Saturday, January 9, 2010

the world of others

Reading an internet query from a Buddhist man with a Christian wife, I felt the liberal whiner's drivel rising up like heartburn: "Couldn't we all just get along?" Of course we couldn't (or could), but it sure is tiring saying so.

What is tiring, of course, is just my own desire to help, to lend a hand, to explain in ways that would make it possible for my whiner's vision of 'getting along' to bear fruit. Altruism -- so often slathered with feel-good words like 'compassion' or 'kindness' -- really is a mug's game.

The Latin root "alter" (as in "altruism") means "other." And there is no talking anyone else out of their "others." The belief is just too strong, the defense mechanisms too strong, the delight too strong, the love and hate too strong ... other. Sometimes I think I'd rather hear some nitwit play the 'nigger' card or the 'kike' card or the 'fag' card or the 'spic' card ... than I would hear anyone play the 'other' card.

None of this is as airy-fairy or theoretical as it sounds when the husband is Buddhist and the wife is Christian (not some salivating fundy, but just an average, walking-around Christian as I understood it) ... and there are three children involved. Each might have the best intentions as regards the surrounding others, but here is an in-your-face friction or difficulty that calls out to be smoothed and soothed.

I guess the best anyone can do when confronted by any sort of belief is to agree ... even when I don't agree at all. "You're right" is the only option that stands a chance of settling things. A Christian ... you're right. A Buddhist ... you're right. Putting up vast and compelling counter-arguments only hardens the arteries. So, with an occasional sense of exhaustion, I practice saying, "You're right."
I'm not always very good at it.

Mother Theresa, if I get it correctly, questioned her devotion to God late in life. She had traveled so long and so far on God's highway that, from afar, it struck me as natural she would review and reconsider her fondly-cherished persuasions. She had been right, but she had the courage not to get bogged down in being right, not to nest, not to stop short. Now that, for my money, is the mark of someone who really loves God ... summoning the patience and courage Altruism was not enough ... what was enough?

Taking whatever anyone might hold near and dear and encouraging a thorough -- thorough, not just virtue-strewn or intellectual or emotional -- investigation ... isn't this the only option? It's the only one I can see that makes much sense, that stands a chance of unlocking the manacles of cozy or convenient belief.

Yes, what you believe is right.

The only question is whether anyone has the determination and courage to be right, to get to the root of the 'other,' and to stop piling up merit badges awarded by 'others.'

Sometimes I can see (if true) why Lao-Tzu was cranky as a wet cat when he left town.

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