OLD HIPPIES NEVER DIE–THEY JUST GIVE PEACE A CHANCE

Dear Readers,

This post is not a usual one for my blog, it is only about spiritual atheism in a very theoretical way. Rather, it is more of a reminiscence, probably btought on by a surgical procedure I went through last week. Waking up from the anaesthetic was not an easy process, I am told. No matter what the doctors did to wake me up, the typical response from me was about 10 seconds of speech, then falling right back to sleep mid-sentence. I was in the recovery room the same length of time as I was under the anaesthetic. And when I did finally wake up, in my head were thousands of little memories I had all but forgotten. They were a sort of history from my first year of school to my years as a hippie. The saddest thing about this memory, except for my own family, I now know no one from that entire era but myself. Friends, acquaintances, school chums, bullies, sports teammates, even the authoritarian voices in my early life, all gone, almost completely forgotten… Until now. The ones I miss most were my hippie friends, first those from Winnipeg, and then those I met in Toronto, but mainly in Vancouver. These were the people among whom I came to best know myself, to discover myself, which set me on the path I have been on for fifty plus years. This is NOT their story.

Nor is it anyone’s story, really, just a quick trip back in memory to a time when every song had a particular memory, and there were thousands of songs, and thousands of memories, until the memory bank got so full the earliest memories had to be archived to make room for the new memories flowing in to take their places.

You can’t remember anything from previous lives, or at least nothing meaningful? Don’t worry, the memories don’t need to be remembered in order for you to know their effects on you. You are the sum of your experiences, even if you cannot remember the experiences themselves. You have done much learning. Don’t stop now.

Look! There’s a new memory on the horizon. Go to meet it. It will soon be yours.

“All we are saying is give peace a chance…”

 

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LIFE–AS I BELIEVE IT TO BE (part 2)

In part 1 I wondered about life, and how it can be defined. If you have read it (or other posts I have written), you will have seen that I took life to be connected to religion, but that is only because in my early life it was connected to religion. I had no idea what hell was, but I had been told I would go to hell if I did not obey God’s laws, or, in different words, if I committed a sin. Apparently it was a sin to break a law made by god. But everywhere around me adults were breaking god’s laws. They couldn’t seem to do hardly anything except break what I was told were god’s laws. But God told different people different laws. And it seemed he told some people it was okay to break his laws, as long as they went to something called “confession” and told someone else about all god’s laws they had broken, and even man’s laws too, if what I was told was correct. Then along came even others who I was told had been god’s chosen people, but they had not believed him when they refused to agree that he had sent his son Jesus amongst them to save them from burning in hell. They didn’t seem to know why they would burn in hell because they already worshipped god for himself, but apparently that wasn’t good enough for god, so he unchose them, and chose Roman people to be saved and worship his son Jesus as well as him, and he even added someone called a holy ghost to be worshipped too, though no one could ever tell me who this holy ghost was. But, they said, they also worshipped the virgin Mary too, even though god had not told them to worship her also. But near as I could decipher, the virgin Mary was given to women to worship, because they needed their own god…

But enough of this! I think you get the picture I am trying to draw with words instead of crayons or paints. Life centered around god, and those who believed the same all believed they were god’s chosen children. Since even I could see this was impossible, I had to figure out if any of them were right. So I started talking to different people about my conundrum,  and no one would explain their ideas of why god would make life so confusing, but they all tried to convince me their group was the correct group. So, as a last resort, I had to decide were they all wrong, or were they all right? I was too confused even to do that…

But, by this time, I was going to school. And the school I went to told me only the protestants were right, and even though there were all kinds of protestants, they were all more right than anyone else. Then, just to confuse me a different way, they told me the biblical version of creation was not the real story of creation. Some teachers said it was kind of right, while others it was kind of wrong, and still others who said it was all wrong. What and who was anyone to believe was true? Everybody seemed to know, but almost nobody seemed to agree.

And then suddenly someone said everything in the bible was a lie, and that it was just a story made up by men. I could almost believe that, but I was still too afraid of going to hell if I did, so I asked why someone would say that? Then I heard an altogether different story, that it wasn’t the bible that was wrong, but rather the people who interpreted the bible who were wrong. Oh my aching head! But, someone else told me, there were things that happened that weren’t in the bible, but should have been. One person told me the story of Jesus* going not into the desert for 40 years, but right through the desert to a country called India, where he studied under teachers of the great Buddha, who had lived many years before Jesus went there, but had taught others what life was really about. Then Jesus crossed back through the desert, and returned to the land of the Jews, where he tried to teach those people what he had learned. Only, nobody believed him, even though they wanted to believe him. So he changed what he had been taught by his Buddhist teachers, and made up his own stories based on his learning. Some people found his stories easier to believe than Buddha’s stories, and that was what they came to believe.

