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The journeys are mostly metaphorical. :-) My disabilities place a fair amount of restriction on how much I can travel, and in any case part of what I have been learning over the past months and years is that it's what we do *here* that counts.

But they are real, for all of that.

As for kindness, I mean in the sense of tenderness, love, compassion and helpfulness - towards Life, towards the Earth, towards the Universe. But also in the sense of kinship, of being one "kind". Of reaching towards community, losing what Bill McKibben describes as "hyper-individualism" and moving on to something better.

There are some assumptions that lie behind this journal, and some beliefs I should probably 'fess up to. :-) I believe in the Divine, though I would be inventing any claims to know what that means. I use the word "God" and "Gods" fairly interchangeably, have prayed to (and believe I have been answered by) both members of particular pantheons and a general appeal to That Which Is (and Loves). I believe that the Divine is many things, and possibly all things, but that a crucial point within Them is love: at its root, the love that all things have for other things. The Divine is within what we are, which is masked by our faults and frailties, but (I believe) can never be wholly lost. To love a person, truly and fully, is to cut down the barriers and masks that stop us seeing how close to the Gods we really are. Love - real love - is not blind; it's more like X-ray vision. :-)

An inevitable part of this is that I believe that God/the Gods love each and every one of us to an equal and absolutely *whopping* extent. It is impossible to love ourselves as much as God loves us; it is impossible to love other people as much as the Gods love them.

That sounds fluffy and easy; it isn't. My Pantheist approach means recognising the Divine within natural forces that destroy life; this aspect of it means recognising the Divine within people whose morality and actions I (quite rightly) find offensive, disturbing, frightening, enraging, saddening, pathetic. It means recognising that the Gods love me as much as They love Desmond Tutu and Thich Nhat Hanh; but it also means recognising that They love Osama Bin Laden and George W Bush just as much. That's not something I find easy at all. But generally speaking the more I pray and meditate and manage mini-Quaker Meetings on sofas with one or two of my nearest and dearest, the more I recognise it as truth, at least for me.

We are all, quite literally, wonderful. It is quite easy to underestimate a person's capacity to do evil (especially when it is ourself or someone we love); it is not possible to overestimate our intrinsic awesomeness. We are *all* wonderful. As someone with low self-esteem, I find that hugely challenging, though also, when I can manage to internalise it, a great comfort. :-)

This is a religious perspective I have at bottom always believed; it's taken the first 31-odd years of my life to get it sorted in my head and settled enough to work on it.

My parents are centre-left Christian Pacifists, and my politics have grown with my religion. Not in step, but in similar ways. I lack at present any over-arching political philosophy, beyond the fact that I run very much to the Left. But the importance and sacredness of every human being upon this earth - indeed, of every living being, though that is something I have yet to sort out fully in my head :-) - is crucial to it. I do not believe that neo-liberal, free-trade capitalism can supply the justice required for that importance and sacredness to be honoured. Neither do I believe that any authoritarian regime can do so. Despite a certain kinkiness in my sex life, the basic equality of all people is paramount to my outlook on life. Hierarchies make me suspicious, large inequalities of wealth make me want to growl.

At present, all the evidence I am familiar with makes it chillingly clear that our current economic and consumption patterns really are Not Helping the world, or the majority of people within it. Others have argued this better, and I shall probably be reviewing (or indeed squeeing about...) some of my favourite books on the subject. :-)

So, what of this? Well, what follows. :-) There is only a very little, little that I can do. But finding ways of travelling with kindness along the paths I have found, of doing my little but sincere best to improve the effect I have upon the world and the living things I encounter with it - these are important. A lot of it is going to be a learning process. Learning new skills that will help me lower my carbon footprint and eat more ethically, learning (greatly) from the examples of others. Learning, at least a little, to erode both my anxiety disorder and my natural shyness to help me connect more with people in the world around me, to be less afraid, to nurture love and to put it into practise.

Let's see how we go. :-)
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Journeys in Kindness/Journeys in Kind

September 2010

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