The Land of Milk and Honey
There is wisdom in remembering that only two people eat at a table: one bringing the food, and one eating the first person's food. No matter what the reason is, when there is no fair trade of food, a deficit exists. Attending and resolving this deficit comes under the heading of "Spiritual Plusses"
Of the eighty-five or so religious "leaders" whose written works I've studied at length, one thing is undeniable, which means it would be foolish to ignore its prevalence: only five appear to have had an income independent of their religious activities. Surely we can all agree that a holy person has almost no material needs, and requires no luxuries.
Holy people are not materialistic. If they require a car, you can bet it's a car that cost barely a twentieth of what a new car costs, no matter who's picking up the tab, because those other nineteen twentieths of the cost of a new car can be far better, far wisely, far more humanely invested in resolving the world's challenges, one person, one challenge at a time. Every additional dollar spent on anything but service of humans, whether clearing the world's one hundred million hidden mines left over from too many wars; or feeding starving babies; ending gun violence that takes the life of a living, laughing child every hour of every day in America, or any other valid issue, is, for all religious and spiritual purposes, a dollar stolen from those noble, and literally vital tasks. "Vital" as in the Latin root for "vital" which refers to critical life and death issues, such as exploding land mines, starvation, illegal gunfire, and more.
Because the bulk of these men have earned their living directly from religion, their words carry considerably less credibility than the man who eats and lives simply, whether he supplies his own bread or not. The so-called "mitzvah" or good deed of feeding people refers to skinny, hungry people who are unable to feed themselves, not to increase the cholesterol level of a fat man eating another man's food without fair trade.
Finally, the claim that fair trade takes place when the non-providing diner exchanges his "spiritual guidance" one must be reminded that the moment that money changes hands, whether in cash currency or food or gifts that cost more than a dollar or two, the spirituality has been removed -- as if surgically so - from the transaction. The holy man gives blessings and comfort, or marries an engaged couple, with but a moment of his time and love. Anyone doing it full-time, for a living, is engaging in what we term "organized religion." Those precious few who understand the meaning of the two words that make up the phrase "organized religion" know well and full that the very term itself is diametrically antithetical to the core of what we universally consider to be spirituality.
Bright, or dim, the greatest beauty of our wisdom of the ages is that what we do speaks so loudly not a word is necessary to explain.
It's worth noting that Oriental, Jewish, and Indian/Pakistani history show a clear pattern of human behavior wherein the louder one claims, the less one tends to believe at the inner core. One of the more pointed Japanese comments teaches that everything we say, the opposite is also true. This is a polite way of saying that we can always justify a position with logic -- depending on which emotional side of the topic we personally fall on.
Conversely, those who invest time, effort and resources discoursing upon appropriate specific blessings, and the value or importance of one over another, must be uncommonly dim-witted for any of several reasons, amongst which you can take your pick.
It's either stupidity, or mere hubris, to posit that the Architect of the Universe might value one statement of appreciation for something over a different statement of appreciation for that same something. Either you are grateful or you are not. Either you live your gratitude by repaying its source or you do not. Either joyful, unpaid service is a delight of your life, or it is not. Beyond that lie only excuses, justification, rationalizations, and the perversion of logic known as ratiocination.
To invest triple the price of decent sneakers to buy a pair that have someone else's name on it means that two thirds of the purchase price are frittered on vanity, rather than service. It is the mark of futility to believe that spirituality can be obtained by using one's resources for self rather than for mutual benefit.
The truth of this multiplies a thousandfold, and yet another thousand, creating what is called exponentiation, or geometric progression, when considering the utility of such discussion or discourse in relation to genocide, poverty, a thousand people per hour dying of malnutrition and/or starvation, and a host of other issues far more vital to the attention of mankind.
With less than five hundred human beings owning or controlling some seventy percent of the world's cash, the proof of this is found in the lavish nature of their lifestyles as tens of thousands of people die every single day of the year just from having no food whatsoever to sustain life with.
It is sad that, across numerous religions our extremists believe that selfish pursuits are more important to their daily existence than living a life of service. We hear their noble words, while observing their personal consumption, providing a clear picture of the dichotomy, of the oxymoron. Rarer than an honest politician, those described as "holy men" so infrequently live in ways that justify the appellation. A hugely powerful tool at the instant disposal of our societies is the simple technique of listening to fewer of these individuals, using that same time and energy to pursue the tenets, qualities, and actions most prized in whichever holy book they believe to be most sacred; using that same time and energy to have more faith in their own inner spiritual voices, which more often than not know precisely which is the best response to a given situation.
The corporate, financially-based framework of every known major religion with the obvious exception of most Buddhist sects is a clear signal for humans to take back the steering wheel of our spiritual pursuits. Whatever name for the Creator of the Universe you are most comfortable with, in any and all of the world's nine primary religions, the rules are wonderfully universal, stating that the most effective way to better serve one's perception of the Creator is to provide service for those unable to help themselves. Everything else is commentary by mere humans, humans who either bring food to the table, or eat at someone else's expense. Spirituality is not about commentary; it's about action. How else do you explain an actor creating a food company, and over the next twenty years giving away specifically to food charities every single one of the one hundred and ten million dollars of profit he earned in those twenty years? How else do you explain a poor Southern black man shining shoes for sixty years in order to give away the majority of his lifetime earnings to endow a scholarship for financially destitute students? Is your lifestyle such that you can understand the personal joy, the fulfillment and satisfaction gleefully flowing through the very veins of these men, and a few others who do as they have done? What a feeling!
Let's remember that the word satisfaction is from "satis" (sufficient), "facere" (create), and, of course, "action."
When we manufacture, or create, sufficient action, we get a feeling, and we now know the word to describe that wonderful, desirable feeling. Again, spirituality is less about commentary, and more about action. So, talk less, and do more.