Deep(er) Connection

 
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I want to quickly comment on the trajectory of this next run of videos and blog posts.

Wildly Better since it’s inception has had three areas of interest, optimizing our lives through habits, health and heart.  The habits and health prongs are very obvious to anyone who has followed this for a even a little while.  The third, “heart” prong, probably less so.  This third area has to do with spirituality, the “heart” of our existence, and a conversation grounded in our evolving quantum world…quite clearly not as fluffy as the other two.  And while we are not leaving the other two behind, we are putting them on the back burner for a bit.

In the introduction to my book “Transformational Architecture” I used an illustration about Galileo and Copernicus and their excommunication from the Christian church because their research suggested the long held “earth at the center of the universe” was incorrect cosmology, and their astronomical calculations had the sun at the center.  Since this new science was incompatible with prior theological considerations their research was pronounced as heresy by the church for a very, very long time.  Ironically they were charged with wrongdoing due to the quotation of bible verses that “proved the earth was at the center.” In other words, whatever correct the bible might have to say about faith it clearly doesn’t share the heliocentric view of the universe now accepted as fact.

The take away from this debacle should be how easy it is to have theological/philosophical considerations become so entangled in culture that we end up confused about what part is cultural and what is theological. And our dogmatism that it is one of those and not the other too many times proves to be foolishly wrong.

The sophisticated way of saying this is cosmology (how we talk about the universe) always impacts theology (how we talk about god). Shifts in cosmology = Shifts in theology.

For over 100 years we have been trying to metabolize the changes in cosmology as we have made quantum discoveries and realized that so much of what we originally thought about the cosmos was at the very least incomplete.  What does that mean to god-talk? This is far from an irrelevant question, it is actually a very important and rather common conversation, especially intriguing among Millennials (those that are 22-36 years old) who have opted to remain unattached to any major world religion.  

Over the next weeks and months I will try to contribute to that conversation in a small way and hope you will do the same.  

Thank you for joining the conversation, it is not for the faint of heart, for what history has shown over and over again, is many people prefer what has always been whether change is warranted, supported by facts, or simply necessary because it has been wrong to date and we have just discovered that.

Enjoy the conversation.

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J.R.R. Tolkien the British author of Lord of the Rings fame, T.S. Eliot the great British poet and C.S. Lewis the British English Literature professor and apologist...all say this one man influenced their thinking more than any one other person.  I would say that is a significant claim to fame. 

This guy was a close friend of C.S. Lewis’s throughout his adult life from 1919 till Lewis's death in 1963. He was Lewis's legal and financial advisor, and became an executor of his estate. Lewis dedicated his first scholarly book, The Allegory of Love (1936) to this 'wisest and best of my unofficial teachers,' stating in its preface that he asked no more than to disseminate this man’s literary theory and practice, and dedicated the first Narnia Chronicle to his friend's adopted daughter Lucy. This man is no doubt one of the most influential people on British writers that you have probably never heard of. 

What I am most interested in is this man’s observation about what he calls Original Participation.

Up until about 400 years ago, Owen Barfield says that was our dominant center of gravity.  

Original participation is the phrase he used to describe how our consciousness intuitively sensed the connectedness of all things and how intimately we were interwoven into the fabric of the rest of the created order around us.  In other words only a few centuries ago we reflexively knew the entire cosmos, of which we are a part, a very very small part by the way, was all One.*

The rise of rationalism, specialization (that is often more interested in parts than wholes) and the entire modernist project has deeply undermined any sense of connectedness we might have to each other, let alone nature and the rest of creation.

The implications of this break(down) are of course as varied as us seeing people as “other” instead of “part of me,” seeing creation as disposable and for my ends, and bring tricked into fully living out the Jewish creation myth, where the human condition is summarily traced to eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of “good” and “not good.” This famous myth is trying to get at the fundamental human problem: we all have a love affair with duality, with us/them, black/white, right/wrong, good/not good binary judgements…and of course I am always on the “right” side of the judgement.  

Whether the binary is about which side of the climate change question you sit, the immigration debate, political persuasion, or the human sexuality question (that is about to totally reconfigure one of the global Christian denominations in the next 6 months), they are all essentially the same conversation… there is a binary and my judgements are the correct ones…i am right, and you are wrong.

While the dualistic mind has always loved polarity, true religion (and we might put the word spirituality here as well which we will dive into soon) has always been for the express purpose of breaking that down.  The Latin re-ligare, from where we get the word re-ligion, means to re-ligature, re-connect, to bring together.  Ironically religion has clearly NOT done that nor has it been known for that.  Which is quite possibly a testimony to the paltry and impotent versions of religion around us. This is one reason why so many people have an allergy to the word religion and much prefer “spirituality.”  In fact it is just in the last several years that the acronym SBNR has become common in our lexicon - Spiritual But Not Religious. 

