Acceptance—What The World Needs Now

vcxa8286With the senseless killing of Black men by white police officers in the United States, at a rate which has not been seen since the racial unrest of the sixties, to the ISIS bombings in France, Yemen, Turkey, Afghanistan, Algeria, Tunisia, Syria, and Brussels, etc., to the endless bloodshed between Palestinians and Israelis, (this war has been going on my entire life, I am 71), to the kidnapping of 200 young women in Nigeria and murder of 45 schoolchildren in Mexico, to the harassment and murder of men and women because of their sexual preferences in Florida and Brazil, to the shooting of white police officers by a crazed Black gunman in Dallas, we are a world in turmoil.

This turmoil has existed since the beginning of civilization because we have failed as citizens of this planet to accept the differences in our fellow human beings and ourselves. We make one way the “right” way, one belief the “true” belief. One government, the only government. Who are we to deny any human on this planet the right to his/her own choice to believe what they choose to believe, to engage life on their own terms, and to express those beliefs however they choose within the framework of doing no harm to others? We all want the same thing – to be free to live our own life. We must learn to accept our differences rather than use them as wedges to divide us.

Acceptance is difficult. Our nature is to pass judgement on our fellow humans, to convert, or to conquer. We see things in the dualities of good/evil, black/white, right/wrong, or love/hate. We pass judgement not only upon philosophical concepts but also with color, people, and religions. Black people are…Italians are…Mexicans are…Jews are…Christians are…Muslims are…. According to the Bible stories I grew up with, no duality existed before Eve bit into the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. She and Adam were unaware of their nakedness, unaware of opposites because no knowledge of duality existed in the garden. Everything was one. Our mythology of Heaven is based upon what we were told about Eden. We want to get back to the one.

I am not blaming Eve for the problems of mankind. I simply use this story as a metaphor to illustrate the nature of duality and why it has created this mountainous barrier to acceptance. An accepting individual sees beyond the duality to the singularity and unity of all things as they are. Eve did not eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, from a philosophical point of view. She and Adam, you and I are the fruit of the tree. Only the tree in this instance is the Earth. Just an an apple tree apples, the Earth peoples, and fishes, and birds. We all come from the same mother but we have never in the history of this planet accepted our kin as brothers and sisters. Instead we see them as Black, white, yellow, red, Catholic, Jewish, Moslems, straight or gay, Russians, Swiss, and or Chinese. However we see them, we see them as different from ourselves and as a threat to my way of life.

Siddhartha in the book of the same name by Herman Hesse uses these words to describe acceptance of the nature of duality to his friend Govinda.

The world is not imperfect or slowly evolving along a long path to perfection. No, it is perfect at every moment: every sin already carries grace within it, all small children are potential old men, all sucklings have death within them, all dying people — eternal life. It is not possible for one person to see how far another is on the way: the Buddha exists in the robber and dice player; the robber exists in the Brahmin. Therefore, it seems to me that everything that exists is good, death as well as life, sin as well as holiness, wisdom as well as folly. Everything is necessary, everything needs only my agreement, my assent, my loving understanding; then all is well with me and nothing can harm me.

In following the doctrine of acceptance one doesn’t manipulate or interfere with another’s way of life or another’s beliefs even if he believes his motivation is from his own higher spirit (A justification used by the Catholic church to convert many of the worlds indigenous people to Catholicism and by Hitler to conquer most of Europe.) A person who practices acceptance refrains from giving advice unless asked but is not indifferent to providing aid when needed or requested. He eliminates the fanatic in himself. He kills the one in himself who must change others to his beliefs, his way of life. He accepts the differences in the world without judgement and without the need to convert anyone or anything for any reason.

The words attributed to Voltaire,

I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it

are very appropriate for this day and time. I do not agree with many of the words and practices used by most of the various social, political, religious, and economic organizations in the world today. I do not condone the murder, imprisonment, torture, or social rejection and isolation of any group or individual by another individual or organization because of their beliefs, race, culture, religion, or sexual preferences. Yet, I will defend the acceptance of any group or individual having different beliefs as long as I am free to choose and to follow my own beliefs in return. When one’s beliefs, religion, race or culture are attacked it becomes an inhibitor to one’s existence. This in its essence is the doctrine of acceptance.

Maybe this is all a dream in the mind of a philosopher, but I believe it is worth thinking about.

** Note: Within the last decade, the Pope has apologized to the cultures and religions of the world that were destroyed or eliminated because of the acts of Catholic church in the attempted conversion of these cultures to Christianity. The governments of Australia and Germany have apologized for their treatment of the Aborigines and the Jews respectively for their government’s genocide and attempts at cultural cleansing. The United States however has never issued an apology or any acknowledgement of wrongdoing to the Native Americans for the ravage destruction and rape of their lands or to the Negro slaves for their brutal mistreatment, repeated lies of equality, or utter failure to incorporate people of color into mainstream white American society. I still have not received the twenty acres and a mule promised my forefathers after the so called emancipation of slavery. I believe we need more acceptance of differences, but must admit, I am not yet at a place where I can accept America for the daily acts of violence, racism, and lies upon its own people and around the world. This is the difficulty of acceptance.

