Thursday, November 21, 2013

Different Perspectives

An Ocean View

The nice thing about Southern California is that you can live in the desert, drive two hours to the west, and you will be standing on a beach at the Pacific Ocean. We have been at the ocean for a few days, returning today to our desert home; however, my ocean time has taught me some important lessons about seeing the world through different perspectives.

I am a desert person. Every day, I get up out of bed and gaze upon rocky, stone, majestic mountains. I look out at the vast dry desert floor, cacti, sagebrush, and desert flowers. However, in these past few days when I get out of bed, I gaze upon a body of endless water that seems to have no end.  I hear the sound of gulls -lulling ocean waves on a sandy beach. The salty smell of the sea fills the air.

Yesterday my wife and I both remarked that the dramatic change of scenery has actually impacted how we think. We are used to seeing the world through desert eyes and now we are seeing the world through ocean eyes. It's not that the desert is somehow better than ocean; they both present their own form of beauty and both elicit their own sense of awe, but they are different from one another-very different. 

Somehow being able to look at the world through these different perspectives has made me feel more "complete." I have a richer, deeper sense of the world because I am able to see it through different lenses.

My "ocean" experience has made me ever more aware of the value of diversity and the importance of looking at the world through many perspectives in pursuing wisdom and truth in life.

As human beings we are always on a journey - all of us together pursuing paths to find meaning, truth, wisdom and deeper peace in life. None of us has reached the destination. No one has found the "right" way or the "only" way that everybody else must follow.

I am a Christian and, while I direct my path according to Jesus' teachings, I not only value and respect those who have different perspectives, but I try to learn from the wisdom they have found. 

I honor the Hebrew roots of my own tradition and value the wisdom of wise rabbis and teachers. I honor the path of Islam and have been deeply inspired by the profound poetry of the Sufi mystics. I am a Christian and I also follow the way of the Buddha who has helped me to be a more faithful Christ follower. As a Westerner I look to the wisdom of the many Eastern religions that have greatly expanded my vision and made my pursuit of the truth so much richer.

I also pay attention to what the emerging "spiritual but not religious" folks are teaching me. They are helping me not to take my own religion too seriously and showing me that you can clearly pursue the truth apart from religion and without the trappings of religious institutions. 

And yes, I also pay very close attention to what atheists and agnostics are saying. Their different perspectives about what they believe God is not, have really helped me to more clearly focus on who I believe God is. Because of my interaction with the non-believer crowd, I have been able to articulate that I also do not believe in a distant, superman God. Instead, I see God as an abiding Holy Presence walking alongside me in this pursuit of truth in all the circumstances of life. 

So, I return to the desert today, grateful for the different perspective the ocean has offered me. I am a desert person but the smell of the ocean will always be with me.

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