When you hear the word “extremist,” you immediately think of “those other people” who like to take hostages or blow themselves up in a crowd in an attempt to further some radical agenda, such as militant Islam or right-wing Christianity (Timothy McVeigh, for example). But the truth is that extremism isn’t limited to the highly religious or political. When you start to take stock, you begin to realize that extremism has not only become common, it has become mainstream.
If you eat meat, you may have had the experience of tucking into your T-bone steak only to have a militant vegan in your party berate you for your choice of meal. They may or may not have valid reasons for their beliefs, but it doesn’t matter because the result is that you feel bugged and disrespected and suddenly find it very difficult to enjoy your meal. Likewise, if your good friend of many years discovers a new diet that works for them, you may find it difficult to enjoy eating in their company ever again. Like religion, food and diet are one of the great bastions of extremist behavior. To a control freak, a rigid diet is like finding the Promised Land. And if you’re married to one, you may find yourself dreaming of hamburgers and french fries.
Of course, I’m not knocking people’s dietary choices. We have consciously made some ourselves. There is nothing wrong with figuring out what works for you. The problem occurs when people decide that whatever works for them is right for everybody, and they can’t stop evangelizing about it. This is a form of extremism.
Another form of extremism is the hatred of science and technology. Science can be a double-edged sword, certainly. Nuclear weaponry benefits no one. On the other hand, science has done much for us that we take for granted, including western medicine. As an energy healer, I certainly believe in the benefits of alternative medicine. Energy healing, acupuncture, ayurveda, naturopathic medicine, and chiropractic care, to name a few, make important contributions to healthcare. But so does western medicine, and to deny this is to leave the middle ground of balance.
Extremism is the same thing as inflexibility. Extremism means that you will brook no contrary viewpoint. Extremism means that you have made a judgment. If you hate western medicine, you have no respect for those who would utilize it. If you hate the thought of eating animal products, then you have no respect for those who do. If you hate anything, then you are an extremist.
By its very nature, hatred means that you would prefer to extinguish what you hate from the the planet. A balanced, compassionate, and understanding nature knows that others may have different feelings and beliefs and respects that. Extremists hate something and fervently believe that the world will not be right unless the hated thing is eradicated. Extremists judge harshly, and the thing they hate always comes up wanting.
This does not mean that people should stand idly by if someone is getting hurt. “An it harm none, do what thou wilt.” But here’s where the trouble begins. The Ego can rationalize anything. So the Ego may convince itself, “You are harming that cow by eating it.” But are you? If the cow is raised for the purpose, is there harm? If the cow is treated well and killed properly and fulfills its life purpose, is there harm? If cows were left to multiply unchecked across the world because no one ate them and people starved, would there be harm? Perception is relative. You cannot trust your Ego to perceive, because it cannot.
We all have opinions and beliefs. We are designed to. But they should not blind us to the truth of others. We become extremists when we judge and condemn without understanding or compassion. When we believe that our truth is the only “right” truth. When we automatically reject opposing beliefs as “wrong.”
Be the change you want to see in the world.
We have the opportunity to stop extremism by stopping it in ourselves. If you are convinced of the wrongness of something, consider that perhaps you are not in the right, either. Consider that angels work in mysterious ways, and that gifts come in unexpected packages. Consider that even if a conspiracy is at work, some good may yet come of it—but only if you are open to it. And most of all, consider that your reality is valid for you, but it may not be valid for someone else. We are all unique sparks of the One.
Former Oregon Senator and Governor Mark Hatfield had a sign in his office that read, “Gray is the color of complex truth.” Truth is a moving target that depends on where you sit. Change positions, and the truth changes with it. It is our job as Divine Creators to accept that there are many truths in the Universe and not just our own limited vision. When we as individuals can be at peace with Gray Truth, we will be at peace as a race.