Thursday, July 16, 2015
Dragons versus Unicorns
No, this is not some episode of Final Fantasy XVIII, Pokemon, Game of Thrones or other TV show/video game.
In this case, I am referring to a situation which often occurs when people begin to discuss religion/spirituality: namely, that each side begins to argue about hypotheses or pedantic minutiae which cannot actually be proved or disproved or which is in fact utterly irrelevant to deriving value from the basic ideas. Thus, it is the equivalent of two people arguing over which would win a fight: dragon or unicorn, neither of which can actually be proven to even exist outside of the fantasy of imagination (nb: Komodo dragons are only called "dragons" because they are large lizards. They do not breathe fire and cannot fly, which everybody knows all real dragons can do).
A common one is the Christian "one God versus 3 Gods" question. In Christianity, God is usually thought of as a singular deity, but also as the Holy Trinity of God the Father, The Son and the Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit). Heated arguments happen between various Christian groups about the nature of God in each of these three forms, and whole branches of Christian religions differ based on what specific ideas they espouse. Sadly, none of these ideas can actually be proved or disproved (at least not by any living human beings that could credibly resolve the argument).
All religions have some symbolism inherent in them as part of their Gnostic traditions. This includes the Christian cross, the Jewish Star, The Muslim Scimitar, The Buddhist lotus flower and so on.
These symbols are core to those belief systems and an integral part of their worship in sacred ceremonies. At the same time, to the extent that these distract the believer from gaining the benefit of the belief, I think they are at best misguided and at worst deliberately false and incendiary. Using the Christian cross as an example, in Catholicism, the cross is always shown as a crucifix with Jesus on it (I assume to emphasize that Jesus suffered and died for our sins). By contrast, in the Lutheran (reform) Christian tradition, the cross is NEVER shown with Jesus on it, presumably to emphasize his arising from the tomb and triumph over death. Which is correct? How can we ever know? While I can accept that there is a certain philosophical merit in discussing these interpretations, is there any practical value to be gained in arguing over them? Fighting over them? Killing and dying over them?? I suppose it would be just as nonsensical for two people to come to blows over whether dragons or unicorns are more powerful than the other.
I have yet to find an organized religion that does not include social harmony as one of its core tenets - the responsibility of believers to get along with each other. For nearly all of them, harming others is allowed only under very specific circumstances, and killing is generally frowned up except in cases where the tribe is under direct attack. Not signalling out Christians here specifically, but "thou shalt not kill" is a simple 4 word command, pretty clearly spelled out, and not really open to much interpretation. There is no "except..." clause. Nearly every other religion is the same.
Still, however, man manages to engineer seemingly endless reasons for killing each other, religion being history's greatest excuse to murder people.
Using my example above, it is my sincere hope that Dragon lovers and Unicorn lovers (and all other fantasy fans) can come together and appreciate each others' beliefs, each cheering for their own favorite mythical creature - but not at the expense of another's. We are all equally entitled to believe in what we want to, so long as it does not harm others. Respect is key.
Then again, maybe everyone has got more important things to do than argue about imaginary stuff, right?
Martial arts is rife with the same problem. Many so-called "masters" talk about "Ki" or "Chi" as if it were some mystical magical genie power that makes otherwise superhuman feats possible. Their goal is to appear special and persuade students that they can achieve some voodoo magic through choosing them as a teacher, focusing on esoteric topics at the expense of good, practical training. The reality is that martial arts training is the most natural training there is, explainable through science (mostly physics, math and some chemistry, with a sprinkle of psychology). Listening to two masters talk about how many different aura colors there are (which neither one could see) was about as boring as watching paint dry. Listening to two "grand masters" argue over whose 11th degree black better was more "legitimate" than the others was even worse.
It is time to focus on what brings us together rather than what keeps us apart.