Wednesday, 1 March 2017
Lent - Day 1 - the big questions
We are conscious beings, moving upon the face of our planet, we are born, we live, we die - what then? Why?
Is there purpose to our consciousness, which observes, infers, discerns, likes, dislikes - processes removed from those belonging to our intellect?
On the micro scale there’s us - you, me, them, everybody - each one of us brought into existence by a mind-boggling sequence of coincidences going back to the dawn of life on our planet. And on the macro scale, there’s this physical universe of ours that’s formed of a billion-plus galaxies each of a billion-plus stars (I simplify). This universe began with a Big Bang. It is expanding. That’s pretty much all we know. Will it keep expanding? Will it one day contract?
I’m sure I’m not alone in living a life that’s driven by a quest to understand, to find reason, so seek a purpose.
So far, as I approach the end of my fifth decade of this life, I’ve learned that no one single organised religion has all of the answers, although most organised religions have some of the answers, along with a whole baggage of falsehoods. Nor has science got all the answers. Science is in a state of realisation of knowing just how much it doesn't yet know.
Do I believe in God? I do believe in a reason, a purpose and a goal to this universe, a spiritual goal. So yes. Not a man with a long white beard, but God - yes. Asking us humans to define that God is like asking an mouse to define a human. Religions have used concepts such as ‘omnipotent’, ‘omniscient’ and ‘omnipresent’, and have used complex intellectual arguments to explain how they have reached such conclusions.
Yet instinct, rather than reason is, I believe, the better route to reach a higher awareness of what it’s all about.
Instinctively, then, I feel that the universe is a journey with a purpose, a journey from Zero to One, towards a total consciousness; an awareness of all things, towards being one with all things. Is one human life long enough to move more than the tiniest fraction of the way along that continuum? This leads me to posit that it isn’t. To quote Woody Allen, ‘eternity’s a very long time - especially the last bit’.
I can understand why organised religions hit their believers with the following deal: "follow these rules in this one short lifetime, and you will be rewarded by an eternity in paradise".
Not good enough for me. We must strive harder than that in the quest for understanding of the purpose. Most people tend to ignore it as they go about their daily duties, earning money to pay for food, shelter and pleasures. And as civilised life becomes less of a grind, and day-to-day survival for us privileged rich-world folk fades into atavistic memory, perhaps it’s too easy to seek out pleasure rather than meaning.
Here on earth, in this life, we should strive to do our bit to evolve as a species from the bestial towards the angelic, from barbarism towards civilisation.
Organised religion offers its followers the chance to participate in communal acts of worship that depend on the recitation of prayers, the singing of hymns and the performance of sacred rituals. This fills many people’s spiritual needs, but how many of those participating attain a higher state of enlightenment as a result? Not I - I get distracted, unable to focus, my train of thought broken by my surroundings. I seek a different form of worship through which I can reach a state of spiritual communion with the universe.
If you’ve got this far, I’d say that like me, you are seeking. Actively seeking You won’t find any answers here - only a vague signpost saying ‘me, I think it’s somewhere over there, roughly in that direction.’
If this year's Lenten explorations will have a theme, it will be mindfulness - not in the 'breathe deeply and focus' fad, but an older and deeper concept of awareness, that can help across all aspects of our lives.
This time two years ago:
How does God speak to us?
This time three years ago:
Spring makes itself felt in Ealing
This time four years ago:
Waiting for the warmth to return to Warsaw
This time five years ago:
Remembering Poland's 'Accursed Soldiers'
This time six years ago:
Getting the balance right between work and play
This time eight years ago:
Sublime Jeziorki sunset
This time nine years ago:
Sunrise getting earlier