I am so sad for the people lost in the AirAsia crash; for the Nigerian babies, women and elders killed for the convenience of a hideous force called Boko Haram; for the murdered in Paris and for everybody in Syria and all of the other places where violence reigns supreme.
So to counteract the hopelessness I feel which many of you probably share, I offer a photo of my mom in 1929; she was 22. I am thinking of mom tonight because she was the wisest gentlest person I have ever known. She was also a devout Christian. The history of devout religious people of any faith being especially wise is spotty and being gentle even more so. It seems religiosity can indeed inspire great empathy and kindness and, equally as likely, zealotry and self-righteous violence.
I was blessed with a mother who was completely of the kind, gentle, non-judgmental variety of believer. If history or literature could show me that Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hindi, Mormonism…even Buddhism produced more people like mom I might feel a little more hope tonight.
Here’s mom, Ovidia Mathilda Floren Neset, somewhere around her old home in the Sioux River Valley of South Dakota. She loved the forest and the hills and the river, everything about the natural world. Except spiders. She especially loved birds, seeing in them perfect creations—beautiful and fragile and brave and always singing.
Tonight, here and there, extraordinary people like mom are carrying on, doing good, bringing joy, providing sustenance and hope, all in the name of one belief system or the other. Hope there are more of them than the bogus believers who caused so much agony this week.
Thanks to my pretty mom back in her much-loved valley home for always always being kind and standing for all things right in the world