People Are Alike All Over

And now for something completely different. And no, this has nothing to do with Monty Python. I swear. Though maybe I’ll get to them another time.

There’s an old saying: “People are alike all over.” To me, that means that despite all of our apparent differences, if you boil people down to their true essence, you’ll find that most of us are pretty much the same despite color, creed, nationality, or wealth.

I’ve thought about this saying and think it can be expanded to include not just the foundation of Mankind, but religions as well. Because to me, it seems that religions are alike all over, too. At least for the most part. It may seem like the different spiritual paths out there are entirely separate entities, but are they really? I may be overly simplistic in my thought processes (or perhaps in the alternative, I over-analyze things), but I believe that when you trace back many religions to their roots (much like moving down a family tree) you in fact will find all sorts of similarities at their base.

Look at the myths that exist in each religion to explain their belief system. A lot of them are really, really similar. It’s almost as if centuries ago a lot of religions were actually based on one single religion and as people started migrating to different parts of the world, their stories shifted to suit their new surroundings. Or perhaps it’s like that game of telephone we old folks played back in kindergarten. The story changed ever so slightly as it got retold down the line.

I wish I could take credit for this idea, but sadly I can’t. If I could, I’d be reaping the rewards of all the books I would’ve written on it, living a much better life right now on a beach or in a cottage somewhere in France with a much prettier view. What I just described, in a nutshell, is a branch of study called “comparative religion/mythology.” The idea being that religions, by and large, are fairly complementary at their core.

So, let’s start with the basics: creation myths. That’s my favorite. How did we get here? There’s no getting around that question. Everyone wants to know that, so every religion has an answer ready to go.

According to the Old Testament, God the Supreme Being created man. Eventually he got around to making a woman too and soon the two of them were prancing around together in a garden east of Eden. Satan, in the guise of a snake, butted in and got Eve to disobey God’s word. Then, she got Adam to do the same.  (Yep, the fall of man was all Eve’s fault! Go figure.) There’s a whole thing involving another of God’s little creations known as Lilith. Yeah, don’t get me started on that one. I’ll get into that story another day.

Anyway, we know this as the story of Adam and Eve, but if you take a look at the creation stories from around the world, it’s hardly a unique tale. In reality, the Babylonians told it first. This was centuries before Judaism and Christianity even existed.

Then there’s the stories told by a multitude of Native American tribes that lived an entire continent away. They all have a similar progression. A “Great Spirit” created everything and men and women came from the Earth. I have to admit, I like these stories better than the ones that say we were created out of God’s snot. (I swear I remember reading that somewhere, but when I went back to look for it, all I came up with was webpage after webpage devoted to our snot — and I don’t think I want to go there. Yuck.)

Getting back to Native American myth, the Great Spirit had an enemy (i.e. Satan) who sought to destroy the Great Spirit’s creation.  Then comes the part of the story where the humans rebel against the desires of the Great Spirit and then there’s a great flood that destroys everyone, except a handful of people the Spirit decides to spare so they can repopulate the Earth and well, we all know how that goes. We just heard it a bit differently.

Which brings me round to the popular flood story.

There’s an old Babylonian flood story in the “Epic of Gilgamesh” that predates the Hebrew Bible story by centuries.  The gods who lived in a city by a river wanted to create a flood. One of the gods warns a human to tear down his house and use it to build a ship so that he will survive. Sound familiar? It’s not the only flood story by a long shot. There are several.

Then there’s the story of Jesus. The ultimate tale of death and resurrection. Except…this story shows up in other religions around the world as well.

For example, Egyptian mythology features the god Osiris, whose death and resurrection resembles that of Jesus. (And, of course, the whole culture of ancient Egypt was about ensuring that those who died would live happily ever after in the Afterlife — or paradise.)

Then there’s the Indo-Iranian Mithra myth whose story so parallels that of Jesus that it’s downright uncanny. Born to a virgin mother (Anahita), he gathered 12 followers, and traveled around performing miracles. His sacred day was Sunday and when he died, he arose from the grave three days later. In the end, he sacrificed himself for world peace and ascended to the Heavens.

Some religions are ancient. Some religions are relatively new. Yet many of them share a common core of mythology. But what do I get from all of this?  My personal conclusion is that perhaps people really have more in common than they think.  And to me, that is a good thing, a very good thing. I wish more people could see that. The world would be a better place.

It’s most definitely interesting though, isn’t it? Compare all these similar stories, or these “parallels” to use the technical term…and it makes you wonder about our beliefs and where they really came from and how we’re all connected.  It does me, anyway, even though I’m not what you would call a religious person.

