Many years ago while attending a Native American sweat lodge in Chicago, I found myself standing outside the lodge with the ceremonial singer. Out of the blue, he tells me, “You know, there’s no such thing as right or wrong.” Flabbergasted, I exclaimed, “Of course there’s such a thing as right and wrong! Murder is wrong!” He gently replied, “What if someone had to kill someone to protect his family? Or when we go to war?” I came back at him and said, “Well stealing is wrong!” Again, he gently answered, “What happens if someone has to steal food because that is the only way he can feed his family?” Knowing that I couldn’t argue with him, but still thinking he was wrong, I decided to keep my thoughts to myself.
For the next two weeks, I thought consistently on this theory. I argued with him in my head and I argued with myself. Of course, there’s such a thing as right and wrong. Isn’t that what we’ve been taught since we were old enough to understand what was right and wrong? I remember being at work when I finally had that “aha” moment. I got it! There really isn’t such a thing as right or wrong; only one’s perception of what is right or wrong based on a person’s beliefs, upbringing, experiences, culture, and environment. I realize that this is a hard concept for most people to grasp. People won’t get it…until they do. And just because someone does or doesn’t get it, doesn’t make them…well…right or wrong.
Everything we think we know or believe is just that…a belief. Our world is full of dichotomies. Everywhere you look, everything you read and hear, has an opposite. We particularly see this in religion and politics today. People are either for or against abortion, capital punishment, gay marriage, war, or they’re Democrat/Republican/Independent, Christian/non-Christian, and on it goes. If you asked an audience who is pro and who is anti on these very issues, the audience would be divided. Then if you asked who was right or wrong, each person would say that they were right and everyone else was wrong. So who is right and who is wrong?
These are all beliefs and everyone’s beliefs are different. Most people are very passionate in what they believe, they believe their way is the only way, and everyone else is wrong. They fight, argue, attack each other, and call each other names. I can understand this in politics, but it’s extremely disturbing when I see it in religion, particularly in Christianity. Most all religions have spiritual teachers whose lives were all about love, peace, harmony, and compassion: Jesus in Christianity, Moses in Judaism, Mohammed in Islam, Buddha in Buddhism, and so on. I really believe that the majority of people follow these teachings. The problem is that the media gets more attention when they publicize the religious and political leaders who are propagating hate, bigotry, and ignorance. I believe that there are many more who believe that we are to love one another as Jesus loved us, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. They don’t judge. They believe in kindness as the Dalai Lama expresses his religion to be. They know we are in this world together and they believe in inclusiveness because they know we are all one.
Think about something for me if you will. Pretend we’re in a sci-fi movie and the earth releases an energy of some kind all over the world. All electronics, books, and paperwork disappear. What also disappears is everyone’s memory. No one has any memory of God, religion, politics, war, or anything in their past. You only know the moment and you only see each other as human beings. What would you believe and who would you be?
Personally, I believe that we would know our oneness. We would know our connectedness to the All-That-Is even though we wouldn’t be able to describe it. Like the early Native Americans and other cultures that do not have electronic media, books, or the like, we would sense a greater power and we would be joined together in that collective consciousness of unity.
My dream is that more and more will come to know that we really are a part of each other and that the greatest power in the world is unconditional love. The fighting, arguing, and attacking stop and we focus on what we have in common. We learn to love and accept each other as we are regardless of color, race, nationality, religion, politics, sexual preference, or any of the other differences that give us the illusion of separateness. Only then will we know peace because we will become peace, and we will know love because we become love. Namaste’.
(Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen paper on Friday, June 8, 2012.)