Extremism results from a number of different things, not just the indoctrination of obvious places like a madrasa or a holy roller camp. Two factors I’ve identified in my experience are disappointment or hurt — and fear.
A profoundly disappointing or hurtful experience can send us careening in the opposite direction — the proverbial swing of the pendulum. A child raised by overly strict parents finds himself exploring all possible ways to celebrate his freedom once he is an independent adult. Or vice versa: someone disenchanted by a life with no boundaries finds herself imposing too many restrictions on herself or others. You get burned in a relationship and vow never to love again. Or this one is becoming more and more prevalent: people disillusioned with church eventually find themselves no longer even relating to or communicating with God.
Fear is one of the biggest motivators in life. It is uncanny how many decisions are fear-driven. We fear failure, so we play it too safe and never step out. We fear outside influences or what we have being taken away, so we circle the wagons in an over-protective and insulated posture.
To put it differently, we often live in reactionary mode.
Amidst all the pendulum swings, there is no telling the number of babies we have thrown out with the bath water.
True life exists in tension, and the tension is not going away.
We must learn to balance seemingly opposing elements in our lives. (Notice the use of the word “and” and not “or”)
Living from the head and from the heart
Thinking globally and acting locally
Dreaming and accepting reality
Being others-oriented and having a healthy sense of self
Acceptance of others while being true to your convictions
Humanities and STEM
…and we could go on!
Here’s to living life in intentional mode, not reactionary mode – and here’s also to saving the babies.
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