Tolerance and compassion, like love, are words that have gotten a lot of mileage lately. It is both Buddhist and politically correct to advocate for T and C. But what do we really know about the power behind these words? Tolerance and compassion are not merely intellectual states of mind. They are meant to be embodied, shared, dare I say it, lived! Tolerance and compassion are divine forms of intelligence that invite us to require more of ourselves. We live in a world where we are accustomed to assigning blame as an immediate response to any situation. We have to know, who dropped the ball. Who's at fault? The greatest social shame would be that something unacceptable happening on your watch! We live in a world where right gives you might. Whatever happened to agreeing to disagree? Aren't right and wrong subjective forms of wisdom -- different degrees of the same thing? When I say that, I'm not talking about right and wrong in serial killing, wife beating or child molesting. I'm talking about right and wrong in how one subjectively experiences reality.
Everybody has to find his or her own way home. Everyone has to able to grow in the direction and speed that they need to, not as rigidly pre-determined by a few privileged, self-appointed, select know-it-alls.
Where is the tolerance for the other guy's opinion? Where is the compassion for the learning experience and ideas of others? Who cares if someone on the A-list agrees with anyone else on the planet. When Albert Einstein was alive, hardly anyone agreed with where he was going in his understanding of time, matter and energy. Imagine Einstein being stifled because Clara Bow or Errol Flynn did not endorse his view of reality! What happened to the celebration of diversity of thought and imagination? What happened to treating others as you would want to be treated?
What a dull, boring and limited world it would be if everyone thought, felt and saw the same way. There would be no ingenuity, no paradigm break throughs, and no advancement for the human soul. There would be no Gandhi, no Martin Luther King Jr., no Princess Diana. Ralph Waldo Emerson would never have written about "Self Reliance." Shakespeare would never have allowed Polonius to utter those immortal words, "To thine own self be true." Jesus would never have stood up against the religious leaders of his time. The only free thinkers would be Homer Simpson and the kids at South Park.
It's no wonder adolescence is so traumatizing. That is when one needs to be accepted, because not "fitting in" is so socially painful. That is the time most critical in our development, when non-conformity crushes our psyche and soul so mercilessly. That's why we make Olympian heroes out of characters like "Cool Hand Luke" and James Dean's "Rebel Without A Cause"; they moved against the current of conformity. We live in a free country. There is no caveat that it has to be free to think only what Madonna, Lady Gaga, President Obama or Dick Cheney want you to think.
Free will is a great gift. Imagine a world where others respected and valued the exercise of free will. Consider a world where it is more important to actualize your own free will, than it is to conform to anothers agenda, no matter how vogue they may be. There used to be a saying you rarely hear these days, "I may not agree with what you have to say, but I would defend your right to say it with my life." Wouldn't it be interesting if that idea were as popular as being politically correct.