Oftentimes when I speak to religious folks I am raked over the coals and I find this troubling because my singular goal is to show them how what they believe is literal and how they can believe one thing and I or a Hindu or Muslim or Buddhist can believe another and we can all be right because it is love or wonder that prevails. Even amidst all of the scary bits present in some religious texts love is what we cling to. And then I follow with the fact that the universal ratio of destructive violence to peace tilts overwhelmingly in the favor of peace.
Events like the eruption of Mount Vesuvius over Pompeii and Herculaneum or the 1906 San Francisco earthquake are relatively rare. So rare that when they happen the whole world takes notice. We are shocked into awe by the destruction and it saddens us. Why? Because we are so used to the longer period of rest between these cataclysmic events. And then there are the big boys like asteroid impacts which are ridiculously rare and even those do not end things for eternity. Even if we were hit by one the size of Mars it would wipe out life, but our planet would eventually cool and then new life would evolve. This should tell you something about the inherently benevolent and resilient nature of the universe of which the elements that make us up derived. We are literally part of this whole big expanding mess. Even if you think we evolved from alien matter, that alien matter came from our universe. Yes, our universe! We need to take pride in its breathtaking beauty.
As I write this I am almost on the verge of tears. I just cannot believe that so many of us cannot except each other for who we are. It’s as if we forgot how we became who we are. Who you think you are is the result of several different factors, many beyond your control. So if you were guided to this place where you now reside how can you be so sure it is the only place. The girl around the corner occupies the same planet as you and was guided to a different place. Is she wrong because she’s not like you? Now I am not advocating a one world religion or anything like that because I know the universe thrives on diversity. But it’s peaceful diversity. Even in our darkest hours love prevails.
Okay, let me settle down now. I have a lofty task ahead of me. I’m going to try and break down this dogma thing. There has to be a reason that is in accordance with the laws that govern everything for why some of us are so bull-headed.
THE STORY OF YOUR LIFE
Some may find the Jesus Christ post offensive because they may think I’m attempting to challenge the veracity of their Savior’s existence. On the contrary, all I wanted to do was show how, like everything else, religious figures evolve over time. I cannot say with any certainty that Jesus did or did not walk the earth and I don’t think anyone really can that’s why those who believe must have faith that he did. But no one can deny the effect this faith has on people. I personally know men who one minute were Lotharios and the next married, kids and doing the family thing with relative ease after they accepted Jesus Christ. Some may describe this as simply coming-of-age. But how does one come of age? Do they tire of their past ways and want something different? Well, what makes them tire of these ways? They brought them so much pleasure. Perhaps it’s because pleasure can only be experienced via a relative contrast and if you are sleeping with a different women every night after awhile it will lose its charm because it becomes a pattern and any pattern, no matter how sensational, becomes boring without contrast. So if you go so long living one way you may desire an extreme change. It’s that whole positive/negative bit. But what governs the “ah-ha” moment that leads to the shift in behavior? Well, that’s something to WONDER about.
A hint to our dogmatic nature may be found in how we tell our stories. Anyone who has ever studied creative writing has had it beat into them that a “good” story follows this arc: setup, conflict, resolution. This arc is most enjoyed by Americans since America is a relatively young country whose early history follows this arc (when you omit the Native Americans of course). It started with the thirteen colonies, then there was the Revolutionary War that America won and the happy ending is the Declaration of Independence. This is why American movies tend to follow rigid structures. But when you look at films from other countries you don’t see such a dogmatic slant. These are older countries with not so quaint histories. So many different types of people conquering lands and then losing hold of said lands and new conquerors taking over. The movies reflect this sense of constant flux and they tend to leave American viewers cold. Now I am not saying that Americans are the only dogmatic people on this planet. We all know that isn’t true. But America, due to its youth, is naive. This naivete is charming though because it breeds an anything is possible type of attitude. Much like an idealistic young college student. Of course this youthful exuberance bothers others who think the country needs to relax a bit. Maybe spend some time reflecting before picking any more fights. That’s why they went nuts over Obama. They love America, just not when it’s all liquored up on revenge and blood lust.
