The Beginning is Near: The Marriage of Science and Spirituality
Amidst all the doom and gloom of Armageddon, post-apocalyptic scenarios, and talk of the “end times,” there is emerging a glass-is-half-full, positive and encouraging way of looking at the future. “The beginning is near” is the antithesis to “the end is near.” The beginning is near is both humbling and hopeful. It’s humbling in the sense that it admits that we don’t have things figured out yet and that the greatest human wisdom is still to be achieved. And it’s hopeful in the sense that we are close to achieving that wisdom.
We are approaching a singularity of sorts, a human threshold, one that will launch us into a whole other level of evolution, where we may finally figure out how to live in accord with each other and align ourselves with the earth and its laws. Like Janine Benyus said, “We’re basically this very young species, only 200,000 years old. We’re one of the newcomers, and we’re going through the same process that other species go through, which is, how do I keep myself alive while taking care of the place that’s going to keep me and my offspring alive?” How indeed?
There’s a psychosocial game that we’re playing as members of an unhealthy world-destroying culture that most of us are not aware we’re playing. This game is affecting everything from the air we breathe and the water we drink, to the relationships we make and the wars we wage. It’s a game that we were all born into, a game that we’ve been forced into playing, because opting out is not acceptable by the greater culture. Some of us are aware of how destructive this game is, but most of us are not aware.
Those few of us who are aware are still forced to play the game, but we are playing strategically, either to maintain the game that keeps us in power, or to undermine the game that keeps us powerless. We’re either playing to make the game healthier, by changing or even breaking the rules of the game. Or we’re playing to keep the game unhealthy so that we can continue to make money off of people and natural systems so as to leverage our power.
But the vast majority of people are not aware that they are a part of this game of exploitation or even that there is a game being played. Most people are so caught-up in going through the motions of being a cog in the machine, that they could care less if the machine is destructive or not.
Like Noam Chomsky said, “The general population doesn’t even know what’s happening, and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.” Their attitude is as long as they can get through the day, with as little heartache and grief as possible from their fellow humans, then it’s all good. But it’s not all good. The excuse of “just getting through the day” doesn’t change the fact that the psychosocial game we are playing is systematically destroying the planet and everything that lives on it, including us.
“The bullshit machine says the small is the great, the absence is the presence, the vicious is the noble, and the lie is the truth” writes Umair Haque. “We believe it, and greedily, it feeds on our belief. The more we feed it, the more insatiable it becomes. Until, at last, we are exhausted. By pretending to want the lives we think we should, instead of daring to live the lives we know we could.”
And there’s the rub. That’s the crux. The “bullshit machine” has us caught up in living unhealthy lifestyles that we’ve been conditioned into wanting, while neglecting the healthy lifestyles we could be living. We have been burdened with ugly, stupid lifestyles on a planet pushed to the very edge of destruction by status-quo junkies feeding us new promises of consumable happiness that gets shit out all over the planet in mass-destructive ways.
Perhaps nobody else puts it into more clearer a perspective than Ernest Becker in The Denial of Death: “Modern man is drinking and drugging himself out of awareness, or he spends his time shopping, which is the same thing. As awareness calls for types of heroic dedication that his culture no longer provides for him, society contrives to help him forget. In the mysterious way in which life is given to us in evolution on this planet, it pushes in the direction of its own expansion.
We don’t understand it simply because we don’t know the purpose of creation; we only feel life straining in ourselves and see it thrashing others about as they devour each other. Life seeks to expand in an unknown direction for unknown reasons.” The question is: how do we figure out these unknown reasons. How do we get in balance with this “unknown direction?” How do we change the game? How do we slow down the bullshit machine? Is teaching ourselves how to recondition the precondition enough? Is teaching people how to live healthier lifestyles enough?
Perhaps our saving grace can be found in the marriage between science and spirituality. It’s a double-edged sword, for sure. One side of the sword is science, the attempt to figure out the secrets of the universe. The other side of the sword is spirituality, the attempt to bring meaning to the universe. If the lighting of the first fire was science and the lighting of the second fire was spirituality, then the lighting of the third fire is the marriage of both science and spirituality, a sacred union. Sacred activism is a branch of this concept.
If we are to have any hope of righting the ship, of changing the game, indeed, of being game changers ourselves instead of merely players of an unhealthy game, then we must learn, or relearn, how to use this sword. Like Werner Heisenberg said, “The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.” Indeed, let’s sharpen the double-edged sword. Let’s allow science to teach us healthy from unhealthy so that spirituality can teach us moral from immoral. And then let’s discover that God has always been hiding inside us. We just had to empty our “cup.”
On the one hand we have the universal mythological intuition that the order we perceive in the universe exists by divine fiat (spirituality). And on the other hand we have the contemporary cosmological speculation that reality is arbitrary and a manifestation of an infinitely greater potentiality (science). Why can these two perceptions not be one and the same thing, or even two sides to the same coin?
Science has come a long way in explaining the fascinating reality in which we live, but, as Adam Zeman wrote, there’s still only “night at the end of the tunnel.” It’s the job of spirituality to make sense out of this “night.” It’s the job of spirituality to discover a moral question for our culture to thrive off of and continuously attempt to answer, even while we go through the scientific motions of figuring it out. It’s the job of spirituality to bring about sacred spaces for science to take place in, just as it’s the job of science to attempt to explain the nature of space. Like Wendell Berry said, “There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.” Spirituality can help us to embrace the sacred, while science can help us to heal desecrated places.
So don’t lose heart. The beginning is near. And even if it’s not, at least we have the marriage of science and spirituality to guide us a little closer. So strap on your post-apocalyptic sunglasses. Let the bullshit machine clog itself with its own bullshit and slowly die out. The bright side is we can use it as manure to plant seeds of healthy change. The sky is the limit. Climb up that precarious ladder, out of the destruction and decay of the outdated system. Peak over the walls built by unsustainable men, and discover that the universe has always been at your fingertips. The beginning is near. Let’s begin.