Humanity

Somewhere along the way we get tricked.
We fall victim to this conditioned idea
that humanity is divided up into teams.

This being nationality, race,
politics, class and religion.

We join a team,
usually one our parents or communities
have passed down to us.
And we become proud of our team.
We cling desperately to our team’s
philosophies & principles.
Traditions & symbols
become our security.
We hide in them.

And because we are led to believe
that our team is noble, we either ignore
or justify all the evil things our team does
while at the same time demonizing
the other team for their vices.
Even minor ones.

We will strongly deny any truths
that challenge the dignity of our team.

That’s when the essence of our individualism
dissolves like ice cubes in our morning coffee.
We begin to hate the other team.
We deplore their actions, right or wrong.
We want to abolish the other team.
We become bitter as our hearts fill with disdain.

This is the abbreviated story of humanity.
This is why the world is a constant battlefield.
This is why it’s so important to teach our kids
to read poetry, drink beer, travel often, hike mountains,
and most importantly–never ever watch the news.

This will shatter the deadly illusion of teams.

Reflections on Nature, Mankind and Resurrection

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The sun is just peering over the horizon as I sit here by this serene lake. I’m alone apart from for an older gentleman in the distance walking his dog. The tired oaks stand with dignity in their silence. The palms gently quiver from a light wind off the water. It is springtime here and you can smell the Jasmine in the breeze. On this quiet morning, dew lingers on the park benches, the leaves and the old wooden dock that reaches out to eternity. All around me you can hear nature come alive. It’s in these hours that we find what we usually spend a lifetime seeking. Liveliness. Peace.

As the gray morning is broken up by the sun’s powerful rays slicing through the overcast, the Great Heron swoops down inches from the water and sores back up to pose admirably on the old dock. The Belted Kingfisher, with its energetic flight, hovers just above the lake and then dives at his prey, disrupting the silence. Hundreds of crows chirp and flutter all around, playing, singing and looking for food on the shoreline. It’s musical. The world is asleep but nature is stirring with potent vitality. With all this life awakening, one wonders how this liveliness, this beauty, this existence could possibly have a beginning or an end. It seems infinite. It is I believe.

Sitting here drinking my coffee,  I’m questioning why people treat each other so harsh. In this vast majestic world we all reside in, why do we get bogged down and overtaken by trivial dramas and futile quarrels. Sitting here at this moment you realize, at least for an instant, that yesterday and tomorrow are illusions. They are nothing. Only right now is real, this moment. And it’s amazing when you recognize this; nature helps tremendously. When you sit as an observer in nature it un-teaches all that’s been taught, all that’s been conditioned in our minds; it chips away at all the opinions we’ve accumulated over the years, mostly from other people. Knowledge is always in the past.

When alone, and you empty yourself of everything, the past doesn’t cast its shadow. Past and future have no meaning. This is where it’s at. This is the nirvana that we seek.

What I’m finding out is that we learn more about life by watching the sunrise and the birds come alive, seeing and hearing the awakening of nature around us than we can by reading any book or ancient doctrine. There is truth here and you feel it in all your senses. I believe the poet William Blake understood this when he beautifully put these words together:

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand 
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, 
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour.” 

Now the sun is dissipating the coolness of the morning. The warmth touches my face as the sun rises higher in the blue sky. The low hovering clouds that were prominent before sunrise have slowly disintegrated, giving way to a colorful morning.

I often wonder why we are all so serious. Why do we worry so much. Why do we live in a world of superficiality, walking around, fighting, bickering, and constantly at each other’s throats over the most trivial of matters. Why do we exalt in pride and our self-righteous beliefs. Why are we susceptible to the most obvious falsehoods. Why do we live most of our lives asleep and what does it mean to be awake. These are the questions hitting me this morning.

To be fully alive, like what I’m seeing this morning by the lake, means living deliberately with dignity. It means finding joy and letting it engulf you. It means, as the words of Joseph Campbell come to mind, following your bliss. It’s about being who you are and not yielding to anyone or anything. Being truly alive is entering the woods where there is no path. It’s about making your own, leaving your own unique footprints on this heavily trampled earth. It means creating things that will outlive you. This is what being alive and living with purpose is all about.

