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Why Am I?
Why Am I?
The profound question of “Why am I?” has been around since humans could contemplate their own existence. No one knows for sure the exact date - maybe when we humans first started having animism ceremonies under the stars and created art and symbolic objects. Recent archaeological discoveries in the Blombos caves in South Africa are evidence of the earliest creative activities by humans to date. The findings date back around 100,000 years and exhibit ceremonial red ochre paints, beads and even unique geometric like patterns engraved upon rocks. These discoveries have overturned earlier theories of when and where humans became, well, human. Until these recent archeological finds in Southern Africa, it was thought that humans did not engage in deeper creative and abstract thinking until the arrival of homo-sapiens to southern Europe with cave painting sites dating back around 30,000 years. Do the math. That’s quite a difference of time of around 70,000 years. Obviously we still have much to learn about our human origins story.
I myself have pondered this mystery since I was in my early teens and even named my first Rock band YMI, pronounced “Why Am I”, which strangely became a popular designer jeans logo years later (should have got the trademark!).
When I was young I thought I was clever in discussions about God, playing the devil’s advocate (literally) by asking Whose God is God’s God? But I never really meant it even when I asked it, knowing intuitively that God is one, as in every atom -everywhere. Yet we do see and experience hierarchies throughout nature from the micro to the macro realms. But we must let go of our limited and young human perspectives when it comes to God. This physical, material reality only represents part of the bigger picture. Nevertheless, it must reflect aspects of the mysterious spiritual realm.
The deepest why question of existence is mysterious and cannot be answered definitively for many reasons. The hardest current scientific mysteries include Consciousness, Dark Matter and Energy, what happened before the Big Bang, and how to synthesize the macro and micro realms of physics into one grand unified theory of everything. Additionally, why has evolution allowed our carbon-based electric chemicals, combined with bacteria to evolve to the point where it (us) can ponder its own existence in the universe?
Even Nietzsche, the German Existentialist philosopher who was the secular head priest with his infamous declaration that “God is dead”, said that science is fine for describing the what, where and how, but lousy at the unfathomable deeper why of things.
‘Why’ inevitably becomes a value judgment about our worth in the greater scheme of things. Francis Crick, a co-discoverer of DNA, sums up the secular materialist worldview of this profound question by propagating that we are all merely evolved chemicals - there is no purpose, and all is a random accident. Thus we are accidents of nature in a colossal universe with over two trillion galaxies, each with around two hundred billion stars systems! Our particular Stardust origins started in a pinpoint exploding outward with the Big Bang event around 14 billion years ago.
We still do not know what happened before the Big Bang event, but there is enough proof at this point that it really did happen. According to orthodox materialists, this entire universe is just a random accident with no meaning - really? I believe this is a sad perspective and says a lot about whoever propagates it.
The problem I have with the idea that we are just random mistakes of nature is that it basically makes an empty and negative value judgment about life in general, that there is no meaning or purpose or grand design. Nevertheless, a fine-tuned, space-time geometry (aka Intelligent Design) has been revealed and proven by science over and over again. Simply put, this accident hypothesis ignores many new discoveries and lacks imagination, which the best scientists in history like Newton, Einstein and Tesla - have all possessed.
Mr. Crick and Mr. Watson, both of whom won Nobel prizes for identifying DNA, falsely claimed total credit based upon a stolen x-ray picture of DNA that revealed its helix structure, as well as key formulations, from an unsung pioneer woman scientist named Rosalind Franklin. Hard to respect these guys’ limited thinking and atheist perspective considering their creepy and unethical behavior.
Is the anthropomorphic value judgment of worth the proper thought construct to approach this deepest of questions of Why Am I? Some would say no because worth is a subjective term. Yet I must use some objectively defined terms to establish a framework of ideas. After all nothing can be proven truly objective. All is relative -more about this later. Thus the word worth is being applied here in relation to whether or not something is meaningful or important for whatever reasons. A strict secular Darwinist would impart here that something only has worth if it aids us in survival. I agree with this Darwinian perspective with a caveat. The caveat being that mere survival without deeper meaning or purpose for humans at this point in our evolution is not a sufficient explanation. Otherwise we are just zombies going through the motions, which some contemporary thinkers actually believe!
Hopefully I will demonstrate that faith in a greater source (God) and the healthy state of mind (faith) it provides is truly awesome and necessary for our long-term survival and eternal prosperity. Many studies now exist revealing the connection between good health and faith in a greater source. Some cynical skeptics will see this strictly as a placebo effect. I beg to differ - full on faith is an ongoing lifetime’s work and not a temporary feel good fix based on the mind being tricked. The only similarity is the contentment and feel-good brain chemical release one gets through trusting in a Doctor in a professional setting, i.e., placebo effect. This trust in the care you receive from a doctor however, is temporary and fallible because humans, and yes, even Medical Doctors (MD) make mistakes. Whereas feel-good faith based on trust in God is a constant for your entire existence. Being perfect, God is not capable of mistakes.
