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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thinking About Ignorance

This one is in a bit more serious of a vein than usual. My apologies, but even the best of us gets serious sometimes.

See, I can't even be serious without making a joke about it. Sad, really.

Anywho, I recently went to the Self Realization Center in Malibu (that's the picture). For those of you who don't know what this place is, it's a really lovely place with a lake, full of koi, ducks, and swans. The surrounding areas are plush, smelling richly of the flowers that veritably coat every square inch of the surrounding hills.

The place also has religious significance. There is a shrine to Mahatma Ghandi, which even contains some of his ashes, and some other religious features which I will get to in a moment.

I made the trip a bit of an outing with my children. They thoroughly enjoyed it, as did I. We did a circuit of the lake, stopping at the "feeding area" where you can feed the fish in the lake. I told them they were called Makoto fish and told them a legend of the fish's transformation to a mighty dragon if it could swim to the top of a certain waterfall - particularly cool to them because there was a large waterfall directly across the lake from us.

They were also very impressed when I told them a bit about Ghandi, and how he taught people that you don't always have to fight to win a battle. Conveying his message to a three- and five-year old was a bit trying, but if you ever want a lesson in clarity, try to distill important things down to that level: you really get to the essence and strip away everything that doesn't matter.

We also stopped by the meditation area, and I talked to the kids about the differences between thinking, pondering, meditating, and praying.

Finally, we ended up at an area that was designated to highlight each of the world's five major religions. This was (for me) the most interesting part of our small self-tour. As before, I tried to teach my kids, so I took my children to the symbol that represented each of the religions, and tried to talk to them a bit about what each religion believed, and some of the things that made each different from our own religion.

I emphasized that just because they believe differently does not make them bad, and that if someone is wrong about something, the best way to teach them is not by arguing or yelling, but by being so good they cannot help but admire you and want to emulate you.

The humbling part came when I realized I could only speak in depth about three of the five major religions. I will have to do some more studying, not because I wish to become an acolyte, and certainly not because I wish to remove myself from my own treasured beliefs in any way, but because it is impossible to understand someone when you don't understand their language.

And religion is one of the things that most fundamentally makes up a person's language, coloring his (or her) attitudes, beliefs (obviously), and actions. But more than that it colors their REactions and their INTERactions. And so understanding a person's religion - at least in a broad, basic way - can make the difference between thinking someone is an enemy, and KNOWING that someone is a friend.

1 comment:

monika said...

Well said. That is one of the most effective way of reaching out to someone. My dh has learned that the Afghani warlords are more apt to listen to him when they realize that he is also one of the "Children of the Book", and that he understands the rocks their belief is built on. He has had more success in asking them to look at their actions from their own religious standpoint than from using any other western dogma. Funnily enough, they are not so different from us western Christians. Some of the things we find "strange" are actually very honorable and admirable. Getting them to re-examine the zealous behavior is easier when you respect the basics. Sometimes I think the message really should go both ways.

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