"Ancient times were the youth of the world"
I read that quote, as an introduction to a chapter, in extraordinary book on genetics, “Genome,” by Matt Ridley.
In relating the similarity of embryological genes in flatworms, fruit flies, baby chicks, and, yes, you and I, Ridley writes that this remarkable similarity "sings an eloquent song of common descent." The similarity, he continues, is "because DNA is a code written in a simple alphabet, a language."
I stopped and put the book down for a moment, grabbed a pen, and wrote in the margin, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
It s clever, if nothing else.
My current holiday season reading also includes an existential detective story by Jim Holt, titled, "Why Does The World Exist," wherein the author relates his quest to discover the answer to the burning eternal flame question "why is there something rather than nothing?"
What are the origins of the universe?
In his existential survey, Holt interviews several modern physicists and uncovers differing views on the ultimate meaning and nature of the cosmic laws that govern the universe, as well as their continual scientific (re)search into the ultimate but elusive goal: the unifying theory of everything.
As science gains more and more insight, and evolves towards a better comprehension of the great mystery, all. Alas, remains a great mystery. It is truly the never-ending story. Even if science finally grasps the ultimate underlying laws of the universe, some with the big scientific and humble brains are still left with asking - why those laws? Why are there any laws?
Well, the theory of multiple universes, as many as one can think of, wherein every possibility or truth, the principle of fecundity, is out there somewhere, like in the X-Files, may cover that concern, but the confirmation of multiple universes is a bit dodgy and a herculean task to bring down to earth, so to speak.
Some of the brightest and best among the theoretical physicist set actually seem to be returning to the more ancient, mystical and mysterious Pythagorean belief in numbers, i.e. mathematics, as the structure of the universe, although some, in a similar old fashion way, lean towards the eternal perfect forms of Plato. That is to say, the cosmic path is leading them back to Bacon s ancient times, the youth of the world.
It s all coming to cosmic head in the intriguing and ongoing study of quantum mechanics, the Big Bang Theory, string theory, multi-universes; why it’s enough to make ya believe in Vulcans and Spock!
What came before the Big Bang? Wouldn’t you like to know, well, there’s nothing?
How can there be nothing?
Holt spends quite a bit of time, using logic, not easy material to understand, to convince himself at least that no matter how ya look at matter, or anti-matter, it would appear that nothingness , as Spock might put it, is quite illogical.
One historical, ongoing religious debate, which some literally lost their heads over, asks the same questions. Where did God come from? Who made God? How did he create the universe and from what? Emanation, "He took a hundred pounds of clay”; out of nothingness, ex nihilo?
Evolutionary biology gives some credence to the Babylonian out-of-the -muck emanation belief - another intriguing ancient belief, the Babs being, chronologically, closer to the source. The Evolutionary B boys are in cahoots with and endorsed by, the anthropological deep sea thinkers who have found a possible genetic link to an ancient fish species which had the beginnings of limbs. On the other hand, Alex Vilenkin, a Ukrainian-born physicist, has postulated a scientific theory that the Big Bang did come from out of nothingness, like Grandma when you had your hand in the cookie jar.
"Let there be Light." Fucked if there wasn’t, wow!
Now, don t get your priestly pants wet. Neither theory necessitates a God, a creator being, Aristotle s prime mover, a big fellow in the sky fellow.
What it and everything else, all theories, from there being some kind universal consciousness, perhaps even a universe made of stuff as simple but as magical as goodness, which means is that nobody knows from nothing. Everybody could be emanating horse manure.
When it comes to cosmology, your quest is as good as is mine.
One’s faith in science can be no more secure and stable than an other’s faith in there being a God or a Plato-like Santa Claus.
Now, modern Science also says that before the very first nano-second of the Big Bang, there can be no such things as time or space - all the laws of the universe breakdown as one moves backward toward the first spark; ground zero. Well, there are religious scholars who interpret the myth of Adam and Eve and their famous biting of the famous fruit from that famous tree of knowledge as the beginning of time and space and opposites like love or hate, dark or light. Go figure! Blow me over with a freaking cosmic spoon.
Well, maybe mentally we’re all just working from the same DNA code language; maybe it’s just all in our little ole noggins.
