Thursday, October 21, 2004

Iconoclast to Prophet

All of the most memorable social and religious leaders made ultimate personal sacrifices in communicating their beliefs. All of these people were willing to expose themselves to ridicule, violence and the criticism of others. All of the great leaders spoke with absolute confidence. They courageously expressed this confidence, within hostile and violent environments. Moses sacrificed a potential life of luxury and power as a ruler of Egypt. Jesus gave up a life of respect and safety for a brutal death on the crucifix. The Buddha Gautama dismissed a life of wealth and comfort as greedy and unproductive. Buddhism and Christianity place deliberate importance of the voluntary dissemination of wealth and the evil of seeking comfort through physical and economic indulgence. It is important to note that these beliefs must come from the person's own will, not the imposition of government or institution, which is artificial. Morality can never be legislated. Charity cannot be forced by taxation. It must come through the genuine recognition of selflessness as a key ingredient to civilized personal behavior.

The Folly of Rewriting History

It is important to note that, in a moral sense, strict historical proof is generally unimportant. The fables of Aesop do not need a strict basis in proof by example to convey important moral lessons. It is common to see the remarkably weak and pathetic moral equivalence argument used often to denigrate figures in history. These arguments, more often than not, completely miss the point that historical figures were human beings, with all of the same moral frailties we suffer from daily. What is important is their capacity to successfully motivate net positive change and progress in ebbing the tide of human suffering. Founding fathers owned slaves, yet they laid the foundation for the abolishment of the practice. Martin Luther King suffered moral failing in personal intimacy, but no one would deny his legacy in civil rights. Moses was portrayed as being very skeptical in Exodus; However, after addressing his God directly, he proceeded before Pharaoh and the children of Israel without any doubt about his purpose. Jesus spoke of original sin and the folly of casting stones. Gautama found truth in self imposed suffering to prove out his meditations and the knowledge and vision of Nirvana. Almost every figure in history is colored with the controversy of imperfection, or has expressed imperfection as a humbling ingredient of humanity.

Human Suffering

Strictly within the confines of democracies, passive resistance is an effective tool. Ghandi and King demonstrated that passive suffering effectively exposes the evil in your oppressor, to the eyes of others within the democracy. It is far more effective than the violent counterstrike. This fails in fascist and totalitarian dictatorships, where the passive message cannot be properly communicated. This is why democracy and freedom to speak and express unpopular ideas is a crucial medium for peaceful protest.

It is interesting to note how human suffering is addressed by the great leaders. Moses had to experience personal suffering to better understand the plight of the slaves. In Judaism, freedom from suffering comes through adherence to Jewish law and ritual; There is almost a formula for relief. Many Christians believe that freedom from suffering comes through the acceptance of Christ and God into ones own spirit. Gautama taught that liberation from suffering comes from a proper mental attitude towards oneself and others.

The school of hard knocks is not just a fictitious institution, it is a profound and necessary fact of life. Nobody learns to live and empathize with others without suffering the risks and rewards of tangible situation.

Nobody that has always lived a life of privilege can ever be truly sympathetic to the poor. Nobody that has never been in a position of authority can be trusted to make good authoritive decisions. Moses and Buddha both went from prince to pauper. Many of the greatest founders of country and industry personally tested the extremes of social position, to forge lifelong accomplishments of great import to humanity.

Objectivity in Law

Each major religion sets a standard for living. Judaism is very specific in the rule of law. It seems to take the approach to solving human problems, and developing a relationship with God through organized mental and cultural structure. This is manifested in thorough ritual and practice. Christianity attempts to deal with human problems by establishing a more internal spiritual development of people in their relationship to God, Jesus Christ and other human beings. Christianity does, however, have the structure and institution of the Church. Buddhism is the least structured of the three religions. It gives standards of conduct which are intended to aide, but not provide, a path to enlightenment and spiritual satisfaction. Buddism does not provide solutions to sufferings, because it recognizes that they are inseparable from peoples lives. Because of the constant change in the universe and environment, in which we live, static solutions do not exist for individuals.

The importance of moral standards has resulted in the creation of the rule of law. Many in the secular crowd, of which I am a member, seem desperate to discredit the religious origins of written law. The historic legacy should be embraced. Written law, such as our Constitution, is timeless. Since it is not a living breathing human being, it cannot be swayed by transient emotion. It can be changed by emotional people, but we always hope that the act of change will be tempered by debate, and the debate will soothe the tempers.


Dr. Phat Tony said...

I have found the school of hardnocks has made me a harder and colder person. I know longer do a lot of sympathizing, only because I have had to dig deep on quite a few occasions to get myself out of my predicaments (sometimes self imposed other times not). the only people I sympathise with are the peope who are honestly making an effort to improve their position and working to eliminate some of their problems. Too often now is the person, that sits back and demands help from the honest hard worker, lament about the plight of the poor.

Insolublog said...

I am gratified to see someone rummaging through my older writings. Maybe you are not harder and colder, but wiser and more inured to the abuses of the able bodied, but weak minded. I still have compassion for those in positions of genuine need.