Saturday, March 10, 2012

Baby's and Bathwater

There seems a societal pull to choose sides in all walks of life, as if everything is black/white, good/bad, prudent/excessive, liberal/conservative.....and requires labeling and classification. The most obvious arenas where this pull is evident is religion and politics. But it's present in the arts and culture as well.

The older I get, the more I learn and relearn that absolutes are the exception and not the rule.

I try to live my life being informed by honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness and develop opinions accordingly. I have what some might consider varied political, religious, spiritual, and cultural opinions. I have been accused of being "wishy washy" by those more entrenched in their views. I dispute that claim as that implies that I haven't expended intellectual energy before arriving at my opinions. But as this accusation comes from a perspective that holds to perceived absolutes, I accept the fact that we will need to "agree to disagree".

One absolute that I do subscribe to is that impermanence is a constant. Circumstances change. Environments change. People change and grow old. Societies evolve/devolve as do theories. Time has a way of doing that. So I try to keep an open mind. I try to look at all perspectives, looking at wisdom from the past that endures to inform the present. I seek enrichment from sources that have been labeled as one extreme or another or considered incompatible. In a term, I don't "throw the baby out with the bathwater".

Case-in-point #1: I am a Christian. (Some would say a "liberal Christian" or "progressive Christian" or even a heretic. But, for the sake of this point....Christian). The teachings of Jesus are a primary focus of how I lead my life (no surprise). However, I would have not have taken a path towards Christianity if I hadn't read the writings of The Dalai Lama (Buddhist) or M.K. Gandhi (Hindu). Long story but it was specific books from those non-Christians that led me down a path that led me to be baptized a Christian. I found wonderful ideas and perspectives articulated by those men that informed my viewpoints greatly. Now, I've encountered Christians who discount spiritual viewpoints from non-Christians immediately because of adherence to dogma and shut themselves from viewpoints and ideas that can be enriching. I don't understand this but so be it.

Case-in-point #2: I'm a musician as well as a music fanatic. I LOVE music!. If I had to sacrifice 4 of my 5 senses, I'd opt to leave my ears intact. I love music from all corners. I love to follow the historical and stylistic connections of artists that inspire me and "discover" things. I love Led Zeppelin AND Philip Glass, God Speed You Black Emperor AND John Coltrane, Steve Roach AND Mozart, Johnny Cash AND Daby Toure. I don't care about genre or crap like that. Its either good or bad to my taste (and there is a lot of stuff I can't stand as well). But GOOD LORD, have I had to deal with some incredulous reactions from people who can't understand how I can like "wholesome" music like The Carter Family and have Slayer on the same Ipod, as if somehow one is going to soil the other by proximity. But, anyhow, it has been the lifelong pursuit of musical discovery/investigation that has enriched my life immeasurably. I could not imagine being just a "genre snob" or limiting myself to what is on the Top 10.

I'm not critical of view points that are more entrenched than mine. Live and let live. I know in matters of right/wrong, I've been both. I know in matters more subjective, my viewpoint doesn't work for anyone else but me. I guess all I'm saying is that I've been rewarded by my occasional willingness splash around that messy used bath water in search of the precious. And I recommend it....come on in, the water!