In any case, here we are at the passing of another winter solstice and the alleged birth of the divine child aka Jesus, who contrary to Fox News was not a white man, but that s another story.
An excerpt that I found from the book The Path of the Spiritual Sun suggests the following about the winter solstice:
"The birth of a divine child and savior, at the winter solstice, has formed a central part of spiritual beliefs throughout the world since the beginning of history. In ancient Egypt as the birth of Horus, the birth of Mithras in Persia, the birth of Jesus at Christmas, the birth of the divine son at Alban Arthan of the Druids and so forth. Such celebrations speak to us of a mysterious and universal understanding of spiritual transformation. All things that come into being must first be born. Even as creation was borne, so, too, must we be born of the spirit to become the spirit.
The winter solstice is a celebration of being “born again,” not of flesh, but of the spirit. It’s a celebration of the birth of the spiritual Son, the Christ, within a consciousness in the process of awakening.
The rising of the sun on the winter solstice, out of the darkest day of the year, echoes the birth of the light from the dark void on the first day of creation.
This divine savior always taught humanity how to achieve enlightenment, to become a Son of God.
The birth of the savior intended to bring to earth a profound spiritual message for the whole of humankind.
Each of these deities was a “savior of mankind” and a beloved and sacred divine child. Each of these deities was associated with the sun, and all of them born at the winter solstice in a miraculous virgin birth. The lives and stories of these deities tells us of a great mystery, which in the case of Jesus, he came to earth with a mission to reveal both in the events of his life and his teachings.
Every human being is a latent spiritual potential that lies dormant like a seed. We live asleep to the greater realities of existence, but whether we choose to realize it or not, each of us has the potential to become an awakened spiritual being. This is why sacred texts from ancient times and still today, always point toward enlightenment as the ultimate goal of life.”
A bit artsy-fartsy for some I would imagine, and one could rightly quibble that Jesus, unlike the other divinities mentioned in the text above, really was "of the flesh". All the other trappings to the Christmas story, fabricated or borrowed from other ancient traditions, merely to enhance his creds as the son of God, but to that I say, "So what.” That’s no great mischief. Humans are continually in need of new mythologies; they hold and reflect the secrets to the heart of the universe. Whatever gets you through the night to the light of day.
At this time of year, whether one celebrates the birth of the little lord Jesus, on 25December as historical fact or as mythology, as part of the mystery of the returning of the light, the winter solstice, we all, even the ba-hum-buggers among us, participate in an ancient human ritual that commands both our respect and our devotion.
Let us then be both ancient and youthful to the world, in the world, again, and celebrate our common heritage and re-birth through one of the greatest stories ever told, a story that hails from all cultures, from all times.
You know, the Hindu religion cares little about the ultimate questions concerning the universe, the cosmological questions that plague Western science and religion. They’re content to celebrate, and glory in, the simple beauty of it all - the coming of the light, in all its multi-colours of delight.
Let us celebrate re-birth, the return of the sun and pray. Yes, you heathens, pray, since prayer, scientifically confirmed, well, almost, as our consciousness; emanating and connecting us to other humans. The eternal consciousness of the universe; it may lead to changes in, the fabric of the universe.
Oh, hell, I dunno. It sounds plausible after a few brandies. Anyway, pray for peace on earth and goodwill towards all humankind.
It’s better that farting against the wind.
Which brings me back to the Pythagoreans; they were a weird bunch. One restrictive belief they apparently held was that one should not eat beans. Maybe they figured since the more you eat the more you toot, you might blow-up the universe, scattering into oblivion those important invisible mathematical entities called numbers.
Well, as Paulie so eloquently once sang, "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
Bob Stark is a musician, poet, philosopher and couch potato. He spends his days, as did Jean-Paul Sarte and Albert Camus, pouring lattes and other adult beverages into a recycled mug, bearing a long and winding crack. He discusses, with much insight and passion, the existentialist and phenomenological ontology of the Vancouver 'Canucks,' a hockey team, "Archie" comic books and high school reunions. In other words, Bob Stark is a retired public servant living the good life on the wrong coast of Canada.
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