Today I find myself basking in the afterglow of a huge explosion. Recently, I found myself discussing the issue of abortion with a group of conservatives. Needless to say I felt a bit banged up over the discussion, but such figurative bruising is necessary for me to understand how someone else feels and then, hopefully, why they feel the way they do. I put up a good front when arguing specific points, but invariably I am simply trying to better understand the viewpoints of others as well as the source of their opinions.
In this specific case, however, the answers I received only led me to more questions that others simply were not prepared to, or could not, answer. As is usually the case when you are discussing such volatile topics with ideologues, name calling and rhetorical threats ended the discussion when nothing else seemed to work. Fortunately, this discussion was held on an internet forum where physical violence seemed impossible.
That is how explosive the subject is. Yet, because I could not get the fundamental question answered I figured I would write about it here in the hopes that someone, somewhere could answer it. I have my answer, which I will share later, but I am curious to see if sans ideas and conditioning we can all arrive at the same answer or if we are just too attached to both to let go. First, however, some clarifications are in order.
I do believe that most people on both sides of the issue are very sincere people with good hearts. I believe that they care deeply about their perspective and that the passion shown is a testament to that caring. For those on the left side they care about women and their freedoms as well as children who are left without in our nation. They see abortion as stemming the tide of suffering while exercising the rights of women to choose whether or not a fetus can feed off her body. On the right, they see it as not only an issue of personal responsibility, but also an issue that defines how our society values life. Both sides care, both sides are exhibiting some kind of compassion, and neither side is truly “wrong” except to the other.
While I may have greatly simplified the views and the opinions presented, I believe this description accurately depicts the majorities on both sides of the issue.
For me? Well I am a self-described “pro-choice/pro-life” kind of guy. While I have been called “wishy-washy” by people on both sides, I see a woman’s choice as hers to make while seeing life as valuable and something to be honored. Personally, I could never have an abortion, not only because I am male, but because I simply could not make that choice. Yet, I know some who have and they are people whom I value as both human beings and as good, loving people. I could not simply condemn them for their choice because I can’t see it as defining them outside of it.
That said, I have found that the question of abortion brings out the ultimate hypocrite in each of us. For most who are “pro choice”, it seems they have no issue condemning the loss of life in other death-creating actions like war, capital punishment, and crime while appearing to embrace the loss of life abortion creates. Life has been relegated to a matter of convenience to some and a matter of wealth (or poverty) to others while seeming to be a matter of choice to all on this side of the isle.
On the right, I find the hypocrisy seems to run a bit more deeply. While most on the right define their opinions as “pro-life”, the majority of them seem to be nothing of the sort. They have no issue with innocent men, women (some of whom are pregnant) and children being slaughtered in some fear-based fantasy called “the war on terror” (not-so accidentally called “collateral damage”). They also seem to have no issue with the State killing men and women it deems guilty of something worthy of the ultimate punishment. Conservatives conveniently add conditions to life itself, which in my mind suggests that it isn’t truly life they value, but rather some idea of the value of life that they assign based on conditions.
Regardless of my opinion of those with opinions, I do have one fundamental question of people on either side. It is one that I would like answered, but not with the typical immediate reaction I get with questions on this subject (like the one you may me having right now!). Rather, the answer to this question should be contemplative and rather slow in coming. When I first asked it of myself years ago it actually took me months to come up with an answer that truly changed my perspective. It took time to have the reactions, understand them and their source, and then see if they truly represented my answer.
Warning: an image I am using below is a bit graphic, but necessary in order to properly ask the question. Please do not look if injury offends you as it does me.
So here goes with the question I find gets to the heart of this issue once and for all.
What makes this life:
More or less valuable than this life:
or more or less valuable than this life?
I can only assume, and I hope you will all clarify this, that the value we truly have on life belongs to the ideas we have created around it. I came to that understanding while pondering this very question for months until I arrived at an answer that made TOTAL sense to me. It didn’t just have to make sense to my mind, or my soul, or my conditioning. No, to me it had to make complete sense to my wholeness. It could not sit wrongly with one while making sense to the others. It had to be an unanimous decision, not a majority one.
The one I arrived at many years ago was such a unanimous answer. There was no difference. Each life held exactly the same value regardless of my ideas about it. If I removed the ideas I had about the person I was looking at, their life held the exact same meaning as my own.
Now I won’t lie to you. Getting my mind to agree was the hardest part of the meditation. I had backed it into a corner where it could not truly justify its answers when presented with the power of Love, Compassion, and Being. Each time it came up with an idea as to why a guilty man should be executed along came Love to say, “turn the other cheek”. Each time it suggested that the “war on terror” was necessary to protect my own family, Being suggested, “blessed are the meek and the peacemakers”. Once my mind silenced the ego that called out in fear the answer came to it quite easily.
So, is the “pro-life” movement truly “pro-LIFE”? Or is it simply in pro-“ideas about life”? When we make a choice to end a life unnaturally, whether in utero, in war or in an execution chamber, aren’t we making a statement that suggests we value the IDEAS we have about life more than the life itself?
Is that right?
I leave the answers up to the individual in the full knowledge that, without the ego’s reaction it is a very simple one to answer. I also leave the answers up to the individual to choose what is the right answer for them in the full knowledge that the answer they arrive at now may not be the one they find later. It’s an expression of liberty, it’s an expression of freedom, and it’s an assumption of responsibility. A responsibility not just for you to use, but also for me to allow you the chance to use it.
It appears that in this society we have lost the process to obtain wisdom while become slaves to the conditioning and ideas of others. We don’t exercise the inherent values that are a gift to each of us. It’s why we suffer under the weight of ideologues and why we inspire fear in those who believe we are mad with insanity. We look to political and religious leaders to fill the void left by our inability to sit still long enough to contemplate and formulate, giving them complete power over us. We rely on the conditioning of our parents for ideas that we ourselves have the power to create. We abdicate our responsibility to not only wake up to the experience, but allow it to set in long enough to understand its value and then act accordingly. In doing so, we often try mightily to keep others from having the experience that they wish to have in order to not threaten our own sense of “self” and attachment to the ideas we did not formulate on our own.
I truly trust that we will find our way. After all, a great man once said (as the story goes) that “the meek shall inherit the Earth.” I believe him, and although I know it will take time I know that after the entirety of the human “contemplation” we will arrive at not only the right answer, but the unanimous one.