From Reading 1 today we read “…the LORD…will destroy the veil that veils all peoples…”
I reflect on this and think of three things:
1) John Rawls’s ethical theory of ‘veil of ignorance’;
2) the DNA knowledge we have of the similarity of people; and,
3) that this is a statement calling us to see our similarities and to rid ourselves of the ‘veils’ we have in ‘not seeing’ other people in the loving manner we are called to see and understand.
Stated concisely, ethicist John Rawls calls us to image life in that one never knows what status or problems one might find oneself in. He posits, that in such a situation, individuals would choose life structures that would protect them if they happened to be in the worst off situations. If we are were covered by a ‘veil of ignorance’ relative to our life situation, he postulates that when making ethical decisions, policy, decisions, etc., one would make them in a manner that protected oneself and treated all in a fair and just way. In this use of the word, ‘veil’, such a ‘veil’ would be a positive aspect.
In a different context, one can note that part of our “…veil that veils all peoples…”, i.e., ignorance, has been lifted as we gain more knowledge of DNA, genes, and our heritage. We know we are more alike than dissimilar. In 2000, President Bill Clinton declared, “I believe one of the great truths to emerge from this triumphant expedition inside the human genome is that in genetic terms, all human beings, regardless of race, are more than 99.9 percent the same.” (Personal communication, J.D. Kahn, November 19, 2012). Our past imaging and knowledge of each other, based on external differences because of the environmental adaptation of the human physical being, can no longer be an ‘ignorant veil’ that motivates our behavior. We now know we are more alike. In this use of the word, ‘veil’, such a ‘veil’ heralds back to the First Reading.
Isaiah spoke of this “…veil that veils all people…” Our call is to recognize and undo the negative ‘veils’ we may still see through as we engage with others. When making ethical decisions, ethicist John Rawls gives us an important model of applying a ‘veil’ so we are fair and just with all. On the other hand, when being with others, genetic scientists have given us knowledge for ‘ re-seeing’ others and discarding our ‘veils’ of ignorance and mental processing that focuses on differences, and, instead, see, understand, and love others without ‘veils’ .
I write this two days before Thanksgiving, the annual holiday in the United States which is set aside for gratitude. This week I will reflect even more on the ‘veils’ to be destroyed in my life so I can live more loving with others.