Einstein once suggested that we really only have one thing to determine in our lives: do we live in a hostile or friendly universe?
The answer to that question will determine your whole outlook on everything; God, science, faith, love, race, commerce …everything. If you believe the universe is love-based, it will cause you to want more of it. It will drive you toward good. It will, at the very least, force you to seek light; redemption; love. On the other hand, if you believe the universe is cold, random and pointless, then why would any of that matter? We’re just carbon-based life forms with pesky brain-stems, trying to make sense of the randomness and pointlessness of it all.
In other words, you can either see the world like Tyler Durden (Fight Club) or Forrest Gump (Forest Gump).
I encourage artists (and people in general, really) to ask and answer this question for themselves, often. The answer to “am I a nihilist or do I have faith?” will affect and direct what you say to the world.
As for me? I was sent a teacher – an Asian shaman – to teach me about the meaning of life and unconditional love. And even though I’ve heard scripture preached as well as it can be preached by a human being, for my entire life, I eventually had to come to the realization of love and God and truth (and how it’s all tied together) on my own. I had to answer the question for myself: Is the universe good? I believe it is and I believe we can move toward love …if we will.
Once you believe something deep down, you act on it. You live by it. You don’t have to be told to do so. The rules, teaching you how to do it, don’t matter all that much anymore. It just emanates out of you. This is where we get the phrase “true believers.”
One of the things I’ve always admired about the United States founders was their Declaration Of Independence. They basically picked a fight with the largest and most powerful empire the world had ever seen. They STATED their grievances. Then they put their money where their mouth was …and fought to the death. In other words ….they believed.
When you see a news report about a radical Islamist killing innocent people in a western city, always remember one thing: that guy is putting his money where his mouth is. He’s evil and disturbed and I believe he’s on the wrong side of the argument. But he’s not just flipping off a country he hates and then asking it to validate his parking. He’s committing the murder of innocents out of his unwavering belief that they are NOT innocent. And he’s willing to die or go to prison because of that unwavering belief.
Much like the universe decision, Americans all eventually have to make a national decision as well: is my country basically good …or basically bad? Americans of all colors, races, genders, ages and religions have to come to terms with their country and what that country means to them. A lot of people are grappling with that very thing right now.
You eventually have to decide: is this MY home? Or is it not MY home? You have to decide if you’re going to be a part of what this country stands for or if you’re going to stand in opposition to it. The problem we are facing today is that a lot people have decided they don’t really like America …but they’re only willing to go so far in destroying it …because deep down, they actually DO like it. They just don’t want to admit it. Because it’s not cool these days to be patriotic. It’s sort of like the 25-year-old who acts like he hates his parents but still lives with them because he likes the free rent and food. And truth be told …he probably actually likes his parents.
That evil man who ran over those people in New York has no sympathy from me. I’ve made no bones about how I feel about ISIS. But at least ISIS tells you who they are …then acts accordingly. They believe something. And they live it without question.
The flag and the national anthem are sort of like a national prayer. This is the one moment in time when every person in our country – right or left, black or white, woman or man (or other), young or old, heavy or thin, rich or poor, gay or straight (or other) – stand, take off our hats, put our hands over our hearts, and show respect for our nation and the soldiers who have borne its battles.
In that moment we are all collectively saying, “I respect what the flag represents. I respect the ideals of our nation. I respect and agree with the idea of liberty and justice for all. I honor the fact that I did not achieve the gifts and freedoms I have, on my own. I understand that people have died for me and I acknowledge my responsibility to be an agent of the ideals and ideas they died for. I love my home. I honor it. I will teach my children to do the same. And I will teach them WHY they should do the same.”
When you stand for the anthem or say the pledge, THAT is basically what you’re saying: “I am an American. And I’ve decided my country is basically good.”
When you refuse to stand for the national anthem or the pledge, you are saying, “This country is basically bad.”
That’s actually fine. Nobody should force anyone (not wearing a Boy Scout uniform) to stand for pledges or anthems. But I hope people will think twice about what they are saying to the world when they “take a knee” for a nationally recognized moment. And think about what they are actually willing to give up or sacrifice for that belief.
Because true belief makes you act accordingly.
What do you believe?
What does that belief compel you to do?
What are you willing to sacrifice for that belief?
Einstein was right. And the question still stands …