Back before I was religious, I believed that devout people strove for a higher existence. I believed that prayer and rules set people on the straight and narrow and such a community would be above earthly things like gossip and judgment and cattiness.

So I spent ten years in a religious community and learned that people are people and rules and prayer don’t necessarily absolve anyone of being a jerk.

And sometimes the rules are an excuse to feel holier-than-thou.

I left that world not because I didn’t love the ritual and the beauty and the meaning. I did. I still do, and I incorporate those pieces into my very personal, very spiritual, very I-decide-what’s-meaningful-to-me life.

I made a vow a long time ago to do my best not to judge others. That’s not my job. I have only myself to answer to and my higher power, not the people watching to see if I dress right or say the right thing or have the right friends or eat the right foods.

I understand the psychology. People judge others when they themselves feel inadequate. Insecure. Uncertain.

I love the freedom to find meaning and beauty and inspiration everywhere, at any time. In a leaf-spilled path. In a church or a synagogue or a mosque or all three. In a bite of Native American cornbread. On a mountaintop. In the risk taken when climbing a mountain. In any risk. In any safe port.

It’s amazing to me how much people live on the surface and cling to myths. Really! Why? There is so much to discover once you delve deeper and the big secret is, life is better in the depths. The truth lingers there. Meaning hangs out. It’s easy to see right from wrong.

So why don’t most people dwell at a deeper level? Because either they don’t know any better or there is comfort in the familiarity of the surface bullshit they’ve known for so long.

Why do the work, if you don’t know how great it will be at the outcome?

DSCN3131Last night, my little guy cried and whined about doing his 2nd grade homework. He was tired from a several-days journey with his dad to spend the first half of this harvest holiday in New York among cousins. That translates to little sleep and lots of tumult and no desire to do homework.

But it’s my job as a parent to teach him responsibility and consequence and if you don’t get in the habit at the tender age of 7 of doing homework, you’ll never have it down-pat.

He had to write about the holiday. We meandered through several sentences until he had constructed a 2nd grade worthy paragraph. Then he had to write about a moment when he felt a strong feeling.

How about now, I suggested. He had just torn up the stairs crying when I said if he didn’t responsibly finish his homework, he couldn’t have the privilege of missing school in the future to visit his cousins for a holiday.

Pouty, tear-soaked cheeks, he nodded his head, clinging to his frog-blankie for comfort. I feel sick, he said.

Write it down, I said. And I walked him through a dialogue of how he will set it up so he never has to feel that way again.

Earlier, he had railed and complained, I’m not good at writing. (As an aside, it was a knife through the heart, my own child, opposed to writing!! Breathe…he is his own person…)

At first I discouraged the negativity, saying he can write, he just needs to practice it. How will you ever be good at it if you don’t do it, I asked.

It takes dipping beneath the surface to see what lingers at the depths.

He got it done. He was asleep in about 30 seconds once I pulled the covers up to his chin. Exhaustion can creation emotion, too.

The other kids snuggled into bed beside me, happy to be home, exhausted in their own right. They are still asleep now. But the windows are dark so most people are anyway.

Judging ourselves sometimes is the worst offense of all.

And it’s my job to teach my little guy compassion and forgiveness and love no matter what he feels, no matter what the expectation. The world won’t end if he doesn’t get his homework done, and he will endure whatever 2nd grade consequences befall him.

We all will. That’s the mystery, and the mystique, of life.

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