Barfield was fond of noting that the break with original participation was a move out of our bodies and into our heads where the goal was fundamentally more about being correct than connected.

Did you hear that?  Correct rather than connected.  

This simply reflects Jewish creation myth and the contracted infection from having eaten the fruit that continues fueling our reflexive drive to constantly call out what we think is good and not good.  We seemingly have a “genetic” proclivity for judgement.

One of my facilitation instructors frequently says the inability to come to peace and harmony with others is simply the reflection of agitation and lack of peace within. 

I invite your curiosity to consider two things today.

  1. Are you adequately reengaging the creation around you and experiencing the joy and peace oneness with it brings?

From one of the ancient song writers in Judaism

 God-craft on exhibit across the horizon. 

Madame Day holds classes every morning,

Professor Night lectures each evening.

   Their words aren’t heard, their voices aren’t recorded, 

But their silence fills the earth: unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.

  God makes a huge dome for the sun—a superdome!

What patterns and practices might you engage to deeply connect to creation, to be infused with the energy of creation, to experience the health and spiritual benefits of creation?

These days I am animated by the idea that we need an immersion in original participation.  A genuine appreciation that we are “the evolving universe becoming conscious of itself” (Julian Huxley evolutionary biologist and Teilhard de Chardin Jesuit Paleontologist).

I did a video not long ago on Shinrin Yoku the Japanese art of forest bathing: the healing and health producing effects of being immersed in nature. (here if you missed it!)  In fact a brand new book has just been released on it here!

2.   Are you engaging a religion/spirituality that is truly re-ligaturing your life and a torn apart world? Is it bringing you a deeper greater sense of wholeness and oneness? Or is your religion personally more defined by taking on the enemy position, trying to play police, or trying to assert your rightness?

What do your patterns and practices do in bringing more wholeness and human flourishing to those around you? How is your transformation being injected into your surroundings in tangible ways?

My invitation:  first, engage nature more, become more connected…become less concerned about being correct and more concerned about being compassionate.  More concerned about oneness than separateness, more aware of our similarities than differences.

Second invitation: what does a truly 21st century, evolutionary, quantum spirituality look and feel like?  How is it different than the current options?  And what do we need to do to get there?

If Owen Barfield were still alive I would love to dive into those questions with him.  While we might live in divisive times we live in times of wild possibility.  But those possibilities do not lie in what we have always done, always voiced or by holding to long expired positions because somebody back then said so.   

A return to a deeper connection to the created order, and our profound oneness with it - Original participation - seems like a good start for me.

What about you?  What can you share about the patterns and practices you are engaging or how you are processing the questions asked in this post?

 

 

*It is very difficult to give simple summary quotes from Barfield.  His writing isn’t very patient with simplification.  But I give two quotes here I think begin to capture his thought. — The "primitive" awareness or consciousness in which mankind once believed--in a pre-logical, pre-mythical manner--that "there stands behind the phenomena, and on the other side of them from me, a represented which is of the same nature as me . . . of the same nature as the perceiving self, inasmuch as it is not mechanical or accidental, but psychic and voluntary" (Saving the Appearances 42), a mindset in which we feel ourselves to be "functioning member[s] of the natural world, as a finger is a member of the physical body” In original participation "the represented is felt to be on the other side of the phenomena from the perceiving self. At the same time, it is felt to be linked with, or related to, that self otherwise than through the senses. The self, so far as there yet is one, is still aware that it and the phenomena derive from the same supersensible source" (SA 122-23)

 

Quantum Connectedness

Quantum connectedness is more practical than you might think. We live in the extraordinary time when science is making observations that shatter any myth that spirituality and science are miles apart. While some of these seem academic the practical implications are nothing short of profound.

Quantum Soup... Where We Live

Quantum energy is the soup within which we all “live and move and have our being” (to quote Epimenides the 7th century BCE Greek philosopher-poet) It is the energy field from which all things have emerged and into which all things finally collapse.  The quantum field is the world, the invisible world, an invisible kingdom that exists beyond our senses but can activate our senses when we tune into it.  This is exactly the explanation given for one of the most, if not THE most, important scientific discoveries of our time,* why twins seem so connected even over thousands of miles, what we are actually learning about what were once called “premonitions,” and the controlled scientific experiments being done at Arizona State University on how “intention” has specific results on physical processes like plant growth.

