Thursday, May 14, 2015

Why I Believe

A Philosophical and Practical Apology for My Faith in God


By: Dr. Jordan R. Jensen


One of the greatest scientific mysteries about truth is: What, and Who – if anyone or anything – lives and breathes beyond this life and world. The purpose of this essay is not to conjecture about specifics or promote a specific denominational dogma on the subject. However, since one’s beliefs about such empirical unknowns have an unquestionable and significant impact upon one’s thoughts, speech, and actions in life, the subject—and the questions it raises—cannot rationally be ignored. For who has ever lived who did not wonder what does, or does not, come after the conclusion of one’s mortal journey?

Before proceeding, I should clearly state my bias about the subject. I am a believer. Nay, that is too weak. I am an ardent and enthusiastic believer who would bet my life on the existence of a Higher Power and the eternal nature of my own soul. It bears noting, however, that this belief, nay—this active faith—does not scientifically prove the factuality or fiction of such things. Science has not yet advanced far enough to prove or disprove such concepts as categorically veracious or fallacious. Moreover, I am not asking you to be a believer. In fact, my own theology holds that each man and woman is, by the grace of God, at liberty to believe, or not to believe, in whoever and whatever he or she chooses. I do not begrudge anyone who sincerely holds beliefs different from my own, including those who choose to harbor no divinely natured beliefs at all. 

What I am asking you—as a self-action leader—to do, is think about the subject sincerely and deeply. Don’t just settle for whatever belief system (or lack thereof) that you came by familially, socially, or culturally—unless you have diligently searched the matter out on your own, and your conscience commands you to follow in that direction.

If you are sincere and diligent in your search for truth, I’ll honor whatever belief system—or lack thereof—you choose to embrace (as long as it doesn’t harm anyone or break the law). Just don’t be lazy theologically. I genuinely respect a wide spectrum of beliefs that are sincerely held and have been diligently sought out; but I do not respect theological laziness.
            
In truth, we are all believers, and most of us are religious. Even atheists and agnostics are believers; they just choose to believe something different than their denominational counterparts. Many atheists and agnostics are also quite religious; they merely channel their innate religious-oriented feelings into secular causes like atheistic evangelism, equality, politics, environmentalism, and other causes they believe in. If you choose not to believe in God, that merely means you believe God isn’t instead of believing God is. Both positions are beliefs because both sides lack scientific proof of their position. Or, you may choose to believe that none of it matters – but that too is still a belief. We might refer to such persons as apathists. The mantra of apathetical theology is: I don’t know, and I don’t care.      
            
The truth is that there is a truth about what is and what comes, or what isn’t and what doesn’t come, after this life, and someday we will all know it—or else we all won’t know it because we won’t exist anymore. While we can’t presently prove either stance scientifically or empirically, truth will eventually illuminate our path—or it won’t because we will no longer exist to perceive illumination or darkness. This reality makes the importance of the subject self-evident. And because your interest, or lack thereof, in the subject will have a tremendous impact on the unfolding story of your life, it behooves you to seriously address it according to the dictates of your own conscience.  

Each in His Own Tongue
By: William Herbert Carruth

A FIRE-MIST and a planet,
    A crystal and a cell,
A jelly-fish and a saurian,
    And caves where the cave-men dwell;
Then a sense of law and beauty
    And a face turned from the clod,—
Some call it Evolution,
    And others call it God.

A haze on the far horizon,
    The infinite, tender sky,
The ripe, rich tint of the cornfields,
    And the wild geese sailing high;
And all over upland and lowland
    The charm of the golden-rod,—
Some of us call it Autumn,
    And others call is God.

Like tides on a crescent sea-beach,
    When the moon is new and thin,
Into our hearts high yearning
    Come welling and surging in:
Come from the mystic ocean
    Whose rim no foot has trod,—
Some of us call it Longing,
    And others call it God.

