I’m on a quest. I intend to find God. Well, I hope to anyway. Maybe it’ll only be a glimpse if anything. I know one of the problems with this seeking is how to recognize God once he’s, well maybe I should say it’s, in the vicinity. I’m pretty sure all this anthropomorphizing that has occurred vis a vis God’s appearance can’t be right; it’s just too far-fetched to expect God to have a physical form at all given his/her/it’s penchant for omni-presence, omni-power and all those other omnis. Although I guess if it wanted to assume a physical form it certainly could.
Anyway, I was reading about these Indian mystics who spend years in intense meditation, living in austerity, intent on achieving connection with the unnameable essence within all things and from which all things emanate. And, amazingly, some of them do find what they’re looking for. Their experiences differ but usually have in common a direct consciousness of the ground of being; a sense of becoming one with the absolute; an enlightened sense of a unified cosmos bound together by love.
Well, it’s pretty clear one doesn’t reach such a level of understanding overnight. This God-seeking is a serious endeavor not to be taken lightly if one expects results. I’m going for it; I’ll spend more time in contemplation; discipline myself to reach beyond; set aside timeout from daily routine.
I’ll let you know what happens.
I was reading recently about the Tlingit people of the northwest Pacific coast. They have an incredibly rich mythology illustrated and enhanced by the beautifully crafted art they create.
Much of their mythology focuses on the close relationship of the people with their animal kin. At one time, it’s believed, all life was one until Raven released the sun. Then, in the light, the people scattered: some to the woods where they assumed four legs and heightened senses of smell and sight, some to the air where they became the birds and some to the sea becoming fish.
And still, the kinship remains a sacred connection with all sentient life, which is not to say these people are all vegetarians.
But, I don’t think they should be thought of as cannibals either. I think the animal in his self-sacrifice is offering himself for the good of the clan. And, I think the people recognize this.
Anyway, a lot of stories are told through the exquisitely carved poles these people continue to produce about the inter-relationships between clansmen and animals. In some cases, like the story of Kat and his bear wife unions are formed and progeny produced reinforcing the notion of kinship considerably.
I think the concept is a good one. Respect for all life forms and the knowledge of our mutual dependence upon one another bodes well for our extended existence.
I got asked the other day what my worldview was. I was unable to come up with much of an answer. When I thought about the physical universe I couldn’t get past the dilemma modern science seems to be having regarding quantum theories that posit the idea of sub-atomic particles that are nearly unknowable. I mean, really, if the invisible, unknowable is what the universe consists of then what am I to make of reality at all?
It seemed to me the whole idea of a worldview presupposes some sort of underlying order driving the cogs of the universal machine. Like for the religious faithful, who, I think, can come up with a pretty thorough answer fairly quickly.
So, then I got to thinking about the nature of humankind-whether or not there may be some sort of ordered structure controlling the sentient.
I recently saw this movie, Hannah Arendt that dramatizes the philosopher’s acceptance of an offer by The New Yorker magazine, back in the 1960’s, to travel to Jerusalem to view and write about the trial of the notorious Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann. As she views the testimony she becomes increasingly convinced that the man was nothing-simply a cog in the totalitarian machine that was Nazi Germany; amoral, lacking in person hood, simply doing what he was ordered to do.
Although an extreme case it seems to me it’s something we all wrestle with. Lacking a mechanism that balances the good of the group, the political, social or religious motives of the institution with the moral and ethical responsibility of the individual, the nature of humankind is as chaotic as the quantum universe.
I can make no more sense of a concept of worldview now than when I was first asked the question.
I’ve been having these flashes lately of another time and place. Small things: certain smells and sounds, plays of light, will bring to mind thoughts, sometimes remembrances of earlier experiences, sometimes images of times and places I’ve never been.
Most often these ‘flashes of memory’ elicit almost euphoric feelings in me-a sense of idyllic existence, that, when I think about it, are hard to explain. I say most often because sometimes there’s an ominous foreboding which accompanies these forays into the fanciful.
