Sunday, January 21, 2018

Elevated Conversations

For years I thought that an "elevated conversation" was just somehow introducing a spiritual theme into an everyday conversation. You know, sort of like talking about the importance of unity and teamwork when your friends are talking about sports. Or perhaps talking about the natural attraction to beauty when discussing makeup, and what constitutes true beauty. That sort of thing.

But the more I watch what is happening in the world, and consider what I'm reading in the Writings, as well as thinking more deeply about the notes I took at the talk of a member of the Universal House of Justice while on Pilgrimage recently, the more I'm convinced that there is really more to it than that. And it's not that doing this, introducing a simple moral connection into a conversation, is wrong, but just that there is far more to it than I previously thought.

In the recent Ridvan message we read that "humanity's ultimate well-being is dependent upon its differences being transcended and its unity firmly established."

Its "differences being transcended".

What a fascinating statement.

What does that mean? And more importantly, what does it look like in our daily life?

On the surface, it means to go beyond the limitations that those differences imply. One way in which we do that is to offer new definitions of our foundational terms, for many times it is the very definitions which are our limiting factor. For example, if we look at the sciences, then we will see that we, as humanity, had to redefine the very concepts of how we understood space and time at the beginning of the 20th century in order to move beyond the simplistic mechanical model of the universe. "Through the movement of Our Pen of glory", writes Baha'ullah, "We have, at the bidding of the omnipotent Ordainer, breathed a new life into every human frame, and instilled into every word a fresh potency." Sometimes I think that this fresh potency allows us to go beyond the limitations that the previous definitions forced into the various conversations. For example, if we talk about God, but use an old concept of what "God" would mean, such as an old dude sitting on some sort of throne in the clouds with flying angels whizzing all around His head, then of course we would consider ourselves atheists, for we don't believe in that concept of a God. But when we redefine what we mean by the idea of God, then it becomes a much more acceptable idea. Of course, this takes time, and there are those that say "Well, you can't just redefine things the way you want." To which I say why not? This is how dialogue has always worked throughout the history of philosophy, religion and science. We begin by defining our terms. And if they still disagree, then just look above at the point I made about time and space being redefined.

Anyways there are plenty of other examples before us.

A few months ago there was some sort of on-line... I hesitate to use the word "debate", for it sure didn't look like one to me... argument about gun control among some of my friends in the US. Some were obviously for it, while others were obviously against it. And neither side could see any point in the other. They were arguing and arguing, getting each other more and more riled up. No point to this at all, that I could see. But then someone introduced a new point. They said that both sides were obviously concerned about security. One side, the pro-gun side, was looking at personal security and the ability to protect oneself against random attacks. The other side, the anti-gun side, was looking at collective security, and protecting themselves against a random attack by someone else with a gun. One was looking at the personal side of security, and the other at the collective side. And in the end, both groups agreed. This, to me, was a truly elevated conversation. The person elevated the discussion beyond the obvious dichotomy and got to the root of the argument from both sides, seeing where they agreed. Now, they were talking about how to ensure both sides' sense of security, and which outweighs the other when in conflict.

Another prime example of this is the idea of teaching creationism in school. On the surface, there really isn't a problem with it. Teaching anybody's perspective is probably a good thing in the long run, and isn't that why the children are there? To learn? The problem arises with the idea of teaching it under what we call "science". When setting the rules for what goes in one discipline, as opposed to another, all you need to do is look and see if it fits. Does it fall under the purview of scientific testing? If not, then it doesn't belong in the sciences. Perhaps it could be better fit in history, such as the history of religion. To dismiss it outright, though, just because one doesn't agree with it, or to randomly say that we will teach this non-scientific idea as opposed to all the others are both problematic.

Looking at these examples really helped get a better understanding of what a truly elevated conversation could be. It is so much more than the starting of point of introducing a simple spiritual concept. it is about transcending those difference of opinion and finding that common ground that can actually help people feel that they are heard, as well as share in a meaningful way different ideas. It's about learning, showing respect, especially when you disagree, and working towards a better solution that unites. After all, it is so much more important to be united than right.

1 comment:

  1. Now I am going to do my breakfast, afterward having my breakfast comng oer again to read further news.