A picket frozen on duty,
    A mother starved of her brood,
Socrates drinking the hemlock,
    And Jesus on the rood;
And millions who, humble and nameless,
    The strait, hard pathway plod,—
Some call it Consecration,
    And others call it God. [1]



HUMANITY'S INNATE NEED FOR RELIGION, SPIRITUALITY, AND COMMUNITY


Have you ever wondered why some atheists are interested – and even ardent – in defending their faith that there is no God, or in proving to others that a belief in nothingness is preferable to a belief in somethingness? Have you ever pondered why non-believers, agnostics, and secularists are apt to become so actively involved in politics, environmentalism, community service, or some other “cause” with such an ironically religious fervor? One reason may be because human beings in general have a fundamental need for religion, spirituality, and community in general. Indeed, it seems as though we are all hard wired to:


  1. Believe in someone or something
  2. Hold out hope for a future reality, even if that reality involves only this life
  3. Be drawn toward congregations of one sort or another. 

This trifecta of needs often manifests itself in a desire to join with others who are like-minded. Such congregational association may lead a person to become actively, or even evangelically, engaged in promoting whatever the group believes in, aims to accomplish, and hopes to realize in the future. As a result, we often feel the desire, need, and even the existential duty to invest time, energy, and financial resources into whatever cause we decide to make our god.

Some call such pursuits God, some call it not god, and some call it something else entirely, but the human need to believe, practice, congregate, and for many, to preach—if only in the realms of strict rationality—seems to be universal, innate, and powerful. Exceptions exist, of course. There will always be apathists among us. But it has been my observation that authentic apathists and wholesale sluggards are relatively rare across the spectrum of humanity.    

PHILOSOPHICAL AND PERSONAL EVIDENCE


“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

– Pierre Tielhard de Chardin
(1881-1955)


Self-Action Leadership (SAL) philosophy—a nomological theory and model of personal development I have authored—does not promote any one philosophy, religion, doctrine, creed, dogma, or ideology. Nor does it ask or require you to believe in a Higher Power. Instead, it draws from many different philosophies and religions in an effort to isolate true principles that lead to the Existential Growth of human beings. It also encourages you to exercise your freedom to choose to listen to and follow your conscience in your own freely chosen pathway of living. ­If SAL principles and practices are diligently learned and applied, anyone can eventually reach higher levels of Existential Growth (measured by nine hierarchical levels articulated in the SAL Theory), regardless of your religious affiliation or lack thereof. 

However, since I am a believer, and since the creation of the SAL Theory and Model is deeply rooted in my own experiences—many of which were spiritually and religiously informed—it bears noting why I believe. I invite you to review this apology for whatever it may be worth to you personally.  

As is the case with any faith-based belief of a Higher Power, science cannot prove or disprove the point. As a fundamentally analytical person who places enormous value on science and quantitative data, why in the world would I choose to believe something I cannot prove? And more significantly, why would I choose to faithfully base my entire life’s design and plans on that belief? Answers to these questions are rooted in philosophical logic and personal experience. 

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE


I am a man of prayer, and have experienced many answers to prayers in the form of wisdom, insight, intuition, warnings of danger, relationships (the realization and cultivation of), the fulfillment of personal and professional desires, the blessing of instructive adversity and existential rebuke, and personal change where I had been unsuccessful in changing myself. I have also experienced ongoing self-guidance and other spiritual experiences—some of them quite powerful—via visceral communications from scientifically non-identifiable sources. Some of these experiences are too sacred and personal to share in a published essay. Just as importantly, I have observed the bounteous blossoming of countless fruits of obedience to specific religious and spiritual edicts. While science cannot validate these experiences as being supernaturally authored, it also cannot rationalize away the fact that I actually experienced them. 

Blaise Pascal  (1623 - 1662)
PASCAL'S WAGER

The second reason I believe involves theological logic—which should not be confused with scientific logic. The logic I speak of was articulated by the rationalist, Blaise Pascal, a 17th Century French mathematician and philosopher (1623-1662). 

Pascal formulated a theological wager to produce a cogent apology for the existence of a Higher Power that I have always found compelling. Pascal’s Wager, as the philosophical formula is famously called, is based on the following premises.

