The Meaning of Life: Introduction
by A. Cantante
A significant portion of the world's population is Christian, so this
essay is specifically for them, as a reminder or wake-up call.
Members of other faiths may find some things of meaning, especially those that share part of the Christian scriptures.
I think that you could sum up the world religions who share some of their sacred scriptures by saying God wants to be with human beings, His people.
It started with Adam and Eve, who chose not to put God first.
Abraham was God's next overture which lasted three generations, with Isaac and Jacob, and beyond.
It is unclear how close the descendants of Jacob were to God in their four hundred years in Egypt.
We only know that they cried out to Him for delivery from their slavery.
Moses was the next overture by God, in a sort of double mission: to rescue the children of Abraham from slavery
and make them His Chosen People in a world inhabited and ruled by pagans-people who failed understand the true meaning of God
as the One Creative Force in Whose Image they were made.
Though God manifested Himself to the Israelites in a way never seen in history to that point in time, the Chosen People
very soon demonstrated a frailty common to all humans: ingratitude. Despite being saved by mighty miracles, they
almost immediately rebelled against God. Due to Moses' pleading, God spared them but they had to wander in the desert
for forty years before entering the Promised Land.
Not only were they ungrateful, they did not have faith that God would
continue to provide for them , and complained.
They even told Moses that they were too afraid of God's Voice and He should not address them anymore.
God agreed, and said He would send a Prophet, an Israelite like Moses, who would carry His word to the
people. All Christians know who this was to be.
Once in the Promised Land, they asked God for a king like the other
If God could feel bad, this would be the time. He said He was their king,, but they wanted a human one instead.
Predictably, most of their kings did not follow God's laws, and the second-to-last (Herod I) definitely did not want God to reclaim
God's next (and final) overture was Jesus of Nazareth, the promised Word of God, who came to bring the Chosen People back to God.
As before, the Israelites missed the point of their existence-to be close to God. They wanted a king of clubs and spades
and diamonds, not a king of hearts. So they persuaded the Romans to release a murderous revolutionary, and crucify Jesus
for no other crime than trying to return them to God.
The rest of the story is summarized in John 3:16 and Revelation 21:3.
Evolution as a Way of the Cross
by A. Cantante>
Finally we see a common ground for all Christians and evolutionists. Has it never occurred to you that we (and all life as we see it today) are the result of suffering and death? The poet Robinson Jeffers expressed this concept in The Bloody Sire:
What but the wolf's tooth chiseled so fine
he fleet limbs of the antelope?
What but fear winged the birds and hunger
Gemmed with such eyes the great goshawk's head?
All we see around us, including our own body, is
the result of a constant pruning of the emerging tree of life,
by the forces of natural selection. The very essence of most animal life is to destroy other life, often in a violent manner.
We got to be what we are today because those ancestors who were not as smart,or strong, or swift, met with disaster. If we are indeed the Image of God, we became that way through eons of horrific suffering .
And how was the Christ able to come into His Glory? By the horrific suffering of the crucifixion. If we were healed by His stripes, then we were also ďhealed ďby the stripes of our ancestors, going back to the first cell. There is a similarity: Christ did for us out of love, what out ancestors did for us out of blind necessity. Natural selection made our bodies god-like, and Jesus made our souls God-like.But we know that neither body nor soul is invulnerable to destructive change.
So in the spiritual process and in the evolutionary process we go forward, without guarantees. We donít know if our individual or collective form will persevere, nor can we assume our soul, saved by Christ,will fulfill the great potential it was given with such generosity.
Golgotha -the Way of the CrossÖ and the way of evolution.
Why No One Should Confuse Creationism With Truth
by A. Cantante
Creationism is not about truth, nor even about the path to truth. It is about one or more religious groups trying to impress their beliefs on the general population. Other religions in America that do not believe in the Bible also have creation beliefs, which are no more supported by scientific evidence than is Genesis. These non-Bible religions (e.g. those of Native Americans)could argue that if creationism is deemed to have validity based on one chapter in one book written thousands of years ago, their creation myths have at least equal validity, since they are at least as old and as venerated.
If God wanted to create each organism by special
creation, He certainly could have. Itís just that He chose
not to. Instead, He chose the process of organic evolution, an unfolding of life over millions of years.
Creationists see God in a simplistic way, characteristic of the primitive mind. I do not, as an evolutionist,deny the existence of a Creator. Indeed, I believe God gave us science as a tool to understand His creation.Creationists insult God in two ways: first, by assuming He is limited to human means of making things, and secondly, by rejecting His gift of science to understand nature.Put simply, creationists see God as a deus ex machina, instead of the Cosmic, Unknowable Force.He/She is. As someone said, we have created God in our image, rather than the other way round.
In acknowledging a Creator God ,I do not mean to invoke the concept of Intelligent Design, except in the most indirect way. There is a God, I believe, and He did create the Universe. But organic evolution has its own laws,
just like the laws of physics. I believe that God simply (if we can ever juxtapose those two words)
took advantage of the results of a mechanism He put in
place long ago. It would be like mankind
controlling fire for warmth, and then ,thousands of years later, using its light to read by. This is not
to say that God did not know the future, but rather that His Plan was (and is) so far beyond human
understanding, that simple cause and effect logic is inadequate to explain creation.
Recall the days when people first dared to believe
that the earth orbited the sun, and was not he center of
the universe. You could be put to death for a belief that now every school child takes as fact. The Christian
Church was just as sure about an earth-centered universe as some churches now are about creationism.
In truth, creationism is not about faith in God, it is
about a feeble attempt to shore up the human ego. Some of us
cannot bear the thought that we are not special. First , we learn that the earth is only one of eight planets orbiting the sun, then we learn there are myriads of suns, some of which surely have planets like earth, and then we learn that God did not even create us specially in one day, but did it over 4 billion years, and gave us ancestors that looked suspiciously like the apes we mock in the zoo. How humiliating.