These experiences are like visions into another reality. They occur with varying degrees of strength and fade and disappear fairly quickly.
Now, I’m no scholar mind you but as far as I can tell Martin Heidegger speaks of ‘being’ as a field, an extension of the physical/mental self to include one’s sensible environs. Our extended being can accumulate a lot of the detritus of daily life, an ever increasing weight of familiarity and the efforts and energies required of simply existing. So, by altering one’s being, that is relocating, one becomes new and fresh-at least momentarily. But, rather than actually physically moving, my mental sojourns into past and fanciful places must serve to offer similar relief.
I’m glad I got this figured out. Now if I can extend these fancies and keep them mostly positive maybe I’ll be content to stay put physically while I travel far and wide mentally. I do know, though, I’ll still need to seek new experiences on occasion.
I learned recently that modern science views the notion of ‘now’ as nothing more than an illusion. Due to the lag time our sensory apparatus requires to acknowledge occurrences around us along with the finite speed of light means that what we are experiencing at any given moment has already happened. So, if the past is no longer and the future is yet to be and there is no ‘now’ then where, exactly, do I exist? If where I am, I only was I must have to anticipate where I really am.
I must say I find this a bit unsettling as I’ve been operating for some time under the assumption that ‘Eternity is Now’ given the nonexistence of past and future. So if ‘now ‘ is ‘past’ then I’m inclined to discount the idea of eternity.
But, cosmologists make matters even more confusing suggesting we may exist within an eternal multi-verse within which the ‘Big Bang’ that created our universe happened and who’s to say, they hypothesize, this big Bang thing hasn’t happened all sorts of times.
Apparently the ideas is there are passage ways, ‘worm holes’, between these various universes that if we weren’t limited by our vision and movements due to the finite speed of light we might be able to find.
So, between not being here ‘now’ and being a minute speck within one of countless universes I’m thinking I may have to start again from the beginning and agree with that great thinker Rene Descartes that at least I know I’m thinking.
I read the other day about a study that found that most people have a really hard time sitting alone with their thoughts.
The story related how researchers had asked volunteers to sit alone in a room for fifteen minutes. The room contained nothing but a table and chair and a machine that would produce mild electrical shocks if one chose to use it. Apparently a fairly large percentage of the research subjects chose to administer shocks to themselves rather than sit alone with their thoughts for even fifteen minutes.
Letting one’s mind wander to past occurrences or future possibilities seems to me pretty natural so I guess I don’t understand what the problem was. Focusing on the eternity of now, I must admit, isn’t always easy but my mind is pretty good at wandering.
In fact, I was just thinking about the movie, Altered States, in which the protagonist, played by William Hurt, submerses himself in a sensory deprivation chamber, which is essentially a tank of warm water in a totally darkened cubicle, for hours on end, day after day. His idea was that by doing this he could get in touch with his primal inner self. And I guess he does because he ends up developing simian characteristics.
So, I’m wondering if the reason most people are unable or unwilling to be alone with their thoughts is that they fear glimpsing their innate animal natures.
If this is the case it sure explains our inclination to constantly be distracting ourselves.
I was thinking the other day about different kinds of reasonableness.
There is reasoning that follows the dictates of logic based on falsifiable premises and avoiding contradiction. And, then, sometimes the passions get a hold of a person and things can be believed or acted upon based on poor reasoning-things that don’t follow from the supposed justification of the reasoner.
The philosopher, Immanuel Kant, put forth the idea of practical reason. He thought that a belief in God and after-life was necessary (even though not based on falsifiable premises) in order that man behave moralistically and ethically toward his fellows, since such behavior is more difficult than acting exclusively out of self-interest.
Leo Tolstoy wrote A Confession toward the end of his life during a time of extreme disillusionment regarding the purpose of life and the meaninglessness and insignificance of the part he had played in it. His assumption had always been that reason was the ground of existence; that any and all insight and understanding that might be achievable would be so exclusively through reason. And now reason told him that it was all for naught; his existence made no difference in the grand scheme of things. Better to die, he thought.