* We all have two basic options regarding a belief in God. Option 1): God exists (YES) Option 2). God doesn’t exist (NO).

* One of these two options is, and must be, real and/or true. The other option is, and must be, false.

* Reason and logic can defend either position.

* It is not optional not to wager on one or the other position (agnostic-oriented apathy is an implicit ‘no’ vote).

* If you vote “YES” and are right, you gain all (mortally and eternally); if you vote “YES” and are wrong, you lose nothing (mortally or eternally).

* If you vote “NO” and are right, your position is no better (eternally) as those who voted “YES” and are wrong. If you voted “NO” and are wrong, you’ve truly lost the game (mortally and potentially eternally as well).

* The only logical solution is to wager that God is and to faithfully seek Him/Her out to the best of your ability and faithfully venerate and obey Deity.

Despite this and all other philosophical logic for or against the rationality of belief in God, the fact remains that faith is required to affirm, honor, and cherish Deity because there simply is no conclusive scientific evidence that He/She does or does not exist. One thing, therefore, is crystal clear: if a Deity does exist, the explicit aim of the Higher Power is to withhold sentient evidence of His/Her existence from human beings. In other words, if God does exist, He/She clearly intends for His/Her children in this world to believe and follow Him/Her without the aid of scientific corroboration. Thus did the Apostle Paul aptly pen: “Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, that that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” [2] Conjecturing upon reasons why a Deity would withhold such evidence is a topic worth addressing in a future essay. 

HUMANITY'S PROFOUND INTELLECTUAL LIMITATIONS


I have further concluded that belief is more reasonable than non-belief because of my profound recognition of how much I don’t know. It has been said that the more you know or learn, the more you realize how much you don’t know, and still need to learn. My profound ignorance—and that of the rest of the human race—leads me to believe, and to hope, that there are beings in the universe who are capable of providing scientific answers to the galaxies of undiscovered knowledge that exist beyond our relatively puny human canon of known verities.     

I have a Doctoral degree and have learned a lot of things in my life. Some very kind, and perhaps very biased, people would even consider me to be fairly intelligent. Yet the more I learn, the more convinced I become that the sum of my knowledge—and even the sum of all human knowledge—is pathetically paltry in proportion to all that theoretically could be learned in this unfathomably spacious universe, which, according to astronomers, could be just one of any number of universes, which may or may not have physical boundaries. 

The incomprehensible capacity and celestial majesty of our Universe (or universes) is so completely beyond the purview of our limited abilities to view or comprehend that I believe our society—advanced as we’d like to consider ourselves—is still quite primitive compared to the existential potential of sentient beings. With such a painfully limited canon of knowledge at our disposal, who are we to myopically—or worse, arrogantly—assume that we are at the top of the existential food chain in the universe? Who are we to claim with any kind of certainty that we are the only sentient beings of our capacity, or that other, greater beings don’t exist as well, just because we don’t presently know, nor can we see, anything beyond the drastically limited sight of our human eyes and telescopes? Despite these reasonable questions, an ignorant pomposity perennially persists in the minds of many leading them to believe we are a highly advanced civilization. I, myself, am not so sure, and find myself asking the question: “Compared to whom beyond the milieu of our own spotted historical records?”

When I consider the foibles and flaws of even the most impressive, intelligent, and well-behaved mortals, I find such ideas of human grandiosity to be overstated and even worse—abysmally uncreative. Consider the remarkable achievements, growth, and progress that collective humanity has made in just the past 500 years. Whose to say for sure that we are still not in a Stone Age of sorts relative to where we might yet progress in this world in the next 500 years, not to mention beyond this world if post-mortal existence is real?

The world-renowned painter, Pablo Picasso, who had a painting fetch nearly 180 million dollars just this month (May 2015), once remarked: “If you can imagine it, it is real.” The first time I read this quote, it struck me as being ironically true – ironic because Picasso was an atheist, and true because we simply cannot know the real limits (if there are any) of the human imagination throughout the realms of time and space. It is likely that Picasso was speaking figuratively when he made this comment. Nevertheless, I believe he may have stumbled unwittingly onto a universal truism that is veracious beyond the comprehension of mortal beings—including himself, genius though he may have been in the artistic realm.  

