Over the ages, we have learned to live alongside one another even though we have different points of view. But how do we do this? Oftentimes, we basically just don’t delve into the challenge: We steer clear of the difficult conversation of accepting each other’s views, and learn to live in separate realities, just so long as we do not impinge on each other’s freedoms. I suppose the expression for this is “live and let live”.
But I want to address this idea for a moment, specifically when it comes to spiritual practices, including religion: Is there a way that we can all practice in our own way, and also see each other as part of the same spiritual truth? Even as crucial contributors?
There is an age old story from India, about five blind men and an elephant. Having never encountered such a beast before, each man tries to explore it by touch. But as each one is approaching from a different angle, their experiences are vastly different: One man finds the trunk, and declares that the elephant is like a large snake. A second man feels the ear, and believes the elephant to be like a fan. A third man feels the animal’s side, and thinks it is a wall. A fourth thinks that the leg is a tree. Yet another man finds the elephant’s tail, and thinks it is a rope. In some versions, the men are so frustrated by each other’s testimonies that they come to blows (which I find particularly amusing considering that these men are supposedly blind).
In the meantime, I think to myself that there might be a nice, almost fun side to this slew of opinions: While those blind people are arguing it out, the elephant is getting a ten-handed massage. Each pair of hands is devoted to one part of him (or her), and honestly, what could be better? Each “worshiper” can even specialize in legs, or ears, or tummies… There’s a lot of TLC to go around, and so much experience from having gotten to know “the elephant” from a particular angle for a very long time. I really might not mind being the elephant in this story.
Though it would be fun if those guys could stop arguing, and appreciate what a great job each one of them is doing, and how happy the elephant must be in the grand scheme of things.
What if the same can be said about God?
In India, as I’m told, God is a “formless, genderless divine”; but there are thousands of deities - each one represents an ASPECT of God. And it is vital that there be different people attending to each of these different aspects, just like there are specialist doctors for every part of the human body.
Maybe it’s about time that we monotheists learn something from the rest of the world, and appreciate how wonderful a job we’re all doing just by concentrating on the image of God that we feel most connected to? I mean…. If everybody just kept worshipping God in the same way, wouldn’t God get a little tired of it?
Image by Rachel Claire, Pexels.com