Ism. This interesting suffix recently crossed my mind. Even if it is a familiar component in many words, I also noticed that if it stands by itself it seems so nondescript. When it appears in a complete word, as it is so often combined with some prefix or plain words, it wields new power. It brings life to many names of: religions and doctrines that have lasted thousands of years; theories, philosophies and worldviews that have revolutionized our way of viewing the world; medical disorders, social conditions, art movements that have influenced our search for creative solutions; political ideologies and economic principles that all have clashed and conflicted in many nations; and all descriptions of our best and worst characters that have revealed these two sides of our humanity.
Since the Greek origin ismos crept in the English language, ism has become an all-time favorite suffix of many scholars. As they discover many human interests, phenomena, experiences and intellectual pursuits, they create hybrids of words, each combined with an ism. They use these professionally and scholarly sounding terms with ism to proudly pin down closely observed, unnamed realities. However, as these terms with ism come out to the public, they are often inadvertently misunderstood.
Some isms have ordinary meanings. Others are rather controversial with heavy connotations, which have resulted to so much misunderstandings. In the long history of isms, there were aggressions and violence. The battle between isms killed millions of people in unnecessary wars. The rise of new isms clashed with the existing ones. Opposing people rejected and ostracized those others. These isms might be just simple words, but how people act on them may determine the outcome of its repercussion in the society. In the understanding minds of experts who observe them, isms can rest quietly. But they often run amok in the minds of those who do not understand.
I know there must be something that threads numerous isms into one beautiful tapestry of truth.
I can see one obvious reason. This diversity of thoughts is as huge as of living organisms. All thoughts give birth to patterns of behaviors and experiences, which in turn can give birth to many isms. Since all thoughts are different, the isms they create are strikingly different. With this magnitude, people become too much attached to the isms they hold and they develop bigotry, bias and enmity towards those outside their isms. The worst symptom of ism is divisiveness between individuals and groups, from spouses to nations. There is more emphasis on separation than cooperation, on the power of institutions than of people. This kind of sensibility becomes a precursor of insensitivity and disharmony. And as the world continues to conceive new isms, we continue to perpetuate these ugly realities.
I myself have my own ism, as I write and share my own beliefs and knowing. As I meet new people, I also meet their isms and they also meet mine. In those encounters, some of them resonate with me, others strongly against. I know I am not in the place to argue or that I am not someone who knows better or I do not have any right to hold any grudge. The world has witnessed many people in our society who have suffered too much on upholding and fighting their isms. I now seek to understand. I seek more peace between isms, and creative impulse to discover those that I only barely know through my assumptions. I know there must be something that threads numerous isms into one beautiful tapestry of truth.
I believe it is our willingness to have a broad mind that we can see truth in its countless guises. It calls for a deep heart that can contain and share so much care and concern. Both allow us to let go of our fanatic resolve on our isms and vehemence against others. These are the usual roots of the problems, not the isms themselves. We must enlighten our unenlightened perceptions and stop creating isms as a basis of self-righteousness and self-preservation. Each ism is not complete. We need each other’s ism to see their wholeness and their purpose to the world.
This brings me to an unencumbered insight: why not the IS of ism? Why not the isness behind the isms? There must be a deeper, cosmic reason why each ism exists, and to understand them is to enlighten us of our profound human choices and experiences. Why not embrace all isms instead of compartmentalizing them with barriers of conflict? There must be something within them that would give us the opportunity to understand and take actions for the benefit of humanity. And why not simplify rather than complicate? We can always re-envision these isms not as complexities of strife among us, but as a simplified sense of community organizing the beauty of our differences. Only then will these isms pave us a pure way to Love.
- Find Your Own ISM (findyourownism.com)