The tale: I’ve gone through a pretty lengthy spiritual process to land where I am today and I recognize that I’m likely not done. Much like the earth itself, I am changing. Each day, each second, something is different about each one of us. For some people, this is frightening. For me, it’s reality and it’s comforting. As I change, I get the chance to make my life and that of those around me better somehow. Each day is another opportunity to improve upon the last.
Thanks to my increasing recognition of the ways that our interactions in and on the world are socially constructed – that these interactions aren’t inherent to the process of things, but that we follow, uphold, co-create an “order” of how to treat one another and when and how to act in particular situations and with particular people or groups of people… even how to group people is constructed – thanks to this recognition, I have shifted my religious beliefs. I was born and raised Roman Catholic. I was baptized and completed both my First Communion and Confirmation. I am no longer anything close to that, for multiple reasons. Perhaps I’ll write about a few others, in time, but for now, I’m going to focus on a narrow piece of that decision-making process, but quite possibly the most critical and important piece of it.
As a result of studying the sociology of education and how identities shape our delivery and receipt of education, I came to learn about social construction. During this time, I became friends with religion scholars and some adamant atheists who understood the Bible far better than I could ever hope to. (Well, as a Roman Catholic, that’s not too surprising. Atheists and Agnostics are actually the best versed in the Bible compared to any religious group.) The point being that I learned about the process of putting the Bible together. I learned about how important it is to view the Bible in the context of when it was written, not now. Socially, our world is vastly different. I learned of the mythology of Mithras and its striking similarities to the story of Jesus. That discovery, actually, was earth shaking. How could the story of Jesus be true if it had been repeated so many times? Easter and Christmas were celebrated at particular times to coincide with pagan rituals, how would Jesus himself be any different? Was his story lifted from Mithras to make it more palatable to those who had been worshipping this god (Mithras) for so long?
My concluding thoughts are not quite formulated, but where I am now is where I was at an earlier time in my life; I think of the Bible as an interesting novel filled with mystery, gore, romance, horror, and both good and very bad advice. I also recognize that there are many things written in the Bible that some people take with a grain of salt and yet others that they cling to with a death-lock grip and the distinction between those ideologies and beliefs and rituals is rather arbitrary.
As a result of this, I reevaluated my belief system. I went back to the core and to what makes me happy and feel connected to the world. I arrived at Nature, people, and energy.
We are connected to all things that live, as we are all made up of these basic elements. We are more similar to our neighbor and our enemy than we may ever fully grasp.
It is this basic conception, our inherent connection to one another, that forms my goal for interacting in the world. I don’t always do a very good job of it, but I strive to treat people as I would like to be treated. I strive to recognize my fundamental similarity to them, all the while recognizing the way that society imposes judgements and categorization with consequences based upon arbitrary differences.
This connection to one another and to all living things is, in essence, my “religion” and understanding of G/god. There is no gender, no body, no distinguishing features of god in my mind and heart. God is there, but not as an architect. God is the connecting force amongst us, the collective energy we share – remember, energy is neither created nor destroyed, only changed from one form to another. God is everything and nothing all at the same time. How fitting that in the process of my continuing formation of my conception of god that I used the word ‘Zil’ instead of ‘god’ in a conversation with a friend. That it didn’t matter what you called god, it just was.
The video: My best friend posted a video on my Facebook wall this past week and I finally took a moment to watch it today. I’m so glad that I did. In fact, I have to share it with as many people as possible. This video and the speaker in it, Neil deGrasse Tyson, eloquently, passionately, and peacefully explains “my” conception of our connection to one another. Tyson, an astrophysicist, shares the most astounding fact he believes there is about the Universe.
Here is the video:
Wow. So if you are in doubt, if today you are feeling insignificant, overwhelmed, or down on yourself, use this as your pick-me-up: you are a part of the Universe, you are in the Universe, and the Universe is in you. You are connected to it all. Your atomic make-up, at its most basic level, is made up of the stuff of stars.
Transcript of video (bold are areas of emphasis by the speaker):Q: What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the Universe? NdGT: The most astounding fact… Q: The most astounding fact. NdGT: Is the knowledge that the atoms that comprise life on earth, the atoms that make up the human body, are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements into heavy elements in their core under extreme temperatures and pressures. These stars, the high mass ones among them, went unstable in their later years. They collapsed and then exploded, scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy: guts made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself. These ingredients become part of gas clouds that condense, collapse, form the next generation of solar systems – stars with orbiting planets. And those planets now have the ingredients for life itself. So that when I look up at the night sky, and I know that yes, we are part of this Universe, we are in this Universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts, is that the Universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up – many people feel small, ‘cause they’re small and the Universe is big – but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars. There’s a level of connectivity. That’s really what you want in life, you want to feel connected. You want to feel relevant. You want to feel like you’re a participant in the goings on and activities around you. That’s precisely what we are, just by being alive.