With 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.