"...But who are you?" updated 5/31/2011
Here's my third revision of my Philisophical Essay. Many of you had some input. Yes even those I dissagree with!
Religion Vs Belief:
Religion and belief are often confused for each other. Just to clarify; “Religion” is a group activity based on a common belief held by members of that group. “Belief” is an individual activity based within one’s own thoughts. On the other hand, “Faith” is a profound confidence in a given belief regardless of any form of proof.
When I was a child I learned about of the atrocities of WWII and saw the Viet Nam war on TV. I took on the belief that God is indifferent towards us. My parents still believed he loves us. Even though we had been raised in the same religion we had a different point of view. To my amazement the Catholic world did not come crashing down. It is possible for individual beliefs to vary within a group, provided they are reasonably similar. Should those beliefs become antithetical, a rift will develop. Depending on the religious group the response could be education, labeling it as a sin, or even treating the individual as an outcast. In Islam you might still be accused of heresy. In 1648 you might be tried as a witch. Even people who share the same religion can hold a different belief on some subject. If not, we would be automatons.
In 1971 I was only twelve and lacked the maturity to understand that conditions of life we see as horrible may be seen by God as a necessary part of our development. So in a way more complicated than my first impression, God does love us. It is a love of providing; not necessarily what we want, but providing all that must be. Such a love is on a higher level than we are typically prepared to cope with. Having the benefit of experience with kids, my parents already knew this. Most parents do. They provide, but not everything a child desires. They know your long term well being must be kept in mind. God has the long term well being of the whole Universe to keep in mind. So, we don’t get everything we want. The philosopher Spinoza interpreted this as God being indifferent to each of us.
The example I mentioned also shows maturity is a factor in belief. If God’s plan for us is difficult to understand, it’s because of many intervening ideas and concerns. We see that within a religion an individual belief can be in flux, and is not an absolute standard.
To say a twelve year old is impressionable is an understatement. Please don’t confuse an immature thought process with a lack of thought. Children use their minds to reason things out and seek answers to hundreds of questions. To give them answers as facts to be engrained by rote memory is far less convincing than showing them how to find their own path. This is one of the most difficult tasks we face no matter what religion we practice. Doing so will help young people cope with life’s problems when we’re not around, or when the answers are not easy or obvious.
Even our perception of right and wrong are not objective. They are subjective, based on the situation. For example it’s wrong to kill, but our society regards self defense as acceptable. We often find the choices available to be between two wrong things, so we must choose; preferably the lesser of the two evils.
In presenting one’s beliefs to another, people sometimes forget the golden rule and stomp all over the other person’s beliefs or perhaps their serenity in not believing. That brings to mind the many points of view we all hold. What we see, read or hear is processed by the brain. A brain which may have many preconceived notions on what is or what must be. That’s perception; the processing and understanding of all incoming information.
God’s perception may be quite different from ours. I would contend that it is very different, as war, natural disasters and things we commonly regard as “bad” occur so often and are a result of both natural and man-made phenomena. So our definition of “Love” being fuzzy, warm and cuddly might not be God’s definition.
My own upbringing:
I was born and raised Roman Catholic, but as an adult I have made no claims to being Catholic beyond an answer to clerical inquiries. I do occasionally participate in honor of my parents, yet the services seem hollow now. At about seventeen it occurred to me that most people boldly claiming to be Catholic or Christian (of any denomination) are far more interested in the structure of the church, the “in crowd” of their religion or worse; the exclusion of those not of their faith. It seemed living according to the teachings of Jesus had somehow become secondary. At that point I began to question not only Catholicism, but organized religion as a concept.
Some “Christians” claim to follow the Bible as if it were the infallible word of God, while at the same time they tend to denounce everything the original Church of Rome (Roman Catholic) established or accomplished. One of the very first major works of the Roman Catholic Church was in fact the Bible. They say it needs no interpretation, but selecting stories specific to the topic at hand or claiming you need faith to understand it, are in fact functions of interpretation. Yet it remains a great tool for learning.