A strong scent of orange blossoms hit me as a sudden wind came off the water. I sipped my coffee in the immense stillness of the morning. An abrupt sound of flailing wings from the heron taking flight turns my head. The sky has faded into a great coalescence of color and the light haze over the lake began lifting.

I think to myself how man has broken this earth. Tribalism, nationalism and religious idealism continues to wreak havoc on this planet. My flag is better than your flag. My God is the truth and your God is not. Mine mine mine is better than yours yours yours. This infantile mentality is the cause of everything evil in this world. We fight amongst each other while politicians exult in their power over the divided many. And religious leaders, with their devious power, implant a dangerous world outlook in the hungry minds that crave false hope to continue on. They create a world of duality, causing eyes to look at the world through the narrow lenses of good and evil.

These days, individuals don’t want to make their own decisions; they need someone in power to guide them. We look to authority figures for constant guidance. We rarely ever challenge or disobey. We strut along with full compliance, even to rules and laws that ruffle our conscious. People, robbed of their essence, are incapable of thinking beyond their provincial upbringing, unable to empathize with other humans that are unlike themselves. We put more trust in the corrupt institutions around us, whether it’s the state, academia or the church, than we do our own selves and our neighbors.

Unfortunately, with this unwavering trust in institutions, we’ve elevated to power the most depraved men in society. These are the same men who’ve tricked us into supporting the bloodshed of our fellow-man under the pretense of good verse evil. We are all saddened when a child is tragically killed but seem to be unfazed when the State does it with drone strikes under the language of war. We tend to compartmentalize our morality and feelings, detaching ourselves from what’s really going on, in hopes of living guilt free in our own little world, refusing to accept our indirect responsibility for these crimes.

Mankind is not inherently evil, but if somehow we can be convinced that the prescribed evil is good, we’re sure to adopt and execute it. All of us believe that murder is evil, but if committed by one in uniform, it is praised and glorified. Stealing is wrong, but if done by politicians in the language of “for the greater good”, then it’s fine. Redefining evil through political language is how the ruling class gains control of the people, making them do what they want.

This leaves us at a place in life where living freely and harmoniously with all things is a far-reaching utopia. We’ve bought into what the great powers have wanted us to buy into—disunion and conflict. Politicians feed off of this division knowing the masses will misplace blame for the ills of society. The people in general, drunk on entertainment and ignorance, will find it difficult to uncover a cure for the spreading cancer of society because we ignore the source and only treat and complain about the symptoms. We live comfortably and securely in a world of falsehoods and hardly take the time to read and genuinely learn. Our wisdom today is gained through sound bites and headlines. We barricade ourselves behind comfy little lies and chastise those who speak truths. And with this bleak ignorance we’re incapable of seeing through the deliberate misinformation bombarded on us.

There is hope. I believe, like nature all around this morning, people are slowly coming alive. Questions are starting to be asked. Technology is making it harder and harder for these institutions to hide their atrocities. A ruling system that functions by political violence will surely implode. As soon as the majority adheres to the virtues of truth and wisdom, and reclaim the essence of individualism and freedom, change will ensue.

People now are starting to make their way to the lake shore. A photographer sets up on the dock to capture shots of the many birds. A couple walks hand in hand, taking in the beauty of the horizon over the lake. The chirps from the crows are louder and sun is now sprinkling its radiance on the water. The world is fully awake now, and I sit and watch this resurrection with complete emptiness.

I Seek the Sun

exiled from the garden
of bleak innocence
seduced
into the world of duality
fear and desire
keep us from returning
to the Paradise
that was once our essence

centuries ensued
with poetic myths
wetting the appetite
of mankind’s yearning
for a transcendent belief
and meaning
to console the limitations
of our learning

the dreadful Fall
leaves us all petrified,
fear of afterlife condemnations
for being alive
irrational threats
from hypocritical pulpits
to those who don’t worship
a conscious metaphor in the sky

most look up
in search of the divine
instead of looking inside,
where we’d find
the celestial power
that makes us whole
the true God
within our soul