It is human nature to wonder with Hamlet what might yet beBeyond this place of wrath and tears.” [3] It is even human nature to wonder right along with the Prince of Denmark about the value of living life here in this world. For who has lived a life of any longevity that has not, in one way or another, considered some, many, or perhaps even all, of the chilling queries put forth by the great Bard’s disgruntled Dane:

To be or not to be—that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And, by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep—
No more—and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to— ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep—
To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards (of us all,)
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is (sicklied) o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action. [4]


UNSEEN SCIENTIFIC POWERS


A final reason I believe is the plethora of new inventions during the past 150 years that require unseen scientific powers to operate. From radio waves and microwaves to gamma waves and x-rays; from cell phones and fax machines to Internet communication and satellite feedback, our postmodern world revolves around and is generated by unseen elements, fields, and fuels. It is extraordinary to consider. Imagine what a Saxon from the middle ages would think about downtown London in 2014, or how a sixteenth century Seminole would react to the comings and goings of Miami Beach today? What is it that keeps us from believing it could and or will be any different for us 1,000 years from now on this Planet, or somewhere else in the Universe? I think Picasso may have been more correct than even he ever imagined.

It is both bumptious and na├»ve to assume that objective reality only encompasses what mankind can visibly see and empirically prove. It is, after all, a self-evident verity that mankind has not yet discovered all scientific proofs. All of the wonders of science notwithstanding, there is still a lot more we don’t know than we do know—to say nothing of our unknown unknowns!

The benighted conceit that leads some to think they are really something impressive in the universe bothered the realist M. Scott Peck, who once queried: “Why is it that we humans go around thinking that we know the score, when actually we don’t know beans?” [5] Peck’s answer: fear and laziness—two of the greatest inhibitors of Existential Growth.

"It is scary to think that we really don’t know what we’re doing or where we’re going, and that we are intellectual infants stumbling around in the dark. It’s so much more comfortable, therefore, to live in an illusion that we know much more than we actually do. … Were we to wake to the reality of our terrible ignorance, we would either have to think of ourselves as being profoundly stupid or, at the very least, let ourselves in for a lifetime of effortful learning. Since most people don’t like to think of themselves as stupid or let themselves in for a lifetime of effortful anything, it’s just so much more comfortable to live in this nice illusion that we know much more than we actually do." [6]

Just ask any doctoral level physicist or astronomer and he or she will tell you that there is more about the universe that we don’t know than what we do know. Science has come a long ways over the centuries and can currently tell us much about how, when, and where the universe was created. However, it remains completely mystified about why it was created, whether there is more than one universe, or if our universe is the product of intelligent design—or not. While there is no shortage of scientific hypothesis, philosophical conjecture, and theological suggestion to address such issues, from a strictly empirical standpoint, we humans are like infants in our understanding of many things. Black holes, cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer’s, faster-than-light travel, and teleportation are just a few examples of scientific, medical, and technological mysteries that remain unsolved. If we choose to rely solely on physical knowledge about life and the universe, we drastically limit ourselves and turn our backs to the metaphysical gifts of truth that can be accessed through a combination of cognitive rationality, experiential common sense, and most importantly--visceral intuitiveness.

The mere contemplation of the theoretical cosmic possibilities undergirded by faith in a Higher Power will keep me believing till my dying day—a day I do not fear nor dread, thanks to my faith. And speaking of death, let’s turn our attention to this enigmatic subject.