As a child it was rare to find anyone who overwhelmed a conversation with religion. However it was easy to find an adult saying “Here is what you believe.” There was an unspoken understanding that uniformity of personal belief was automatic in the Catholic faith. I’m sure the same can be said for the other major religions.
I happen to know lots of people including a close friend who’s a Presbyterian Minister, many Lutherans, Protestants, Anglicans and just about any religion you’ve ever heard of including atheists and agnostics. Very few of the people I’ve met take issue with those of another faith. The big issues always seem to stem from evolution, science, prayer or the infallibility of the Bible.
While I admire the enthusiasm of the young Mormons I think they overdo it. Of the Jewish people I have known some make a point that they are Jewish, but none that I have ever found excluded anyone from their lives. I have met a variety of Muslims. For the most part they are just like the rest of us. A few seemed a bit more arrogant, and would not admit all people are the same. I have met lots of similarly arrogant Christians. Unrelated to religion that trait bugs me. I have very little information on Buddhists because those I have met and worked with are mostly from mainland China. That carries its own twist. They seem very nice but pounce on anyone not conforming to the group. From what I understand most other Buddhists are very laid back. The Hindus I have worked with are quite nice and only pounce on themselves. Well, self conquest is the path to inner peace.
After traveling all over the world, I am convinced the people who populate this planet are generally good, and simply want to have a chance to enjoy and improve their lives. Those who make bold claims seem to draw attention only to them selves. Also unrelated to any point of faith, I think most people find this annoying too. Now, here I am doing something similar.
Those who take their beliefs to an extreme, and foster that extreme attitude in others seem to be the troublemakers of the world. It might be an Islamic Terrorist, a self righteous Christian, a Neo-Nazi or a Communist zealot. What seems obvious to the rest of us is their thirst for control of others, and it always seems to start with intolerance. They seem to brush off the idea that billions of other people have to live here, and supplant those billions of goals and aspirations with their own.
It is perhaps the epitome of conceit to think one’s own beliefs are not only more important than others, but by such a wide margin that killing the other person to quash their beliefs seems justified. Violence in the world and in popular media has an ever increasing way of desensitizing us to such things. Calling an idea “dangerous” is a mild example. It grows from there.
I would think inclusion rather than exclusion, with respect for differing beliefs, would offer us the best chance for peace and cooperation.
Points of opposition:
I pray all the time, but not on my knees with my hands clasped. In most respects the way I live and enjoy life is a prayer. It is a means of communicating with God. Most of us do that all day long almost without knowing it. You see, to me, God is not silent. Every event in life is his communication to us, we respond by how we handle those challenges. It need not be a ritualized verbal repetition, just an acknowledgement of what’s expected and devoted effort to follow through in answer.
The most commonly held concept of prayer is that it’s something extra you do before meals or at bedtime. I would contend that living life, as if in its entirety it were a prayer, should be our means of pleasing God. It’s a lofty goal and very difficult. I don’t pretend to have achieved this, but I persist.
Another concept of prayer is if you really believe and ask very nicely, your prayer will be answered, like a dream come true. Strange; that would mean if I pray really hard for a Baby Ruth bar, I’ll get it. Wait a minute. God, in his infinite wisdom, provided me with a pocket full of loose change!
Some might say that has nothing to do with God or prayer. Nonsense; it has everything to do with both. How little do we think of the infinite? Providing for our needs and desires was set up in the divine order of the universe long before we even knew what a chocolate bar was. Most of what we experience in life is within our control, but that control is in proportion to our own efforts. We were meant to work for that Baby Ruth bar, and that’s why it costs $1.29! God answered;”Yes, you may have a Baby Ruth bar, just pay the kid at the counter.” No, it doesn’t come on a silver platter.
What should we pray for? If I pray for an illness to pass or a parent to live longer, are my desires a sign of greed even if charitable on the surface? I’m asking for something I want.
