The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 14: By Definition

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June 14,2020-

Today is Flag Day, when Americans pay respect to our national symbol of unity. It is Race Unity Day, when we, around the world, can honour and commit to following the practical aspects of achieving unity. It is, finally, the birthday of U.S.President Donald Trump. I give him that, and hope he has had a peaceful day of reflection and family time.

Having had a meaningful devotional and discussion, earlier this morning, on the Oneness of Mankind, and having watched a lovely two-hour presentation on Race Unity, I wish to consider how we might determine: What defines a person?

Does colour of skin define? It has certainly brought into being a unique culture, in a good many cases, over time. Is that not, however, largely because of segregation, as well the particulars of the place where people have found themselves? There are, however, people of every skin tone who do not adhere to the popular perception of the characteristics of their “racial ” group. Are they less than those who do fit that perception?

Does one’s sex define? There has been a dichotomy of roles, since the human race’s hunter-gatherer cultures. Men hunted,and women tended the home. There have, throughout history, been women who hunted and men who tended the hearth. Are either of these less than those who fit the mould?

Does one’s job define him/her? What about refinement/coarseness of speech? Is where someone lives a determinant? How about his/her philosophy of life/voting record? Is the chosen Faith, or lack thereof, a factor? Is openness, or secrecy, a defining moment?

The truth is, it is all of these, taken together, and none of them, taken alone or in a piecemeal group. Skin tone, in and of itself, means nothing. Every shade of melanin is beautiful. Cultural background is a baseline for expressing personality, in a good many cases. For others, it is a baseline of struggle for self-acceptance. Sex, and its legal offshoot, gender, are not a defining factor, in terms of what a person is capable of achieving. One’s job determines several things-financial status, time spent working/at leisure, and sometimes,neighbourhood. Philosophy and political stance may affect how one sees the roles of government and social institutions in personal and community life.

There are plenty of White progressives and conservative People of Colour. There are open-minded people, in every point on the political spectrum and there are, similarly, dogmatic people alongside them. There are loving souls in every religion and creed, and there are their doctrinaire fellows in faith. There are both loving and hard-nosed men and women, alike.

What defines me, is my totality-and that is always subject to change. What defines you, is likewise. None of us can control the other. It is the illusion of control that has allowed stereotyping, fear and the sense of “other” to take such deep root and to wreak such havoc.

A blessed Race Unity Day and Flag Day to all.

I

Whose Truth?

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August 28, 2016, Prescott- I attended a couple of spiritual gatherings, this weekend. Last night, several faith leaders and community activists gathered at Scottsdale Baha’i Center.  The purpose was a delayed Race Unity Day.  The weather has cooled, just a tad, from June’s more extreme temperatures, thus making a late August version of “Juneteenth” more palatable to many.

The array of speakers was far more concerned with solving the ongoing problem of race relations, than in any semblance of showmanship or exclusive claim to truth.  The gathering of about 100 people were able to engage in well-balanced discourse, without resorting to recrimination.

This evening, I joined a much smaller group, at an observance of  Janmashtami,(Krishna’s Birthday), one of the key Hindu religious observances.  It had been 32 years since I last attended any kind of Hindu gathering.  Prescott’s small community is made up of white Americans- an anomaly, with the South Asian community here seeming to be mainly Christian and Muslim.  They are no less fervent, though, than the multitudes of India and Nepal.

The swami, who hails from Sedona, is, like me, a child of the 1960’s.  His inspiration to become Hindu came from the Beatles and others who flocked to the feet of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  I must say, he has done a fair amount of homework on the body of Hindu  Scripture. Anyone who can cite the data of the created Universe that is listed in such detail ,as it is in the Bhagavad Gita, is worthy of profound respect.

There is, though, a common thread woven through all the religious traditions, from time immemorial.  Each does build on those before it, as Man becomes more conscious of, and in tune with, his unique station on this Earthly plane. Truth, to me, did not stop with Hinduism, Christianity or Islam.  It has not stopped with the Baha’i Faith.  There will be other Spiritual Teachers, Avatars, Buddhas or whichever name one sees fit to apply to a Divine Messenger, and They will come when mankind needs them.

Truth, though, remains One- and none can claim a corner on its entirety. I was gratified to see that the swami and his community has sensed this, and dispelled some misgivings I was about to have, about their faith and its possible trend towards fundamentalism.  I will be able to maintain the same dialogue with the Hindu community that I am still working to establish with devout Christians.

It was a fine, useful weekend.