My earliest geology dig was in Pre-Cambrian. I found sharks teeth in the Devonian, and the Cretaceous was a virtual mine of fossils.
Dennis Michael Pennington, I like your analogy of electricity and the light bulb. That is how I see the transition from life to death. On/off. The energy is always there, just in different forms. At least that is what physicist tell us, and it is a better story than any others I have heard.
Be aware that your posts influence me a lot and I always love to read what you have to say. Some time back I borrowed a term, (Buybull) I believe from you. I had never heard the bible expressed that way, and I like using it that way.
Dan Tabor , are you bragging or complaining?
It was the acknowledgement of my own mortality that was the final straw...the 'Sinner's Prayer', so to speak...that led me to atheism.
Knowing death as the end breaks the back of all forms of superstition...religion or "I'm spiritual, but not religious' Oprah Winfrey bullcrap that is so popular now in the US.
I have posted elsewhere on this subject under the title of "Atheism is Admitting the Truth" and 'Death and the Lack of Alternatives.'
Understanding that you will cease to exist when you die is, to my thinking, the same thing as admitting that the Earth is not the Center of the Universe.
It is the benefits of this admission, what comes to you once you admit that one day you will die and will cease to exist, that need to be emphasized.
I remember very clearly the days and weeks following my own acknowledgement of my mortality. I remember the changes I went to as very visceral...very much a readjustment of my physical reality...rather than simply esoteric.
I remember how quiet it got.
My mind was free of the constant yammering between God and Satan and Me. Suddenly, the Voices stopped and I was alone...for the first time in my life I was alone in my own body.
It was so strange. Just being Me. Not the Me that was the center of a cosmological battle between God and Satan, struggling for possession of my soul.
I was alone.
It scared the shit out of me.
At the same time, it thrilled me as no other 'conversion experience' I had ever had before.
God...and his twin Satan...were just gone. They dissapated like fog in the light of the morning sun.
I didn't miss them at all. So many atheists are still nostalgic about their 'loss of Faith.'
There was none of that.
There was simply silence. A void in which nothing, no one existed but myself. And I wasn't at all sure what my 'self' was. I realized what Kierkegaard meant when he said: "Existence precedes essence."
Who was I? What was I? Did I even exist?
But there was no hurry, no rush to define myself. To attach myself to any belief system. It was joyous...I know that word seems out of place, but it is the only one that comes to mind.
I was alone. I didn't have anyone, anything surrounding me...the Voices were all silent.
I could speak, if I wanted to...I could speak myself into existence just as God supposedly once spoke Light into existence.
But I didn't have to.
I could just stay there. Alone. Happy. Joyous.
That is so much what is lacking in so many 'conversions' to atheism. They are just running from one comforting, defining self to another.
But I didn't need to do that.
I could be myself.
I didn't need to explain or excuse myself.
I could just be.
That moment is still inside of me, I go back there whenever I find myself getting agitated and upset -about all the flim-flammery discussing atheism with theists or even other atheists.
I can draw myself back into myself.
Anne Rice's...who I have loved then grown to hate as she embraced Fundie-Catholocism ala Mel Gibson and his ilk...husband, who was a poet and writer in his wife's shadow...put it so elegantly:
"I became the soft animal of myself."
I can be without having to explain myself to others or, worse yet, to myself.
I am alone.
And that's just fine by me.
The next sensation...and I make no pretense of these being philosophical ideals...they are sensations. Sensations that are available to anyone who has the courage to admit their own mortality...
The next sensation was that there was no one, nothing outside of the room where my body dwelt.
That the universe ended at the limits of my perception.
That my kitchen did not exist until I stood up and walked from my bedroom to the separating door.
And once I was in my kitchen, my bedroom ceased to exist.
Not that I was the center of the universe as I had been taught by theism for so long. But that I was, as Hemingway put it, "A Moveable Feast."
