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.