We can get through an illness with the immune system God gave us and when that’s not enough we must use our brain to seek out those who study such things…a Doctor. Again our own effort might make the difference. Our effort tells God we trust the institutions he has allowed us to establish, or that we’ll work hard for what we want.
I can recommend prayer for those things beyond our ability. Is it useless to pray for a longer life? Not useless, but if you’re going to ask for something you can’t earn or find on your own, the request should be free of pride or greed. I think it would be reasonable to ask for steadfast will power, or for some help in the way we behave towards others. When you pray, do you really want to waste God’s time for a candy bar?
It’s so strange to me when I hear someone say; “I give up, it’s in God’s hands now.” No, it’s in your hands. God gave you a brain and hands to work with. That’s the answer for most of our prayers right there. You have to put forth the effort necessary to make a change. You won’t find me praying to win the lottery, defeat my enemy or to live longer. I often pray that someone in pain has a good day for a change. Wait a minute. Maybe I have the ability to help…. just food for thought.
What if someone lacks mental prowess or the ability to accomplish work? If you recognize that as a challenge and wish to live a life of prayer, what action would you take? Are your abilities applicable to the situation of that less fortunate person? The question might be: “How best can I use my abilities to help?” Also please remember; they may only be less fortunate in our humble opinion.
Seriously, people pray for the silliest reasons; especially obtaining "things".
Here are my guidelines:
If you pray for something you can work hard for and get, don't waste God's time, get back to work. The answer to your prayer came before you even asked; it’s your own abilities.
If you pray to solve a difficult problem, OK, fine, but also get to work. Use your resources, call your friends, get out the encyclopedia, “Google it”, check Wikapedia or ask an expert. All were put here for a purpose, make good use of them. Let them exercise their talent. They'll feel all warm & fuzzy for being of help and you're likely to get your answer.
If you pray to get "more" of anything, live longer, win the lottery, win a game, beat an enemy and so on, it smacks of greed, and it's no wonder the answer is no.
If your prayer is free of greed or pride, if it lacks any personal gain, if it's intended for the benefit of someone else, now you're getting warm. OK, take a little time to look into your own resources, talents and know-how. What strings can you pull, or influence you have to help another person have a better day?
Everything in life has some purpose, find it and make good use of it.
Would it really matter if you were an ex-patriot Catholic, a Christian Fundamentalist, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Agnostic or Atheist? Nah, it's just a matter of digging in.
Putting it back into a religious context; don't leave a task in God's hands that he assigned to you. If you have a problem, a fear, a desire or a thing going on...you own it.
I fail to understand how people claiming to be so in awe of God would think so little of him; that he could not have created everything by means of a complicated process of change. It’s also obvious the Universe around us is still being created. That is basic evolution. We may not understand all the details, but it is evident that all parts of life are in a constant state of change. The theory of evolution like all scientific theories is based upon careful observation and corroborating tests or experiments, and is always open to scrutiny and questions. To replace science with ideology is not providing a good education to our youth. If the course is Science, teach Science. If the course is Theology, teach Theology. I grew up with both and I’m not a helpless wreck.
Proponents of Intelligent Design seem hell bent on discrediting the Darwinian theory of Evolution. From what I’ve read about Charles Darwin, he was quite devout. I have no problem with the idea that God created evolution. There is nothing in the “Origin of the Species” that says he didn’t. Even the total sum of mankind’s knowledge continues to evolve. The Bible was compiled prior to that method of thinking, and so has some limits.
In science, engineering or inventing, people often confuse creating something with originality. While St. Martin was close; “Everything always existed.” It wasn’t hiding in a mountain, but the means and methods were always there. Everything in the Universe works according to a method; be it the laws of physics or the properties of metals. We did not invent gasoline. We simply discovered how it could be extracted from oil, and that its properties were useful in combustion. So any creation of mankind is really a refinement or development based on physical properties, means and methods already established.
