A Flexible Ideology?
Last week, I was convinced my life had fallen into place. Sitting in class, I listened to one of my professors lecture about the medieval Ottoman Empire. She was discussing how its success in expanding was due to adopting a flexible ideology which enabled it to absorb peoples of such starkly different ethno-lingual and religious backgrounds. To quote her words exactly, she said, "When you're ideological, it's hard to be flexible." While she was getting us to understand the nature of an empire, I was understanding myself.
I've always known myself to be a very ideological person. Define "ideological" as you may - in its most basic form, I think of it as meaning principled. No doubt those who know me will concur in saying that there are certain views I have which remain unshakeable. Unshakeable, but not close-minded I don't think.
As a consequence of my ideological persistence, I have also come to recognize that whereas others might be able to make a decision or confront a situation with relative ease, I often get wrapped up in it, internalizing and contemplating what is before me. This is all very abstract, I know. But here's the point I am trying to make. As much as I love my life, embrace myself and my own identity, and whole-heartedly believe in the principles which guide me, I am aware of the limitations this presents. Namely, that I lack, to a certain degree, the very thing my professor identified as key: flexibility. For as she so succinctly stated, "When you're ideological, it's hard to be flexible."
As I struggle so often with these abstract notions of life and existence, I am very easily excited when someone can simplify my own thoughts for me. Last week, I thought the pieces of my existence had fallen into place. I thought I had finally come to understand myself. But that was last week.
Since then, I have been thinking a lot about that statement. And this week, I have decided that the message that statement conveys does not rule out the possibility of being flexible and ideological simultaneously and leading a fulfilling life. It merely suggests that it is difficult, and indeed, I testify that it is. But should this be a reason for me to lay down my ideals, to resign myself to a cynical, or worse indifferent, view of life? Of course, this is the other extreme, but it serves to make a point.
Naturally, my thoughts turned to religion, specifically to the Christian tradition, and within this, to the Armenian Christian experience of life. Are we Armenian Christians all ideological? I think not. Are we all inflexible? Not all, but many. Are some both? Certainly. But aren't some ideological and still flexible? I think that in the story of any race of people, it is possible to find individuals who are both. And something I have previously struggled with is the notion that if you are flexible when it comes to ideology, you are compromising your beliefs and principles. But I have come to realize that that is not the case. Being committed to a certain mode of thinking or collective unit of ideals does not mean that you must live a rigid, defined existence. What is the proof for this? Well, I think we Christians have no better example than that offered us by what we are taught: that there are certain commandments and a prescription for a morally sound life that we should follow, but we are mere humans and it is inevitable that we will make mistakes and be repentant for them in our lifetimes. So God is flexible, understanding that at times we are weak, at times we are strong. There are many variables to our existence. But there is one constant, and that is God Himself. As long as we are committed to Him, I think we will all be just fine. And so this week, with God as my example, and what His expectations for us might be, I am back to believing that a flexible and ideological life is possible.
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