5 Jul 2007

Making me think - a bit like a Tesco's Value version of Bread of Life..

A welcome visitor to FBT HQ yesterday was Mrs Wibbs. She has a very interesting blog that got me thinking on many issues (anyone that can string together religion, disability and abortion in one post certainly qualifies as 'interesting'!)

She inadvertently reminded me that this blog was never intended to be just about scale readings and calories and pretty pictures, it was a way of exploring the spiritual landscape in which I live (possibly for my benefit more than others) - part of that spiritual journey was to be the continual exploration and testing of my moral framework in a religious context. I may have neglected that side of it recently...

I was born and raised Church of England - Anglican and relatively 'high church'. My profound love of music was formed through singing in a very well run church choir. Mrs Wibbs suggested that I might like to consider Christianity to solve some of my spiritual questions. To put my Buddhist leanings into context, this suggestion deserves some considered response.

With a gun to my head in a backstreet in Palestine I would probably declare my Christianity without thinking. This may be conditioning or a reflection of reality - I am not sure.

Let me get something straight, I respect anyone who has faith-based beliefs and I also respect those that chose to plough a separate unique furrow eschewing all religions. I believe in pluralism and the essential basic freedoms of life but I am concerned at the way many religions attempt to create a hierarchy of religions (usually with theirs on top it seems...). This need to feel superior and cloaked in rightness does nothing to foster love and compassion in the world - that is not to say that many religions and many religious people do not make major positive changes to peoples lives.

The reason i am looking to Buddhism for guidance is not that I need help, it's that I want to help others! To help others I need to be at peace with myself and Buddhism encourages students to question and doubt it's basic precepts and absorb and utilise the parts that they need. There is no Bible as such - its an internal moral system and this is what attracts me. I have always felt that the only church I need is the one inside me head and Buddhism is starting to give me the tools to build that church. Does that make sense? I will never try to 'sell' Buddhism to you or anyone else - this is right for me and I would not be presumptive to think that it may be right for someone else. A major part of the joy of Buddhism is the internal journey to discover the Dharma..this is unique I think.

I came across an interesting e-book recently about modern western Buddhism written by Ven Thubten Chodron which re-ignited my interest in Buddhism. It is entitled Transforming Our Daily Activities and can be viewed as a .pdf here. The book deals with the practicalities of living a modern life with Buddhist principles. I recommend it.

HH the Dalai Lama summed up this situation very well (as usual I find)...

I have come to the conclusion that whether or not a person is a religious believer does not matter. Far more important is that they be a good human being.

Right, getting back to the specific post that caught my attention, it dealt with the highly emotive issues of elective abortion for reasons of disability, in this case Downs Syndrome. It is exactly the sort of subject that gets to the root of my internal discussions (no...I am not talking to myself...yet!).

This is an extract of her post:-

As most of you know by now, our middle son Thomas has Downs Syndrome.

This is one of God's most wonderful gifts to us, and the more we discover who he is, the more he amazes us. We would not be without him, and have never resented God for giving us a child with disabilities, because our lives have been enriched and improved by him.

When we found out Tom had DS (about 2 months after his birth), we were temporarily 'floored'. I cannot deny the shock and grief we felt, and the first 48 hours after the diagnosis were very dark. But very quickly, we knew we had no choice but to embrace this as God's will, and accept that Thomas was a child 'with a difference'!

Today, after 4 1/2 years of having Tom in our lives, I am astonished, sad, and oh so angry, by the number of pregnancies terminated after a diagnosis of (potential or confirmed) Downs Syndrome ...!!

This is the comment that I left in response :-

My wife suffered several miscarriages (prior to our beautiful son being born).

During the early stages of the final pregnancy, we were offered the usual tests etc and were told there would be some risks involved. We both instinctively knew that whatever happened we would love our child without reservation so decided not to have any tests as the outcome was irrelevant, why take any added risks?

Our son was born without problems and is a healthy 4 year old boy but I would love him no less if this was not the case. Abortion is such an emotive subject and my views on it are in a state of flux (along with many others) as I slowly search for a spiritual framework - I am studying Buddhism.

