Tuesday, February 8, 2011


for Oscar, who asked

What is my religion?

What is a religion?

A religion is—etymologically—that which ties one fast; or—metaphorically—it is one’s binding principles, the premises of value one holds most dear, most exalted, most noble, most sacred.

By that reckoning, my religion is kindness, rooted in the idea of kinship.  To the extent that all living creatures are kin, they deserve to be treated kindly, as we would wish them to treat us in kind.

Hence the Golden Rule, declared sacred by religious teachings around the world, enunciates the prime principle of reciprocal respect and care, of mutual loving-kindness.

That is my religious ideal, when I remember it.  Trouble always follows my forgetting or ignoring it.  When sometimes I force my way on others, disrespecting their needs or their good, preferring what suits me over what serves them, then I fail to practice what I’m preaching here.

To respect and tend to others’ vital needs as well as to my own, to care for others’ well-being as I do for my own—that would be my binding ideal, that which I commit and continually recommit myself to act upon, always imperfectly.