Make Religion Loving Again

By Wes Annac, Editor, Openhearted Rebel

On Saturday, May 5th, I made a post on social media about religion. I’d like to expand upon it here. I wrote:

“Some of the worst people in the world are the religious ones who sh*t on everyone else’s beliefs/lifestyle. If you’re religious or spiritual, just be yourself and love your God in whatever way you prefer. Meditate, study Hinduism, and learn about chakras if you want. Or don’t. If you’re an atheist, shout your love for science from a mountaintop. I promise you won’t be possessed by the devil or fall into some mythical hell.

“The true ‘agents of satan’ are those who use their religion to justify a contrived sense of divinity and attack everyone who doesn’t think like them. They’re not doing the work of the Lord – they’re being a d*ck. The world would be much better if they went away and stopped bothering the rest of us who are just trying to live.

“If you cannot muster up love, compassion, acceptance, and understanding for all people regardless of race, religion, or how they feel about your God, you are not living religiously. You are a false prophet living for your idea of what God wants.

“Isn’t it interesting how your God reflects your beliefs and what you think is right/wrong? That’s because it’s not God, it’s your ego. It doesn’t matter how much you study scripture or how strictly you adhere to some belief system created to control you. Condemnation and conversion will never be reflective of a truly religious life.

“And yes, I know I’m being hypocritical by saying we should love everyone but calling out religious people who are judgmental. I’m imperfect, as we all are. I don’t claim to be some born-again Christian arbiter of what people should think or how they should behave.

“My advice is just to be yourself. Do no harm, but take no sh*t from religious bullies who try to make you think you’ll go to hell if you don’t let them tell you what to believe. Also, when you find out how much money these people make off of Jesus, you’ll understand why they’re so nutty about gaining followers.”

I know this sounds harsh, but my intention was not to go after all religious people. I’m generally okay with religion. I study it and try to find what’s at the heart of every teaching.

I think that what we know as religion was, at one time, used for good. In many ways, it still is today. Despite the manipulation and everything lost in translation through the ages, many religious texts still hint at the golden rule (if not directly point it out).

There are religious people who live a positive life and only want to help others. They don’t condemn those who think differently. They know they can’t change anyone, so they focus on becoming the best version of themselves. They’re not driven by ego and the desire for control, but love and the desire to grow as a person. Instead of judging, they empathize. Instead of going after money or power, they live humbly in service.

These are not the people I refer to in the rant above.

I mentioned in that post that condemning and converting non-believers does not reflect a religious life. In my mind, a truly religious life is built upon love and empathy over all else. From these divine qualities spring others that will help you make your little corner of the world better.

love-definition-1

I don’t know why religion has taken such a dark turn, but we now have this whole other thing that’s as far from the truth as you can get.

We have people fighting and killing each other over slight modifications of the same philosophy. We have accusations of devil worship against people with alternative beliefs – a modern-day religious witch hunt. If you pay attention to these radical religious groups, you see their members accuse each other of being satanic for believing slightly different things. It’s insane.

I don’t know how people can be so attached to these belief systems yet blinded to the golden rule that inspired their creation. Admittedly, the tone of my post was less than loving. But some things need to be said or done, even if it’s at the momentary expense of peace.

There comes a time when we can no longer accept condemnation, hate, or insanity in any form. It will only get worse if we don’t keep it in check. Since this is a moral conundrum, I suppose we should find a middle ground between being peaceful and calling out hate when necessary.

I believe love is God and there is no greater truth. It doesn’t bother me if you believe something different. Just don’t come knocking down my door and calling me a heretic without expecting me to defend myself.

I hope these people find the truth, and I don’t hate them for thinking differently. If I have any animosity, it’s because it perplexes me that they can be so dedicated to their religion yet miss the point by being so hateful. Love, empathy, discipline, and humility are all you need. It’s not that hard.

I wish they could see the source of all this conflict – a lack of love – and realize they’re fueling it. It’s frustrating, but at the same time, I feel bad for them. Love and empathy are much simpler and more rewarding than these crazy, twisted philosophies that lead to all this nonsense. I hope they can see the error of their ways, but my inner skeptic doubts that their egos will soften anytime soon.

I’m trying to live by my own newfound religious/spiritual path and its accompanying principles. Call them what you will – rules, structured activities, guidelines by which to live – they’re helping me create a better life and be more tolerable to the people around me. They’re also helping me develop discipline and a resulting sense of accomplishment.

These disciplines include working hard at my writing and whatever other creative projects come along, as to me, this is a form of karma yoga (service to humanity). They also include empathy and helping people even when it’s uncomfortable.

More than anything, this lifestyle is one of peace and service to humanity rather than conflict with myself and others. I’ve only recently started on this path, and I obviously haven’t mastered it. It’s never easy at first, but you must wade through the confusion if you want to find the bright meadow at the end of the murky swamp.

