“Turn the other cheek.” How many times do we hear the phrase? So often, I would say, that it has lost its meaning. But what does it really mean? And more importantly—was He serious?
“Love thy neighbor.” OK, that’s not easy, but not impossible, either. But was Jesus serious when He said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you”? Was He being idealistic or did He just not understand “the real world”?
Earnestly considering the true meaning and the ramifications of these passages and others like them from various religious and secular sources has been a turning point for many. Mohandas Gandhi based his non-violent resistance “experiments” on the Bhagavad Gita, the Sermon on the Mount, and on the thinking of others, among them Leo Tolstoy who read and embraced the writings of Henry David Thoreau. These thinkers, among many others, have made the leap from casual philosophical postulating to real attempts at applying these “idealisms.”
Socrates died because he would not sacrifice his difficultly discovered truth to the political and social censors of Athens. He chose what he thought was right rather than “do the wrong thing for the right reasons.” The most influential and permanent thinkers of history realized that means don’t lead to an end, but rather means are the end. We are not the product of the destinations we have reached but rather of the journeys we have taken. In fact, we are the destination of our journey. And if the path we have chosen has taken us through the bogs and gutters of immoral, unethical, unkind behavior, such a path cannot lead us to a moral, ethical, and kind end.
The fearless path is the one that regards the means as the end. It is not a shortcut. As illustrated in these “lines” by Stephen Crane, the path is hard:
Perceiving the pathway to truth,
Was struck with astonishment.
It was thickly grown with weeds.
“Ha,” he said,
“I see that none has passed here
In a long time.”
Later he saw that each weed
Was a singular knife.
“Well,” he mumbled at last,
“Doubtless there are other roads.”
There are indeed other roads, but they don’t lead where we should be. What is the end of man? Is it mediocrity capped with a healthy retirement fund? Or is it truth; goodness within and charity without? As Gandhi said, “True morality consists not in following the beaten track but in finding out the true path for ourselves and fearlessly following it.”
This path is not a path limited to Christian thought, although Christ’s teachings definitively describe the path. So do the teachings of Confucius, Buddha, the Q’uran, and the Tao. All of these teachers of the path eschewed fear, allowing them to walk the road of truth, for it is fear that will deviate us from the path. The path to truth must be the fearless path.
This is the point of this blog. Its authors hope to explore the fearless path, including its knives, in a pursuit to better each of us. The authors are not giving advice; more accurately, we are sharing our own discoveries and difficulties. We invite all to join us and help us along the path.