March 22, 2006

Asking Questions: In Growing Light.

Well, it is only just past the Vernal Equinox, first day of spring, on which I would have loved to post, if hadn't been on the fritz. In any case, now is the time of year when the days finally grow longer than the nights, the sun climbs higher above the horizon each day, and the earth drinks warmth deep into its winter-wrapped bones and belly.

Light is often associated with illumination, wisdom and divine truth. In light of such associations (pun most definitely intended ;), I thought I would revive a long-lost series I originally titled "Asking Questions," in which I invite contemplation and commentary on a given theme for which I have, as usual, no easy answers. This post's theme is knowledge and information, as well as how we seek and utilize information in our lives, and how others might respond to our actions. I admit, while writing this bit, it dissolved somewhat into rhetorical puzzling, but I hope that we each ask these questions of ourselves honestly and regularly, while finding the hope and strength to live up to our answers.

Why do we share information with others? Why do we correct those who believe things which we think are inaccurate or untrue? Is it because we want to help them live happy, healthy lives? Is it because we believe their personal fulfillment as human beings and members of the human community might benefit from new information? Is it because we are thoughtful, intelligent beings who try to guide our own lives the best way we know how and need not hesitate to divulge the reasons for our choices when we are asked (or, more often the case, challenged by antagonists)? Is it because we believe there is an inherent importance to truth and its contemplation, to the complexities of reality, to the spiritual work of the philosopher who forces himself to approach every issue with intellectual and emotional honesty, even if what he learns is uncomfortable or self-incriminating?

Or is it because we hoard facts like jewels and resent those who are unimpressed by attempts to limit beauty to only such riches? Or because we need to feel right, powerful and ultimately secure by disproving others who disagree or challenge us? Do we secretly believe "knowledge is power" and so forget the value of wisdom, love and purpose?

And why do people respond with anger and resentment towards us when we disagree? Is it because they are mean-spirited and shallow, self-righteous, proud? Or is it because they are good people, trying their best to live good lives, within a world they have been trained so well to see as hostile and insecure? Because if we provide them with a counterexample of living that does not need to consume and hoard but instead seeks with every move to take as little as possible and to give back as much as can be given, they are afraid that it is either trickery or that they may indeed have been misled all this time into a way of living which is more selfish and less loving than it could have been? And that, because they are good people, they know this and do not want to believe it of themselves, and so instead they must believe so poorly of others? Why are our best efforts to love and give back to our fellow human beings often met with derision and even hatred by the very people to whom we are trying to give? And would it be better to allow them their illusions of isolation, insecurity and their system of hoarding--whether it be a storehouse of food which does not satisfy or of facts which do not illuminate--or to challenge it, if only by our own attempts to live in the best way we can? Should we allow resentment to deter us? Should we return to the old belief in the inherent antagonism of all people and the world itself?

Or should we wish them peace and continue to give of ourselves, whether we are rejected utterly or sucked dry by those still fearing shortage and want, wishing only that someday it will not be so hard for them to give, nor so difficult for us to be received?


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