Consecutive Days Riding: 103 Days Blogged: 95
New Mileage: 12 Total Trip Mileage: 785
As I ride the bike I am thinking about the Pilgrimage Site we will visit today. It is named the Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values located on the campus of the University of Tampa.
The site is still under construction, with its outer shell is almost completed. The Center will serve a very important function for the University and the greater Tampa community as it has brought together worship leaders from 23 local religious groups for monthly interfaith discussions. The finished Chapel/Center will include a main hall seating 300 people, meeting rooms, meditation rooms, and adjacent meditation garden. The west end of the Chapel/Center will house a massive pipe organ. On the plaza outside the center will stand a unique 75 foot grand musical sculpture adorned with 60 bells and a water fountain. This unique sculpture/fountain brings together harmonious bells similar to what the center will attempt to do with the different faiths. I believe the survival of our culture depends upon such efforts! We must break from the past and the failed efforts at finding “one tone” that fits all people, or efforts to suppress notes that we may find disagreeable or just different. Like this sculpture, we must come together, many different voices, like individual bells, making music and speaking of the divine.
Recently several of my blog viewers commented on my “Pilgrimages, Retreats and Port-a-potties” posting. One individual shared a Christian prayer which prompted a second viewer to note the meaninglessness of the prayer to those who “do not believe in God”. A third viewer then joined in the discussion. I directed a comment at all three noting: “We could get into all kinds of arguments about whose worldview has “the truth” and in all likelihood all we would do is go into our separate corners and lick our wounds. That is why I look at it from a “functional” level of analysis! All four of our world views work! They work for each of us and meet our needs… for meaning, purpose, guidance. If the world is ever going to find common ground it won’t be arguing till everyone agrees on the one true form of the divine. This won’t happen until we all agree that as long as a world view (ours or someone else’s) functions in healthy pro-social ways for individuals and society it is a good and valid choice. Remember: “Be certain, but humble.”
This discussion brought me back to a point I often ponder. Why is it so difficult to find common ground, to listen to each other without trying to establish who is right or wrong. I believe one way of understanding the difficulty behind this task is to realize there are two different ways in which we can analyze religious or spiritual behavior. In psychology we talk about it being an issue of the depth of our analysis. On the form level, an analysis looks at differences in the form or appearance of the behaviors. Things like the different names or symbols used for the divine, or different sources of knowledge (e.g., mystical revelation, or sacred Scriptures, or rituals). This is the level of analysis that tends to ask the question “which form has the truth?” The other level of analysis, and the one that I challenge the students in my Psychology of Religion class to explore, looks at the functional level of the behavior. Using this analysis you might look at a Christian on their knees praying, a Buddhist sitting in meditation, or a Sufi twirling in a Dervish ritual and see all three as serving the same function for the individuals which is that of connecting with the divine.
I believe when you take a functional approach of analysis it is easier to see past the question of “who has the truth” leading one to ask the question “does the belief system function to meet the individual and community’s needs?” It’s not easy to take a functional approach because you must make an effort and be mindfulness of the other person. It takes the ability to see past surface differences and peer into the depths of a topic. I believe this issue is also tied to the question of why people do not always act in more positive loving ways toward other people. I’m speaking of the ideas Abraham Maslow embedded in his theory of the Hierarchy of Needs. The lower needs are what he terms the deficiency needs (e.g., if we don’t have enough to eat we feel hungry). These needs are always pulling at us, especially when TV advertisements tell us we need to look better, we need to have a nicer car, and we need more money. The needs at the top of the hierarch, the being needs, call to us in a quieter voice and urge us toward behaviors like justice, understanding, compassion, wisdom and love. These qualities demand that we looks past the surface, pass the question of what’s in it for us, and ask the question “what would do the greatest good for family, friends, community and nation.”
Analyzing any choice, religious choices included, is easiest at the level of deficiency. Caring first and foremost for myself and my people’s needs takes the least amount of effort. Listening to the subtle voices of the being needs means asking questions about who is harmed, who wins and who loses, it means looking for positions of compromise. Asking what position has “the truth” is always divisive and pulls a community down. The functional choice would be to ask what position is the “right one”. This would bring about the greatest good and is always a win-win situation, lifting up the community