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

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.

PRAYER I

(my desire reaches out
“I want …. ”
so much to achieve)
My speech falters
…. it isn’t adequate to ask
The vision seems strong.
Not sure of Your Will.
Perhaps, if I ask
Your Will,
You will
throw what I desire, away.
See how my desire is frightened
that You Will throw it all away?
Do you throw things away?
Or is it me.
Do I throw things away?
I don’t want the things
I desire, gone.
I want that achievement.
I don’t want it gone,
just for Your Will.
Could there be a way?
An open heart?
Yes, an open heart
so people will come
to what I want to achieve.
That should work for you, yeh?
… the pen throws down
and the lip curls …..
“… save them from outward semblances.
Make them to be a comfort
and a solace to humankind
and servants to the peace of the world.”
Bowed in my ineptitude
I shall dance
as an opening to Your reply.
 

DOES GOD EXIST?

The word EXIST, like all words, stands as a symbol of a symbol, in this case an idea of phenomenon. As a word, it is, itself, a phenomenon. As a word it points for me to something that I am experiencing, that can, therefore, be said to be a phenomenon. The word God and Exist in the same sentence, for me, falls away, awkwardly, to the degree that I am leant to declare, God doesn’t Exist.

In the Baha’i Faith there are two words that stand for the idea of God: UNKNOWABLE and ESSENCE.

Unknowable, in the sense it is used for God, is an absolute feature. It is not like the idea that I know I don’t know, or even that I don’t know that I don’t know. It is not the mathematical idea of nothing in the set, zero. It is an idea that anything I can be, anything a sentient being will be, will not come any closer to knowing. It is that there is no set to hold no items. The word God, itself, is a placemark for the unknowability of, and here the second word comes into play, Essence.

Essence is the idea of the merest hint, the barest sense, a fleeting awareness. The fleeting awareness is a register of an ocean of power that is itself something manifest, something phenomenal. This ocean of power exudes both an awesome potentiality as well as a deeply inviting calm. An awareness of the ocean of existence only points further to the hint of an infiniteness of existence that, nonetheless, has certain regulations, a way that it works. And, there, as the way it works, lies the essence of the unknowable. The bringing of existence into existence is tangible as that it works the way it works, and that it is not ours to expect differently, nor decry that it works the way it works, for it works for we.

When I bring up the word exist, it is if essence ceases to exist. The word ‘exist comes up like an impenetrable wall which shuts out all merest hint, all barest sense. Exist not only has no capacity to speak of, to point to God, it is a heavy veil between my sense and the essence. To seek for the merest hint of the unknowable essence, put away all thought that God exists. Sit with your sense of being, ranging widely and seekingly, without any more purpose than just broadening the range across the ocean of power.

The Big Me Dances

The universe, the world, is how it all occurs to me as a happening, an event, a contingency.

Recalling the words of Baha’u’llah as I would apply them to myself, “… the world is my unawareness of the Godhead and my absorption in aught else…” and that truth is founded in the primary spiritual attitude of the unfettered search: detachment from tradition; avoiding backbiting, boastful people, and evil-doers; cleansing the heart from love, hate, and pride; and living in prayer, patience, resignation, and forgiveness.

My experience gives me the sense that the Godhead operates for me through my declaration (to myself or others) in abandonment of all untrue considerations, for an enthusiasm, passion and joy.

fom_scene26

I believe that I am living in the world, a universe of elementary materials, from which has derived my organic construction as a capability for the flourishing of a metaphysical being. I am the root growing through the soil of human life, drawing sustenance for that budding fractal splicing and looping through all the dimensions beyond time and space, all the dimensions of eternity. I believe I am both contingent and eternal, always to be “unaware” and “absorbed by”, yet also to be a sense of Godhead through how I am in truth.

And so , I dance.