The richness of history and diversity of thought between East and West are as undeniable as they are fascinating. One cannot expect to have a well-rounded image of history and present-day reality without first exploring what both Orient and Occident have to offer. As much as the world of today tries to explore and connect these two diverse cultural perspectives, harmony between the two has yet to be established.
There are efforts being made to understand traditional Chinese medicine and mind body wellness as well as Eastern philosophical ideas in general. It is an encouraging effort which in the future can only benefit humanity. In the age of information, it is important to avoid being isolated in one’s own perspective, or, as Samuel Barkin might phraze it, in insular thinking, a phenomenon which seems to be increasingly prevalent in the social media environment. This is not to say one should not enjoy the company and entertainment of their like-minded friends and information sources but rather that they should attempt to make contact with and understand other concepts, ideas, and, world views in order that they might achieve a good balance of mind and spirit.
There are such efforts for East and West cooperation globally. However, in order to secure these efforts' success, they have to be grounded in a steady, more local endeavor. The peoples of Europe have been trying to cooperate towards each other’s benefit for a long time. Now, with the advent of the European Union, there is a call for unity in diversity which echoes perhaps louder than ever. Unfortunately, one only need read the news to understand that this is not the direction the Union is taking. Whether the Union survives or not in its current form or at all, the peoples of Europe still have to live together. It is therefore important that the people attempt to understand their neighbors without prejudice and judgement.
Western Europe has much to gain from learning about and understanding of Eastern spirituality, tradition, identity, and existential motivation. And Eastern Europe has much to gain from the technological advancements promoted by the West as well as their work ethic based on merit recognition and seriousness. There can be no harmony between people without understanding. As such, if passion and effort are put into bridging the gap between the East and the West, there exists the potential for humankind to build a knowledge base which would not only do honor to the Library of Alexandria but surpass the greatness of its lost secrets. Currently the East-West bridge is still enveloped in fog. But there is a chance still for clearer skies. Europe must not let the opportunity of growing in knowledge pass it by, lest it be thrown into the abyss of ignorance and conflict.
Understanding cultures and philosophies is not the same as giving up one’s own and it is not the same as believing that all cultures are the same either. It is simply an enriching of one’s own perspective and, if nothing else, a better understanding and delimitation of one’s own belief systems and traditions. Scientific and spiritual cooperation need to be ongoing and reach as many people as possible if such a dialogue is to succeed. And, as much as possible, politics should not be involved. However, knowing the reality of human behavior, it is unlikely that politics will indeed be excluded from this equation. Yet, no matter how imperfect, is it imperative for the East-West dialogue to grow and evolve as there is no greater investments humankind can make in its future that can equal those of knowledge and spirituality.