Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

No tree has branches so foolish
as to fight amongst themselves.
~Ojibwa Saying

When teaching pre-law students the finer points of logical reasoning, there is a type of argument I like to call “Resolve & Explain.”  In it we are presented with a set of facts that appear to be self-contradictory yet in reality they express a possible truth, and we’re asked to resolve and explain this discrepancy.  The correct answer choice will always be that piece of information that explains how both sides of the contradiction can be true at the same time.  Oh the paradox!

Can you imagine it—the ability to hold opposing thoughts in your mind at once and allow them both to be true?  Without feeling threatened by what the other “truth” may mean to your own?  It’s a fascinating way of viewing the world and no easy task; especially when you consider how we cling to our positions. 

Nowhere is this more pronounced than in our world’s religions.  Take for instance the recent showdown in the media between Mitt Romney and his rival, Texas Governor Rick Perry, following senior Baptist minister and Perry supporter Dr. Robert Jeffress’ commentary that Romney wasn’t a true Christian and that Mormonism is a cult.  Oooh, wee!  Can’t you just hear the Bible-thumping going on down there deep in the heart of Texas!  And the presidential race is just getting started…

Consider my Christian friends who feel it their duty to “convert” others to Christianity; or my Muslim friend who believes that Jesus, a high profit, was born to the Virgin Mary but considers it a “blaspheme” to say that Jesus was the “Son of God” because God is Spirit and Spirit can’t have sexual relations.  What tiny little hairs are we splitting here, and what does that really have to do with the core tenements of leading a spiritual life:  faith, hope, love and kindness?

Or consider my father’s deeply held conviction that all those who don’t believe in the Trinity—father, son, Holy Spirit—will, in fact, burn in hell.  What about those who simply choose the path of peace and kindness and live out that example every day?  What of my Bible-quoting, God-fearing colleague who claims astrology to be “the Devil’s work” anytime anyone makes mention of a horoscope or “guidance” from the stars, yet, wait a minute… weren’t the Three Wise Men guided by the stars to Bethlehem on the night of Jesus’ birth? 

Even within certain groups there are smaller and smaller divisions based on opportunity and belief.  Bucket-loads of money are spent every year securing our relative “stakes” in the community and the world at large, convincing others to join us in our way of thinking.  Like the recent string of commercials showing the everyday lives of people who call themselves Mormon, illustrating that they are, in fact, quite normal folks just like you and me lest you buy into Dr. Jeffress’ attempts to color them cult-like.

Take a look around; examples abound.  If we are to have any chance of creating a world that works for everyone, we must ask ourselves:  What is that piece of information that will allow both sides of the contradiction to be true?  That Mormons and Baptists are basically good?  That Muslims and Christians are right?  That two folks who believe different things—one in the Trinity, the other simply in kindness and compassion—will both arrive at the same place in the end?

I ask and I ask and I ask, and I keep coming back to this answer:  There is only One source from which all of life flows.  We, us, them—we are but different expressions of the One, energetically speaking; molecules in motion dancing endlessly through time.  We can split hairs with semantics; divide ourselves in to smaller and smaller pieces of One pie; make “them” wrong so we can be “right” and duke it out in very public and heated debates that will never bring anymore clarity than this.

We came from One and, in the end, to One we shall return.


Flo Diehl said...

I am happy to be the first to comment on this deep subject you have tackled so skillfully. We have to remember that not everyone is "evolved" to the point that their mind's eye can see things from many different view points. We must have patience with and tolerance for each other as we strive to grow into our best selves. Love your writing. It always touches me deeply.

Melissa Johnson said...

Hi Flo. Thanks for the great feedback! You are right--patience and tolerance are key as we look for understanding and creative solutions to these very deeply personal issues. I appreciate that you read and comment!

Anita W. said...

I’m amazed at how you say the things I’m thinking. You, as a writer can get away with the stuff I would take such flak for if I said it to certain family members...oh well, I love it that you are so authentic ‘my heroine’ strikes yet again.