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Is It Alive? And Other Soul Stuff

In the world we everywhere find clear signs of an order in accordance with a determinate purpose, carried out with great wisdom

—Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 1781

Like many, I am on the run today – off to enjoy Thanksgiving holidays with some of our family. Of course, one of the things I am most grateful for is you wonderful people who keep reading the blogs… sending me your encouragement, insights, stories, experiences, and resources.

Today, I am going to pass on a couple of poems shared by my dear friend, Suzanne. And a quote from another good friend, Ann. (I’m also packing a book recommended by one of you who has shared several good resources, my friend, Anne-Marie. The Holy Longing. Other books I’m tossing my suitcase is Adam Grant’s new book, Hidden Potential. I’ve already browsed it and found it quite good).

Before I go to their shared wisdom, a few more words about “primals” – those most basic ideas we have about the universe…that help us make up our minds (create our mindset) and influence our attitude, behaviors, and emotions.

The biggest primal question. Is it a good universe? We make that determination, according to primal research thus far, after we ask ourselves three other questions. Is the universe SAFE? Is the universe ENTICING? And one I have not yet mentioned. It's the question one of my sons used to ask me incessantly about rocks, trees, flowers, the sun.

Is it [the universe] ALIVE?

If we think the universe is alive we believe that it is full of intention and purpose. We are sensitive to those purposes. We believe the universe needs us. It “wants” our help.

If this sounds totally preposterous to us. We cannot really be faulted…it’s the scientific worldview we were born into. However, science and philosophy are moving in a direction that might feel regressive to some. People like Philip Goff, think it's a move forward that we will have to catch up with.

To see more what I mean, take a moment over the holidays to do a relatively short but mind-boggling read. Here’s an excerpt from an interview with Goff. His book is Why? The Purpose of the Universe:

Goff: Nowadays people mock our ancestors for their stubborn inability to follow the evidence where it leads. But I think every generation absorbs a worldview they can’t see beyond, and I think that’s what’s going on now with the fine-tuning of physics. For a couple of hundred years there was no evidence for cosmic purpose, and so we got into this mindset that science has ruled out anything like that. The evidence has now changed, but it takes time for the culture to catch up. I honestly believe future historians will look back at us and think it’s bizarre that we ignored what was in plain sight for so long.

And now from Suzanne:

Today I am taking sides.

I am taking the side of Peace.

Peace, which I will not abandon

even when its voice is drowned out

by hurt and hatred,

bitterness of loss,

cries of right and wrong.

I am taking the side of Peace

whose name has barely been spoken

in this winnerless war.

I will hold Peace in my arms,

and share my body’s breath,

lest Peace be added

to the body count.

I will call for de-escalation

even when I want nothing more

than to get even.

I will do it

in the service of Peace.

I will make a clearing

in the overgrown

thicket of cause and effect

so Peace can breathe

for a minute

and reach for the sky.

I will do what I must

to save the life of Peace.

I will breathe through tears.

I will swallow pride.

I will bite my tongue.

I will offer love

without testing for deservingness.

So don’t ask me to wave a flag today

unless it is the flag of Peace.

Don’t ask me to sing an anthem

unless it is a song of Peace.

Don’t ask me to take sides

unless it is the side of Peace.

Rabbi Irwin Keller, Oct. 17, 2023

Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride thinking the bus will never stop, the passengers eating maize and chicken will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho lies dead by the side of the road. You must see how this could be you, how he too was someone who journeyed through the night with plans and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. You must wake up with sorrow. You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread, only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say It is I you have been looking for, and then goes with you everywhere like a shadow or a friend.

And finally, a quote from Carl Jung (taken from a zoom call with Dr. James Hollis. A couple of you are big fans.)

Our life is a short pause between two mysteries. Happy Thanksgiving.

How might we journey together to The Good Life by sharing encouragement, experiences, insights, resources, and our stories?


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