We are each a little speck of animated universe: chemistry and physics, matter and energy, set in motion across time. We’re dimly self-aware for brief moments from time to time. Usually we’re busy reveling in our animal madness. We (the angels in the hearts of men, so to speak) can see a better way to be, but are continually led astray by our fallible animal nature. As an aside, if five billion people take baby steps towards being better people…catch my drift? …back to the point at hand:
The notion of humans “having souls” is cute. Yes, let us imagine ourselves lifting away from our base animal nature: that is absolutely a noble goal for us to fix in our imaginations. “To be a human” means something new, certainly not an animal, how horrifying and improper. At least, perhaps our undoing.
We are a thin green scum living in a warm and shallow pool on some random planet in a fairly young universe. Yes, being dimly self-aware does occasionally mean we catch a glimpse that we are fundamentally interconnected with the rest of the universe (consisting seemingly entirely of time, space, matter, and energy) in a way that we recognize as true, but can only crudely recreate to approximate reality for others to share as information: not yet having the correct terminology nor much knowledge means we cannot form proper opinions to entirely share of our collective situation. Give us five hundred years…if we manage to avoid devolving into mindless viruses, consuming and brutalizing everything we can crudely grasp onto.
We’re animals. We’re terribly smart for animals, very clever. We have a reasonable (but not exceptional) memory. Memory has been established. We’ve evolved an innate ability to use “language”: a very unique tool considering how flexible and adaptable our bodies and minds are. We have started forming permanent memories and have founded civilizations (as far as it is currently known, this seems to have started in the fertile crescent): we started history, the reliable passing on of knowledge in a very fixed and intentional fashion. Those are physical things we’ve done as animals.
Now, we also have a desire to understand the world (and by extension, the known universe (matter and energy interacting via the rules of physics and chemistry through time)) around us. We have quite the vivid imagination. Clever little things. We are constantly trying to make sense of things way beyond our existing knowledge, outside our ken, beyond our ability to quantify and place into easily recongizable labled boxes. We create stories to make sense of the complex and imbue these stories with belief: I believe this to be true (in reality, what we believe to be true is nearly universally a mental shortcut, a tidly labeled box: an approximation, regardless of our belief, based upon our incomplete information). Our desire to understand has historically led to religion. Lately it has been expressed via the scientific method.
At various points in history, our imagination/belief and the desire to understand reality intersects in a uniquely (for us human beings) self-aware fashion. People feel a desire to improve our shared human condition. Let us build a roof over the area where we sleep. Let us build a shed to store extra grain so that we may have bread through the winter. Let us codify laws that allow complex society to interact smoothly. Let us consider ourselves and be self-aware: the historical buddha immediately springs to my mind. I suppose for people who feel interconnected with the story of Jesus, his teachings would a familiar intersection. To continue that “higher nature” to it’s natural conclusion, I would posit that humanity can imagine their own future into being. Yes, that’s a powerful responsibilty. Sometimes they do this intentionally. Sometimes a group of individuals work together to push through their own vision. Sometimes unstable situations collapse into chaos when pushed wildly in many directions. Sometimes, we listen quitely to ourselves and find the thread. The moment. Truth. An approximation, as we’re woefully incomplete at this early date…
Only partially related, and to repeat myself: In my mind, it seems the human desire to have a soul is a crude approximation of a desire to be a permanent component in the universe (which of course we are barely prepared for). We’re afraid of dying, afraid of being the temporary little things that we are. Buddha said all things change, and letting go of our grasping allows us to experience reality without profound suffering. Jesus said that we should be better people and foster a noble vision of love into our hearts in a deeply profound way (and we’d be rewarded with eternal life in heaven (at least, that was what was passed on, who knows what he actually believed)). I suppose there have been others in the meantime who said we should be better people in various fashions and to various degrees…what does it mean to listen?
Therefore my lesson is to listen. Clarity, kindness, confidence. Each day, more aware and slightly better than the past. What a terrible responsibly. What a heavy burden to bear. I want to say this is sarcasm, and yet I cannot pull it off myself. Yet, eh?
To quote poorly: “Never forget: just believe in yourself. Not in the you that I believe in, not in the me that you believe in, have faith in the you…that believes in you!” …a crude approximation.
Memory has been established. A new way of being. Incomplete, but recognized. Baby steps, children.