Any experiment is simply an observation of what occurs under a given set of circumstances. I can use observations of the world around me to theorize the weather will be warm tomorrow. We don’t know what it will be, but by observation and logical extrapolation, we can be pretty sure.
The belief that things do not change is pretty much based on a very few lines from the earliest stories in the Bible. By using our collective brains, mankind is gradually learning more about how things work in the natural world. To me science is the study of God’s methodology.
On the infallibility of the Bible:
In 325AD the First Council of Nicaea gathered and voted to determine church doctrine. This was done by command of Emperor Constantine. Following that commission he ordered fifty Bibles be assembled for distribution to various churches. This completed work which began around the year 200 AD. These were our “proof copy” from which all further Bibles were copied. It struck me that there are many contradictions in it. Even the Vatican is reluctant to call it infallible. It has always been presented to us with the Old Testament as a guide and the New Testament as a history and example of the life of Christ. I could live with that, but even so much of it sounded very demeaning toward God; assigning many human weaknesses like anger, or despair to an infinite being.
It should be noted that letters and epistles from Thomas & Phillip, letters credited to James, ( brother of Jesus and leader of the Church in Jerusalem) and several letters credited to Mary Magdalene were found in the Egyptian and Dead Sea Scrolls in the last two centuries, and are not yet considered for inclusion. Because of the heavy Roman influence, many people think the doctrine is not Christianity, but the Bible is. Strange contradiction, however all further Christianity grew from this.
Some claim their religion predates the Bible, but still view Jesus as a deity. Prior to that first council, he was not generally considered divine. The stories we know of as the Bible were compiled for the protection of the empire more than for the exact meaning of each phrase. Why then, do those who claim Roman Catholicism is false, cling so blindly to the bible it compiled? Perhaps the answer lies in abuses of church power by the clergy in the centuries past. On the other hand, why would Catholics feel so bound to a product of a committee? Infallible or not, it was an inspired work that continues to inspire.
Other versions of the bible have been edited and “re-translated” over the years to put a spin on it more in line with the dogma of the religious group is making the revision or the age group of the intended reader. This is an act of religion more than an act of faith; much less the word of God. The Bible, the Torah, the Qur’an and the Bhagavad Gita are all important works. I would certainly say inspired, but still a collective work of mankind.
It’s interesting that even as a creation of man; that in no way detracts from their importance, the stories, or the purpose for which they were intended.
On my search:
Back in 1977 I was leaning heavily on Jesus’ own words “If you do not believe in me, then believe in my work.” Some people think that means his miracles, others think it means his ministry. I think it means his message. So, leaving all rituals, government and dogma of the Church behind, I focused on the behavior those “accessories” are meant to promote; simply treating people as nearly as I can to how I hoped they would treat me. The sacraments are nice, but if you treat other people badly, it was you… not the devil. Take some responsibility for your failures.
In keeping with what I learned from the Church, I sought my own path to salvation at the age of seventeen. It took me far from the Catholic Church and far from what most people think of as right and wrong being black and white. It also took me away from thinking anyone needs to be “Saved”. Even Christ’s sacrifice was reduced to the level of most other church dogma.
Most Christian religions teach volumes about Jesus, and almost nothing about God the Father. That’s what I was after. To me, at that time, the Catholic Church seemed to be a house of stone built on a muddy foundation. Certainly an infinite being who desired our company would not remain so mysterious.
What did I learn after thirty years of searching? In short, I came to the realization that I am a very small part of God; and that God is all outside my self. I also believe God is singular, with no Satan or need for an official “opposite”. What use is renouncing the ways of Satan when he doesn’t exist? Darkness is not a source of anything, simply an absence of light.
The concept of “God”, as depicted by most religions, is filled with contradictions. For example, anger is considered to be one of the baser human weaknesses, yet God is said to be angered on several occasions. How could a being, with infinite understanding, and a complete knowledge of what will be, be taken by surprise and made to feel anger by an inferior being like me?