One thing I may never empathize with is how people who are supposedly religious can be so hateful. But if they don’t hurt anyone – except with their opinions but let’s face it; we’re all adults and we can take it (words are just words) – then I have no reason to hate them. I should wish them well and, as with anything, look at myself to figure out why their words affect me.

It’s all about improving yourself and helping the world while you’re here. I sincerely hope religious radicals can one day understand this and join the rest of us in trying to help this suffering planet.

I wrote the following for the 290th issue of the Weekly Awareness Guide, a written document distributed weekly via email that I offer for $11.11 a month.

Income from the guide helps me get by and ensures I can continue to offer free content, and every subscription is appreciated. You can find the option to subscribe below (learn about subscribing with cash/check here).

PayPal
$11.11 monthly subscription via PayPal, debit, or credit.

About the author: 

I’m a twenty-something writer & blogger with an interest in spirituality, revolution, music and the transformative creative force known as love. I run Openhearted Rebel, a daily news blog dedicated to igniting a revolution of love by raising social and spiritual awareness.

I also have a personal blog in which I share writings related to spiritual philosophy, creativity, heart consciousness and revolution (among other topics).

I write from the heart, sharing informative and enlightening content with anyone who wants to check it out.

Follow me on Facebook (Wes Annac, https://www.facebook.com/openheartedrebel) and Twitter (Wes Annac, https://twitter.com/love_rebellion)

If you enjoyed this post and want to support my work, consider a donation by sending funds via PayPal to wesremal@yahoo.com.

Recent articles and videos:

No copyright. Share freely with attribution to Wes Annac and Openhearted Rebel.

Thanks for reading!

Advertisements

One More Light: Loss, Grief, and Love for Life

By Wes Annac, Editor, Openhearted Rebel

This one will be rough.

Today, we’re looking at the song One More Light by Linkin Park. You probably know this band for the nu-metal style of music they became famous for – heavy guitars with rapping, scream-singing, keyboards, and turntables – or the tragedy that befell them in 2017.

Despite the criticism the One More Light album received for containing less hard rock and more pop-centric songs, Linkin Park’s music has always crossed genres. Take for example this song they wrote for their first album.

Hybrid Theory, the name of their first album, is what the band called themselves before they settled on Linkin Park. It’s a reference to merging different music genres to create a “hybrid”. The band has never stuck with any one style of music, although their first two albums Hybrid Theory (2000) and Meteora (2003) were similar in style and sound.

New Sounds

With their next album Minutes to Midnight, released in 2008, they decided to change things up in a bigger and much more noticeable way. In this album, they experimented with a less restrained form of hard rock as well as an acoustic and driving softrock sound in place of the heavy distorted guitar. Their lyrics also included social commentary. Although the album was a lot different from their first two, this experimentation is in line with how they’d always intended to make music.

Their effort to make genre-bending music continued up to their latest album, One More Light, released in 2017. After Minutes to Midnight, the band released A Thousand Suns in 2010 (a concept album that in my opinion is their best), Living Things in 2012 (an album that, in sound and style, was like a sequel to the previous), The Hunting Party in 2014 (a heavy album in which they exchanged soft rock and techno for a harder sound with driving guitar and a lot more screaming), and their most recent album, the title track from which we’ll discuss here: One More Light.

One More Light is much different in style from the previous album; The Hunting Party features hard rock whereas One More Light is more of a pop album. It’s worth a listen regardless of your musical preference, as the songs are very well done and the band uses them to address many meaningful, personal issues.

Credit: http://tichyodpor.blogspot.com

The title track to One More Light is a mournful song reflecting on what a person feels when dealing with the loss of someone close to them. It addresses how the living wish they could’ve helped the deceased, how grief hits you in small yet devastating ways at unexpected times, and how every life is valuable no matter how insignificant it may seem.

The term “all lives matter” doesn’t do justice to what the guys in Linkin Park express in this song. My interpretation of it is that by highlighting how important every life is, they are mourning the dead while celebrating the living. The music is soft with an appropriately gloomy sound that expresses the band’s grief and contemplation on death and life.

The subject matter is obviously sad, and it was inspired by the group’s experiences with losing people close to them.

Before we discuss the lyrics, check out the song.

(Note: Due to copyright issues, you have to go to YouTube to watch the videos in this article.)

Lyric Discussion

Now, we’ll discuss this song’s lyrics and overall message. The lyrics are in the video above, but you can also find them here.

The first half of this song’s first verse seems to reference the feelings one might have after a friend or relative takes their life. The second half suggests a sense of closeness with someone who’s passed away, with the end being a sad, contemplative reminder that human life is temporary (“there are things that we can have, but can’t keep”). Some people won’t always be in our life, and while their loss will hurt, it’s one of many reasons we should value the time we have with them.

