Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Say Cheese - "No, It's Impossible Today To Buy Into A Religion That Doesn't Do Too Much."
I'm currently taking a "law and social change" class; naturally the subject of religion came to class discussions. I asked a rather ignorant question because I just really want to know: why is it when I visit different denomination of services, different houses of "God," I get the "our religion is better than theirs" speech?
I came from China in the 90s; and having been born into modern China, religion was nonexistent during my upbringing. Naturally I visited as many different houses of worship as I could here in the U.S., looking for answers. When I was in Iraq, I took ever chance I could on missions visiting mosques and I spoke to many Turkish workers about their Islamic faith. Everyone fed me the same kind of bull, (excuse for the language).
The most honest answer, as far as I can remember, was from a military Chaplain. He told me that because the military is a very diverse place, by regulation he is not allowed to consult me on a "religion" per se; he is able to guide me spiritually. Believe me, during those days when dead bodies littered the Iraqi streets, one needed a lot of spiritual consultation; but I digress.
To answer my dumb question about religion, one student used cheese to analogize the diversity of religions phenomenon in this country.
It made sense. This is a nation built on the idea of freedom of religion; naturally, there would be many choices of different religion to give one the maximum freedom to choose his or her spiritual affiliations. But I want to continue that analogy and try to make my question from class clear: (rock with me for a second)
Yes, we have many different types of cheeses in this country. The multitudes of choices help us take comfort in the fact that this is still the land of opportunity; one cheese is just as good as another, both are equally necessary catering to the specific taste buds of the consumer. No where else on earth will we find a hundred different kinds of cheese in one place. It's a very powerful incentive.
But isn’t one of the advantages of having such an diversity of cheeses that so we can appreciate the concept of “cheese” yet still able to discover the many facets of its complexities? Thank "God" for the one who invented cheese, we say.
Yes, cheese is a living organism that matures at different times, tastes different with different use of ingredients, and even made from fundamentally different dairies from different cows of many different lands; but is the purpose of having such a health diversity so that we can content which cheese is better than the other? Or simply so that we can chose one from the other? Or is the name of the game learning to “appreciate cheese?” What is the purpose of having all those choices if we never come to know what really makes cheese "Cheese?" (For the beer connoisseurs, I ask the same of the many different micro-crafted beers we see.)
As for religion, my confusion arises from something the Dalai Lama had said once: “all major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness; the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.”
I simply want to know (however you wish to answer the perplexing cheese question): is religion something we employ to say "yes, I am better than you, so I get to bomb your convoy"; or "yes, my religion is better than yours so that means I get to shell rockets on your children?" Or is religion something that we believe can and will bring us together to appreciate humanity?
The answer seems obvious, but I meet cheese makers who think their cheese is better than another’s; and I meet many more buyers who believe such diversity of the cheeses is for them specifically, so that they get to buy, and judge, one cheese from another.
For me, cheese was something new coming to the U.S.; same goes for religion. As far as for tasting and cooking, I've found different cheeses bring different intrigues to the table; but I like to think the objective there is so we can sit around a table and enjoy the cheeses and conversations.
And if you should raise the point about a healthy competition mentality is necessary improve the lot of cheese's quality and diversity, (that's what makes this country great, right?) I ask: can two cheese makers come to share their methods and develop better cheeses? or is their knowledge specifically protected by this curious thing we call "intellectual property?"
What does this have anything to do with sustainability you ask? Well, simple: if we cannot understand our choices, we cannot choose to be sustainable, can we?
I leave you with a very interesting TED presentation on the "dogma of choice"