A related word cousin that comes into play here is caring. Do I care about or find worth and meaning in existence? Does an outside greater force-creator care about or find worth in its creation? Yes and Yes. Let’s hold off for a minute or two about a greater source that cares and gives meaning and purpose to life and examine what some other great thinkers have put forward about the greatest of mysteries - Why Am I?
Golden Age of Philosophy & Religion
The great philosophers at the peak of the Hellenistic age (400-500s BCE), a golden era of thought that included the Greeks in the West, the Jews in the Middle East and the sages of the Far East to name but a few, all had their own beliefs about the nature of existence. Nevertheless, there was significant overlap of ideas based on ancient archetypes, geopolitics and trade.
Pythagoras, famous for his geometry theorem as well as being the discoverer of the western musical tonal system, had many unique theories about the world he inhabited. He was a vegetarian and had a big cult following that eventually cost him his life due to the threatened and jealous leaders. Pythagoras put forward an intuitive, yet not obvious notion of a universe constructed with mathematics, which has been proven true with modern physics. He also believed that we have souls that are transmigrated through time.
This idea of souls moving in and out of physical bodies through time is very similar to and may have been appropriated from the more ancient Hindu concept of reincarnation. Ideas and belief systems traveled back and forth by sea and on land via the famous spice routes to and from Asia, connecting the West to East and East to West.
Zoroaster, Persian prophet and founder of Zoroastrianism around this time (5th century BCE) believed that the purpose in life is to “be among those who renew the make the world progress towards perfection”. He believed in a handful of ancient pagan Gods from his region but also introduced new concepts such as the extreme dualisms of good versus evil forces at work, a heaven and a hell - and other beliefs including the freewill of humanity. All of these ideas found their way into the big three monotheistic, Judean - rooted belief systems - Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions.
Conceptions of duality also appear later in pre- and post-European Enlightenment philosophies. For example, Descartes’ proposition that the mind (soul?) and body are separate entities is referred to now as the Cartesian Duality. In contemporary mythology via the global phenomenon of mega-popular film series such as the epic Star Wars saga and Marvel comic book heroes’ franchises, good versus evil forces is always the central theme.
Iconic Greek philosopher Plato also believed in a soul and in a higher eternal realm where archetypal forms and ideas exist, versus the temporal, physical world we inhabit. He promulgated his now famous allegory of the Cave to sum up the existence of humans. In brief- there are chained prisoners in a cave who have only ever seen the reflections of things from the outside onto the cave walls and believe them to be reality. One of them escapes and discovers the true sunlit reality and is overwhelmed by its light, beauty and majesty. He eventually goes back to the cave to share his discovery with his old fellow prisoners who stubbornly and ignorantly reject him and his amazing findings.
The central premise is that our human perspective is very limited and so all we see are merely the shadows or representations of the higher eternal realm. We may believe that the material world that we experience constitutes the total reality, when in actuality something much grander is going on that is beyond our comprehension. Yet we do have the innate ability to catch occasional glimpses of the divine, which then transforms and enlightens our worldview, as it did for the escaped prisoner in Plato’s Cave allegory.
Plato believed the reason for being was to rediscover and reconnect with the higher eternal realm using all of one’s mental capacities to identify the essential forms and ideas of this existence. Another important insight from the Cave allegory is that when someone with wisdom tries to share or teach their deeply contemplated and intuitive knowledge - they are often rejected and even persecuted and killed, which happened to Plato’s own mentor Socrates and Pythagoras before him.
Tragically, many other great philosophers, prophets, sages and spiritual leaders before and after this golden age thousands of years ago have faced a similar sad fate trying to elevate humanity’s collective consciousness to a higher level. These spiritual leaders include some of history’s greatest purveyors of peace, love and harmony - such as Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
Yet all their involuntary deaths were not in vain. Their brave, hard work (achieved by means of individual and collective militant civil disobedience), revolutionary teachings and ultimate self-sacrifices have set the bar high for righteous behaviors. These great leaders have helped humanity to evolve, albeit ever so slowly, by teaching high ideals.
The idea of God (Nature) as a separate entity from humans is a post-pagan, Western Hellenistic thought-construct that has stuck with us up to recent times 2,500 years later. Although native indigenous people’s spiritual connection to and respect for Nature (God) has earned many new adherents. Millions in the general population now embrace this respect for nature and reject toxic consumer behaviors that have created the crisis of Global Warming and many other ecological disasters of our own making.