Blinding and Beheading: One Path, Many Mountains

Blinding and Beheading: One Path, Many Mountains November 13, 2014


“I have been Don Quixote, always creating a world of my own.” ~Anais Nin

Science is that which is the same for everyone. Everywhere. Gravity, for example: call it what you will; describe it’s origin as gods or fairies—still, it’s results are the same and describable everywhere for everyone. Science: oxygen and its effects—the same everywhere, as Joseph Priestly surmised. Believe in it. Don’t believe in it. Yet its effects are the same.

That’s science. It’s the same for everyone everywhere. All the time. Gravity. Oxygen. The functions of consciousness and the brain. All these are the same. In different parts of the planet. In different human beings. If human beings ever go to Mars.

Religion, however . . . that’s different in different places. It’s not the same. The human mind is describable by science. The why of religion will most likely eventually described by science, even though there are at present competing theories. When science discovers the why, the why will be physical.

The what, however, is the product of local forces—customs; flora and fauna; economies; governments. That sort of thing.

The part of religion that will one day most likely be described by science is its physicality. Just now “mindfulness” is everywhere in popular US culture. Mindfulness is generally understood as the diamond pulled out of its setting in Buddhism. We pull out that diamond by putting “secular” in front of “Buddhism.”

The term “secular” can be put in front of any proper noun of a religious variety: secular Hinduism. Secular Islam. Secular . . . you get the idea. “Secular” denatures and denudes the term after it. Takes away those contingent things such as customs, flora and fauna, economies and governments. It’s the difference between going to a temple and reading about a religion in a world religions class.

Often “secular” denotes a way of going back in time to the pure essence of a religion. “Secular Christianity” posits a Jesus who is an existentialist philosopher for all time. Actually, of course, he merely reflects the values of our time. Secular Buddhism posits a Buddha teaching mindfulness.

“Secular” goes a good way toward making religions rational. That’s why the term “secular humanism” has been around for a long time. Treating your neighbor as yourself or turning the other cheek, have demonstrably positive outcomes, as does sitting down and shutting up. They make rational sense.

I suppose secularity is a logical product of the global village. As is secular’s polar opposite, fundamentalism. The internet is the Silk Road on steroids.
Just as the shrinking world of the Nineteenth Century led to the “one mountain, many paths” idea of religions, the global shrinkage of the Twenty-First Century appears to be shearing religions of their local fleece in order to . . . spin that fleece into one large blanket of gold.

Now we see that it was one path—human nature—and many mountains, those cultural differences we saw as so important but, upon reflection, are so much dross.

Anais Nin realized that she was Don Quixote creating a world of her own. This is the function of any fiction, be it romantic novels or scriptures. Our fictions come from one source—the amazing and fruitful human mind. Our perceptions of our group’s specialness in thought, word, or deed at best blinds and at worst . . . beheads.

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