MAKING PEACE WITH DEATH'S INEVITABILITY


Like aging, disease, entropy, and other vexing, yet ineludible realities of life, death will eventually have its way with you, me, and everyone else on the planet. If you are afraid of death, and don’t like to think about it, now may be the time to begin engaging in a little “Exposure Response Prevention” therapy by courageously confronting the subject, distasteful though it may be for you right now. [7]

Let’s start by giving you a strong dose of the reality of mortality, compliments of William Knox’s verse. In his poem, Oh, Why Should the Spirit of Mortal be Proud? [8] Knox “drive[s] life into a corner, and reduce[s] it to its lowest terms.” [9] This masterful poem was a favorite of Abraham Lincoln, who memorized and sometimes recited it for others.

Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
Like a swift fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud,
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
Man passeth from life to his rest in the grave.

The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
Be scattered around, and together be laid;
And the young and the old, and the low and the high,
Shall molder to dust and together shall lie.

The infant a mother attended and loved;
The mother that infant’s affection who proved;
The husband that mother and infant who blessed,
Each, all, are away to their dwellings of rest.

The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye,
Shone beauty and pleasure,—her triumphs are by;
And the memory of those who loved her and praised,
Are alike from the minds of the living erased.

The hand of the king that the scepter hath borne;
The brow of the priest that the mitre hath worn;
The eye of the sage and the heart of the brave,
Are hidden and lost in the depth of the grave. 

The peasant whose lot was to sow and to reap;
The herdsman, who climbed with his goats up the steep;
The beggar, who wandered in search of his bread,
Have faded away like the grass that we tread.

The saint who enjoyed the communion of heaven,
The sinner who dared to remain unforgiven,
The wise and the foolish, the guilty and just,
Have quietly mingled their bones in the dust.

So the multitude goes, like the flower or the weed
That withers away to let others succeed;
So the multitude comes, even those we behold,
To repeat every tale that has often been told.

For we are the same our fathers have been;
We see the same sights our fathers have seen,—
We drink the same stream and view the same sun,
And run the same course our fathers have run.

The thoughts we are thinking our fathers would think;
From the death we are shrinking our fathers would shrink;
To the life we are clinging they also would cling;
But it speeds for us all, like a bird on the wing.

They loved, but the story we cannot unfold;
They scorned, but the heart of the haughty is cold;
They grieved, but no wail from their slumbers will come;
They joyed, but the tongue of their gladness is dumb.

They died, ay ! they died : and we things that are now,
Who walk on the turf that lies over their brow,
Who make in their dwelling a transient abode,
Meet the things that they met on their pilgrimage road.

Yea ! hope and despondency, pleasure and pain,
We mingle together in sunshine and rain;
And the smiles and the tears, the song and the dirge,
Still follow each other, like surge upon surge.

’Tis the wink of an eye, ’t is the draught of a breath,
From the blossom of health to the paleness of death,
From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud,—
Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?


If these sobering words don’t humble you a bit, I don’t know what words would. Knox’s words are sobering, even foreboding. Nevertheless, they are true, and there is no long-term value in denying, or hiding from, these verities.   

Existentially speaking, how can anyone truly “Begin with the End in Mind,” [10] without reconciling the reality of one’s own finite mortal existence? Moreover, is it not self-evident that your beliefs about “what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil” will have a tremendous influence on how you choose to direct the process of its destined unraveling?  

Coming to terms with the reality of your death has at least two meaningful benefits. First, you eradicate any pseudo-sense that you will live forever in this world. A recognition of your ultimate mortal end has a way of sharpening your focus on what really matters to you while you are alive in the flesh, thereby providing you with greater direction in life, not to mention the motivation to pursue your chosen direction. Second, it tends to motivate you to take more care in nurturing the spiritual side of your nature to confront important, metaphysical questions about all of the mysteries that science cannot begin to touch. 

I am only 35 years old, but I have come to terms with my own death, and I do not fear it. In many ways, I even welcome it—not in a depressed or suicidal sense (I hope to yet live in this world for many years and decades to come)—but in the faith that no matter how good things have been, or will yet be in this world, my best days lie ahead of me long after the demise of my mortal body.