And now…

modern day has arrived
like a cold winter
the fog of despair
keeps out the light
empty souls plunder
their weekly earnings
on objects of craving
that fails to delight

now everyone lives
how they’re told to live
instead living lives
that they wish they did
and they turn to pills
for their discontent
to fly them to a place
that seems heaven sent

the people are all genius
of the news of the day
and survive behind
a veneer of pretensions
we participate in the evil
that we preach against
with disarrayed minds
and dulled senses

products of mass entertainment
holding opinions that aren’t our own
easily conformed to the insanity of culture
pleased to be warriors
for causes unknown

but the time is now as it always is
to revolutionize our minds
and rekindle that fiery flame
that’s been suffocated over time

true reality is our unity with all life
and all life forms feed off death
so we must die to live on
we must die into the night
and like the sun, we rise!
reborn with the dawn

Until then…

moonlight sins devour my conscious, while
morning dew drips from hungover dreams
damn the sun, the sun has risen
to meet bloodshot eyes of the redeemed
the foggy haze of an exotic night
has inflamed the shadow deeply hidden
seems like,
in embracing the darkness
of that weary night,
we resurrect that long
ago, faded light.

“I dreamed my genesis in sweat of death, fallen
Twice in the feeding sea, grown
Stale of Adam’s brine until, vision
Of new man strength, I seek the sun.”

Rethinking the Genesis Message

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” ― William Blake

Religion, without a doubt has been a factor for a lot of good in this world. The devout have fed and housed the poor, lived upright and moral lives and advocated the ‘Golden Rule’ for people to live by. But Religion has also fueled some of the most vile hatred and horrific wars the world has ever seen. From the Muslim conquests to the Christian motivated crusades of Europe, the Salem witch trials in New England and the Inquisition in Spain; an  ideology was so strong in the minds of these people, it caused them to carry out depraved acts of murder and destruction. People today still have these same convictions. But what if we’re missing the genuine philosophical meaning of these religions because of the conditioned mindset we approach our interpretations of their derived texts?

The fundamental religious believe their ancient texts to be wholly inspired by God and read it as historically true.  Both Islam and Christianity hold these beliefs. But what if the real meaning of these ancient writings were not meant to be read as actualities, but rather as spiritual metaphors of a timeless message?

What we know for sure is that these two major religions of the world were formed around the same time in relation to the timeline of history. Christianity started around 30AD and Islam around 622AD. Both believe that Adam was the first male on earth. Both recognize the Old Testament prophets. It’s also been proven that both religions have historical inaccuracies in their sacred texts, and some believers are unfazed by these revelations. In Christianity, because of the many translations and understandings of them, many different sects have formed throughout the centuries including–Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Latter Day Saints and many others. All claim supremacy in their collective understanding of ancient scriptures. Each believe to solely hold the truth of salvation and eternal life.

So the important questions are:

Why do believers zealously defend an ideologue derived from a murky interpretation of ancient texts written by unknown authors in the most uneducated part of the world?

Why are these religions the cause of so much divisiveness, bigotry and hatred in this world?

I’m truly convinced the answer lies in the fact that people don’t read or understand metaphors anymore. And when we take metaphors as absolute truths, we submit ourselves into the world of duality that causes us to see the world through the foggy lenses of Good and Evil. This is what causes our –me vs you, my religion vs your religion– mentality. We tire ourselves with constant conflict with nature instead of transcending duality and living harmoniously in the world. We’ve created in our minds the illusion of self and time.

By reading the stories of the Bible as literal historical realities, the vital message that the myth was meant to embody is stripped away. We lose the real meaning. Jesus knew the power of metaphorical language and taught with beautiful parables that sometimes his disciples couldn’t identify with. They were trying to understand Jesus literally instead of grasping the message the parable was purveying. There minds weren’t capable of deciphering truths in the form of symbolism. Jesus, at times, became frustrated by their ignorance.

Genesis, which likely wasn’t the first book written in the Bible as many believe, is mostly mythical stories that cannot be read as history, but instead, as a witness to a truth in a way that history is unable to reveal*. Understanding metaphor is the key to abstracting a hopeful message from these fables written in the Old Testament, instead of just disregarding them because modern science has proved them invalid.

