If a person today were asked for their opinion on the state of the world, you could expect to hear one general sentiment: division. Not just division but opposition, two words often used interchangeably but are, however, not.
You see division between religions — from actual holy wars to domestic persecution; harsh division between political parties (should we still pretend there are more than two?, in the US at least); race; truth/alt-truth; and the whole of society seems to be dominated and fixated on the divide as opposition. What I mean by that is people always find a way to justify how their belief is true as opposed to someone else's falsity, or blasphemy (I am here using sort of religious language, even with the title Missionarïsm, however the attitude applies to much more than just religion. Fit the principle to the circumstances of your life). I've since come to know of this game people play as the Game of Black and White. I owe this understanding of the game to Alan Watts, and as the nature of games go, there ends up a winner and a loser. When people play the game, naturally white must win. White represents their particular belief which is 'good' and Black is whatever opposes that view in the eyes of team White — a very arbitrary distinction.
When folks fear the safety of their White, they take up arms against Black for the illusion that one can exist without the other. When this happens there arises a strong sense of fear and defensiveness, leading to a (C)rusade against the opposition. Often this crusade starts with radical and sweeping missionarïsm, urging all those who haven't yet seen the light to come now or forever hold their peace, being henceforth responsible for whatever punishment befalls them in the subduing of Black. Folks on this militant path fail to see, however, that their White necessarily implies the existence of Black. These two sides are, yes, divided; they are at nature opposites but are not strictly 'opposed' in the sense of 'at war with'. Take for instance a skyscraper; its usually assumed that the more important businesses and businesspeople operate on the higher floors, farthest away from the grimy street. Taking on that assumption, the bottom levels of the building are then thought to be less important. If it were not though for the ground level, the rest of the building couldn't exist; you take away the ground floor and the rest comes crashing down behind it. For the so-called important folks it would be ideal to have only, say, the top 10 floors; for the so-called good people it would be ideal to have White win — both are nevertheless impossible. The only way to understand and talk about the building, and this concept of unity through division, is to realize that the top mutually arises with the bottom. This, I think, is called a transactional view of things. You can't buy without selling, and vice versa. There is a saying, "know the male, stick to the female", which is to say, know the dark side, but stick to the light; and more important still — know your dark side, and stick to the light. It does no good to repress and deny.
So, this sense of missionarïsm that is so characteristic of todays social climate turns out to be misplaced, and will be a distraction from real solutions to real problems so long as people think they can beat one side into submission. The sense of opposites being 'at odds' is taking the reality of division just one step too far. Division is okay. Division is "the heavens and the earth", light and darkness, day and night, out of which came the first day of the world. Division is mutually arising and out of division comes "the ten thousand things", life in all its forms. Some day in the distant past there was a line that was drawn by our primordial ancestor, becoming our universal building block, because of this we can never really run away from the perceived 'bad' side in any situation we imagine. Our very existence is based on this principle of divisions.
When I say missionarïsm I mean the urge for people to put their foot down and say, "I've discovered it; an infallible guide to life, or whatever else, has been found", whereafter they realize that every other poor soul is deprived of this golden truth. Feeling a very holy sense of servitude, they now feel it is their duty to enlighten the world to the truth — their truth, whether the world is ready or not, and whether indeed the world needs it or not. Usually this entails a good amount of guilt, and if that doesn't work, perhaps some sort of appeal to common sense, and after frustrating that option they usually turn to some more radical means of persuasion. They might outlaw the denying of this truth they've found, or they might imprison you or something much worse. Maybe they'll throw in empty reassurances while they publicly shame you, "it's for your own good", or, "this'll hurt me more than it hurts you." It's all for them though, in the end. The assurances, the guilt, the truth itself that they've found, it's all an escape and protection from that ever-feared side that might win, the dark side that they can't accept as part of their very nature of being. It's an attempt to regain a sense of security.
This fear of the 'other side' is a fundamental and basic one, affecting then a person's entire worldview. It usually isn't seen in this general way though, or at all, however in our society examples are abound of this mistaking division as opposition. As these examples are amplified by our 24/7 news cycle, it becomes at once easier for some to let go of this fundamental fear, while also reinforcing the fear in others. On the latter: Islamaphobia is rampant; US political discourse is at a standstill with two increasingly outdated and divergent parties; nationalism is gaining a footing all around the globe, hate groups are recruiting at alarming rates, and much of the world's starving and suffering are ignored due to "national security concerns." While there may be some way of explaining holding these views, they are inherently fearful of "Other" winning, and so they need to strike before Other has a chance, and undoubtedly harder. Doing this, they become what they feared and so create it.
