Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dualistic Thinking Leads to Raising the Ante'

I have been devouring Richard Rohr's "Everything Belongs". It has been giving me new directions to try, since various aspects of my faith historically direct me to places I no longer find to be helpful.

One of the primary issues he deals with is how Western dualistic thinking has permeated most of the religious faiths we have grown up with. By dualistic, he means putting everything in an either/or context. We do not see things as they are... we see things as WE are. This leads to self deception. I touched on this thought in a previous post on digital thinking. Since an item needs to be pushed in to one of two camps (either/or), this prevents us from seeing it with its true gradients.

I saw this played out in real life this weekend. The University of Utah and BYU have a football rivalry. In most cases, it is all in good fun. I have two neighbors who are absolutely entertaining in the shenanigans they will pull on each other. However, after BYU won yesterday's game, the quarterback of BYU had some sharp words for his opponents:

"I don't like Utah. In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate their program, I hate their fans, I hate everything. .... I think the whole university, their fans, and their organization is classless. They threw beer on my family and stuff last year, and they did a whole bunch of nasty things, and I don't respect them, and they deserve to lose."

Now, I know nothing about either of these teams, and even less about football. However, one does not need to be into sports to recognize us/them, either/or, dualistic thinking. Perhaps he has legitimate gripes with individuals who are U of U fans... but the WHOLE university?

Here he presents the Achilles Heel of dualism. Blame and anger are shotgunned across the board. People whom he does not know and has never met become the targets of his insults. Dualistic thinking often gets presented by its defenders as being logical and rational. I would submit that its real appeal is that it requires less effort and plays completely to our egos.

This reminded me of a scene from MASH. After a long night of treating burn victims, the doctors and a visiting general go to the mess tent for coffee. Over the radio, a communist announcer accuses their MASH unit, and specifically Hawkeye, of war crimes. She accuses Hawkeye of conducting experiments on prisoners.

General: You know, that really roasts my butt! Why don't we put out some propaganda of our own?

BJ: Like what General?

General: Like those burn victims... why don't we say they were firebombed by the enemy because they cooperated with us?

Hawkeye: Why should we say that?

General: Because it is a very effective weapon Pierce. Every time they put out something, we should put out something worse!

Hawkeye: So they lie and then we lie... where does it end?

General: Hmmm... maybe you're right, but it still steams me.

Hawkeye: Steams me too, but it's gotta stop somewhere.

(MASH Season 5 Episode 15 - 38 Across)

Anger, spite, violence, gossip, envy, greed, insults, lies.... we all get hit with these at one time or another. How do we respond?

Let it stop with us.


Don said...

Great post as usual. You reminded me that I bought a Rohr book and forget to finish it. This sounds like a book I need. This subject is so important.

Don Hendricks said...

See my post in response to your post

curmudgeon said...

I think there an over simplification in assuming that dualistic thinking is a western problem. The "either you are with me or against me" mindset exists in tribal cultures and is very well illustrated in the bible. We might wrap it up in a flag and sell it as patriotism or give it a fancy logo and sell it as a product; but, we got the idea from human beginnings and then supported it with scripture.

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