Here’s a holiday wish I picked up last year, “Have a 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. For example, I was given a free Quran about a month ago while walking down the Third Street Promenade one balmy Friday night in November. Ironically, the young college students were mere steps away from Louis and his TruthDefenders.org, the group that essentially rails against Muslims, Jews, other Christians — OK, just about everyone.
The fresh faced youth were very polite and tried to engage me in conversation, which I really did not want to have, so they offered me a free Quran. I’d never read it, and I try not to be too judgmental until I’ve some actual knowledge, so I took a free copy.
I read the first 20 pages or so, and found the English translation to be choppy and hard to read, but what was most annoying to me was how similar the content was to the Bible. I flipped through some other sections, and there were the usual prohibitions against this, and the condemnations of those who don’t believe.
In the end, it’s not that different from the Bible, which makes me continue to wonder why religious people have such a hard time getting along, and those of us who practice no religion, seem to get along fine with so many other diverse groups.
We’re lucky 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. 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.
The main lesson I take from the Bible, the Quran, and the Torah 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 10 Commandments, the “loving word of Jesus,” or the morality of the Quran, 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 Divorce Attorney who specializes in Father’s Rights and Men’s Issues with the firm of Pisarra & Grist in Santa Monica. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.