After reading the letter by Cllr. Yagyah Adams, titled, Not in God’s name, I recalled Peter Abelard a medieval scholastic philosopher, logician and theologian’s last words on earth. “I don’t know”, he said. Cllr. Adams sees the Syrian war as a proxy war, and sadly, he could well be absolutely right in that respect. The smell of rats linger in the air. I furthermore agree, ‘The war in Syria is an exercise in human futility and stupidity’. All wars have that in common. But then he continues to blame western imperialists and Arab royal families as the shrewd instigators of the division between Shia and Sunni Muslims. I think this view could most likely be partially correct too, but not absolutely so. Just like the statement, ‘Catholicism and Protestantism were generated centuries ago by political and religious leaders to maintain hegemony over innocent people’.

It goes deeper than this. We humans don’t have an inherent holy questioning of all our motives, our deeply felt religious core beliefs, the ‘dog eats dog’ philosophy of, and in, society, as our starting point and so we engage ardently in ‘righteous words and deeds’ to rectify all wrongs.

The essence of human life, the hunger and longing in our soul, is to understand the extent of all the suffering in life and not to be personally drawn into ongoing cruel tides. We want to live. We want the pain to be bypassed or to stop. All other people feel the same. So we all construct ‘absolute’ answers to calm our angst, to be able to cope with all the dangers of today and tomorrow. We are looking for Truth in the core of our being, but it is very difficult to be honest beyond our own construction of ideas and dogmas.

Dion Chang, a trend analyst, recently said this, referring to social media, ‘…it is a change agent in terms of polarizing people by providing them with echo chambers, or the space to create echo chambers where what you hear is what you want to hear. This profoundly influences perceptions, and people get blinded and blindsided’. Katherine Viner added, ‘Social media has swallowed the news…ushering in an era when everyone has their own facts’.

There was a time when countries and cultures, adhered to classic answers of a ‘Universal Truth’. So the Chinese people, the Indians, the Muslim world, the Europeans, etc. all had their ‘Truth’ and all others were merely be-devilled by evil. As modern times developed, and people started to experience other people very different to themselves, theories, dogmas, ideologies, started to change and these new insecurities drove people in different mindsets. On the one side, rigorous fundamental constructions to safeguard the wavering soul against unfathomable insecurity, on the other side a gradual broadening of the mind to deal with the complexities as the width of human perceptions become clear.

And now then, we are, they tell us, not even in a post modern mode of thinking anymore, we are now post-post modern. There are no more text book truths. No mega truths. There are also no more localized, situational, existential, manifestations of non-negotiable truth.

Sadness. Sadness. Now, truth is democratic, depending on how the masses will verbally and emotionally tilt towards the sharpest, some of us will call it the shrewdest, presentation of a desired final cause. But that too, when, in time, the ‘drug’ of materialism, of narcissism, keep prodding gullible human beings to glide shamelessly towards unchecked subjective belief systems. Social media now become the ‘Truth factor’. The quest for a lasting Truth, has become democratic and gullible beings scream their support to our ongoing time favoured portrayals of ‘truth’.

This is then the zeitgeist of the 21st century. It will be getting more and more dilute as ‘adults’ play frivolously in shallow waters that they, this way or that way, call ‘harbours’ for the human soul.

I join Abelard in his last words, I do not know. I turn to Socrates that never stopped to remind us that the disciplined questioning of all fierce ideas, theologies, ideologies, must never stop.

I will not sectionalize ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’ theologies. No right or wrong. We have to take the essence of all spiritual masters over the spread of the centuries serious, that at core, we must live, deal and relate to all other people with borderless empathy.

We therefore never can take any final side. This saying of Albert Camus must at all times accompany all our contemplations and actions, ‘The worm is in a man’s heart’. We are looking for, longing for a soulful way to live our lives, but that journey does not have a full stop. And purity is no one’s garment.

But empathy, empathy does not waiver, does not, does not in the process of taking the hands of all sincere others,  waiver, to  stop to lessen universal and village pain. Empathy is the real name of real gods. Written on the streets of life.

Wim van der Walt – Bellville