When I was in LA a few weeks ago, I met up with a close friend from college who is now a devout Falun Gong practitioner. In between sharing anecdotes of our lives and marveling at how much we’ve both changed since we first met during a study abroad program in Spain, we talked about our belief systems, which prompted him to ask me what exactly do I believe in.
It’s not an uncommon question for me to receive, as someone who went to Catholic school for 12 years, majored in Religious Studies, and frequently wears crosses (I’m actually getting a cross tattooed on one of my knuckles this week).
Truth be told, I don’t believe in any form of organized religion or doctrine, and I’m not one who needs something to believe in; I don’t need a higher authority to give reason and meaning to the events that transpire in life.
Over the years, however, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my interactions with others, and the legacy that I’d like to one day leave behind. While I don’t believe I’ll leave this world known as the “friendliest” or “kindest” person, I’d like to think that I’ve shared some level of warmth with everyone I’ve crossed paths with.
I once read somewhere that to live a happy life you should give gifts to people everyday, and not necessarily gifts of the physical variety. These gifts could include the exchange of smiles, greetings, some small form of acknowledgment that you and this other person have shared a slice, a moment of life together, and it was good. Warmth isn’t something that comes naturally to me, but I do believe in showing respect to everyone who walks in and out of my life, and to be generous with my smiles, especially to those who seem to need it most.
I believe in treating others with a sense of dignity and mutual respect, that no one should feel as if the course of his/her life is trivial or meaningless compared with others who may be more affluent or more attractive or more successful. I resent any implication of a “lesser” person or persons.
As trite as it is to admit, I believe in karmic retribution, and the idea that what you put out into the world gets returned back to you. I don’t consider myself a particularly virtuous person, and I’m no big philanthropist. My life philosophy can be summed up simply as, “Don’t be an asshole."
And honestly, the world has enough assholes. I think not being one of them is something to believe in.