The Real Benefits of Travel

                                                                                                                        Doha Qatar skyline

                                                                                                                       Doha Qatar skyline

I have wanted to do a post/video for a while on the important role that travel has played in my life.  So as I prepare for a trip to the UAE (Abu Dhabi and Dubai) and Qatar, I thought this might be an ideal time to invite into your curiosity some reflections.

The obvious benefits of travel are recreative, rejuvenating and restful.  Yes of course all of those.  But I am on a slightly different glide slope for this one

Let me set the stage with a few lines from a book I read in 2004 that has been pulled off the shelf for a read on the plane some 13 yrs later…

“It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, who may not be who we essentially are.” 
― Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel

If you have never read de Botton this is an excellent start.  

                             I.M. Pei Islamic Museum of Art Doha Qatar

                            I.M. Pei Islamic Museum of Art Doha Qatar

I had the opportunity to travel to remote parts of India when I was 17, the first of what would be many trips to that part of the world. I can’t calculate the impact of the trip on my entire life but I can say that even then I knew I would never be quite the same.  

Some 30 countries later, on train, boat, helicopter, plane, horse, rickshaw, and tuktuk my entire interior world has been rearranged, tweaked, enlightened, and infused because of the places, spaces and faces I have had the privilege to encounter.

When we travel we are jolted out of routinized thinking, movement, interaction and eating.  We are arrested by new surroundings, smells, souks and stations.

All of these have a way of getting us out of our little dinky world, but more importantly out of our little dinky thinking that often has us unconsciously assuming my way, my world is surely the way most people live and breathe, right?  It is one of the reasons we made a commitment to give our kids, while they were still young, travel opportunities in different parts of the world: expanding their outer world meant inevitably expanding their inner world. 

You can’t help but think differently in different parts of the country let alone different parts of the world. 

                                                    Taj Mahal Agra

                                                   Taj Mahal Agra

We are told we have between 70,000-90,000 thoughts a day but about 90-95% of them are the same thoughts as yesterday.  Nothing jolts you out of that rut better then a change of scenery. 

de Botton again…

“Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than moving planes, ships or trains.”

 

So, can I offer a few things I have tried to engage in my travels?

First, GO PLACES!  - there are 196 identified countries in the world.  If you only stay in one or two it is like reading only a page or two of a book.  Places change us, expand us, infuse us. Sure we have to save, plot and plan.  But read de Botton, part of the trip is the planning and anticipation; that alone has a molding force.

Second, SEE SPACES! - architecture posesses one of the most acute powers for arresting our minds.  Whether is it the Taj Mahal in India, the I.M. Pei designed Dallas Symphony Hall or the Islamic Museum of Art in Qatar, be it St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, or the 46m long Reclining Buddha in Wat Pho Temple in Bangkok, the magnitude of these spaces expand what can be, give you a portal into an entirely different world and open you to possibilities you can’t get from a flat page or computer screen. 

                                                                                                                                                                                      Redwoods California

                                                                                                                                                                                     Redwoods California

Third, EXPERIENCE TRACES of the Divine evolving in creation.  The French vineyards of Chateauneuf du Pape, the red dunes in Nambia, the majesty of the Nepalese terrain heading to Namche Bazaar, or the towering Redwoods of northern California. Terrain changes reorient our bodies and spirits in ways nothing else does in the same way. Natural wonders abound in every landscape, mountains, desert, plains and sea.  And when those wonders lodge in us they provoke wonder and curiosity and take us to new creative vistas. I have always returned from a trip more curious, and more creative. And for those of you that gravitate toward water/sea?  There is a reason!

 

                                                 Red Dunes Namibia

                                                Red Dunes Namibia

 

 

Last, MEET FACES - My kids have always been half embarrassed because I talk to total strangers a lot.  This is really an important practice in other lands where their world is so vastly different than mine.  Get good at asking questions, peer into their world, their life, their thoughts their routine.  I had an exercise in a class I took where I had to go spend two hours with someone very much UNLIKE me.  It could have been different in any number of ways.  But the idea was I had to get comfortable with "other." This was valuable simply because you can often have that experience near your home.  Even local travel can change, challenge or invade your current worldview. One of the reccurring thoughts that hits me almost every time I get into conversations with people in a different context is “this is their life, this is really who they are, they are not on vacation..how interesting.”  

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Traveling helps me remember how ethnocentric I am, how unenlightened and clumsy I am, how narrow and uninformed I am.  I am sure that will happen again as I venture into a totally different world this week.  But a world of unbelievable vision, architecture, cultural uniqueness and beauty.  There is no doubt my next several weeks have #wildlybetter written all over them.  I hope you are thinking about your next trek… that alone heightens our senses!