Lent started last week, on Ash Wednesday. This year I didn’t give up anything. I didn’t have an ashen cross marked on my forehead. But renunciation was foremost in my mind. However, strolling about Mike Nickerson’s optimistic site led to Bill McKibben’s wonderful ‘Joys R Us’, which led to this bio of Eknath Easwaran (nobody refers to him as ‘Eknath’, just ‘Easwaran’, dropping the honorific ‘Sri’; ‘Easwaran’ is pronounced ‘ISHeren’–see this explanation), which led to these inspiring videos, which led to…. Wow, the adventure never stops! I’m supposed to give something up? image from wikipedia.
Like me, Easwaran pursued a career in English academe, though he got much farther. Like me, ‘the bottom fell out’. Like me, he had certain questions (image from youtube):
- What am I doing here?
- What is life for? Is it just to make money, accumulate material possessions, achieve fame?
- Where do I come from?
- What is death?
- What will happen to me at the time of death? Is it the end of the story, the end of the book?
- Will there be something that will be left over?
- What will happen to that something?
- Do I have a say in what kind of life that is to follow?
He got no answers, no meaning. Just despair. His response? To recite passages from the Gita, to find others, and not just teachers, to share. Sharing–on the CBC today I heard some people sharing:
- A musician, trumpeter Guy Few, who had an AVM (as did I) in 1990 and sought healing in Glenn Gould’s 1955 recording of Bach’s Goldberg variations (which I adore)
- Stuart McLean, a very fine writer and storyteller
- One of my favourite singer-songwriters, Kathleen Edwards
Okay, break’s over. Back to serious stuff. In the Ptolemaic system (2nd century), the Earth is at the centre. So is our concept of humanity and divinity, centred, with rest of creation in orbit about us. The Copernican system (16th century) moves the Earth out of centre, into orbit about the sun. Our concept of humanity eventually moves too. By Hubble’s time (20th century) we knew the sun to be one of millions of stars in the galaxy, and Hubble confirmed the presence of millions and billions of galaxies in the universe, all moving away from each other; that is, the universe is expanding. In the 21st century, we find that the expansion is speeding up. image of hubble from wikipedia.
Where is god/dess in all this? We’ll probably not get to another star, let alone another galaxy. That doesn’t change the fact that the universe teems with stars, and many of those stars have planets, some of which probably support life. As I said we may never get to another star, never encounter an alien life. Yet just the idea that miracles exist on unseen beaches changes things. image from wikipedia.
Again, where is god/dess in all this? ‘One of the common misunderstandings,’ Easwaran says, ‘is to think about God as somebody exterior to ourselves.’ He recommends meditation as a tool: ‘We don’t know what is taking place within.’ However, ‘the discovery of who we are, our personal identity, cannot be brought about through [the intellect].’ He quotes Einstein: ‘The mystical faculty is the highest mode of knowing.’ image from wikipedia.