The well-known theologian, educator, author, minister and civil rights leader Howard Thurman had a lot to say on many subjects. He authored over a dozen books. Among other things, as an African-American minister, he was the founder of the first interracial interfaith congregation in the United States. He knew well that progress does not happen without education and experience, no matter what the subject matter.
In one of his books, The Inward Journey, he says:
“This process of moving from innocence to knowledge is never finished. Always there is the realm of innocence, always there is the realm of knowledge.”
A part of the journey we all face is getting ourselves educated. By this I don’t mean high school and college, where we might learn things about specific subjects. By this I mean how do we learn about living? How do we learn about living in a pluralistic society? Is innocence related to our social skills?
We live in a time when all values seem to be questioned. There are times when we need to take stock, go inside and determine if there are areas that could use some tweaking. Rev. Thurman also said:
“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”
Last week we were reminded by Buddhist wisdom figures that we need not believe something just because one of our teachers has said so. Rev. Thurman is suggesting the same. Being on the path requires that we go inside and see what seems genuine from our best teacher, experience. Most of us have learned about compassion because we have experienced it along the way. We know how it feels. We have gone from innocence to knowledge by means of that feeling.
But then, what happens when we move from our inner world to our outer world, to larger circles? The question becomes: how large can we widen the circle of our compassion in order to live in a pluralistic world? We encounter one person at a time and move from innocence to knowledge. May that journey from innocence to knowledge be better because we are traveling together.
— Rev. Ed