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Dealing with differences in perception

Date: 28-Aug-2004/17:11+3:00


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Those whom heaven helps we call the sons of heaven. They do not learn this by learning. They do not work it by working. They do not reason it by using reason. To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven.
Chuang Tse: XXIII
I have worked on deciphering the various languages people use about spirituality and to describe their experiences, and come up with a few points.
Firstly, I'd like to stress the importance of not neglecting primary sources. Merely talking to someone who labels themselves a "Christian," a "Vampirist," or an "Objectivist" in no way implies that you are getting complete access to the powerful coherence which created that very successful message. It's like expecting to learn about a band's music from someone wearing a concert T-shirt at the mall. The fan can tell you something, surely...but the visceral elements that grabbed that fan may still be hard to discern.
Secondly, I think it is enourmously helpful to operate from the assumption that all humans--especially those we like enough to talk to--are having valid, coherent experiences. Although our languages are very different for describing things at the syntax level...it is critical that we believe we are all pieces of the same pattern with the same intuitions at the semantic level. It is my sincere hope that if both parties are willing to operate on this assumption, they WILL converge their meanings and operate as a synergistic unit.
Thirdly, I'd like to encourage the avoidance of literalism. When someone talks about the "blood of Christ on the cross" you might ask them "do you mean Christ was an actual human who walked the earth, and he actually died on an actual wooden cross, and he was actually the son of God?" If they respond with an offhand "yes" without knowing what each and every word in that sentence means to YOU...then they can not possibly be right. You can't communicate verbally if you don't know what the words mean. If you're going to take the time to talk to someone, make sure you do enough back-and-forth to straighten things out.
Overall, we all need to have the faith that through challenging our faith...a more compelling faith will arise from the process of questioning.
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