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The "glorious dignity of difference"

by marco Tue Dec 26th, 2006 at 02:51:52 PM EST

as Sir Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth, has written, almost as if he was thinking of Kamil and Francis, "Those who are confident of their faith are not threatened but enlarged by the different faiths of others. ... There are, surely, many ways of arriving at this generosity of spirit and each faith may need to find its own."

Who are the al-Malik al-Kamil and Francis of Assisi of our day?

Thomas Cahill of How the Irish Saved Civilization fame, writes that

We stand in desperate need of contemporary figures like Kamil and Francis of Assisi to create an innovative dialogue.

Are there any individualus like these today?  People who ar willing to risk their lives, as Francis did, when he went to Kamil's Egyptian court to proselytize him, a capital offense, and walked away so impressed, claims Cahill, by the religious devotion of the Muslims that perhaps the "the thrice-daily recitation of the Angelus that became current in Europe after this visit was precipitated by the impression made on Francis by the call of the muezzin"?

Like his model, Jesus of Nazareth, Francis was an extremist.

And yet, today, "extremist" is a bad word.  Perhaps what is bad is not the word "extremist" per se, but "ideological extremist", which Francis and Jesus were not; rather, they were, for want of a better phrase, "humanitarian extremists": i.e. they recognized and embraced the inherent diversity of humanity, the "glorious dignity of difference", as Rabbi Sacks put it.

It is high time that the world produces a new outlook, a planetary outlook, that recognizes and embraces the richness and variety of traditions and cultures in the histories and geographies of different peoples, but that looks forward towards the interrelated condition that more and more, and more and more rapidly, is becoming the common lot of all of us.  This outlook seems to be already emerging, has been emerging, for some time.  Do we need to accelerate it?  Do we need to agitate for it?  Or do we just let it come together "organically", "on its own", through technological, political, economic and cultural interchanges and developments?  In short, do we need build a new myth, a new "narrative", that rejects parochialism and embraces "planet-consciousness", or do we just let this new outlook continue sprouting on its own?

I think there have always been and always will be both syncretic and exclusivist religions (or religious interpretations).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Dec 26th, 2006 at 04:32:06 PM EST
This outlook seems to be already emerging, has been emerging, for some time.  Do we need to accelerate it?  Do we need to agitate for it?  Or do we just let it come together "organically", "on its own", through technological, political, economic and cultural interchanges and developments?
Accelerating and agitating,,,it just won't work.  It will break it,,,what you're trying to accomplish, that is.  If you tamper with it, you'll ruin it.
Tao 29

Do you want to improve the world?
I don't think it can be done.

The world is sacred.
It can't be improved.
If you tamper with it, you'll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you'll lose it.

There is a time for being ahead,
a time for being behind;
a time for being in motion,
a time for being at rest;
a time for being vigorous,
a time for being exhausted;
a time for being safe,
a time for being in danger.

The Master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way,
and resides at the center of the circle.

Just be at peace, within yourself.  People will not learn, until they are ready,,,then they'll learn, and teach others by their presence, their appropriate actions.  IMHO
by wchurchill on Wed Dec 27th, 2006 at 08:00:18 PM EST
Great quote, wchurchill, and depressing, too.  Here's another one which applies (albeit in a sense far from the original):

Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach, in meiner Brust

Two souls, alas, dwell in my breast

One soul favors, like Lao-Tzu, letting things unfold of their own accord (through the Tao, if you want), while the other feels that inarticulate yet inchoate latent impulses are as yet potential only, and are far from being guaranteed to be realized, and that human imagination, volition, commitment and passion can transform these from the possible/potential to the actual/real.

Why do I say "depressing"?  Because philosophically, I am very biased towards the Taoist/Zen way of seeing things, expressed in your quote above.  So philosophically, my head is saying,  "Don't rock the boat, and never forget: 'After illegal drugs and arms, the most insidious U.S. export is the American Idealist.'"  But as a Westerner, I believe, I am anxious not to lose the "window of opportunity", not to try to "catch the wave" of reform and renewal that I sense billowing, to do something with it, apply energy and imagination and creativity to add value to the world, but that I worry that the wave may never break on its own, or may do so at the wrong time, or in the wrong place, and may simply deflate (the metaphor does not quite work, because people have no ability to influence whether an ocean wave will break or where, but you get the idea.)  The quote is depressing, in short, because it makes me feel impotent, irrelevant... and yet on some level I believe Lao-tzu is right.

But maybe surfing is a good metaphor after all: We cannot create the wave, but we can catch it, and if our timing and positioning and preparation are right, we can do something beautiful with all that built-up energy in the surging water.  Or, we can miss the moment, and watch it roll away to crash on the surf.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Thu Dec 28th, 2006 at 12:31:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
these are excellent comments bruno-ken.  I understand what you are saying and empathize with all of it.  In my experience, I have just found, to my regret, that people who are not ready to learn, will just not learn--and the attempt to proselytize to them may in fact do harm.  Here's another quote, more western in its source and from a slightly different angle:
He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he  that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot.

Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man,  and he will love thee.

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser:  teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.

It's not the same point, but it points out that certain people, a wise man, will be very open to discussion, instruction, whatever.  but the fool, the scorner, the wicked man,,,,not sure I would choose those terms,,,,will actually hate you if you try to show him the right direction.  and unfortunately when we begin these campaigns to make things right, we find there are few wise men,,,many more of the others.  so tampering with it, tends to ruin it.  IMHO
by wchurchill on Thu Dec 28th, 2006 at 10:57:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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