A friend of mine who has been a Born-Again Christian for over 25 years picked me up at the airport yesterday evening. Normally he doesn't press his religious views but last night on the ride home, he did. He asked me an innocuous question, what my parents had given me for Christmas. I said my Mom had given me a bunch of books. Included were one book about Islam and another a short story collection by Middle Eastern writers. I said that I appreciated getting books about the Middle East because I'm still woefully ignorant about that area of the world. I mentioned the Iraqi War and how I felt it was especially important now to broaden my understanding. It was all this that triggered Richard to start talking about how the wars in the Middle East are harbingers for the coming of the Antichrist and how there will never be peace in that part of the world and if there were a charismatic leader who created peace, he (she?) would be the Antichrist. It was hard for me to get around the parallel idea that peace could actually be seen as a bad thing. He went on to say that people are essentially bad which is something I do not believe at all. But I didn't contradict him. I just let him get his ideas out and tried to remain open-minded. He is my friend but not a close friend and much to my relief he was willing to drive me home and I just do not feel confident enough at this point in my recovery to start arguing with anyone face to face. It is no exageration to say that I am quite ignorant, at least for now (I'm working on it). I knew he was refering to Revelations but I do not remember much about the Bible. This is probably an emotional reaction to having considered the possibility that I could be Jesus Christ when I was still very ill. I've blocked the Bible out of my system. So I asked him to tell me about the Revelations but he wouldn't. Instead he scolded me and told me to read them for myself.
The irony is that we both believe in God. I pray on and off throughout my waking hours, mostly small prayers but prayers nonetheless. In my way, I do believe in "intelligent design" encoded in all things, living and non living. But I do not believe in fundamentalism from any religion. Books (including the I Ching) are made by mankind, not God(s) and are subject to all kinds of fallacies. I do not believe that any book is the infallible Truth for All People. I love humanity's diversity and would never want just one interpretation of nearly anything. I do believe (and it is my personal belief) that we are all born innocent and good and that we learn negative behavior through imitation. But that very imitation is responsible for all the human wonders in the world. Back to yin and yang and the desire for balance. We thrive on antonyms and synonyms, that's how we are able to think, reflect and discern. When it comes to value judgements few things are all good or all bad though many people view the world this way. In truth, as I see it, there's always a mixture of elements, a little (or a lot of) yin in the yang and visa-versa. It's our challenge to decide for ourselves what we believe is good and bad and how to follow the good in our lives.
Richard believes that mankind's essential sinfulness is the reason for war and violence in the world. I believe it's due more to cultural pig headedness and vendettas and yes, a basic learned and codified immaturity, a refusal to grow up and get beyond conflicts. I think war and violence define true insanity and are way too accepted by many countries and people. There is no excuse for murder, which is what war is all about. And yet people make all kinds of excuses for it. I've thought several times, what if there were a global boycott on violence? What if the numbers of people willing to be violent for one cause or another dropped drastically? What if it was no longer acceptable to be violent? No longer politically correct to wage war? What if peace were more desirable than just about anything?
I survived domestic violence for over five years. I know how devastating and distorting and manipulative violence can be especially when it's personal. It becomes a cyclical, psychological disease. Once accepted it takes root and destroys the foundation of love and fraternity. The only way to stop it is to practice non violent protest. If that doesn't work you have to leave the situation, even if it means leaving your home. Then you can organize your support and maybe make sorely needed changes. I believe peace is possible but the violence in people must be seen as a physical addiction. Someone who's been violent will have to work to eradicate it. There is no simple answer. An abuser must acknowledge the abuse and foster behaviors that counteract it. If they let up on self-honesty, which is a discinpline for every single one of us, they revert to old behaviors and the cycle continues. People are so ready to label some behaviors as signs of mental illness. Why not label violence, all violence, as a form of mental illness. We are our greatest predators. This has got to stop.
And so some of Richard's talk about the fight between Satan and Jesus/God and man's inherent sinfulness, and the coming of the Antichrist made me feel unsettled, mostly because I didn't feel I was able to express myself to him on the spot and so I held my discomfort in and waited the situation out. I truly wanted to remain open minded but I couldn't risk getting pulled into what I now see as another form of mental illness, fudamentalism. I've been to that place of absolutes and it is neither just nor true that I can see. The Middle Way is extremely important. I think it always has been.
A Recovery Blog
This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.