Enlightenment—What Is It Really?

vcxa8286Enlightenment is not something to be sought but rather something to be realized. It is a state of being which does not have to be experienced each moment of our existence. That would be overwhelming and could lead to schizophrenia and yet, it can be realized each moment of our life without harm. The key is not to attempt to hold on to that moment but to release it and to always live in the present now. “A glimpse is all we get,” most of the time and that one single glimpse can sustain us for the rest of our life. Unfortunately, when most of us experience clear vision or a sudden insight, we pass it off as an illusion or the effects of a migraine headache. It can be both that subtle and that overpowering.

We are each born enlightened. A baby sees everything as part of himself and not separate. He reaches out with his finger to touch the full moon shining outside his window and because of his awareness of everything as part of himself, he does. Everything is one until he learns to name things, to differentiate between his mother and father, a bird and a cat, and the parts of his own body. It is through the process of learning that he begins to separate things as being outside of himself and different from himself. The moon which he touched as a baby is now 200,000 miles away rather than on the tip of his pinky.I believe there are three key elements of enlightenment and I will refer to them as the three A’s: Awareness, Acceptance and Appreciation.Awareness: What is awareness and what, you are probably asking, does it have to do with enlightenment? Everything, is my reply. Awareness is the foundation of enlightenment. The Buddha is recorded as saying, “I am awake” but he could have just as easily said, “I am aware” and the meaning would be the same. Awareness in English is the knowledge or perception of a situation or fact.(1) It is specific to a thing. In Japanese, awareness is an appreciation of the ephemeral beauty of the world. The change of seasons, the falling of the cherry blossoms, and the planting of the crops. Awareness in Japanese is “That poignant sensation one has of time passing, of the inevitable cycle of life and death.” From the noun comes the idiom mono-no-aware. Roughly translated as “enjoying the sadness of life.” (2)Although spelled the same, the Japanese meaning and translation more closely resonates with my concept and understanding of awareness. When one is aware, one is cognizance of his surroundings, the changing patterns of day and night, the phases of the moon, the connectedness of all life and the inevitability if death. These things are accepted as the natural flow of nature. One is as aware of the importance of the honeybee in this flow of life as one is of his own place in the nature of things.Acceptance: This doctrine is a most difficult one because of our nature to pass judgement. To see things in the duality of good/evil, right/wrong, or love/hate, we pass judgement not only with concepts but also with people and religions. Black people are…Italians are…Mexicans are…Jews are…Christians are…Muslems are…. According to the Bible stories I grew up with, no duality existed before Eve bit into the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. She and Adam were unaware of their nakedness, unaware of opposites because no knowledge of duality existed in the garden. Everything was one.I am not blaming Eve for the problems of mankind. I simply use this story as a metaphor to illustrate the nature of duality and why it has created this mountainous barrier to acceptance. An enlightened individual sees beyond the duality to the singularity and unity of all things as they are. He practices the doctrine of acceptance which Jesus spoke of in his Sermon on the Mount as did the Buddha and many others. Today the Dali Lama accepts those who destroyed his country, murdered his priests, ravaged his temples, and annihilated his culture as brothers. (3)

Siddhartha in the book of the same name by Herman Hesse uses these words to describe acceptance of the nature of duality to his friend Govinda.

The world is not imperfect or slowly evolving along a long path to perfection. No, it is perfect at every moment: every sin already carries grace within it, all small children are potential old men, all sucklings have death within them, all dying people — eternal life. It is not possible for one person to see how far another is on the way: the Buddha exists in the robber and dice player; the robber exists in the Brahmin. Therefore, it seems to me that everything that exists is good, death as well as life, sin as well as holiness, wisdom as well as folly. Everything is necessary, everything needs only my agreement, my assent, my loving understanding; then all is well with me and nothing can harm me.

