Appreciation, cooperation with others required for progress
There is something profound in the human brain and brawn that drives them to continually strive on to conquer the old and create the new. History is the story of mankind’s attempts to both advance in order to survive as a specie and the quest to understand the great mysteries of life.
I am reminded of our changing attitudes toward the holiday of Christmas when I visit Connor Prairie Farm at this time of year. It is a historical outdoor museum just north of Indianapolis. They invite their visitors to walk the village as it was in 1836. Here one can experience re-enactors in their homes huddled around small fireplaces on Christmas Eve. Few people are attending the joyful party in the big house owned by the 1836 doctor. Christmas at that time within the settlement was considered a more solemn religious experience. Compare that to the rush of holiday activities and the lists to Santa today.
I can’t keep up with developments in technology even though they make my life easier and open up opportunities heretofore unknown. We recently watched a documentary telling of the advances in programs designed to take us to the planet Mars and others that heralded efforts to replace practices that deplete our natural resources.
Since the earliest man, we see evidence that our Creator has planted within us a restless mind and stimulus to do and advance constantly. It is no wonder that our paths are not void of conflicts. Our minds and souls are in a constant state of flux and are coming from various life experiences.
The greatest mystery that challenges us is that of the nature of man’s relationship to God. We try to understand what might be the basic nature of God and how we should relate to the Supreme Being and the world in which we find ourselves. We think, we pray, we discuss, we study, we listen, we try to explain and ask questions. For this, we need words and pictures that serve as symbols for the unknown and the spiritual.
This past week, as a guest of The Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Christian Church, I sat and gazed at the beautiful icons spanning the front of the sanctuary. They are old traditions of early expressions of the Christian faith. We don’t use such symbols in the protestant churches our family have attended for most of my life. Other houses of worship around the world that I have visited have had their own visualizations of God’s messengers to this world.
Believers in a power beyond ourselves range from Christians, to Buddhists, to Muslims, to Hindus to Jews, to smaller groups of more local faith groups. They all have individualized expressions of their faith, but many of their basic belief’s are the same.
We find ourselves in such a dilemma. Is someone wrong and others right in this dilemma?
In my faith view, I try to base my every thought and action on my commitment to what I feel is God. I certainly fall short of my goal most of the time. But, if I am to base my life on a belief and practice, I hope to be right. And here is where the rub comes in. Can I be absolutely right in my perception of an absolute Power? If so, how can I be appreciative and cooperative with people who believe differently than I do?
At this season of the year, we see this dilemma playing out in the discussion of whether it is proper in a multicultural democracy to wish others ‘ a happy holiday’ rather than assuming all others are celebrating the Mass of Christ as suggested in the greeting ‘Merry Christmas.’ I suppose we could see it as a question of who we are when we greet others.
When my first husband, Frank, was representing the whole state of Indiana as its governor, he acknowledged that various groups practiced different religious holidays around the same time of the year and greeted his constituents with ‘Happy holidays.’
Now that I am a private citizen, I can speak as an individual and greet others from my own perspective, and I love to call out ‘Merry Christmas.’
To condemn another because they choose to express their beliefs in one manner rather than another seems to me to negate a lot of what we have in common as human beings with faith in a Supreme Being. Very rarely do we hear of a spiritual group promoting hate and damnation to others. Instead, religious writings, leaders, preachings, song, paintings, revelations and, indeed, miracles themselves most often advocate love, forgiveness and reconciliation. It is humbling and a bit unsettling to acknowledge that we might not always be the bearers of the absolute and only truth.
As we each in our own way scramble to keep up with progress in our world and grow with new understandings that come to us, we need all the cooperation and appreciation for others that we can muster.
May we receive the glorious miracles of love, hope and peace within ourselves and with others as we move into all that will accompany this new year that looms ahead.