Against The Stream ~ WHAT, NOT WHO

WHEREVER THERE ARE PEOPLE, THERE are problems of various kinds. Some problems are logistical, such as the matter of producing food and other basics necessary for survival, and which, though they can be streamlined, can never be completely eliminated. It is not this kind of problem that I am concerned with here, but with those that are—by using a little wisdom or common-sense—avoidable.

Do you like to suffer? You will say "No!" of course. But there is a little bit of sado-masochism in most of us, else why would we pay to watch horror-movies that scare us and even cause delayed-reaction nightmares? Or why are champion boxers paid millions for a few rounds in the ring, during which they bash each other to bloody pulp, if not for the entertainment and satisfaction of those who delightedly watch and applaud their violence? Something inside us does like suffering, if not our own, then in others. Strange, isn’t it?

Each person sees the world from his own unique viewpoint, and there is nothing unusual about this. Problems arise, however, when we think that the world must be exactly as we perceive it to be, not thinking that others might see it differently, according to their particular viewpoints. Clinging to one’s viewpoint, unwilling to look at things from others’ viewpoints, leads to intolerance, bigotry, fanaticism, and all kinds of tensions, conflicts, and problems, small and great.

We live now in a world where cultures and religions touch and overlap each other on all sides, unlike in former centuries when nations had little commerce or contact with each other, and little was known or understood—but much misunderstood —about the cultures and religions of others. Now, looking back, we can clearly see the trouble and misery that has been directly caused by the idea of ‘the Chosen and the Damned’ throughout history. Is it not time that we updated our way of looking at things? We are, after all, now in the 21st Century (using the arbitrary Christian dating-system that the whole world has got stuck with).

Isn’t it sad that, while the world’s wisdom—and there is no shortage of it, really—should be freely available to anyone who can think and read, in any bookstore or library (even in newspapers and magazines!), many people should be as happy in their ignorance as ‘pigs in muck’, or content to live like ‘frogs in a well’, thinking that their own narrow way of looking at things is the totality of life?! It would be alright to let them remain so, if they were content to allow others to differ, but they continually try to drag others down into their darkness with them. This cannot/should not go unopposed. The world needs more light instead of more darkness.

We can—i.e., it is possible—look at things from others’ viewpoints without necessarily agreeing with or endorsing them. And if we can do so, we will become greatly enriched thereby. The more sides we are able to look at a thing from, the clearer the picture we will get of it; try it, right now, and see: Without moving from where you are as you read this, look at any object near you: a TV, refrigerator, car, or even a person. Your view of it, your perception of it, is only as a two-dimensional object, like you see on a TV screen.

Can you drive a two-dimensional car, sit on a two-dimensional chair, eat a two-dimensional meal, or embrace a two-dimensional person? If you go to buy a car, you would not take just one look at it, from a particular angle, and then buy it, would you? You would walk all around it, look beneath it, get inside, inspect everything, and probably test-drive it first. In the same way, it would help us—and the world—if we looked at others’ points-of-view objectively. We need not like them, or agree with them, but we can agree to differ, without wanting to destroy. The unwillingness to do this displays a deep-seated insecurity about one’s own viewpoint, and reduces us, often, to intolerant bigots and fanatics, whose war-cry is: "I am right, and you are wrong!", whether on a personal level, or on an increasingly large-scale level such as "my family", "my tribe", "my nation", "my race", "my religion", and so on. Have we not personalized everything, and made things like ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ into persons? Watch yourself the next time you have an argument with someone: Do you think that "He is right, and I am wrong"? If we thought like that, there would be no basis for argument, would there? Arguments arise and go on because each person considers himself to be right and others wrong. Is there anything we can do about this? Certainly there is. Try to see that:





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