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Saturday, December 15, 2012

My struggle to know

"We are the universe knowing itself." I keep coming back to this idea. I first heard it spoken by a man at a meeting many might call a gathering of godless Communists. I'm not sure where he'd heard it, but I'm sure it wasn't original. He may have even mentioned the source, but I've forgotten it. It doesn't really matter. What matters is, every conversation needs a starting point, and every feeble attempt to sum up this life needs a framework, however faulty, and this is the one I've chosen.

To know: It's our strongest impulse. It's what pushed our species, from the moment we could put one foot in front of the other, to search every corner of the globe and beyond. And those things which we don't know, and can't discover the meaning of, no matter how hard we try, are the one's that drive us to do the craziest things. Like invent a religion. That's where all our mysteries get stuck. It's the closet where we keep the worn but oh so warm and comfortable blankets to wrap ourselves against the cold of doubt.

The ideas of purpose and synchronicity are two of the fuzziest blankets we pull from that same closet. They give our lives a sense of inter-connectedness, of direction, of worth.

What is our purpose in life? Why were we put here? Are the things that happen to us in the course of our various journeys — some long, some short, each with their own measures of joy and pain — completely random, or do they happen for a reason? Is there something bigger than ourselves that guides us, or watches over us, or rewards and punishes us?

It's hard to embrace purpose and synchronicity without also embracing some concept of a "higher power." Most would call this God. Others use different names. It's difficult for me to describe what I think it is in a single phrase, though I'll force myself to do so, because it feels too big and too complex to reduce to one. That's why my mind circles back to that quote "We are the universe knowing itself." I like it because it gives me the sense of a "higher power" that's linked to all of us, and yet is as vast as the entirety of creation.

It's also pretty vague, but vague can be useful when you grapple with big ideas. And it's as close as my logical mind (probably too logical) will let me approach a concept so completely without evidence. I can accept it only if it doesn't obviously contradict the science I know, and if it compliments the experiences I've had so far.

So what is this "higher power"? If I have to give it a name, and I guess I do since I'm writing this, it would be a "Greater Consciousness." I'm lifting that from somewhere else, but I can't tell you a specific author. This GC, as I'm defining it, is the accumulation of all experiences lived by the bits of knowing flesh we call humanity, and not just humanity, every living thing that's ever existed or will exist. Maybe even some things we don't consider living, like the atoms in a stone, but I'm still working through that idea.

That said, we humans play a very special part within it, because our minds are a microcosm of it. This is also why we struggle so to find our way back to it, because it's so easy to fall into the trap of believing our minds are so separate, and our individuality so important (not that it isn't), that we can't belong to anything else. We are it, and it is us, but it's so much bigger than any of us.

I've had brief moments where I felt plugged into it, mostly through my writing, but at other unexpected times too, those smallest of moments when the sun fell across my path in a certain way, or the wind made the leaves speak a special sound. It's such sudden moments of insight, or inspiration that at some point take hold of each of us. I like to think that artists, musicians, writers, and even scientists and engineers, are tapping into the GC when they receive their ideas.

It's not monolithic. It's not a large man with a white beard, or a slab of black granite. It's not a winged serpent, or a coyote, or a burning bush. It's all of these things, and much more, and we each experience it in unique ways. Some of us also feel the connection to it more easily than others. These could be our prophets or our psychics, our priests, our mahatmas and our spiritual guides, and they are much more receptive to its influence.

And these special souls may have developed a more rigorous way to connect to it. Perhaps the scriptures and assorted religious texts that have been written throughout history were their attempts to record the wisdom they found within those connections. Our minds make sense of the world best when we are able to conceptualize it as a story, so it makes sense that these connections are best communicated through metaphor and narrative.

Having said that, such attempts to share with others the wisdom one finds through their connections to the GC though valuable is limited. It can't replace a personal connection, because what we need from it can vary based on our circumstance.

We've heard it so many times before that it's become cliche, but it's no less true that each of our lives is completely unique. We can have a lot in common with others, but we've each been placed in circumstances that can't be repeated exactly the same way by anyone else. We're given a view onto the world that no one else will ever have, and each of those views helps build up the GC. It is the repository of all experience, even the most tragic and horrific, and it's a well from which we can draw answers when seeking a way forward in our lives.

There is, of course, the problem of suffering. Sometimes the perspective we're given includes a lot of pain. Some of it is so extreme it feels like pure cruelty. I'm not going to rationalize that away. It's awful. It's unfair. And the only small way it can be justified is if it serves some greater purpose.

Maybe as the GC grows to include the memories of that pain, it can in some small way help others who will go through the same thing, by showing how those people escaped it, or were helped out of it. First, of course, they'll have to find a way to access the GC, and draw power from it.

What does this GC have to do with purpose and synchronicity?

Well, from the little I've been able to experience it, and from what others have told me who seem to have done a much better job of getting there, when you're in tune with it, there is a synchronicity between you and the world around you. Things seem to fall into place for you. That's not to say it's a path to a perfect life, and  again, this isn't something that I've personally experienced very much, so it might just be wishful thinking. Wishful thinking can be helpful too.

As for purpose, I don't think it's useful to think of this as a vocation, or a profession or a particular, directed path in life. Some of us are blessed to have those, but there are a lot of factors, both within and outside of our control, that make that possible.

To me, our purpose, as simple and perhaps unsatisfying as it may seem, is to accept this life we're given and to use our bodies and our minds to experience as much of the world and of others as we possibly can. No, not just to experience it, but to try to bring as much joy and love into it as we can. We are explorers by nature, and this is exactly how we need to live, accumulating and generating as many positive inputs as we can to feed the knowledge base that is this Greater Consciousness.

We also need to refine our abilities to connect to it and draw from it. Maybe that's through prayer or meditation or solemn walks through the woods. This is how we can make the most of every experience we're given. This is how we can work our way through whatever painful moments come (and come they will). This is how we'll help others do the same.
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