July 29, 2015

Time, existence, legalism, God


Time, existence, legalism, God-- a curious mix of ideas, yet to me, all are related. 
Despite speculation from antiquity and analysis by modern scientists, we still don't know what time really is. We experience it as the one thing utterly beyond the control of anyone, no matter how rich or intelligent. The great leveller, time passes for each individual equally. Sure, we can experience it as passing slower or faster, subjectively; but our objective measurements assure us of time's impartiality.

Some people may have the ability to 'see' into the past or the future; but they themselves are still stuck in the intractable present moment of the inexorable tide of time. In a sense, time is the fabric of reality, the substrate of all that exists. Each individual appears in existence at a moment in time, and is thereafter swept along in its relentless current, until that final moment when that life ends.

The Biblical psalmist gave the average human life 'three score and ten' years (70), and in all the centuries, it's still a good estimate for the typical person. In the vastness of eternity, 70 years is barely a blip. So, what's the point, then, of such a brief existence? It's a question that rarely occurs to anyone during the 'prime' of life, but becomes much more nagging in our latter years.

Those thinkers with a sense of humor and language have noted that 'the present is a gift'... thus, to be used wisely. Time-- the resource we all share in common-- is the classroom, the learning opportunity, the training ground for souls. Think of it-- the whole concept of 'development' (evolution, if you're of that mind-set) of both species and individuals, can only occur within the context of time.

For humans, we are born with only a sophisticated 'processor' constantly monitoring the external world. Our 'hard drive' (memory) contains only the sensory inputs of those months in the womb. We spend the duration of our life absorbing new 'information,' both sensory and cerebral data. Each new item of 'data' is filtered thru a gateway constructed by a lifetime of personal experiences we call perception.

That brings us to legality. Spiritual (or 'personal' if you prefer) development requires other people. A guru meditating on a remote mountain, or a castaway on a deserted island cannot undergo much development in isolation. It's by existing with other souls that we are compelled to grow spiritually. And as soon as there are two or more people, we need an understanding of how to behave-- i.e. rules, laws.

Rules and laws become ensconced in traditions and religions. People of similar conventions cluster together in groups that evolved into kingdoms and nations. Legal structures were instituted; governments of various flavors developed in different countries. Today, governments spend most of their time inventing and codifying new laws... truly a chilling thought.

Among religions, some are more legalistic than others; but they all have their 'expectations' of their adherents. One thing that makes 'fundamentalists' of any faiths similar is their belief that a supreme deity is scrutinizing every person on Earth to see if they are following the rules, and to punish them if they're not. Muslims and Christians (as they've come to be) in particular seem prone to this harshly patriarchic outlook on religion.

Yet Jesus spent his short ministry on Earth trying to get people to see God as their 'heavenly father,' not a mean-spirited dictator, but a kind-hearted parental figure. As he pointed out in his sermons, if we fallible, human parents know that children cannot be expected to have full adult knowledge and behavior, then why should we believe that God is out to condemn us spiritual learners for every little misdemeanor?

That's the point of all this, the reason we exist in this temporal plane-- to learn! You don't learn in one dazzling instant (altho we may gain certain insights in this fashion, along the way). It's a process, based on experience. Process necessarily entails the passage of time. Experience implies trial and error; discovering what 'works' (brings order, harmony) and what doesn't (creates disharmony).

While all living things have a degree of consciousness (and some even say that non-living matter also does), it is humans that have fully self-reflective consciousness. We know that we know. Those who stop and ponder it must conclude that consciousness is a miracle. We take it for granted because it's our very nature... 'cogito ergo sum,' as Descartes put it.

Like time, tho, consciousness is elusive of determining exactly. What is it? How does it work? Does it survive physical death? We don't have definitive, provable answers. To atheists who deny anything beyond the material, apparent world, I say that consciousness is too wonderful to exist in futility!

That brings us full circle, so to say. Our existence takes place in the ineffable background of time, which exists to enable our soul development from self-absorbed self-awareness to the ultimate realization that we, all of us, are connected to a greater reality. Isn't that miraculous, or what?

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