The song continues into the chorus, with lyrics that express reverence for life and sadness at death. The point of the chorus (and the song itself) seems to be that all life is valuable. On a planet teeming with living entities, we should forget nobody and leave nobody behind. We should care about every living thing no matter how seemingly insignificant it is. A life might be insignificant to you, but it means everything to the one living it.

The second verse will hit close to home for anyone who’s been through a tremendous loss. It touches on the fact that when dealing with loss, grief is continuous. It comes in many forms at many different times and strikes when you’re the most vulnerable. Mike Shinoda – who raps, composes, plays guitar, keyboards, and does vocals for Linkin Park –  would later touch on this in his solo music.

Simple reminders can be torturous, and as the lyrics state, you have every reason to be upset.

My interpretation of the last line (“just ‘cuz you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there”) is that grief and depression can be present regardless of how happy a person seems; especially when dealing with loss. You never know what someone is going through. We all wear a mask, and the happiest faces often hide the greatest pain.

Chester Bennington’s Death

Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park. Credit: Berkely B-Side

The world learned this when Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park, died by suicide on July 20, 2017. This was just two months after the band released the One More Light album. Despite the sad tone that pervades so much of Linkin Park’s music, close friends and family say Chester was upbeat and hard-working. But in his personal life, he fought a harsh battle with addiction and depression.

Four days after Chester passed, his bandmates released a statement via social media:

Dear Chester,

Our hearts are broken. The shockwaves of grief and denial are still sweeping through our family as we come to grips with what has happened.

You touched so many lives, maybe even more than you realized. In the past few days, we’ve seen an outpouring of love and support, both public and private, from around the world. Talinda [Chester’s wife] and the family appreciate it, and want the world to know that you were the best husband, son, and father; the family will never be whole without you.

Talking with you about the years ahead together, your excitement was infectious. Your absence leaves a void that can never be filled—a boisterous, funny, ambitious, creative, kind, generous voice in the room is missing. We’re trying to remind ourselves that the demons who took you away from us were always part of the deal. After all, it was the way you sang about those demons that made everyone fall in love with you in the first place. You fearlessly put them on display, and in doing so, brought us together and taught us to be more human. You had the biggest heart, and managed to wear it on your sleeve.

Our love for making and performing music is inextinguishable. While we don’t know what path our future may take, we know that each of our lives was made better by you. Thank you for that gift. We love you, and miss you so much.

Until we see you again,

LP

Visit Chester.LinkinPark.com

Chester Bennington’s struggles inspired the lyrics in many of the band’s songs. The song Crawling, for example, deals with addiction and an inability to escape. The One More Light album was different; not in the sense that it didn’t express sadness, but that it expressed the desire to see the light when you could instead give in and let the darkness take you. This is a message the band had been building over time with each album, with the songs Iridescent and The Messenger being testaments to this.

The theme that runs through most of the songs on One More Light is that in the darkest of times, there is hope and the possibility of redemption.

Chris Cornell’s Death Two Months Prior

Tragically, just as the One More Light album was set to debut in May 2017, a huge loss rocked the music community. On May 18, 2017, legendary rocker Chris Cornell died by suicide. Most of us wouldn’t know it until Chester passed two months later, but he and Chris were close friends, having toured and played shows together. Chester was even the godfather of one of Cornell’s children.

Chester Bennington (right) on stage with Chris Cornell (left). Both singers, who were close friends, died by suicide within a couple months of each other. Credit: Alternative Nation

After hearing about Chris Cornell’s death, Linkin Park dedicated the first song of a televised live set to him, playing One More Light instead of Heavy as was planned. Mike Shinoda later noted that when rehearsing and playing the song live that day, Chester struggled to get through it. You can watch the emotional performance on YouTube:

Chester passed away on July 20th, the day that would’ve been Chris Cornell’s birthday.

Aftermath

In the aftermath of Chester’s passing, his bandmates noticed that fans were using the song One More Light, which they’d written to show solidarity with those experiencing loss, to pay tribute and comfort them in their time of mourning. As a result, a couple months after Chester’s death, Linkin Park released a music video for One More Light dedicated to him.

Teaming up with other well-known bands and artists, Linkin Park put on a show at the Hollywood Bowl for their fallen bandmate in October 2017. The concert was called “Linkin Park and Friends Celebrate Life in Honor of Chester Bennington”.

During the show, Mike Shinoda debuted a song he wrote for his bandmate. Looking For An Answer, which deserves an article of its own, centers on similar themes as One More Light. But this song is specifically about Chester.

