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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Hope of the World

Nothing is more annoying than a “know-it-all.” I can vouch for the factuality of that statement because I was Exhibit One for many years. Know-it-alls are especially annoying to other know-it-alls. We can’t imagine that any in their right minds would disagree with us. Every now and then I fall back on my know-it-all brain, especially when I’m losing an argument. I then reacquaint myself with how annoying I can be.

Observing Congress over the tenure of the Obama administration makes me wonder if it isn’t a congress of know-it-alls.  An ideologue, which Congress is filled with, is just another name for a know-it-all. These are people who are so sure of themselves they can’t bend a whit, for that would be compromising with what they know not to be the truth. So we have a Congress in national disgrace because they love their point of view, their ideology, more than they love the nation. (Some would even jeopardize the “full faith and credit of the United States” simply because they refuse to admit that some things are more important than a point of view.)

What’s going on in Congress now is a national teach-in on the need for humility. Humility is nothing more than the recognition that I am a finite human being and, as such, cannot know everything, and need others to temper my inadequacies. It is a teachable spirit, a seeker of answers in the midst of vexing questions. Humility in oneself allows us to respect differences with others, even to honor them. For if we lack humility, we lack the capacity to extend grace to our companions along the way. Extending grace is more than merely giving the benefit of a doubt; it is acknowledging our humanity by limiting our own sense of self-importance.

But even now, in a world filled with know-it-alls of all types, there is hope. Shades of gray are replacing simplistic patterns of black and white thinking. The Enlightenment notions of absolutes are giving way to relativity. The screams you hear that “the center will not hold,” come from those who depend on knowing it all and see their assurances fall, one by one. Humility is standing by preparing to replace knowing it all with being at one with all.

In this old world a new sense of itself is emerging. The New Physics is teaching us that all things are connected; that nothing is simply by itself; that everything depends upon everything else. “No man is an island,” and no one is “master of his own fate or the captain of his own soul.” We survive because we are connected and thrive because we recognize that reality. East meets West and rugged individualism is overcome by community. Taking our cue from Gandhi and King, we know that when one suffers, we all suffer, and when one overcomes, we all overcome.

In the religious context, this is working itself out in Interfaith dialogue. Rather than try to convert those of other faiths, we now prefer to understand them. The outcome is that with greater understanding comes a deeper sense of our own faiths and even the recognition that our differences are diminished and our commonalities enhanced. Those who see people of other faiths as objects to convert really don't see human beings. These are reduced to being merely statistics, and in the worst cases, trophies to display.

When people sit down with their gay and lesbian friends or family members, and be with them as people, not stereotypical objects, they discover a common humanity and that any differences that remain are rendered irrelevant. Some even come to celebrate them. But whether we are concerned about religion or sexual orientation, or any other issue, needing to be right will inevitably lead to being wrong.

My sense (call it faith if you will) is that God is orchestrating this Great Transition from me to we. The cosmos is realigning itself against the selfishness of me and mine toward us and ours. When the know-it-alls of the world finally learn that they don’t know the most basic truth of our day, that we need each other, a wholesome prosperity will cover our world, and even Congress will ignore the aisle that once divided a nation. And nation will not rise up against nation, and there will be war no more. This is the hope of the world.


Heidi Mann said...

This is a GREAT line: "Needing to be right will inevitably lead to being wrong."

Steve Kindle said...

Once in a while I resemble the blind pig that finds a truffle.