I understand Nirvana is a Sanskrit word which means literally “breathing out”. Whewww. Letting go of your breath = a particular concept of heaven? So, if you cling to your breath, you will lose it. Interesting. It reminds me of the bible verse, Luke 9:24 – “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it…”
The concepts of clinging and letting go, transience and impermanence, living and dying, all fit together like a puzzle and transcend cultures and theologies.
The vast stage of entertainment that envelops our culture is intended to impart the opposite of ekstasis. Mass entertainment plays to the basest and crudest instincts of the crowd. It conditions us to have the same aspirations and desires. It forces us to speak in the same dead clichés and slogans. It homogenizes human experience. It wallows in a cloying nostalgia and sentimentalism that foster historical amnesia.
It turns the Other into a cartoon or a stereotype. It prohibits empathy because it prohibits understanding. It denies human singularity and uniqueness. It assures us that we all have within us the ability, talent or luck to become famous and rich. It forms us into a lowing and compliant herd. We have been conditioned to believe—defying all the great moral and philosophical writers from Socrates to Orwell—that the aim of life is not to understand but to be entertained.
If we do not shake ourselves awake from our electronic hallucinations and defy the elites who are ruining the country and trashing the planet we will experience the awful and deadly retribution of the gods.
– Chris Hedges, Retribution for a World Lost in Screens
My grandad was born in 1890 and was in the Army during WW1. In 1970 or 71 the initial modern gay rights movement was in full swing and the word “queer” was being used in the media and of course kids were saying the word a lot even if we didn’t understand what it meant.
When my siblings and I would tell grandad goodnight we would often ask him questions about the old days. One night my older brother asked grandad if there were queers back when he was in the war. My grandad looked at my brother and said, “Queers? Queers. You mean funny boys? Oh, yes, we had funny boys. They didn’t bother us and we didn’t bother them.” He was describing the US Army in 1917.
Sometimes we think the various issues we grapple with as a society are unique to our time. But, when we’re lucky enough to visit with an elder about earlier times, inevitably we discover there is indeed nothing new under the sun.
Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike.
~ Oscar Wilde
More and more people are realizing they can’t subscribe to the ancient, Western, Judeo-Christian narrative of God as a judge in a courtroom or king in a kingdom. Perhaps those metaphors had to be used two thousand years ago or even 100 years ago simply because there wasn’t a cultural alternative. Societies around the world were too isolated and few had any clue about alternative narratives relative to spirituality, philosophy or any of the other big questions. Often when they did encounter them, they drew up and girded for war.
But today with an open mind, we can triangulate our assumptions just like a GPS picks three points on the earth to tell us where we are. We have access to more information. We can learn about Hindu narratives, Buddhist concepts, Taoist traditions, and seek common threads which can eventually enable us to drop the concepts that make absolutely no sense. New understanding can provide new confidence to finally refuse the narratives which simply cannot be based in reality, while strengthening the concepts embedded in our personal, traditional narratives which are as real as the breath going in and out of your lungs.
Only when we take THAT leap of faith and path of open-mindedness will our personal faith traditions reach their full potential. Then we can give ourselves permission to drop the childhood reconciliation of ancient myth and truth. We can stop thinking in terms of wondering how a loving God can allow children to suffer. And, most importantly, we can stop feeling guilty for even questioning such things.
I believe until we can jettison the false concepts of God being separate from us, living in a cloud somewhere up there, poised to do unspeakably horrible things to us if we misbehave, we’ll never realize that God is none of that and quite simply all of this. And, you are all of this and I am all of this and all of us are a single, connected manifestation of God’s love and awareness.
When we realize we are all one with God and there is no alternative to that truth, regardless of our behavior, (the sun shines on the unjust as well as the just) then perhaps we’ll also realize these false concepts of separateness are what start wars and end relationships. Love thine enemy comes to mind. Ultimately it should dawn on us that when we abuse, fight and destroy the other, we’re actually doing those things to ourselves.
Then perhaps some day we’ll also realize heaven isn’t going to wait and happen to us after we’re dead. And, that there’s only one eternity and it’s in this very moment, there’s no such thing as the past and tomorrow never comes. Even though we’re all God’s creatures, we’re still the only mammals who insist on treating mental concepts such as past, future, and ego as things which are solid and real. I like to think intuitively we all know none of those things are real, and this gap between what we know in our bones and what we’ve been taught since we were born is probably the source of most of our various social anxieties and imbalances.
Regardless, there is only now, there is only one real you and one real me, and God is not something separate from us — out there. God is right here, right now. And, until we stop the madness of our separate-self and time-based concepts of the divine, we’ll never even have a chance at experiencing what is within us all, no matter the label we choose, whether it be Love, Compassion, Heaven, Nirvana, or yes, even The Kingdom of God.