When he looked around him he saw people engaged in hedonistic pursuits or religious endeavors, neither of which he felt validated a reasoned life. His awakening came upon considering the peasant who toiled and suffered throughout his life but was able to maintain his will to life positively. Maybe lacking formal education and not having too many big ideas to think about had something to do with it, but in their sense of spirit, irrational as it seemed to be, Tolstoy found the answer to his dilemma: reason must embrace the irrational and sustain a faith in the human spirit.
So, if it is fair to assume logical reasoning will not provide the final answers to life’s big questions is a leap into faith despite the irrationality and or absurdities of such the answer?
I guess I’ll stay open to all possibilities: enjoy the beauties of logical reasoning while embracing the spirit. How can I go wrong?
I’ve been reading this book called Praise of Folly written by the goddess Folly herself. In this book Folly claims allegiance from just about everybody, by which she means, I guess, everyone is either foolish, ignorant or just unwilling to get serious about life, which, from her point of view is a good thing.
From Folly’s perspective foolish, carefree behavior generally leads to happiness. Of all her followers she ranks at the top those delusional folks so lost in their imaginative worlds as to be oblivious of any sense of reality. Those she finds least enlightened, although clearly foolish are the Stoics and theologians whose strict adherence to reason can only mean a painful and dreary life not to mention lost rewards in the hereafter.
So, anyway, I was beginning to take all this to heart, spending lots of time playing Flappy Bird and watching reruns of Jersey Shore when I discovered the book was meant to be satirical; that the celebration of foolish worldly behavior was really meant to be quite the opposite.
The author of Praise of Folly was the 16th century Catholic priest Erasmus of Rotterdam who was pretty disgusted with the frivolous preoccupation with material wealth and bodily desires of mankind in general (and, I guess, the twisted motives of the Catholic Church in particular). I’m not sure about the current motives of the Catholic Church but I think his opinion of 16th century European culture still may hold pretty true for contemporary western culture altogether.
Anyway, at the end of the book Folly goes to considerable pains to assure the reader that the reader’s spiritual health depends on not thinking about things too much; that remaining a fool is really the only way anyone will gain spiritual redemption.
So I guess I’ll just keep spending loads of time with Flappy Bird and inane television and just wait until the weak-minded inherit the earth.
Elvis in Memphis
I’ve been experiencing this strong sense of inner spirit recently. It’s a feeling of strength within, a sense of groundedness and a confidence that I’ll be able to not only cope with but decisively defeat any adversity that may come my way. I find quite a wonderful peacefulness in this.
But, along with this sense of inner strength comes the nagging thought that my ego may be a bit out of control, having been taught from a very early age the virtues of humility. This realization leads me to consider my own short comings which include but are not limited to average intelligence, unapproachable countenance and various biases and intolerances. This in turn brings me back to the anxiety that has been a predominant aspect of my nature as long as I can remember. Someone said, Martin Heidegger I think, that anxiety is the fundamental mood of existence. Boy, sometimes I can really relate to that.
So, I’m wondering if I’m better off in the possibly delusional world of inner strength or in the anxiety ridden reality of humble me.
I think I’ll bask in the inner glow as long as I can. Here’s to positive thinking.
Having returned from the wilderness without incident I have quickly re assumed my generally distracted existence. While in the wilderness I managed to maintain my eating and sleeping routine almost to the minute. When I think about that I have to admit it seems pretty strange since I obviously had no deadlines to meet, places to be at a certain hour or people to coordinate with. I guess it’s pretty amazing how effectively I’ve been culturally conditioned. It does make me wonder about the nature of free will.
The only tangible remnants of my wilderness experience consist of a few small paintings that are now more real than the rock, water and vegetation they represent. And, as I view them in their balanced, rectangular format it’s clear to me they really haven’t captured the intense sensory experience that inspired them. I guess I’ll keep them anyway for their memory value. When I think about it, maybe there’s no better reason to produce art in the first place.