Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Thought on Unity, part 1 of 3

Many people see the world in terms of dichotomies. They believe that we are either right or wrong. It is, for them, a binary world made up of black and white stark contrasts.

But as I look outside my window this morning, I don't see a black and white world. I see a multicoloured variegated world, except for the sky. The sky is a fairly uniform grey this morning. But the world itself is filled with colours.

As I think about this view, I realize that there are no negatives in nature.

No, really, there aren't.

"Error", Abdu'l-Baha writes, "is lack of guidance; darkness is absence of light; ignorance is lack of knowledge; falsehood is lack of truthfulness; blindness is lack of sight; and deafness is lack of hearing."

Back to dichotomies. Many people see the world as a place where there is evil on one side and good on another, and somewhere in the middle is a nebulous zero. We start way at the left and somehow move more and more to the right. We're wrong, we're wrong, we're wrong, cross that zero and "poof" we're right. And when you cross that point you somehow become good, saved, a member of their religion, or some other sort of wondrous thing.

But this isn't really the case, is it? When you walk into a dark room and want to read a book, you don't somehow remove the darkness bit by bit, so that the room gets less and less dark, until there is no darkness left, and then begin to add light, do you?

No. You turn on the light.

I have talked about this for years, and it seems kind of strange to me to write this down after so long, but really, it seems more and more important these days.

Another way to look at it is with the idea that we crudely divide religions into two categories. The first are the salvation-based religions. We're either saved or we're damned. It's a very binary way of looking at the world, as I said above. We live our life and then we either go to heaven or hell. Of course, a major change occurred in that view over a thousand years ago when we could suddenly go to purgatory instead, but that's just a washing station on our way to heaven, so it's still heaven or hell. And this way of seeing the world around us is very divisive. You are either for us or against us. It's an us and them model that is not very conducive to either seeing strangers as part of your family nor for showing compassion. I mean, "I'm sorry you're going to hell" is not exactly a higher form of compassion.

The second type of religion would be a spiritual growth based religion. The model for this one would be to start at 0 and work your way towards infinity.

We begin with darkness and continually add more and more light. We begin with ignorance and continually add more and more knowledge. We know nothing of Baha'u'llah or God or any of the various spiritual issues, and continually increase our understanding day by day through reading, studying and applying what we learn.

We can never know infinity, can never get there, but we can always move further and further towards it.

And when we discuss spiritual issues with other people we understand what it is like to have not known something, for there was a time when we were learning, too. We also recognize that it is not strictly linear. There are some things that I have learned in my life, and other things you have learned in yours. It is only through each of sharing with the other that we can best increase our overall knowledge, and our insights into the Writings.

To me, this not only leads us to compassion, but also towards unity, for we are continually seeking to discover more. And we are open to learning what others have discovered, too. Nobody is "right" or "wrong". There is no dichotomy. We have all just learned different things and are all on that long road towards infinity together.

Of course, this doesn't always hold true in the microcosm of things. There are times when we are wrong. For example, if we try to claim that 2 + 2 = 5, our math teacher will mark it wrong. Or if, like I once did, we give a public talk about how marvelous it is that the Bab declared His mission on the first day of spring.

Fortunately for me, in that latter case, people had compassion and only corrected me later.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Mead! This is the best discussion on false dichotomies I've ever read! Can't wait to see where you're going with parts 2 and 3!