The Little House of Cultural Expansion
I watched an episode of Little House on the Prairie named Injun Kid last night and was struck by a pivotal moment of cultural expansion. It was subtle, but well played, and analyzing it yields a fascinating look into human psychology and spirituality.
In the episode, a half-Native American boy and his mother arrive in Walnut Grove. His grandfather is embarrassed by his presence and insists that his daughter say she adopted him. When the boy refuses to stand for prayer at church, his grandfather yells at him and informs him he must comply or be punished. The child runs away to a nearby stream and prays for peace between with his grandfather.
Laura inadvertently interrupts his prayer. He explains that he was praying.
Instead of reacting in fear or hatred because he had a different religion, she reached for common ground.
"You mean you were saying a Sioux prayer?"
In that moment, Laura's entire cultural perspective is changed. She had known nothing but Christianity all her life. In an instant, her mind expanded to see the layer above her faith - the fact that others have belief systems radically different from her own. The moment was well played by Melissa Gilbert. She caught the nuance of the exchange quite well.
Totally absorbing yourself in your culture and religion is an incredible experience - one that benefits the universe by allowing it to gain another unique perspective on the zeitgeist of your cultural paradigm. But when you step back and see other cultures, compare their similarities and differences, your mind expands.
Simply knowing other belief systems exist will invariably change yours, which is why many religions fight to keep outside influence from "corrupting" adherents. It's a shame, because some of the deepest faith and spiritual wellness one can have is by practicing spirituality in full knowledge that yours is not the only valid approach.
We all bring a unique piece to the universal jigsaw puzzle. We are singularly qualified to offer our unique channeling of spirit to others and the world. When we do this in full knowledge of what others offer, our own experience is enhanced. Our mind is expanded, and we stand on the precipice of evolving to a higher plane of existence.
Star Trek: The Next Generation sums this idea up nicely in the next to last scene of All Good Things...