I’m going off my usual mental illness topics for this post. Something like what I’m currently writing has been weighing on me for quite some time. Yet it finally crystalized into actual thoughts within the last twenty four hours before this writing with the death of one of my best friends. This man died in his early 80s and was a retired Lutheran minister. Pastor Vern, as this man was known to everyone living in my apartment complex, was probably the wisest, wittiest, well read, and compassionate individual I met in my entire life. I knew him for eight years but I don’t believe I ever heard him say anything derogative or hurtful about anyone. I know I can’t go even eight days without at least thinking something hurtful directed at others, but hopefully most of this is due to the aspects of my illness.
Being a career Lutheran minister, Pastor Vern no doubt had his views on religion and God. Yet he was not as caught up in rituals, creeds, and beliefs when talking with me as he was on the basic principles of Christianity and other religious beliefs. Those core beliefs, the ones he lived by everyday were simply 1) Love God, 2) Care About Others, and 3) Respect Yourself. I suppose if one were to substitute or supplement the world ‘God’ with nature or the earth, even the most convinced atheists would be hard pressed to deny that loving nature, caring about others, and respecting yourself are good principles to attempt to live by.
Pastor Vern, being one with a wide array of interests and knowledge, was a perfect friend for someone like myself. He and I could easily talk about history, classical literature, philosophy, among numerous other topics for quite a long time. We would usually be sitting outside, him smoking his pipe, and just discuss whatever happened to come up regardless of whether it had any logical order or direction or not. Some of our neighbors who listened to our conversations no doubt thought us a little odd for rarely discussing such mundane things as weather, current events, or gossiping about others. For myself and Pastor Vern, hardly any topic was not subject matter to be discussed. We had an unspoken agreement that no matter how much we disagreed on any one topic, we would never become angry or speak harshly to each other. I suppose this falls under the care about others and respect yourself principles.
He and I have both studied the basic teachings and principles of most religions with significant followings. We both came to the conclusion that in spite of the differing rituals, social practices and customs, sets of creeds and beliefs, etc. that one thing they all believed were the ideas that a person would be better off in their own lives and dealings with others if the basics of ‘Loving God (or your creator/giver of life/etc.)’, ‘Caring About Other People and Living Things’, and ‘Respecting Yourself’ were principles that a person attempted to live by.
Yes, these are simple principles to the point that any six year old child can grasp these are important. Sadly, most of us as adults severely complicate these and often don’t live by these ideas at all. How much less strife and division would we have in our work places and places of business if managers, workers, and customers alike lived by even the caring about others and respecting ourselves? How much less war, famine, disease, poverty would we have if even individuals, let alone the governments of the world, operated with these guides? How much less needless destruction of our most valuable forests, farmlands, waters and wasting of finite natural resources would we have if we lived by even the ‘Love God/Nature/Earth’ idea? How much less conflict and needless grief would we have in our personal lives if we cared about others and respected ourselves more?
I apologize for the mini rant in the previous paragraph. I wrote that to try to apply to our own lives the principles that my recently deceased friend Pastor Vern lived by every day. These are principles I attempt to live by though often inconsistently. In closing I’m glad to have had a friend like Pastor Vern for the eight years I knew him. I wish that everyone could attempt to live by such principles, or at least become acquainted with those who do.