My thought here is on the symbol of a snake eating it's own tail. That's what seems to be happening in principle. Head sees Tail as opposing and so chooses to defeat it out of self-defense. Doing so, he creates the destruction of himself which he feared from the Tail to begin with. In our own lives we see this perfectly analogized in at least one instance with the United States military's attempt to so-called stabilize the Middle East. In their efforts they've totally botched the original mission and meanwhile created all the more opposition and cause for fear had nothing been done, or at the very least something different. They've now created a situation where pulling back would mean unforeseen repercussions and retaliation, and staying means to kill or subdue all opposition, which they are well on track to do. However even then they would become the enemy of the world and create many more problems. They seem to be in quite the bind due to overcompensation, ultimately from this fear. The attitude here was, to make up another word, missionaric: assuming a "civilized" way as truth, opposed to their "barbaric" way as blasphemous, and imposing this superior knowledge without consent.
This harsh opposition between Us and Them is ultimately self-destructive and self-defeating. In a more sustainable spirit, one would use such natural division to better define and amplify one's own personal view, not crush the other out of confusion, fear, or both. Every thing exists with a counterpart that enhances the vitality of that thing. Imagine for a minute that the universe which holds all life were floating in no-thing, not even what we call "space". What would that look like? No, the universe and the void of space are mutually arising, they are part of a transactional relationship that imply each others sides. Seeing the formlessness of empty space we realize the beauty of the universal form and all its inhabitants. Formlessness enhances form. In the same way, a religion without a counterpart would not be a religion, it would just be how humans live — the water that fish swim in — it would just be what is. But when differences in belief arise, then both sides become distinct and discernible.
Take for instance the beginning of David Foster Wallace's speech, "This is Water":
There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way who nods at them and says, "Morning boys, how's the water?" The two young fish swim along for a bit and eventually one of them looks at the other and asks, "What the hell is water?"
He then goes on to explain, "The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about." One of those realities is this Game of Black and White, of Opposites. It is easy to be like the young fish and "know" that the world around you is the right one, but an older fish will likely come along and make you doubt this concrete knowledge of reality, and rightly so. The older fish can come in many forms, and when it does you have the option of missionarïsm, of trying to convert this strange fish boggling your mind up in knots to your own point of view (almost to convince yourself); and you have acceptance. Acceptance is the way of realizing that although different, new, and fresh — perhaps even scary to new eyes, this other point of view shouldn't be feared, as if it could extinguish your own by mere existence. Black (or White) cannot win, and should be accepted and known as it is, if for nothing else to verify the existence of your own viewpoint; "Know the male, stick to the female" — have balance, because too much policing and rigor on either side is bound to transform itself into the very enemy it wishes to eradicate.
Missionarïsm, therefore, creates more problems than it solves, and has put us in these "Divided States of America" that we find ourselves. Without a rational sense of understanding that what is perceived as opposing is actually your necessary counterpart, to be understood and not eradicated, people will continue to crusade their cause trying to trample the others from existence, so that finally truth and law, or whatever the goal is, may reign. These crusaders' worldview could be shaken in some way by an older fish, letting them know that there is, indeed!, another way to see things; however they usually take this opportunity to double down on their insistence for the One way and answer. It's as if it was claimed that the only way to get to the number 4 is by adding 2 plus 2. Now an older fish would come along and say, "Morning boys, 3 plus 1" — of the two courses of action, missionarïsm and acceptance, I choose acceptance. I also realize the necessity of the former for the latter.
I think now I should better define what I mean by acceptance, which is really quite simple. Accepting an opposing view doesn't mean you have to adopt it or even believe in it, per se, it's just an acknowledgement that "there is another way". More than knowing it as a different way, too, you should realize that whoever holds that view feels just the same as you do now. They too have a point of view and they too are encountering an opposing one. To fight against yourself (figuratively to the death) then, is for an unstoppable object to meet an unmovable force. Plenty of energy would be wasted trying to solve this manufactured problem, and plenty of energy is wasted doing this. So, my idea of acceptance isn't mere passivity or a compromising of values, but a simple acknowledgement of the validity, humanity, and variety behind each individual point of view. People I think would react less and understand more; the world seen as outside the self will be less hostile and more unified through this acknowledgement of the Game of Opposites.
***As a disclaimer to forthcoming scrutiny, I want to add that I in no way expect the previous thoughts to be in their final form. As I stated in my first post on this website: I hope for this to be a casual place to "hash out" my ideas and observations on the world, almost in essay form, but more so like a journal. In that sense I mean not to be taken too seriously. In an ideal fantasy I have, these essays would be refined in thought and form, then organized into a book with an as yet unknown title and focus/subject. I do want and encourage feedback from a third-party reader so as to grow and learn, but I repeat: this is not final form, that is — definite. I read somewhere, roughly, "the complex relationships of reality can never be described to completion in symbols, that is, words. They are utterances and slices, a spotlight in the dark." This is to say, anything you read, especially on the subject of philosophy or religion, by nature of being expressed in words, has it's shortcomings. These shortcomings do not however disqualify the merit of what was expressed. That's all.