‘Life as an Evolutionary Me’

Posted: May 4, 2022 in Uncategorized

‘Life as an Evolutionary Me’

As you might have already guessed that in some communities this time is about recognizing the harvest time and about the abundance of nature. It is of course a topic of our everyday as we deal with climate change and its effect on harvests and as we wrestle with the fact of overpopulation of our planet or of blatant disregard for its ability to cope with exponential growth of the number of people on it and how resources are distributed in a fair and just way. Questions of equity and fairness abound in our everyday if we are a thinking person. When I was struggling around trying to find what to say about harvest alongside the reading for today the last time, I preached on these texts the issue became what is there about Shepherds and sheep that can be placed alongside the harvest of grain, produce and things of resource for human life. I played with the idea of metaphor and I thought about what there was in each of these a metaphor that could be universal. In the end I settled for what could be loosely called nature. In the raising and managing the herd and in planting and harvesting the produce there was a sense of a universal food source. And I though perhaps a sense of oneness might be found in this development. I came across an article by William Edelen entitled ‘Exploring the truth of nature’ that interested me, not in its affirmation of what I was thinking but rather as inadequate in the light of where we have already come as ‘Progressive thinkers’. Edelen quoted two writers with statements that I would question strongly. He quoted Thomas Paine as saying; “Men and books lie … only nature never lies.”  And Goethe who said “Nature is always true, only in nature can truth be found”. While I agree that men and books can lie I am not so sure anymore that nature is the only place where truth exists, not because of nature but rather my understanding of truth which I have mentioned before.

Over 100 years ago, Kierkegaard observed that maturity consists in the discovery that “there comes a critical moment where everything is reversed, after which the point becomes to understand more and more that there is something which cannot ever be understood.” This “critical moment” of maturity appears in the journey of life when certainties of personal identity and self- worth based in an empirical literal truth evolves to the point where the so called “human wisdom” pales before the wisdom of the integrated scientific cosmic view of nature. In fact, Loren Eiseley, the distinguished Anthropologist and Chair of the Philosophy of Science Department at the University of Pennsylvania wrote that, “There is no such thing as wisdom.” The only “wisdom” there is can be found in nature where the spiritual and the material are one. One might read that as a claim that wisdom is found in the cyclical serendipitous cycle and not in its naming or nature is not a thing but rather a process or a living and dying eventing.

The challenge I think, here, is to wrestle with the idea that only the human (Homo sapien) is special, sacred and made in the image of God. In a conversation I had last week with one of you the issue of any supremacy of the human creature above any other creature was discussed. I suggested that it is only the idea of humans being conscious beings that sets us apart, not in the sense of any distinction, as we have come to understand that many so callen entities have what we call consciousness, even plants etc. Our concern is rather an exclusivity or a higher participatory role within the whole. Traditionally we humans have differentiated between the supernatural and the natural, the sacred and the profane. But if the progressive understanding is to make sense, then the entire cosmos is a revelation and everything, sum total, is natural, sacred and spiritual and reflects the image of that same mystery.

Again, this discussion is not new. Albert Schweitzer wrote “How we delude ourselves, if we think otherwise. When we consider the immensity of the universe, we must confess that man is insignificant. Man’s life can hardly be considered the goal of the universe. Its margin of existence is always so precarious. A man is ethical only when he considers every living cell, whether plant or animal, sacred and divine.”

And Dr. Lewis Thomas, head of New York’s Sloan Kettering research centre said, “Every living thing is alive thanks to the living of everything else. Every form of life is connected. (I might say interconnected to recognise the fluidity of that which we name as ‘self’.) The planet Earth is like a single cell. Homo sapiens is really a very immature and ignorant species in the horrible way it has treated all other living organisms.”

I might want to disagree a little with Thomas in his caricature of humans as an ignorant species and perhaps as an arrogant species despite its record but I suggest that being ignorant or in need of knowing is the lot of an evolutionary participant and as a conscious being, or as it is now put, a co-creator with God in the very creation of the cosmos, we are all manifestations of the Mystery. We are all not that significant being made from the same elements, yet we are crucial for the life of the planet. From the same fund and the same material came every living organism that our consciousness invites us to know. The micro world and the macro world are of the same dust and they breathe the same wind and drink of the same water. Their days are warmed by the same sun and their little hearts or life pulses are just like ours and were created by the same evolutionary fountain. That is a very generalised statement but it makes a point.

