If you’re Jewish (like me), then tonight is the close of Yom Kippur, or "Day of Attonement". The idea is that you set aside the day to make good on your intention to be a better person in the coming year. You fast, you pray, you plan to make amends in the future, and you regret your more pointed moments of cruelty, stupidity and envy towards those you harmed in the past year. But it’s important to note that the Torah does not tell you to lament your human failings forever–rolling in the muck is not the best way to get clean. You make amends for your crimes and you move on. You have to. It’s the law.
I’m not much for religion (I was raised by atheists) but I approve of Judaism’s structure. Its origins were more pragmatic than spiritual. I’m about half-way through The Bible Unearthed which is a brilliant historical account of the political reality that the kingdom of Judah faced roughly 2500 years ago. They borrowed a lot from the mythologies of their neighbors, made up a few things to fill in the blanks and the rest, to borrow from Robert Harris, is ancient history. Religions are like that–they tend to offer some kind of spiritual salvation in exchange for physical loyalty to mostly made-up rules, customs, dietary rules and ceremonies. Spirituality, on the other hand, is a bit more open-minded.
In my experience, spirituality in general and the Ten Commandments in particular, when you distill them down their essence, all come out to one basic rule: "Do not be an asshat to those around you." Granted, this is merely my reading of the Big 10, but it’s a rule that’s served to help get me through the wacky world in which I wake up every day. One day I’ll not wake up in it, and there’s no way for me (or anyone else) to know just which that day will be, so I play the odds and figure that every day when I wake up here, I try to follow this one essential rule.
Hillel is supposed to have said it a little more precisely: "Treat others as you would wish to be treated by them. Everything else is commentary."
So don’t be an asshat to those around you. That means when you’ve done something to hurt someone else, apologize and offer make amends. If someone else shows you that same courtesy for past harm, accept their apology. Don’t be lazy, either in the mental or physical sense. Expect to work for a living. Expect to pay your debts and bills. Expect not to buy more than you can afford. Expect that the people around you regardless of distance are not slaves, servants, robots or possessions. They are people. Treat them as such. Be honest in personal affairs and in business affairs. Accept that you too are human and will do stupid, nonsensical things for bad reasons sometimes.
The articles I’ve clipped beneath the cut say all this much more eloquently than I can at the moment, but they also illustrate the amazing capacity that humans have for being asshats to those around them. Read the articles. And let’s all try to fix what problems we have now and do better in the future.
An important message!
I forgive every person who has
Whatever sins I have committed, blot out, please, in
I seek peace, let me BE peace. I
Many blessings to you and all who seek a world of love, kindness, peace, social justice, ecological sanity and generosity.
May peace prevail on earth and let it begin with you and me.