In all this, our arrogance has blinded us to something
all religions are happy to admit: humans are
flawed to their core. We compare ourselves to angels, made in the very image of God, but often-even the
most decent of us- act like devils, sometimes acting far worse to our conspecifics than the apes whose
relationship to us we so vehemently deny. And maybe that is why it is so hard to accept our lowly beginnings;
ust like individuals with low self-esteem are far more sensitive to criticism than better-adjusted individuals,
our collective subconscious knows our flaws, failings, and willful evil acts. If we cannot believe that God
created us in a special act and time, then we must face ourselves, finally, and take responsibility for our existence.
A final note: even the creationists do not believe
babies are found in cabbage patches. We all know that every
human starts out as a single cell and slowly develops into an individual(as do all creatures). If we do not see the hand of God visibly shaping the embryo(can anyone say they saw this?), then why do creationists insist that the fist time around, God decided to do things differently, and magically bring us into instant being? Is the zygote not also a single cell, as was that primordial cell millions of years ago, that eventually gave rise to a human being ?And, we are told, that to God a million (or a billion) years is like day.
Creationism is like a cultural security blanket : we
hide under the covers from the existential bogey man .It is too scary to see
God as He is; even Israelites of the Old Testament begged Moses to keep God
from speaking to them, because his Presence was so terrifying.
No, creationism is not about truth, and, in fact, it is not even about religion. It is about a soulless people looking for affirmation of their existence, made shameful by their own bad choices.
Spiritual Growth Through Art
by A. Cantante
The aim of all art should be the spiritual growth of the artist, as he/she constantly refines and purifies the art form. This is sort of a tricky area, because in our western society there is so much emphasis on public opinion, fame, what is in vogue, whatis "good" art, etc. that the way can be lost.
I have been on both sides of this issue, and it is a difficult conflict,
income and livelihood can be involved (and here popularity becomes an issue of
financial survival) and partly because the human ego constantly struggles with
our transcendent, higher selves.
However, letís put that conflict aside for the remainder of our discussion, and
concentrate on how the artist must proceed to truly own the epithet of "artist".
Art is really an interiorization (and re-exteriorization) of the physical world
we perceive with our senses. In art, we grow into our perception of the world,
in a sort of spiritual union. Thatís mainly it: we, in a way, become the subject
we wish to capture, and it also becomes part of us.
I really think that this is the highest form of true art, to become one with our
subject in a pure, spiritual sense. The purer the connection with subject and
artist, the greater the spiritual growth of the latter. It is a never-ending
process, not necessarily with just one subject, but involving the relationship
of the artist to his/her work. It is almost like a personal relationship, except that
the subject (usually) does not respond in a personal way. It might be compared to
looking into a mirror, as opposed to talking to another person.
In essence, the artist is the person finding him/herself. I personally believe that
in this process, artists also grow in understanding of the entity many call God,
the First Cause, Infinite Intelligence, etc.. Julia Cameron, in her book, The Artistís Way,
does much to elucidate this concept, in a way even an agnostic could appreciate.
I understand that Australian Aborigines make beautiful bark paintings, but when done,
the finished product has no value to them (although I suspect it has to some non-native
entrepreneurs). This practice beautifully shows how the process of art is the actual goal,
not necessarily the finished product. One painter said that a painting is never really completed; it just stops in interesting places-similar idea.
I suspect that the critical ingredient in true art is attention. Focused attention (not scrutiny,which can be invasive) seems to me the first step (and maybe every step) in love.
For several reasons, many of us tend to over-filter our environment, sometimes to the extent of not really being there; we feel more like we are watching TV than actually being personally present.
And, maybe more than anything else, art allows us to be truly present and
to pay true
attention to subjects that cannot love back. That also, may be valuable, because thenthe act of art becomes unselfish-a hallmark of true love. So, in art, done right, we engage into a loving relationship with our subject, entering into it, as it enters into us.
This is more of a spiritual love than emotional love, partly because, as we said, the
subject is often not part of our emotional life. But by focusing our attention in the
creative act we enter into a type of transcendent love that may indeed be the
forerunner of our ultimate spiritual Transcendence.
Therefore, creation is a profoundly spiritual endeavor, even if the artist does not always
realize it. Art is raising up creation to the Creator, in an act of gratitude and worship.
In Catholic ritual, the Host is elevated physically by the priest as an offering to God.
It is Godís Son, but, in a sense, all of creation is Godís son, daughter, child.
Artists are not necessarily Catholic, even Christian, much less priests. *
So artists do not offer up Godís Son, but Godís son; His offspring none the less,
but not divine. In an act of complete submission, artists give back to God, as it were,
what God has given them. As creatures themselves, artists can make no claim on
creation. It is
sort of like when parents give their small children some money to
drop into the collection plate at church; it is not the childís money, but given by
the parents to foster a sense of worthiness in the child. Giving is a sign of largess,
of dignity, of abundance. Thus God (or the Universe or Infinite Intelligence) nurtures the human spirit by giving us the illusion of possession, though really we have nothing to rightly call our own.
So, as artist-priests/ priestesses, we first become one with our subject in the process
of artistic creation, and then offer this art (the amalgam of ourselves and the subject of out art) up the Creator in an act of thanksgiving and worship. We can do no better.
*[Only a few Christian sects believe in the Presence of Christ as the Host- a wafer
of unleavened bread mystically transformed into the Body of Christ by the priest.
This belief is based on a literal interpretation of Jesusí words at the last supper
"This is My Body". All early writings and tradition of the Christian Church indicate
that the first followers of the Way (as they were called then), accepted that the
consecrated bread and wine really were the sacramental Presence of Christ.]