Fallibility is part of the human condition. Unfortunately, we often seem to disregard this fundamental truth. Though we might agree with it when pinned down, we often act contrary to it in our daily interchange with others. We simply let our egos lead us astray when we fail to properly consider the other’s point and insist that we’re right and they’re wrong. Permitting a little bit of humility to temper our behavior here, we could go a long way in making the world a better place.
Some Thoughts on Reality, Actuality, Presumptuousness, and Tolerance
"True wisdom is less presuming than folly.
The wise man doubteth often, and changeth his mind;
the fool is obstinate and doubteth not;
he knoweth all things but his own ignorance."
-- Unto Thee I Grant
Listening to much of today’s political debate, the thoughtful person cannot help but be struck by the obnoxious tone of it. Far from respectfully disagreeing, the rivaling factions battle with such hateful anger as if locked in mortal combat. This is particularly evident in the banter that occurs on the many talk shows that are broadcasting across the country. The arguments are mostly along the lines of the two major ideologies that make up American political thinking—liberalism and conservatism. Fired on by the often radical pronouncements of the talk show hosts, the callers are ranting about the evils of the other side with a degree of contempt and odium that has led to the point where some of these shows have actually been labeled Hate Radio.
Striking too, is the widespread preoccupation with the words “true” and “truth” that is exhibited by the proponents of the respective sides. They never seem to miss an opportunity in using those terms to label their own beliefs. Perhaps, this is what is at the core of what is troubling to the more circumspect listener, particularly the student of Rosicrucian principles.
The terms reality and truth are commonly considered interchangeable, even synonymous. The word reality and its derivatives permeate everyday usage of the language. Phrases like “get real” and “the reality of it is…,” or “reality check” are part of everyone’s conversation. They are used in response to the perceived nonsensical, the phony, the mythical, and the false. A commercial somewhere admonishes that “perception is not always reality.” Rosicrucians go further in equating perception with reality and in pointing out that the difference is between reality and actuality. Reality is what we “realize” through our perception. It is what we perceive through our, somewhat fallible, five senses and our far from perfect minds. Actuality is what describes the true, the actual nature of things and events. We humans are not always able to discern the difference. Once we understand this we become a lot less reckless in our employment of the word “truth.” Philosophies and ideologies, also political and even religions views, while often formulated by folks of superior intelligence, are all prone to be flawed and subject to debate. They all originate in human thinking. Great and respected philosophers clash in their views and ideas, which are often diametrically opposed to one another. In view of this, it would seem an astonishing presumptuousness for a person to lay claim to the absolute truth in an argument.
Differences of opinion are natural. Moreover, in the light of Hegelian dialectics they are beneficial in the search for agreement and resolution of conflict. If one starts with the idea that either side of an argument is rarely ever entirely correct, the resolution is greater in value than the sum of the arguments. Inflexibility and stubborn insistence on the validity of one’s own views are often counterproductive and even foolish. This is not to say that there are not great controversies that have deep rooted beliefs at their foundation on both sides. Those beliefs may compel the holder to fight to the death in defense of them. Two examples of such divisive issues are the bitter disagreements over the issues of abortion and capital punishment. Abortion is held to be the inalienable right of the mother by the proponents of the “pro-choice” side, who say that it is her right to decide on matters concerning her body. The “pro-life” faction on the other hand, holds that abortion is the taking of the life of a human being. Both have compelling and honestly felt arguments. In the case of the death penalty the arguments are perhaps more complex, if only because they cross the line of religious belief. There are religious as well as non-religious followers on both sides of the capital punishment issue with both sides bringing compelling arguments to the table. If a criminal commits a capital crime, gets convicted and sentenced to life in prison, then gets paroled and kills again, a very strong case can be made that, had he been executed, society would have been acting in self defense and an innocent life would have been saved. On the other hand, opponents could argue that the blame should be placed with the faulty justice system that granted parole to a murderer. These opponents point to the many false convictions that have placed innocent people on death row. This time supporters will blame the imperfect system. The point is that, while it may be easy to come out on either side of the line for those prone to make snap decisions based on visceral or emotional reaction, the more thoughtful will find those decisions much more difficult. And they will be much less likely to condemn the other side for their opinion.
To make things even tougher for the thoughtful amongst us, such reluctance to clearly come out for or against an issue is often treated less than kindly by a society that places great value on “taking a stand”. It is considered weak and derided as wishy-washy. Steadfastness of views is considered a virtue and desirable, particularly in those seeking leadership positions in life. Whether these views are of proven value often seems of secondary importance. Similarly, changing one’s mind is viewed with great prejudice. The proverbial right to change one’s mind is chauvinistically reserved for the female sex. In actuality, of course, an occasional change of mind or a reluctance to take a stand is often nothing but an expression of conscience and concern about acting correctly when faced with decisions of great importance.
Based on the premise of the fallibility of our senses and perception, the Rosicrucian teachings remind us to be tolerant of other points of view. By the same token we should be hesitant in presenting our own as fundamental truth. It is probably not too far fetched to state that this attitude could go a long way in preventing hostility and acrimonious disagreement in our daily lives, in the hallowed halls of Congress, and in relations amongst the nations of the world. The world has come a long way in limiting the wars of attrition that so dominated the eras of feudalism and of the great monarchies. Today’s wars are largely fought over ideological or religious differences and nationalistic interests. Unfortunately, these conflicts often result in much greater bloodshed and loss of life because, much like the religious wars of old, they are based on the self-righteous assumption that “we are right and they are wrong.” While the old wars of attrition generally ended once the territory was annexed and the superior force had prevailed, conflicts over ideology, religion, or nationalism seemingly rage on forever. Witness the chronic hotspots in the Middle East or the Balkans, as well as those in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. If there is ever going to be peace in those regions it will have to come through compromise and willingness to live together with folks of different beliefs. And compromise is not likely to occur unless the warring sides manage to conjure up some recognition and respect for the arguments of the other side.
This then may just be the challenge of the twenty first century. The human race will have to come to terms with the fact that lasting peace will require tolerance, patience and the humility that comes from the realization that we are one; and that our differences stem from the imperfection that is inherent in our humanity.
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PeaceConsciousness.org is an online e-zine. This publication provides both a forum for exchanging ideas related to peace, and for suggesting means, at all levels, to use in resolving differences between individuals, groups, nations, or even species. We will learn not only where we have common ground, but also learn to celebrate our differences, because those differences provide richness, diversity, and a continual flow of new ideas for us to consider.