Och, it is time to end my story of what happened to me to start me on my path away from god, but I hope you can see what led me away. There were just too many things to believe, so one day I started to believe nothing. Rather, I chose to find out about life, and everything else not by listening to others, but by exploring my own self, and seeing what was in me. That decision was probably the most important decision I ever made in my life. And it was not one I decided on in the spur of a moment, but it was one that grew inside me as I grew around it. I was in high school now, and I was learning so many things there that most of the things I learned as a child no longer made any sense.

But, it seemed, I could not even trust what I was learning in school. Forget about religion, and how each religion wanted people to all believe their way was the right way, school wanted us to all be a different “same way.” School wanted us to all become little cogs in the machines of industry and economics. School wanted us to become identical little cogs in the machinery, and some of us didn’t want to become cogs, identical or not. And it wasn’t just me, or those of my friends who agreed with me, but there were young people all over the modern world who didn’t want to become cogs, and so we became something else. There were many labels put on us a a group, even though we didn’t start as a group, but first we were longhairs, then we were beatles, then we were monkees, and suddenly we were freaks and hippies. Amongst ourselves we were freaks, but in the world-at-large we were hippies, and we loved being hippies. And as a hippie I went through some experiences that showed me life was so much more than anyone had ever told me it could be. Life had been about growing up, getting a job, getting married, having kids, then growing old, and dying. For most people,  that’s what life for them had been about for ages and generations. We didn’t want life to be like that, and so we changed what we believed,  and we led our lives differently…

* – Jesus, as far as I am concerned, was a fictional character, but that is just my bias speaking. There could easily have been such a real person, though the miracles he performed seem to me more mythic than real. This is just my opinion.

 

LIFE–AS I BELIEVE IT TO BE (part 1)

Life! What is it? We all know what it is, we wouldn’t be alive without it. But look in the dictionary, and what do you get? The best English dictionary in the world offers us this as its number 1 definition: The condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, […]

ife! What is it? We all know what it is, we wouldn’t be alive without it. But look in the dictionary, and what do you get? The best English dictionary in the world offers us this as its number 1 definition: The condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continuous change preceding death. It’s number 3 definition is: The period of time  between birth and death… While I agree with these definitions, I do not find them particularly useful. Descriptive, but not definitive. They describe life, but they do not get down to the root of what life is. Do they give you a better understanding of what life actually is? They don’t do enough for me, which I guess is why I have spent most of the period of my life from my birth till now trying to gain a better understanding of what life really is. Why? Because I have a need to know…

I started this journey so long ago I can’t really remember when it began. But I do remember where I was at the time, at least as far as my understanding was concerned. I was brought up a United Protestant Christian, which is a distinctly Canadian church combining Anglican, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches as well as a few lesser known denominations. The first definition of life I was ever taught to believe was that life was a gift from god. This worked till I went to school, and discovered others claimed god for their own. The Catholics, for one, claimed my god, but he told them different things than he told those who taught me. That was step one, I guess. If the same god gave life to others not like us, to whom else might he have spoken even different words.  Next came Jewish people. One of my better friends growing up was Jewish, and the same god gave them life too. Later I came to learn that those groups, Protestants, Catholics, and Jews were further divided into different branches, and different sects of those branches.  Even later I was able to add Mohammadens (whom we now call Muslims) and their branches and sects to my list. I was in confusion city.

What you might ask, do all these different peoples have to do with the definition of life? Well, at the time, it was just that I believed life was a gift from god, so why did he give so many people so many different gifts? We were all people, that much was easy to see. But yet some people were red, some were white, some were different tones of brown, some even had a funny greenish olive tone. But yet we all had life, the very same kind of life, human life.

And then came two other observations that led me even further afield. For these two events I ask your understanding, I was only a kid, and didn’t know any better. My best friend (not the Jewish boy, but a Ukrainian Catholic) and I used to catch bugs, keep them in bottles for awhile, and let them go later, if they were still alive. Those deaths that did occur did not affect us, death happens, though we did not know why–we did not know we had killed them, and no one told us we had. But then one day we decided to douse a spider with lighter fluid and set it aflame, just to see what happened.  The flare-up was beautiful,  as we thought it might be. All fire has a cetain beauty. But we were not ready for what happened next. The spider began to scream. And I recognized that scream, it was the scream of pain, and I had screamed that way many times in my short life. I felt that spider’s pain. (Okay, it probably wsn’t a scream, though it might have been. Probably it was air squealing out of a tiny hole in the spider’s body. But none of that can be proven either way. I heard a scream, and I can hear it to this day.)

