life, continued....

8.22.03 - Denver, CO

i've spent the last year and a half being alive.

it's actually quite funny to find the sort of peace you have been promised once you relax and stop looking for it.  so what has changed? 

i've become more open minded.  i'm not talking about the kind of open-minded where you listen to someone's argument just so they'll listen to yours.  i'm not talking the sort of open-minded where i even think there might be something appealing in what someone says, only to forget about it later.  i'm talking about listening to people's views when they are different from mine, giving them careful consideration and latching on to anything that is better than what i currently believe.

this has had a profound effect on the way that i interact with people.

i'm not scared to have opinions that are different from other people's.  if my opinions can't hold water in a debate then i'd best let them go and get new ones.  but this lets me actually HEAR what other people are saying without any risk of conflict, without risk of one of us feeling lessened by a debate. 

the question that has had the largest effect on my current state of mind is "why do you think that?".  it can be asked of any opinion.  the first time it was asked of me i didn't have a good answer.  when i ultimately i fell back upon the notion that society sort of left me with that as an opinion i was challenged to actually give the issue some thought.  when i thought about it there seemed to be more merit in a position that didn't really line up with public opinion.  since then i have been forced to examine everything i believe, not only WHAT i belive but WHY do i think the way i do.  when you question your starting point you might find the end of the journey to be a long way from your expected destination.  having the courage to think for yourself and to defend your opinions in the face of popular opinion is an amazing thing, a thing that i must now forever do.  as i re-read this paragraph it reads very quickly.  the emphasis on its contents, however, cannot be stressed enough. 

truth isn't black and white for me anymore but my approach to it sort of is....

i can't say that i believe in a god anymore.  there are days when the thought is appealing but more are the days when the presence of a deity complicates life's understanding immensely.  my current 'god' is experience and science.  when a hypothesis has a single counterexample i have to rethink my stance.  in the face of that, i can't be scared to discard that which i've thought to be true.  holding onto something with a fatal flaw will only ever eat at my very soul.

occam's razor is summarized: "one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything".  is a god necessary to explain our observations in the world around us?  i don't think so anymore and therefore it complicates the entire picture simply by adding the concept of a deity.  there are still, however, grey areas.

claiming the origin of the universe as being the big bang begs the question of what existed before.  we have to use 'before' in a non-literal sense here as common theory accepts that the very nature of the physics of our universe came into being Planck Time (or 1/(10^43) seconds).  This includes our very concept of distance and time.  If time, as we know it, didn't come into being until the universe was created then it's a moot question to ask what existed 'before' the universe just as it's an odd question to ask what existed 'around' the universe before the dawn of time.

so still the question.... are we a result of quantum randomness?  there was nothing, nothing decided to become matter and anti-matter and suddenly we have a universe?  did some form of cosmic creator order the universe into existance?  this is where i apply the maxim of occam's razor to my own personal philosophy:  i no longer choose to concentrate my energies on philosophical matters that are outside the range of practicality or influence to my immediate life.

what existed 'before' the universe?  who cares?  did god create the universe?  if so, that begs the question of the existance of where god came from.  to spend energies on such questions becomes impractical and, while it's a neat philosophical circle, it doesn't really make a lot of difference to the here and now.  so, skiping over the beginning of time, let's look at the present.  does god have any relevance today?

there are many notions of god, many religions, many interpretations.  people on any side of any given issue can be found claiming divine will.  it's almost a waste of time in even stating that humans don't agree on the nature of god.  but therein lies the crux of my consideration...human's don't understand the nature of god and, without some a genuine and direct revelation from this supposed creator, they CAN'T understand the nature of god.  in the world around us we see prophets of christianity contradicting prophets of islam being embraced by the teaching of the b'hai faith.  perhaps one of them has it right.  perhaps none of them do.  what we think of as god isn't an image of this divine creator, it's a relection of mankind upon the notion of this divine creator.  sometimes god speaks to someone.  did god really speak to this person or did this person merely think that this is the case.  i'd argue that occam's razor favors the second.  i have twelve years of experience sincerely trying to have a personal interaction with the creator of the universe.  it doesn't work.  i, myself, tend to think that the very nature of god, should god exist, makes god essentially unknowable. 

so we don't know where the universe comes from without raising more questions about the origins of the origins.  and we can't have any sort of direct communication with this deity otherwise i think there would be much more obvious signs that such was the case (such as sincere people actually being in agreement about what god tells them).  my life was much more stressful when i clung to the notion of god, my heart and mind found peace when i abandoned the notion that god actually has to be there.  in the past there is no evidence for me that a personal god exists.  in the present there is no practical reason for me to seek one.  in the future the only reason i can see to blindly try to take stock in some kind of god is fire insurance, the possibility of eternal damnation.  two things to say on that:  first, i can't believe in a god who would punish those who earnestly seek the truth (and by extension, god).  Secondly, i spent 12 years as a devout Christian with a completely sincere salvation decision.  if heaven cannot be attained by works then it cannot be lost by works either my past sincere faith, not to cheapen it, my entrance to heaven.  the issue of whether salvation can be lost is an argument that no longer interests me.  as a result of all these things, even if god exists, god is essentially irrelevant.

so what is there?  what about good and evil, wrong and right?

i can't say that i do not have an inherent feeling of the nature of right and wrong.  my thoughts on some of the specifics have changed but the feeling that there is some sort of underlying right/wrong framework is a hard one to let go of.  but this is a hard question....  is it wrong for a man to steal from another?  first instinct is yes.  is it wrong for a wolf to kill a rabbit in nature and feed off it?  most wouldn't say so, it's a survival instinct.  yet which is worse, a man robbing another with no physical pain involved or one animal actually killing another?  is our notion of an absolute standard of right and wrong not, then, derived from our 'elevated' status as human beings?  the jury is still out on this issue.

so what is there?  do we have souls?  don't know.  don't even know what occam's razor would say about that one though maybe it would suggest not.  so what is there?  what are pain and pleasure if we are soulless creatures?  why do quantum physics and heisenberg's theories on probability and uncertainty allow for what we call 'free will'?  how can we have free will if we don't have souls?  what is there?

the most satisfying spiritual experiences of recent times for me have been the occasions when i have been in physical contact with another human.  i'm not talking about sexual things here, simply the touch of human skin on human skin, brushing against a friend as you hang out, holding hands, a massage.  there is something about sharing space that closely that feels very special to me.  my god is now science while my spirituality is now based on the observations and study of the experience of human interactions.