Your neighbor’s dog can only make you angry if you let it upset you. Let’s say you created that dog, taught it how to bark and placed it in the yard next to you. How silly would getting upset be now? Add to that; infinite compassion and understanding the likes of which we can’t hope to fully understand. Now how silly is the idea of the dog even being a bother? No, God has no use for our emotion of anger. I think he’s got just a little more maturity than to get bent out of shape over the stupid things we people do.
I have an even bigger problem with being “Saved”. I’m not drowning. As a matter of fact I’m quite comfortable with my simple beliefs. I am reluctant to call it religion or faith. Those words are easily confused with other meanings commonly assigned to them.
Why sacrifice? Why confess to another person? There are about as many questions as there are stories in the Bible to answer them. So to me, the “Good Book” though useful as a guide to behavior, was useless as a guide to God. What I needed was a more accurate understanding of God at the foundation of faith.
Most people speak as if God were a person, yet if our theory is correct; God is far beyond what we are. So far beyond, that human intellect and emotion are not capable of understanding it all. Still we seek something beyond ourselves. We started with the idea of God and over the course of history we’ve invented component parts of what “he” is. Years ago, I began to look at the component parts found in everyday life and concluded with the idea of God. It sounds backwards, but it did help me reach my conclusion that God not only exists, but is actually the only thing that does exist.
Most of religion is based upon ideas drawn up by people who have not thought it out very well. The people who gave us the Judeo/Christian/Islamic concept of God lived about six thousand years ago, and clung to beliefs that were already thousands of years old. They insisted there was a firmament between God and man; in other words, a division.
They also believed a person merely unconscious was dead. They believed in evil spirits, witches, the sun rotating around the Earth, an edge of the world and lots of things we politely consider “uneducated” by today’s standards. So, I began thinking about it. Over the course of many years a solution began to materialize.
OK then, what about God?
Suspecting God was real and hidden in plain sight, I sought God without using a leap of faith. There are two paths I’ve found using a logical progression.
The first is simple and seemingly impersonal. That is an understanding of the terms Infinite (or Universal). Outside of common mathematical usage, the two are nearly interchangeable. For a thing or being to be Infinite it would have to include all things, tangible and intangible, known and unknown. If anything were left out it would not be infinite. Infinite exists because all things we are aware of exist, yet it includes all that we are unaware of. So in mathematical terms it is the set that includes all other sets without limiting factors.
If we substitute the word Universal the same definition can be used. It would include all without exception or it would be less than Universal. If other “universes are found as bubbles existing outside our “bubble” then we would have to refine our definition of Universal to include those places.
The next step in this path would be the singularity of Universal or Infinite. If there were more than one, the other could not include it and would therefore not be infinite. So the set containing all other sets cannot be plural or it would not be infinite. This is not too terribly complicated. It’s all based on definitions of the Universe we live in. Even the most ardent atheist would agree the universe, and all within it, comprise some incalculable sum of all the parts.
Spinoza thought of God this way, as a simple mathematical construct. It would take a leap of faith to call “the Infinite” God at this point. More would be required. Yet knowing there can be only one infinite and knowing it would include all without exception, are important functions of my second path, which starts with the individual.
If a person had no faith at all and only used logic and observations of life beginning with their self, the story would go as follows:
Myself and what’s outside:
“I think therefore I am,”(Descartes) but what about you? You seem to be very much like me. You seem to exist. Could all of life be a complicated dream or illusion? Well Yes, it could be. However, even if life is a grand illusion, it is structured in a way that seems real and demands our participation. So let’s go even further back, and define “Life”.
Life; is our experience of everything going on outside ourselves.
That experience includes dreams and imaginative thoughts. Even so, it would not matter if all the things going on outside ourselves were real or imagined. Either way, we experience them. Either way, those things demand our response. For all intents and purposes, they are real enough. Please don’t get run over by a bus just because it “might” be an illusion.
This life, even if it were an illusion, is just as real as the ground you stand on and just as impossible to ignore. It makes demands on you that do not go away no matter how hard you wish. Life is as real as it needs to be, and it happens to you no matter what.
