Our friend Laurie asks the Big Question: “Why are we here? We are born. We grow and learn. But we struggle, as spirits in human form, with the atrocities that we commit unto one another in the name of someone’s god, be it a spiritual god, religious god, dogmatic god, political god, or monetary god. Some of us will die horrible deaths without ever achieving whatever it was that we worked for so hard. Some of us do the same thing day in and day out, year after year until we die. Some of us will hit the jackpot and live the life of luxury and opulence with no thought as to our actions. Some of us do not care what we do to the environment or to the creatures who share this earth with us and will poison what we can just to make a living. Some of us will “get it”, but I believe that number is too few to make a difference. But what difference can they make anyways? What *IS* the point to life?”
This question has been raised in every time, place, and culture in human history. It is the existential quandary: why ARE we here? IS there a point to life – and if so, what is it? Books, scriptures, Vedas, hadiths, songs, stories, and ceremonies have all been created in response to those questions and the subsequent questions that arise from suggested answers.
Unlike the “lilies of the field” who “take no thought of tomorrow”, humans are mind-driven. We ruminate about yesterday and imagine tomorrow. We assign positive or negative values to our own thoughts (and the thoughts of others, as we learn of them), and then have emotional reactions to those mental formulations. Our behaviors are then shaped by those thoughts and feelings we have experienced – or, in some cases, repressed. We seldom review our thoughts or feelings for accuracy, let alone truth. Instead, we project our own unknown (because still unconscious) self onto others and the world about us – and then feel overshadowed by what we have projected.
This is perhaps the point of the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. The garden represents being alive in nature, like the trees, animals, plants, birds, and all other naturally-occurring forms of life. As Voltaire pointed out, “Ignorance is bliss.” But the human soul has an itch that other life forms on this planet don’t seem to share – we want to know, to grow, to evolve, to experience, to awaken consciously – to explore who we are and what is possible for us beyond ignorance and innocence. In the story of the Garden, Adam is given “dominion” over all other life forms created. How do humans exercise dominion most effectively? Through the mental gifts of intellect and intuition, another way of saying Adam and Eve. So Eve, following her intuition, must pick the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and share it with Adam, that humans might take their first steps on the path of unfolding the full spectrum of human possibility and potential through an evolution of consciousness, of Knowingness, of mind and heart.
The Sufis say that only humans can be higher than the angels or lower than the beasts. The animal kingdom has intelligence but not intellect, so it remains innocent in its essence – incapable of evil. The angelic realm has purity but lacks possibility – angels can only be good. What is unique for the human being is the power of choice, bestowed by the gift of Knowledge. Like all powers, Knowledge in and of itself is neutral and can be used either to create or to destroy, depending on what we choose to do with it. In this way, it is God-like and we, as its possessors, are also God-like. Unique among all species, we humans can choose how to apply the Knowledge we acquire as a result of the gifts of Intellect and Intuition. The choices we make are how we become either higher than the angels or lower than the animals, as we choose between benevolent and malevolent thoughts and actions. We are no longer either innocent or purely good. Our goal is different. It is wholeness, and wholeness encompasses the whole spectrum of possibility, of light and of shadow, as does that of Divinity however we characterize it. In this sense, we are indeed children of the Most High.
Our task, as humans – should we accept it – is to explore every facet of what it is to be human, conscious and alive on a dualistic planet and plane of consciousness, and to preserve the fruits, the Knowledge gleaned, of that exploration in our awareness. It is the very contrast between darkness and light, goodness and evil, pain and pleasure, masculine and feminine which compels us to become conscious of differences and thereby to experience the emergence of Knowing and to receive the invitation to respond with Love. Imagine, if you will, trying to paint a masterpiece that is composed entirely of highlights/pure light. It is a blank white canvas. Without the contrast and depth provided not only by the dark shadows but also by every tone and hue and shape in between, the highlights would have no meaningful reality. We couldn’t even perceive them. It is the entire spectrum of experience that awakens an awareness of wholeness – an infinite potential of Being that is broad, and deep, and inexhaustible in its capacity for both light and dark.
And that is our challenge as human souls who can consciously Know or Intuit this potential to some degree. With what then do we align ourselves, given that we are essentially free? What will bring us back to the Garden and the Tree of Life (Wholeness)?
We can be whatever we choose to be – not in the details of how life happens to us, perhaps, but certainly in how we choose to respond and act as beings equipped with the Knowledge of Good and Evil, of Life and Death. We can love or we can hate, we can build up or we can tear down, we can serve or we can dominate. It is your choice, every day of your life – and it doesn’t depend on the circumstances of your life but rather on the condition of your own heart and how you want to be. What do you choose?
That is the only point that really matters.