The Oxford English Dictionary defines tolerance as: the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with.
In my days at school, tolerance was preached on endlessly. My young mind was instructed by countless teachers to not make fun of anyone else because of who or what they are, even if I happen to think they’re ridiculous.
But there is a problem with this approach. By keeping those thoughts to myself, I may have spared someone else’s feelings, but I also developed a growing pool of resentment inside myself. Tolerance introduces tension in any relationship, be it the connection between two people or two nations.
The unspoken can be just as detrimental as the words that are spoken. There is a boiling point to this approach, and we find our own world history riddled with crusades and religious wars birthed from the tension of supposed tolerance.
So what is religious tolerance but an insincere mask to hide our dislike for another’s beliefs?
As Jedi, we have learned to embrace the similarities between faiths, and Jedi of all background religions are able to come together and create the community we see here today. A Christian Jedi and Pagan Jedi don’t frustratedly dispute the differences in their beliefs, but rather embrace the common threads that string them together.
The problem may arise elsewhere, however, when Jedi and non-Jedi debate the legitimacy of the others belief system. A non-Jedi may laugh in the face of Jediism, and a Jedi may snicker at a non-Jedi’s lack of understanding. And though everyone may bite their tongues, the tension builds itself into a barrier between interpersonal relations.
So don’t tolerate anyone. That is not a mutually beneficial way to coexist. We should get to know each other, be civilized but honest. Humanity has learned to tolerate others, to peacefully ignore one another and hope neither side gets fed up with the farce.
Instead, we ought to learn about each other. Witness how the same concepts can be given alternative names which once peeled away reveal a rather familiar concept. If we shed our ‘tolerance,’ we might just find us staring at a reflection of ourselves. Put any name on a belief: religion, politics, science…they’re all just another label for our attempts at understanding some Universal Truth.
Some call it God, others call it the Tao, some just call it Truth, and others just don’t have a name for it at all. We’re all just seeking to understand, be it the meaning of life or what our individual purpose is in this world. We all seek this Universal Truth by whatever name we deem fit.
Peel away the layers and we’re all sporting the same core quest. And you certainly don’t “tolerate” your own beliefs…you live them!
A Muslim and an Atheist are both on the same journey, just with different names and different methods of getting there. Just because a Muslin prays five times a day facing Mecca does not make that path any more or less legitimate than an Atheist who might devote their life to scientific discovery, ‘praying’ to the cells under the microscope to reveal something grand.
It’s not a race, and it’s not a competition. Everyone wins, and everyone gets to decide exactly how they go about it.
So don’t tolerate your fellow human beings. Give them a cheerful wave and a good listen, and keep on truckin’.