I miss a lot

The fact that we need so much help understanding what we are looking at is a lesson in itself. How often do we assume that we know what we are seeing when we see other people practicing their faith? Once, after I published a short essay on the way quantum entanglement (which Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”) illumined the concept of divine union, I received a curt letter from a theoretical physicist. “It is not enough for you to think you know what physicists mean when they say something,” he wrote. “You need to know what they think they mean when they say it.”

I have never forgotten this cogent reprimand, which has served me in a great variety of situations. When I think I see a Buddhist worshipping a statue of the Buddha, I yield to the Buddhist when he tells me that he is not worshipping the Buddha but honoring the Buddha’s example. When I think I see a Muslim woman constrained by her headscarf, I listen when she tells me how hard she fought to wear it against her family’s wishes. As natural as it may be to try to translate everything into my own religious language, I miss a lot when I persist in reducing everything to my own frame of reference. 

– from “Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others” by Barbara Brown Taylor – HarperOne

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