Behind The Mask ~ OPEN UP

You don’t 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.

Gold—unlike plastic—doesn’t fear fire.

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