This article was written by Fawkes Rizal on his site incnotes. Seldom do we come across such insights that jerk our senses and make us realize how this whole universe of ours and every living soul occupying it is inter-related and in effect just one living, dynamic organism. (Brother Fawkes, I just hope you won’t charge me with plagiarism [smile]).
Everyday, every second, in every corner of the world, man is confronted with options and decisions, choices they have to make, whether substantial or minor, from what one should eat for lunch to whom they should marry to how to earn their living and how to spend their time and money. And consequently a person has to abide by the outcomes of their decisions, be it beneficial or otherwise. Is the right lane moving faster? The green shirt or the black shirt? What should my college major be? Everything is a decision. Everything is a choice. You make your bed and you lay in it. There’s no one else to blame. If you’re fortunate, like some of us are in this early era of the 21st century in industrialized and civil nations, you’ll live in a place with abundant options where people have the personal freedoms to choose how to live their lives, and not have it dictated to them by an oppressive state. [Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg’s 1993 award-winning depiction of the horrors of the Holocaust is a fine cinematic example of lives without such privilege and essential viewing for enlightened masses.]
The United States of America was founded on democratic ideals and fair representation, and has generally progressed towards granting greater personal freedoms and civil liberties, despite those misguided who feel discrimination of any sort is acceptable. [Lincoln, Spielberg’s award-winning biopic of our great president shows how wise and strategic leadership can accomplish the seemingly impossible; in this case, making great strides in granting the equalization of civil rights, despite heavy opposing political views and societal sentiments against it at the time.]
Typically, most of our decisions are based upon our life experiences and what we’ve been through and learned from, and since most people do not experience life in the same way, people will make different decisions based upon their knowledge, opinions, and beliefs. This understanding and recognition, that people have different life experiences and opinions, is itself a choice, and one that not many people have the inclination to consider when regarding others. It’s probably a substantial oversimplification, but I would suspect a great number of conflicts, wars, and disagreements are caused because one person hasn’t thought deeply enough of how another person experiences the world. Empathy is a skill that requires understanding, wisdom, conscientiousness, selflessness, and a willingness that most people are too apathetic or selfish to attempt; but we must try if we have any hope of trying to resolve our great conflicts.
The ability to think and reason for oneself is one of God’s greatest gifts to humans, and something that should be valued and given the highest respect for. Intelligence, reason, and discernment are so rarely thought of as traits one should be thankful for because we so often take them for granted, assuming they’re natural and innate in everyone, when in fact they are traits that should be cultivated, consciously developed, and actively sought. Only when you’ve witnessed those who have sadly lost it (Alzheimer’s, dementia), or never had it, do you realize what a great privilege it is to have the ability to think and to analyze, to communicate, to use logic and reason to devise solutions, to problem solve, to science the s*** out of something (The Martian, anyone?).
But respecting wisdom and intelligence is again a choice, and not everyone will give it the same value in this life, preferring to believe they already have it or know it all, or to have someone else do the heavy lifting for them. Consider, if you will, those young children born mentally challenged with autism or Down syndrome, and reflect upon how blessed one is to not have those same hurdles and burdens. My heart goes out to them, and yet I know how equally blessed they are for in some ways, while God has challenged them greatly, they are still blessed above all with the ability to love and be loved, and not have to deal with certain idiocies and ideologies of more “capable” men. So if you have the ability to critically think and reason, by all means be grateful for it and choose to make use of it.
However, there are people who like to suppress independent thought saying, “Don’t read this, don’t read that, it’s bad for you, it’s dangerous.” I’d like to suggest READ EVERYTHING! If you don’t understand why things are happening, GO FIND OUT. Talk with people, have discussions, communicate, open up dialogues. Question, analyze, and stay critical. If discernment was a muscle, exercise it. Think. Reason. If you believe someone is dishonest with you, ask more questions, get more answers. The truth will always eventually reveal itself and the deception ultimately won’t hold much water. Stay curious. Of course, there are two sides to every story, so hear them both out, and make an attempt to get to the heart of the matter. Play detective, understand motives, examine the evidences, hear the testimonies, follow the paper trail. Don’t be complacent, don’t be gullible, don’t be someone’s tool, and don’t accept a NO when you know the answer is YES. Share your story. If you have a voice, let others hear it. Your opinion matters, your experience counts, your ideas are valid.
