Chasing the wind
The wisdom writer of the strange book called Ecclesiastes writes, “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new”. His cynicism continues as he adds, “I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.”
“Like the chasing the wind”!
A lot of the structures serving society seem to be failing or have already failed. The pursuit of stuff has already caused people in their teens and twenties to become jaded. Capitalism seems to be failing. And people are looking for a better driving force than seeking more!
There are over 200 billion known galaxies. Lately, I have become curious about quantum physics. This is about how small things are and our place in all of this. If you think of the range from the infinitely small to the infinitely far, you’ll find us!
How do we make sense of all this? Opinions range from, there other creatures “out there” to, “this is it’! The comedian Ricky Gervais claims, this is it! He reckons, make the best of the 70 or 80 (or more) years you get to be alive!
I envy Ricky! No kidding, I do. Life would be narcistically simple if I could believe the same! Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.
But I don’t believe that this is it. I don’t have an opinion about aliens and other creatures. But I do believe there is more to life than this!
More to life than this
I can’t help believing that each human being is worth more. I have heard it said that humans are intrinsically good. If that is true, surely with all the evil around, there is a battle for all things good.
The “intrinsically good” people want to make the world a better place. If this is true, there has to be a generative, life giving essence pulsating through people.
There has to be more than “chasing the wind” and winding up cynical!
40 years ago I heard a preacher by the name of Al Bernard say this, “We are not human beings seeking to perfect a spiritual experience, but rather, we are spiritual beings seeking to perfect the human experience.”
This quote is originally from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. A French idealist philosopher and Jesuit priest.
The value of being alive
This quote stirred my heart. It resonated with what I would consider a substantial reason for being. For as long as I can remember, I have always believed that this one life should count for something. I love the “eat, drink and be merry” point of view. And I agree, this too should be part of the human experience. It’s the “tomorrow we die” part that I don’t buy.
Our lives have a greater purpose than having fun. And a part of the greater purpose is discovering something transcendent.
Because of a systemic way of binary thinking, transcendence may sound confusing. Binary thinking, puts things in opposites. For example, black or white, right or wrong, good or bad.
And, For example: “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die”. Why can’t it be “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we make a difference”?
The genesis of human beings gets an explanation from the ancient book of Genesis. (Please resist the temptation to default into the binary arguments around Genesis. Too many opinions often miss the point. Genesis in neither trying to give a literal account of the beginning of the universe. Nor is it an attempt to give a scientific explanation of the origins of the universe. It’s a narrative – there’s a bigger point than the surface point. Especially in the first 3 chapters).
The book of Genesis…
It starts with an interesting supposition, “In the beginning God created…”. It carries on and states, “Then God said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image…’”.
The Xhosa’s would possibly say, “Eish…”! A great expression of “wow, there’s more going on here than I can grasp or understand.”
Who created God?
If God created human beings, who created God? A good question, and there isn’t always a satisfactory answer. Yet, the unsatisfactory nature of the answer is part of the answer.
God is mystical and there are some things that have no answer. Added to that, if God was created, he would not be God. God is uncreated, he simply is! If she was created, who would have created her?
Note: it’s often challenging to apply satisfactory gender pronouns to God. God is Spirit and Spirit is spirit – not male or female. Good-bye to some of my potential readers! Be brave – and stay with me. Let me have a bit of fun and mess with convention as I use He and She to refer to God. I assure you, this takes nothing from God. In fact it adds to Him!
Back to our Genesis account. “Let us…” God being one God expressed through 3 persons (Trinity) is again mystical. You can’t have “oneness” with only one! That’s called singleness. And so, we see God exists (or pre-exists) in community. Her Being is “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”.
So, when God says, “Let us make human beings in our image…” God is talking about something both, mystical and material.
The creation of human beings is spelt out in Genesis 1:27, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
The Image of God
Again, we venture into the world of the mystical. Being a human being in the image of God, is about being in “community”. God exists in community. A man disconnected from a woman is not a human being, he is a man and vice versa. This is not a gender-based statement. But a comment about being a human being.
Being a human being is about being “one” with each other.
