“When I was in jail, I happened to meet one old guy, one senior of mine. He was in there because of something like what I did. Rioting and manslaughter. He has a longer term than I did and he is still serving now… because he is a hit man. He told me a lot of stuff. Instead of wasting my time as a young kid, why not do something out of it? I still remember one thing he told me. If a person is lost in the world, it is like they’re already in hell. There is no people guiding you. Even he asked me, ‘are you a believer yourself in any religion?’ During that time as a kid I don’t believe shit, I believed nothing. There’s no God, there’s no evil; I’m a free thinker that’s it. Me alone facing the world. I’m born, as a human being on earth, this kind of thing happens to me, I’m sorry I don’t believe there is God or Saint. No! There’s me and the world. That’s it. It’s my life. You like it, take it; you don’t like, fuck it.  He told me, eventually when I grow older I will learn. Because I’m still young.  My life is good now. I feel like I’m reborn, everything has changed, I threw my past all behind. I try to move on and love myself more. Hopefully I can guide people in a better way regardless of any religion.  At least I know I’ve been guided. There are certain things I can do and can’t do. Because I’m trying to purify my soul.”

Daniel’s Reflection:  Who is worthy of a spiritual experience?  Can someone who has killed someone still have a spiritual experience?  Are we always worthy of a connection to the God of our understanding?  I was fortunate to learn this lesson when I met Alan Ter who grew up in the gangs in Singapore and who went to jail for manslaughter.  After serving his sentence, he started having dreams that he did not understand involving the Gods worshiped in Taoism.  Alan began practicing Taoism and it changed his life.  He participates in ceremonies by entering into a trance-like state where one of the Gods enters his body and consciousness.  Members of the community can then ask questions and seek guidance from the God he is channeling.  Today, Alan feels he is useful to the community and he is actively trying to purify his soul.  I am reminded by this that I am in no position to judge another human being, even one who has killed someone.   I love this excerpt from AA’s Daily Meditation book, “A Day At A Time:”

“We all want to be rid of our most obvious and destructive flaws.   No one wants to be so greedy that s/he’s labeled a thief.  No one wants to be angry enough to kill, lustful enough to rape, gluttonous enough to become ill. No one wants to be agonized by envy or paralyzed by procrastination.  Of course, few of us suffer these defects at such rock-bottom levels.  Not that that’s reason to congratulate ourselves; chances are, pure self-interest enabled us to escape such extremes.  Not much spiritual effort is involved in avoiding excesses which will bring severe punishment…May I give myself no back-pats for not committing murder or rape, beating up a rival, robbing a sweets shop or stealing from a down-and-outer.  In all humility, may I understand that these are only more violent manifestations of human flaws I harbor in myself.  May God give me the perseverance to change these from the inside, rather than just lessening the degree to which I act them out for the world to see.”

I am grateful to be reminded that I am no better than anyone else, even the criminal or ex-con or any other human living their life best they know how.