Thursday, January 15, 2015

To Understand Our World is to Live Exposed

The murders in Paris last week were an example of the moral deafness in the world today. No one is listening to anyone but themselves.

The Islamic fanatics who carried out the killings supposedly did so to punish those who insulted their religion. The innocent people in the Jewish market that were shot to death just happened to be in the way of the broader act of vengeance going on at the Paris magazine house.

But the magazine, “Charlie Hebdo," was itself deaf to the sensitivities of Muslims. Why mock Muhammad again and again? Why taunt Islamic extremists with cartoons and articles the magazine knew were provocative and insulting?

Of course they had the freedom to do it. But why use their freedom for those purposes?

Someone once said that knowledge comes from study and wisdom comes from observation. Those two important characteristics are missing all over the world today.

I think I’m pretty safe in saying that most of the people in America who hate Muslims have never read a single thing about their faith or their culture other than what they might find on a right wing website.

We don’t study, and we don’t observe either. We see what we want to see. We see women in burqas, those long enveloping garments that cover the head and upper body with only a thin veil for the eyes. We don’t observe we just gawk at that and consider it strange, odd, weird. We have no idea what they mean or what they are for or why women wear them.

We see the killers. The terrorists. The militant zealots. But we miss the devout Muslim. The caring families. The normal hard working people following their faith. We know little or nothing about them.

We’re not interested.

Radical Muslims often do the same to us. They probably know more about us than we know about them but they still make false assumptions. We’re not all coarse, arrogant, gun carrying haters trying to destroy the world with our lust and greed and lack of morals. And not all Christians are warring, belligerent and hostile to other beliefs. There are many Christians who allow for other faiths and are willing to respect the religion of Islam and other religions. And not all Americans are patronizing and pretentious believing the world belongs solely to us.

We need more from our leaders, both in America and around the world. We need thinking women and men who can guide us into a deeper appreciation for one another, who can lead intelligently, who find more ways than just bombs and bullets to settle our differences.

There is a wonderful passage in Roland Merulla’s novel, “Breakfast with Buddah.” Otto Ringling finds himself on a road trip with a Mongolian monk. The monk says little but still manages to instruct Otto in beautiful moments like this in a restaurant where they are eating:

“There was a small glass vase between us, three gladioli in a few ounces of water. One of the gladioli had dropped a petal--brushstroke of purple on fine white cloth. The monk drank the last sip of his tea, then set the cup aside, took the petal with his thumb and second finger, placed it in the middle of the saucer in front of him, and turned the cup upside down to cover it.
"I feel a lesson coming on," I said...
"The flower is the good inside every person," he said. "The cup is like a wall, to protect. Many people have that wall."
"Armor" I said. He nodded. 
"Because to live without the cup means you must feel the world as the world really is.”

That is our challenge today. For all of us to live outside that cup and to allow the good within us to be seen, to flourish. Only then will we have a chance of learning who each other are. Only then will we actually see the stunning human connection that links us, in spite of all our differences, to one another.

© 2015 Timothy Moody

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