Saturday, May 2, 2015

Equality and Learning Metanarrative

Throughout my life, there have been many instances when people assume that I have it all together or that I have things sorted, so to speak.  "You've already figured it out."  "You know what I'm talking about, right?"  "You already know the story/rules/expectations, so I don't need to worry about you."

In a strange sort of irony it is sometimes because of others' assumed understandings of who I am that I sometimes have to work twice as hard just to gain a real sense of understanding.  Sure, I may have an idea about what a relationship with Jesus can look like/how to keep professional boundaries/what the rules of the game are, but it doesn't mean that I deserve any less attention than anyone else.  Others may need more explaining to even begin to get to a point of understanding on a particular matter, however just leaving me to fend for myself and assuming that I'll be fine isn't a great feeling either.

I know we can't be everything to everyone, but if you're trying to work with people on a level of equality, make an effort to do so.  Working equally doesn't mean getting everyone to a certain point and then letting them fend for themselves.  That is just about indoctrinating people until they arrive at your presupposed level of accepted understanding, knowledge, spirituality, professionalism, etc.  That's not equality.  True equality is working with people with different levels of experience, knowledge, spiritual maturity, professionalism, etc. on their terms and where they are.  Working with those people to achieve mutual goals.  There are certainly sacrifices, but these sacrifices cannot come from just one side.

Mutual sacrifice promotes growth all around.  When one side is giving up something valuable and the other is not willing to do the same, the result is a clear unbalance of power.  Those yielding power, strength, wisdom, experience, or any act of will to another become submissive to the other.  If the other party is not willing to do the same, the yielding party becomes extremely vulnerable to exploitation.

Some may say that it is the weak who submit to authority, however I disagree with this sentiment.  Those who submit to authority do so out of a profound trust in said authority.  They are willing to submit to an institution, whether it's a religious institution, a community organization, a high education institute, or any other political (or otherwise) group, because they (for better or worse) have placed their trust in that group.  The truly weak person, group, or party is the one that is so convinced that its entity is true, in the right, or flawless that it cannot be challenged.  To be convinced beyond all traces of a doubt that one's position on a particular issue is right is to not be willing to accept criticism.  An unwillingness to accept criticism is a recipe for hidden bias and "island living."

No (wo)man, group, or party is an island.  We are all affected by each other.  There are truths or ideas that I believe to be absolute, however my belief in these truths does not make them true.  Truth cannot be relative.  Truth is truth is truth.  Opinions are relative.

I may believe that Jesus lived, died, and lives again so that I might have life but that doesn't make it true.  If it is true I am grateful, but there are not enough words to prove to anyone what I may have convinced myself to be true.  Likewise, another person may believe that homosexual relationships are wrong.  They may point to things such as nature for their argument: "Homosexuals cannot procreate and therefore it is unnatural."  Perhaps they'll point to tradition: "Sex is reserved for two married people and marriage is defined as the union between a man and a woman."

When we make an argument for (or against) anything, it is helpful to understand the assumptions behind our understanding.  By beginning to understand the assumed absolute truths, we may start to understand that we do not understand things that we may claim to understand.  To put it paradoxically simply complex: when we know what we don't know, we begin to understand why we think we know what we may not know.

The point of homosexual relations being unnatural because a homosexual act does not allow a couple to procreate acts under the assumption that a sexual act is intended for procreation alone.  My understanding of sex is that it is not just an act made for procreation.  To be clear however, it is also not just an act for pure ecstasy or carnal enjoyment.  I believe that sex is something that is to be embraced on many different levels between people who are so deeply in love with each other that they wish to be intimate with each other physically, spiritually, biologically, emotionally, and the list goes on.  To proclaim that sex is only to be reserved for a man and woman in a committed heterosexual relationship is to paint broadly something that has many different levels.  Similarly, to say that sex is just a physical act and nothing more is to remove much of the intimacy of such a vastly underestimated act.

I believe that the argument of pointing to tradition is also flawed.  To say the common belief of sex throughout recorded history is a unilateral one of heterosexual relations between a married man and a married woman exclusively with each other may sound pleasant at first.  However, I can think of another common belief that sounded nice to everyone, and society as a whole took it for truth without wondering about the alternatives: the earth is the center of the universe.  Can you imagine the bold narcissism associated with such a belief?  "Yeah, us human beings are exceptional.  The whole universe literally revolves around us and all of our great achievements."  Hearing something like this is quite absurd today because people like Nicolaus Copernicus had the audacity to ask questions rather than just accept repeated tradition as absolute truth.

I want to make one final point before those reading this assume that I am making the argument that accepting absolute truths is foolish; it is not.  What I am arguing is that we seek to understand the reasoning behind our understanding.  Notice that I did not say that we seek to ensure that others understand the reason behind our understanding.  At the end of the day, we all arrive at our own beliefs, opinions, and ideas through our own life experiences.  To accept some absolute truths requires faith (certainty in and through uncertainty), while accepting others absolute may require sensory observation or the scientific method.

It all comes down to knowing what you don't know so that 1) others can't place the wool over your eyes without your permission; and 2) your biases and/or assumptions don't influence you without your knowledge.

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