A Response to Devon Price on Existentialism

(In view of the Colorado FlatIrons)

He writes of 19th and 20th century existentialists
as proponents of
“life is material
humans are not special
consciousness just happened
reality means nothing
there is no God
there are no souls
the world does not make sense
we create God(s) and morals
and standards and other false selves
as a judgemental hell of other people.

I am only authentic
when alone and private
to be the true slob I really am,
a liberation that eventually
feels like being dead.

Purposes are meaningless,
higher values can’t be embodied,
we can’t escape death so
we live in low key dread
devoted to immortality projects
like babies, tombs, marathons,
afterlife, trophies, sick tricks,
checking off lists, all
a burning need to keep going.
Order results in absurdity.
Artful absurdity can provide comfort
when life is a lot like death,

so it is just another immortality project.
We keep thinking we’ve got shit
figured out,
filled with power and usefulness
and most vibrantly alive
as we slip into the flow.
I am the universe’s chump
chipping away
at the big decaying nothing.
It is absurd.
It will never bring me peace.
I am alive for now, and
I do something with the time
I have left.”

Apart from the dishonesty of believing
one can truly judge life as material
or immaterial, or determine man
created God, or I can know who
I truly am without butting up against
a whole universe, or that
19th and 20th century society is the
proxy of human life over
the past 200,000 years
and the next 200,00 years,
and not just a few hundred poxy
years of transition from the
agricultural age to another age,
or that dead is a dread
because it occurs like a moment
of all our sufferings compressed into one
severely painful destructive event
rather than the blissful relief of complete
rest.

Apart from that, the existentialists
have turned to show the other side
of the coin to the side that shows
the bust of Moses, Krishna, Zarathustra,
Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, and
Baha’u’llah whose simple mantras
“You are living life as if what you see
is real, and you see so little of it.
To see the rest learn to be love,
to find a contribution to each other,
to make everyone’s life better,
and that’s your business
so go mind it.”

Not so that you will see the rest
of it, but that you will see,
like the existentialists, the bullshit
of your immortality projects just as at
the same time, they are access to your
highest values, and, as they comfort you,
they might show you that the edges
of the mortal room are simply heavy brocades
taunting your curiosity, just as the art
on those same brocades testify that a
grammatical mind is unable to penetrate
the gloom and a whole new consciousness,
something prayerful, sincere, loving,
and absurd is required

Indelible Memories – When I was 9….

I am trudging down the dry water run-off table drain in front of the family farm in tropical far north eastern Australia.
I am thinking about some games I was playing that week, with my friend, Eric.
It occurs to me that Eric had quite a different approach to game and how he talked when we were playing.
It occurs to me as strange that there was this boy called Eric whom “I” did not inhabit at all, yet somehow “I” inhabited and WAS, this boy called Owen.
I wonder why this should be so. Why shouldn’t “I” see through the eyes of Eric, of Eric’s world?” What was it that had me in this place and he in his. What stopped us from just moving from place to place.

Owen at 13 years with siblings and cousins around a mini minor car at the farm
Me at 13 years sitting on the car bonnet with siblings and cousins

World Religion Day 2020

Today is World religion day 2020. I’m the MC for the devotional event in my small rural community in far north Australia. While it is a small community – the local government are has about 18,000 people – there are around 40 ethnic groups representing all the larger religions of the world. Here is my welcoming address.

Eckhart Tolle, in telling the story of his coming to meditation, said, “ There’s great freedom … in not compulsively interpreting other people, situations, and so on, not imposing thinking continuously on the world, which is so alive and so fresh and new at every moment… What we are talking about here is a state of alert attention to what is … where you rise above thinking to a large extent in your life, still being able to use it, but not being used by it.” Interview with Krista Tipppet On Being

Eckhart Tolle is famous for his books and courses on meditation. Meditation and mindfulness have been made popular and perhaps the single most common modern person’s access to the spiritual life. For many people, meditation is access to happiness. And, as we will hear in today’s readings, across the various religious traditions, meditation has a vital role not always connected to our personal happiness, but always connected to a view of the human being as a relationship to God and ourselves as more powerful than we ordinarily consider.

Berlin_RoomofSilenceThe image you are seeing on the screen is a composite of the Brandeberg Gate in Berlin – a hub a tourist activity from all around the world. Off to one side, hosted by a committee of all the religious organisations in Berlin, a number a little bigger than those of our religions, here – is a Room of Silence. Anyone can enter and stay as long as they want, in meditation, reflection or silent prayer. The past 200 years of Berlin since Napolean has been fraught with tyranny and wars. Only these last 30 years since the Berlin Wall came down could it be said that Berlin has had reprieve. It really looks like it might keep that way. However we cannot build a fully human planet with paying attention to how we are human. And meditation is a crucial element to being human.

This comment from the World Community of Christian Meditation Interfaith Program is very relevant to todays gathering. “Religion is becoming more, not less important in the world today. It is urgent that the deep changes taking place in religious consciousness across all faiths and in their relationships are connected to the contemplative power residing at the heart of all the great wisdom traditions.