THE DOGMA OF THE LIBERAL AND CONSERVATIVE
The conservative fights against the expansion. He likes things to stay still and is not particularly fond of relative diversity thus he will fight tooth-and-nail to remain in his box. To gain his favor you need to join him, if you choose not to you are by default against him. The conservative fights vehemently against the expansion of relative diversity, but this fight is futile because even if he is able to squelch some it only rises up later stronger and with a full head of steam. Also, the conservative movement is not exempt from experiencing its own expansion. The ironic bit is that as the movement grows so do the number of its leaders and these leaders start to have differences of opinion which creates a diversity within the movement and the movement cannot fight against this because in order to gain power it needs to grow.
Now the liberal on the other hand sees the relative diversity around him and embraces it, but since it is constantly expanding and taking on new forms he is stretched thin, but he still tries his damnedest to hold it all together. This is also futile because it keeps on expanding beyond him. As a result he tries to apply a set of rules in order to contain the frenzy. What he fails to realize is that these rules are rigid and cannot effectively be used to govern such overwhelming diversity.
Okay, so then what should I be?
Yourself. If you fight against what you are being told to think and think for yourself something wonderful happens. You become a moderate progressive.
Progressive? But isn’t that just like being a liberal?
There you go letting others think for you again. Progress happens whether or not you want it to or not. Conservatives progress just as liberals progress because it’s the nature of the game. No thing or no one sits still in this universe, everything moves or progresses and progress is not just forward, it is spherical and being moderate only means that you stop and think before deciding what direction to progress in. And the cool thing about being a moderate progressive is the fact that you can be one and be gay, Muslim, Christian, black, white, or whatever. And it doesn’t mean you share the same views. An enlightened society thrives on diverse points of view. Moderation is just a period of pause to weigh all options. You can try this right now. Just think of something you oppose. Now ask yourself why you oppose it. Write a few down if you have to. Now look at your list and imagine someone on the other side doing the same. Why does that person advocate that which you oppose? Also, try to understand that to them their position is just as valid as yours. If you dismiss them without making any attempt to understand their point of view you run the risk of falling into a fascistic way of thinking. You shouldn’t do all of the heavy lifting, they need to understand your position as well. Now imagine when you two meet how they debate will go.
THE REASON WE STAY IN OUR LANES
To put it simply it’s fear. Just think how you felt the first day of school when you were placed amongst a bunch of kids and adults you didn’t know and then had to watch your parent or parents leave. It was devastating. You felt like your world was coming to an end. You cried your eyes out. But over time you relaxed and found your groove and it wasn’t so bad, matter of fact you kind of dug it. Now if we’re supposed to be all grown up why do we behave the same way? Well now there is no mommy or daddy to go home to at the end of the day. We are left to fend for ourselves amongst all of these strangers and its made even worse by the fact that to the strangers we are strangers. So you have a bunch of strange people who don’t understand each other, but really we do. There are a few things we all desire? Peace. Love. Happiness. Joy. Not many of us desire their counters. So then why don’t we work together to make that possible for all of us? Maybe because we’re too busy shouting at each other and not listening to each other. Look, you’re only a conservative because the guy down the street is a liberal. Without him you do not exist. The same holds true for other polar opposites. If there is no Yin then there is no Yang. A football team cannot play itself that’s why we the NFL consists of thirty-two of them. The more diversity the more interesting the match-ups, but guess what, they all play football and if one team doesn’t show up then there’s no game. It’s time to change the nature of the discourse folks. Myopia is so last century.
THE ILLUSION THAT IS YOU
Who you are right now, this decade, this year, this month, this day, this minute, this second is a dense composite of a myriad of different influences. We take so much pride in our individualism, but we are only individuals in relation to other people. They provide the relative contrast. For example, Michael Jackson was an exceptional dancer because no one else danced like him, but his personality was shaped by countless others and that doesn’t just include his genetic makeup, but those who influenced him. Even his dance style was not his own. Fred Astaire, James Brown and many others over our entire human history were made dense through him. We may all think we’re special and to a certain extent we all are, but our uniqueness is wrought from plethora of relatively diverse particulate matter. Some of it is tangible like our features and others not so tangible like our personality or the way we perceive the world around us.
