Westerners would tend to ask the question in the title, because westerners tend to think in either/or, right/wrong terms. There is one correct answer, dang it, and when we have it, we will insist on it!
As a westerner myself, I totally understand this. As a person with a vivid imagination unhindered by even the slightest competency in math (that most right/wrong of disiplines) I also understand the eastern worldview-a little bit.
Most western philosophers, statesmen and historians not only accept the western worldview as right, but as the best, the highest, indeed the very apex of cultural development which should be imposed on the uncivilized, mushy-headed rest of the world-for their own good.
This is called Euro-centrism; that is, only what has happened to and in Western Europe is significant. After all, that is where Civilization dwells: From Greece>Rome>England> United States, with some nonsense flopping around on the edges. The rest of the world is yucky and can safely be ignored.
While researching some art history recently, I came across a great sentence to illustrate this phenomenon: “Western Christendom fell into the cultural abyss of the barbarian Dark Ages…” (400-800 AD) Classic.
First, what is “Christendom”-some sort of kingdom involving Christians? Then what did Christ mean when he said his kingdom is not of this world? When he said that the kingdom of God is within you? Did the west go badly wrong when it thought it was somehow the kingdom of God on earth? YES. Did the church go badly wrong when it thought it was in charge of that earthly kingdom? YES.
I would say Western Christendom jumped into an abyss it had dug for itself, but according to the sentence above, it fell into a “cultural abyss” caused by “barbarians” and this resulted in the “Dark Ages.” It fell into a dark abyss! That’s scary. Barbarians were to blame! Evil barbarians; pushing Western Christendom into a dark abyss, where it was stuck for ages!
The whole sentence is classic Euro-centric BS. The Roman Empire was not pushed into a dark abyss by barbarians. It MOVED to Constantinople in 330 400 AD and continued for another 1,000 years. The city of Rome, meanwhile, continued crumbling slowly into corruption and decay. The Christian Goth “barbarian” (to a Roman anyone who didn’t speak Latin) simply moved in and let the decay continue.
In Constantinople, however, beautiful churches were being built, beautiful art was being created, education was advancing and trade was booming. But that’s East, so who cares? Not the propagandists in Rome.
To illustrate one little difference between the eastern and western worldviews, consider the eastern and western depictions of God creating Adam. The first is Michaelangelo’s.
God is depicted as the sky diety, as Zeus, rushing through the clouds, muscular, mature. The spark of life is in his fingertips, like Zeus’ thunderbolts. These are Greek gods, as adopted by the Romans, solid and fleshly. As a westerner, you may like this version. What you see is what you get.
In the East, however, they were developing a more symbolic, flatter style. Why? Because they strongly suspected there was reality BEYOND the physical; a reality that was more important than the physical; that the image is just a window through which to look…to look at what? That is for you to discern by your spirit. In the Eastern version, God breathes the breath of life into Adam, which is what the Bible actually says.
As a westerner, you may not like this version. You may think, “Oh, stop beating around the bush and just tell me!” But they would answer, “Then that would be just one man telling another man-you must look deeper, you must look with your spiritual eyes. It is between you and God.”
At this point you may be angry with those mushy-headed Easterners. You may think, “What they need is some Civilization.”
Or you may get a little glimmer of the mystery, the richness and the beauty in the eastern way of looking at the world. You may even go off the deep end and conclude that perhaps; PERHAPS…we could learn something from them.