Joseph Ellis concluded his book on the life of George Washington, “His Excellency,” by musing with others the characteristics that led to Washington’s success and enduring fame. For one, Washington wrote his will dividing up his thousands of acres and numerous estates, worth then well over one half million dollars, to nearly 30 relatives rather than just one or two. This way he would be remembered not just as a rich squire of the early years but as the military and political power genius he was. But most poignantly to me, it was pointed out that Washington never had much education and formal training. Losing his father at age 11 and inheriting Mt. Vernon, and then marrying Martha Cuscus, the richest widow of Virginia, what Washington excelled in was his judgment. He could sense directions for the future as perhaps few others could do. Why?
Ellis suggests that Washington’s lack of formal education, never having read the great writer/thinkers of his time and past years such as John Calvin and David Humes, gave him an openness beyond beliefs. He did not think inside theories that others wrote about, but saw the world with hunches which would satisfy his own self-interests along with the future of the new world that he envisioned. Unlike his Virginia neighbors Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, Washington lived out his instincts and passions, using his inward judgments and hunches to bring completion even though many times, all odds were against him.
I found this reminder so apropos to the times in which we live. The world’s communication network has brought nations and peoples together faster than the thinking which allows us yet to know how to use it. Yet there seems to be a shift toward a broader, more “out of the box” type thinking which hopefully will show each one, each nation, that our interests are really those of our whole planet.
The Course in Miracles states that it is not a book about beliefs and theologies. It is a book about giving a universal experience to humanity that can unite us as one. This experience is based on our giving up self-defeating beliefs and through forgiveness, undoing the thought systems which have separated people for centuries. These are thoughts systems which not only have separated peoples, but motivated us to wage violence and barbarianism against others.
We were taught that skin colors separate us from others; that languages, religions, and educational degrees along with financial resources separate us. Religious beliefs, thinking ideas of separation which come directly from a Divine Source, are among the most barbaric. Even now.
Education is a wonderful thing. But if it locks us into “my school versus your school,” we have missed something. If “my school” sees itself as enriched with “your school” and we can view ourselves as equals, then we are both empowered. And if we can see beyond the many forms we exist within, as bodies and countries with many different ways of doing things, if we can see that in the ultimate reality, we are all Spirit and Mind entities beyond matter and time, then we can really experience Oneness on a much deeper level.
Years ago I read about a Jesuit Priest, William Johnston, I believe, who studied other religious expressions in the East. One year he brought many different religious groups together to share what they experience in times of deepest silence and prayer. It was amazing that the experience all had in contemplation and silence was the same. They felt an overpowering oneness that gave a sense of Oneness among all. But when they began to describe the experience in the framework of their beliefs, they soon were locked into “proper definitions, ideas, and theological correctness” according to their schools, their beliefs.
If there is a God, God is One in Spirit, and we are all a part of It or none of us are, right? It doesn’t matter what we do or don’t do, say or don’t say, believe or don’t believe. It is recognizing it is all the same experience if we can become quiet, stop shouting, and accept God as One. If our beliefs, our nationhood, our religion or lack of it causes us to have blinders which lead us to hatred and division, then like Washington, and even Jesus and the Buddha, it’s time to look beyond. It’s time to go beyond our beliefs and experience a new Reality, a new vision of Oneness that can unite us all.
“For I think of all people as my family
This entire precious planet as my home
So let others build their borders, walls and boundaries
I will fly above them all, even if I must go alone.”
So wrote Daniel Nahmod in one of his recent songs from his album “Water.” It portrays the new awareness of a life, an experience beyond beliefs which ham-string nations, religious groups, and individuals.
This year, I hope I can move further beyond the beliefs which still divide and judge others as separate and unworthy of love and forgiveness. I hope to look further beyond old beliefs which still linger, giving temporary comfort perhaps to my little world, but cut me off from the Oneness I want to feel deeper with all. I want to be a little more, in some respects, like Washington.