I have been toiling with this whole idea of being “for something and against nothing.” I have been working on this since I first encountered the “Sermon by the Sea,” many years ago. The “Sermon by the Sea” is a presentation made in 1959 at Asilomar, California, (on the Monterey Peninsula), by Dr. Holmes, author of the Science of Mind. It was the last sermon he gave at Asilomar. In it, he declared, “It would be wonderful indeed if a group of persons should arrive on earth who were for something and against nothing. This would be the summum bonum [the highest good, the ultimate goal according to which values and priorities are established in an ethical system] of human organization, wouldn’t it?” With the passing of years, I am not nearly so reactive as I was in my youth. However, I think I was born with a very strong, spiritually grounded sense of equity so when someone impinges on the rights of others (all of creation), I’m ready to be a stand for whoever or whatever has been marginalized. My core values are inextricably interwoven in the concept of Oneness. We are interconnected, interdependent, indeed, interwoven in one another’s fabric of being.
Divisiveness, derision and turmoil are being expressed across the country, polarizing communities … sometimes polarizing families. I am confronted by this polarization. My proactive stance for the rights of all … for the humane treatment of all of creation … feels very reactive. I am most definitely for, yet I have not yet been able to extricate myself from being against much of what I see and hear. Here lies the conundrum. I have come to realize (and own) that my “againstness” is what actually gets me off my duff and into action. Until my “againstness” is powerful enough to motivate me, I may talk a lot but that’s where my pro-action wanes. My “againstness” generates the fire-in-the-belly. My appreciation for Frederick Douglass’ “Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!” has deepened greatly.
I have spent quiet time opening to what is mine to do, how am I to be, how am I to express myself (my opinions), and how I can support the rights of others to embrace views that are diametrically opposed to those I hold. I am reminded of Evelyn Beatrice Hall, who said: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
I have found that I have limits on just how far my support of someone else’s divergent view will go. My value of “do no harm” is more highly held than I value that everyone has a right to his/her own opinion. My willingness to grant “high regard” is not unconditional. My deep commitment to creating a world that works for all has some “provideds.” Each time I make some magnanimous declaration of Oneness, I find a judge within me. Sometimes this realization is quite troubling.
What comes up for me is how deeply rooted my conviction of “do no harm!” is. No one has the right to inflict harm on anyone. This is the point at which I am called to say “No!” … to move from rhetoric to action. My “againstness” has degrees: That which irritates me enough to give it lip-service and that which activates me.
Questions then arise as to how to express my views, what actions are mine to initiate? In Science of Mind we teach that before all form there is thought. A few years ago it was common to hear someone ask, “What were you thinking?” when someone found themselves in a less than desirable circumstance. This recognition that thoughts become things and circumstance can be a bit scary and yet it is the proof that no matter what is going on, we have the power to alter it and to totally alter our experience of it.
We also teach that what you focus upon expands in your experience because your focus crowds out all other thinking and leaves you manifesting more and more of what you don’t want. Yuck! This is one of those areas that still tugs at me, questioning, challenging “how can I open to my “againstness” and not end up generating more to be against? Understanding that what you choose to focus upon fills your life, it becomes evident that we must come to terms with our own hierarchy of values. “Choice” is the sorter within thought processes.
We humans validate our own positions by manifesting proof to support what we have thought. Stop for a moment of self-observation: realize how incredibly powerful we humans are. We have the ability to utilize the power of intention – the power to set cause in motion.
We are capable of accepting and even supporting opposing views at the same time. As a compassionate practice, this is highly valued. It is considered evidence of high intelligence, and demonstrates how we are able to expand our awareness of global perspectives and embody the concept of Oneness.
Sometimes, however, instead of being able to embrace differing perspectives, we become conflicted over the opposing views, we experience extreme stress. In the Gospels, Jesus is quoted as having said, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” He could have gone on with every individual divided against himself will collapse. This is especially true when there are outer influences.
So … how do we reconcile conflicted feelings attached to the differing views? How do we negotiate a healthy truce between our warring aspects? We recognize that there needn’t be such a war if we simply tell the truth. For me, this truth-telling came with the realization that I do not value someone else’s right to their views as much as I value “do no harm.” My support of their right to a view that is different from mine stops when I perceive (rightly or wrongly) that they have crossed a line and are imposing harm.
What is your line? Do you know what it is? I suggest that you spend some quiet time bringing your “againstness” out into the light. It is sure to bring some very valuable insights with it, such as, what stirs you vs what motivates you to action. It will undoubtedly help you discover what you truly value, what you are willing to tolerate and clear a space for you be at peace in an internal “no war zone.”