Friday, March 29, 2013
BELIEVE AND BE DAMNED --- PART 5
Let's remind ourselves of the problem and suggest a better solution: Every human is beset with three anxieties: DEATH---GUILT---MEANINGLESSNESS.
They mix and mingle in complex ways and taken together, constitute the challenge of life.
Religion attempts to deal with them---offering myths, doctrines, Holy books, commandments, arcane rituals and ethical systems.
What do we non believers offer?
Glad you asked? This is the major challenge to Unitarian Universalist; the only church that doesn't claim to have a message from God----the only church that can generate meaning without metaphysics.
We deal with the anxiety of death by facing it as courageously as we can----reminding ourselves of Buddha's words: Life is like getting on board a ship that sails out into the ocean----and SINKS. THE TRICK IS TO ENJOY THE VOYAGE!
Another parable attributed to Buddha makes the point even stronger: A man being chased by a tiger falls over a cliff but manages to grab hold of a vine, and he's just hanging there. Before he falls to his death he notices that a strawberry is growing out of the side of the cliff. And so, holding on with one hand, he plucks the strawberry, puts it in his mouth, eats it and enjoys it. ENJOYS IT! WE ARE ALL HANGING----AND THERE IS NOTHING ELSE TO DO BUT ENJOY THE STRAWBERRIES!!
What an intelligent society does about the problem of death---is to use brainpower and technology to extend our vigorous lifetimes. We are making progress; And I for one think we will continue till eventually we can extend our lives indefinitely.
Unbelievers aren't troubled much by Guilt----hardly a fraction of what troubles believers--- because we don't accept that God---if he exist---has said anything about ethics----especially not sexual ethics. Advanced societies are rapidly abandoning unreasonable commandments---creating new---more enlightened--more pleasurable
notions of appropriate behavior. (America lags behind the new understandings---The president of France OPENLY has a wife and a mistress--hardly creates a ripple over there---I wonder if the wife has a lover)
BUT HOW DO WE GENERATE MEANING? ----without believing in religion?
I say we unbelievers can generate meaning by playing the game of life with intention and intelligence.
What is meaning? It's a feeling---of aliveness---purposefulness and connection that exist between the beginning and end of an intention. Some philosophers call this sequence of events a GAME, A project or a gestalt. I like to call it a game because we all understand the phrase "the game of life".
Looked at carefully we can see that the essence of a game is that one thing is declared to be important than another. WHAT IS NOT---is declared to be more important than WHAT IS. This morning all of you played the church game. You declared that being here was more important than whatever else you could have done. Soon this game will be over and you might play the lunch game. Life is a series of games---large, small and overlapping, where we are moving from what is to what is not.
It's obvious to us that what is not ----is--- ultimately--not more important than what is---BUT WE DECLARE AND PRETEND THAT IT IS SO THAT WE CAN GET MOVEMENT IN OUR LIVES. The point of all games is to give motion to our lives.(The movement I'm talking about is not just physical motion----reading, thinking or even meditation is a kind of motion---intentional progression from a beginning to an end.)
So the challenge of meaning is the challenge of motion. We play the game of life by selecting one of our fascinations--- activating intentionality---to get ourselves moving through experience-(making "waves" in the process)-to (hopefully) generate meaning. (a feeling of aliveness) It is awesomely democratic that (by this analysis) anyone anywhere at any time can generate meaning. ( a feeling of aliveness.) (we generate a small flicker of meaning by scratching an itch)
Only movement can generate meaning, And here's a couple of things I betcha never thought of : First: AS YOU MOVE FROM WHAT IS TO WHAT IS NOT----YOU MAKE WAVES-----affect things and people. WAVES ARE OUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORLD. (waves are our effortless, natural contribution to the world)
Second:" ALL YOU EVER WANTED TO DO WAS CONTRIBUTE."
It is benevolent irony that actively playing the game of life-- to amuse and fulfill ourselves is the best way to contribute to the world. Ayn Rand got it right in her book "The Virtue of Selfishness". Thoreau in living his life selfishly for himself inspired millions to follow their dreams..
Say---are y'all falling asleep on me?
Sweet people: I'm saying that movement is more important than location. Acquiring is more fun than possessing---getting rich than being rich.
Imagine that your head is a light bulb---your brain is the filament---experience is electricity. As experience moves through you---you light up! I say that meaning is Glow. Sometimes we glow brightly---sometimes dimly--depending on how artfully we move through experience.
To be brilliantly lit is what we all want. How do you know when you are lit up---alive and on purpose? WHEN WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS SO INTERESTING THAT YOU LOSE TRACK OF TIME. Psychologist have given a name to this feeling---FLOW.
Here is the best short summary I know for a meaningful life:
1. Respond to your fascinations, (some things fascinate you--some don't)
2. Wake up your creativity. (creativity is concept transfer)
3. Share yourself---somehow--with others. (Brian Swimm)
Gimme an Amen folks--I'm almost home.
I want to make crystal clear the difference between a believer and those playing the game of life courageously.
A believer obeys----a game player plays.
A believer yearns for destination---a game player enjoys the going.
A believer's goal is salvation; a game player's goal is aliveness.
A believer wants to be "right"; a game player wants to be satisfied.
A believer lies about the uncertainties of life---A game player accepts the uncertainties.
A believer thinks he standing on a solid rock of doctrine---a game player knows he's on a rolling ball. (the earth)
A believer thinks he can't live without an infallible guide---A game player knows there is no infallible guide.
A believer seeks to do what is "right" A game player to do what is appropriate.
My fellow earthlings. Are we clear about the difference between a believer and a game player? ( an experiencer) If so say Amen.
When enough people move beyond beliefs to experience---the world will be transformed. Wars will end. People will stop persecuting and dominating others because being satisfied will be more important than being right.
DESERTS WILL BLOOM AND LOVE WILL PERMEATE THE ATMOSPHERE.
PEOPLE WILL SEEK TO BECOME--NOT DIVINE-- BUT FULLY HUMAN.
All this can be ours if we will only UNBELIEVE.
(prolonged applause and cheering)
(copyright 1981 by Randall Vining)