Confession Time

So, while I did not make any “true” New Year’s resolutions per se, I did make a somewhat small vow to be a better, nicer, more tolerant person by reigning in my bad colorful language (as it is directed at others, even if said persons are completely unaware of said tirades against them), especially when driving. It’s not going well. Just in case you were interested.

Independence Day

So. I drove into the city last week. Two & half hours away.  Got on major highways and everything. Went to a different city last month, same situation. Yep. Me.

No, I didn’t do it blindfolded. No, I didn’t do it only using my feet. No, I didn’t do it without hitting a single red light. I did it. That’s it. That’s the accomplishment.

Not terribly impressed, are you? I don’t blame you. I don’t see Hollywood optioning that story for their next summer tent-pole.

You may not know this about me but I get a little bit, okay, seriously anxious when I’m on a major highway. I wasn’t always that way. It grew on me over time, through a series of repetitive blows to my self-esteem.

So, when I had a significant other, I let him take care of the driving…believe me, he was only too willing to nurture my anxiety right along with me. But now that co-dependent crutch is gone (I’m currently just addicted to Siri, MapQuest, and my GPS!).

Now I’m driving to cities hours away and shoveling out blizzards and I’m getting my oil changed and flat tires fixed and repairing refrigerators myself…well, I could always figure out how to repair things so that last one doesn’t count.  But now I can do it without first having to let someone else try while I stand there watching and biting my tongue and not saying “that’s really not a good idea,” or “I have an idea how to fix it, if you’d just let me,” because I was afraid of hurting an ego that was quite capable of bringing down the house when it was injured.

I allowed myself to be afraid of so many stupid things, like driving into the city for instance. Over the past 18 months or so, I’m going new places, doing new things, and able to count on myself.  My daughter and I are going to take a bus trip to NYC this summer. Can’t wait. We’re visiting Gettysburg and Antietam on our own when it gets warm…which, guess what? Requires driving. Which is cool, because I’ve got GPS and a funny sidekick riding shotgun.

A trip to the National Zoo and the Smithsonian (National) Museum of Natural History are also on our list. BUT we’ll be taking an Uber for that outing. Hey! It’s Washington D.C. folks. No-one in their right mind wants to drive in D.C., it’s not just ME.

And who knows, if we win the lottery, Massachusetts is also on our go-to list.  The Lizzie Borden House is there and we’re anxious to see it. We’ve been told it’s haunted and that’s just too awesome of a possibility for us to pass up. I’ve already got it mapped out and I’m not afraid. Of the house OR the trip it will take to get there.

So. I’m not saying I have every one of my fears hog-tied as I dance over them in victory — anxiety will always rear its ugly head.  But…definitely making progress.  At least now I only have MY little voice to listen to and sometimes my daughter’s. AND neither starts by saying “Oh no! You can’t do this.” Instead it yells, “You got this!” And you know what…it’s right.

Veggie Woes

Ask me if I’m vegetarian and I’m not exactly sure what I’ll say on any given day. I try, but I fail as often as I succeed. I think it’s easier to be a vegetarian if you truly don’t like the taste of meat, which is not me. Some meat is really tasty so I have no physical aversion to it.

So I’m not trying to be vegetarian because I look at meat and think, “Ewww, that looks gross.” I’m trying to go vegetarian for ethical reasons and while my intent is strong, my will power is weak. I’m not going to lie; it’s a bit of a struggle. I was raised with meat as a pillar of a balanced diet. The necessity of meat has been drilled into me from a lifetime of food choices. I’m trying to change the patterns I’ve learned over the decades, but it’s hard and I’m far from perfect. Though I am making progress I’m glad to say.

When my resolve does start to cave I like thinking about a dear friend of mine who is a devout vegetarian for spiritual reasons. She believes that every animal has a soul and, by God, you just don’t eat something with a soul. It all seems so simple to her—this kooky no-soul-eating concept— that I just sit back and admire her. Her devotion and conviction are unflappable. I wonder how I can get to be like that. It’s not that I don’t share her beliefs. I’m totally on board with the idea that all animals have souls, but still, I’m fighting a deeply engrained sense of eating normalcy from my childhood. Or maybe that’s a cop-out and I’m just weak-willed. Regardless of the reason, I’m trying. I’m trying yet failing which buries me in guilt because I can’t practice what I preach.

