Monday, April 13, 2015

Little relative truths and the big absolute one

We live in a world that has as many opinions as there are people. In Brazil, they say there are 200 million coaches of the national soccer team. That is the whole population!  Courageous indeed is the official coach who dares to lose an important game. At the world's favourite hunting spot for information, Google, you can discover everything both for and against everything else. Coffee, soya beans, milk, wheat - whatever you want - is either good or bad for your nervous system, heart,  liver, brain - you name it. Depends on the source or the interested party who paid for the research. Illnesses are invented to sell drugs and drugs are invented to promote or solve illnesses. Take your pick. 
In a recent retreat about music and spirituality, we asked the participants to listen to five pieces of music and check their emotional reactions - Brazilian samba, heavy metal, classical, gospel and the national anthem. Again, there was a diversity of opinions - some in agreement, others notably discordant. The former rebel of generation X who associated his pent-up feelings of the 80's with the strident chords of heavy metal could not see eye to eye with the fan of Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor. The fervour of pride stimulated by the national anthem in some came up against the indignance of others towards the present state of the country. 
In spite of the almost total plurality of points of view in the world, there is an underlying implication that there are universal truths. These become the basis of our laws, for example. Murdering others, robbing and raping them, are condemned in almost all societies, because it is perceived that morally responsible conduct is better than chaos.
Many even look hopefully to science as the ultimate source of absolutes. Paradoxically, science itself denies this, as it burrows down into further perfecting or changing its theories (and thereby invalidating previous 'truths'). Just compare what was ‘absolutely true’ two hundred years ago with today's hottest stuff. Two hundred years from now, we will probably laugh at our present scientific paradigms. 
At a more mundane level, if a dog is seen coming to and from someone's house, the neighbours say with absolute conviction that the dog lives there. However, if the owner says that it's the best dog in the world, it's only true for him. Even though only 2% of the world's population have green eyes, it doesn't mean that it is the best colour for eyes. Any colour is fine. Every opinion has some merit, at least for person who has it.
The problem is when opinions are grouped together in isms. They naturally clash with other shared versions of the same thing. This happens especially with politics or religion, when we forget that whatever the shade, they are all just different types of teams playing ballgames. They all have the objective of moving the ball of belief from one side of the field or court to the other. There are always aims related to where and how to put the ball in order to vanquish opposing teams. They each have their rules. In basketball, you can't touch the ball with your feet. In soccer, you can't touch the ball with your hands. If you do a rugby tackle on someone in the middle of a handball game, you would definitely get a red card. Nevertheless, you can't really say that one game is better than the other. They are each good in their own right. Just enjoy the diversity. 
There is a popular Brazilian song by Gilberto Gil entitled "If I wanted to speak to God". But, what if God wanted to speak to us? He or She (who knows?), would probably tell us something vastly different from anything we have ever imagined. That would be the absolute, true measure of things. It would be like receiving a ruler with which to measure all of our different beliefs and behaviours. 
Let's say He said that we were all tiny points of conscious energy animating our otherwise lifeless bodies. That we came from a dimension beyond the physical universe, we entered into bodies and that on completion of a certain vast cyclic process we go back to that dimension. That He remains always there in that home of light and silence where we all try to subtly send ourselves in prayer and meditation. What a surprise it would be if He said that He is not omnipresent in this physical world and that He only knows what he needs to know. He doesn't keep a book of all of our sins, nor does He sit up in the sky watching what we do or don't do. He doesn't send bolts of lightning to blast us where we stand when we are not behaving well. He has no favourite religion because all souls are His children.
In other words, He/She would probably refute the most sacred of human-made concepts. There are so many things that have been said about God from all sides. What would God say from His/Her side about us and our little, relative truths? The sad news is that we don't know that we don't know as we stumble our way forward. The best news is that we have a chance to be honest and accept the wonderful diversity in which we live.

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