Additionally, Mike Shinoda released three songs of his own in January 2018. In these songs, known together as the Post-Traumatic E.P., Mike touches on the anger, sadness, confusion, and loss he’s felt since his friend’s death, as well as the hurdles he had to overcome putting together the tribute concert while dealing with grief that hits you out of nowhere (as One More Light explored). He also expresses the feeling of not knowing what to do and the fear that his work could be over.

Check out the videos for the three songs on YouTube.

Concluding Thoughts

I was one of the many Linkin Park fans hit hard by Chester’s death. Sadly, I had not heard any songs on One More Light (except Heavy) until after I’d heard the news. When I did listen to the album, I found a collection of songs that, while not rock, contained the same energy and passion but with a twist: the band was touching on more personal issues than before.

Linkin Park songs have always been known for lyrics that exemplify a struggle for happiness that often feels hopeless. But with the One More Light album, the band explored new territory by addressing specific personal struggles in the fight to see the light. As they put it, for this album, they “let the lyrics come first” and built the music around the central message the lyrics contained.

It’s tragic that Chester Bennington left us so soon, and especially so soon after the band released this album, because it’s one of his greatest accomplishments.

We miss you, Chester. Rest in Power.

Credit: Pinterest

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Featured image credit

What I Want

By Wes Annac, Editor, Openhearted Rebel

I wrote the following for the 253rd issue of the Weekly Awareness Guide, a written document distributed weekly via email that I offer for $11.11 a month.

Income from the guide helps me get by and ensures I can continue to offer free content, and every subscription is appreciated. The option to subscribe is given at the bottom of this post (learn about subscribing with cash/check here).

What I want is simple.

I want the world to live in peace; not die in war. I want to see people treat each other as equals; not hate and kill each other over something as silly as religious or political differences. I want us to treat each other as one human race; not multiple races in perpetual conflict over what divides us.

I want to help people understand what love really is; not the romantic notions we’ve come to associate with love, but true love. This is love for all mankind, and with it comes the understanding that we are one race. We can thrive together or fall together. Continue reading

I Stand for Love

By Wes Annac, Editor, Openhearted Rebel

People who create things for a living often have something to represent; whether it’s a belief system, a new way of thinking, or something else they believe can change the world.

I listen to a lot of reggae music, for example, much of which is made by Rastafarians with a message to share. Sometimes the message is about Rastafarian philosophy, and sometimes it’s about freedom or rebellion against corruption. These musicians have something to say and a great outlet to get their message out.

This is one of many examples of creative minds on a mission to share their truth.

For many, a life of creative work and a message to share go together. Without a message, their work is missing something. These creative minds inspire me the most, because my work also relies on having something meaningful to share with you. Continue reading

The Middle

By Wes Annac, Editor, Openhearted Rebel

This is a busy time for all the openhearted rebels out there, as plenty of issues in the world are demanding our attention and action.

Many of them can be traced to the corrupt elite and the institutions they use to reinforce control over the masses. For example: the elite uses the media to create division by inflaming people over unimportant issues they know we’ll take sides on.

The public then bickers and is successfully distracted from important things happening in the world.

By focusing on violence, rioting, and other sensational or emotionally charged issues, the media conditions us to accept ideological extremism. When we hear about the latest corruption scandal, racially charged police shooting, or equal rights issue in the public eye, we instinctively pick a side and defend our views. Continue reading

Love: My New Religion

By Wes Annac, Editor, Openhearted Rebel

“Buddha was not a Buddhist, Jesus was not a Christian, Muhammad was not a Muslim. They were Teachers who taught love.” (Source)

Religion overcomplicates a simple message: live from the heart. Letting love and compassion guide your thoughts, actions, and intentions is the most authentic way to connect with the Source, as rather than forced conformity with a belief system, it brings about a natural evolution of the self.

The idea that devoting yourself to religion will bring spiritual rewards is an incorrect interpretation of the benefits of heart-centered living. We’re taught we’ll receive God’s gifts by changing who we are and conforming to what the church wants, when in truth, we can receive them by making a subtle yet powerful shift into the heart.

This way of life doesn’t make you wipe your personality clean so the church can reprogram it. Continue reading

Untangling the Knot of Fear

By Wes Annac, Editor, Openhearted Rebel

Meditation is wonderful.

By bringing your attention to your subconscious, it helps you become aware of things deep within that either help or hurt you. If you meditate for long enough, it’ll reveal the answers to your deepest questions.

Without meditation, I don’t think I could receive the guidance I’ve needed to get through countless problems in life.

Meditation was there for me each time I realized I can’t find what I need in the material world. By becoming silent, still, and willing to listen to the nothingness, I discovered a higher consciousness and the potential to plunge deeper.

Within the meditation-induced nothingness, you discover the intuitive stream of thought that leads to positive places through positive choices. If you can tune in and listen to this intuitive thought stream, it’ll help you stay on the right path.

Continue reading