by JL Koszarek
Religion: A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
The other day I was walking with my dog along a remote area at about 9000 feet elevation. She ran into the woods down a ravine headlong into a dense grove of aspen, lodge pine, scrub oak, juniper, and god knows what other obstacles. Maybe there was a bear, a mountain lion, an elk with deadly hooves and antlers. The juniper was so thick as to possibly hide a deadly precipice. All I knew was that I could see for miles as I stood on the edge of the trail. My sweet, loyal dog of eleven years has no idea that she is going to die someday; driven by instinct with no awareness of her own mortality. Eventually, she heeded my calls and popped up on the trail about 20 feet ahead of me covered in dust, leaves, aster seeds, and stickers. Panting, she was quite proud of herself, for what, I haven’t a clue. She and I are very different animals.
It must have all started innocently enough somewhere along our human evolutionary journey. At some point, prehistoric people intellectually evolved to the point of awareness of our own mortality. That poignant cross road of being and then simply not being. How can this be? How can we just stop being?
This is an amazing question and I hope we never stop asking it because these are the questions that separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom.
Sadly, it seems our self-awareness has been politicized through the creation of religion, which I suppose is what I lament. How could something so innocent as our awareness and questioning of such a profound universal human experience such as death have evolved into a phenomenon that causes so much death?
Our self-centered attempts to placate our worries about what happens after we die brings humans down a destructive path. We have cannibalized our innocence to the point where we behave as if we ARE the creator, that we somehow KNOW the motivation behind our creation and what it requires of us. This didn’t happen overnight, of course, but from that prehistoric moment of awareness to this very day, our species has become egomaniacal in our feeble attempts at promoting our own superiority among the vast physical manifestation that is The Creation. I’ve even heard claims of superiority in realms which we cannot conceive of nor know!
Some computer models predict the Earth will reach its carrying capacity around the year 2050 at which time there will be a mass die-off. Already, we are in the midst of the Sixth Mass Extinction of plants and animals, the largest ever since the dinosaurs died off. Even as we continue to ask; continue to seek, we experience a mass intellectual devolution. Maybe we’re still as primitive as we’ve ever been. The real conundrum for me is that we have amassed great knowledge even as we refuse to simply accept that it’s okay not to know.
August 25th 2016, Angel Fire, New Mexico
JL Koszarek is the coauthor of Divide Then Conquer.