Sunny Days, Religion, and Ancient Oysters

It’s sunny today, so I’m in a good mood. It’s odd how much weather effects emotions. It feels weird to be really sad on a sunny day, or really happy on a cloudy day. It’s almost as if weather patterns are the expression of planetary moods, and those planetary emotions provide a frame within which we can feel our range of daily personal emotions.

Weather is also one of those things, like the stars, that provide a gentle daily reminder that we’re all still on some sort of sphere we were told to call a ‘planet’ in 2nd grade. We get so caught up with all the self-important minutia yelling at us — the news feeds, emails, sirens, advertisements — that we forget we are mysteriously existent organisms wandering around somewhere trying to make sense of why we’re here. Distraction is existentially so0thing.

In less-distracting times, these questions were more apparent. It’s easy to see that so much has changed since antiquity, but less easy to see that most of the fundamental stuff has stayed exactly the same. Sure, we’ve worked out how to make editable logic pathways for flowing electrons, and invented ways of understanding the mechanics of interdependent biological structures, but all of that knowledge gets at the what of things. It’s not often enough acknowledged that the why is the only question which gives any whatknowledge the context it needs to fit into a coherent worldview.

Historically, religions attempted to answer why, but it seems like religions (in the form of shared mythical cultural narratives) have become an outdated why-answering mechanism. I don’t know many young religious people, and I think it’s because there isn’t an inherent acknowledgement of our fundamental epistemological bound as human knowledge-seekers like there used to be.

We used to have no idea where the rains came from, so it opened the door in our minds to the humility of saying “we don’t know everything, there is mystery out there.” Now, we have a clearer idea of where rain comes from, and if that is no longer a mystery, we believe that inevitably nothing else is a mystery either. There no longer exists a patience and flexibility of cognitive interpretation required to chew through the difficult mystical ideas of past cultures. Instead, we get hasty comparisons to some vague notion of ‘modern science’ and choose to not truly engage with those ideas. But science and spirituality are apples and oranges. They are attempting to answer different questions and comparing them directly will always lead to confusion. Composition and purpose are not the same. Knowing how every component of a combustion engine and wheel-axel system works doesn’t tell me the purpose of it is to move humans around.

As I get older, I find my answers to all fundamental questions becoming less-binary then they used to be. The philosophical immaturity of being a staunch fundamentalist is just as apparent as the immaturity of being a staunch atheist. Both groups are claiming to know things they just cannot know, and like all fundamental disagreements, they represent an endless back-and-forth over the precise definition of a cultural word — in this case, ‘God’. And sure, the “old guy in the sky” definition is easy to dismiss, but the “underlying energy and causality of all things” definition is a bit more difficult to. It’s rarely clear what actual definition someone is referring to.

There have been so many geniuses throughout history that have chosen to use that word in their understanding of reality, and so many other geniuses who have chosen not to. It doesn’t have a clear objective meaning anymore, but only relative, specific meaning within each person’s own personal scaffold of understanding. Going forward, my guess is that it will continue to fade out of usage because there is just too much cultural baggage associated with it.

This only matters to me because I have an infatuation with the psychology that humans held in ancient times. If the time is taken to really understand their ancient mindsets, inevitably a different octave of nuance is apparent. They simply thought in far more subtle ways than we do in 2017, and our click-bait attention spans don’t know how to interact with it. The holistic interconnectedness of all systems was fundamental to most ancient knowledge, followed by less-developed understandings of component parts. In our era, we have the opposite condition. We understand the parts, and forget to acknowledge the whole.

The scientific method is perhaps the greatest pearl of humanity, but we had many pearls before it. The problem is that ancient pearls are in ancient oysters, and ancient oysters require more effort to open.