Monday, November 12, 2007

The Human Condition

The one unique thing we do as humans is to question. Every other thing we do is mimicked by at least some other animal. But it is the entire questing process which separates us from every other species on the planet. We seek, we find, we make informed decisions based on the answers. And so we are able to change our environment and ourselves.
Our questioning is based on six basic questions: Who are we? What is life / existence? Where are we? When are we? How do things work / are things put together? and Why: What is the meaning of it all?
To answer each of these "Great Questions" we have devised several disciplines, or studies. To answer the Who? question we have Biography -- we create fantastic family trees and histories of famous persons in an attempt to try and understand who creates and shapes our reality. To answer the What? question we have Philosophy -- we try to understand just what reality really is. To understand Where? we have Cartography -- we map everything to try and be rid of the unknowns in our space, and to find our physical place within it. For How? we have History -- we map out causes and motivations to help us understand the events which shape our world. How? is perhaps the question we spend the most time understanding: here are the Sciences -- Astronomy, Chemistry, Astronomy, Mathematics, Medicine, Physics -- we take things apart to understand how they are put together and how they work. Finally, we ask the Why? question to try and find meaning for our lives, and so we create Religion.
Religion is our feeble attempt to understand the universe around us and our place within it. It is the process of answering the Why? question of existence, and the attempt to create meaning for our lives.
Religion is the discipline which can lead to spirituality. It is, therefore, a "spiritual toolkit" which can enable us to find spiritual meaning for our lives.
Religions generally contain some sort of focusing mechanism to help their followers gauge their behavior. Such codes as the Ten Commandments and the Wiccan Rede help to define how one should behave if living a spiritual life. These are generally not so much rules to live by as guidelines as to how a spiritual person behaves.
Now, religion and spirituality differ a bit. Religion is the "toolkit" and spirituality is the experience. But persons who follow only the religious code, persons of "religious habit", differ greatly from spiritual persons. A religious person behaves the way they think they are supposed to. It is as though they are following a list of do's and don'ts whenever they do anything. But a spiritual person does things because they feel they should -- there is no cognitive process. A religious person may decide that they should help someone cross a street, whereas a spiritual person may help someone with their groceries "out of the goodness of their heart". Love is the motivating factor here, as we'll see later.

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