I believe in fundamental personal freedom but I also believe in mindfulness and the removal of suffering. Abortions happen for many reasons and I struggle to be able to view it in a black/white yes/no type argument.

I FEEL that a woman should decide but I am also desperately saddened by the throw-away society we live in where career or other circumstances can allow us to make such awesome decisions.

One final thing, it does take courage to unreservedly love a child with disabilities, you have it in spades, not everyone does..

This moral dichotomy is typical of my ongoing struggles with where I am spiritually. I have explored this many times before, like here. I feel I am at an intellectual crossroads as well in some way as so many of my beliefs are being challenged by my attempt to think of things in a different way.

The central precepts of Buddhism deal with compassion and mindfulness - neither of which can help in any way to to justify abortion but I find it hard to interpret these types of issues with black/white certainty. I wish I could in some ways because it would be much easier to deal with and allow me to get on with others things! But I think this would be an intellectual cop-out...

This is not meant to be argumentative but I would be interested to know what you all think about this - are moral questions such as these ever really black/white or do we need to accept some greyness at a necessary part of free expression and if so, where is that line to be drawn? A lot of questions, I know but interesting nevertheless...


Today is Thursday and usually you would find a Thursday 13 post of some sort but I have decided to stop contributing to this meme. I am unable to post to a standard that I think it should be. The time I have available to blog leaves me unable to contribute to memes and consider all the other aspects of this blog.

This is not snobbery - I will continue to contribute to Wordless Wednesday with some (hopefully) arresting photographs (trust me, there are some good ones coming up!).
*If you want to know what the title is all about - check this out (note the comment spat! Yee ha! Looks like I need to get a Thesaurus for Christmas! I'd always rather be happy than clever...what about you?)


Chris H said...

I really like your attitude to religion/abortion etc...all huge issues to most people. I respect EVERYONE'S right to their opinion too, and I am not a religious person whatsover, and believe I live a decent life, and live by this rule "do unto others as you would have them do unto you".... without any religion coming into it.

FatBlokeThin said...

HH the Dalai Lama once said..

"Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn't anyone who doesn't appreciate kindness and compassion."

Thanks for your comment Chris - many of my opinions have radically changed since I began this journey - I think it's good to challange yourself sometimes and have the courage to stand up and say 'I was wrong, I no longer think that way'. This is the case with Abortion - up until recently, I had the instinctive belief that it was always a womans right to choose. Now I am definetly not sure - I recently stumbled upon an image of an aborted foetus on a website (cynically designed to shock obviously) - my reaction to it was not the hoped for horror and anger but the deepest most profound sadness for the wowan involved. I am really not that interested in the feotal viability arguments - that is a matter for the medical ethics professionals and it isn't the primary issue for me. The issue for me is the suffering of the woman who made the decision to cease the pregnancy for whatever reason.

Sorry I am posting in my own comments!! How dim is that? Anyway, your outlook is great too - treat people how you want to be treated and none us will go far wrong!

Friday soon - have a great weekend.

Chris H said...

My opinion on abortion is like yours.... and it isn't dim to post on your own comments mate! I am choosing to have a great weekend, shitty weather and all !

Anonymous said...

You, my friend, have many layers of thought. I like the "deep water." I too have lots of questions about my own views of religion and abortion. I'm not sure Buddhism would be for me, but I consider the Dalai Lama to be one of the holiest among humankind. I'll bookmark the site you mention for another read.
As for Thursday Thirteen, I understand what you are saying 100%. But, maybe your brief time of joining it brought you some readers. If they came once, they will come back.

MammaMayMiller said...

Sorry I haven't had time to visit and read this post thoroughly until now - I am ashamed of myself!!

Thanks for mentioning the post I wrote about DS and abortion, and thanks for taking time to ponder some of these essential questions of life. When I asked you about considering Christianity, it wasn't in a bid to sound superior in any way...and I'm sorry if I came across that way. There's nothing I hate more than getting the feeling that someone thinks they're better than me! Believe me I'm also on a journey of discovery, and always seeking the truth.

Am looking forward to reading more of your thoughts...