The War Drums of Tolerance and Morality


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Thoughts of an Expat

In Merriam Webster’s dictionary tolerance is defined in two different ways first, the willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own. The second is the ability to accept, experience, or survive something harmful or unpleasant. Many respected men have quoted about being tolerant. Here are just a few.

rumi203“Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged”

― Rumi

alexander-solzhenitsyn“It’s an universal law– intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”

― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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“Think for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege of doing so too.”

― Voltaire

Dalai Lama XIV“In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.”

― Dalai Lama XIV

Milan KunderaWhen Don Quixote went out into the world, that world turned into a mystery before his eyes. That is the legacy of the first European novel to the entire subsequent history of the novel. The novel teaches us to comprehend the world as a question. There is wisdom and tolerance in that attitude.”

― Milan Kundera

Each of these men also addressed the subject of morality to which I would like to submit to you for contemplation. Interjecting my own thought on this subject comes from my agreement with the following observations. I will conclude with thoughts of my own at the end.

Rumi’s thoughts on Morality

Now Rumi’s quote that “I will meet you in a field that lies beyond that domain of right doing and wrong doing” is rich. A field conveys an open space, an area out beyond the narrow confines of a moral code, and this is the realm of the spirit. When we are rigidly governed merely by the letter of the law, when our heart is jam-packed with rules to which we are slavishly devoted, we can never get beyond, we can never get out side of our self, and we can never get into that Sacred Space where honesty, openness, and intimacy is found. This is the domain of the “I-Thou” relationship so eloquently described by Martin Buber.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s thoughts on Morality

The distance between what is true morality can be found in the seeking of happiness as exposed here. As quoted by Solzhenitsyn: One should never direct people towards happiness, because happiness too is an idol of the market-place. One should direct them towards mutual affection. A beast gnawing at its prey can be happy too, but only human beings can feel affection for each other, and this is the highest achievement they can aspire to.

Voltaire thoughts on Morality

Voltaire posited:

“I have no morals – and yet I’m a very moral person”

People tend to act in their self interest. They do good things because they receive some kind of benefit, for themselves, their family, or their country. Even feeling good about doing a good thing is a benefit. There are some people who act in their self interest by doing bad things. We call these people criminals.

Now, how do we decide whether a thing is good or bad? Good things are those that help us survive as a community and a species. Bad things are things that prevent survival. That is why we call them bad and punish them. The instinct to survive thus leads us to moral action.

Morality is about how we behave towards each other. Morality is about not doing things that hurt other people, because that hurts the community and the species.

The purpose of our lives is to live them the best way we can. Why? Because by doing so, we have the best chance for our survival, the survival of our families, the survival of our wider society and ultimately the survival of our species.

Dalai Lama thoughts on Morality

During a lecture at Emory University, the Dalai Lama said humanity is currently facing “some sort of moral crisis.” He said all human activities come with sincere motivation, including the activity of teaching religion.

The moral crisis is clear, he added, given that religious institutions that normally promote morals have become a means of corruption in many cases, the Dalai Lama said.

“Why do these things happen?” he asked. “I think the society; I think basically, lack of conviction. Moral principles are [the] ultimate source of inner strength.”

Milan Kundera’s thoughts on Morality

Suspending moral judgment is not the immorality of the novel; it is its morality. The morality that stands against the ineradicable human habit of judging instantly, ceaselessly, and everyone; of judging before, and in the absence of, understanding. From the view­point of the novel’s wisdom, that fervid readiness to judge is the most detestable stupidity, the most pernicious evil.

An Expat’s thoughts on Morality

Tolerance should follow good judgement, if we seek to understand and educate ourselves then tolerance will come about the appropriateness of things. Proper judgement comes when one seeks to understand things from the realm of the spirit.  Morality shouldn’t come based on the idol of the market-place nor self interest. It is not our job to promote morality but to live our lives according to God’s dictates. It is an absence of understanding , tolerance and morality are not sticks to bet the war drum with. They should be measurement sticks that we use to look at ourselves not others.

We should try to comprehend the world as a question, we should ask ourselves if we truly understand or are we passing judgement on the differences of others. This is where tolerance belongs. Let God judge immorality so we can be free of condemnation. There is a mirror in which each of us should be looking at, it’s called “Truth”. We should be standing here with conviction and not move.

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