28 May 2011

Inside Of It All

About 18 months ago, my two eldest boys were really into learning about the planets and space.  They were 6 and 4 at the time.  My eldest would read all these books to his brother, and they had videos and other materials to learn about the solar system and the stars, and like many young kids spit out these ridiculously long dinosaur names, they would talk about types of stars and galaxies and the various properties of the planets.

One night we were driving home from a dinner out, and the six year-old said something about "living on Earth", and the other boy said, "No!  We live IN Earth, not ON it."

This comment really struck me as an incredibly profound observation.  Of course, it is true.  Just as a fish lives IN the sea, we "terrestrial" creatures and plants live IN the "sea" of the atmosphere, which is every bit as much a part of the Earth as the ground or the water is.  But it truly changed the way I thought about myself and about humanity as passengers here on Spaceship Earth.  Not that it was the first time I'd had a though about our interconnectedness to all that surrounds us, but to look at myself as a creature not walking upon the planet, but swimming within it, made me feel as if I were just a mitochondrion in a terrestrial macro-body, something of deep insignificance, and yet part of a larger living whole.

I am not an individual.  I am a member of a species, and not even really a "member" as most people understand the term, being one individual in a group.  I am a part of an interconnected whole that is Humanity.  And Humanity is just a part of the larger biosphere of the planet, just as all of the bacteria and microscopic bodies that float within us and around us are a part of us and thus the larger biosphere.  If you had a powerful microscope that could see all the way down the atomic level, you could eventually focus down to a level where you would not be able to discern the atoms of your skin from the atoms of the air that surrounds you.  Nor would you be able to discern the difference between the vast amounts of "space" that exist between the nuclei of atoms and the vast space that exist between the stars, based on their relative sizes.  It's all One.

To me, knowledge is a puzzle.  Each fact learned has a place it fits in the big picture of understanding.  The more you know from learning, the more you can figure out from recognition of the patterns you've already built from your knowledge to postulate other ideas, which leads you to think about where and how to find the facts that will either support or refute those theories.  "Thinking" is the process of acquiring the pieces and putting the puzzle together.  "Knowledge" is what is built.  The more you know, the less you have to think.  The more things you know, the closer are you are to knowing the One.

I've got a couple of idea projects that I've never really put the effort into that I once thought I might.  One is to rewrite the U.S. Constitution for the 21st Century, attempting to preserve as much of the original central ideas and flexibility as possible, but allowing for changes that we have learned in the lessons of 200 years.  Some 15 years or so ago, I did a similar thing with a much smaller subject, The Ten Commandments.

The First Commandment, as written in the Bible, reads, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery," or something very similar.  I wanted to make it more universal and less tailored to the ancient Hebrews, so I shortened it to, "I am the Lord your God."  Still, I felt that was cumbersome and loaded with language that has too much cultural baggage, words such as "Lord" and "God".

"I am."

Simple, basic.  God speaks and says he exists.  Right back to the first meeting at the Burning Bush.  "And Moses said unto God,  "Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, 'The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you'; and they shall say to me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say unto them? "  And God said unto Moses,  "I AM THAT I AM " and he said,  "Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel,  "I AM hath sent me unto you. "  "I am" is also the key phrase for Aries, the first sign of the Zodiac and the sign most often associated with the God of the Old Testament.

But that seemed somehow incomplete, at least in my philosophy.  I believe that the greatest philosophical gift given to the world by the ancient Hebrews, and carried on by the religions of the Western tradition, is the idea of the "One God".  The greatest problem this idea has created, the greatest misinterpretation, is "One and only One God".  The unitary deity is profound and speaks a deep truth, however the idea of "one and only one" implies an "other", be it another competing inferior god, or simply the existence of something that is not God.  NOTHING is not God.  God is One.  God is All.

George Carlin once said, "He's just like us - He's a cool guy, that's all God is, a cool guy. That's what all the religions told us:  "'He's like us, He's us.' That's what all the big ones, all the big religions said,  'Love yourself, Love your God, Love your neighbor, because you're all basically the same person.' We just don't have uniforms yet, that's all."  And that is what I wanted to build into my new First Commandment.  I am You.  We are One.  We are God.  God is One.  God is Everything.

I am You are One is All

And that's it.  It does not matter who the speaker is.  It could be God, or me, or you, or Aunt Edith, or a creature from Omicron Perseii 8.  It's all the same.

Strangely, I can't really remember where I went with the remastering of the other Ten Commandments.  I remember that I reinterpreted the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy to mean that it was important to "count the days" and keep calendars and holy days, but as for the rest, it's lost to some notebook in a box somewhere.  Perhaps it speaks to the centrality of a FIRST RULE, like The Prime Directive of Star Trek, or The Golden Rule, which I tried to incorporate into my First Commandment by implication.  Once you have the most basic rule of ethics, all others are merely derivatives thereof.

 So, I'll close with a song from They Might Be Giants.  This is from their children's album Here Come The 123's, but I find this expression of the "One=All" philosophy to be as well presented as in any text or adult music.  My wife and I are taking the boys to see a TMBG "family show" at the Iowa State Fairgrounds this Sunday.  I can't wait.

EDIT:  As Lauri said in the comments below, Neil should be in here. 

Neil Young's 1997 live album Year of the Horse opens with a heckler yelling out "They all sound the SAME!"  To which Neil famously replies, "It's all ONE SONG."

Indeed.  It is all one song.


  1. You are so thoughtful.
    innarestin' how you include so many of my personal faves Pete Townshend, George Carlin, kids... not to criticize but I'm sure ya can fit Neil in there... ummm ya know he's everywhere. ;-)

  2. Fixed the post for you, Lauri.

  3. :-) thanks David. tho it's ever evolving I'm sure, it is a bit more complete dontcha think?