Why is the world beautiful?

 

Why do we experience the world as beautiful?

Why do we experience people, animals, plants, landscapes, art, music, science, the Earth as a whole, stars, nebulae – and much more – as beautiful? As intrinsically beautiful?

Could it be because we are it? We are the universe experiencing itself as all of that. We are Earth experiencing itself as landscapes, animals, plants, humans. We are life itself experiencing itself as all of that. We are a product of the evolution of the Universe, Earth, and life on Earth. We experience ourselves. And we find it fascinating, interesting, and beautiful.

And what happens when we find some of it not beautiful? Could it be because we have stressful and unpleasant stories about it, and those stories temporarily shade our experience of its beauty?

In the even bigger picture, we can say that all is Spirit. All is Spirit expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in myriads of forms. So it’s only natural for Spirit to find it beautiful. Spirit – as us – finds Spirit – as the world – beautiful. And Spirit sometimes forget. Spirit – as us – sometimes tells itself parts of itself is not beautiful, and temporarily believes it, and that too is Spirit expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in myriad of ways. That too is Lila… the play of the divine.

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Limitations and going deep

 

I attended my cousin Knut’s funeral yesterday, and it was a reminder of how limitations can help us go deep. He had a strong physical handicap, and – as it seemed to himself and us who knew him – it allowed him to go deep in reflection, being, soulfulness, and spirituality.

He was one of the most genuinely reflected, deep, soulful, and spiritual people I know. At least within the limitations of a relatively mainstream Norwegian culture.

We see that in many areas of life. Limitations – whether imposed by life or chosen – allow us to go deep. Sometimes, that means going far beyond the apparent boundaries imposed by the limitations, and we may surprise even ourselves.

We also see this in the bigger picture. Life or the Universe has imposed limits on itself through densifying itself into matter, a great variety of matter, galaxies, solar systems, living planets (at least one), a great variety of life within these living planets, being, and taking itself to be separate beings.

And, if we are open to it, we can say that this is the divine doing all this within itself. It densifies itself, makes itself into an evolving universe, into a variety of elements and combination of these elements, galaxies, solar systems, beings, and taking itself as a variety of separate beings.

Through these limitations, life and the divine is able to experience and explore itself in always new ways. There is a great richness created from these limitations.

Of course, when life takes itself to be a human being, and especially if this human being happens to live within certain cultures, it may feel that limitations are limiting. They are. And at the same time, they not only allow us to go deep within our life and limitations. In the bigger picture they allow an immense richness of life and even life itself as we know it.

Limitations are not only inherent in life as we know it, it’s what allows for this life.

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My larger body

 

Some statements are often seen as poetic or romantic, but in this case, it’s a literal reality.

My larger body is nature and society. My larger body is this planet. My larger body is this solar system and universe.

My existence as a human being depends 100% on this larger body for its existence and survival. The only boundaries between this human self and the larger whole is imagined, and invested with reality only by our minds.

This is very real from a ordinary material and scientific point of view.

And going beyond that, as what I am – what all experience happens within and as – it’s all what I am.

It may seem a romantic or hippyish notion, but it has very real consequences for how we live our lives.

If I see myself as a human being mostly separate from the larger whole, I’ll act accordingly. I’ll act as if the health and well being the larger social and ecological systems matters little for my own health and well being. I’ll tend to act from a short term and narrow perspective. I’ll tend to act in a way that’s – intentionally or not – harmful for the larger whole. And we create our societies, social systems, and worlviews to reflect this. We’ll use economic models that assume that the health and well being of the larger whole doesn’t really matter. We’ll create transportation systems, production systems, food systems, water systems, energy systems, and more that reflect this world view. And we’ll reap the consequences individually and collective. That’s what we see today with a growing awareness of the consequences of toxins in our air, land, and water, diminishing ecosystems, and climate change.

If I see the larger social and ecological systems as my larger body, my view and actions will be different. I’ll act from a longer term and larger perspective. I’ll seek solutions that benefits myself as well as the whole. And we’ll collective use worldviews and systems that reflect this reality and this desire to support life at all levels.

If I see the solar systema and universe as my larger body, I’ll tend to experience a deep and profound sense of belonging and meaning. As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into conscious awareness.

Of course, this has to be a lived reality for us. It may become a living reality through natural adult maturation and development. It may happen if we live in a society or group where this is a mainstream view. And it can happen through education and experiences such as the Practices to Reconnect by Joanna Macy.

I am aware that I am using the word “reality” here and it’s not really that. It’s a perception. An experience. A worldview. But “reality” works as a shorthand even if it’s not that precise.

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Carl Sagan: We who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos

 

And we who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos we’ve begun, at last, to wonder about our origins. Star stuff, contemplating the stars, organized collections of 10 billion-billion-billion atoms contemplating the evolution of matter, tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness here on the planet Earth and perhaps, throughout the cosmos.

– Carl Sagan, Cosmos, episode 13

 

Thomas Berry: The story of the universe is the personal story of everybody

 

The story of the universe is the personal story of everybody.

– Thomas Berry in an interview with Drew Dellinger, June 1998

I can’t say it more clearly or simply.
The history if the universe is the personal story of all of us, of all beings and everything else.

In our modern science-based story of the universe, we are told how we expanded rapidly as energy (Big Bang), how we became light and matter, formed into stars and solar systems, how we exploded as stars and formed heavier elements and new solar systems, how we eventually formed into this planet, and how this planet formed itself into life, and eventually all life we see and know today. This is all my personal story. And yours.

When we tell this story, it’s often told from a more fragmented perspective. We look at it from the perspective of the parts. And it’s equally or more accurate to look at it from the perspective of the whole as well as the parts. We can say that the universe formed itself into all these things.

This story is also often told in the third person as “it”. It – the universe – formed itself into all these things. It’s equally true and accurate to tell this story in the first person plural. We formed into all these things, and eventually, what we see and know today.

Even from a mainstream science perspective, the universe is a seamless whole that formed itself into everything we see and know today, including you and me. Everything is “we”.

These are vital differences. Do we tell this story from the perspective of the parts and in the third person? Or do we tell this story from the perspective of the whole and the parts, and in the first person? These different views have real life consequences. They inform how we perceive ourselves, the universe, and our relationship to everything. They inform how we live and act. They even inform policies and how we organize ourselves as a society.

The first view creates the type of western and global society we see today. One that’s not aligned with ecological realities, and one that does not take nonhuman life, ecosystems, and future generations into account in any significant way. The second view has the potential to transform our society into one that is more aligned with ecological realities and takes nonhuman life, ecosystems, and future generations into account when it comes to policies and how we live and organize ourselves.

Universe fascinated by itself

 

The universe is fascinated by itself.

And in our case, the universe is fascinated by itself as an individual, a culture and a civilization, in all the ways we are fascinated by anything at all. At this level, there is no reason for it and it doesn’t need a reason.

In an evolutionary perspective, there is of course a reason. It makes good sense to be fascinated, to explore, experience, learn and so on. It aids survival to be interested in life, in our surroundings, in each other, in ourselves, in anything at all.

Today, this fascination is perhaps most obvious in our fascination in all forms of media – TV, internet, movies, podcast, music, performances, newspapers, magazines and so on. It’s an endless fascination where we absorb, experience, learn about ourselves, each other, the world,  and life.

It’s the fascination of the universe of itself, in all of these ways. It’s the universe evolved into a planet, and into a species for whom it makes evolutionary sense to be curious and interested in the world.

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