Tolerance
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A key point on my path (and one that I'm alternately fantastic and pathetic at) is tolerance. While I'm not going to say that every religion is right, I will say that most of those which actually capture people's attention must contain at least a grain of truth to them, or they wouldn't resonate so well with people. The inverse of this also holds true - they've all got something wrong with them as well. Call me cynical, but I frankly don't think anything human can encompass all of the truth. Even if it could, the minute people get involved with it, their cultural spin will impact the explanation of the truth and something will be skewed.

Put more basically, we all have our cultural filters. Every one of us has a history, a background, and a perspective, and that perspective affects everything we do. It's that old question of "does color look the same to everyone" - no one can truly understand something in exactly the same way another does. Make those two different people be from different cultures, and the differences get greater and greater. Then when it's explained back to the next person by each of the first two, that person's understanding will affect what is said, and so on, like some giant game of telephone. I firmly believe that if you have 100 people in a room, even if they are all the same "religion," you'll still have at least 101 different belief systems in that room, because at least one person in that room is going to be of two minds about something.

The upshot of all this is that different people with different backgrounds need different things from their religions or philosophies. What you get out of something will not be the same as what another does, and what you need is not the same as what another does. Some people need heavy ritual, and to be told what to do by someone in authority. Others feel restricted by this, and long to go seek and find the answers for themselves. And both have a place in this world.

I often see people scorn others for their choices in religion or philosophy. The implication is that my way is the best way - and there is no one way that is for all people. Each of us has our own path to walk, and needs our own level of support and control through that path. Neither path is right or wrong; they're just different. 

I have a hard time keeping this in focus sometimes, but that doesn't mean I don't believe it. Sometimes I have been known to look down on those who don't seek as I do, but I know it is wrong. That's one of the "dark side" issues that I struggle to control in myself. And in our culture, where the duality of "right" and "wrong" is so deeply impressed on our psyches, it can be very hard to break out of that duality.  But when it comes to religion and philosophy, the "right" and "wrong" duality just isn't appropriate anymore, and you find yourself in a plurality of paths, each unique - and to my mind it is best to remember this. Because your path is not someone else's path, and just as you don't think anyone else should tell you where or how you should walk, so do they have the right to the same. 

All that being said, I would like to add that tolerance ends at your nose. Just like you should not impose your views on another, they have no right to impose theirs on you, nor do they have a right to your property because of their views.  But politeness should be attempted at the very least - it's not going to hurt anything to try, and it may just make you a friend.

-Jaelle, 7/2001

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