Comforting Words: My Religion is Kindness

Thursday, April 14, 2005

My Religion is Kindness

By Sonya

“Not by hate is hate defeated; hate is quenched by love. This is the eternal law.”
Dhammapada 5

“People with small minds want a small Law because they can't believe they could become Buddhas.”
Lotus Sutra 2

“Some people are like big children, harming others without even seeing it. Staying angry with these fools is like being mad at fire because it burns.”
Bodhicharyavatara 6.39

Sometime ago, I read an interview with a Tibetan monk who had been captured by the Chinese army, tortured and imprisoned for 20 years. For some reason, what has stood out in me mind about his life story is his response to a novice monk who asked him what was his greatest fear during his imprisonment. He replied that his greatest fear was that he would lose compassion for the Chinese.

I admit defeat. I am not as strong as this monk is and I notice that lately, I am losing compassion for my captors. My partner also notices and tries to help by pointing out when I act "less than loving" toward people.

Being human and needing to justify my emotion, I ascribe blame for this state that I am in to the situation that my partner is currently experiencing. Of Asian background, she comes from a family with very traditional beliefs and values. Her parents are also quite elderly. Stemming from these two factors, she does not feel in a position to tell her family about our relationship.

My partner, who is in her mid-30's, feels and behaves as if she was the disobedient teenager who is sternly reprimanded for every minor infraction. As for me, after having the big "coming out" speech with my own family two years ago, I faintly remember what being in the closet is like. However, now that I have been on the “outside,” I am loathe to be sequestered in the closet again. I love my partner dearly and so intimately experience the effects being in the closet has on her. We are now at the point where this situation, “keeping her family happy,” is even taking a toll on our finances.

The other reason for my "losing compassion" stems from my own job. As a teacher, I have the pleasure of having lunch in the staff room with "the mom squad"-- AKA: half a dozen 40 and 50-something ladies discussing the "joys" of giving birth and changing diapers while attempting to digest my lunch! My sighs of frustration usually prompt someone to turn to me to remark: "Oh, do not worry, honey, it will be your turn soon!"

In my world, it is okay for my colleagues to take days off because their children are ill or take "personal days" because their spouses have a day off. My employer goes to great length to reinforce and congratulate married and partnered staff members and to acknowledge their unions. Wait, let me rephrase that. That should read: "congratulate married and partnered STRAIGHT staff members." My union is to be hidden and feared.

I am very conscious of the fact that my last posting at Comforting Words was about Mardi Gras and the freedom that "non-straights" in Sydney enjoy.

There are however, moments such as these, that balance out those shining moments of freedom. Recognizing this, I am only left with questions of purpose: Why is there such an insurmountable division of recognition between the relationship of my female colleague and her husband, as compared to my relationship with my partner? Where is the justification for distinguishing that one relationship is "good" and the other is "bad"?

My female colleagues can freely discuss the difficulties of their relationships and get a simple human expression of compassion. Should I dare to mention anything of my relationship or my partner, I risk not only being bombarded with questions of morality and righteousness but I would find myself unemployed in a matter of minutes.

The cynical gay students around Australia proudly display badges and signs reading: “Heterosexuality is not normal, just common.” John Howard, current Prime Minister of Australia, seems to believe that the inherent “goodness” of a relationship comes from its procreative nature. According to this logic, homosexuals are “bad” simply because they do not contribute to increasing the population of Australia. (No worries, there are several chasms in that logic, all have been debated regularly.)

Since I cannot or dare not brag at work about my relationship, let me do it here:
My partner is a wholesale travel consultant. Last year at their annual Christmas party, she was chosen “team member of the year” for having the highest annual sales and generally a great performer in her job. She was rewarded vouchers for a 5-star resort in Bali, Indonesia. We are taking off for Bali this week to enjoy a free 10-day holiday because of those vouchers.

Be it my loved one's inability to discuss her happiness with her family because “it would just KILL them,” or my inability to brag to my co-workers about this vacation we are taking, I just do not understand the hatred and fear directed towards us. Am I the only one who thinks it logical that love should be celebrated wherever it occurs?

The point of this article is my confession of “losing it,” which is becoming a regular occurrence. Take for example, a few days ago we were out shopping and as I walked down the street, pretending to be asexual, not holding on to this beautiful woman that I love so much, I cringed and cursed every time we approached an intersection to be greeted with another couple smooching as they waited for the light to turn green or every time some mommy drove her pram into my shins.

I am losing compassion for my captors. They refuse to recognize that though I may be of a different belief system, mine *is* valid. I believe in love. I believe in honesty and it kills me to lie to my students every day. I believe in sharing joy wherever it exists. I still have a long way to go in cultivating compassion for all beings.

My religion is kindness.

Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha.


Anonymous Bali Holidays said...

Don't hide your relationship, I work with many people gay and straight and everyone is very accepting of each other. Those who are not are not worth knowing.

Also, hope you had a great time with your partner in Bali :)

Wed. Oct. 07, 12:10:00 a.m. MDT  

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