Some of the greatest technological and scientific advancements were achieved because people refused to believe the status quo, thought outside the box, defied conventional wisdom, sought answers. Satellite technology? Splitting the atom? Man on the moon? Impossible they said. How very sad to be given a brain and not utilize it. To have it suppressed and to keep it dull.
But using it is again a choice, and who am I to judge anyone for choosing a way of thinking for himself or herself that they feel compelled to out of fear, guilt, misguided loyalty, or who knows what other justification. For some it is easier to ignore the facts, bury their heads in the sand, refuse common sense, stay blind and closed minded, turn a blind eye toward any wrongdoing, live in denial, support and condone shameful and corrupt behavior, and believe only what they want to believe. But that is their choice. I can respect that. Agree to disagree. You give the film Thumbs Up, I give it Thumbs Down, I love my mom, you don’t love yours, po-tay-to/po-tah-to, to-may-to/to-mah-to; to each his own, a difference of opinion, no hard feelings.
And yet, some of the greatest atrocities and injustices that occur in the world occur not because there’s evil in the world–that’s a given–but that we chose to do nothing to prevent it. We chose instead the safe route, ignorance is bliss, it’s someone else’s problem. There’s a scene in Saving Private Ryan [can you tell I love Steven Spielberg movies] where one soldier is so paralyzed with fear that he helplessly hides and watches as his comrade gets brutally killed, and we in the audience feel frustration and anger that he didn’t do more to save him. But we understand as well that such is the nature of war: fear, guilt, shame, and confusion. We empathized.
When a drowned two-year old boy washes ashore, face down in the surf, and a photo goes viral appearing on news feeds worldwide, I would hope, for humanity’s sake, that a sensible person would take some time, however brief, to feel a sense of compassion, and make the slightest attempt, however fleeting, to understand how and why and under what circumstances something like this happens, and try to prevent something like this from happening again. This isn’t some plea to join the Peace Corps or a call to fund some humanitarian effort for world peace, but a suggestion to think outside your comfort zone, explore possibilities and not be afraid to address issues big and small intelligently, with civil and constructive discourse. This could apply to discussions involving gun rights, police brutality, gender equality, racial violence, human rights, debates on climate change, immigration, and religion — and in our specific case, corruption in churches.
True resolution will not come about when one party attempts to silence, bully, oppress, and suppress others. Torture, harassment, abuse, intimidation, coercion, frivolous lawsuits and the like are all misguided, and illustrate a lack of love for God, for Christ, humankind, and the world around them. But, as always, how a person acts is their choice.
On the other hand, myself and other true Christians are choosing to allow LOVE to be our guiding principle in how we interact with people and the issues we encounter, both members or otherwise, religious or secular, respectively. We will continue to love our families, our spouses, our children and our relatives. We will continue to love the brotherhood, even those who persecute us and those who sue us. We will continue to show love for our Catholic relatives and our Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, and Protestant friends, and all those in between. We will love atheists and agnostics. We’ll love both our Republican NRA card-carrying next-door neighbor on the one side and our Democratic liberal ultra-feminist neighbor on the other. We’ll love our gay nephews, our divorced aunts, our chauvinist sexist co-workers, our fanatical nieces, our recovering addict cousins, our hoarding uncles, and the strangers we meet at the bus stop. We will continue to be kind and hospitable to our teachers, our colleagues, and the true ministers of the faith we have worked alongside. We will love Defenders and those hoping to expose and remove the corruption occurring within the church, and love as well the blind EDSA rallyers who knew not what they did. We will even be kind to and pray for the unscrupulous false ministers who unrelentingly attempt to cause divisions amongst families and the brotherhood week after week both in and outside of the pulpit, and likewise be considerate of criminals and convicts attempting to renew their ways.
Our love for God and for Christ is deep and profound because love is our greatest commandment. And we will continue to strive to emulate Christ, so much so, that like brethren and humanity around the world, from Brooklyn to Bombay and all points north, south, east, and west in between, and especially in Bel Air, we will continue to love all our fellow men, honor our parents, and love our moms just as Christ did. We choose to LOVE.