Behind The Mask ~ OPEN UP
need to be an ornithologist to know that swallows
feed in flight, pigeons on the ground, and ducks in
water; they are programmed like this and have no choice
about it; they cannot change their eating-habits.
Imagine pigeons diving for tadpoles and ducks looking
for insects in the air!
Man, however, is much more complex than
birds and has vastly more potential to evolve. Sadly,
though, many of us know little of this and it is very
easy to lock ourselves into fixed and rigid positions
which we then feel we must defend, with the conviction
that we are right; we become polarized and unable/unwilling
to look at things except in our own narrow ways. Consequently,
the worlds we create for ourselves—and yes,
we all have our own personal worlds, as well as the
great communal world in which we all live together—are
small and restrictive, and if there is anyone to blame
for this it is ourselves.
It seldom happens that we think: "I
am wrong and you are right", for if we did, many
of our problems and conflicts with others would immediately
dissolve. As it is, many of us are victims of our
own short-sightedness. But does it have to be so?
If we are so sure we are right we wouldn’t be
afraid to bend and look at things from the viewpoints
of others; fear and unwillingness to do so indicates
a state of insecurity and uncertainty about our own
viewpoint; like this, therefore, to be sure is to
be unsure. This can clearly be seen in people who
cling fanatically and fearfully to religious beliefs
and ideas—especially fundamentalists, who seem
unable to reconcile life in the present with their
concepts, and reject the former in favor of the latter,
which they consider more valid. Thus, the letter of
the law is seen as more important than the spirit.
Just think of the undue importance that some people
attach to religious circumcision, for example: how
does the removal of a little bit of skin make a person
morally or spiritually any better? But the idea that
it does makes them bigoted, which is a loss rather
than a gain. And does bathing in rivers considered
sacred make a person any more holy or enlightened?
It depends more upon the state of mind of the bather
than where he bathes; so if he considers all water
to be sacred, he could stay at home and bathe and
save himself all the trouble and expense of going
on pilgrimage to the Ganges!
Joseph Campbell was being a mite sarcastic
when he wrote, in his book, Occidental Mythology:
"One of the glories of the Bible is the eloquence
of its damnation of all ways of worship but its own.
Furthermore, Yahweh’s frustration of the work
[the building of the tower of Babel as told of in
Genesis] through multiplication of the people’s
languages and scattering of them all over the earth
(as though until about 2500 BC there had been but
one language in the world and no dispersion of peoples)
is chiefly valid as a text to the old Hebrew notion
that all languages but Hebrew are secondary. On opening
a pleasant little Hebrew primer dated as recently
as 1957, the student learns that ‘this is the
language that God spoke’. The idea is the same
as that which underlies the Indian regard for Sanskrit,
namely, that the words of this holy tongue are the
‘true’ names of things; they are the words
from which things sprang at the time of creation.
The words of this language are antecedent to the universe;
they are its spiritual form and support. Hence, in
their study one approaches the truth and being, reality
and power, of divinity itself".
Our ways of looking at things might be right
from where we stand, but if that is the only angle
we look a things from, we will get only a two-dimensional
picture, like a photograph. We must try to realize
that just as we have our ways of looking at things,
so others have theirs, which, to them, are equally
as valid as ours to us. We do not have to agree with
other people’s ways of looking at things, but
if—once in a while—we would try to see
things from their point-of-view, we might get a clearer
picture, more complete, and with the third dimension
of depth, than by just looking from our own angle.
It is a fundamental error, from which countless conflicts
stem, to suppose that just because it is our point-of-view
it must therefore be right. And while we are often
generous in our criticism of others and their opinions,
we should be prepared to turn the spotlight of scrutiny
on ourselves now and then. This might sometimes be
uncomfortable, but it would certainly help us to be
less critical of others and also be of benefit to
our own search for ourselves.