Note: This was a question posed for a number of Conversation Cafe's recently. The following is my answer.
I think that the most important question facing the world now is how to create a set of values that transcends, but can be accepted by, the world’s major spiritual traditions, ethical systems and cultures while supporting simultaneously pluralism and integration. Without some shared values, we cannot have a world conversation.
Omar Khayyam had an answer to this question when he wrote in the Rubaiyat:
"The Grape can with logic absolute
The two and seventy jarring sects confute…"
By confute the translator probably meant ‘argue away’ or he could have meant confuse.
Of course Khayyam also wrote about wine:
"…I wonder often what the vintners buy
One half so precious as the wine they sell."
Khayyam would probably be surprised to find that the answer in today’s world is not the wine that is sold, but the process of selling and buying, or business, that is having the most successful conversation in the world. Is it the values of business that can be shared over most of the world? Are our global conversations going to be business?
When confronted by Marley’s ghost in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Scrooge comments on Marley’s condition – captive, bound and double ironed – not comprehending the reason for his condition, "But you were always a good man of business…"
The ghost responds, "Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"
Science, and technology as well, have established a successful global conversation. Are secular values the only ones that can deal with the two and seventy jarring sects?
Religion and politics seem to have had the most difficulty establishing a global conversation. Violence seems to be the value of this global conversation.
Ecology may be the conversation for today’s environment. It is based on science with strong components of technology and business, and it embraces the values of life, common to most of the world. The realization that we are all affected by the environment, individuals, business and governments, coupled with the fact that anything anyone does, or doesn’t do, affects everyone else, could drive the values of ecology toward the forefront of the world’s conversation.
What do you think?