If you have read any of my works before, you may already know I was physically abused as  a child. Some things that were done to me made me cry. Some things made me shout. And still others made me scream bloody murder. And that is the scream I heard from that spider before I stomped on it to end that scream. I can only hope that was the last time I intentionally hurt a bug, any bug, for as long as I have lived. I wish I could say that as a definite fact, but I cannot. Still, I can hope…

The second event was visually worse, and I can guarantee I have not purposefully killed another animal since. My father took me fishing around the age of ten, and where he took me we could find no worms, which was what he told me were normal bait. Instead of worms, he had me catch two small frogs, which were plentiful in the area. He took one from me, and told me to put the second one on my fishing hook. I asked him how, and he said it didn’t matter how, a fish would eat it soon enough. I put the hook though it’s stomach. There was no scream, though the frog jerked. Then it looked at me, with bewildered eyes. What had I done to it, and why. Then my father spoke up, “Don’t just ook at it, throw it in the water. So I did. The little froggie tried to swim away, but all it did  was succeed in tearing its  own stomach apart. It tried swimming away again, and it got further than before, but its  guts were still attached to my hook. They got longer and longer, and still the frog tried to escape. Meanwhile, I was getting scared. I knew by then I was hurting that frog, why else would it try so hard to get away. I brought it back to shore, and killed it with a rock. Then I threw my rod and line in the lake, and sat down and cried. “It’s just a damned frog,” my father said, as he swung his fist at me. “Now get back there and catch a fish. That’s your supper tonight.” I refused. “I’m not killing anything else,” I said adamantly. “Fine!” he said, “Then you aren’t getting anything to eat for the rest of the day.” And I didn’t. And I was glad I didn’t.ý

LIFE–AS I BELIEVE IT TO BE (part 3)

I must apologise to you, my readers, because when I am trying to tell the story of my experiences, I seem to get hung up in the backstories that I hope explain how I came to my beliefs. Because who I am is the totality of what I believe, and it was my beliefs that gave me the vision of what life actually is. But even though I will be telling you part of that vision in this post, depending on how long this post gets, it is not going to tell you exactly what life is, because I do not know how to say “exactly” what life is. But I will try.

Life is a spark inside of us, each and every living organism in the universe, including on this earth. Every living being there ever was, every living being there now is, and every living being there will ever be, contains an identical spark to the one carried by every other living being. On earth, we have this idea or feeling that all humans are connected in some way. Some of us call each other brother, or sister, not as in a nuclear family, but as in the family of humanity. But that is just a little bit of what i see as true reality on this plane of existence, because the actual family we are part of is the family of life. If you want to, you can make it a bit stronger by saying the family of Life, or even LIFE. You would not be wrong to do so. I myself like to use the middle term Life, but most often I just use life. Life (small “l” except at the beginning of a sentence in written English) serves me best, unless I am talking about the whole organism that we would make if we were all to be collected together into one totality of being. That organism for me would be Life. And, since I am discussing such an organism at this time, let me add that i believe our most important purpose for having life is to create one Life by all joining together. (Actually, were I to be totally honest with you, I would have to say “re-create”, but that is so far away from where we are right now that to even speak it is irresponsible of me. We will need millions of years, possibly millions of millenia, to get to that point in our existence. It is virtually a non-starter today.)

So, where do I get the audacity to claim that all life = Life? There are at least two ways of getting there, the first by looking at our very own bodies (or the body of any complex organism). If we were to look at our bodies under a microscope, we would see that we are made up of approximately 37,200,000,000,000 (37.2 trillion) cells. Were we to then take just one of these cells and put it under an electron microscope, we would see things like cell walls, and a cell nucleus (or centre of a cell) and were we to look at the nucleus of a cell through a finely tuned electron microscope, we would see inside the centre of a cell our RNA, and our DNA. Not being a scientist or a biologist I am not going to try to explain RNA or DNA to you, but please accept that every cell in our bodies contains its own RNA and DNA, which makes it a single-celled organism, and as such it is actually a single-celled living being. And for those beings, those individual lives, we the complex beings would be the equivalent of capital-L Life to them, and then were we all to join together to make one huge giant humungous living organism, it would then have to become LIFE. Thus, when I said earlier you can use life, Life, or LIFE to describe life, any  such signifier would be correct.

