in a vast universe that could care less about me or is there even a perfect path that I am meant to follow?