Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Crisis of Our Humanity


The human condition is...

"Suffering" says the Buddha. "Whatever works" says William James. "The result of natural selection" says Charles Darwin. "Submission to Allah" preaches Muhammad.

Random. Created. Evolved. Fashioned. Continuing. Chance. Hopeless. Faithful. Ironic. Miserable. Beautiful.

Biologist Richard Dawkins is an atheist. He would have you believe that we are all the evolved products of billions of years and millions of generations. To Richard...we are genes and memes. Simply put, man is the culmination of physical and psychological patterns that have developed over massive epochs of passing time. We are walking and breathing systems of reproduction copying whatever works best to survive forward into the abyss. Surely, this is a gross oversimplification of the matter. But shouldn't any answer be simple?

Of course, you might ask fellow evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould about Dawkins. He would tell you that Dawkins is the one oversimplifying things. More agnostic than atheist, Stephen thought that God was not the subject of empirical research and represented a kind of unscientific bias in Dawkin's thought catalog.

Perhaps unaware of his vast lineage, man has fallen by the billions to the pox, to war, to cataclysm. The fact that any of us are alive today is a sure testament to a struggle if nothing else so eloquent. We all ask the question at some point why we are here...what is the meaning of it all. In the end most of us either live in denial of an answer, find some personal motivation or seek the solace of an answer in a shared faith...a religion perhaps.

There are plenty of religions to choose from to be sure. Out of his cave man looked to the stars. And under foot he found revelation in the local plantlife. A constellation would steer the mind as well as the navigators of human destiny. And a mushroom would let the man look within. Astrotheology and shamanism painted caves, constructed pyramids and gave rise to stories, and myths...more explanations.

What is real? Dont ask me. Ask the likes of Stephen Hawking or Carl Jung. Again, one looks to the stars for his answers and one looks deep inside the Self. Is the Self, the psyche, God? Are we the myths made flesh and blood? So many, such as the mythologist Joseph Campbell, would think so. But man doesnt know his place after all. The travail of mankind is that each individual decides his place and, like the Biblical God, fashions himself in 'his' image.

We either entrap ourselves or free ourselves by our own perspective. What we believe to be true...becomes true. Ask the orphans of madness populating the behavioral centers. Ask them what is true. Are we all mad with faith? Go ask Bill Maher who sees faith as 'Religulous'. It is clearly ridiculous to him to believe in something outside of what he chooses to believe in. Perhaps we are all a bit more 'Religulous' than Maher would like.

At the end of all of our philosophies, our religions and our ideologies we stand the naked ape before the stars. Ask the young woman of the pain of her births. Ask the soldier the worth of killing. Ask the old man on his deathbed what he lived for. And ask the sick, the wounded, the terrified...in the end is the pain of life worth the living it?

Be at peace...yet we are not peaceful. Go to war...yet we are mortal. How many untold agonies tell the true tale of the human struggle? 55 million of us died in World War 2. Is that not Apocalypse? What of the unspeakable brutality of the murderous Inquisition? Man is Gladiator in the arena, spilling his own blood and crying victory.

Damn them all for being anything but a Humanitarian. What belief can justify the horror of murderous war? What god or religion is still calling for human sacrifice on altars that must be, must only be, profanities in the analog of our species? So many of us now are Stalin...men of steel. And like that tyrant, we steel ourselves against the suffering of nations, of our brothers, our sisters...our other selves.

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This is the golden rule. Buddha, Jesus, Krishna...they all said as much. Or look away...stand as god among mortals. Live forever in contributing to the suffering of others. Is not such a thought madness? For all of us are mortal after all, aren't we? All of us suffer and bleed and eventually die.

It is not a miracle that we rise in the morning and greet the warmth of the sun. But there is no explanation for it. Science is not qualified to philosophize. And the rational mind must know at once that 'the answer' is elusive by our own relative perspective to it. And so we each greet the sun indifferently, accepting our fate under the heavens.

We are not so blind now. We cannot excuse ourselves in ignorance. We are learned men and women...or so we tell ourselves. Only in the moment of your pain may you judge the pain of others. Only at the moment of your death can you know that we are all the same you and I.

We are builders. We are creators. In spite of all of our weaknesses, man has raised civilizations, built bridges and artfully expressed the inexpressible beauty of a stunning likeness to god within...the works of Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Beethoven...

And yet...we spend our lives surviving in third world countries in war torn chaos like animals. Or the more fortunate gorge themselves on heart wrecking fast food, driving the right cars and wearing the right clothes. We evolve Dawkins says. In his view, we are no better than enlightened monkeys. Few of us, if any, prove him wrong in the end. We are vacuous, banal, and self serving. My life. My generation. My time. My ...

If we don't wake up in time, then the dream may become a nightmare and we may always sleep in terror of waking. At the dawn we must confront what we are left with and we must, at last, embrace it and live a life that is genuine by all accounts.

I am a man, he says. And I see that we all are.

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