Monthly Archives: December 2011
Some thoughts that have been rattling around for a while (though not an exhaustive piece, here)…
Isaac Newton is to have said, “tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy.” Is it possible for us to acknowledge that no one has the definitive answer. That is, no one really knows the “why” of why we’re here – why there’s life and conscious life; no one really knows where we’re heading – in the next few centuries, or after death, or the ultimate fate of the earth; no one knows our ultimate limits – whether we’ll ever be able to live forever, or travel through time, or what-have-you. Though, we are quick to argue over our assumptions of any of these things. I wish we could be open to a variety of perspectives.
One of the ways I’ve sometimes seen things is that many do not want to be responsible: people will look to pin blame somewhere – or, at least, on someone. So, for example, there are those who will say that religion – or a certain religion – is to blame for holding back scientific advancements, or instigating wars, or allowing abuses of human rights.
We build our perspectives based on how we allow ourselves to be convinced of certain things. It’s been said that we tend to read things that support our previously-held assumptions. But where are those things learned in the first place?
I think culture and home life are major influences. If we’re raised in a culture and home that promotes openness and acceptance, we learn to value other perspectives. If we’re raised in a culture and home that promotes certainty and legal process, we learn to value those perspectives which can be validated in the ways we’ve learned. I say that home life and culture are ‘major’ influences because I acknowledge that they are not the only influences. One’s personal experience tends to lead to certain perspectives – perhaps more than anything – and one’s personal experience can be shaped outside the home and by interacting with other cultures.
Ideologies are formed by a variety of perspectives. There are theological perspectives, and political perspectives, and both are things that can be framed by leaders within theological or political groups. I believe George Lakoff – a linguistics professor – is right when he points to examples of how politicians have used words to convey certain frames, and perhaps even mislead people in order to garner votes.
A ‘frame’ is a point of reference. It is how one views the world. We attach certain meaning to certain words – so some words form a positive frame of reference in our minds, whereas other words form negative ones. For example, think about how the word “green” has been used in the past decade – everyone wants to be “green” and, therefore, environmentally conscious. It’s a popular thing to be! With such words, people can influence a person’s likelihood to support.
I wonder if we can recognize those points-of-reference, and acknowledge that we each come from a certain perspective with certain influences in our lives. And, if we can do that, and allow different frames legitimacy (as long as they, in return, also reciprocate that openness and legitimacy), we might be able to speak about bigger ideas and broader concepts. To my mind, this also may be a significant step towards peaceful living together.
A blog I wrote for “16 Day Blog-a-thon To End Violence,” November 25-December 10, hosted by the Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society. Posted December 7.
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The easiest thing is always to do nothing. And, as a society, we’ve resorted to thinking that saying, doing, or believing nothing means one is neutral and, therefore, not responsible for awful things when they happen. see more…
My spouse and I often spend a short while watching some kind of TV-show or a part of a movie in the evenings before going to bed. I say ‘part of a movie’ because, invariably, we end up starting the program late and not having the energy to stay up until the end. At the moment, we’re in the middle of a movie called “Rabbit-Proof Fence.” It’s about Australian aboriginal children – who happen to be the offspring of a white father and aboriginal mother – who are taken from their families in order to be enculturated in the western-European ways.
It seems to me that we find value in feeling ‘at home’ somewhere. Sometimes it’s a physical location; other times, it’s with certain people or participating in a certain occasion, and location has less to do with one’s comfort level. It has to do with positive association. And, if we can not feel comfortable and ‘at home,’ we have a hard time feeling whole. (In the film, the children try to get back home by running away from the school to which they had been taken.)
With children, it is so important to help them have a sense of self and to have a sense of place. I find that to be the case, more and more, as I grow into my role as a parent to a couple of dear children. And the names and words we use to describe and call our children form their identity – for better or worse. The old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me,” is not true. Just ask the young woman who was taken from her home by her mother and raised under another name. Or ask the child who was named after a terrible dictator, and who was taken by child social services because of his name.
In the case of children who were once taken from their families, and then told that what they had learned (eg. the language and culture of their parents) was wrong, just imagine the awful feelings that would go with that. Sadly, that is the case with many who have grown up in such places as residential schools (whether in Australia, or Canada, or elsewhere).
We continue to struggle with matters of identity and naming when we expect that there be an English-version of someone’s name. A poster hangs on the wall in my house, “How to Build Global Community.” It has many suggestions for building global community, a couple of which are, “listen to music you don’t understand – dance to it” and “learn a second (or third) language.” When I was in high school, I remember a poster on my Japanese language teacher’s wall: “monolingualism can be cured.”
The words we use, and the images they conjure in each of our minds, affect our individual ability to feel whole. It seems odd – how could words and images hold so much power? – but it penetrates to the core of our being. We attach meaning to those words and images, based on the experiences that they recall for each of us.
In the story of Jesus’ birth, there are names that are ascribed to him: “Jesus” (“one who saves”) and “Immanuel” (“God among us”). In the story of every baptized person, we connect ourselves to the story of Jesus – we name ourselves “Christian” as a follower of the way of Jesus.
Don’t underestimate the power of language and words. And use the images for good – to build a framework for each person to see how we are connected, how we are all worthy of respect and love, and how we are all to engage in just living.