Meditation opens us to the common ground of humanity – and the essential goodness of human nature. The differences between traditions and cultures are as important and enlightening as their similarities. Meditation establishes a spiritual friendship between the members and practitioners of all faiths and ensures that the differences do not become divisions or false justifications for intolerance or violence.

Egg Boy & Dissonance

EggBoyHe’s not a hero. He’s 16. There’s a well-understood developmental trajectory he is on, part of which means his action are not particularly well thought out. That ‘getting into action’ that youth, especially certain young men, are known for, often leads into danger. Egg boy got punched twice by the politician  and then jumped on and choked by two or thee much larger men (white supremacist supporters of said politician). Well it happened in a public space so egg boy had some safety net in the form of observers and a couple of supporters.

Of course it is just that jumping into action that gives youth their impact. Double that with strong ethical training some youth, world-wide have made amazing contributions. And their contributions make it clear that almost all youth can reach that standard of peaceful action for social change – true heroes.

I am impressed that egg boy and his friends are not just off chillin’ with their mates and ignoring society altogether, as if tomorrow will give us the world ‘we deserve’. And sure, from his point of view, no-one was getting hurt, just a politican’s pride. But anyone being attacked from behind doesn’t knows that, and that can make it dangerous for egg boy. His actions for me are more a signifier, a flare of retaliation that peaceful people tend not to stoop but that more than enough of us ‘wish to do’, as many of my friends attest.

It signifies how many are feeling angry and hurt about these anti-social messages and our all too primate desire to obliterate what is painful to us, that is intruding onto our territory, albeit that territory is abstract ‘the territory of peace and harmony’. My advice is to sit with that dissonance between what we stand for as peace lovers and our actual attitudes and behaviours when confronted by haters. Reaching for an excuse for why even small acts of violence can be defended is a natural response to dissonance but not necessary. My authentic experience is that I delight in egg boys action while also realising, with some shame, that even this mild violence undermines the cause towards peace, and supports the messaging towards violence, just as Anning’s vocal violence supported the Christchurch mosque killings. I sit with this dissonance, accepting this is who I am, and that who I will Be, will be an authentic integration of my primal nature and my higher nature. While there are many other sources of learning around the heroic, adult, approach, so many of which are unknown to popular media, we would do well to review the activism of Martin Luther King in making social change, to see how powerful and heroic is the peaceful approach.

I Am A Dancer I

(MY MOTHER DIED Aug 29 2018)BOLD_Owen_07

friends
(most are women)
have told me,”you think
too much”, “you ask
to many deep questions”,
“You’re a bit weird”
“not like most men”
I’ve always felt
that was up for discussion,
obvious.

I’m a dancer

my mother died in August.
we had an awkward relationship

I like science fiction.
I’ve always wanted to understand
quantum physics.
I heard that Albert Einstein’s
theory was proven
in the trenches of WWI.
and before that you needed
a graduate degree to understand
the physics of the universe.
and since that E=MC2
is understood by highschool students.

I’ve wanted to translate
my knowledge
into simpler formulas
for easier relationships.

I’m a dancer.

When I was 16
I watched my mother storm in
pick up a length of wood
and head my way.
A quiet voice
stood me up
and commanded
unflinching resolve
I held her eyes
she brought it down
on my shoulder.
‘Maybe it broke’
My father quiet
to my resolve.
“Don’t hit your mother.”

I walked 20 miles
through the night
to see a nun
in a convent
avoiding car lights
on country roads
I arrived at dawn
I waited until 7
I was hungry
She made me tea.
I told her my story.
She asked me if
there was anything
else.
I was 16
I was devastated
I was steel
I was the wolf
scouring forest trails
I said “No”
I got up to go.
She said, “Goodbye”.

I went to university
and studied physiotherapy
and asked deep questions
and joined the Baha’i Faith
and the new earth order
and that was a bit weird
and even there,
still not like most men
and not like most women.
and married
and begot 3 sons
and spent some hours
each week helping
on my father’s farm
and burning out at work
and getting fired up
and for fifteen years
taking holidays
to have conversations
with politicians
about rural health

I saw a signpost
Performance Community
and something glimmer
in the distance
like a bright new
city of the future
and took that track

I’m a dancer

These past 14 years
I’ve had lunch with my mother
and father, or coffee
every week
helping around the farm,
being frustrated with them
finding a way to accept
no apology
finding a way to say,
“I love you.”
finding a way to tear them
away from their farm
his workshops,
her orchards.

In his dementia
in a house in town
my father remembered
“that bloke came around again”.
he fell and broke his hip
I sat with him in emergency.
He said, “It’s time”
I glibly, “Time for a cuppa?”
He gave me a sour look,
a ‘fuck off’
I felt I’d disappointed him.
He died.

There’s not much for a wolf
in a modern society
– pickings at the edges

I don’t know whether
my mother knew
I am a dancer.

My mother died in August.
We buried her in September.
Her friends noted to me
how lovely she was
to be with.

Sadness tinges
I didn’t forget
not to go around for lunch
or coffee.