There is so much in the observable world that surrounds us night and day, year after year which never is absorbed by the kind of self-conscious reflection that characterizes our own human view. Our measurements of time, our need for a sense of purpose, the comparisons we make, to name a few of the aspects of our being that differentiates and alienates us from the teeming life around us which we so often relegate to a kind of accompaniment. As we have lived, we gradually became ‘enlightened’ as well. Sometimes though, even in the brightest daylight our attempts to light our unique way cannot really hold a candle to the rest of the world’s on-going procession.
In the European and North American countries, our theologians and philosophers have elevated us by way of the same thought processes that gave rise to their revered systems in the first place. Because of our sense of self as reflective and ‘enlightened’ beings our awareness of what is going on around us is constantly filtered by the weights of comparison and judgment. Our competitive nature is reflected in other animals but not with the accentuated edge of our ego and sense of keeping score – history that is.
We have been able to accelerate the myriad ways we navigate in the world, in our physical and mental transport. Modern technology seems to have no limit when it comes to the way we imagine our pace in the future. Meanwhile, most of the rest of the world operates in the same tempo that it always has, a tempo for which perhaps, teleologically anyway, it has been designed. Granted flight and increased mobility in birds and animals evolved but these changes occurred over eons. My grandparents lived to see horses become the horsepower in automobile engines, and balloon excursions become transcontinental jet travel. Under the contrails we see every winter day, flocks migrate, animals and reptiles hibernate, and an entire kingdom of insects leave eggs behind to continue their kind in the coming year.
We often view time as the layered progression of what we call history and often it is only our story that is the focus and crux of the tales. Similarly, the rest of our surroundings exists in physical layers above, below, and within us. Like swimming underwater, when we are able to see the sandy bottom and the surface with a sky and its atmosphere beyond the membrane of the water’s surface, our existence is only held within all the other parts, players, and aspects of the on-going story of the earth we share. To believe that we as a species or even as individuals have a point of view that is somehow exclusive is to ignore all of the otherwise inexplicable mysteries of existence.
Faith usually is that demanding practice coming from belief and our willingness to subscribe to it alone. Our relationship with the rest of existence is often based on allowing the hypothetical strength of this kind of faith to shield our fragile physical and demanding mental states from the outside world, as we call it. When we have become so wrapped up inside that we stop seeing, hearing, receiving the on-going pulse of that outside world, then our beliefs become more than just a blind spot. Anchored to this kind of belief we lose the capacity to witness and live in the very world we nonetheless occupy.