I can’t prove there is an afterlife; nor can I provide intricate details of what it is like even if it does exist. What I can tell you is that my present existence is hugely impacted by my beliefs about my eternal existence (both premortal and postmortal), and the impact has been enormously positive. Harboring the belief that what I am to be in eternity I am now becoming in mortality tremendously influences what I think about, say, and do here and now. These beliefs have shaped my character and relationships. For example, I believe that marriage can be eternal. This belief has enormously influenced the way I view the social covenant of marriage, the manner in which I sought out a marriage partner, and the way I treat my wife. What you believe about what can’t be proved does matter, because of the impact it will have on things that can be proved in your life here and now. 

While I cannot scientifically prove my beliefs, the spiritual knowledge I have received through experience is sufficiently compelling that I would bet my life on my faith. I am not asking you to do the same; however, I do suggest that all people can benefit from a serious and sincere search for answers to the following five questions.

  1. What is the meaning of Life?
  2. What is the meaning of My Life?
  3. Does God exist, and if so, does He/She give a fig about me?
  4. Did I exist in any form before birth, or was my existence spontaneously generated at conception?
  5. Is there Life after death?
  6. Will I be held accountable to a Higher Power for the choices I made in this life? 
  7. Do I possess any existential duties to Life itself, and if so, what are they? (I.e.: What is Life asking of me to accomplish in my mortal existence?)

In conclusion, I am not asking you to become a believer or join a church. What I do ask of all self-action leaders, however, is to not ignore the spiritual side of your nature, for human beings have a spiritual nature just as surely as we have a mental, physical, sexual, emotional, and social nature. If you neglect any element of your holistic human nature, you will suffer consequences of that negligence. There are many different ways to pursue a spiritual life. I encourage you to search diligently to find a pathway that is right for you that will help you to rise in your Existential Growth and bless the lives of others along the way. 

If you do choose to be a believer, that is fine. Just remember to be tolerant of the non-believers. And in the course of practicing your faith, I invite you to do as the great business philosopher Jim Rohn suggested, which is to study, practice, and teach. [11] And I would add one additional practice to Rohn’s list: prayer.

If you choose to not believe, that is also fine. Just remember to be tolerant of the believers. In the course of practicing your non-faith, I encourage you to also study, practice, and teach on secular subjects that will contribute meaningfully to the long-term welfare of others.    
            
If talk of death seems dreary to you, remember that it is my beliefs about death which invigorate my passion for life, a passion I desire to share with all mankind. Thus in the spirit of celebrating life, I give you the inspiring words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882): 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

A PSALM OF LIFE

WHAT THE HEART OF THE YOUNG MAN SAID TO THE PSALMIST.

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
   Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
   And things are not what they seem.

Life is real!   Life is earnest!
   And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
   Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and no sorrow,
   Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
   Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
   And our heart, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
   Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
   In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
   Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
   Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,—act in the living Present!
   Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
   We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
   Footprints on the sands of time;—

Footprints, that perhaps another,
   Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
   Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
   With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
   Learn to labour and to wait. 


EXISTENTIAL ROLES & AN ABYSS OF LIGHT


“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.” [12]
– William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

SAL philosophy purports that all human beings share an innate existential equality with all other people. This makes us all existential kings and queens in training. However, this does not mean that all of us will play the literal role of kings and queens during our lifetimes. We all have different roles to play, and they are all important.   

For example, some of us are mothers and fathers, and some are not. Some of us are good at sports; some of us are not. Some of us are extremely talented in a given area; some of us have more average talents in a variety of areas. Some of us are manual laborers, some of us are office workers, and some of us stay home and raise children. Some of us are leaders, and others are followers.

Yes, we all end up playing a variety of different roles throughout our lives. In the end, the greatest opportunity we have in life is the chance to figure out what our individual roles are, and then to go on to fulfill those parts to the very best of our ability with an understanding that in the end, all human beings possess the potential to become fully actualized.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so that the all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.
– Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)


While I cannot prove it scientifically, I believe that each of us is here in this world at our appointed time for a bigger purpose than appears on the surface. I believe this purpose includes callings that are unique to each individual, but equal in terms of our Existential Potential.