(*Many scholars agree that Job is the oldest book in the Bible, written by an Israelite about 1500 B.C. Christianity and Islam both derive their roots from the Sumerin mythology and according to Wiki, Sumerian civilization started between ca. 4500 and 4000 BC. )

One of the greatest thinkers on comparative mythology, Joseph Campbell, explains that “When you translate the Bible with excessive literalism, you demythologize it. The possibility of a convincing reference to the individual’s own spiritual experience is lost.”  This is why he believed it was important to read myths and understand ancient symbolism. He also knew how beneficial it was to read other cultures religious texts so they’d be able to see the correlations with their own. It’s quite a revelation and would probably help taper off some of the illusions that senselessly divide mankind.

Now, when we read the first chapter of the bible, we can either interpret it literally or metaphorically.  If we read it literally, we have to accept the fact that we have no clue who wrote it and there was no eye-witness account to these significant occurrences. We’d have to accept that God, the all-loving creator, created the devil knowing full in advance of his evil ways. We’d also have to believe that Satan took form in a talking serpent (a legend older than Genesis) and tempted Man to defy God, (which God, being all-knowing, would have known beforehand). There is no free-will when a creator has full knowledge of future actions and feelings of his creation. Or we can read it metaphorically, like the great teachers and poets throughout history have taught. Joseph Campbell explains the Fall in Genesis like this…

Why was this knowledge of good and evil forbidden to Adam and Eve? Without that knowledge, we’d all be a bunch of babies still in Eden, without any participation in life. Woman brings life into the world. Eve is the mother of this temporal world. Formerly you had a dreamtime paradise there in the Garden of Eden – no time, no birth, no death – no life. The serpent, who dies and is resurrected, shedding its skin and renewing its life, is the lord of the central tree, where time and eternity come together. He is the primary god, actually, in the Garden of Eden. Yahweh, the one who walks there in the cool of the evening, is just a visitor. The Garden is the serpent’s place. It is an old, old story. We have Sumerian seals from as early as 3500 B.C. showing the serpent and the tree and the goddess, with the goddess giving the fruit of life to a visiting male…

In the Old Testament story God points out the one forbidden thing. Now, God must have known very well that man was going to eat the forbidden fruit. But it was by doing that that man became the initiator of his own life. Life really began with that act of disobedience.

Below are just a few examples of the illogical fallacies written in Genesis if one reads it as actual truths. If we define these as literal historical facts, we run into major contradictions and untruths, whether its science, archaeological or common-sense. But if we can read these symbolically as a spiritual message, then we’d be truer to our rational nature.

  1. God couldn’t have created light a few days before he created the sun like it is written. We know now that light is obviously produced by the sun, but the authors at the time had no idea about this science. (1:14-19)
  2. God couldn’t have created plants the day before he made the sun, because we now understand that sun is needed to drive their photosynthetic processes. No sun= no plants. (1:14-19). 1:11
  3. In Genesis 1 the entire creation takes 6 days, but the universe is 13.7 billion years old, with new stars constantly being formed.
  4. “When the animals left the ark, what would they have eaten? There would have been no plants after the ground had been submerged for nearly a year. What would the carnivores have eaten? Whatever prey they ate would have gone extinct. And how did the New World primates or the Australian marsupials find their way back after the flood subsided?”
  5. There is an estimated 8.7 million species on earth. Did Noah snatch all of them up and put them on his boat?
  6.  Gen 32:30 states, “…for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”  However, John 1:18 states, “No man hath seen God at any time…”  Both statements cannot be true.

(Sources- http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/science/long.html)

If we read irrational stories in the Bible and try to convince our conscious, against reasonable evidence, that these are literally true, we lack the sincerity of being rational human beings. But if we understand the allegory and metaphorical meaning of these fascinating stories, we’d be able to recognize the mythical meanings that exist in ourselves.

We all came from the same place no matter what our beliefs are. We are one.

Below, I want to leave you with wonderful article from a retired pastor called, Rethinking the Genesis Message. He struggled as a Reverend to accept the message of Genesis as true history. So this is how he coped with the contradictions between modern science and his faith.

Rethinking the Genesis Message.

