SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

March 10, 2013

We choose the postures of our lives

(Continued)

He meets a couple who are convinced that homosexuals are sinners, and that gays can reverse their sexual preferences if they want to.  The couple is quite sure of their position, and Otto realizes that they cannot even hear his calm disagreement with them.

He picks up a hitchhiker who tells him that a local, vegetarian, retreat center is really an Islamic, terrorist training camp.  Otto happens to know the center, know the owners, and so he tries to reassure the hiker.  The man swears at Otto and – with absolute certainty – tells him he is wrong.

He encounters other people who are filled with anger, intolerance, judgements, ego, hate, and certainty – always unshakeable certainty.  He realizes that certainty, especially when combined with negativity, can be a poison and a tyranny that divides people, destroys imagination, and makes compromise – and ultimately society – impossible.

He quotes Schopenhauer: “Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.”  He vows to have gratitude for life, and not to spread hate and certainty.

Reading Merullo’s novel, I couldn’t help but think of the themes in the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman – their great reverence for independent, passionate, non-conformist thought – the different drummer – but never without the accompanying respect for it in others.

I thought too of recent and current wars in Bosnia, Syria, Darfur, Mali, and Gaza.  What is it other than certainty – religious, ethnic, economic, or political – that is at war?

I thought too of the United States.  We are a country increasingly divided by certainties.  Look at our Congress, paralyzed partly by politicians who brag about their unwillingness to compromise.

And many of our citizens are either modeling or mimicking this certainty.  Look at the Internet blogs, talk radio, cable TV, or much ordinary discussion.  The nastiness and disrespect, and the preponderance of black and white thinking, betray a way of living – a posture and attitudes – too directed by ego, underdevelopment, and parochialism.

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