Here’s a holiday wish I picked up this year, “Have a happy or merry RamaKwanakuhbodimastice.” It incorporates Ramadan, Kwanzaa, Chanukah, Bodhi Day, Christmas and the Winter Solstice. If I missed anyone please let me know and I’ll add them in.
One of the great benefits of living in Los Angeles, and Santa Monica in particular, is the immense variety of lifestyles, beliefs and cultures that we get to meet and come in contact with. While Christmas is certainly a major event around these parts, Chanukah is also a big one, just note the number of menorahs that were around town and maintained.
We’re lucky to have the ability to live in a society that has such diversity, and embraces it so thoroughly. When I look at the world, and how much anger, hatred, vitriol and sadness, racial and religious differences have brought, it makes me glad that I live in a society that allows my Persian Jewish neighbors to celebrate their religious holidays as freely and openly as my black Christian ones.
This time of year there is the usual media blitz of feel good stories; the puppy that saved the family, the image of Jesus in a spoon that proves he lives, and the anonymous donor who dropped a huge amount of money in a Salvation Army red kettle. As much as they make us feel hope in humanity, we need to remind ourselves that the real hope for humanity is in our day to day living and how we treat each other on an ongoing basis.
One day, a week, even a month, of being nice to others is a start, but the real test of anything is its durability, and sustainability. I can eat healthy for one meal, but if I live on junk food, I’m not going to be healthy. It is the long term that matters, and that is where we as a society have made great strides, even though we have a long way to go.
If America is a mosaic of peoples and religions, looking at Santa Monica is like focusing on a small part of the mosaic and seeing all the colors and pieces of the image. We have tremendous variety and more importantly, we have exceptional tolerance for each other. And that tolerance, to my mind, is the true message of RamaKwanakuhbodimastice.
Intolerance is what leads to hatred. To use an example from my own life, when the cabal led by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints decided to be intolerant of gays’ right to marry, I retaliated in hurt and anger. The hurt and anger was directed not against the members of the church, for in my own life I have Mormons who I love dearly, but against the actions of the church as a political body. I saw, and still see, the political actions of all churches as against their mission.
Right after the discriminatory Proposition 8 was passed, I engaged in an e-mail correspondence that became incendiary. My hurt and frustration enraged me to the point of suggesting that the churches should be burned to the ground for their intolerance and lack of Christian charity. It was only partly metaphorical, but it was definitely a highly intolerant stance on my part. I justified it to myself by relying on the story of Jesus in the temple with the money changers. The lesson in that parable is that those who defile the house and love of God, have no right to claim moral authority.
The practice of hate and intolerance, whether cloaked by the Ten Commandments, the “loving word of Jesus,” or the morality of the Koran, is not conducive to a peaceful society. All the great spiritual leaders focused their efforts on the message of living peacefully, not on building temples. Jesus, Buddha, Moses, and Mohammed all lived simply, that others may simply live.
This week, as the menorahs get packed away, and the Christmas trees get surrounded with presents, as the preparations are made for Kwanzaa, let’s remember that love and tolerance is the real message of all truly spiritual people, not the slavish devotion to “laws” put down by some long forgotten scribe. Let’s remember that goodwill to all is a message that can be carried forward throughout the year, and practiced in all our affairs, no matter what your spiritual beliefs.
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.