- David Silvester blaming floods on gay marriage. Dubya saying god told him to invade Iraq. Female Genital Mutilation. Honour killings. More settlement-building on the West Bank. And on, and on. They’re all so sure that they’re right. All of them. How can that be possible?
I know Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans, Jews, CofEs, Shamanic practitioners, Wiccans, atheists and agnostics. Everyone believes something; often they believe the same thing in a different way. I was born and brought up a non-Orthodox Jew – I now have a spiritual practice which is not Judaism, but I would never deny my heritage. I don’t have an issue with religion as such; everyone’s entitled to believe what they want, and who are people like Richard Dawkins to say that people of faith are deluded and misguided?
So, what’s this about then? Silvester and Dubya are easy targets, anyone of a liberal bent will re-post UKIP weather maps and retweet the UKIP shipping forecast. (Minor digression: I am amazed at the speed with which those things appeared – how did they think of them so quickly? Brilliant.)
I can’t possibly be implying that the new-agey, liberal, spiritual, holistic, just-want-to-save-the-planet people are guilty of the arrogance of certainty, surely? That would go against everything I believe, wouldn’t it? How about this, then: “Cancer is a result of negative thoughts.” Or: “Is depression a call to spiritual awakening?” Or: “the tsunami was because of the negative vibrations of the people living there.” Or: “You can cure any illness with the power of your belief.” I’ve heard all of these, at different times. I’ve heard people who hold themselves up as spiritually enlightened say things that put David Silvester in the shade. I’ve heard judgements and statements so utterly lacking in compassion that I am left speechless with disbelief.
If someone had said to me last year, “have you considered that your early stage/or not breast cancer might be due to negative thinking, or that you have called it in in some way,” I would probably have decked them. In what way do they think this might actually help? “Oh wow, that’s amazing! Thanks so much, now I know that it’s entirely my fault, I will embrace what you say and you can do some healing on me.” Fuck. Off.
I did ask myself “What am I learning from this?” and that’s entirely different. No judgement, no imposed crap from anyone else. Have you ever had depression, or felt suicidal, you smug, moral-high-ground-loving people who presume to understand what depression is? The best story of this week came from the #findmike campaign – Jonny Benjamin, a brave, wonderful mental health campaigner was going to end his life by jumping off Waterloo Bridge. He was talked down by a total stranger, who just listened. That was all he did. Jonny talked, this man listened. And Jonny came off the bridge.
Sometimes, that’s all you can do. And all you should do. There are rarely instant fixes, perfect solutions. There is compassion, and an attempt to understand someone else’s pain. It’s not about dropping a ladder down for people to climb out, sometimes it’s about going down the ladder to be with them.
We’re born, we live, we die. Everything else is up for debate.