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February 26, 2011


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Hi Brian,

Towards the beginning of your article, you write:

"For a long time, during my true believing days, I felt that my goal should be to attune myself with some hypothesized Sun of Ultimate Reality -- to find a way to bask in its warmth and be absorbed into its gravitational attraction.

Now, I'm comfortable with being my own source of meaning. In other words, I'm much more concerned with what is radiating from me, rather than what is being beamed into me."

This is interesting. Underlying the first part of your statement is the unspoken goal of humanity, borne of the survival instinct: the imperative to feel good. If we feel good, there is the absence of pain that tells us something is wrong with our bodies; the absence of fear, which tells us that danger is near; and the absence of guilt, which tells us our social interaction - so important for the survival of our species - is in good order.

The second part of your statement has as its subtext unselfishness, which is also a useful mechanism for keeping social interaction in good order. That we may be unselfish, we must first have our basic needs met. If this is in place, like it largely is in Western society at least, we have the opportunity to effect the needs of others, thus keeping them "feeling good" and further ensuring the continued survival of the species; in fact the species moves from mere survival to thriving.

The other possibility prevalent in societies whose basic needs are attended to - restlessness, irritablility and discontent - is yet another function of survival: in a species whose mental function is so evolved, and complex societies are so common, overpopulation is often the result of thriving. Thus, we have a built-in mechanism to feel alienated from our fellow humans, causing us to either eliminate some of the population through conflict or avoid procreation by isolating ourselves from each other. So all the discord that people so lament is simply a natural function of survival, and in fact, is necessary for our species to flourish.

This is simply a spur-of-the-moment hypothesis, one that I'm sure isn't unique. Further, our evolved minds are certainly capable of more systematic organisation, informed by the compassion made possible when all basic needs are met, that can allow our species to thrive without overpopulation or the destruction of our environment - so common when a species gets too plentiful, or dominant.

Getting back to the first part of your statement, in my opinion, a full life has in it everything: pain and suffering, joy and comfort. In our desperation, borne of survival instincts, to avoic anything uncomfortable, we perhaps miss out on the great panoply of life's offerings. What radiates from us individually can, perhaps, not always be dictated by our will and ego; but perhaps whatever radiates fills a void we are not conscious of, and maybe the human species and his environs are functioning at a level of efficiency and order that we are not always able to apprehend.

How are you, Brian? It's lovely to see you continue to blog so enthusiastically! Apparently, you are thriving.

"Religion is simply our own activity in trying to get ourselves into the most affirmative and productive relation to life that is attainable."

Affirmative, perhaps, but "productive"? The most productive people are producing the most useless and awful things.


Your post reminded me of this wonderful quote from the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius:

"Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. I am not afraid."

That's as good a rule to live by as I have found.

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