It is October 13, 2017 in the United States of America. Friday, the 13th, that is. Are you spooked? On edge? Keeping a lookout for strange things?
We, in the West, live in a sophisticated world full of wondrous technology and a globalized society with the most cutting edge research and resources to date. Or so goes the background myth undergirding our day-to-day understanding of our place in the Earth-bound human cosmos, as of this writing.
Another background myth humming away constantly in our subconscious: our world functions on empirical evidence, not irrational/non-rational beliefs justified only by feelings and traditions.
Still another myth: human civilization’s progress from Mesopotamia to Silicon Valley is a single clear arc from the unenlightened, pagan, mysticism to regimented, fact-based, scientific truth-discovering.
Rather, we are only human. That means, we are animals, composed of flesh, sinew, blood, and bone. We have enormous intellectual horsepower inside our brains. We can think faster and in more complex forms than virtually all other living creatures on the planet. And, in some spectacularly significant ways, we are spiritual. That is, we are more than our physical selves; we are part of the collective universe of living things and we know it.
This last part–our awareness–is, likely, our most distinguishing and invaluable feature. We know that by being a part of the living universe we are more than bodies in motion; we are divine in that we are animated with feelings, hopes, dreams, consciousness, and some je ne sais quoi.
In as few words as I can muster in English: we have a vague and potent sense that we are more than can be sensed.
And that is breathtaking. But it also reveals the flaw at the heart of our hyper-technical worldview-making mythos.
We know and believe that parts of this world, this universe–the world, the universe–cannot be measured or evaluated empirically, but can only be felt, experienced, and grasped at with faulty tools called words, often collected as poetry in its multifarious forms.
The trouble with the obvious immeasurability of life and the world is that our empiricist dogma denies it. The modern world mandates: everything that exists can be tracked, measured, captured, and recorded, and so we can dominate everything in existence into a placid repose within the invisible cages housed in our minds.
Our minds are surely powerful. They are also flawed and leagues lower than omnipotent. And so, when we think, we must, at times, err. And because when we think and err, we think wrongly or misunderstand, we must misunderstand. Because we are human, we must also know this–we must be aware that we cannot contain the vastness of the entire complex drama of lived existence within the four walls of our powerful, yet limited brains.
And so, I offer this, on this day, the 13th day of the month of October in the 2,017th year after the death of a man, commonly understood to be named Jesus,–a day also called Friday–that we are still mystics. And further, we have a greater power to and capacity for belief than we do (or ever will) have a power to and capacity for measurement, recall, and calculation.
We are much closer to animals in a lush safari than we are to computers humming away according to a rigid code governed by the ethereal certitude of mathematics. We are overly spiteful, vengeful, and violent. We are overly feeling, sensitive, unruly. We do think, but we feel first. We misunderstand much more than we understand.
Accordingly, we would do well to remember that we err most when we operate under the illusion of the absolutism of the collective mythos that says: our world functions according to facts, not beliefs.