However, you might ask,  how can there be 37.2 trillion beings inside of one. I know my mind, and I am only one being. I have to admit, I feel exactly the same way. But what if I were to tell you that you, or I, are actually a group mind for all the cells that make you what you are? Would you believe me? Probably not, you know who you are. I too know who I am, and I am a group mind working as one mind to do the best possible actions to preserve my life, and the lives of all the cells inside me. And once all our group minds come together into one into one huge giant humungous group mind, then we will be one Life, or, rather, ONE LIFE.

Think back to what you learned of evolution in school. Organisms keep changing into more and more complex organisms, and different kinds of organisms, possibly and probably searching to become the perfect organism. But, what do our scientists find when they try to take us back to the beginning of life upon our planet. The earliest known living beings we have found evidence of are called archaea, which were single-celled organisms formed almost 4.28 billion earth years ago. No one knows for sure if they came to the earth from elsewhere, or if they were somehow created right here on earth. They are theorized to be the earliest organisms from which all other organisms, single-celled, multi-celled, and complex-celled beings came. As far as earth is concerned, it is with these beings that the earth has become populated, with all the species that can be found on earth today. Because we have no way to travel back in time, we rely on fossils or “rock messengers” from the past to inform us today of what once existed billions of years before history even started.

Unfortunately I do not have the time or space to tell you the story of how life went from archaea to all the muti-complex-beings we have on earth today, or might have on earth in the future, but the point I want to make here is that my theory of today’s beings whom I describe as having group minds all trace back to those archaea that started life on earth. So, is it really that far of a stretch for me to say that our lives are actually made from combining 37.2 trillion other beings? I can imagine it.  Can you?

Now, I have to change something I said at the start of this post, being the third in my posts on Life. I started by saying each of us has a spark in us that gives us life. But really, what I was saying, though you did not know it at the time, each cell in each organism actually has that spark, and therefore humans can be said to have 37.2 trillion sparks. But please don’t start thinking that because you have so many sparks that you are superior to other beings, or other even people, who have fewer sparks than you. Because, if that were true, imagine how many more sparks elephants and whales would have than you. They would be the tops of the evolutionary ladder* on land and in the ocean. So, it is not the number of sparks that are significant, it is what you do with the sparks you do have. And, as I said earlier, every spark is identical, so no matter how many sparks you do have, your life is still exactly as valuable as us the spark inside a one-celled organism.

*-Truthfully,  though we humans believe we are atop the evolutionary ladder on earth, until we learn to communicate with other species, we will never know who is tops. We can assume, yes, but by now I am sure you know what assuming does…

LIFE–BEYOND THE VEIL OF DEATH (part 5)

Upon reading part 4 of this series, I realized I left a lot of unanswered questions and unfulfilled promises. In this part I will try to complete those thoughts as best I can.

To begin, and I am guessing, the beings we call the archaea (part 3) came as potential life from space and those that fell or were blown into the water turned into actual living beings. We are pretty sure life on earth began in the great ocesns of our early planet. Everything we think we know about them is potentially wrong. We will probably never know for sure. It is possible chemical reactions in the sea allowed them to turn from non-life into life, but that seems a bit far- fetched. Of course, they could also have been living beings that could have survived in space, in some sort of suspended animation, or some other unimaginable to us mrthod. Anyway, they seem to have flourished in the primal soup. That, however, does not tell us which came first,  the chicken or the egg, but I’m going to put my money on the egg, as far as earth is concerned.  So, eventually these single-celled organisms worked their way up the evolutionary ladder, until their progeny turned into the complex beings e are and see today.

LIFE–AND THE VEIL OF DEATH (part 4)

Having now given you my picture of life on earth, for those of you who are willing, I want to take you to the veil of death, which just happens to correspond with preparing you for the time of birth. What? Am I sure I didn’t write that backwards? I am sure. Due to extraordinary experiences, I have witnesssed a process the likes of which conjures up one of the oldest philosophical questions ever asked, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

I still cannot answer that, I hope I did not get your hopes up. But having said that, I need to ask what happened to the chicken that emerged from the first egg? She died. And humans have been eating chickens and eggs ever since…

Yes, I am joking, but not completely. The first living beings on earth reproduceded, and were born again. I bet you’ve heard that phrase before, and where do you suppose it came from? Christ? Wrong! It came from Buddha. And he actually took it from the Hindus, who probably took it from the Jains–but nobody is counting.

