1) In this collection of readings, the author takes us through a journey of perspective-changing. In each section there is an opportunity to question our past assumptions and look at the concepts in a different light. Rather than taking our perspectives and suppositions for granted, follow them as though they were law, these readings encourage us to look past the obvious; past the accepted norms our society has created. By doing this, we may then see our own truth more clearly.
Prayer, for example, is not about changing an outcome but about changing ourselves in the outcome. Labeling ourselves and our experiences does more than just give us a tag to use for certain situations, it also boxes us in to potential outcomes. Seeking perfection does not get us any closer to being perfect or more lovable; rather it removes us away from the joy of experiencing the world and the loved ones around us.
The naming and labeling idea struck me as particularly poignant. So often we intentional try to box our ideas into neat little containers. We do this because it helps us to make sense of the confusing and scary world around us. Labeling does serve a purpose in our society. It helps doctors diagnose symptoms and behaviours. It help s us understand each other’s perspectives sometimes.
The downside to labeling, however, is that assigning a name to an experience or a situation also encourages us to limit the way we think about said experience or situation. Many groups around the world have tried to show us how important it is to think positively and have a connection to a spiritual existence. We hear from spiritual leaders how profound an effect our perspective can have on our psyches and on our physical healing. These are difficult ideas to process in a world where everything must have scientific explanations in order to make sense. We have lost a bit of our ability to experience awe as a society.
One item from the reading that I would challenge is the piece about being on a plane and helping the paralyzed man clean up his spilled yogurt. I do not challenge the action or the intent of the author’s kindness. I do, however, resist the suggestion that perhaps we have forgotten how to be kind to one another. I think that, given the amount of suffering in the world, we need to be compassionate toward the idea that sometime we just do not have it in us to give. There are times when our view becomes so narrow that we find it difficult to see past ourselves. I do not suggest that this is a preferred state. I do, however, posit that we need to show ourselves compassion as well. When we find ourselves behaving in the same manner as the flight attendant, it is not our job to berate ourselves but to give ourselves the same compassion we would offer to another.
2) Regarding morality and religion, it seems to me that morality is more of a personal experience and evaluation. Religion may provide a framework, with guidelines and an infrastructure of tenets, but one’s morality is a somewhat more individual appraisal of situations.
I would suggest that there is, in fact, a distinct Christian morality. Within the Christian faith, there is often an over-riding sense of due. We are loved by God, yet there is an element of always needing to prove ourselves and our worth to a higher authority.
I believe we give a rational account for our actions and decisions by balancing our religious beliefs, which often guide our morals, with the moral lessons and values we learn from our environment. There is no clear picture of right and wrong, just our ability and willingness to face ourselves and to own our actions. By taking the time to explore our true perspective, we may find a balance between religion and morals that works for us.