“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
We often fear what we do not understand. In a way, it is natural, instinctive, yet it is also learned: Our parents, our friends, our role models, our mentors, all teach us to fear what they do not understand. Whenever we allow ourselves to be afraid, we join the dark side.
So how can we come back into the light?
We can learn.
But we must not rely on the internet, social media and news reports and such, because these sources are biased; these sources force opinions upon us, opinions we need to develop ourselves. Instead, we must go to the source.
For example, if you are Christian, like me, and if your parents are somewhat closed-minded, like mine, and if you want to learn more about Islam, then you should read the Qur’an. You should read the Bible, too, so you understand the books upon which both religions are based. Then you should talk to Muslims, visit a mosque, learn about everything with an open mind.
I have yet to read those books cover-to-cover, but what I have realized just from paying attention during World History class in high school, reading novels like The Sweetness of Forgetting by Kristin Harmel, and conversing with American Muslims about religion is (1) we are all human, (2) we believe in the same God, (3) we believe in the same prophets, (4) we hold very similar values, (5) we have no right to judge each other because we are not God.
Not so scary now, is it?
The same advice holds true for understanding people and cultures and countries. Many Americans fear Donald Trump; how many Americans understand him? You must admit you know much less than you think you know. Many Americans also fear what the media calls the Middle East; how many Americans understand the countries, the cultures, the religions, the values, the people there? Again, you must admit you do not know enough.
You must learn more on your own--without teachers or parents or anyone else telling you to read and to do homework and to write papers and to take exams. You must choose to seek enlightenment; you must choose to come back into the light.
And you must choose to bring others with you.