Man's deepest longing has always been to rise above and beyond himself.
He knows he is but a collocation of atoms. Yet he also knows he can write poetry, sacrifice nobly and do much good on this earth.
In the quiet of nights, he can look at the stars, meditate on what the eye cannot see, and feel a feeble signal from afar respond to his meditation.
Sometimes, when moments are lucid, his mind senses that he could lift his own consciousness to a higher plane out of his being.
In those moments, the nous or life-in-essence would float out of him to allow him a glimpse of how he has been responding and reacting to what have been happening to him, how thoughts and feelings have formed from a combination of causes-and-effects and emotions born from experiences.
It is said those on medical beds can sometimes see others who have moved on. Could this be a reflection that we live on beyond our physical selves? Perhaps in another form, another dimension, another definition of reality that we in this physical world are locked out from understanding.
If that be so, life is but a journey; we enter the world when we are born as if we enter a door, we leave the world when we die as if we leave by the same door.
In the intervening time, shorter by the day, we learn, chapter by chapter, the book of life. Each day has a new lesson. Each lesson has elements and essences which seem to cohere to form a pattern that reveals a message. Sometimes we dream and intuit what the message is, only to see it float away from our mental grasp.
This then is the lot of man, for most a daily tussle and grind between the mundane and the lofty.
Given that, why then do we continue to hurt others? Not a single year passes in human history when there has not been evil done, pain imposed, life taken away at the hands of man. If we only but understand that we are after all mere specks in a cold and inhospitable universe, why can't we each see that we must walk towards goodness and virtue - to do good, and also not to do evil?
The world we've earned today may not be as cruel as in those ancient times of pogroms and devastations. But those very elements of destructiveness continue to metamorphose and fester today in other forms. Revenge, arrogance, greed, bigotry, mischief and selfishness consume many to such an extent that they'll forego principles in drunken, driven pursuit of their limited aims, narrow purviews, self-deluding illusions.
Despite the trappings of progress and the hubris of development, are we in effect no better than what we were ages ago?
Yet there must be hope. The lessons learnt by the nameless, faceless millions before us have accumulated at a humanity corner. It is a mountain-sized pile. Day by day, as destruction wrecks havoc elsewhere, this hard-earned pile of wisdom and insights sits for one and all to partake. It is somewhere within each of us. We just need to find it within us, not as individual human beings, but as one of many millions who have come and gone, so much so an unbroken line of human tradition already exists.
I often think that the atheist and the agnostic are as noble as those who believe in the Unseen One. Why? they sacrifice themselves to walk away in dire sadness and denial because their hearts pain to the core when they see human suffering. Yet, to them, as i once was, if you but drop everything else from your minds and hearts, walk the plank again, and say these three words without the taint of sarcasm or mischief: 'God please help.', then that remote feeble signal will come as surely as you can read what i'm writing now. If ghosts exist, why not God? And if God exists, why not let Him Be, without imposing our self-ennobling criteria?
The last chapter of the book of life? It remains to be read. Whatever our backgrounds, each of us senses it will not deliver any climactic effect to create a neat summation for all the years that have passed. It will only be like clear water, flowing gently and softly somewhere.
Given life's often tumultous journey, what else can one expect? What else should one ask for?
Maybe, it's karmic forces combined with planetary influence which move life's effects, each effect different for each of the five billion humans on this insignificant planet in this ultravast universe.
Perhaps it's like time travel; not possible to change the future because time forward is along only a line parallel, not congruent, with the time present line..so that one can see the future or past come up, but cannot touch or change either. Perhaps the Unseen One stands along the parallel line and He does reach out, but only if us microbes om this small plot of earth call out to Him..and then, only to some...
Who are we to question Why? Who are we to rationalise Him in our mould, our way of thinking, our logic, even if it is logic based on compassion? Who are we, having defined Him as All-Powerful, then ask why He could not intervene? Who are we, but frumpy, ten-emotion-only, ectoplasmic minerals, indeed.
