Lately I’ve become fascinated with the phenomenon of syncretism, which is what happens whenever distinct cultures blend together to create a new custom. This is where we get fusion food, for instance, but this kind of exchange has been going on for millennia, and happening in all sorts of ways. Another example of this can be seen in the merging of different inflectional varieties of a word, during the development of a language. In one of the earliest known literary examples of syncretism, the Epic of Gilgamesh contains both Sumerian and Akkadian names of deities. Similarly, the Romans formulated Latin from Etruscan letters, Phoenician writing, and the Greek alphabet. Even much my own work serves as an example of this kind of freethinking combinatoric approach.
Unfortunately, there are still a great many people in the world who seem to want to focus on the differences between everyone, rather than their similarities. Nonetheless, in spite of that all-too-pervasive exclusionary attitude, I prefer to be inclusionary, by accommodating diversity. That’s why in my role as a syncretist I have spent years putting together amalgamations of as many different religions, cultures, and schools of thought as possible. The way I see it, people need to reconcile their different beliefs and meld the seemingly disparate concepts of various ideologies to promote constructive interactions with each other. Humanity just needs worldwide acceptance.
As best as I can tell, for as long as memes have been handed down through the generations and exchanged among the tribes, we have been feeding off of each other’s ideas. I would even go so far as to say that this is fundamental to the nature of our genus. Homo sapiens absolutely thrive on eclecticism. The well-being of our particular species, especially at this specific stage of development, depends on a willingness to be open to others. That is to say, we live in an increasingly global society that must admit the existence of everyone. The whole point is that people need to assimilate and integrate to better cooperate. Really, it all just comes down to being altruistic.
As an internationalist, I am in favor of fostering cosmopolitan citizens, so long as everyone gets to be included. The point is that it’s equal. That’s what’s really important. Above all else, I’m an egalitarian who thinks that everyone is deserving of the same basic human rights. On top of that, you never know where talent lies, or who the next person to change the world might be. So, we should all treat everyone the same, just in case. No one knows where the next big idea will come from until it happens. The only guarantee is that everything is lost when nothing is permitted.
We all have to be open to new ways of doing and being. More to the point, we need to let everyone be the person they are meant to be. If you think you know better, you’re wrong. We can all be more receptive to the things the world has to offer. Plus, empathy and sympathy are what make us most human. That’s why, to better practice what I preach, I’m an American who is registered as an independent, and I claim to be agnostic when confronted on the issue of God. This keeps me open to both sides of the conservative and progressive, as well as the theist and atheist debates. I do this not as a lazy cop-out, but because I very much intentionally don’t want to be bogged down by partisan politics and faith-based arguments when it’s all so much more complex than the propaganda and dogma that often gets confused with truth.
In an effort to be a better person, I try my best to come to terms with what everyone is really trying to say. Regardless, it’s almost impossible to avoid the act of othering in contemporary society. People are constantly being conditioned, but this is all the more reason that everyone needs to strive to be more open-minded. The proper categorization and compartmentalization of concepts within a worldview is the most strenuous balancing act there is, but that’s all the more reason that it should be done in the best possible way. Even in the domain of religious convictions, syncretism can be used to successfully merge originally discrete traditions, thereby asserting an underlying unity and allowing for a more tolerant approach to other doctrines.
Ultimately what I’m saying is that we all need to admit everything. The whole point is to never just completely reject a concept outright, or even altogether. There are so many known unknowns and unknown knowns, and so much more than could ever really be known, that no one can ever really be certain that anything is ever actually quite what it seems. Simply put, the best scholars are the most humble. In thinking they know better, people close themselves off to anything else they might have actually understood. That’s why you should always be open to the possibility of something else.