The pristinely clear and cold stream flows by at my feet, its brown and reddish stones burnished by the fresh current and glistening in the sunlight. A woodland hawk soars through the nearly bare branches of the oaks and sycamores, and alights on a limb near the bank on the other side.
Though the park is merely a quarter mile wide strip cutting through the middle of this rapidly growing college town, the wind through the trees is almost the only sound I hear other than the current gurgling by.
A meditative state ignites, and a strong, impersonal feeling of affinity for all things surges through one. Indeed, it seems to flow through and pour out of one at the same time. The only word for it is love.
Three laborers—young men in florescent jackets and hooded sweatshirts—pull up across the creek in a truck and trailer loaded with gear. They grab their lunches and walk the 30 meters into the picnic site.
The roughest looking one, wearing sunglasses and hoodie, looks across at the man sitting incongruously in the sun on the opposite bank. He stares for a few seconds, and then waves in a surprisingly friendly manner.
Someone wrote me recently and matter-of-factly stated she was an atheist. Since I most often meet up with believers who think I’m a heretic or apostate, I wondered what she meant by atheism.
To my mind, belief in God, or non-belief in God, are two sides of the same coin. Neither has anything to do with discovering the truth of the matter.
Christians believe God started the whole shebang, and for the most part is letting things play out in a mechanistic universe. Humans have ‘free will,’ though God intervenes from time to time.
Does atheism mean not believing in such a separate Creator and Supreme Being? If so, I’m in accord with this kind of ‘a-theism,’ since clearly there is no such deity.
Or is atheism the belief that the universe is only a random, mechanistic and deterministic interaction of particles and waves, and that there is nothing beyond thought and the mind of man?
To my mind, that, as much as any belief in God (for indeed it is a belief) is a projection of thought. It still maintains humans and self at the center of the universe. Is there any real difference between theology and ‘The Anthropocene Age?’
Doubt is the most important quality for a genuinely spiritual person, the capacity for continually questioning oneself and the challenges of life. However few people, whether secular or so-called religious, can sustain such doubt. The human mind has a need for certainty, which comes at the expense of truth, leading to fixed beliefs and ideas, one way or another.
Even the mindset that ‘it’s all relative’ (that is, personally subjective) is a belief system that closes out inquiry, insight and growth. But can people live by questioning everything and settling on nothing?
Obviously doubt can go too far and paralyze the mind. Regularly experiencing something beyond thought since my late teens, I’m sure there is an infinite intelligence that’s inseparable from nature. We humans are only alienated from it because we live in the habitual separativeness of thought.
The universe is an incomprehensibly vast, infinitely layered movement of wholeness, in which so-called disorder, as well as randomness, plays a part. But humans, who evolved along with all other life, represent a tremendous contradiction, since we alone generate genuine disorder, from which are destroying this beautiful planet and ourselves.
Therefore sentient, potentially sapient creatures such as us, creatures in which the power of symbolic thought has evolved, pose a riddle not just for themselves, but also for the universe itself. For how and why (if there is a why) does the universe evolve creatures at odds with its basic nature?
So does the ultimate fate of creatures such as us, wherever they evolve, facing a growing crisis of consciousness, matter in and to the universe? Since there is awareness beyond thought, and the human brain has the capacity to consciously perceive and participate in it, then it stands to reason that the answer is yes—up to a point.
One thing is clear: Ordinary human beings can and urgently need to awaken intelligence beyond thought, since only that can resolve our existential contradiction and increasing conflict with nature and each other.