I'm an european, catholic christian and was raised as such, but there's another belief system I grew up in. I was also raised believing in science, the knowledge it offers and the certainty by which it can explain the world around us. And it is of good use as such, but also prone to a narrow view of the world. Its subject are objects and not primarily the individuals on whose shoulders it rests.
intellectual world is established by labeling things and identifying a system.
We set our scientific values in stone. We started to measure them by scales we
made ourselves, within the realm of things we can see, grasp and understand. With
every new discovering we have to assure ourselves that
"This is it"
and sometimes don't acknowledge the finity of our understanding. Even when we know something is called a theory, we just use it as a given, we name it factual. We build brittle pillars of scientific knowledge that keep us afloat, above the fears of the unknown lurking below. Things we can't explain and can't get a hold of whisper in those depths. Things, spiritual or non-spiritual, that might not fit in our view of the world. By avoiding to look down we tend to forget that there is something that's part of both worlds.
A tiny human being in a big world, not certain where we want to be and neither what we want to do. Not able to be conscious of the full extent of ourselves. Relying on the material things around us to provide a structure and avoiding the confrontation with a self, that isn't as easy to grasp. Not wanting to take a glimpse at the person we call "me", because that would mean engaging with something that's partly unknown.
But what do we lose by not doing so? And how could we find some pillars, maybe even brittle ones, that were made to help us take a peek at us as humans?
We can start trying to look at the world, not from an objective point of view, but rather trying to understand the world from where we stand.
Rather than, "What is the relation of things?" we need to ask "What is *my* relation to things?".
The first questions seeks knowledge, the second one wisdom.
But wisdom is a hoax, some might say. It's something we tend to attribute to elderly people to make them feel good. Surely, nobody can derive universal lessons from life's experiences that could help us individually. That's just old people muttering, being caged in their view of the world, that has been there for the last 80 years or so. They never tried to break out of it like our generation does. And then somebody comes along and wants to tell me, that there are texts that might teach me something from way back when. People in these modern times surely don't need to hear from a man that lived several thousand years ago, in a completely different time, space and culture. What would be the use in reading such stories?
These texts are special. "How?", you ask? They were passed down from generation to generation. First orally, forgetting what wasn't important in the first place anyway, consciously leaving out what didn't help get the lesson across and finally writing those lessons down in books we now think of as outdated, ancient and dusty. And there is one thing those have in common, something we can find in traditions like Hinduism or Judaism, or even Christianity with its Judaic roots.
Those texts are not about things. They are about people. Living people.
about life, not numeric. Setting the start of the day either by sunrise or
sundown, not by a calculated moment at night. Creating a law that isn't just
the definition of right and wrong, but guidance to a good life. The Hindu way
of realizing that movement forward begins with a way of lifestyle and not with
lifeless things. Those wisdom traditions, or call them religions, realized that
the world is something that starts with us. Let me phrase that a bit
*our* world starts with us.
They realized that the world isn't just a set of things outside of ourselves. Because for every single one of us, most parts of the world we know reside solely in our heads. We know that the sun will go down in the evening and rise in the morning, that usually, rain doesn't fall out of blue sky, but when there are clouds. We know that grass needs water and that we'll be freezing when snow is falling. We maybe don't see it right now, but we know. We make a picture of the world in our minds. We don't actually know the world; we know what we have in our heads.
We start to realize that the world isn't just a place of things, but in the first place, of individuals.
Old traditions and texts still attract millions of people's attention, and if they aren't just fun or interesting, they might have something to tell us. They tell us about the worlds of the individuals, what similarities they've found and brought those experiences together into one text. When we try to understand one another, we start to engage in such a process. We learn something that we alone couldn't have understood. In my opinion there isn't anything more spectacular than another person's interpretation of the world. Meeting and getting to know someone, especially from a completely different cultural background is like traveling to a different planet. We've never seen the world from their eyes and we're only able to do small things to understand their point of view. But there's a magic in trying to do that. A magic that starts with humans, rather than things, with loss and winnings, pain and joy, regrets, hopes and dreams, all dancing around the edge, telling stories that will act as candles in the depths of the unknown.
I do believe that we can find great wisdom, or one might call it condensed experience, in ancient scriptures, old traditions, or a conversation with a good friend, grandparent or even a stranger.
We will learn from others about how they see the world and maybe change our own perspective in doing so. And who knows, a new point of view might open us up to a whole new world.
by Xaver S.