Reflections by Jerry Webber

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Questioning the Core

It takes a high level of spiritual maturity to question the assumptions that lie at your core.

Each of us carry bucket-loads of ideals, attitudes, and allegiances that we never think to question. They are a part of our intellectual, emotional, and spiritual DNA, programmed in us from our youngest days.

We assume that the way we see life and do life and approach life is the way -- the best way . . . or the only way -- to do life. We can manifest those approaches in our lifestyle, in our approach to religious belief, and in our allegiances to groups and nations. We assume that our politics are right and the politics of others are misguided. We believe that our approach to religious faith is right -- we might call it "righteous" or "holy" -- and that those who have a different way are "evil," "enemies of God," or "heretics."

A few months ago I met one of my cultural assumptions head-on. The Albuquerque Museum of Art and History offered an exhibit on the Isleta Pueblo of New Mexico. The exhibit was unique in that the Pueblo themselves told their story. Their lives were not being interpreted by Anglo-Saxons.

One display told of the practices around wheat planting season in March and April. To celebrate the planting season, the tribe held races and contests of skill. What caught my attention was that prizes were not awarded to the winners of the contests, but to the losers as the weaker ones who "might not live as long as the stronger winners." Not only did the losers receive the prizes, but the winners of the races were required to serve the losers, to feed them, and even to go into the mountains to collect firewood for them.

At first, this felt very strange to me. I live with the assumption that winning is better than losing, that being successful is preferable to failure, that strength is better than weakness, that health is better than illness. I've gained those assumptions from the cultural setting in which I've been shaped.

The Isleta Pueblo, though, did not have such assumptions. In that world, winners served losers, the weak are served by the strong, and those of ill-health are not despised by the rest of the tribe.

I notice what persons in society value. I see the assumptions made on television shows and in the news. I find that even in the church we carry norms never questioned.

It is a mark of spiritual maturity that we question what lies at our core, what forms the foundation of our thinking, feeling, and believing. Not an easy task for us, but so necessary for our personal growth.

No comments: