Friday, October 21, 2011

oh, for Christ's sake!

Yes, it's commonplace. Yes, it's a good advertising leverage. Yes, it's consoling.

But it fairly makes my teeth itch.

What would Jesus do? What would Buddha think? What would Mohammad say? Wouldn't Gandhi approve? Is there something inherently wrong with simply saying, "This is what I think" or "This is what I choose to do"?

Using others as a yardstick and support for personal behavior has made itself felt in the Occupy Wall Street movement in number of ways, no doubt, but duck and cover ... here comes Jesus! A Washington Post columnist has dipped her oar in the contemporary waters. Well, everyone's got to make a living.

         The Jesus of history would love them all. What Jesus really said, and what he meant, are the subjects of culture’s greatest controversies, but one thing is sure. Jesus gave preferential treatment to society’s outcasts.
I like the Occupy Wall Street effort at largely because it asserts the right anyone might lay claim to -- to speak up and speak out. Why, in heaven's name, would I assume that someone's voice did NOT deserve to be heard? Why would I agree any more fully if Jesus or Buddha or Gandhi or Mother Theresa were wrapped into the argument?

There is something demeaning about dragging other points of view into the equation. It's as if any view anyone might hold were somehow unworthy or lacking in persuasiveness when standing on its own.

But of course it's commonplace. "Everyone does it." I bolster my point by relying on the attractiveness of someone else's approach. This seems to be true because I don't want to be thought a fool or because I am attempting to dislodge what I consider to be your foolishness. What the hell -- if Jesus says so, it must be true and if I quote Jesus, I must likewise be true... something like that.

Sometimes I think the most wondrous thing about the historical beacons anyone might choose to affix in their lives is that they are dead. Dead people don't talk back. Their words and activities are open to all comers when it comes to interpretation and enunciation. They don't demur. They are fixed ... and blessedly silent when employed by their followers as support mechanisms.

But when you think about it, what, precisely is true about what Jesus or Buddha or Mohammad or Gandhi said or did? Is it true simply because a lot of people agree that it's true? But if this is so, then on what basis did that agreement take shape? The only basis I can think of is either that people are obstinately gullible or that, somewhere along the line, someone took the trouble to find out the truth of their statements and actions ... actually checked it out to see if it panned out in walking-around reality.

And if, in fact, anyone were to check things out in experience, then the truth would become their own truth, their own voice, their own experience ... and the need to rely on anyone else for reassurance would evaporate. Experience trumps belief, so anyone experiencing what Jesus suggested no longer has the need for Jesus ... or Buddha ... or Mohamamd ... or Gandhi.

Woo-hoo! Occupy Wall Street -- or any other street you choose -- and let your voice be heard!

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