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Friday, October 23, 2009

CHAPTER SEVENTY TWO. CHILDHOOD’S END





Written by: Rick Staggenborg, MD on Feb 6, 2010 9:47 AM PST

This essay is dedicated to Jackson Brown, who gave words by which to remember the principles I hold closest to my heart. It is also dedicated to Arthur C Clarke, the brilliant scientist and science fiction writer whose classic novel Childhood's End opened my eyes to the possibility that the Bible and other great religious texts may contain revealed wisdom even if none of them represent unambiguous, literal truth.

Clarke postulated that not only was the Old Testament the written record of an ancient oral tradition, but that it implied the possibility of a reality that we can recognize only if we choose to return to the childlike state of complete openness to experiencing reality as it is rather than as we believe it is. Clarke's brilliant novel suggests that if we open our hearts to the truth, we may find that we cannot understand reality without help from a source beyond this Earth. Clarke was a serious scientist but a deeply spiritual one. May his soul continue to delight us now that he has passed into the Fifth Dimension.



The vast majority of the human race believes in the existence of God, by whatever name the individual chooses to call it. Hindus refer to Vishnu, Buddhists to the Eternal One, Native Americans to the Great Father and the unbroken circle of life and the People of the Book call it Yahweh, God or Allah. Even professed atheists often refer to a higher power, life force or mother earth spirit. That leaves the few atheists whose God is nihilism in a shrinking universe of their imagination while the more hopeful continue to explore regions of which they remain willfully ignorant.
 

If God exists, agnostics can find any of the paths to whatever it is if they are willing to take the leap of faith in accepting the possibility. Only in accepting this premise with both mind and heart can our eyes be open to the miracles that might escape our notice every day. It is true in a very real sense that with faith, all things are possible. That is to say, all that is possible begins with the belief that it is. If we accept that our collective power is such that by our will and through our collective action we can repair the world, we can. If we refuse to believe this, we fall victim to the self-fulfilling prophecy.

Belief in God is not necessary to lead a just life, but assuming we have a spiritual aspect of our nature that renders each of us essentially good and all of us part of something greater than ourselves has been a powerful force for good. It is a belief that motivates atheists and theists alike, at least those who do not see humans as inherently evil.
If everyone assumed that the growing injustice all around us is the result of the inherent corruption of Man, wouldn't they think it foolish to try to fight it, when the end of civilization is near and we all are going to die soon enough?  Now that would be a test of faith!


The only reason so few act as though they were being tested is that most do not realize how close we are to destroying civilization. Most of those who do see this are deluded into thinking that would be a good thing and are carrying on as always, waiting to be saved by faith alone. 
The interesting thing is, those with the least faith in Man are those who most often claim to have the strongest faith in God. Such people see humans as inherently evil. Those of this ilk who consider themselves Christian share a pitifully blind faith that they will be saved from the consequences of their own choices by accepting wholly implausible interpretations of straightforward moral teachings philosophy of a man they regard as God.  

If we are all the products of a cosmic accident and will disappear from existence after an instant in the life an uncaring Universe, does it matter how we live our lives? Why should it, if the Universe is headed for an entropic heat death in the end and no one will remember our selfishness? If life does not have an inherent purpose, can we give it one that is not in the end arbitrary? If we are going to destroy ourselves through our unbridled exercise of unenlightened self-interest, is debating morality an exercise in futility?

The answer is that even those with faith in neither God nor Man cannot help but care for their own children. As I wrote in For the Love of a Woman, concern for the weakest among us and the memory of the pain of childbirth make women the deepest reservoir of empathy we have. Women are the reason that humanity has survived its selfishness this long. Empathy is hardwired into all of our brains through the mirror neuron system that allows us to vicariously experience the pain and joy of others as our own.  We feel the pain of others most keenly when that pain is felt by the ones we love most.

The most tragic birth defect is the one that robs a child of the ability to experience the pain of others by failing to develop this tiny but critical population of neurons. These are the born psychopaths, many of whom no doubt become the leaders of international corporations that are threatening the existence of human civilization. They cynically manipulate governments through the immaculately birthed Corporations that cannot die until we send the criminals who abuse them to a richly deserved and self-created Hell.

I am told that the Bible says “And a little child shall lead them.” I haven’t read the Bible or any other religious work in its entirety, but I like to put together ideas from various sources to create new ideas, so will put this into a new context. To me, this passage may refer to the fact that children live with their eyes wide open, seeing things as they really are and questioning everything. Mozart at six had discovered wonderful new patterns in sounds that led to music that still resonates in our brains and stimulates our emotions, such as Ode to Joy. Einstein was so busy contemplating the nature of the Universe that he did not speak until he was four years old. It was a child who looked at the Emperor and declared that he had no clothes.

We must listen to our children and let them teach us what we have forgotten or never knew, even as we pass on to them the gift of our accumulated knowledge born of what we have learned from the mistakes that we wish them to avoid. It is up to us to look at the world through there eyes and see it as it actually is. Humanity must realize that it is time for its childhood to end. If we do not accept the responsibility of adults to care for each other as we do our own children, we will leave those children a world not worth living in.





In the immortal words of Jackson Browne:


I am a child in these hills.
I am away,
I am alone.


I am a child in these hills
and looking for water
and looking for life.


Who will show me the river and ask my name?
Is there nobody here who'll do that?
Well, I have come to these hills.
I will come to the river,
as I choose to be gone from the house of my father.


I am a child in these hills.
I am a child.
Chased from the gates of the city where no one had touched me,
I am away,
I am alone.


I am a child in these hills
and looking for water
and looking for life.


Who will show me the river and ask me my name?
Is there nobody here who'll do that?
Well I have come to these hills,
I will come to the river,
as I choose to be gone from the house of my father.


I am a child in these hills.
I am a child.
I am a child,
I am a child.






Rick Staggenborg, MD






Portland, Oregon

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