When I was in high school I decided, for no good reason, that I wanted to cross-reference the sacred texts of multiple religions. I already had a good working knowledge of the Bible- New Testament in particular- and the Tao te Ching, which my father was forever quoting at me. I got out some books on the Koran and the teachings of Confucius, the Bhagavad Gita and the Book of Mormon.
Please remember that I was fourteen, maybe fifteen; I am 32 now. I came away with only a vague understanding and time has dulled my memory. But I would venture to say that in all religions and philosophies there runs a common thread: that to live a human life to its fullest potential, one needs to live with responsibility, respect, and reverence.
Responsibility: the act of being responsible; that is, involving personal accountability or ability to act without guidance or superior authority; able to make moral or rational decisions on one’s own and therefore answerable for one’s behavior.
Responsibility means to accept the consequences of your actions, and to be fully aware of what those consequences might be.
It is to live with the knowledge that we will be held accountable.
We are all connected- to each other, to future generations, and to the environment that shelters us all. Everything we do, every action we take, affects everything else, and we are responsible for deliberately choosing actions that bring about the least harm.
And we are accountable as individuals. It is not enough to blindly abide by the rules of the religion we embrace or to be governed by the laws of the land. It is not enough to do as we are told. We are personally accountable.
We are to be guided by our own moral compass. We need to actively consider what is right and make decisions that are in alignment with our decided-upon values.
Respect: to feel or show deferential regard for, esteem. To avoid violation of or interference with. To relate or refer to; concern.
What does it mean to be respectful? I believe it is to acknowledge that the divine spark rests in each of us.
We are to esteem every living being as equal to ourselves; to see that every living thing has an equal function, a destiny that is great and of sacred importance.
To live a respectful life is to strive never to act in a way that benefits ourselves at the expense of others, but to recognize that in lifting up others we all benefit.
Reverence. A feeling of profound awe and respect and often love; veneration.
We live not for our own selfish agendas, but for a greater good. There is something which is greater than ourselves, and it is vital that we periodically take time from our lives specifically for the purpose of experiencing and honoring it.
To transcend for a time the mundane, the day to day, and to look at your life with a broad scope. A time for reflection and wonder. To open our eyes to the complexity and beauty of the world and consider your place in it.
Why are we here? What is our purpose?
I think that, whatever your set of beliefs may be, they include this: whatever this energy is, this sense of “greater than ourselves”, it is essentially good, by which I mean the essence of goodness; and capable of joy.
Therefore my theory is that our purpose here on this earth is to do what we can to share in and expand this basic goodness and joy.
Do all the good you can, in every way that you can. Act every day in such a way that the world is a better place for having you in it.
Want to save the earth? Teach your children the three R’s: responsibility for one’s actions, respect for every living creature, and reverence for that which is mysterious and greater than ourselves. Cultivate character and conviction. Spend all the unstructured time you can in the cathedral of nature, so that you may cultivate a sense of wonder.
The world is a difficult place, and the greatest gift we can give our children is the means to live a life of responsibility, respect, and reverence; a moral compass that makes life’s journey less treacherous to navigate.
And live this way yourself. Endeavor to teach by the strength of your example.
This post is my belated submission to the December APLS carnival, hosted by Robbie at Going Green Mama. I was supposed to turn this in yesterday, but I was distracted by the discovery of a flying squirrel in my bedroom.
Definitions in this post found in my print copy of The American Heritage Dictionary.