“When we take words to be statements of ultimate truth, then differences of opinion will inevitably result in conflict.” ~Joseph Goldstein
Have you ever known people who use the word ‘truth’ to mean opinion? People who will tell you whatever is on their mind, and then tell you “I always speak the truth”, failing to realize how subjective their ‘truth’ is. Often you can have witnesses to the same event give distinctly different versions of affairs, since each one tells it from their own perspective. The other morning one of our facebook family spoke of coming outside to another cold New York morning and saying ‘what a nasty day’, just as her neighbor was saying ‘what a beautiful day’. Same day, two completely different ‘truths’.
We often hide behind this word, throwing it around thoughtlessly. “It’s the truth!” we declare. Is it really? Then there are those who proclaim they tell the truth as if they alone have the divine right to the certain knowledge of all the secrets of the universe. I don’t wish to knock anyone’s belief system, and I respect your faith and commitment, but sometimes that declaration blocks the right of others to hold a different set of beliefs.
As a teenager I grappled with the concept of Christianity being The One Way. What then of all the other religions of the world? Are the people who make up two thirds of the world’s population condemned to everlasting hell and damnation because they see the truth differently? If you believe in a Creator, then do you doubt that He also created these beautifully diverse lines of thinking?
In wishing to address this concept of who owns ‘the truth’, I did not wish to start a conflict, although I realize I may have already lost some readers. But yesterday I again received information from two unrelated sources on the subject of interfaith harmony and compassion. The first week of February marked World Interfaith Harmony Week, where ambassadors of peace call on people of faith to “…honor the Divine…in a way that encourages understanding, respect, and cooperation among people of all faiths”. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “Whether on the world stage or in their communities, religious and cultural leaders have a responsibility to speak the language of tolerance and respect.”
The same day I heard of the World Interfaith Harmony organization I also received an email about the Charter for Compassion, another interfaith group committed to treating people of all faiths with compassion. There is so much mistrust and hatred in the world, we need to actively pursue a more tolerant and compassionate world, or face dire consequences. When we fail to respect the rights of others to have divergent beliefs to our own, we foster fear and distrust. Too many destructive words and actions claim to originate from some man’s understanding of ‘the truth’.
So although I am a little late in celebrating World Interfaith Harmony Week, I celebrate all movements that promote compassion and tolerance among people of many different ‘truths’. I have no desire to suggest that you cannot claim your truth, just that maybe you think about the right of others to their own particular truth. We need a world where there is more tolerance, less hatred; more compassion and less passion about the need to be right.
I have learned from the teachings of many different spiritual teachers. No-one can fault the golden rule as words to live by. But I have also drawn strength from the words of the Buddha: “Doubt everything, find your own light.” I encourage everyone to keep an open mind, since that is how compassion begins.
Have a fantastic Friday, and a wonderful weekend, celebrating this amazing and unique world we live in. We are blessed to be alive, and to celebrate diversity. Let us do it in a way which promotes respect and harmony. This week I will close with my usual ‘One Love’, but I will also add ‘Namaste’, an Eastern greeting, which roughly means: “the light that dwells in me greets the light that dwells in you.” We all share a spark of the same light, we are all one.
One Love! Namaste!