The following was written by Glenn Robitaille as a weekly email he shares with the Waypoint staff and used with permission. Glenn is the founding pastor of Covenant Christian Community Church and is currently serving (among other roles) as the Director of Ethics and Spiritual Care at Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care.
What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our
life of tomorrow: Our life is the creation of our mind.
~ The Dhammapada
We are all familiar with the advice to avoid discussion of politics or religion. These critical times have us reflecting on both.
I have spent much of the last six months scratching my head and wondering how politics successfully displaced science in the way some countries have developed their COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Politics, like religion, gives itself to protecting fundamental ideals and is vulnerable to a confirmation bias. Simply put, people dismiss evidence that challenges preconceived beliefs in favour of protecting their preferences. A New York Times article I read several years back suggested that people can be like ants whose brains have been taken over by the lancet fluke—a parasite that infects ants’ brains and cause them to climb a blade of grass over and over again until they can be eaten by grazing sheep or cows. Once thusly consumed, parasites flourish in the stomachs and intestinal tracks of their hosts and reproduce. A rather dismal view of humanity, would you not agree? When you consider the crazy things people have done in the name of politics and religion, it makes sense we wonder if some have lost their executive functions to ideological parasites that cause them to think and do stupid things. Let us give
Freud partial credit for being partly right. Some religious and political thought qualifies as delusional and can reside in people who otherwise appear quite well organized. How else would starry-eyed professionals in tennis shoes wind up dead in hopes of hopping the Hale-Bopp Comet to celestial glory?
I guess it all depends on which thoughts a person chooses to accent. For instance, the prophet Muhammed said that believers should “wish for others what they wish for themselves,” a thought often been compared to Christ’s admonition to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That is a worthy concept for human beings to entertain and live. For the most part, that is what politics and religion promote: Tolerance, respect, and mutual well-being. The vast majority of people regardless of their ideological loyalties do not support violence or misinformation of any kind. Most good people wonder where these other people come from.
Perhaps if there is a lesson in the existence of such extremists it is found in the quote above. People are where they are today because of what they thought yesterday and what they are presently thinking will take them somewhere tomorrow. That being the case, does it not make sense to be careful what thoughts we entertain? At some point along the line, the accountants, teachers and normal folk who bought into the Hale-Bopp fiasco saw the idea for the “three bars short of a concerto” sham that it was. At some point, if they had just stopped to do a reality inventory, or checked with someone, anyone, who had not ingested a lancet fluke, they might just be alive today.
There is a difference between healthy thinking that is virtue based, life affirming and mind expanding, and unhealthy thinking that is selfish, identity denying, and creativity suppressing. There is a difference between opinions that are evidence-based, carefully researched and tested and the acid reflux of gut responses. In the end, before we decide to hop on any guru’s blade of grass, we should examine the sacred cow that is waiting to eat us. Lancet fluke thinking may taste good going down, but it always leaves a cow pie behind.
And, I might add, significantly contributes to global warming.