This oneness is intended to define what it means to be a human being. And this is obvious in the Genesis account. Chapter 1 is describing the “big picture” of creation. In Genesis chapter 2, we see a how this unfolds.
Genesis 2 ends as follows, “At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’” This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.
“And the two are united into one”. A lot more could be said about the story of creation. My comments on this are not the final word of all thing’s creation! But the point of my observations is to provide a foundation of what I would consider what it means to be a human being.
There can be more than one point of view
Others may differ to my observations. That’s fine. Remember our binary comment earlier on? There is not the “one” explanation that is right. There could be several!
But, (and there is always a but), I am convinced there are some very exciting insights from my observations. These observations could throw some light on a few ancient philosophical questions. The questions of, who am I, where did I come from and what is my purpose?
I would not be as presumptuous as to give a conclusive account of the big “whys”. But, we could discover enough to live a fantastic life. This means we have a sense of who we are, and where we come from and what is our purpose.
As I unpack these first few chapters of Genesis, it helps me to see my life beyond the simple. Yes, we are born, we live, and we die! It may be the case, but many, like me, may want more.
Being a follower of Jesus
For over 44 years I have followed Jesus. That has included a journey with the bible, the church, the purpose of my life and a lot more. I have experienced the blessing of being a Christ follower, and a part of the church. The bible has been a wonderful collection of books helping me to understand the inspired event of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
Criticism of Christianity
I have taken legitimate and illegitimate criticism because of being a Christian. I have experienced criticism around Jesus, his followers, the church and the bible. Let’s face it, a lot of what has been done in name of Christianity is indefensible.
In spite of the failures of Christians and Christianity, I remain hopeful. I remain hopeful because God is love. And yes, the most unloving atrocities have been done in the name of God. But the God I know is radically inclusive and is radically loving.
What does Genesis tell us?
Reading the first few chapters of Genesis I see a God who creates the most wonderful environment for abundant living. We call this earth. I see that this space is “good” and God creates human beings to inhabit this “earth”. These human beings are to be one with Him and one with each other.
I see a God who commissions human beings to be abundant through something we call the Genesis mandate. He gives them all they need to love the earth, tend it well and for it to reflect the grace of a loving Being we call God.
We are spirit beings, living in human bodies called to inhabit the earth. This is the human experience. This is what it means to be human.
If God wanted us to “perfect” a spiritual experience, He would have taken us to a “spiritual” space.
How do we become more Human?
I believe that to be a spiritual being, perfecting the human experience, we will need to embrace our union with God. At the same time, we love each other and discover union with each other. All of this will enable us to enjoy union with creation or our divine purpose.
This is what it means to be a human being, one with God, one with each other, one with our purpose.
The story of Genesis gives us insight into evil. But as Genesis doesn’t tell us where God came from, it doesn’t really tell us where evil came from either. However, Genesis does relate to us the consequences of evil through the reality of diablos. This word means separation.
As evil enters our world, three things are unleashed upon us: we experience separation from God, separation from each other and separation from the earth.
This leads to a distortion of who God is, the never-ending tension between the genders, people in general and abuse of the planet.
The mission of Jesus Christ is to redeem our being human. He does this through uniting us to God, uniting us to each other (not just some, but all), uniting us to purpose and the earth.
Jesus’ mission reminds us that we are all image bearers of God. We are all invited to have our spirits regenerated, so that we might all renew our union with God, with each other, and with our divine purpose.
This is what it means to be a human being. This is my mission!
In a world abundant with both useful and useless information one can still discover adventure and new beginnings in everyday life.
I have spent the last 40 years leading communities to discover what it means to be human. Now, as I enter my sixties, I hope to start a movement of “being human”.
I think we all have a bias and mine is in being a follower of Jesus. But you don’t have to be a Christian to become more human.
Anyone willing to be open to mystery, deciding to love others, regardless of all that divides us, and finding a way to serve humanity will experience what it means to become more human.
Join the movement!
PS My wife and I have just completed Ricky Gervais Netflix series, After Life. If you not quite sure of what this article is about, watch the series and see Ricky’s character Tony, become human!