Monday, December 11, 2006

Seasonal Silliness: Can We Find Harmony in Difference?

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Tis the season to be silly....

They are fighting over Christmas Trees at the Seattle airport. A Rabbi saw their 14 decorated trees and asked for a Hanukkah menorah to be added to the display. In the spirit of peace and goodwill, airport officials said "Nope" and took down all the trees in the middle of the night. The Rabbi, horrified, said that this was not what he wanted. People complained, and now the trees are back up. A menorah may be added next year. Somewhere during the Christmas Wars, the dominant culture forgot that these trees are actually Pagan symbols.

This quote at sums up the way I feel about this issue.

"Tolerance is respect, acceptance, and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world's cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. Tolerance is harmony in difference." (UNESCO)

"We view tolerance as a way of thinking and feeling — but most importantly, of acting — that gives us peace in our individuality, respect for those unlike us, the wisdom to discern humane values and the courage to act upon them."

I love the idea of “harmony in difference”. For those of us who are Sci-Fi geeks, it's very Star Trek. I also love the concept of "peace in our individuality" and the note about courage and wisdom is very much like the work we do in the Spiral Steps Support Groups.

This is why I wrote The Christians and the Pagans. It is also why Spiral Steps is open to all who respect earthwise ethics. We could have made Spiral Steps a Pagan only group (1) but recovery is so much wider and deeper than that. If I had made our groups into a Pagan ghetto then I would be cutting us all off from the lessons we could learn from people with a different life experience or worldview. So I made it about ethics and values, instead, which is something that people on different paths can share. I, for one, have a lot to learn, and I need as much life wisdom and as many examples of right action as I can find.

So, since I believe in holding the mirror up to my own soul, I have to ask this question: What are my own challenges with tolerance these days? Well, for example, I have my arguments with Islam. The fundamentalist version of this belief system is as dysfunctional and toxic as the fundamentalist (read authoritarian) versions of Christianity, Judism, and Paganism. (Plus that "abhore the infidel" thing has a frighteningly familiar ring to it). And yet they do attempt to focus on charity and justice. So, I've ordered some books about the history of this religion, and I'm looking at the ways in which women in these regions stand up for their rights, both within this religion and outside of it. My question is this: What are the values that we share? and How can we live in peace with our differences?

I'm also looking into pre-Islamic culture. There is some fasinating stuff there. The crescent and the star symbols seem to have originally belonged to a goddess very much like Diana. (Well, well.). There was a fasinating period of semi-tolerance, high culture, and scientific exploration in Spain when it was controlled by Islamic rulers in the middle ages. Christians, Jews and other religions all had rights. Women did OK, many owned businesses, and in some cases women and Jews fared better then they did when the Christians took over the region. It's interesting reading thus far.


Regarding art: Is she a saint, a goddess, a priestess or something else entirely? You decide.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wanted to share, also, my definition of tolerance: it's a conscious decision to live at peace with your neighbors regardless of their choices.

(I'm speaking in general terms here,of course--granted, there are some situations that should not be "tolerated" e.g., child abuse.)