If you have never drawn yourself in to the 'soft animal' of your body then you are missing a treat. You are missing what well may be the whole point of atheism.
Aleister Crowley...the self proclaimed 666, the Beast...had one of the most poignant and pertinent methods of meditation I have ever heard of...have ever experienced...
He said to lay down on the floor and stay there until you had to move.
There is no reason, no impulse, no demand that will make you move. Eventually, my physical body reasserted myself and I had to get up and urinate, but even that was a matter of cleanliness and social decorum.
Aside from that, there was nothing.
I could stay inside myself, I could be myself without any pressing need to do anything else but lay there.
I didn't need anything from outside myself to be myself.
The next sensation...and I cannot emphasize often enough these were not thoughts, no concepts floating to the surface of my brain...they were sensations as real as the cut of the knife or the gasp of an orgasm...
The next sensation was of time. I came to understand that I was all wrong about time. As I had put it in a poem once about the Nullabor Plain in Australia..."time was not a speeding train, hurling cross a treeless plain...'
Rather time was a bead of rain sliding down a slender reed into a still and silent pond.
Time was a bubble. I was in the bubble, but so was my wife sitting on the bed next to me. That we didn't go through time as particles but as waves, not to get too physic-al about it. That I was part of a bubble, a bubble that contained not just me but my wife and my children and anyone else who happened to be in the bubble of my perception at that particular moment.
That we're all bubbles, joined for a moment, then slipping away. I see a cluster of frog's eggs. Each egg a potential individual frog but for now they are all one.
From that image grew the sight of all people...of all cultures...of all nations...and, ultimately, of the human species...all sliding and bumping into each other...each contact sending us off in a different direction...each of us still connected....still a part of the whole...even as we realize our own individuality.
The last sensation...at least, the last one I want to deal with in this post...was that I was a part of the whole biosphere of this planet. That I was not placed in dominion of this world, but that I was, as a birthed, then living, then dying part of a world filled with birthed and living and dying things.
That I was nothing special.
The admission of my mortality was an act of humility.
As I became me and nothing but me I became one with every other living thing.
My birth, my life, my death...
They weren't meaningless. They became meaningless only when I tried to cling to my self, my time. my place.
There is no life after death anymore than there is life before birth.
But there is life now, life that we, the living, share.
Knowing that, really deep in the bone knowing that you will die and go back to the state you were in before you were born, is nothing to be feared.
Pull back into the soft animal of your body.
There is nothing to fear. Fear is clinging to life.
Or, as one of my greatest spiritual teachers Stephen King put it:
"Death is when the monsters get you."
Awesome post Philip. Very profound.
Thank you. Sometimes, when I talk about these things...these events...I feel like I'm encroaching on the territory of Buddhism, of Zen...and I don't mean to leave that impression.
All of that is thinking, not experiencing. Oh, I would so much like to just lay there. To just be myself and not be bothered by any obligation.
But I have learned that is not my place, not my pleasure to enjoy.
In The Road...the post-apocalyptic book by Cormac McCarthy...and the movie with Viggo Mortenssen...there is a moment when Mortensen asks Robert Duvall: "why don't you just kill yourself?"
After all, suicide is truly the only philosophical question. The world has ended for all intents and purposes, whether by nuclear war or natural destruction or by an asteriods collision is never made clear. My wife, who shares my beliefs, keeps asking me why she shouldn't kill herself, trying to talk me into a murder suicide pact...this is not just a philosophical question to be debated between intellectuals with Phd's over tea and crumpets...this is a reality I face daily...what to tell her when she asks knowing that her right to take her own life is nothing I can or would take away from her...
Duvall's answer in The Road always comes to me:
"In times like these I cannot afford myself the luxury of suicide."
The next sensation I came to...the one I did not want to include in my post but now feel I must...was and is the basis of my newly found ethics best described by the acronym TCOYOS:
Taking Care of Your Own Shit.
