The following is an excerpt for NG Rippel's "Guide to an Existence" which can be found in Kindle edition at amazon.com
In the early 70s, read the Bible through from beginning to end in an attempt to understand what other people my age were finding within the “Jesus Movement”. Read the entire Bible but paid special attention to the New Testament as that seem to be the source of what some were proclaiming as earthly rapture.
Christ was now this magic dude, who wandered around turning water into wine, walking on water, healed people through his personal power. If one simply believed in him, Christ would grant that person eternal life. This new-found passion for the magic Jesus seemed odd to me and I wanted to find out if there was really anything more behind it than a modernized practice to expand religious membership.
Up until the time that I was 14, I was closely aligned with my mother’s version Christianity. Believe in Christ and all his works & you have been saved. Turn the other cheek. Jesus loves you this I know. I had been an altar boy and had taken those duties seriously. Perhaps too seriously.
Seemed to me that what this new “coming to Jesus” was all about was an updated version of Christ providing a fast-tracked version of salvation. Believe in Jesus & everything was going to be ok. You could stop worrying. Only through this belief would your life have meaning. You were a good person because you believed in the magic Christ. You should associate only with those who shared your beliefs. You were going to heaven. All your sins would be forgiven. All that really mattered was holding on a firm belief in Christ as the greatest deity of all.
The time I would spend Bible reading, yielded something completely different than what the movement toward Jesus seemed experiencing. The itinerate Christ, who wandered from town to town bring a message of love, pacificism and doing what could be done to elevate the suffering of his fellow man, was present. Seemed to me that the confusion lay in the telling of the Passion. What I got out of it, was that Christ’s resurrection and ascension into heaven did not really seem the most important part. In fact that portion of the story seemed to me to be even more suspect than when I had originally read it during Confirmation studies. It seemed an updated and much darker retelling of the story of what the Athenians had done to Socrates. To me what stood out in contrast, was the story of an unnamed man, who had felt sorry for Christ as he carried the cross to his place of crucifixion. That man reportedly was so moved that he picked up Christ’s cross and carried it forward. It seemed this person got Christ. The man had stopped worrying about his own concerns & did something about about another person’s suffering. This was not done because of Christ’s divinity. This was done because another human felt compassion for Christ’s circumstance. To me, this action underscored Christ’s message. Christ had shown himself to be willing to go to great lengths, some would say perhaps even unnecessary lengths, to make human life better. The call was to pick up the Christ’s burden of forgiveness, charity and sacrifice to others and no matter the personal cost, carry them forward to make a better world. Carry that burden without any expectation of future reward. Carry that burden because you had compassion for humanity. Carry that burden because it seems the right thing to do.
Believe in me and be rewarded with heaven, quite frankly has done little to make this world a better place. If the whole point is simply to believe in Christ, what difference does it make if the world is better? Might actually be better for the believe if this world is worse as it makes that belief more exclusive.
What also struck me is that this belief in a personage portrayed as a deity is the age old human method of belief. If what was recorded about Christ was about what made him difference, it was not this belief in Christ as deity. What was different was the call to love humanity enough to care for it.
Many before Christ had said to treat others as you wish to be treated. None before had said to love humanity enough to be able to sacrifice yourself for its betterment.
Years later, I have come to realize that I might have been able to stick with my religious tendencies if I had decided to become a Jesuit. Reality didn’t push me in that direction however. Reality pushed me toward becoming a contrarian. The truth most likely would be that had I become a Jesuit, at some point I would have become a very conflicted Jesuit.
To me, being Christian should mean taking up Christ’s burden of spreading forgiveness, charity & sacrifice. I am not a Christian. I do feel a connection to what I feel is Christ’s true message. That connection is not divine. That connection is human and part of my personal process of dealing with reality.
Whether I am right or wrong about the message of Christ, I believe the call to forgiveness, charity & sacrifice is valid. That message to me is more powerful than a promise of heavenly salvation if I will simple believe in the deity that Christ has become. That message has the potential to make the world and perhaps even the universe, a better place.
forgiveness, charity & sacrifice are the true trinity
only through helping each other may humans truly help themselves
In the beginning was a ball of highly compressed particles. Particles which would prove to be capable of simple, complex, exotic & even sublime constructions. Particles which within their aggregate were able to create their own rules.
Whether through a slowing of movement or some internal juxtaposition of the particles an instantaneous expansion occurred and space was created between particles. The particles aggregated and coalesced into a cosmic brew. The universe was alive.
