Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sept. 30
Do the ends ever justify the means?
My heart aches for my beautiful country. Each day I see the U.S. government, from the administration to the Congress, acting against the values this country has always stood for--justice, humaneness, rights for all, etc.--and justifying those actions with the old argument that it is O.K. to do something not quite right if the end result is O.K.
Where is the moral basis for this belief? And why is our country encouraging fear on a daily basis? Does no one remember the famous quotation: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself!"?

Is it O.K. to kill many people around the world to supposedly make America safer? Is it O.K. to ignore the suffering of people in other countries because they are not "like us"? Is it O.K. to send our beautiful young people to fight a war originating in lies, and just as bad, maiming many, many more. The media seldom lets us see the horrific wounds suffered by our dear military young people.

The Congress this week passed a bill that eliminates most human rights from certain prisoners in the custody of our government. It also allows what many of us would see as torture to be used at the discrimination or decision of the President. Amnesty International is in shock.

What scares me the most is that so many Americans seem to be so placid about all of this. Where is the outrage? Where are the academics who understand the principles that the ends never justify the means especially if those means are immoral or unethical? Why are Americans so apathetic? Are we all brain-washed?

My previous blog was my attempt to try to get myself to understand why so many people whom I love and respect don't see the evil that I see. To quote one souce I found on the Internet, "Clearly, if one takes even the slightest step toward questionnable means in order to achieve some exemplary end, then where does one draw the line thereafter?" THAT is what worries the heck out of me.

I'm not developing a cogent, historical argument here today. I just needed to voice my worries and concern about the direction this country has been taking for the past six years. Does no one see that we are becoming like the zealots we propose to fight against "in order to save America."? Both sides seem to believe, as zealots usually do, that they are right, and that gives them the license to kill or destroy whomever. This "right" allows them to by-pass all the historical and religious tenets that they claim to follow in order to follow what they term a "just cause." This sickens me. I'm sure I will write more about this issue.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sept. 25.
Why can't we agree?
I got to thinking very early Sunday morning about a philosophical issue. Why is it that other people don't think the same as I do? Why are there so many conflicts and disagreements in the world? The television media tends to exacerbate this very problem--or so it seems. Just look at all those "talking heads"--all arguing an issue. I started to ponder the "whys" and "wherefores" of the way we humans are.

What came to me at that point was the fact of human uniqueness. That is, each one of us is distinct and unique, while at the same time we all share our humanness, our presence here on Earth, as well as that very uniqueness that seems to cause so many problems between people. First, I pondered the reasons for our uniqueness. Let's acknowledge known facts about physical uniqueness. We can be identified as one of a kind by our DNA, our fingerprints, our eyes, and our voices. No two people are identical in any of those ways. Those facts reinforce the point that each person is, indeed, unique.

Students of esoteric philosophy would likely start a commentary about uniqueness by referring to the soul. Some say each soul (and each manifestation of that soul) is like a cell in the "body" of God (Divine Spiriti). The soul manifests as a physical body, creating a unique personality just right for its need to experience, learn, and evolve. That personality includes a physical body created from the genes and ancestral history of the person's family. All of these points reinforce the idea of individuality and uniqueness, while at the same time they also suggest "connections" and "relationships" with other souls manifesting as individuals. This point underscores as well that while we as humans must work with and experience our uniqueness, we must do so at the same time we work with and relate to other humans.

Astrologers would add the point that the moment of birth infuses the individual with certain energies that the person can use and react to during the lifetime. Since each individual combines these energies with their soul energies and their newly formed personality energies, the total result is always unique. Identical twins born at nearly the same moment will use those energies differently.

Then we must acknowledge all the environmental aspects that impinge upon us all. Social scientists call this "socialization." It begins with our first breath, and some suggest it starts in the womb. Our individual perception of the world, its safety or danger, our security or defenselessness, all develop quite early. Long before we can think rationally in words, we sense whether our surroundings are loving, safe ones, or frightening. Moreover, the larger environment affects us in important ways that most of us never notice or acknowledge. Where we are born--the climate, the country, the religion, the race, the size of the family, its dynamic, its knowledge--all contribute to our ultimate view of the world.

Then we begin to learn both academically and experiencially. We learn a language, fluently or not so depending often on our immediate family. We attend a school, or not. But what most of us seldom realize is that reading, writing, and arithmetic are really very different in different parts of the world, or even within the same country. What one reads can color one's whole life. One can be literate, but still highly uneducated. Education can be broad or very narrow. The variables are huge.

Factor upon factor, layer upon layer, our "self" develops. Each person's life experience is totally different, while at the same time, that experience seems to be similar to the experiences of others. Both are true. The irony of humanness is that we are both the same and different at the same time in relation to other individuals.

All of these thoughts have helped clarify a point for me. When I catch myself wondering why that nice person--my spouse, my friend, my child, or some intelligent person on television--can hold opinions so very different from my own. I now have a little more understanding of the reasons why. We all tend to believe that our own opinions are the "right" ones. We can use all sorts of reasons and rationalizations as to why we are "right" and others must be "wrong." Why can't they see that political candidate is wrong for the country? Why can't they realize that one religion is not better than another? All such questions lead to the current adversarial positions that permeate the world today. All are ego-based. All are based on the premise that only "I" know the right answer, the best way, etc.

Pondering how we are all so very unique in our perception of life--what is reality for us--helps me understand what the next step should be. When I truly accept the fact that the other person's soul/personality/life experiences have created a different reality for him or her, then the only response is to respect that, to accept that, and to "allow" each person to think, believe, and opine from their own understanding. Agreement is not the issue. I can't agree with what I haven't experienced and neither can anyone else. Everything I have lived and learned and experienced (in this life or perhaps in others) has led me to the present moment, my current beliefs and opinions. Since no one else has had my particular experiences, how can I possibly expect them to understand where I stand? Since no one else has had my particular experiences, nor I theirs, how could we possibly agree on every issue? Such expectations would be unrealistic.

Therefore, the lesson, it seems to me, is that we each need to learn to understand ourselves first as fully as possible, and to accept where we are at the moment. Then we need to acknowledge that every other person is unique and deserves respect and acceptance. We are each and all where we are meant to be, where we deserve to be (even when that seems strange), where we can best learn and evolve. With this in mind, opinions are largely unimportant. They can be entertaining. But they definitely should not be the source of alienation among people. Opinions are just that, and not facts (and we so often really don't know all the facts).

If we understand that life here on Earth is a blend of uniqueness and similarity, and a mixture of individuality and relationships, we can grow to relate to others when we are able to recognize each and every other human being as an equal, as a brother human being unique making his way through a difficult physical life experience. The big similarity is that we are all sharing the times, the environment, and the world problems on this Earth. We are here together in this place, at this time, for some reason. Could it be that we need to share the unique talents we each have, our unique experiences and perspectives, in some kind of coordinated way for the benefit of the entire human race? This can only happen when each of us comes to realize that uniqueness and sameness are two sides of the same coin. Indeed, we are, as the spiritual teachers tell us, ONE. Yet, like the billions of cells in our body that make up the "one" that is us, we are also the billions of individuals that make up the one human race.

So, although it is clear that we will never be able to fully "agree" with one another, we can practice listening and respecting the place wherein the others in our lives come from. If that means "agreeing to disagree" and to do so with unconditional love and non-judgment (and certainly no name-calling), that may just be the best we can do.