Bear in mind, I am not saying I have any obligation to do anything at all. New-Born Atheist need to be taught this. There is nothing you have to do. As an atheist you don't have to do anything. You don't have to participate in discussion groups like this. You don't have to explain yourself to others. You can sit back and live a life of what I call 'benign hedonism'. Meaning you should do what makes you feel good and stop when it no longer makes you feel good.
My ethics...and these are mine alone and I don't want anyone else to feel I am placing any sort of obligation on them...is to Take Care of My Own Shit.
Or, to put it more succinctly:
Free men fight back.
"Vengeance is mine saith the Lord."
But if the Lord no longer exists then it is up to you to take vengeance.
That is so politically incorrect, so beyond the pale of the psychology of 'forgive yourself and feel good' espoused by most therapist in the US.
But I tell you this, without shame or apology, I live to take vengeance.
Those who have done these things to me...and especially those who have caused me to do unspeakable things to my own children...they will pay. I will present them with the bill they have accrued and I will exact my vengeance.
I am not a sweet, kind-hearted man. I never have been and I see no reason to change my nature this late in the game. I am not one of the Good Guys. I have seen what evil is inside of me, have confronted and had to own this part of me.
I am posting on the Freedom From Religion pages and will reiterate my stand here:
I have been exorcised myself as a part of my religious experience and I have almost killed one of my own children in an exorcism.
Free men fight back.
This is my chosen battle, my personal war, my crusade.
To ban the practice of exorcism in this country and around the world.
To put a stop to this evil, vile superstition once and for all.
I am sorry if I am not the man I appeared to be in my earlier post.
I am both.
I would prefer to live the rest of my days in peace.
But there is a war going on and I have my duty, my obligation.
Free men fight back.
Being absolutely, completely, totally alone while at the same time being absolutely, completely, totally connected to the web of life.
Philip, I too am impressed by your account and by your choosing to share it.
You described well some of what I experienced when, after twelve years in Catholic schools I quit Catholicism. I felt like I was about to leap into an abyss and I refused to not leap. It turned out to be the best thing I'd ever done for myself.
I wish you well.
Duality of being is another of those fallacies given as a gift from ancient philosophers and modern fundamentalists. It means a state of two parts.
Dualism can refer to moral dualism, conflict between good and evil; mind-body or mind-matter dualism presents a continuation of dear old Aristotle and Plato who perceived multiple souls and all their manifestations and of course Rene Descartes with his dualism of splitting mind from body. He claimed the mind represented consciousness and intelligence as separate from the body. Even the Chinese separated existence into Yin and Yang, physical and spiritual.
It doesn’t take very much thinking in scientific terms to discover these concepts are flawed. They just do not stand up to what goes around us every day. Some people have good and evil within them, creating cognitive dissonance for everyone, including the individual. Notions of separation into physical and spiritual represent further constructs of the imagination constructed in the human mind.
One can define spiritual being as an un-seeable, un-hearable, un-touchable being that has superhuman power over Earth and all its inhabitants and who communicates in ways that cannot be verified. A constructed devil imposes evil thoughts and events on life, and there are constructs of angels, divas, explanations for unexplainable events. These kinds of spirituality fill in the gaps of things we haven’t figured out yet. Like, how can something come from nothing? Or from where did like come?
Another kind of spirituality has relation to our sensory organs, i.e. seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling with our heart and feeling with our gut (intuition). This spirituality has its roots in a sense of wonder of being conscious of ourselves and the environment around us, they are those simple and difficult questions children and inquiring adults have, it is the sense of concern as we see individuals, families, communities and all living things on Earth face serious threats to health. It is the ability to see problems as they develop, think about options to solve them, and then to take action to make improvements. It is the ability to discern events, recognizing potential problems before they develop.
Descartes split the body from the mind and then ignored the mind. He didn't feel; he only half-was.
Ooppss! That should have been, "from where did life come?