HUMANIST CORNER September 2018
“Consider that nirvana is itself no other than everyday life.” Dogen, Japanese Zen Master
“The say love God for it is the greatest virtue. I say, love humans, for there is no greater religion than the love of humanity.” Abhijit Naskar, world renowned Neuroscientist and author
“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interior of a collapsing star. We are made of starstuff.” Carl Sagan
Naskar is a tireless advocate of mental wellness and global harmony, which lines up nicely with Reverend Doak’s message on spirituality. The religious root of spirituality implies humans have a non-material spirit or soul. It was pointed out in the recent PEW study that although the U.S. is much more religious than our European counterparts, many non-religious people here do feel themselves to be “spiritual.” My humanist friends also share that feeling, but without a diety figure or sense of pre-determined purpose to human life.
Nonetheless humanists believe each one of us constructs our own sense of spiritual meaning for our goals and existence. The U.U. program BYOT (Build Your Own Theology) harkens to that notion. At different stages in life new experiences often transcend old concepts – even as psychologist Kubler Ross speculated, those steps leading to our final exit. Growth itself can be viewed as spirituality in action, the human spirit. Without resorting to Eastern meditations, the spirit of life can manifest in connections to nature and earth, passages such as birth, adolescent vigor, educational leaps, awe and wonder that inspire us like soaring cathedrals or magnificent vistas in nature. Humanists also assist both the religious and non-religious in such settings as hospitals or prisons. Been there – done that. The joy of just helping boost spiritual resilience required in facing existential challenges life throws at us as time passes and we evolve.
That can be particularly true in such times as ours that bring on situations and circumstances never experienced by human beings. The celebrated mythologist, Joseph Campbell, knew we all need stories even beyond our sense of reality. Transcending thought, but still brilliant and clear. Awakening to the Jesus or Buddha within us. The sense of awe in being, the Gnosticism, Taoism, Humanism of life’s journey. As Campbell puts it, “Heaven and hell are within us, and all the gods are within us. This is the great realization of the Upanishads of India, already in the ninth century BCE. Myth is a manifestation in symbolic images, metaphorical images, of the energies of the body in conflict with each other. The organ wants this, the brain is one of the organs.”
Campbell’s right! We need new myths to confront fresh, new and often alarming realities. Bell and I were able to raise four compassionate, gentle and decent adults on that simple, humanistic rule threaded through every holy book ever devised by man. The Gilded one, of course! Sadly so often treasured in thought more than action within the human family. More than the science and technology required to heal ourselves and our wounded planet, a binding myth of true humanhood must be cast out into our collective consciousness to divert our ancient divisions into a human spirituality of harmony. Myth is dream. If we can dream it – we can do it… SHALOM