Some particles bonded. Some particles freed themselves from bonds and became the edge of the universe. It seemed that what had been forced apart would never be able to be put together again in exactly the same configuration.
Eternity was now the process of change and the question of whether it had always been so.
That which was created was a matter of environment and the gradually diminishing effects of the aggregate. Though the particles now had space that space was still generally under the control of the motion which had been produced & proximity to other particles. Particles were adjusting themselves to new conditions.
The temperature rose dramatically. Tremendous quantities of particles formed massive configurations similar to that from which they had sprung. But the rules had changed and what had been all encompassing was now just a singularity within a rapidly expanding & broad creation.
Particle interactions and the lessening of particle attractions caused some particles to be energized. The Universe was illuminated. Whether these waves of energy were inherent to particles or simply the result of conditions became another cosmic question.
All was in motion as the particles sought to reconfigure themselves. Matter clumped together. The first short-lived celestial bodies were born. The clustering of matter and the pattern of motion within a rapidly changing dynamic caused friction & the first stars ignited.
Galaxies and star clusters formed. Motion caused conflicts & mergers within the celestial bodies. Stars consumed their fuel. The aggregate continued to expand. It was now easy to become lost in the vastness resulting from the creation of space.
Yet all remained connected through the bonds of their initial configuration. Though expanded, all particles were still part of the same whole. That which links them remains the universe.
We now stand amidst an infinitely minute portion of that creation. Our eyes normally lower than the horizon. Our focus on the remains mainly upon the conditions in front of us as the all around us continues to move & change. The universe has surrounded us with miracles; take the time to admire, enjoy & understand them.
We have arisen from the genetic adaptation of our ancestors to the conditions which existed. We continue exist because of our own adaptation to those conditions. How long that existence will continue, both for ourselves & our species, remains an open question.
That which has come before us should teach us that our function is to adapt to condition. Yet what is performing a function without that function having a meaning?
As conscious beings we are given the ability to define our own meanings. Some chose to define meaning as only those things which impact themselves. Other find meaning in abstract forms and methods. The creation of meaning is a key human endeavor.
It is difficult to look past our own singular existence. Yet, the simplest of all meanings would seem to lie within we & our descendants continuing to exist. That we should accumulate the knowledge and skills to continue to further that existence.
To continue to exist seems to be what the universe is about. What also seems clear is what has brought us existence is change. What continues to sustain our existence is change. Yet we often choose to be dismissive or seek to be impervious to change.
At present our birth has been our most significant change. Death looms over us as our final change. Change brought us here. Change is going to take us out of here. The hope for most being that they can continue to live a pleasurable existence as long as circumstances will allow.
What the universe shows us is that nothing except change is final. Whatever we are, were or are going to be is part of the universe. How that manifests itself through death is beyond our control other than that which we manage to leave behind for those coming after.
We are about the universe; the universe is not about us. What humans have constructed will lose significance when humans are gone. The particles which provide us with bodily form shall remain part/parcel of this universe.
What remains is that which we have created. Either in the form of new humans, new intelligence or new ways of being. Hopefully what will have been gained through our human existence is increased understanding and better ways of being.
Just as each particle forming the universe, each being is unique. A temporal mix from the same cosmic recipe formed when this universe began. Our uniqueness too often causes us to lose sight of the fact that we are part of a much greater whole.
Understanding our present comes through understanding the universe’s past.
Humans have consciousness & free will. To a lesser degree, many other beings on our planet share these traits. Whether other beings with such abilities exist within the vastness of the cosmos remains to be determined.
What we do know at present is that human beings are the only beings actively seeking to understand, document and make use of the story of this universe. As far as humans know at the moment, we are the only conscious caretakers of this universe.
That which we have been given has come from the universe. That which we may achieve comes from within ourselves. Our understanding of the rest of the universe is the key to our survival within it. The universe demands acceptance & adaptation not allegiance or obedience.
Perhaps the enormity of understanding the universe & creating our own destiny within it is simply too much for the human community? In which case we are more likely than not to end up as the inheritors of extinction with our creation simply another set of fossils buried in our planet’s landscape.
Or perhaps humans now & in the future will choose to move forward? Making the best use of ourselves and means the universe has provided. Hoping to better understand the universe and our own place within it.
what then is existence if not the quest to further existence?
the only direction that eternity moves is forward
we each practice our own brand of self-deception
some are just better at it than others
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