I used to think that my intense longing for God, heaven, divinity, higher regions of reality -- whatever you want to call it -- meant that such existed.
After all, I feel thirsty because water exists; desirous because sexuality exists; hungry because food exists; sleepy because sleep exists.
So if I have a craving for the supernatural, doesn't this prove (or at least strongly imply) that something beyond the physical exists?
Actually, no. Alan Watts does a good job of explaining why in his marvelous book, "The Wisdom of Insecurity."
Under these circumstances we feel in conflict with our own bodies and the world around them, and it is consoling to be able to think that in this contradictory world we are but "strangers and pilgrims."
For if our desires are out of accord with anything that the finite world can offer, it might seem that our nature is not of this world, that our hearts are made, not for the finite, but for infinity. The discontent of our souls would appear to be the sign and seal of their divinity.
But does the desire for something prove that the thing exists? We know that it does not necessarily do so at all.
It may be consoling to think that we are citizens of another world than this, and that after our exile upon earth we may return to the true home of our heart's desire. But if we are citizens of this world, and if there can be no final satisfaction of the soul's discontent, has not nature, in bringing forth man, made a serious mistake?
For it would seem that, in man, life is in hopeless conflict with itself. To be happy, we must have what we cannot have. In man, nature has conceived desires which it is impossible to satisfy.
Sounds dismal. Thankfully, in the rest of the book Watts persuasively explains how it is possible to be satisfied with what the world has to offer without substituting religious fantasies for reality. (See here.)
My own view of the situation, which is similar to Watts', is that our highly evolved human capacity for conceptualization is a double-edged sword. It enables us to envision and accomplish amazing things beyond the ability of other animals, yet also sets us up for disappointment when we conceive of entities that are marvelously appealing, yet don't exist.
Like a loving God who will take care of us for eternity in a heaven where nothing is lacking. Like eternal life. Like being reunited with loved ones after we die. Like having all of the mysteries of the cosmos revealed to us once we achieve a state of divine consciousness.
Last night my wife and I attended a benefit screening of "OR7 - The Journey" here in Salem. The movie is about a famous Oregon wolf, OR7, who acquired the name Journey in a contest organized by Oregon Wild.
Journey/OR7 (who had a radio collar that made it possible to track him) made an amazing trek from northeast Oregon, near the Idaho border, into western Oregon, then into northern California and back to Oregon.
By most accounts he was looking for a mate. Pretty damn strong desire, which took him two thousand miles. Amazingly, it appears that he found one. This wasn't a miracle, because female wolves exist -- though it wasn't known that any were in western Oregon.
Rare events do happen. However, impossible events don't.
Wisdom is knowing what, to the best of our knowledge, is possible, and what isn't. Spending what almost certainly is our one and only life chasing a fantasy... is that wise?
Here's the OR7 movie trailer. Oregon is beautiful, for real. Last night the movie maker, who was at the screening, pointed out the obvious: the wolf shown in his film isn't actually OR7/Journey, but a stand-in.