There is no one right way. Peace is found where conflicting views form a bond of love above all differences
Election campaigns always tend to take things to the extreme. When you listen to candidates trying to vilify their opponent, you think, “Why is he/she not in jail yet (for tax evasion or email fraud or a host of other reasons)?”
Although each party and each candidate claims ownership of the truth and of the right way to do things, history proves otherwise. Throughout history, no form of governance has ever proven to be fault-free. Even the glory of democracy has already been dimmed by increasing evidence of corruption and misuse of power. As Winston Churchill said as early as seventy years ago, “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, …democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
What is true for politics is even more true for religion. With thousands of religions and belief systems around the world, why should only one of them claim ownership of the truth? But if we cannot accept other views, then are we destined to eternal conflict and warfare?
Seeing the Big Picture
As perilous as our insistence on being the sole owners of the truth might be, it is actually a necessary step in our development. Pluralism can exist only when we see the benefits that we reap out of multiplicity. And for this to happen, we need to see the end goal of our development.
In the early 1930s, Kabbalist Yehuda Ashlag—known as Baal Hasulam (Author of The Ladder) for his Sulam (Ladder) commentary on The Zohar—published a series of essays. In the essay, “The Peace,” Baal Hasulam explains what he calls “The Law of Development”: “The corruption and the wickedness that appear in a state are considered the cause and the generator of the next, good state. Each state lasts just long enough to grow the evil in it to an extent that the public can no longer bear. At that time, the public must unite against it, destroy it, and reorganize in a better state.
Subsequently, the new state, too, lasts just as long as the sparks of evil in it ripen and reach such a level that they can no longer be tolerated, at which time it must be destroyed and a more comfortable state is built in its stead. Thus the states emerge one by one until they come to such a corrected state that has no sparks of evil.”
In addition to our changing states, our desires are becoming more intense and more self-centered. This, in turn, makes us even more intolerant toward other views. In the essay, “Peace in the World,” Baal Hasulam described human nature as such: “Each and every person wants to exploit the lives of all other people in the world for his own benefit. And all that one gives to another is only out of necessity; and even then there is exploitation of others in it, but it is done cunningly, so that the other will not notice it and will concede willingly.”
From Competitive to Complementary
As humanity traverses the blood-filled path of transformation of the states, it gradually grasps that there is no one right way. Actually, the initial state of every way is bad because its advocates tend to oppress all other ways, thereby planting the seeds of their own future demise.
If humanity wants to end this tormenting procession of states that Baal Hasulam described, we need to see the states from a completely different perspective. The only justification for the existence of differing views is that they allow us to rise above them and unite despite our differences. Every state has its own advantages and disadvantages, but we will never be able to see them clearly unless we put the unity of humankind above every ideology. Peace and unity exist only where conflicting views form a bond of love above all differences.
When we shift from our currently prevailing competitive mode to a complementary mode, we will be able to find the beauty and benefit in each person and in each view. In “The Freedom,” Baal Hasulam wrote, “Anyone who eradicates a tendency from an individual and uproots it causes the loss of that sublime and wondrous concept from the world, for that tendency will never again emerge in any other body … From this we learn what a terrible wrong inflict those nations that force their reign on minorities, depriving them of freedom without allowing them to live their lives by the tendencies they have inherited from their ancestors. They are regarded as no less than murderers. Even those who do not believe in purposeful guidance can understand the necessity to preserve the freedom of the individual, for we can see how all the nations that ever fell, throughout the generations, came to it only due to their oppression of minorities and individuals, which therefore rebelled against them and ruined them. Hence, it is clear to all that peace cannot exist in the world if we do not take into consideration the freedom of the individual. Without it, peace will not be sustainable and ruin shall prevail.”
With these words in mind, I think that in this crucial election campaign, what we should support is the spirit of pluralism. We must remember that as right as we may think we are, every view has its rightful place and deserves respect, even if only as a “generator of the next, good state,” as Baal Hasulam put it.
To conclude, I would like to quote the apt words of King Solomon (Proverbs 10:12): “Hate stirs strife, and love covers all crimes.”
Featured in Haaretz