Unification News for June 2001
Know the Truth
This article is about the truth and the people who know it, or think they do. And their attitudes toward people who may know less.
Truth comes in many forms, as does human intelligence. Unificationists are special people, familiar with the deepest truths ever revealed to humanity. But there are several kinds of truth, and different skills are required to handle them.
A different version of this article appeared in the philosophy newsletter Synapse.
Scientists can do wonderful things with bubbling test tubes, and can probably recite the Periodic Table of the Elements by heart. They create healing medicines and deadly poisons with ease; and can fashion smelly but useful globs, or fabulous crystal baubles. But if they want to grasp the ultimate significance of their efforts, they must turn to spiritual leaders.
Mechanics can grasp the intricate workings of automobile engines, from the computerized fuel injectors to the clashing gears. A few of those mechanics may be theologians as well, but not very many. And while a theologian might look down on such a greasy person, when their car breaks down, they probably won’t try to tackle the repairs by themselves.
Philosophers tackle some very profound questions, and can bring clarity to issues which have puzzled ordinary people all their lives. They can also ‘split hairs’ on some very dense issues that most folks don’t ever think about at all!
When the philosopher, scientist, and mechanic have problems with their personal relationships, as they sometimes do, they’re all likely to turn to an experienced councilor, or a member of the clergy. Someone who can guide them through the perilous realms of the heart.
Then, to celebrate their revived relationship, each will attend an event of their liking, whether it’s a football game, a new movie, or a musical recital. All of these, please note, require still other types of intelligence and skill.
Wouldn’t it be great if all these folks sincerely respected each other? They often don’t. Worse, they sometimes trash each other, being at odds in a verbal sense, or worse.
Even within their own spheres, people don’t always get along. Philosophy has various schools, which have disagreed for centuries. The hard sciences also have zealously defended schools of thought. Even top mechanics can be restorers of classics, or stock car enthusiasts, or Formula One racers. That’s not even getting into religion and politics, with their massively divisive variations.
What to do? Here are some words of wisdom from my friend Kathi. During a recent on-line debate, she wrote:
<< I guess my whole point is that the extremes, whether right or left, up or down, in or out, are too elitist in their assumptions, and fail to take into account the vast majority of middle of the road people who just want to live life on their own terms, without stepping on anyone else’s toes. >>
My discussion with Kathi and our mutual friends was the basis for this article. She actually raises a much larger issue. ‘Live and let live’ has been an American maxim since the beginning. Believe it or not, the Puritans were considerably less uptight than today's self-proclaimed moralists.
There is a clear pattern to the elitism Kathi mentioned. Most people prefer to hang out with others who think and behave like themselves. Surveys have shown that this personal preference tends to increase as people get older, and this holds for Christians, Humanists, and others.
Folks thus assume that all ‘good people’ think, believe, vote, donate, etc. basically the same way they do. And that, as other people ‘grow,’ they’ll become more like one’s self.
Conversely, those who disagree are assumed, at best, to be ‘missing’ something; or, at worst, to be starkly evil.
Of course, if you directly ask someone if they think like that, they will instantly deny it. Nonetheless, this ‘birds of feather’ thing is a deep, almost subconscious, personal behavior. (Doubt it? Sign on to the World Wide Web, and check out the extreme polarity of opinions about radio’s Dr. Laura.)
Let me put it this way: "Tolerance is a modern American virtue—and if you readers don’t display is properly, I’m going to make every one of you attend a Sensitivity Training seminar!" (Just kidding.)
How do we treat people who don’t agree with us? Good and decent people tend to assume that if others were just a bit more [fill in the blank: informed, educated, concerned, aware, compassionate, enlightened, etc.], they would soon ‘see the light.’ Thus, their efforts are devoted to education and recruitment.
On the other hand, people who are not so good also want others see things their way. Most are content to threaten folks with a ruined society, or an eternity in Hell. But if they just can’t wait that long, they’ll drag people into a nearby Inquisition chamber. And if they don’t believe in a Hell, sometimes they’ll build an Auschwitz or a Gulag Archipelago as a handy substitute…
Such spiteful people are devoted to forcing others into an approved mold, supposedly for their own good, or for the good of society. In the process, they usually manage to gather a large slice of the pie for themselves.
In our modern, relatively peaceful times, such horrible behavior has been universally condemned. Still, similar bad attitudes can occasionally be found. And the folks who are looked down upon have their own ways of striking back.
How many theologians have been overcharged by an auto mechanic? How many have been condemned by philosophers as "fractious and otherworldly," or by chemists and engineers as "airily impractical?"
It gets worse. Perhaps you’ve seen that popular bumper sticker: My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Student. Don’t assume that they’re just kidding! And do send your kid to martial arts classes. Even if they never get into a single fight, it’ll do them a lot of good.
There is a solution to these uncomfortable divisions, a quality all too rare in our society: humility. Real empathic sharing, of both viewpoint and emotion. Not the sort of ‘tolerance’ being pushed on university campuses, which is a politically correct buzzword that’s quite false in theory—and in practice, even worse!
How to bring such humility into one’s life? Make a genuine attempt to get on the level of the mechanic, the scientist, and the philosopher. Learn their lingo, and grasp their mindset. This will result in a broader and more rewarding view of the world.
One may not notice it at the time, but the Unificationist’s formula course of fundraising, witnessing, and tribal messiahship is an excellent way of doing just that.
There is a sound historical basis for such mutual respect.
Handymen were pulling us out of the caves when philosophy and science didn’t even exist. Farmers, sanitation workers, and plumbers have done more for human health than all the doctors in the world combined.
Scientists, and their actualizers, the engineers, literally built civilization. At great personal risk, they grasped, then tamed, the strongest forces of nature.
Philosophers were puzzling out the functions of the mind and the world, and winnowing the logical wheat from the irrational chaff, when most humans lived in ignorant barbarity.
Spiritual leaders, whether shamans, temple priests, or modern preachers, have always understood a great deal about human nature. Millennia before we knew that the brain was the seat of consciousness, they knew what went on in there—and beyond it, in the soul.
Looking back, the Greek’s colorful menagerie called the Gods of Olympus appears silly; a set childish myths, but their tales contained a whole lot of truth. When Freud began to catalogue the murky recesses of the mind, he needed only to borrow some utterly appropriate examples from those Greek tales.
One might know the deepest of truths, but if you and a few companions just know it, isn’t going to get you (or the Providence) very far. And, at first, sharing it with others may not work out the way you thought it would.
Even in ancient times, spiritual leaders understood that life has a greater purpose, and that moral laws exist, apart from the arbitrary dictates of humanity. Today it may be popular to criticize the clergy, but they still have the inside track!
At the end of a long day, all of these folks might pause for a moment and look up at the stars. And wonder who they are, down deep; and what’s most important about life. About what’s true (or not), and how will they know the difference? And finally, where are they ultimately destined?
That’s when those who are close God can really shine.
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