The things we can see, touch, smell and experience through our senses are said to be “Tangible”. The things we think, feel and remember are said to be “Intangible”. The tangible world outside us seems far more limited than the intangible world in our thoughts. We have the power to change those thoughts with ease, but it takes effort to change the tangible parts of our lives. Still, they can be changed.
We can move a desk with a bit of effort, or a house with a huge effort. Moving a small spaceship to the moon took the maximum effort of the wealthiest nation on earth. The changes we make to the tangible world happen in proportion to our effort. They also respond to other influences while we’re hard at work. That’s why things can go wrong.
However, we can change a small part of the universe, and therefore affect a small change on the whole universe. Remember, all in proportion to our effort.
What we accomplish within our thoughts is well within our power and seemingly infinite. We need our tangible body to translate those ideas into physical action. Things don’t go wrong until we apply it to the tangible world where lots of things are happening all at once. It can get complicated. Tangibly we are very limited. Intangibly, we’re amazing!
The tangible world outside us is nearly without limits. It is physically very large. No, very large cannot accurately describe it. It is mind blowing; tens of billions of light years across, and we still haven’t found an edge, and might not. To give you an idea of one light year, it will take our fastest space vehicle “Voyager I” about 6,350 years to go one light year. Egypt was in its infancy 6,000 years ago. It would take about 24,000 years to get to the nearest star “Proxima Centari” which might not have any place to land. It would take over 75,000 years to get to the next nearest star. 75,000 years ago we were hairy little guys trying figure out what a stick could be used for. We didn’t even have speech as far as anyone can tell.
It is a universe of nearly infinite numbers, the Earth is one of a probable 10 billion similar planets in this galaxy, and there are trillions of galaxies.
The universe is also very small in detail. Sub atomic particles are so small trillions would fit into one atom. Trillions of atoms can fit into one cell, and trillions of cells make up the human body.
Each of those trillions of cells in the body is a living being in its own right. Our brain is capable of combinations of thoughts ranging in about one trillion to the trillionth power.
Each sub atomic particle is composed of some form of energy. The only way to distinguish those forms is by their actions and reactions. In effect all things are made up of energy. Simplicity over complication seems to rule in nature.
As of this writing I’m not aware of any studies of intangible concepts or thoughts being composed of energy, yet they exist. They seem to be the only supernatural thing obvious to us. By supernatural, I’m not talking about ghosts, I mean subjectively judged to exist where no form of measurement is possible. You might say it’s an electro chemical reaction in the brain, but what is the concept beyond the mechanics of the brain’s function? The idea of the Universe or of anything exists independent of individual thought. When Einstein died, Relativity didn’t.
Interacting with the Universe:
If you pull the covers up over your head and say; “I’m not going to experience life today.” things will get difficult as your own body reminds you about the bathroom down the hall. Ah, betrayed by our own biological processes. So my body is part of the outside world, but linked to me through my mind. I am a part of what’s going on in the world. The tangible and intangible both exist and interact.
The definition of life being our experience of the world around us begged the question; “What is the meaning of life?” There’s no need to climb a remote mountain in Tibet. If you ask wanting to know why you are here or what you must do here, I have an answer which is does not sound very profound.
The Meaning of Life: We are meant to participate.
If you refuse to participate, even on the most basic level, that universe outside will come to you in some small way and ask you to come out and play.
Only in a case of mental illness would someone cut themselves off so completely as to try not to participate in life. Even so they might be tormented by dreams or have a thought process of some kind. So they have a reduced level of participation or experience, but they are not entirely dormant. Even farm animals have some level of experience of their own lives. However, active participation takes more than mental ability; it takes effort.
Let’s jump ahead to the end, or is it? A person’s active participation may end in death, but not the effects of their involvement. Tangibly, their atoms are not annihilated. Intangibly, their families do not forget them. Their work, their words and ideas live on, even if in small ways. This occurs right here. I’m not even talking about Heaven yet.