Imagine that instead of being born and raised in a small Alabama town you grew up in Paris or Baghdad. We are creatures of our surroundings and these surroundings range from environment to culture to religion to family and friends. If you grow up in a hot climate you adjust to it and if you are thrust in a cooler climate it will take you quite a bit of time to acclimatize. Just look at our moods and how they correspond to the seasons. Now what dictates the seasons? Our moon, our orbit, our solar system and for that matter the universe. What frustrates me to no end is our complacency. The above is not a theory, unlike much of the material on this blog is, it is fact. If you are born in an Islamic country you will more than likely become Muslim or if your parents are Christians you will be one as well. I was recently engaged in a debate with a few Christian friends where I said that the wonder or mystery of the expanding universe is interpreted in many diversely beautiful ways by the many different peoples of this planet and because the universe thrives off of diversity NO ONE can definitively tell anyone that what they believe or do not believe is right or wrong. I was then told that there is only one God and that this God was a Christian God and to believe otherwise means eternal damnation. Now I know that not all Christians think this way and I am also aware that dogma is not exclusive to Christians, but it is this fear-based close-mindedness that seems to get us into so much trouble. I understand their passion, after all religions define some people and just by virtue of being different can be construed as an attack on their belief structure, but that was far from my goal. I do not want to tell anyone WHAT to think, but just TO THINK. They don’t have to follow any of my craziness. Just know that you are not the only person on this planet and your beliefs are FAR FROM the only belief system on this planet. Our universe is ridiculously diverse. Hell, we’re still discovering species on our own planet! Can you imagine what else is out there beyond the stars? We can’t! It’s unfathomable, that’s why we all have different ideas about it! Remember, you don’t know ANYTHING until you ask a question and that question need not be verbalized. Curiosity is why we have these very machines you are using to view this post.
It seems some religious folks believe they won the God lottery. The same can be said about race and nationality. You are only what you are due to the fragments that make you up. Now I know this philosophy dips into that oft-dismissed territory of understanding over judgment, but the ironic thing is that idea is ubiquitous amongst many religions so why is it the one that we often turn our backs to? Instead we hoist up signs with slogans like GOD HATES FAGS written in big bold ink. How on earth do you know? Maybe the cats who wrote the Book of Leviticus did, but are they God? Like I’ve said in another post—God doesn’t have an Inkjet so in order to get the word it would have to be received and then interpreted, much like a dream. Dreams do not play out like a trip to your therapist. They are a mess of diverse signals that even your therapist struggles to decipher. Now imagine if someone on the far left or someone on the far right of the political spectrum received divine signals. They would probably take a survey of what was happening in the zeitgeist and then twist the words to fit their worldviews. Remember, these books were written by people just as real as you or I who existed during times just as real as today, that is why some of the passages don’t really jive with our modern thinking, yet others will endure no matter what happens. Also, these texts were not written in many of the languages people read them today. They were translated and translations by their very nature are interpretations thus the Word, like everything else, evolves. A modern Christian interprets the Bible differently than his ancient counterpart.
Now none of this takes away from the wonder or the love of God (or Allah or Krishna or whomever) that you feel. It just goes to show you that the literal concept that the word God evolved to explain is multiplicitous because it exists in everything. Everything follows a certain order, from porcupines to LCD displays. Everything is formed of particulate matter and everything breaks down to particulate matter. The magnetic force of gravity congeals this matter together and the more expansive force of air or space breaks it down because all things are porous. Air is an unrelenting force and always finds it’s way through these pores and reduces everything to vapor and then…..well, you see the infinite ebb and flow cycle here. This ‘nothing’ exists in every dang thing in the universe. The universe is a confusing ‘chicken-or-the-egg’ conundrum as it is a bunch of something inside a bunch of nothing yet it expands so that the question can never really be answered yet why do so many of us insist we can?
THE CENTER(S) OF THE UNIVERSE
Yes, you are the center of the universe…and so is an ant, a speck of dust and that wad of gum under your seat. Everything simultaneously resides in the center because the universe is infinite in all directions thus its center is everywhere. Yeah, that’s why we think we’re right all of the damn time. It’s kind of like an ironic joke that we just don’t seem to get.