Yet, when i stand near His lamp and ask for His Kindness, it flickers. When i walk away, the flickering stops. When i lit those twelve candles the other night because i had felt darkness creeping over this planet's humanity, i knew He was the One Who had kept all twelve candles lit, merrily too, right to the end in the open air. I knew because it was drizzling where they stood, twelve candles symbolising my prostration to life's deepest pains.
If we are to know Him, we will have to suspend all the dogmas that we construct that have fashioned Him to our liking. We will have to even suspend compassion. Yet, when we know Him, we know He will return that compassion, manifold and deeper. We know then, in an instant, that everything in the life that we have is so ephemeral, so transient, so lacking in the substance of permanence, and that so long as we cling on to our own conceited logics, our own man-made rules of engagement, our tuning forks cannot resonate at the same frequency as His. Which has been humming all these eons.
There have been so many global disasters, so many personal griefs, that the world we've inherited is as much troubling as the worlds before. Yet, if we don't have faith in Him, what else is there we can do, what else is there, how do we close the emptiness that keeps on coming back as if bearing a quiet but old message?
Sure, we can build the best coal mines in the world, and indeed there will be a high level of scientific certainty they won't collapse to kill fathers and sons. But come a time after that, looking back at these four score years of daily grinds, interspersed with the occasional laughter, mingled with the pools of tears, what we will find is Something that must Be.
It is each's personal leap of faith, to take that one step into an Unknown, without asking what are benefits by doing so. For the moment we think we should be blessed for thinking of Him, we return to the same cesspool from which we have ached to climb out of.
Faith is blind, but He is not. In whatever form He takes, He is indeed subtle but i have never known Him to be malicious, for while He always provides an alternative reason for everything, He responds in a Way that tellingly reveals Its own poignancy.
Should He allow me in these twilight years, my fervent wish is that I do not forget Him, whatever happens next.
inset: In answer to those who were troubled by some of the difficult verses in holy books, my forum answer was:
"Just abandon all those statements and use your heart.
It's not necessary to follow every word and every sentence in any holy book; many of the verses in all types of holy books were written for a different time, different conditions, different situations from now. Although written with complete pedantry, they were written to convince people of those times.
It is not necessary for God to be in any particular image. God acts like a magnifying glass for one's conscience. What is good in a human being should become stronger when one has faith in God.
All the other things one can abandon if they create disturbance in the mind, unrest in the heart.
Once you're free from conditions to believe, then you can act alone to go to God. Listen to well-meaning faith preachers with an open mind, but in the end, always your conscience first. If you don't have a conscience, it will not matter anyway.
Faith in God(s) is meant to be good to you and everyone else. It can be the same God to Whom the verses are attached. Just detach the unsavory verses and continue to believe in Him (Her).
Life is too short for man-made mistakes. God on the other hand will understand and respond. Faith is 99% personal."
inset: May 16th 2004
Some 30 years ago, i chanced upon a small essay by a Canadian philosophy professor; in it, he wrote something that went like this:
" when we read something good in a holy book, we must already have something good inside us that recognises that what we've read is good."
that conscience which i've mentioned in previous posts, if i may add, relates to this concept said above.
if we know something is good, then there must have been an ability inside us that can recognise, and accept, and champion, that goodness.
for simplicity purpose, i call that conscience. it must have come from somewhere... parental and peer guidance, genetics, fostering environment, true friends, wisdom of the past, painful and happy experiences that teach like stick and carrot... but something inside.
now, my concept of God is that even after we have that conscience, there is something OUTSIDE it who resonates to our individual 'tuning forks'. however the frequency for each resonance is different for different individuals. for the mother theresas of the world, it might be strong, for others it might be weak.
but having said that, there is a commonality amongst all men (and women). the commonality, for me, is that we each have a conscience. What i believe is that God the external Being can help magnify that conscience until it reaches a critical mass where we individually enter a special plane of awareness.
In that special plane of awareness, the two frequencies coincide and become one.
i don't know whether that's the Tao of China. For that i leave to taoist experts.