"Who shall say what prospect life offers to another? Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?"
Henry David Thoreau
Early Spring in the Rockies is dominated by one wildflower species - the Pasqueflower. It is a long time before any other flower as showy as this makes its appearance in the foothills. But what amazes me is how many different forms this one plant can take. When closed on a cloudy or rainy day, its blooms resemble a tulip. Partially open on a partly sunny day, it seems like a crocus. Fully open in bright sunlight, it has the appearance of a star. And then there are all degrees of openness in between.
For me, the Pasqueflower's varied appearances are instructive in encouraging each of us to examine the meaning of life from a multitude of different perspectives. As human beings, we all have a tendency to become fundamentalistic in our thinking - to narrow our perspective and look at things from only one point of view. However, it is important for full psychological and spiritual development to understand life - and especially the Ultimate Mystery or Divine Source - from a variety of different perspectives.
One of the things I learned early in my academic training was the ability - especially when studying another religion or philosophy - to temporarily bracket my own world view and really enter into the mindset of the faith I am seeking to understand, walking the spiritual journey for a while within THE OTHER'S unique set of moccasins. I can always return to my own view afterwards, but it is important while studying any faith or philosophy to live WITHIN the other's view, making it momentarily my own.
What I've discovered with more inexperienced students is that often they want to enter into a critique of the other faith RIGHT AWAY before even giving it a decent chance to speak its truth to them. This is the tendency that ALL of us sometimes have, but it is important, I'm convinced, to reserve judgement at first and really enter the worldview of another. This presupposes, of course, that there is something GOOD and TRUE in the other's view, and that we can and should actively learn from it.
This kind of approach helps us realize that every worldview - including our own view, to which we often cling so tenaciously - has both its plusses and its minuses, its advantages and its disadvantages. This fact of life is actually quite wonderful, for it means that each faith NEEDS all of the other faiths to make up for the areas in which it is lacking, and vice versa.
I pray that all of us - as a species - might learn to be continually curious, to become philosophically adventurous, to consider risking our own beloved sense of security, and to really enter into the worldview of another. To be able to shift perspectives like this - in the process of opening up a whole new worldview - is, we will discover, more powerful and transformative than any mind-altering substance could EVER be!
Photos: Pasqueflowers from various locations in Larimer County, CO
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Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.