Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Photo: Physicist Albert Einstein with Indian poet/philosopher Rabindranath Tagore; photo located via Yahoo!

"YES, BUT." Like you, I could say "yes, but" to just about every assertion of Tagore, Gandhi, and Illich in my recent posts (scroll down). Like you, I could argue for the blessings of industrial progress and compare apparent standards of living and quality of life. As Illich points to the West's hoarding and devastating over-consumption, I could point to India's continuing propensity for a humanity-humiliating caste culture. I am not ready to permanently abandon my VW Beetle for a single-speed, 40. lb. Atlas bicycle (especially in Indiana's February weather!). But I am willing to listen. I am willing to look through the lens of others who reflect deeply and see a different scenario of life. I am willing to look at the downside of the American way of life and the upside of others'. Are you?

TRUTH'S PACKAGES. I cannot dismiss Tagore because he is Hindu (albeit a socially progressive Hindu). I cannot disregard Gandhi because his way of life seems so completely unworkable in American society. I cannot set aside Illich because I disagree with some of his notions or lifestyle. "Truth comes in all kinds of packages." I think that's true. Whatever is true need not be set aside because we think we know better, or think the bearer of truth is not altogether right or names a different source or arrives at apparently impractical conclusions.

HEAD IN THE SAND. I know people who will only read certain authors and articles within a limited stream of Christian publication. I know people who will not listen to anything but Christian radio or Fox TV news. I know people who take their cues about what is real, right, and nationally important only from the religious right's political leaders. There is a sort of head-in-the-sand mentality that seems to have gained acceptance over the past ten years. As if it doesn't come from the mind and heart of a born-again Christian, it is not to be believed, considered, or embraced. It seems to me that this is a fear-based way of ungrace.

WILL WE READ PHILIP GULLEY? I know people who loved Philip Gulley's Front Porch Tales but who now dismiss and disdain him because he wrote If Grace Is True, in which he makes an argument for universalism. They will no longer read what he writes. Why? I think they are, in part, afraid of him. Does one or two--or ten!--disagreeable assertions of a person of reflection and truth-seeking make him or her fit only for the round file? (if so, you've already assigned me my place!). I may not agree with Gulley, but I am not afraid of Gulley or his ideas. Reading his ideas does not weaken or threaten my ideas or my faith. Rather, reading and considering alternative ideas better informs the path before me.

GRATEFUL FOR THE TRUTH. I am not afraid to read Tagore. I do not read Tagore anything like a read the Bible. But for whatever inkling of insight, perspective, or truth has come to or through Tagore, I will be grateful. If Illich gets under my skin enough to make me second-guess my passive consumerism, maybe that's enough truth to change the world a bit. Maybe Gandhi's concept of swadeshi seems unworkable; but does not also Jesus' ideas about the Kingdom? In contemporary terms, it is rather comedic to assert the values and lifestyle of the Kingdom of God. Still, we do--emphatically. And, interestingly, what Jesus asserts about the Kingdom looks and feels a whole lot more like what Gandhi lived than what I as an American consumer live. Go figure.

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