The human thirst for meaning and mystery

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MORE than mere breath.

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When Charles Darwin was asked towards the end of his life what the most extraordinary experience he’d had, he replied that it was in a rainforest when he just sat there and felt that “there must be more to man than the breath in his body.” In his field journal, he noted this when he was in a rainforest in Bahia, Brazil in April, 1832: “Sublime devotion the prevalent feeling … Silence. Hosanna.”

A sense of transcendence is basic to the human response to the grandeur of the cosmos.

The denial of underlying spiritual reality in the cosmos eliminates the credibility of worship and declares that there is anything beyond death. How then can we explain the perennial human thirst for something more than this world can offer, the yearning for joy that will never end?

Anyone suggesting that since there is no Deity, we worship instead the law of gravity will be laughed to scorn by the Filipinos with their deep religiosity. Carl Sagan already noted this difficulty sometime ago, but Carolyn C. Porco still imagines a congregation of the Church of Latter­Day Scientists raising their voices “in tribute to gravity, the force that binds us all to the earth and the earth to the sun and the sun to the Milky Way.” Left with a residue of unfulfilled longing in a godless cosmos, she laments the fact that scientists in their spiritual quest to feel connected through an understanding of the natural world lack ceremony and ritual, the initiation of baptism, and the brotherhood of communal worship.

Many who do not believe in a personal Deity nevertheless possess some sort of spiritual response to the vastness of the universe. Faith however focuses the human spiritual impulse not on the physical universe but locates the source of spirituality in a realm beyond it. Faith holds that a supremely perfect Creator is the only proper object of unlimited devotion, and eternal joy the only end worth living for. Faith is the only thing that can fill the human thirst for meaning and mystery, of the need to slake the thirst for the water that will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life (Jn. 4:13), as Jesus told the woman at the well in Samaria.

The thirst for the transcendent
Albert Einstein once made this famous quote: .The most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the source of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom, and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can only comprehend in their primitive forms ­this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religion.”

In an interview in the March 27th, 2014 issue of Rolling Stone, Bill Gates said that the mystery and the beauty of the world is overwhelmingly amazing, and there’s no scientific explanation of how it came about. “To say that it was generated by random numbers, that does seem, you know, sort of an uncharitable view. I think it makes sense to believe in God, but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don’t know.”

Gates went on to say that the moral systems of religion are superimportant: “We’ve raised our kids in a religious way; they’ve gone to the Catholic Church that Melinda goes to and I participate in. I’ve been very lucky, and therefore I owe it to try and reduce the inequity in the world. And that’s kind of a religious belief. I mean, it’s at least a moral belief.”

Worshipping in Spirit and in Truth (Jn. 4:24)
In a convergent universe, life is an adventure that everyone is on together, to help in the continuation of humankind in the adventure to a higher dimension of achievement. Pope Benedict declared that “being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” That person is the Divine Word who jump started the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.

Faith is the most durable source of identity and security for believers. They realize that access to the divine cannot be attained without wonder and awe. The spiritual quest has to be done in a faith­community, a community which mediates the Risen Christ to the whole universe, engaging the earth and making it what it ought to be in the light of the Resurrection. Christ has conquered death and actively struggles with everyone who confronts the death­dealing forces in the world.

In the face of the growing number of those who do not believe, it is a divine imperative for those who have faith in God to distinguish themselves by the depth of their compassion, by the intensity of their commitment to work for global justice, and by their creativity in helping assure coming generations of a livable planet as their way of worshipping in Spirit and in Truth.

In this dynamic and processive cosmos, the way of the Carpenter from Galilee is to offer meaning as opposed to nihilism, joy instead of boredom, and vibrant hope rather than the despair of death without ultimate fulfillment in a universe that will ultimately be overwhelmed by eternal darkness. In the new heavens and the new earth, all our tears will be wiped away. Following the Divine Word because his life is our life, his mission our mission, we continue to be buoyed up by the hope that since the universe is convergent, our laughter will not die in sorrow, as we embrace the God who is future ­ “Behold, I make all things new!” (Rev. 21:5).

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