When I was an active member of an India-based religious/mystical group, a word that inspired me was sat. It means "truth," and was used in many ways: satsangi (follower of truth), satguru (conveyor of truth), satsang (speaking of truth), and so on.
Eventually I realized that my allegiance really was to truth, not to a particular dogma, philosophy, or practice. If my involvement with the group wasn't leading me closer to truth, the goal I'd set for myself wasn't being realized.
So I set off on a churchless path. I decided to genuinely commit myself to the tenets of the scientific method, rather than merely giving lip service to a "science of the soul" that really wasn't.
Via a tweet by someone I follow on Twitter, yesterday I came across an inspiring You Tube video that combines Carl Sagan's words and a variety of images. Sagan talks about how the universe -- reality -- isn't designed to meet our needs, nor our subjective conceptions.
Here's a transcript of the ending message of "Carl Sagan: A Universe Not Made for Us." I like it a lot.
The significance of our lives, and our fragile planet, has been determined only by our own wisdom and courage. We are the custodians of life's meaning. We long for our parents to care for us, to forgive us our errors, to save us from our childish mistakes.
But knowledge is preferable to ignorance. Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring faith. If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.
We humans make our own meanings. Yet many people on Earth wrongly believe that the meaning of their lives is to be found in some supposedly holy scripture or spiritual teaching.
Rather than seek truth that can be tested, verified, and confirmed through rigorous methods in tune with the scientific method, these religious fundamentalists take the easy way out by assuming that some prophet, savior, guru, or other messenger of the divine/God knows what ultimate reality is like, so there's no need to seek out the hard truth Sagan speaks of.
Which may not be pleasant, comforting, ego-gratifying, or capable of producing a warm feeling of "I am a special beloved of God."
Many people who didn't know my mother very well considered her to be an intellectual. That was only partly true. Yes, she was highly intelligent. But her goal wasn't simply to exercise her mind. She was out for truth.
My mother loved science. Though she didn't have much money when I was growing up, I was given subscriptions to a monthly "Things of Science" (if I remember the name correctly). Every month a small box would arrive in the mail with a new experiment that would reveal something hitherto unknown to my child brain.
Carl Sagan's video reminded me of those days, when I sat in my room learning about how the natural world really was -- not how people wanted it to be (that I got from my brief foray into Catholicism, which my mother blessedly let me give up after I physically choked on my first communion and mentally choked on the religious dogma I was expected to learn in order to be "confirmed").
Yes, hard truth is better than reassuring faith. We need to embrace real "sat," not the fake variety.