“Grudge none, Forgive All”

Muhammad Ali tells us in his autobiography, “The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life’s Journey” that “People say that I gave away too much money during my boxing career.” He goes on: “They write about how some people took advantage of me, stole from me, and how I let them get away with it. Even when I knew people were cheating me, what was important was how I behaved, because I have to answer to God. I can’t be responsible for other people’s actions. They will have to answer to God….I have never sought retribution against those who have hurt me because I believe in forgiveness. I have practiced forgiving, just as I want to be forgiven.”

Photo by Aaron Burdenon Unsplash

Parker J. Palmer writes (“Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit”) about listening to the late black Senator John Lewis as they travelled together in a bus.

In 1961, he and a friend were at a bus station in Rock Hill, South Carolina, when several young white men attacked and beat them bloody with baseball bats. Lewis and his friend did not fight back, and they declined to press charges. They simply treated their wounds and went on with their Civil Rights work.

In 2009, forty-eight years after this event, a white man about John Lewis’s age walked into his office on Capitol Hill, accompanied by his middle-aged son. “Mr. Lewis,” he said, “my name is Elwin Wilson. I’m one of the men who beat you in that bus station back in 1961. I want to atone for the terrible thing I did, so I’ve come to seek your forgiveness. Will you forgive me?” Lewis said, “I forgave him, we embraced, he and his son and I wept, and then we talked.”

As Lewis came to the end of this remarkable and moving story, he leaned back in his seat on the bus. He gazed out the window for a while as we passed through a countryside that was once a killing ground for the Ku Klux Klan, of which Elwin Wilson had been a member. Then, in a very soft voice — as if speaking to himself about the story he had just told and all of the memories that must have been moving in him — Lewis said, “People can change . . . People can change . . .”

In the Introduction to his translation of the Upanishads (“The Principal Upanishads”), S. Radhakrishnan writes: “A forgiving attitude frees the individual. We should grudge none, and forgive all.”

Peace 🙂

The quest of Learning

The word philosopher derives from a root that means a person who loves wisdom. Looked at a bit deeply, it refers to someone who loves Learning — someone not overly wedded to certainty.

The philosopher is, as S. Radhakrishnan writes (in the introduction to his translation of “The Principal Upanishads“), in the deepest sense, a Learner. She / he knows that “Certainty is the source of inertia in thought, while doubt makes for progress.” This is a person who, with humility and respect, knows that “Truth is greater than its greatest Teachers”. This is a person who knows that “if an organism loses the strength to excrete its own waste, it perishes.” The Philosopher, quite simply, is a genuine Learner

On 14th March 2016, Madeline Alrbright (the former Secretary of State, the USA) spoke about this (truth, and the quest of Learning) to the graduating Class at Scripps College.

It is possible to be completely convinced that something is true and at the same time, completely wrong. There are people in our world today who are ready to die or kill for alleged truths that are grounded less on the validity of their insights than on the false certainty generated by their resentments and fears. We have also learned through history that supposedly eternal truths can, in fact, go out of fashion.The Earth is flat; the Sun is a golden chariot; there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; Pluto is a planet; and women are the weaker sex. So truth is a complex topic….

The person who seeks to learn (the Philosopher),  she went on, is on a “mission” that “begins with an important premise that we do not already know everything there is to know” — something “That can be hard for many of us to admit.”

Madeline then observed that “learning, by definition, means exploring areas of existence and opinion with which you are not already familiar.”

Photo by Antennaon Unsplash

Learning demands, Madeline said, that “Instead of choosing to read or to listen only to the people whose views make you the most comfortable”, we “choose….to study those who make you the most upset.” It demands that “Instead of repeating over and over again the opinions” we “have expressed in the past”, each of us asks “why” we “believe as” we “do, and submit” our “own conceptions of truth to the rigorous standards of critical thinking.”

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, the saint, though God-intoxicated most of his life, yet tells us (“Sayings of Sri Ramakrishna”): “As long as I live, so long do I learn.”