I’ve spent the last week clambering up and down a ladder. Some of my walls are now Wickerware, some Mystical Sea, or that’s what the manufacturer calls the colours chosen. Whatever the hue, painting, rather like ironing I find, allows the mind to float free. Thoughts rolling out as the walls lose neutrality.
And one of those thoughts centred around a recent comment made by a new friend who told me, she was not religious but was deeply spiritual. I nodded at the time, able in a facile moment to distinguish the two. But as I painted, her words swirled with the changing walls, and this morning after washing rollers and brushes, I scurried to my desk.
Spiritual, if we are to believe the 3rd edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary, is 1, of, relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things. Or 2, of, or relating to religion or religious belief. Religious, if we are to believe the same dictionary, is relating to or believing in a religion.
With the definitions came the realization I am technically lacking in both. I do believe, and I’m pretty sure many of us do, that material things make the world an easier and pleasanter place. I am not prepared to forego comfort for any length of time in order to achieve a higher plane. I do not believe irrevocably in any one religion but am more than happy for others to do so. I do believe I am a moral person, though have made far too many errors to pretend to be a moralist.
Ethics and values, learnt by osmosis from my parents and with some of my own embellishments, are what guide me. It is a pragmatic approach to life that has, I think, in many ways allowed me to assimilate into different cultures around the world. I come from no great religious fervour, and therefore present no great threat. I do however firmly believe most of us are able to inherently distinguish wrong from right. Whatever our belief system is based on. I am essentially a blank page, interested in many thoughts and ideas, religious or otherwise, but an adherent to none.
Which is why I find it so difficult to understand martyrdom – whether the mindset of Kamikaze pilots in the second world war or fundamentalists of all kinds spreading their brand of poison around the world now. What allows a person to become so gullible they believe an act of evil now will be repaid later, in another unknown world? What a leap of blind, and very dangerous, faith.
Despite the horrors unfolding globally, we must control our desire for retribution. Surely following the tenet of an eye for an eye, and so on, is not the answer. Taking one eye does not give another back. It is fruitless and plays into the hands of those initiating some of these dreadful events. Neutralising the war of words and actions spouting from zealots of whatever persuasion drives such people to sometimes greater atrocities, which whilst terrible in the short term hopefully leads to a longer-term solution, or even the better, dissolution of their particular dogma.
Sometimes compromise is the only route forward. That is not capitulation. It takes a strong person to negotiate compromise, to bring two sides to something approaching a reasonable and fair understanding, or better yet, agreement.
So as I contemplate my yellow walls, I realize I am essentially a pragmatist, influenced more by place than people. Life really is a bugger’s muddle. We don’t seem to learn from history. Religion will continue to influence many lives, some for the good, some not; politicians everywhere will continue to insist they know what is best for us all despite what voters might actually say; and all most of us can do is make the best life for our families, and those around us.
And with that, I must now paint the woodwork – who knows what thoughts that might bring!