The picture below hung in the upstairs hallway of my childhood home. My father purchased it before I was born, so it’s been a part of my life from my earliest days.
When I was smaller, it was over my head, both in placement and intellectually. As a toddler, I’d have to strain my neck just to look at it. In time though, I’d grow taller and my eyes would better connect with the cultures of the world. I was fascinated by the people, their varying skin tones, the different clothes they wore, and the religions they represented. I would read the message over and over again…
“Do unto others as you have them do unto you…”
Even as a child this seemed like a good way to be.
When I was tall enough, I’d remove the picture from the wall and prop it up on a table in my bedroom. I’d just stare at it — getting lost in the people and the stories they represented. The picture opened my mind to the possibilities of belief. I’d always make sure to put it back exactly as I found it though, so my parents wouldn’t know I was regularly removing it.
When my parents separated, Rockwell’s Golden Rule went with my father. Dad displayed it wherever he lived, from Montana, to New Jersey, to Las Vegas where he eventually retired. When my father passed away, the painting ended up in my hands, where it remains to this day — and I still stop to take it in daily.
Fast forward several decades…
The year I turned 40, my brother suggested I read The Religions Of Man by Huston Smith (1958, now called The World’s Religions). To this day, it remains the seminal text for introducing religion to first-year college students.
The book, like the Rockwell’s panting, captivated me. Smith’s book expanded the possibilities of belief. Every time I opened World’s Religions, and every time I’d start a new chapter, I’d flash back to Rockwell’s Golden Rule — it was a way to connect that painting with the rich history of religious observance from every corner of the world.
Each time I completed a chapter of The World’s Religions, I felt a visceral bond with the religion which had been covered. When I put the book down, I felt that I had a little bit of every religion in me. On completing the book, I dubbed myself a freelance person of faith.
Through dozens more books over the next twenty years, covering every religion from Shinto, to Sikhism, to Judaism, to Zoroastrianism, and beyond, I’d always feel better connected with the religion I was studying, and very often felt it was the perfect theology for me at that time, but remained committed to my religion of one.
More recently, the last couple years, my emphasis has been on learning about Islam, which is quite infectious the deeper one dives into it. Islam is, by far, the least understood of all the Abrahamic faiths, at least in the western world. I’ll suggest that the prejudice against Islam, especially in the United States, is far greater and more intense than any prejudice against Judaism and Christianity — to the point where it’s shameful. A story for another essay.
Anyway, I was looking at the picture below yesterday, and realized that my fascination — my love of religion began with a painting which hung in the hallway of my childhood home. And with a Christian mother and a Jewish father who, despite their many differences, never said a negative word about the religion each other was raised in. We should all be so graceful in matters of faith.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
This week by the numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 4
Mph Avg: 13.8
Seat Time: 11 hours 11 minutes
Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along this week. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like 👍🏻 and a share. Oh, and there’s this from The Grief Brothers. Enjoy…