Glance at the sun.
See the moon and the stars.
Gaze at the beauty of earth’s greening.
What delight God gives
to humankind with all these things?
Who gives all these shining,
wonderful gifts,if not God?
– Hildegard of Bingen
I live my life in ever widening circles, each superseding all the previous ones.
Perhaps I never shall succeed in reaching the final circle, but attempt I will.
I circle around God, the ancient tower, and have been for a thousand years, and
still I do not know: am I a falcon, a storm, or a continuing great song?
Our ability to ask questions has helped us as humans to evolve to our present stage of development. It is what allowed every generation of humans to transcend the challenges and limitations they faced in each current moment by continually improving themselves and the technologies that allowed them to survive. That is why it is essential for us to raise the important and challenging questions of our time. We need to ask and answer them anew for our own time – and in the process find ways to move us safely beyond our current moment of crisis, both personal and collective.
The reflections on this site present one person’s journey into the questions, seeking answers and a way to be faithful to my humanness, my life experiences, the people I love, and the One in whom all of it has its origins and its ultimate meaning.
This is both a scary and exciting time to be looking at our meaning questions anew today. Some years ago, as I began searching for a way to understand the root causes of the many crises facing us, I realized that they all seemed to be linked by some over-arching questions that reflect not only our personal struggles but our collective struggles as well:
Who Are We?
Why Are We Here?
How Are We To Be Here With One Another?
The first time the questions came to me in this form, I realized that these are spiritual questions. They are the questions that cut to the core of ultimate meaning and purpose for all humans. They have tugged at the heart of humankind since the dawn of consciousness.
More importantly, the answers people have given to these fundamental questions have guided human behavior and decision-making throughout millennia. The way various peoples on the planet have asked and answered these questions have shaped their view of reality and formed their culture. The answers we as humans have sought and found to these very questions have determined how we got to where we are today.
Another turning point for me was when I realized that we need to consider something else important about those three questions, and that is the reality that those three compelling and foundational questions are directly and significantly impacted by how we answer yet another question:
Who is God?
I see these four questions and their answers as interrelated in a kind of never-ending spiral. In other words, who we say God is has a very significant impact on how we define ourselves and how we see ourselves in relationship with others.
Whether or not we believe in a personal God, an impersonal God, or no God at all, our belief about the Divine sets the stage for the way we understand ourselves and others. Are we and all others the creatures of the one and same God? Does this God, or do the gods, play a role in human affairs that leaves us ultimately powerless to choose the outcome of our behaviors? Are we the “beloved of God” while all others living on Earth are outside of God’s love?
During the long journey of human development, groups of peoples, wherever they found themselves on Earth, asked themselves these questions and came up with answers based on what they knew about reality at the time. As their ability to find and produce food through new technologies developed, the “we” in those questions first became the family, then the tribe, then the village, then the city-state supported by organized religions, and finally the structure of nations we are familiar with today. The process of defining “Who are we?” began to include, “Who are we not?” Boundaries were drawn. Those who were different – not “we” – were excluded, and often oppressed, enslaved or destroyed in the effort to better the living conditions of “we.”
Today, newly aware of our interrelated Universe and our global culture, we must ask these questions anew. We must re-exam how we understand “we,” and the boundaries of our own identity. We must reconsider our long-standing behaviors toward “the other.”
“Why are we here?” This is another question to be looked at anew in our time. Can we think of our time here on this beautiful, unique orb floating in the vast darkness of space as meaningful? How so? What came before? What might come after?
How we answer these questions is important in itself, but also for how it will influence the third question, “How are we to be here with one another?” If there is no meaning to our being here, then why treat anyone or anything in a meaningful and respectful way? If I am here to achieve dominion, to be the “winner” while all others are “losers,” then I will treat everyone as subordinate. If I am here only as some sort of punishment or time of learning, I will simply bide my time until death removes me to some better place.
In our global community, these are important questions to consider. But not just the global community needs to address them. They are important for us as individuals, as families, as institutions to face as well.
We need to come together to reflect on and answer these questions in new ways. Who are we? What do we see as our meaning and purpose? How will we behave in relationship to others? This, in fact, is why I have come to believe that all human groupings, from the smallest neighborhood association, to nonprofit organizations, to large corporations, have a “spirituality.” For the phenomenon we know by the term spirituality, I have come to suspect, has ultimately to do with our interconnectedness in this Universe we inhabit. As people in relationship, coming together out of some circumstance or need, in order to function in a healthy and productive way, we must ask ourselves these questions.
As you prepare to reflect on the ideas within this blog, I first would like to invite you to take a few moments to pause and reflect quietly on your own experience:
- Spend a few minutes recalling your earliest memory in life of an experience of the Divine or the Sacred (however that is understood by you).
- As you relive that memory, what image for the Divine or the Sacred comes to mind to hold that experience for you?
- What does that image say to you about yourself, and about your relationship to the Divine (or Sacred), to other human beings, to the larger Earth community?
If you were able to come up with an experience and image in response to the questions above, you were tapping into your own spiritual experience.