By the Rev. Howard Bess

It is unfortunate that the collection of writings that Christians most revere has been entitled The Holy Bible, a title that has placed this collection of letters, essays, tracts, poetry, myths, legends and stories in a category that does not allow for critical examination. Many believers treat the Bible’s contents as the unquestioned word of God.

“The Bible says” are three words that end discussion rather than initiate debate. New titles have been attempted. “Good News for Modern Man” and “The Message” are attempts that come to mind. However, neither of these titles, nor others that have been tried, grabbed the imagination of readers sufficiently. I want to make the case to read the Bible material as “Life in the Pursuit of the Good” — though I acknowledge that the Bible can be read with an almost endless number of perspectives.

Much earlier in my theological career, I struggled with the seeming conflict between my Christian faith and modern science. My struggle focused on the first chapter of the book of Genesis. Conventional understanding told me that this story was an account of the God of the Israelites creating all things out of nothing in seven days.

I was exposed to all kinds of explanations about how the story could be reconciled to modern science. However, modern science won all the arguments. Genesis 1 simply did not pass scientific muster. So, I reached my next conclusion. Unwilling to throw away Genesis 1, I concluded that the chapter was not history and could not be understood as history. Genesis 1 was written as a myth and should be read as a myth.

Myth is a time-honored literary form used to talk about God, but myths never make scientific sense and can never be read as history. Myths can witness to truth in a manner that mere history can never speak. Thus, I read Genesis with new eyes.

The Genesis 1 story has ancient roots that go back to Mesopotamia, the cradle of western civilization which covered the same area as modern Iraq, with Babylon its capital city. In Mesopotamian mythology, a recurring theme was the struggle with chaos, with their answer to chaos, war. But chaos could not be defeated by fighting it. Chaos kept coming back to haunt the people of Mesopotamia. In their mythology, war was inevitable and victory over chaos was temporary at best.

According to Biblical tradition, Abraham grew up in Mesopotamia, was familiar with the ways of that region, and – by the call of God – went on a grand journey. Over the ensuing generations, Israelite thinking took a turn away from the Babylonian myths. Genesis 1 is the Israelite response to chaos and endless war.

In the Genesis 1 myth, the Israelite God confronts a world that is without form and is engulfed in darkness. In modern language, the earth was chaotic beyond useful function. So God sets out to do something about chaos and the useless nature of the world. Simply by speaking, the Israelite God made light, vegetation, animal life and finally human life. God’s world was to be a place of plenty and robust life. As God completed his actions, he paused periodically and said that what he was doing was good.

This alternative reading of Genesis 1 and understanding Genesis 1 as myth were for me a marvelous discovery. I could let science do its work, while I was given a new vision of what my life as a religious person was to be about. Jesus and Paul affirmed the message that evil/chaos is never to be fought but overcome with the doing of good.

Genesis 1 lays out the message about the power of doing good, though mankind keeps finding ways of nullifying the program. Christians, Jews and Muslims all say that they embrace the Genesis 1 story. However, much of the time we choose to be Babylonians, warring against chaos rather than addressing it with good.

In that way, we ignore one of the most profound ethical statements ever proposed.

http://consortiumnews.com/2013/05/26/rethinking-the-genesis-message/

The Wisdom of Joseph Campbell–Myths

~ Read myths. They teach you that you can turn inward, and you begin to get the message of the symbols. Read other people’s myths, not those of your own religion, because you tend to interpret your own religion in terms of facts — but if you read the other ones, you begin to get the message. Myth helps you to put your mind in touch with this experience of being alive. Myth tells you what the experience is.~

~ All religions are true but none are literal.~

~ What gods are there, what gods have there ever been, that were not from man’s imagination?~

~ Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.~

~ Myth is what we call other people’s religion.~

~ Wherever the poetry of myth is interpreted as biography, history, or science, it is killed.~

The Wisdom of Joseph Campbell–Religious Metaphor

heaven-and-hell-8

Half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies”…

“All of our religious ideas are metaphorical of a mystery. It is vital to recall that if you mistake the denotation of the metaphor from its connotation, you completely lose the message that is contained in the symbol.”

~Joseph Campbell

Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor