Song of the Day
Today’s song of the day is an old classic, from The King, Elvis Presley. I love Elvis, and Don’t Be Cruel is one of my favorites, one of many from the legend. I once visited Memphis and took a tour of his estate, known as Graceland, and toured his private plane. It was much smaller and more modest than I expected. Yesterday’s rich and famous didn’t live in such extreme extravagance like today’s billionaires. Luxury has become a symbol of more than wealth, or comfort, but to define oneself as the “King of the jungle”. Everything today has become all about self. Bigger, more, better.
Don’t Step On My Blue Suede Shoes
I got a new phone (nothing fancy), and new blue suede tennis shoes on Wednesday, as well as a new warmer pull-over. I nearly feel like the Jefferson’s…”I’m movin’ on up…” (no, you Millennial’s won’t understand that reference). I forgot what it feels like to walk with normal comfortable shoes, and to not have ice cold toes at night. I must’ve put about 500-1000 miles of walking on my old dense foam sandals I purchased during the summer. It’s shocking they didn’t fall apart.
I almost thought about making Elvis’ Blue Suede Shoes the song of the day. But, today I wanted to write about something important.
I noticed an old motel billboard sign today that read, “Elvis Stayed Here!” It brought a laugh and a smile. Then I imagined how it must’ve looked decades earlier, during its heyday. It must’ve been much nicer than the shit-hole that it is today, merely an eyesore on the side of the road. There are a lot of old classic hotel resorts in Las Vegas that used to be the gold standard of luxury. They were beautiful back in the day. What everybody desired. The Moulin Rouge was an old classic; one of the hot spots back in the 50’s when it opened. Today, it’s just an old building that sits in ruins and doesn’t look like it could’ve ever been anything spectacular, especially in comparison to today’s stunning, multi-billion dollar casino resort hotels, like the Cosmopolitan in the City Center, or the Wynn Hotel. Extravagance has a whole new meaning in this age of excess and self.
Yesterday’s glory fades quickly. We never realize it until it’s gone. Our beauty. Our physical prowess. Our money. Everything we build or amass.
Time has a way of sneaking up on you. It is as cruel as anything in our universe. And the most destructive and unforgiving element in this universe.
The value of our lives is not all the things that we accomplish in between our two pivotal milestones that defines our existence; it is not the cumulative sum of the wealth we have amassed.
The value of our lives, between birth and death, is how we impacted all the things that will NOT fade with time. Everything that fades with time is a fleeting treasure, a moment that will be lost one day and forgotten. So, ask yourself, what will outlast me? Something that will not fade in the radioactive exposure of time.
Your legacy WILL fade with time. It will be utterly forgotten. The only question is how long.
Your inventions will become obsolete and forgotten too.
So, what are the things that never fade with time?
These are the things that truly define us, the intangible attributes of our spirituality. Things like compassion, empathy, love, selflessness.
We can spend a lifetime accumulating all the things that will surely turn to dust. Or we can spend a lifetime pursuing the riches that never fade.
In this world, these things are not valued at all. I’ve seen it so readily. People view those with these characteristics as WEAK. Losers. But it takes far more courage and confidence to be selfless and compassionate than to be selfish and self-minded – the ladder is easy.
It is easy to take things by force. It is much more difficult to give of our free will. Time will tell which of us is right in the end, but I don’t lack conviction on this, despite not being religious.
Religion Without Compassion
I’ve discovered a lot about people in these past few months. Things you can’t imagine. I’ve learned a lot about myself.
There are a lot of religions in this world. There certainly is no shortage of religious or philosophical ideas. Everybody thinks they have the right path to god. I have no idea which religion is right. But I do have a really good idea of what behavior and what kind of spirit will provide us with a path to god.
People who say that if you don’t believe in Jesus or Mohamed, then you will go to hell, don’t really understand their own religion, in my view. God isn’t about labels or religions. He’s about the heart and spirit. And if you’re alone at the North Pole, never having heard of Christianity or Islam, you can still find a way to God.
Jesus preached about 3 basic things. Forgiveness. Repentance. And Love. Love encompasses things like compassion, empathy, and obviously selflessness.
It is not about the Bible, or LITERALLY, “asking Jesus into our hearts”. It is about how his words and his ideas, his philosophy, lives in us as the living truth. Focus on changing hearts, not minds. Christianity teaches us to change peoples minds by convincing them that Jesus is the only way. And the same with Islam.
STOP TAKING RELIGIOUS WORDS and MEANINGS SO LITERALLY, EVERYBODY! If you ever actually read the Bible or any ancient religious literature, the text is intentionally symbolic and ambiguous for a reason! That’s why we end of up with silly things like “Give 3 Hail Mary’s” and a simple forgiveness, and we’re magically cleansed of our sins – that’s complete bullshit. It leads to rituals and stiff rules. If you do 3 Hail Mary’s and ask for forgiveness – from ANYBODY – and yet, then go do the same thing again and again without remorse or change, nothing and nobody can ever forgive you. Nor should they. It doesn’t matter how many Hail Mary’s or how many prayers you incite.
What we really need is to get people to change their hearts. And it doesn’t matter how or through which religion, or none at all. The basic message of forgiveness, repentance, and love are the important things for us to remember and live by:
True Forgiveness is hard. When someone wrongs us, forgiveness is the last thing on our minds. And “loving our enemies” as Jesus said? Forget about that, it’s impossible for us, isn’t it? It’s difficult because it’s the right thing to do.
Being truly Repentant means changing ourselves in ways that are transformative, and permanent.
And Love, this is so encompassing. It means being less selfish with ourselves and our lives. It means truly caring about everyone, regardless of their position in life or society. Having PITY on those who are needy or lost, broken, or damaged isn’t the same as having compassion.
We give our money to charity when we feel pity.
We dedicate our lives to something worthy when we truly feel compassion.
The chasm is wide and deep.
One of the things I’ve been disappointed by is a lack of actionable evidence of compassion by religions. There are a lot of people in this world that need help. Las Vegas has tons of society’s rejects. And yet, the only religion that I have seen actually helping people in real, substantial and permanent ways, those showing true compassion and love, is the Christian faith. I haven’t seen ANY other religion represent themselves. Maybe they exist and people just don’t know about it??
The government support systems for the needy and lost is pathetic. Our government is an embarrassment to everything Jesus or even Mohamed preached.
My point of all of this, since, as you know, I am not biased toward merely one religion or another, is that ANY RELIGION WITHOUT COMPASSION IS A FALSE RELIGION in my opinion.
For example, if Buddhism is simply focused on improving ourselves, and never about showing true compassion or love to others, then what is the point? (And I’m not saying it is, because I don’t know the faith that well.) If so, it is merely a selfish philosophy, and no better than pursuing unlimited wealth at any cost for yourself alone. If ANY other religion does the same, then I would say the same thing.
Religion isn’t about purely making ourselves better internally. It’s about making ourselves better internally, BY DEMONSTRATING TO THE WORLD THAT WE ARE DIFFERENT, MORE COMPASSIONATE, MORE LOVING. Otherwise, it’s just words. And we all know how much words mean. Actions are infinitely more valuable than words.
Jesus once said that “the meek shall inherit the earth.”
I’ve been observing a lot of different kinds of people lately: Rich, poor, beautiful, ugly, powerful and powerless, successful, homeless and the criminals. I’ve noticed some really bad homeless people who would steal and take anything from anyone. I don’t think these meek people will inherit anything. I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t mean these guys. I’ve noticed some utterly selfish rich people who don’t give a shit about anything but themselves, or perhaps their own family (basically a genetic extension of themselves). I doubt Jesus was referring to these folks either.
There are a lot of poor or homeless people who aren’t good people. And there are a lot of rich and successful people who aren’t good people. I’ll let God sort all that out. But simply being poor or society’s outcast doesn’t mean you’re going to inherit anything. And being rich or successful in the eyes of humanity doesn’t mean shit to God either.
That’s why I think Jesus chose the word “meek”. It doesn’t necessarily mean poor, or without. The official English dictionary definitions are pathetic. The original Hebrew word means something closer to this: It means humble. Not self-absorbed. Not arrogant. Willing to learn or be taught. Righteous, meaning pursing betterment of self, moral.
Now, I still don’t know which religion or ANY is the right one. But ask yourself this one question:
If God’s existence is absolute and without a doubt, based on science and mathematics, and if you were God, living in some eternal paradise, and you could decide which souls or beings could live with you, in your perfect community – eternal life – would you want to invite a bunch of people who were selfish but successful on earth, or those who were selfless and full of love and compassion for others, even if they weren’t successful by society’s definition on earth?
Does God truly care if we we’re successful on earth? according to society’s definition of success? Why would he? Why would he want to be surrounded by a bunch of selfish people for eternity? Does he care if he is surrounded by smart successful people in “heaven”? He’s smarter than everyone else, what does he care?
Anyway, my personal belief is that I don’t care about heaven or hell, eternal life or whatever. There is almost certainly something after this life. Personally, I wish to only have eternal peace.
Most times, I wish God wasn’t real, with every fiber within me. But I can’t believe the impossible. What’s the point of lying to ourselves? Everybody else does enough already.