We humans have an extraordinary ability. We can focus our attention on an activity and, by applying unfailing discipline and rigorous practice, become skillful at it. Be it playing the violin, performing an appendectomy or building a skyscraper, we have the potential to excel at most any endeavor if we consistently devote ourselves to its mastery. Manifesting our potential is awesome fun and one of the true joys of life!
But despite our ability to learn innumerable things, we will never master the miracle of turning an acorn into an oak tree. We will never be able to hold the planets in their gravitational orbits, sustain the flow of a river, or keep our hearts beating and lungs breathing over the course of our lifetime. In that respect, we humans are just one of an infinite number of effects from a much greater and mysterious Cause.
For the sake of appeasing our ego’s need to understand that omnipotent, infinitely creative force that prolifically squirts life all over the vastness of the universe, we invented an all-powerful Being. We made Him in our image, which, of course, means we made Him into the ultimate alpha-male. We named Him God, the Father, and Lord of Lords.
We decreed that God was the first cause of life and credited Him with the wonder of creation. That way, when we learned the stories that the ancient patriarchs told about God, we could say that we know how the world, the universe, and even us silly humans work. And, more importantly, we could say we know the purpose behind our being created and what will happen after we die. Who wouldn’t want to know all that cool stuff?
I wish it were easier for me to accept those Bronze and Iron Age stories as the truth of things. The idea of not having to juggle a bunch of question marks and embracing some answers on faith from those old men of the Middle East is very appealing. If only I could carry those ancient tales as the truth of things—it would simplify life.
To have the meaning of the boundlessness of everything codified and freely available on the bookshelf would go a long way towards easing the unease of not knowing. At least I used to think that way before I learned to appreciate being in the mystery.
It wasn’t long after fully entering the strata of mid-life that I realized living with more questions than answers and frolicking in the enigma of creation can be a very exciting way of moving through life!
Here’s how I am currently dancing with the bigger questions: It seems that it does require a greater Intelligence than I can understand to turn an acorn into an oak tree and keep all the other infinite living systems that make up life functioning. And many of us have experienced moments when we even felt touched directly by that Intelligence. In those moments we seem to transcend any stories and just revel in the juiciness of the sublime connection to the Source of life at that moment—using words like Love, Oneness, Beauty, and Soul in trying to describe it.
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Those of us who have been touched by the Great Mystery of life beyond our ego silliness can feel the truth in those words of the philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. We can feel exactly what he means. It’s an experience that comes before all the stories and beliefs.
Many of us have heard, or even said something like, “While I’m not religious, I am spiritual.” I imagine each person expressing this idea means something different. But inherent in the statement is the view that any specific idea or notion of the All-ness and Source of everything is not something easily pinned down.
It’s impossible to express the entirety of everything within the confines of a single religion or some stories in a book. Especially if the stories are based on very human models of family drama, warfare, and other habituated mythological themes. At least I’m pretty sure you can’t. But the books can still have value if we don’t impose the need for them to be an absolute authority. There are lots of good books out there that are helpful, and not one of them is the ultimate truth of things.
It’s an interesting turn of events, not often reported in the press, that more of us domesticated primates are admitting we don’t truly know anything about this infinity called life.
And more of us are having mysterious and wondrous experiences that bring us closer to the Source of things, and none of them fit the old stories of the patriarchs. We’re opening to something immense beyond our limited understanding and we’re not sure how to move forward.
The fact that my little ego mind can’t possibly comprehend the totality behind infinity, that the foundational force animating life is beyond my intellectual grasp, used to make me very uncomfortable. We often don’t do well with uncertainty.
Many of us are grappling with this uneasiness as we discover that the stories of the old patriarchs are just not cutting it today, in terms of helping us navigate this extraordinary and terrifying modern life. (Though I have discovered some brilliant gems, usually found in the red print section. They are mostly one-liners that don’t require dogmatic belief to be helpful.)
The point of all this is just to share my discovery that it’s okay not to have all the answers to life’s bigger questions, that actually we can be more open to that spiritual core that Pierre Teilhard de Chardin pointed to when we give up the need to intellectually try to unmask the infinite face of our Creation. Our intellects are extremely limited…in case you haven’t noticed.
Wouldn’t it be grand if we could read those old stories with fresh and lighter eyes without needing them to be anything other than what they are, teaching tales? And how awesome would it be if we could openly celebrate the stories of other people from other cultures as well?
I hope for a time when we can all celebrate and share each other’s stories about our incomprehensible Source. I hope for a time when we can all dance together within that unnamable Great Mystery that turns acorns into oak trees, sharing our tales of learning. We silly humans, regardless of what part of the world we call home, are all family…whether we like it or not. And sharing is just what healthy families do.
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