top of page

Enlightenment and tolerance

Gotthold E. Lessing 1729 -1781

Intolerance is not only a scourge of our time, but has always been. Even in the animal kingdom, our dear friends are not always friendly with the other ones. The reason is generally easy to understand. It's about territorial claims and mostly about scarce resources. In the majority of cases, the problem is reduced to either-or-so.   

This corresponds to a yes-or-no logic, which is now increasingly considered static rather than modern. More and more, a sense of the wish for fine-tuning may be needed - to create dynamism and new potential, coinciding with the recognition of fuzzy logic as a progressive extension of previous block thinking and conditioned feelings. It is not only limited to thinking and feeling, but also crucially concerns deeper taboo areas, our sex and power relations and, behind them, all our activities and work. Oh yes, the raven again wants to talk about the head, the upper body, the abdomen and the extremities.

Tolerance, then, should be something that we have to learn by understanding and feeling and interacting with other people and through our daily lives, by becoming increasingly empowered in all areas to be dynamic, attuned to gradations, and to see black and white as a questionable limitation compared to a more colorful world with a lot of nuances. The traditional block thinking, block feeling, acting as a block and accordingly to align our lives is basically old-fashioned, but can be wonderfully exploited for cementing domination. So more responsibility has to be transferred from the state to the individual, but that requires a modernized education, something that is still seriously lacking here and not only here in Europe. But if at this point a modern Middle Way would be mentioned, most of them would not get into philosophy or meditation, but people would rant and curse on the raven plague and blow on hunting for such unwanted creatures and despise their croaking as incomprehensible, obtrusive and annoying.

Nuanced thinking and feeling, rather than hard judgment, opens up much finer tune to more detailed questions, allowing us to carefully step back a bit from a matter or approach it a little more. In this way, moods that reveal future trends in advance can be felt earlier, or possibly determined in surveys, in order to draw the necessary conclusions from them in good time and to make better decisions than otherwise possible, which are not simply a primitive yes or no, but a meaningful corrective. More delicate is everything in the sexual and the power realm. But even there we should increasingly learn that possession is not everything and that changes are not only disadvantageous. Basically, these are arguments against too tight partnerships and too large accumulations of power, according to the motto "Not too small and not too big, not too little and not too much, but in the right amount". The same requirement can be applied to our getting-away and activities as well.

Now a lesson again would have to follow, what the Enlightenment actually is all about. But who dares to open such a can of worms, which the established religions of all shades clearly represent being well consolidated in their power? They permeate almost everything - our constitutions, our media, our ideas of sexuality and power, and our daily lives in almost every moment, even if we personally perhaps no longer belong to a religious community. When will our dear fellows learn to separate religion and religiousness? This may even become more and more difficult in our more and more destroyed environment, where we generally have to renounce to watch the stars in the evening sky.   

© Copyright Hans J. Unsoeld, Berlin 2018

Updated Oct. 25, 2018   

bottom of page