For example, my Dad passed away two years ago. Memories of his beliefs, how he worked, how he smiled, and what he thought was important for a child to know still affect me to this day. For me those memories help define him. He may not be here, but his interactions with me and our family live on. His influence on me became a part of me. It’s funny how each of us can still be influenced by those long gone. It all happened in the past, but is part of our method of thinking today and every day.
As we participate in life we influence others, and they have an effect on us. In this way we grow and those little traits help form who we are. There’s a little bit of Dad in all of us. There is also a little bit of our friends, our teachers and even our adversaries. It’s the part of their selves they pass on, just in the way they participated in life. Even unrelated events can remind us of them. The same is true of conversations, what’s on TV and the things we learn and read. All these inputs form how we think, what we value and what we desire.
Other people might be part of a grand illusion, but we have an effect on them and they have an effect on us. So, the illusion is equal across the board. We are compelled to treat other people as if they are real. If that’s the case and the world around us is real, then the other people interacting with us will just have to treat us as if we are real.
If we expect to be well treated, why not treat others as best we can? That is the “Golden Rule” as observed by Jesus. Or if you like, the theory of fair reciprocity as described by Kahane.
After all, we are intelligent enough to recognize that’s the challenge being presented. Meeting that challenge could be as easy as smiling and saying “good morning.”
I think therefore I am (DesCartes), and everything going on around me including people helps define me and I can have that same effect on them. I experience the world and it experiences me. The world around me continually makes minor changes in “who” I am. It would not matter if everything were a grand illusion. It demands the same response as if it were real. Sorry all you existentialists; you’re as real as can be!
Contained within the physical universe is everything and every process in nearly infinite detail needed to bring about my existence and provide for me. All that has been in the past was within the universe. All that exists now, all that we are aware of and all we are ignorant of is within this universe. The possibility of all that will exist in the future is too. This universe does all this through a myriad of physical or “tangible” processes. Those follow a myriad of “intangible” methods. At the same time the Universe provokes me into interaction with it. It also provides the means for me to learn and expand who I am. It challenges me in such a personal way that my recognition of that challenge defines what’s expected.
This Universe that blows whole galaxies apart, billions of light years away can show me how wonderful a warm wind feels all these eons later. Same universe - different event.
The Universe outside me acts as if it were alive, and in ways that are not subtle. When you wake up it’s still there grinning at you. Not just other people, but the whole of creation, tangible and intangible. Every event causes some change whether enormous or minute. If the Universe were static and unchanging or un-alive, how then could these changes we see be explained? If nothing changed, hearts would not beat, light would not travel and time would not pass.
The alternate might be the regeneration of a whole new universe having the new structure we see. Yet so many changes occur in such infinite variety, that the whole Universe would have to be recreated over and over again a nearly infinite number of times from nanosecond to nanosecond.
Even so it responds and acts upon us in exactly the same way as a living being. It does so, on a scale beyond our comprehension, yet quite personally. This concept is not a far out theory, it is demonstrated in everyday life all day and all night. It is easy to observe by keeping your point of view in mind. When we wake up changes start happening. Very minor changes, the clock ticks, you feel hungry and so on. You act and other things or people react. You push down the handle and the toaster starts working. Other people start talking to you and you start responding. By mid-day you’ve interacted with the Universe in thousands of tiny ways, and it has interacted with you. Remember, the small stuff counts.
A question of intellect:
When you observe a person solving a problem, or planning some activity, you judge them. Yes you do; in small ways. You consider their method of thought to be logical or nonsense. If I had a flat tire, and planned to fix it with a loaf of bread you’d say my thought process got it wrong somewhere. That intelligent or at least logical process is what we judge to find or define intellect.