In following the doctrine of acceptance one doesn’t manipulate or interfere with another’s way of life or another’s beliefs even if he believes his motivation is from his highest spirit. He refrains from giving advice unless asked but is not indifferent to providing aid when needed or requested. He eliminates the fanatic in himself. He kills the one in himself who must change others to his beliefs, his way of life. He accepts the differences in the world without judgement and without the need to convert anyone or anything for any reason. The sole purpose of the enlightened individual is to live life each day totally aware that life is a blessing.Appreciation: Appreciation is akin to Gratitude which I previously addressed in other essays but when I think of appreciation in connection with enlightenment, I believe it goes a bit further than the virtue of gratitude. Appreciation is the complete understanding and acceptance of a situation like malice aforethought while still being able to give thanks to the universe for all that exists. It is the giving of grace for everything and every situation which exists including individual acts which one might deem cruel. In this way appreciation goes hand in hand with the other two points of my triumvirate, awareness and acceptance. They might be called absolutes although in philosophical circles they are not considered such.Appreciation is the total surrender to the sublime in everything. The surrender to the excellence and beauty of all that exists, including death and destruction. It is the acknowledgement that in order there is chaos and in chaos there is order. It is the way things are. Appreciation of the way things are does not mean that one cannot fight for change but on the ultimate level of life it means one sees the whole picture and not the individual frames. It is the looking at life with a flood light instead of a spotlight. The monks who publicly set themselves ablaze in protest to the war in Viet Nam knew this. They appreciated life and wanted their deaths to stand for something more. I trust in the end their sacrifice had purpose.There is obviously more to be said concerning Enlightenment but at least the three A’s — Awareness, Acceptance and Appreciation will give us a good place to start.(1) New American Oxford Dictionary, Apple Digital Edition 2011.(2) Metcalf, Alan A. The World In So Many Words. Boston, MA: Hough Mifflin, 1999

(3) Within the last decade, the Pope has apologized to the cultures and religions of the world that were destroyed or eliminated because of the acts of Catholic church in the attempted conversion of these cultures to Christianity. The governments of Australia and Germany have apologized for their treatment of the Aborigines and the Jews respectively for their government’s genocide and attempts at cultural cleansing. The United States however has never issued an apology or any acknowledgement of wrongdoing to the Native Americans for the ravage destruction and rape of their lands or to the Negro slaves for their brutal mistreatment, repeated lies of equality, or utter failure to incorporate people of color into mainstream American society. I still have not received the twenty acres and a mule promised my forefathers after the so called emancipation of slavery. Unlike the Dali Lama, I am not yet at a place where I can forgive America for the daily acts of violence and lies upon its own people and to the world. This is the difficulty of acceptance.

Acceptance And Forgiveness

A little over five years ago when I started these pages, I asked the question “What have I learned that I can give?” I am continually amazed at how much I have learned as I continue this journey of introspection into my life and place in the universe. I have no idea if my ramblings are of assistance to anyone but I will continue to share if only for my own process of self examination.

My birthday is coming again. A reminder of how cyclical life is. Each year at this time I do something “good” for myself. I usually try to get away in order to regroup and await instructions for the coming year but this year my gift to myself takes on a different form.

As small children, under my mother’s caring watch, my brother and I would kneel down on our knees and recite the Lord’s prayer before going to bed. The key word here is “recite” because we were both too young to understand the words, or their implications. My mother felt it was important for us to have an upbringing which included the teachings of Jesus and a belief in God. When we were older, mom left it up to us to determine what beliefs we would hold onto from our youth.

As a philosophy major in college, I came to believe that God was more a creation of man than man a creation of God (a topic for later dialogue) but I still held on to many of the teachings of Jesus as I have with the teachings of other prophets including Buddha and Mohammed. One of the concept with which I was most impressed was Jesus’ doctrine of love. He believed it was important to love your neighbor, your fellow man/woman and even your enemies. To extend that concept even further, one must even love the person who is about to bring harm or possible death upon his personage.

I had a difficult time incorporating this concept of love into my everyday life until I re-read the sermons and gained a different insight. Jesus’ doctrine of love is really one of acceptance. I could easily accept people for fulfilling their purpose based upon their own beliefs and the social/religious/economic conditions in which each lived. I don’t believe I could kill someone but I can accept that another person could kill. I don’t see any purpose in wars but I can accept that it is the nature of some men to wage war against his fellow man. I don’t know why children or the innocent have to suffer but I can accept it as a part of the cycle of life.

Forgiveness comes in when we don’t accept our fellow man/woman for who he/she is. We judge them and make assumptions based upon those judgments. We therefore find ourselves in situations requiring forgiveness even of those we love, most often, especially those we love. Forgiveness is the antithesis of acceptance. If I can accept the person next to me for all that he is, I will never have a need to forgive him. Acceptance precedes forgiveness. Where the foundation of a relationship is acceptance, one will not need to forgive because with acceptance there is no judgment.

I believe is is necessary for each of us to accept the perfect imperfections of our fellow man out of love for that which we are, perfect beings living in the imperfect environment of our own judgments. This is my interpretation of the doctrine of love. Perhaps Robert Bly said it best in his poem Listening to the Köln Concert:

“Harder than wrens’ doing, they have

to abandon their longing for the perfect.

The inner nest not made by instinct

will never be quite round,

and each has to enter the nest

made by the other imperfect bird.”

So today, I ask forgiveness and acceptance of all those against whom I have trespassed and I offer my acceptance and forgiveness to all those who have trespassed against me. This is my gift to myself, to you, and to the world. My true desire is to carry nothing but love from this life to my final transition and since I don’t know when that day will come, today is a good day to start.