I also believe that there is a divine Playwright who, by comparison, puts the Immortal Bard to shame in His knowledge of the arts and sciences. Lastly, I adhere to the notion that we existed spiritually before we existed mortally, and that we underwent a great deal of preparation prior to coming to this unusual leg of our eternal journey, which is likely the most challenging, painful, mysterious, yet important leg of all--in no small part because we are physically separated from our Source. This separation -- which leads so many to myopically rationalize away the existence of a Higher Power -- was divinely mandated out of pure love as the only way to empower us to become independent of, yet increasingly like, our Source--who Himself/Herself is no stranger to the vicissitudes of a mortal world. It is an often agonizing, yet equally rewarding journey that did not begin at birth, nor will it end at death.  

Such notions are not new, nor are they exclusive to one religion or philosophy. They are also surprisingly perennial. Such a theory was evidently held by Britain’s august poet laureate, William Wordsworth, who proclaimed over two centuries ago that human beings are apt to:

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
Forget the glories [we] hath known
And that imperial palace whence [we] came. 

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting :
The soul that rises with us, our life’s star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar ;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home. [13]

I am not asking you to share my beliefs in God or accede the reality of a premortal or postmortal existence. There are many different lenses through which you can interpret life’s experiences and realities. I do, however, encourage you to not limit your quest for knowledge to the realm of physical sentience and scientific inquiry alone. Doing so drastically limits your capacity to fully grasp concepts related to metaphysics, spirituality and existentialism. It also inhibits the bounteous fruit that flows forth from the cornucopia of visceral insights that human beings are capable of harvesting. After all, what would become of poetry, literature, music, theatre, cinema, and human relationships if we were to summarily murder their muses?

G.K. Chesterton  (1874 - 1936)
In the elegant words of G.K. Chesterton:

"There is at the back of all our lives an abyss of light, more blinding and unfathomable than any abyss of darkness; and it is the abyss of actuality, of existence, of the fact that things truly are, and that we ourselves are incredibly and sometimes almost incredulously real. It is the fundamental fact of being, as against not being; it is unthinkable, yet we cannot unthink it, though we may sometimes be unthinking about it; unthinking and especially unthanking. For he who has realized this reality knows that it does outweigh, literally to infinity, all lesser regrets or arguments for negation, and that under all our grumblings there is a subconscious substance of gratitude. That light of the positive is the business of the poets." [14]




[1] Carruth, W.H. (1908). Each in His Own Tongue: And Other Poems. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Pages 2-3. (Google Books version). 
[2] Hebrews 11:6 (The New Testament).
[3] Line from the poem Invictus. Henley, W.E. (1919) Poems. New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons. Page 119. (Google Books version).
[4] Shakespeare, W. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. New York, NY: Washington Square Press. Pages 127 & 129.  Act III, Scene I, Lines 64-96.
[5] Peck, M. S. (1993). Further Along the Road Less Traveled: The Unending Journey Toward Spiritual Growth (The Edited Lectures) New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. Page 75.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Exposure Response Prevention is a form of therapy used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Its processes, facilitated or monitored by professional counselors and psychiatrists, require patients to “expose” themselves to people or objects one obsessively fears or worries about in order to learn how to properly “respond” in the future. The same basic therapy is often utilized to help people overcome a variety of phobias. 
[8] Reprinted from Knox (1876), page numbers unavailable. 
[9] Thoreau, H.D. (2001). Walden and Other Writings. New York, NY: MetroBooks. Page 75.
[10] Habit #2 from Stephen R. Covey’s, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. (1989).  Simon & Schuster: New York, NY.
[11] Rohn, J. (2000). Building Your Network Marketing Business. (Compact Disc). VideoPlus. 
[12] From Shakespeare’s, As You Like It. Act II, Scene VII.
[13] Rolfe, W.J. (1889). Selected Poems of William Wordsworth. (Google Books version). New York, NY: Harper   Brothers Publishers. Page 125.
[14] Chesterton, G.K. (2008). Geoffrey Chaucer. Cornwall, UK: House of Stratus. (Chapter 1, Page 15).

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