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Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Application of Ashes

Today (Wednesday) was the opening of the 112th Congress.  C-SPAN was my window into some of these proceedings.  What I find remarkable in American politics is that nothing seems sacrosanct.  One side will stand and recite their deepest beliefs; then the other side will rise to give their deepest beliefs.  The views are separated by country miles.  What is sacred doctrine to one side is seen as profound error by the other.  What becomes evident in all this is the obvious fact that perceptions of the same reality vastly differ.  It is remarkable that this is so.  John Boehner in his talk before the House mentioned the religious application of ashes to the forehead reminding us of our mortality.  Certainly the mystery of perception should remind us of our mental vulnerabilities.  We can ask—how do these vast differences in viewpoint arise?  Yet, there is no definitive answer.  We try to lay down a few rules, but it seems there are exceptions to every one of them.  The vast differences arise even though basic cultural values are shared.  The means to practically bring fundamental values to fruition is what is endlessly debatable.  In the last analysis, when viewing the workings of perception we confront the great unknown.  It is the humble appreciation of this fact that gives life to charity and goodwill.  The absolute character of our own belief is due to our perception—the very thing that drives our loyal opposition to their position.  We worship the same God and share the same basic values—that is not an issue.  The Gordian Knot of human relationships is first and last the twisted multiplicity of perceptions—the solution of which is honesty, tolerance, humility, equality, charity, and democracy.  All of these represent in a secular sense the application of ashes. 

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