Having a somewhat imaginative mind I’ve wondered what would happen if someone lived her entire life 100% meat free and living a spiritually clean life respecting all animals around her until the day some villainous ne’er-do-well slipped a piece of meat in her food without her knowing. Or what if she eats a salad that unbeknownst to her had some meat by-product in it? Whatever the circumstance, the lifetime of being ethically nutritious comes crashing down unexpectedly. Should she be consumed by guilt? Is her soul at risk? Personally, I don’t see how. Shouldn’t it be the true intent and not the accidental act that matters? She still gets a primo seat in the cushy part of the afterlife as far as I’m concerned.

But me? I know exactly what I’m eating when I’m eating it. I know when I have meat on my plate. I can’t plead ignorance. This is perhaps more evidence to add to the ever-growing list as to why I’m going to the fiery underworld after I leave this earth. If you’re interested in perhaps joining my friend in the VIP section of the afterlife, I’d start by reading her blog. She has a quick wit and a real way with words. You won’t be disappointed.

If you want to join me in the afterlife spitfire, go get yourself a Double Down Dog and I’ll see you there.

Road Rage Resolutions

Every good superhero has a compelling origin story. No good guy worth his or her salt lacks a detailed and gripping road they traveled down that can explain why they are the way they are. Sometimes the origin story makes the hero the sympathetic or noble or frightening or admirable character he or she is. Same goes for villains.

I have my own origin story that can explain the “super power” I’ve come to harness with great responsibility today. And it is this power that I am hoping to banish (or at least use much less of) come the New Year. Twenty-seven years ago I was involved in the only car accident I’ve ever been in, and it wasn’t my fault. It was my first taste of someone else’s stupidity, and while I emerged from the accident alive (I won’t say unharmed), I soon realized I had become empowered with a scorching new ability: Road Rage.

I’m not talking about the road rage where I carry a weapon, jump out of my car at red lights, and bludgeon people for their traffic faux pas (although I do know that I am in danger of having that happen to me if I continue on the way I am). The road rage I harbor comes in the form of scathing obscenities, mean looks, and fingers wagging furiously in the direction of whoever provokes my ire. I see some idiot  jerk  ***hole fellow driver in front of me who turns on their blinker half a second before deciding to make a sharp right turn and the power unleashes itself, bursting forth from my throat like a harpy’s cry. A Cadillac going 25 in a 45 weaving across the lane with no clue where it’s going drives me freakin’ insane.

Sure the cathartic release I have in the moment is relieving, but I’m getting to the point in my life where I’m thinking further than those initial five seconds. What is this road rage really accomplishing? Is anyone becoming a better driver because of it? Certainly not me. And really, isn’t it actually only raising my overall stress level? More importantly, given my own questionable traffic behavior, do I even have a right to complain about what other people do?

I’m not what you might call the best driver. I know this all too well about myself. So the road rage is sort of hypocritical on my part. Still, I can’t control the evil thoughts that spring up when someone else on the road does something that makes absolutely zero sense.

I do feel a bit of remorse when—after cursing at a car that has wronged me—I see that the driver is an itty-bitty elderly person or a teen with a fresh face and an equally fresh driver’s license… and I’m thankful that they haven’t burst into flames (my wicked thoughts materializing into a reality).

So. I’m starting to think that maybe it would be good idea, spiritually speaking, if I tried to become a better person by reining in my road rage. At least a little. (Well, maybe a lot.) The first step of course would be to assume that maybe the person in the other car is simply having a bad day or a bad moment and made a little mental error, not to make me upset, but because their mind is temporarily preoccupied by something more important.

Case in point: Just the other day I was on my way to the movies. I approached a traffic circle where you’re supposed to yield before entering when there are other cars going round (so as to oh, I don’t know, avoid a collision). Well, a car happened to be going round so I slowed down to wait my turn. The person behind me immediately — and I mean immediately — starting honking at me and of course I started to yell and curse something about needing to yield at a traffic circle when there are other cars going round and how stupid did you have to be not to know that. Unfortunately, the person I was yielding to thought I was directing my rage at them and gave me this look of utter confusion that said “What do I do wrong?”

I felt horrible because they were only doing the right thing but got caught in my rage crossfire. To make matters worse, the idiot behind me went on their merry way not knowing or maybe just not caring that I was simply following the traffic rules… because that’s what idiots do. Had I taken a more calm mentality, or Zen approach, let’s say, I would have let the idiot’s (damn!) person’s rudeness roll off me and the innocent victim wouldn’t have been accidentally berated.

So this New Year’s I’m resolving to be more patient on the road. Is it achievable? We’ll see. I’m going in optimistic, but there are a lot of fools out there and I don’t know if I can bite my tongue for all of them. Fingers crossed. And mouth shut.

 

road rage stress