Perception is everything
In the same way that I cease to care about my nipples showing when the weather is really hot, if you were stranded on a desert island with your religious/political opponents, would you really care about your beliefs (or theirs) if your survival depended on you all working as a team? Well, here’s a little news bulletin for you: our survival does depend on us all working together as a team, albeit on a slightly larger scale.
Is that what it would take—being stranded on a desert island—for us all to understand our connectedness and the folly of separating ourselves on the basis of beliefs (religious or otherwise) that make us feel significant or somehow superior to those who believe differently? While you might discover some creative uses for a Bishop’s robes (they’d make a great awning) or a Sikh’s turban (surely enough material to make a sunhat for 10 people), your religious garb would mean little if you were dying of thirst or lacked the skills required for staying alive.
But rolling out a scheme like that on a global scale—marooning small groups of people from different religious leanings and letting them tough it out together—might pose a few logistical challenges and take a bit too long.
Perception or deception?
Failing that, though, just how skewed is your perception of who you really are, what you’re capable of, and how life really works? How might you behave if all your clothing, rules and strictures were stripped away? What would cease to be important to you if your survival were at stake? What realizations might you have about what it means to be human and what matters most? What regrets might you have if your life were saved by the Muslim/Catholic/Jew or politician you’d previously attacked, ostracized, persecuted or feared? And, perhaps most importantly, would you realize that it’s not religious tolerance that will ultimately create peace on Earth, but an understanding of just how profoundly religious programming has led us astray?
Poverty, nakedness and crises are the great levellers, whereas religious garb, religious affiliation, programming and misinformation are all devices that separate us from—and pit us against—our fellow humans. All religions know this and use it to their advantage, with the Catholic Church arguably being the religion most steeped in pomp and ceremony and religious finery. It’s a bit like ‘the emperor’s new clothes’ syndrome, but in reverse. All that fancy clothing is designed to impress you and to make it clear that those wearing it are above you, smarter than you and closer to God. Ornate churches are designed to have the same effect, creating a sense of awe and reverence by virtue of their soaring ceilings, stained-glass windows and other special effects that compel you to talk in whispers, if at all.
Money always implies power and success. If you needed a lawyer, would you choose one with a fancy office or one living in a hovel down a dark alleyway? And perhaps this is the biggest clue of all as to where we’ve gone wrong as a race: we defer to the supposed wisdom of others, depending on them to fix us, to tell us what to believe, to convince us whom/what we should trust, to show us how to succeed, to make us feel significant, and to absolve us of—or maybe even sanction—any reprehensible acts.
What hidden strengths, resourcefulness, insights and humanity might surface if you were all alone in a crisis that forced you to challenge some of your deeply entrenched beliefs? It has happened to many of us, and it presents us with a choice: we can choose to be victims and blame our circumstances, or we can dig deep into our essence to connect with our limitless creativity, our compassion and an expanded awareness of who we really are.
When you’re faced with your mortality, and you suddenly see what’s important in life, does it really matter what someone else believes …or if your nipples show?