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July 13, 2014

Listen to the Silence of the Smiles All Around You. ~ Danielle Vinson

hands peace

Yesterday was not much different than most Sundays.

My son went down for a nap, my husband went out to run some errands, and I took the quiet moment to put on some music and tackle some chores.

As with every sink full of dirty dishes, my mind did a modern dance of thoughts to the music (“Aloha ke Akua” by Nahko and Medicine for the People, if you’re curious).

The inspiration to blog this topic was born in that moment.

God is everywhere, aloha ke akua… the song was pumping and the ideas were flowing. I started thinking of friends to call for quotes on different sides of the religious spectrum.

But about 3/4 of the way through the sink, the dogs started barking at the front door, like they do anytime any creature comes into the peripherals of the front windows.

Sure enough, a silent man and a woman in a pink blouse were on my doorstep. I usually don’t give much energy to solicitation of any kind that involves ringing the doorbell and setting off the hound alarm, but since my mind was swarming with inspiration, I stepped outside ready to listen. Eager, even.

The complete irony of the moment made me so excited for this super enlightening epiphany the universe was about to bestow on me, and I was ready to hashtag jesus for sending the messengers right to my door.

But things went a little “differently,” as some rather strong opinions clouded my sunshine-soaked doorstep.

Sure enough, these visitors were bible wielding christians, and the first half of our conversation was truly heart warming. The woman asked about my knowledge of the bible, and I told her that I was educated on the text for 11 years through private catholic school, and that I had even explored a few other christian churches after I transferred into the public school system.

She expressed her relief that I was taught about the bible, as she firmly believed in the salvation this book provides. When I explained my beliefs in the intrinsic goodness of our world and all creatures on it, she smiled.

When I asked if she felt as though she was born with this desire to be good and serve, she whole heartedly agreed. And so did I… I believed her roots looked just like mine. Grounded, positive, peaceful and eager to spread happiness.

Tears welled in her eyes, because our souls met. Our light’s shone together, if only for a brief moment.

She asked if she could read a few verses to me from her bible, and I willingly listened.

Maybe I am hardened, but what she read to me felt like ice.

She flipped through translucent pages, reading verse after verse to prove a foreign point. A hazy concept of heaven, and how to get there. An idyllic theory that I have always had a difficult time accepting. This woman told me that Passover was the only way to participate in the salvation of blessed bread and wine… that some group of religious leaders met and agreed to change Passover to Easter, and that this was the work of Satan because he was trying to disguise the true day and time to obtain salvation.

I was clear in explaining to her that I was not discrediting her beliefs, but that I, personally, could not wrap my head around it.

When this woman realized that I wouldn’t simply walk away from my beliefs, she became cold and quick to leave. Her change in demeanor, from being touched by the light in me to not being able to leave my doorstep quick enough, evoked such sadness and frustration in me.

I felt her pity for me, and I guess I can’t say that it wasn’t warranted because she so firmly believes something I wish I could.

But does that mean I’m doomed? Does that mean my life will be any less than the life of a christian?

I live for positive energy, I am always looking for ways to help someone find their happiness. If there is an opening where I can help someone else in any way, I strive to take that opportunity.

I live off this earth, I drink the water from this earth and eat the fruit of this earth. To me, this is the bread and wine the bible mentions. It is already blessed because it came from our beautiful earth that has given us all life.

I wish I believed in heaven. I can’t express that enough. I so desperately wish that my brain could give way just a tiny bit to let in a small glimmer at the end of the long tunnel ahead.

I just wish I saw that bright light, because pressing forward in darkness is an extremely scary experience of life. Particularly being a mother, knowing that someday my body will no longer be living, and the thought that some day my son’s body will no longer be living either.

I certainly hope that my beliefs are wrong, and that there is a happy place where my soul will be with my son’s soul and all the rest of my loved ones whose bodies no longer live.

But I can’t get past my logic, my own theory, that my experience of this life simply and plainly stops when my body no longer has it’s life pumping through it.

I imagine it feels like an extended sleep, without dreams. It’s not exciting, and certainly not something I look forward to, but all the more reason to soak up this life and live well.

It would be nice to believe in reincarnation, and if I had to choose something to believe in, that would be it. A second take on all of the emotions and experiences of life. But heaven just doesn’t make sense to me.

From this encounter with these visitors on my doorstep, I’ve come to an understanding that heaven isn’t something that is supposed to “make sense.”

This woman told me that in order to join her bible study that I would need to “come without my opinions.” She was asking me to drop my own opinions to blindly believe in hers.

This is where we falter. This is our greatest mistake.

To have opinions is one thing, but to not respect another’s opinion because it doesn’t match the text of a book that so many live their entire lives by causes a great deal of conflict and division.

When this woman’s head wasn’t buried in her bible, we smiled sincerely, but when she fell back into the book, her smile faded and her defenses built a barrier between us. This kind of division is what has caused so much conflict throughout history. The stubborn and insistent attitude of I am right, you are wrong.

I did not send her off, I was willing to continue the conversation and listen to what she had to say, but that respect was not returned. I was not saying my beliefs were right, I was merely sharing them, but she ended the conversation and left quickly as her frustration informed her that my opinions weren’t moldable.

I respected her opinions, I just couldn’t agree that they were also my own. I would’ve been happy for the same in return, but instead was interrupted and told bible verses to “prove” my beliefs were wrong.

I live by this earth, on this earth, for this earth.

Being kind to our planet is my religion, the one I will preach on the mountaintops.

I suppose there will always be people out there to tell me that my religion is “wrong,” but if nothing else I’m glad humans were born to feel deep conviction for things they feel strongly about.

My spirituality is earth based. It is deep, full of passion and humility, and ever-evolving to be better to other creatures and be kinder to the planet.

I don’t get into my beliefs on what happens after life too often because they obviously aren’t the most beautiful or exciting thing to share. But the common ground is what I live for.

Every religion has a standard moral code, to do right by others, to be a good person, to not be wasteful or greedy—this is no coincidence. The fact that we all have hearts and want to love and be loved, that’s where I want to live. In those moments, when the fine details don’t matter and the smiles are sincere because no one is trying to be right or prove someone else is wrong.

Diversity is beautiful. People come from all walks of life, from different belief systems, different cultures even, and every person has their own unique way of sharing their light.

Your light isn’t in a book, it’s not on a screen, and it’s not in any other person but you.

I promise you, if you dig deep to find your light and you share it with the world, you will find more joy than any Sunday at church could bring because you will realize the bigger congregation.

They may not look like what you envision, they may not speak the same language even—but there is a greater good that is so ready to unite, we just have to open our hearts and listen to the silence of the smiles all around us.

 

 

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Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Author’s Own

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Danielle Vinson