Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Finding Meaning

                A POINT OF VIEW

that across the gigantic rolling universe
spawning billions and billions of galaxies
seedbeds to trillions and trillions of suns

upon this single infinitesimal dust mote
among innumerable other specks of dust

one oddball talking ape no crazier than
seven billion others   should sit here now

diddling with these convoluted symbols
fascinated by their imagined importance

stones would guffaw if they had a voice


And I said to my spirit:
When we become the enfolders of those orbs,
and the pleasure and knowledge
of everything in them,
shall we be filled and satisfied then?
And my spirit said:
No, we but level that lift
to pass and continue beyond.

-- Walt Whitman --


     Here's the perspective of our planet which modern astronomy reveals--Carl Sagan's "pale blue dot"--except much tinier and even more insignificant. Consider just one drop from all the world's oceans, or one grain of sand from all its beaches and deserts--these still wouldn't be as overwhelmed by number and immensity as Earth is by the breathtaking vastness of our ever-expanding universe.

     Then add to this cosmic revelation the fact that any individual is merely one of almost seven billion other human beings crammed onto this infinitesimal dust mote--well, do the math. Any appraisal of a person's worth based primarily on size, power and quantity must equal virtually absolute zero.

     It's hard to over-emphasize how much this staggering awareness now pervades our contemporary consciousness and underlies the taint of meaninglessness which increasingly infects it. We can so easily feel annihilated by the billions of light years suddenly encountered through this explosion of the boundaries of time and space.

     In reality though, most of us, most of the time, aren't thinking about this at all. We're too busy scrambling to hold onto a job, make a buck, pay the bills, sort out our personal problems, and basically just keep our own private little boats afloat. Who cares about the Big Bang, if our intimate, immediate, emotionally riveting world is collapsing all around us?

     This split between the background of our cosmic condition and the foreground of our myopic obsession exposes the crux of an existential crisis. We no longer celebrate a communal, over-arching spiritual narrative which could healingly reconnect these two extreme polarities. Instead, we're left with a claustrophobic preoccupation with practical survival and material consumption on one hand; and modern science's strictly secular and empirical insistence on a gigantic but soulless universe on the other. It seems the little question of what it all means--what we all mean--got lost in translation somewhere between the shopping mall and the void.

     What can we do about this? How do we restore real meaning and true purpose to our lives, when those sustaining myths and religions by which so many lived in agreement for thousands of years no longer speak to us?

     One answer: abandon belief in the legitimacy of any such redemptive metaphysical explanations, concentrating instead exclusively on worldly success, material rewards, and the illusion of lifelong security. This is the huge majority's cynical choice in our capitalist Western Society, despite mainly token religious affiliations, and we see by now where it leads.

     But there is another choice, for those with the courage to make it: to discover and express our own personal myth--that compelling and transforming narrative which reveals the hidden meaning, directing purpose, and intrinsic destiny of our unique, individual existence. This path is demanding however; it requires our complete inward surrender.

     That's one half of the challenge. The other: to weave this personal meta-story, along with the just-realized vocation which accompanies it, into the ever-expanding fabric of a new spiritual community, one composed of other intrepid explorers who are doing exactly the same thing.

     This new spiritual community now emerging--in actual fact, a new paradigm--is intuitive, unconventional, flowing, creative, multi-valanced, and largely invisible. We won't be officially joining up, following the rules and procedures, nor attending regular meetings or services. There'll be no Ten Commandments engraved on stone tablets; not even helpful answers printed in the back of any book.

     The only sure guide will be that Still Small Voice whispering from our innermost souls, inspiring us to focus all our private destinies into a renewed public vision of spiritual community--and then, once more, as we've always done, to poise this beacon bravely against the towering scale of the stars...


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