Last week, I had a dream about all the theory I was reading. It all boils down to... was the climax of the dream... what the ideas take as their beginning.
This might not seem important. But I am realising how that all these ideas that claim to hold some truth on understanding reality are not as objectively in search of the truth as they claim to be. Here is how I measure ideas: Does the idea want you to be happy? If it is a difficult idea, does it at least point you in a direction of fruitful, further creative thought? Does the idea claim to be the only one with a legitimate claim to the truth?
Thought is so messy. Like when a really great mind with lots to teach refuses to make bridges over areas they still include in their conversation by belittling.
The only way to critique something properly is to find a really good idea in it to rescue. For example, I am not a personal fan of postmodernism, but when I realised that it was the extension of the scared, oppressed fragmented post-WWII avantgardism, and in part represents the muteness that is affecting our society, I saw how important it is. To see the value of something is to rescue it, and in rescuing it, I think one has the right to be a little critical. Who likes to be criticised? But then, if one is first praised for things one has done, and then given some criticism, the process is much kinder.
Who are we as people? Do we care about being good? I do not think it is an easy thing to do all the time.
Which is why, when people get all excited about religious discussion today (and I was so disappointed the other day to listen to my favourite Buddhist scholar jump in, so ungraciously, into the ugly religious problem that seems to be happening in America with "fundamentalists" - and since when do fundamentalists represent all Christians/all of Western religion?!), they are distracting us from the more important question of ethics.
There are so many fancy theories - new and old - available to us in this age. There are also so many religions 'to choose from' (the Americans who have become Buddhists are an example of this). We are told to be mindful of so much: that there is no East/West, that the white man must rid himself of prejudice so as to repent for slave owning and empire building. But to use the categories of old - like East/West as I myself do, and I feel I have a right to, being both - gives us a better picture of the honest limitations we will always have. I think a lot of people right now want to jump into this kind of heaven of non-being: like, if they choose the perfect theoretical approach/religion, and if they master it at all costs, they will be absolved of all badness. But it was never - in the three major traditions I have in mind - about "at all costs" but about making peace with our imperfections that teach us, if slowly - and that's another key - a kinder way of being.