This view of reality, of the oneness of everything, long held by native peoples and Eastern sages is today being debated and in many cases confirmed by physicists and astronomers, neuroscientists, anthropoligists, biologists and the like.. “The universe is everything, both living and inanimate things, both atoms and galaxies, and if the spiritual exists, the spiritual and material are one, for the universe is the totality of all things,” wrote Fred Hoyle in Frontiers of Astronomy.

For many thinkers today behind and beyond our senses lies a plane of consciousness in which all is related and all is one and all is now. Everything is united in the Mystery as one, the energy of the sun dancing in a wood-burning fire, a cucumber cucumbering, a flight of geese honking into a north wind, a rising tide crashing and breaking against a resisting beach, a wild stallion, with nostrils bulging the pride of the free racing to his mare, mist covering with affection hemlock and pine, a mountain lion stalking a fresh spore on a mountain trial. It is all one and all natural and all sacred and all divine, and all revealed images of the “great Mystery” behind it all and for some people it is known to us … as Nature and all truth.

“We are the children of this beautiful planet that we have in recent years seen photographed from the moon;” wrote Joseph Campbell. ”We were not delivered into it by some god, but have come forth from it. And the Earth, together with the sun, this light around which it flies like a moth, came forth from a nebula, and that nebula in turn from space, So that we are the mind, ultimately, of space, each in his own way at one with all, and with no horizons.”

One of the interesting links to harvest at this point is the recent development in our schools where gardens and harvest are renewing the interest of our young ones as they begin to understand the creative cycles and the particularities of nurture that produces bounty by way of coloured food stuffs that result in and from human endeavour. One might also suggests that the idea of ‘the commons’ is being raised as a means of dealing with a society that is defunct in terms of approaching diversity and difference. Conflict as normal discourse of a healthy doubting critique needs addressing and revenge as a manes of justice also, if we are to be responsible human beings with a society based on the creation of and sustaining of a loving nature.

In this broader way its possible to see that even life and death are one. Life, so called, is the seemingly short episode between two great mysteries which are yet one. Spring begins with winter, and death begins with birth. We all share the same breath together in this short episode, the trees, the birds, the animals and the humans. We dance to a common rhythm.

This interval we call Life is a Mystery between greater mysteries which are yet one in a universe where all is natural (nature) and sacred, an image of the Source, the evolutionary fountain, initiating consciousness, imagination becoming that we call in our tradition … maybe  naming as ‘God’.

What does this have to do with Hope and Real Life? Well for me the hope is in the idea of eternal life that is possible here and now. As co-creator, and co-participant this short phase of life is real in the context of the larger evolutionary reality I am a part of and this short span of conscious life has a huge, immense value in that I am a participant in the creation of reality and I can affirm with confidence that what I do and say matters, the value of what I do and say has a purpose which is the completion of the sacred or God, if you like, or the individuation of the God I spoke about earlier and I can in this understanding say categorically that love changes everything. This is how I contribute and participate most effectively. By loving.

The fascinating thing is that all this co-creating happens so quickly that we are unaware of the separate experiences, which are like the separate frames of a motion picture. This is where our despair finds its way in to this picture. Again it is a creative moment in that it poses the question. ‘Why am I here’ and again we find our purpose if we can put down the indulgence of despair long enough to notice. Similarly, we are unaware of the separate cells of our bodies, to say nothing of the molecules and atoms that constitute them. Each cell a life so to speak, yet we can’t know them all at once. And this is despite the fact that they are renewed every seven years or so. We are unaware of most of what is going on within and around us, let alone throughout the universe. We don’t need to know the subatomic structure of a kitchen table in order to put groceries onto it, but that doesn’t mean that there is no such structure. So it is with the evolutionary experiential nature of the world. Although we may not be able to focus on the individual frames of our lives, that which we call Mystery, or Nature, or God does.

What does this have to do with harvesting food produce? Well it says that the human relationship with this thing called nature is a complex one. It is one of substance and of management. It is a living, dynamic evolving thing if you like. We are in fact the creation and its creator so to speak. Our connection with the land and the harvest of its produce is a real vulnerable, serendipitous and relational one. When I value the process of the cosmos as a participant in its creation I am in harmony with the goodness of creation and I am responsible with and for its fragility and its serendipity. There is all that stuff about free will and choice and difference and compatibility and ultimately about the efficacy of loving. The choices I make are crucially valuable and important. I care for creation because I am of it and it is of me. Again, we might see this relationship as part of the individuation or completion of God and humanity. Again, we might see this relationship as a spiritual and material one of great and wonderful mystery and we might affirm that love is the way it evolves. Amen.

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