Monday, November 5, 2007

Total Responsibility I – Getting Hooked

The essence of my personal philosophy is that each unique observer is completely responsible for the state in which he, she or it perceives the world. In other words, I believe that what you see around is you is solely a reflection of what you are. This means that your world is as you see it because of you, not the Supreme Being, the Devil, the Government, the Media, the Man, the Teeming Masses or any of the other usual suspects.

My first step on the road to this belief occurred just before I turned 7, the age of discretion in the Roman Catholic tradition in which I was raised. It was during my sixth year in this world that I first asked myself a simple, yet powerful question about its Creation: “Why did God bother?” The basis of this question was not some prepubescent nihilism but simple, innocent curiosity.

Three elements of Roman Catholic doctrine, as related to me by the nuns at my elementary school led me to ask this question. The first was the nuns’ insistence that God is perfect. They also taught me that as the Creator of everything, God existed before everything in Creation. Finally, the nuns regularly expounded on the flawed nature of virtually everything in Creation, starting with me and my classmates. Connecting these ideas led my precocious young mind to ask, if everything before Creation (i.e., God) was perfect, but practically everything that God created is imperfect, why didn’t God just leave well enough alone?

This question did not leave the confines of my brain for years after it formed there. My most immediate motive for keeping it to myself was to avoid the corporal punishment such an impertinent question would probably have triggered (the Roman Catholic Church being what it was back in the 1960s). On a deeper level I kept quiet because the fact that I didn’t already know the answer to such a basic question led me to suspect that on the most elementary level existence must make sense to everyone else and I must be the only person to whom it seemed like a complete mystery. As such, keeping this question to myself was the start of a long-running effort on my part to conceal what I thought was my unique ignorance of the fundamental nature of existence.

Once I formed this potent metaphysical question regarding the Creator’s motives, I began to reflect on its implications, such as how evidently easy it would be for me to not exist at all (“What if God had not bothered?”). These weighty thoughts made my youthful head spin. For years afterwards I would simply contemplate the idea of my non-existence and something about its sheer immensity would invariably make me feel pleasantly lightheaded. It was never important to me to actually answer the questions underlying these thoughts.

In retrospect I realize that the power of these thoughts took me outside of myself, to a state that the ancient Greeks referred to as ‘ekstasis’. Experiencing this ecstasy at such a young age had some profound effects on me. One of them was that I became, for lack of a better word, addicted to this sensation. As a result, I have spent much of my life since then seeking out and exploring other such mind-reeling concepts. This endeavor ultimately led to my belief in total responsibility. I will explain how in my next post.

1 comment:

vivzan said...

wow, this is fascinating...

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