Spinning New Beliefs

The other day I picked up a book of old Far Side cartoons. I can remember reading them when I was in high school. I was flipping through the pages randomly, and I came across one that I saw was pretty funny. It was of a spider, standing back looking at the web he had just constructed. You how you do, when you take the time to create something, and then you can’t help but to stand back and admire your work?

Like I had a Japanese friend once. She was telling me that Japanese enjoy their food twice. Once when it is prepared, and once when they eat it. If you’ve ever had the experience of eating a traditional Japanese meal, you know what I’m talking about. The colors, the smells, and porcelain dishes that are used. It is prepared with an almost religious ceremony, but not quite.

I understand that religion in Japan is quite different than in the west. In the west, you have churches, temples, mosques. In Japan, there are two main religions. Shintoism, and Buddhism. From what little I understand of Shintoism, the belief is that there is a Kami, or a god that resides in every living thing, even non living things depending on the branch you happen to be following. And they have Shrines set up all over that reflect this, on hills, riverbeds, city blocks.

I remember reading an article in the newspaper a while ago regarding this. It was kind of survey of the history of religion, looking at the difference between polytheistic societies, or societies that have more than one god, and monotheistic societies, or societies that only have one god.  And the author of the article was opining that polytheistic religions seem to be less ‘warlike’ than monotheistic religions. His argument was that they avoid the whole “my god is better than your god” fight that people get into so much. People that worship many gods, or worship one god, but realize that there are many gods to choose from, are somehow able to be more tolerant of other peoples beliefs.

Like the other day we met a business colleague from out of town, and he said he could only eat vegetarian food. We didn’t question his reasons or ask him why he was a vegetarian. On the way there, my friend told me that you need to be accepting of other peoples beliefs. Because you never know, someday they might be your beliefs.

We’ve all heard that before you criticize somebody, walk a mile in his shoes. It would be interesting if before people judged others, they could think a mile in their thoughts. Because when you try on new beliefs, the world tends to look a little bit different. And once you can free your mind up to try on different beliefs, a funny thing happens. You start to realize that you don’t have to abandon your old belief completely, or accept the new one completely. You can simply keep the parts of the new one that you want, and only get rid of the old parts that aren’t working so well. It’s pretty cool when you can do this on a regular basis.

Of course, the spider from the far side cartoon wasn’t too happy, because his web was all messed up, and he was thinking to himself “That can’t be right.” Which is ok, because if you are a spider, and you make a mistake, all you have to do is make another one. It’s not like you are going to run out of web spinning material, and there is certainly plenty of places to put your new ideas up.