So let’s get back to life. One of the primary components of life, according to the definition of life I quoted at the start of this series of posts, is death. Why do you think that is? If we somehow became immortal, would we not still be alive? Technically, if life can be considered technical, I think we would still be considered alive, but immortality might challenge another requirement of life, continuous change. How long could someone or something exist before it became so bored with life it would stop changing? One hundred years?  500 years? 10,000 years? 1,000,000 years? There is, of course, no way to answer this question, but if a body could last 1,000,000 years, would a mind last that long? Again no one can know, but I’m betting at some point change would cease. And when it did, that would at the very least be the equivalent of death. So, in my pinion, death is a necessary part of life.

Why? Because it allows us go go through a totally different kind of change, one which cannot happen here in this physical realm. If you will allow me to digress again for a moment, let us look at the concept of reincarnation. Exactly where it started, or who started it, we cannot say. The oldest concept I can find of it is in the Sanskrit language, often considered as related to some of the oldest languages on earth. But this is taking us into pre-history, so unlike Abrahamic religions, Indian religions such as Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism all have some basis in the continuity of life after death. And I see to reason to disavow life of this wonderful, and necessary, process of life.

Jainism is apparently older than Hinduism, definitely older than Buddhism, and similarly older than all Abrahamic religions. Having said that, I cannot find how reincarnation in Jainism works, but in Hinduism it is believed that individual souls reincarnate over and over again. Buddhism takes that idea and changes it to take away the vagaries of continual rebirth and gives the individual some power of how or when or where they will reincarnate.

In all three above religions, karma plays a big part in the reincarnation process. Many people in the west think they understand the concept of karma, and use the word in ways it was never intended. Yet, they have it basically right, if you hurt others you will be hurt in this life or a following life. Karma is a kind of universal system of vengeance, and in Hinduism your past will catch up with you, though probably not in your present incarnation. Buddhists allow you to manipulate your karma, so you can atone for things you have done in hour past. It is not exactly like Catholic confession, yet Catholic confession is highly based on a manipulated form of karma. All in all, though, each stage of life in the process of reincarnation is more or less predicated on previous behaviour.

My own belief is quite different, yet it did grow out of the eastern idea of reincarnation. For me, though, karma is not a factor. In fact, I do not believe karma can exist in whatever form one might think it could. Still, the western concept of sin is based on the eastern concept of karma, so I think it needs to be looked at. For karma to come into play in life, one must have either done something good for someone (creating good karma) or something hurtful (creating bad karma). Think of it as god writing all your good deeds and sins in a ledger, and counting them up at some point and either rewarding you or condemning you. This is the state Christ* supposedly found religion in when he returned from his travels in the desert. (See part 2 of this series.) If Christ had studied in India, he would have brought a lot of these concepts home with him, including sin (karma), and rebirth or being born again (reincarnation). But as I also said in part 2, he could not explain these concepts to the people he tried to teach because the concepts had no basis in their languages. Hebrew, Greek, Latin, none of them could cope with reincarnation or karma. So he winged it, and thus brought himself down to the level of his followers, and nothing came out the way it was intended.

Life on the earthly plane, as I believe it to be, is a spiritual journey before anything else. It is a process of the sparks inside our cells being reincarnated over and over into earthly life forms in order to learn how to be good, compassionate living beings. We, the group minds for those sparks, are not here to suffer, nor are we here to overindulge ourselves. We are here to understand how to be “godly,” but not to be gods. Each of us has inside of us a vision of what a good life might look like, and the more lives we live the better that vision generally becomes. Individual beings are not reincarnated, though if you are a reader of my past posts you will know I have been struggling with this concept. In writing this account of life I think I have come to envision (remember) how reincarnation does work. So, to Sha’Tara goes a big thank you for suggesting this post which turned into a whole series of posts. Thank you. And to you, dear readers, I hope you will read this treatise,  think about it, take what you want from it, leave behind what you do not want.

I have not finished yet everything I want to say, and I haven’t yet drawn you a complete picture of what I believe. I don’t even know that I can do either of those tasks, but I think now I have laid the groundwork for future posts.

Please felt free to leave your comments, pro, con, or otherwise. It is by being challenged that I am able to strengthen my understanding of life. And I am ready to move on to the next step in this journey I am on.

But, as I try to do, I want to remind you that these beliefs are my beliefs,  and I do not want anyone to believe me because I say so. Life is about looking inside yourself to find out what is true for you. Not everyone is ready to do that,  but they will be. If you aren’t ready now, you will be. It is all part of the process that we call life. And when you come right down to it, life is all we have. Without life, we have nothing.

Until next time…

*-Just a reminder that I still think Christ is a character in a fiction, but after writing this post I am a little more able to see he might have been real, if he actually did study in India. The beliefs of Christianity are definitely based in Buddhism, but twisted to point in other directions. This is a critical error, but an understandable one. If the man Christ existed, he certainly was human.