So essentially the whole Universe meets most of the criteria we set out for a living being. It does things that make sense, or that we don’t understand yet, but can eventually (with effort). The Universe is more than physical space and occasional expanding gasses. It has methodology in its everyday processes, and an endless supply of possibilities. For all intents and purposes, it is infinite, everlasting, all inclusive, all providing, personal, interactive, mysterious, understandable, rewarding and challenging. These are all criteria most religious faiths set out to describe God. Yet all this surrounds us and is obvious and easy to see and believe.
Intangibly the method or thought process can also be seen, because the Universe progresses according to a set pattern and in ways that make sense to us. A meteor impact results from a rock falling at high speed into the atmosphere and hitting the ground. If that rock were a loaf of bread you’d know something was wrong in that process. If the Universe were random, people or whole planets could spontaneously appear and vanish. Could the Universe be all knowing? That part is intangible yet hard to measure because we are so limited.
As you see, I can call the Universe “God” without such a blind leap of faith. My Intangible side is far more powerful than my tangible side, but powerless to make tangible changes without the use of my body in expending some effort.
With nearly limitless energy at its disposal the Tangible body of the Universe regularly creates stars and the odd supernova. These events do not take place in isolation from the Universe but within it, and in accordance with a set methodology that we are learning to comprehend.
It is our own methodology that defines the existence of our intangible side. Our process is regularly observed and judged by others to find out if we are functioning on the inside, or “Intangibly”. The whole Universe follows an intangible set of methods in everything that occurs. In effect very little is random. Everything is involved in “cause and affect”.
How much more powerful would an Intangible side of the Universe be? All knowing? Without a unit of measurement we can only estimate this based on how much more imaginative we are than our physical bodies. It seems to exist. The mental process behind the way it operates is readily apparent, even though we haven’t learned a fraction of it. If that intangible side does exist and is as far beyond the physical side as our own intangible side, the creation of the whole of existence would easily be within its grasp.
With science we can see an amazingly complicated methodology mixed with the most elegant simplicity. In effect we do not create with science we merely discover. Fractal Geometry, Physics, Chemistry and even behavioral studies are all dependent on what works in the natural world. Even man-made lab conditions only show us what works under a given set of circumstances. We can’t make something work, we only find the way it does work; the method or means.
The physical Universe is a stage set for all of us on a scale we can scarcely imagine. Yet, remember, this creator of whole galaxies, hurricanes and cellular mitosis comes to us in ways we can understand. It challenges us based on our own experience of what’s around us. Those challenges can be very personal. At times they seem terribly unfair. It even provides us with infinite paths we can follow. It reminds us that effort is needed to accomplish what we desire. Everyone around you, every dog, cat, corn stalk, mountain, planet, star, galaxy or subatomic particle…is a small part of the living Universe.
Some may say; “No Steve, God made us in his own image, so we must look like him.” That’s a rather long stretch. A cell in my body bears no particular resemblance to my face, but is still a part of me, and created by a physical process dictated by functions within the body. In effect it is me, but just a small part. Its DNA is mine, its function is mine, and my image could be the summation of all my cells. If God’s image is the summation of all his parts, he could look very different from us; perhaps a starry night with infinite points of light across a vast expanse.
Others have said this takes the awe, splendor and mystery out of faith. I don’t think so. They have only to relax and observe the glory of this fragment of creation we have been blessed with. Knowing the distances between stars or the boiling point of liquid hydrogen are just fragments of the awesome and ongoing process of creation. Birds flying, fish swimming in perfect synchronicity, the birth of a child, the loss of a space shuttle, solving a difficult problem or feeling a warm breeze on a winter day; are all included. Even tornadoes, war and crime are a part of the Universe around us.
The wonderful and the terrible are all a part of the majestic experience we have at our doorstep. All these things are but a fragment of the whole of creation. All creation, ever changing and complex, and as awesome and frightening as it may seem to us, is as easy to God as a masterfully played note in the song of eternity.
We are a fragment of all that is, and all that is, …is living, interactive, challenging and without limit. In short, God is all, and we are directly encouraged to interact with the infinite. I think therefore I am…and you are too…a fragment of the divine.
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