Opening your mind can be a scary proposition. Everything we have come to know or believe can come crashing down around us. Things we were told in childhood might turn out to be fairy tales and fantasies. Losing the innocence of childhood is the scariest part of opening up our minds. If the things we believed for so long could be fiction or lies, then how can we trust anything else? How can we know that what we see or hear now is true? The black and white of right and wrong, morals and sins, Truth and Lies, beliefs and myths, all fade into an infinite shades of grey. The dichotomy of black and white gives people a sense of control and meaning over their existence. Such was my case too. Till around the ages of 18-22, life for me was pretty straight forward. I knew what I should do and shouldn’t do, what I should eat, what I should drink, what I should believe. I was taught right and wrong that shouldn’t be questioned. I questioned the abstract, but never questioned the path set by my parents and society. I might have asked questions, but I wasn’t prepared to take a divergent path from what was set for my culture/society/religion. In short, I was the “good, obedient child”. Just like children don’t question the existence of Santa or the mythologies of various religions, I followed what was taught.
But a funny thing happens when you live in the United States, and in a diverse city like New York. You meet people from every corner of the planet with all the different cultures, beliefs, and thinkings that one can imagine. When you meet these people who are different than you but as good a human being as any you know, you do start to doubt and question your thinking. Why can they eat beef but I cannot? If eating beef was a sin, shouldn’t that sin be universal? Is this amazing human being committing a sin for the simple act of eating a cow when I don’t commit any sin for eating a goat? If my religion is the True one, is my best friend a sinner for not believing in it? Is there a Creator who will condemn a human being for the act of belief, not actions? How could a Creator punish a person who has served his/her fellow human beings for an entire life, for the sole purpose of having a different belief or no belief? Then such a Creator seems more like a narcissistic, egomaniacal, insecure dictator than a benevolent Creator. If what I knew about eating and believing is false, what else isn’t true? It was a scary thought. Seeing my entire reality crumble around me was a scary and torturous phase for a few years.
But something else happens when you start opening your mind. The world starts appearing more beautiful, more inviting, less stressful. One gets to appreciate the beauty of diversity. Instead of living a life full of fear and paranoia if you are committing a sin or a wrong, you start to experience everything the world has to offer with a free mind. Nothing is forbidden because it is different or from the “others”. You get to appreciate different thinking, different cultures, and different cuisines. You start to understand the existence of different beliefs in different geographical places. When you open your mind, nationality, race, ethnicity, caste and gender ceases to exist and you see a fellow human being for who he/she is – a fellow human being. You bond over your shared humanity rather than you shared tribal roots. When your identity becomes a homo sapien, you no longer have a rival or an enemy based on religion or nationality or ethnicity. The world no longer exists in black and white, but the infinite shades of grey are less terrifying than falling afoul of the morality of black and white. Opening of the mind is a continuous journey where everyday is a learning experience, where every possibility becomes possible. Maybe the answers aren’t as straight forward as we thought, but the journey of life becomes a search for answers from every corner of the Earth, not just my own. Opening of the mind allows us to experience the beauty of life in all its glory, without obsessing about the next life and neglecting the one we are living. For a non-believer, opening of the mind unleashes the full potential of existence. For a believer, opening of the mind allows a person to experience the magnificence of a Creation that is meant for everyone, not just a select few. Starting on this journey might be a scary prospect, but the journey of life through an open mind is an exquisite spectacle to behold, with mysteries and surprises on every corner. It is a beautiful life, a life worth cherishing.
In the United States under the new health care law, large corporations are required to provide health coverage to their full-time employees. Except many businesses with religious owners/founders are seeking exemption from providing contraceptive coverage because it violates their religious beliefs. So if I have my own corporation, would I be able to ask for complete exemption from the health care law because my personal beliefs says that prayers are the answer and medicines are not? Would it be alright if I tell my employees that they should pray – and if they get healed it is because God had always intended for them to be healed, and if they don’t get healed then it was God’s plan all along and one should not question or doubt God’s plan. Can I say that as a devout believer, healthcare and medications has no place in my business? If I say that, I would be challenged for not respecting my employees’ rights. They can have beliefs where they do not believe my nonsense about prayers over medications. If a business owner cannot get exemption from providing health care, then why should a business owner be allowed exemptions and the right to pick and choose what form of healthcare they choose to provide? Where is the line between the rights of the employer and the rights of the employee? And why does the government get into any religious exemption? In a strict boundary of state and church, the state should have no place to issue any exemptions. The rules should be made uniform for everyone. Because it is inherently unfair to grant exemptions to someone’s beliefs and not to someone else’s. And no two human beings believe the exact same thing. Healthcare rules should be based on health, not beliefs.
We assign meanings to events because meanings give us clarity, and clarity gives us peace. Random events without meaning creates uncertainty, and uncertainty causes anxiety.
I just have a single idealism about wages and income – anyone working 40 hours a week should be able to support himself or herself and a child. If the richest nation cannot do that now, we should strive to be that. No one who works full time should be living in poverty. No one working full time should be earning so little that they have to depend on government welfare. A minimum wage high enough to lift people out of poverty also fulfils the goal of conservatives towards making sure people are working and not depending on welfare. Will businesses like it? No. Anyone whose focus is on the bottom line would prefer to have workers work for free. Will raising the minimum hurt some small businesses? Yes. It won’t be easy. But I am sure there are small businessmen who can come up with business models to make their workers more. And I am sure large corporations can cut some salary at the top to lift their employees from working 80 hours a week. I am sure if we strive towards this goal, we can achieve the destination of eliminating the term “the working poor”.