Flaws of Fundamentalism

October 23, 2002

In the face of what is foreign, what is strange, and what is unknown, sometimes an individual or group of people will resort, or perhaps better, revert, to a fundamentalist position. Typically, we associate fundamentalism with religion, but it isn’t merely limited to that area of human experience and discourse. We can exhibit fundamentalism in our thought and action anytime we dogmatically hold a position and callously”?which is to say unthinkingly and carelessly”?dismiss that which does not fit into the position we hold so tight, clutched in a fist that displays the icy stiffness of death.

And indeed fundamentalism resembles a death, leads to death, and is a living death. A dogmatic position, an unwavering and static view doesn’t question, doesn’t change, doesn’t live. For, if we have stopped thoughts regarding a certain view, then we do call it “a dead issue,” at least relative to our own end of thinking. However, a conclusion isn’t the end, but only where we have decided to let ourselves die a little death, where we grew tired of thinking, where we figured we were at our destination instead of realizing that we are always in transit. In the land of the living change and flux are constant, and the only thing that is static is the certainty that things are in motion, dynamic and fluid. A rigid mind, a fixed way of seeing, is the steady straight ahead stare of dead eyes”?glassy, cool: not a window to the soul, but a wall around it.

For what vanity it is to think, nay to believe, that we do have all the answers, or that we do not need to ask any questions. What arrogance displays its true colour when we say, without investigation, without experience, without at least an inkling of understanding, that we could never believe that such and such were true, could be true”?why “I can’t even imagine!” But is the loss over there with them when we have divided out by our fundamentalism: “we are right, but they are wrong”? Us and them, the classic and claustrophobic view of inhibited thinking. No, it is the “I” that can’t imagine, it is the “us” that have sealed themselves off, it is the “I” or “us” that looses when they divide them from us. For, in the world which is a collection of fluid appearances, shifting manifestations of energy, entwined in resonating harmony, the division imposed by a dogma, by an article of arrogant faith confined by a boxed and closed imagination (all wrapped up in a pretty package), misses out, excludes by default, decides at an instant that such and such an experience could never be part of the real world: the real world that any given fundamentalist position knows all about, because every fundamentalism is connected to knowing without fail exactly what the world is, exactly what life is about, exactly what the role and limitations of any human existence and experience is all about. All of it”?dogma totalizes, clutches the whole of the world in its hand.

That better be a mighty big hand, because “there is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy,” or something like that. And how can our dreams even hope to include all if they haven’t even dared include some of that from over there”?something from the view that can’t possibly be sane, or valid, or reasonable, because we know that they are not sane people, that their way of life is not valid, that that point of view isn’t reasonable. We know because our fundamentalist mindset tells us exactly what is true in the world, exactly what is to be dreamt about the world, exactly where we fit into the world. From any dogmatic point of view, it is our dreams that can be dared to be dreamt, while anything else is simply their nightmare, their superstition, their evil.

Because a fundamentalism, when it is our own, is exactly what is good. The view is unquestionably the true and the correct, the real and the good. Thus, anything that isn’t our fundamentalism, that isn’t our dogma, that isn’t our dream, isn’t worth our time, or your time, or their time, or anyone’s time, because, as we can all clearly see”?looking from our true and correct position of privilege”?and without even looking, there is nothing there that we need to look at, and thus, we never even need to bother looking at all. And if we dare to look, to peak, if only to know how to discredit and devalue, then we don’t look at what is really there, but we only look at what we want to see, what we see can be discredited and devalued. Fundamentalism builds straw men and then burns them down. But the ritual is always a sacrifice to their dogma, to their dream, to their true way, and the only thing that is sacrificed is a projected image of their own suppressed imagination, a sawed off portion of their dead and rotting corpse.

Living in a way, or in a tradition, or milieu, isn’t in itself fundamentalism. Living with certain views and by certain standards isn’t fundamentalism. The fundamentalist mindset manifests when those traditions, views, and standards become the traditions, views, and standards: when these things become the absolute and only. But notice that fundamentalism does not arise alone; it is a response to something else. Fundamentalism requires something separate from it; otherwise, it has nothing to be fundamental in contrast to. Thus, the response of fundamentalist and dogmatic thinking is simply a mechanical response. It is automatic because it is not a conscious response, nor is it an informed response. However, we are not machines running programs: we are dynamic and free human beings. Any sort of fundamentalism, in dehumanizing its opponent, dehumanizes its proponents.

Thus, if we desire to strive for a genuine human existence, if we want to partake of the fullness of our possible human experience, we must seek out those things which are our own personal dogmas. We must come to see our own fundamentalism. We needn’t necessarily adopt ways of living, points of view, or whatever, that are unknown and foreign to us, we need only be open to the idea that these needn’t be unknown and foreign: we are always free to make the attempt to understand an other, or at least admit that our way isn’t the way. In our engagement with what might have been previously unimaginable we affirm our most basic humanness; put differently, it is when we are open to the many expressions of life, as opposed to closing them off and in effect negating their presence, that we too are most alive.

b.e. hydomako is not sure whether his parents were human, and sometimes feels that the sun and the moon are his father and mother respectively (or vice-versa). He doesn’t have a belly button, and the operation to remove the alien implants is forthcoming. Sometimes he thinks that the world is a projection of some malfunctioning machine.