I’m wishing you a blessed Bodhi Day, a happy Chanukah, a very merry Christmas, a papercut-less Boxing Day and a jubilant Kwanzaa. To the many other culture specific holiday celebrants that I have inadvertently left out, I give you my best well wishes for your day(s) of celebration.
This year seems to be a bit lackluster in the celebration department and I wanted to encourage people to break out and have a little fun. Put up some lights, buy a big blow-up whatever and put it in the front yard or window.
I’ve been driving around the various neighborhoods of Ocean Park, NOMA, Pico and Downtown a great deal this year and I find that there are definitely not as many lights and homes decorated as in years past and that is depressing to me.
In the spirit of the season I’d like to reach out to the atheists, agnostics and strict constitutionalists who support the separation of church and state. I respect your positions and your efforts to keep the secular safe for all who believe differently. As a fan of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I believe that free thought is important and this holiday season is a great time to remind ourselves of the meta-message of most of the world’s religions — that we are all loved.
Some are loved by a singular God who rains down blessings on his followers in direct proportion to the amount of money they give his representatives on Earth. Others are loved by a polytheistic Godhead that rains down blessings on his followers in direct proportion to the amount of money they give his representatives on Earth. Still others believe that living a good and generous life and being kind to others every day of the year is what provides them with blessings, from their physical needs like food and shelter, to emotional and spiritual sustenance.
Each belief system provides some measure of comfort for its followers. Even those who declare there is no higher power or Godhead provide a sense of intellectual confidence and security in the strength and capabilities of the rational mind of homo sapiens.
In the end, I’m not sure any of the particulars matter, other than how many toes of other people on the planet we step on. Oftentimes it seems to me that each belief system is striving so hard to prove how right they are, and how wrong the others are, that they miss the point that we are all here for a very short time on this planet and we should get along and make the most of it.
Westside Toastmasters is my regular Wednesday night event, and in this club we have people from all over the world, and of different religious beliefs. When we get together it is a veritable United Nations and I am always impressed with how much each person brings to the communal table. Our multiple experiences and backgrounds have proved to be a vital resource for my personal growth.
I mention this because it demonstrates to me the principle that if we humans have a superior common interest, we can lay aside our personal opinions long enough to learn from each other. Much like the parable about the difference between heaven and hell, where the residents in each have their arms strapped to long boards and are seated at a buffet table covered in delights. Those in hell are trying to feed themselves, but since their arms wont bend they can’t get the food to their mouth, so they are hungry and angry and there is a great disappointment in that existence. Contrast that with those in heaven where the residents are feeding each other with their outstretched arms, and everyone is fed and nurtured.
I find that in my Toastmasters group, and in life, the more I try to withhold judgment and try to help others, the more I gain and learn.
I’m not a religious person, but I do believe that having a spiritual life is important for it opens up my heart and mind to other points of view and is a comfort on stressful days.
With that in mind I will be leaving for vacation until the new year to help me renew and rejuvenate my spiritual life, so this is my last column until 2013. May you have a blessed and wonderful holiday season — no matter who or what you believe in.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles divorce and child custody lawyer specializing in father’s and men’s rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra.