Thou Shall Smell the Flowers

I have been devouring science documentaries.
To me, studies of the natural world are better tools for studying “god” than sacred texts.

A Sacred text is a man’s attempt to put the inexpressible into words. Often those words are then translated. Sometimes the original words are even passed down several times before they make it into print.

Language is an amazing tool. But it is merely a tool. Remember in high school when your writing professor would repeat the mantra “Show don’t tell?”

Don’t tell me the flower was pretty, show me it’s beauty. Describe the colors and patterns and the play of the light.

But even the greatest poet could not accurately convey the baffling beauty of a orchid. Joyce Kilmer wrote long ago, “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree…”

And this is the trouble with sacred words. They are all, essentially, poems about trees.

I don’t mean to argue their truth or value – only to point out the obvious limitations of words.

After reading a particularly vivid account of an experience – say surviving the Katrina floods – you might feel as though you had been there. But it would be incredibly naive to believe that you had the same experience as someone who was neck deep in water and fear.

Could you ever read enough about giving birth to reach an understanding of what that experience is like? Or having sex?

To me, studying science on a very surface level is not about understanding. I have no goal of learning the details of fusion or the intricacies of photosynthesis. Instead, the basic knowledge serves to pulverize into mush any lingering need my brain has of making sense of it all.

Understanding how it all works = impossible and stressful.
Surrendering to the infinitely complex order = calming and peaceful.

This is particularly helpful if you combine micro and macro learning. From microscope to telescope. From distant galaxy to inside my body. No mater how far my attention goes in any direction it never stops uncovering incomprehensible levels of order, chaos, drama, and interconnectedness.

The human drama with it’s adultery, career paths, and invention is no more complicated or important than than the drama of a marshland biosphere or a distant pulsar.

The universe is fractal-y amazing.

The more I watch COSMOS or the Discovery Channel, the more giddy I become with awe.

It seems to me that this awe and appreciation is immensely more important than understanding.

I can enjoy a roller coaster without understanding the physics. I just have faith that the track is constructed in such a way that it supports the speed, gravity, and torque of the ride.

I could read a book about how the ride should be ridden. I could follow the exact steps a legendary rider of the past took: Commandment 4: Thou shall not eat multiple corn dogs before riding. Commandment 5: Thou shall be taller than this sign. Commandment 6: On the sabbath, lines are longer so try to go mid-week. Etc..

The rules & descriptions can certainly be helpful. But they must be understood in their place. Too many people are reading the rules AS they are riding – so focused on the abstract that they are not enjoying the actual experience.

It may sound trite to suggest to someone that they stop to smell the flowers. But on the contrary, this is profound spiritual guidance.

For me, the natural world holds direct glimpses into the divine. Like a more literal biblical god, it is not something I can look directly at – it is simply too much for me to comprehend. But in every veined leaf I see the reflection of this divine order.

The ego wills of humans Рmy own included Рdisintegrate into comical naivet̩.

In a universe so overwhelmingly miraculous – I have been given the ability to perceive it. My purpose is no more (or less) grandiose than any other piece of the cosmic puzzle. Whether massive star or tiny atom.

But what IS significant – more so than anything else that defines my existence – Is that I am able to perceive and ponder this miracle as it unfolds.

It is a unique human gift. And our appreciation of this gift defines our life and our relationships with all other life.

Of course, it is pretty ridiculous to try to explain all of this with words.

“I think that I shall never see…”

Dec 29, 2009

symbols & beliefs

While I am deeply inspired by and intensely connected with the Burning Man festival and community, it does not represent my beliefs.
I am often tempted to identify as a “Burner,” but when I sit with that definition, it doesn’t fit.
My belief system – influenced in part by my experiences at Burning Man – has grown into one of profound love, connection, & gratitude.
But just because these ideas are strongly present on the Playa does not mean they are synonymous.
Burning Man is simply the fertile ground in which any impulse is invited to grow.
Many people find the experience opens up similar things as it has with me. But Burning Man also represents much more. LOTS of things bloom in the fertile soil. Some of it is dark. Some violent. Some snarky and mean. I love it all – but it does not represent me.
So while I itendify strongly as a “Burner” it doesn’t fit as snugly as I’d like.
**
For the past several years I have been working to define what exactly this belief system is. I have called my dabbling, “sampling dishes of the Belief Buffet.” And in the last 6 months my efforts have become more and more intense (and rewarding.) Starting with the ride home from Burning Man in the Hugmobile, Dmitry Shapiro and I have been meeting regularly to discuss our deepening awareness and gain clarity.

The ideas we discuss are not new. They have been expressed 1000 times before by many teachers.
Alan Watts
Krishnamurti
Jesus Christ
Eckart Tolle
Byron Katie
Buddha
Danger Ranger
Caleb Shikles
& many more.

What belief system embodies all of these teachers, embraces the spiritual revelry of Burning Man, bows before the miracles of the natural world, and adopts the technological tools of a connected planet?
THAT is my religion.

To ease discussion, I would like to give this evolving awareness a name. Some thoughts: “The Gift.” “Hevven” “wakeness” “a.wareness.” ???

Hopefully a name will be delivered with the same perfection as the symbol:

During a trip to Mayan ruins earlier this month, I was drawn to a symbol found on my ticket stub. It was not a traditional Mayan symbol, but had a modern + Mayan feel to it. I have had it on my desk all month – continuing to draw me in.
The more I studied it, the more I saw within it so many things we have been discussing. I made some minor modifications to integrate design elements of Burning Man & HugNation and created the symbol below.

awareness symbol

This icon symbolizes the beliefs:

We are all made of Stardust.

We are all part of the One.

There is only the Now.

Life is a Gift.

The purpose is to Experience.

The flow is Love.

symbols & beliefs

While I am deeply inspired by and intensely connected with the Burning Man festival and community, it does not represent my beliefs.
I am often tempted to identify as a “Burner,” but when I sit with that definition, it doesn’t fit.
My belief system – influenced in part by my experiences at Burning Man – has grown into one of profound love, connection, & gratitude.
But just because these ideas are strongly present on the Playa does not mean they are synonymous.
Burning Man is simply the fertile ground in which any impulse is invited to grow.
Many people find the experience opens up similar things as it has with me. But Burning Man also represents much more. LOTS of things bloom in the fertile soil. Some of it is dark. Some violent. Some snarky and mean. I love it all – but it does not represent me.
So while I itendify strongly as a “Burner” it doesn’t fit as snugly as I’d like.
**
For the past several years I have been working to define what exactly this belief system is. I have called my dabbling, “sampling dishes of the Belief Buffet.” And in the last 6 months my efforts have become more and more intense (and rewarding.) Starting with the ride home from Burning Man in the Hugmobile, Dmitry Shapiro and I have been meeting regularly to discuss our deepening awareness and gain clarity.

The ideas we discuss are not new. They have been expressed 1000 times before by many teachers.
Alan Watts
Krishnamurti
Jesus Christ
Eckart Tolle
Byron Katie
Buddha
Danger Ranger
Caleb Shikles
& many more.

What belief system embodies all of these teachers, embraces the spiritual revelry of Burning Man, bows before the miracles of the natural world, and adopts the technological tools of a connected planet?
THAT is my religion.

To ease discussion, I would like to give this evolving awareness a name. Some thoughts: “The Gift.” “Hevven” “wakeness” “a.wareness.” ???

Hopefully a name will be delivered with the same perfection as the symbol:

During a trip to Mayan ruins earlier this month, I was drawn to a symbol found on my ticket stub. It was not a traditional Mayan symbol, but had a modern + Mayan feel to it. I have had it on my desk all month – continuing to draw me in.
The more I studied it, the more I saw within it so many things we have been discussing. I made some minor modifications to integrate design elements of Burning Man & HugNation and created the symbol below.

awareness symbol

This icon symbolizes the beliefs:

We are all made of Stardust.

We are all part of the One.

There is only the Now.

Life is a Gift.

The purpose is to Experience.

The flow is Love.

Santa Letter 2009!

Dear Santa,
We at the Eggnography Institute for Yuletide Research are dedicated to maximizing the Xmas experience for all good little boys and girls (plus related icons and subsidiaries.)
Due to recent climate change research we can no longer endorse the current “Father Christmas” uniform that has been used consistently in recent decades. (With the noted exception of the “Neon Santa” outfit that was used briefly during the 80’s.)

While the fashion statement is still effective, the world temperatures simply make a full body winter suit to be uncomfortable in 2009, and no doubt dangerously hot in coming years.

So we have had our researchers use the latest in computer simulation technology (as well as cutting edge weather forecasting software) to design the ideal apparel for your future world-wide toy runs.

2009 (Current.)
We know it will be warm, but let’s stick with this look for the time being.

2010
Starting next year, let’s take the obvious steps towards shorts and lighter fabrics.

2020
By this time, any fabric will be mostly symbolic. But we think it will be important to wear the red speedo to maintain brand consistency (and avoid scaring toddlers.)

2030
By 2030 we plan to have our genetic fashion modifications deployed and see Santa Inc. a leader in underwater dwelling. The webbed fingers, gills, and merman tail are all shown in figure 4.

We hope you are as excited as we are about our aquatic Yuletide future! Thanks for everything and enjoy the rest of your night!

Merry Xmas,

Jimmy & Johnny, Eggnography Institute for Yuletide Research.

p.s. Please leave some spit, sweat or semen in the glass so we can begin working on your genetic modifications.


********* SANTA’S RESPONSE *********

Dear Jimmy and Johnny,
Boy, you researchers are really on top of things. I like next year’s fashion statement, but I’m a little concerned after that. As your illustration shows, I’m not exactly svelte.
Now your 2030 idea of genetic modification shows some real promise. Can you work out some super power to go with the new Santa MerMan image? I think the world is ready for a new Super Hero. I’m ready to give up my one day a year gig and start saving the world. The “Naughty List” I’ve been keeping should give me plenty of bad guys to annihilate.
I appreciate the Eggnography Institute for Yuletide Research being so far-sighted.
Here’s my specimen.
This is SO exciting!

Have a Merry Christmas and be nice to your mother.

s