I can conceive of no imaginable purpose for the meaning of man’s seemingly brief existence apart from community.
My, my, my, what mighty big words you have, Rance Garrison. But I really can’t. It is for this reason that I have trouble with traditional notions of both religion and irreligion or secularism. So much of our modern religion, or stance against it, in the United States today comes from a long tradition of individualism. I am not a believer in individualism to a great extent. It is through a community, a Communion, to use “Christian” language, I suppose, that man achieves his greatest heights. Without the community lifting him, challenging him, even at times, fighting against him, man is nothing. It has been said that no man is an island. Forget the island, no man is apart from the web of life. And those who seek to go it completely alone for long never it make it very far.
These thoughts poured into my mind earlier tonight while I reached an almost transcendental state while making love to my (soon to be) wife. It is ironic that we live in a society that teaches a man to fear the two things that are most readily at his disposal to achieve the ever elusive immortality he so desperately seeks, birth and death. As younger men, many of us, or at least in my own case, view the approach of fatherhood with an almost dreadful apprehension. On the one hand, we long for the opportunity to pass on our knowledge, our philosophies, however half baked, and, at a more subconscious animal. level, our genes, onto our offspring. On the other hand, though, we long to live in a state of perpetual boyhood like billions of grown-up Peter Pans, desiring a life of adventure, swashbuckling, skirt chasing ahead of us on into eternity. What we fail to realize is that time stands still for no one, and if we pursue that life of constant adventure, danger, non-commitment, and individualistic “freedom” we will find ourselves not as Peter Pans, but more likely, as the sad old man protagonist of the 1977 Pink Floyd song, “Dogs,” in that we will be “just another sad old man, all alone and dying of cancer.” How strange it is that the number one regret of dying men is that they wished that they hadn’t worked so hard and that they had spent more time with their wives and families. For as we men age, our work becomes our play, and the pursuit of money, fame, the respect of our fellow men and more importantly, the sexual adoration of many women, the ultimate set of prizes in the cracker jack box. To many men, the thought of being domesticated into the family life might as well be the same thing as being neutered.
As for death, here I must divert from earthly matters and expand a bit upon my (quite often misunderstood) religious views. See, I call myself a Christian because it is the religious path that I am most comfortable and familiar with and because I feel especially close to the person of Jesus of Nazareth. When I pray, it is Jesus that I imagine on the other end of the line if you will. At the same time, I understand that this very personal theistic conception of God is a symbol, not God-in-entirety. This conception of God which lives in my mind is no closer to being the true “God beyond God” than a single cell in my pinky fingernail is to being me. But the only way that I can even begin to be in relationship with that which is Infinite is by constructing within my finite mind a finite symbol which can serve as a doorway into the Infinite God. And while I personally have my reasons for believing that there is some historical basis for the Christ as viewed in much of traditional Christianity, even if it was proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that Jesus of Nazareth never existed, that wouldn’t shatter my faith because I understand that the Infinite God could never be completely bound in anyone symbol or person or book.
And so, believing therefore, as I do, in a God that is Infinite beyond my own comprehension, I also dare to believe that this same Infinite God is Infinitely Loving beyond all comprehension, and that this existence, created as it was through Love, will not perish. That God truly will call all things unto Godself in due time. I unapologetically say that in my heart of hearts, I feel that all sentient beings are in the process of growing into a complete union with God. To be said again, I believe that each of us, as individuals and also as a fully integrated cosmic body of stars, planets, people, cats, spiders, sponges, jellyfish, pine trees, microbes, and atoms, are part of a process that is the universe not only becoming aware of itself but aware of its Source and transcending mere consciousness into a form of superconsciousness, that from our perspective, would indeed be God-like, if not God. And on the day that this state of perfect love and perfect infinity is reached, the union of God and cosmos will make all things as One.
And so, with the vast and hopeful expanse of eternity ahead of, we understand that death is nothing to fear. Yes, we may lose a part of our individuality in dying, a statement to which I imagine neither theist nor atheist would disagree, but we gain a greater stake in our community. Our bodies become food for other creatures and feed the earth with needed nutrients. And those thoughts, feelings, and experiences that we’ve shared with others live on in their minds and in whatever we’ve managed to leave behind. If we have children, what we have taught them as well as our biology lives on in them. As for us, I believe that we begin a process of further spiritual growth in which we grow, like weeds, toward the source of ultimate goal of our lives: godhood. But this is a communal thing, because we are all heading there, each and everyone of us, each and every soul, each and every atom, and as long as one single soul is left behind, the journey is not complete. We will reach the promised land, but when we do, it will be together, growing out of the Ground of all Being, toward an Omega Point. The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
But if ultimately all are not redeemed and brought home, is there true grace? And that is why I feel in my gut that all will be.
For as long as one individual is allowed to fall, then we have not achieved what I view as the ultimate purpose of man, to live in and through his communion with his fellow sentient beings.
I love my wife. And no, we’re not having a baby right now. 🙂