An updated review on Christianity

I recently watched the movie “The Case for Christ” and found it to be intriguing . I have been drifting away from the Christian faith I once had and becoming more of an agnostic, or a Deist. I found many evidences of why the Christian faith is a false doctrine. However, I found some aspects of Jesus’s teachings to be applicable and useful in today’s society, and in my personal life, such as the concept of forgiveness, mercy, serving the poor, grace, loving my neighbor as myself , etc. But I have almost completely abandoned today’s church’s way of interpreting the true identity and nature of the figure of Jesus and the meaning of life.

I have recently embraced some teachings of Buddhism. I tried to practice mindfulness and simplicity in my life. The concept of suffering as a result of desiring things and the idea of emptiness as a way to reach enlightenment have been appealing to me. Allowing things to be as they are and letting go . Being formless, like water.

But I don’t identify myself as a Buddhist per se. I don’t even want to identify with any religion or faith in particular. I just want to be a person who finds meaning in this life, if there’s such a thing as meaning. And if there is even worth finding meaning or just living life the fullest. Although I don’t identify myself as such, I have been living a life of an atheist .

But I have recently been longing for an emotional connection to “something”. My heart has felt sad and I find myself seeking something “more.” When people talk about their faith in God or Jesus, I find myself longing for that same feeling again. I have been wanting to explore once again the possibility of a supernatural being that I can reconnect with. It’s almost like wishing to experience a childhood experience once again.

I know I have to be careful to not let my emotions dictate by behaviors. I recently lost my Dad and I’m getting older myself, so I may also be going through some life crisis at the moment. I should weigh all possible explanations before reaching any conclusions . I have to measure every step I make before making any life changing decision.

Nevertheless, I am currently interested in learning more about evidence for the Christian faith, since I watched this movie. I have read and own three of Strobel‘ books which I may read again. I have read many other books that explore the nature of Christianity. Among them “Mere Christianity” by CS Lewis, “Mere Churchianity” by Michel Spenser , “The Hole in our Gospel” by Richard Stevens, “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren, and “So You Thought You Knew: Letting Go of Religion” by Joshua Tongol , and many more.

I feel that, if I decide to do so, I can do some research again with less biased mind, meaning that I will be ok with finding evidence on either side of the argument. If I find evidence and information that proves that Christianity could be true or not true, I will be accepting it either way . I would also find a combination of conclusions , that maybe some aspects of Christianity is true and others are not.

Possible Evidence for Christianity

Christianity is mostly based on the resurrection of Jesus. I can say that some teachings of Jesus may be sufficient to be principles to live by and live a full life. The sermon on the mount is a good verse that can be practiced in our daily lives and be the meaning of our existence (Matthew 5 ). But today’s interpretation of Christianity does not end there. It insists that the resurrection of Jesus after he died on the cross is the culmination of his so called “salvation.” Or is it ? Is there any evidence of the resurrection?

500 witnesses. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15, that Jesus appeared to 500 people after his resurrection “at once.” This sounds more like a ghostly appearance to me. Anyways, this supposedly happened along with appearing to Peter and all of his apostles. Believers continued to gather and grow, not simply because of what Jesus taught , but because they apparently “saw him alive” after the resurrection. Could so many people have had some hallucinations or could have made up such a claim? Very unlikely.

Women witnesses. In the times of Jesus, women were considered secondary citizens by many. They were really not regarded as important eyewitness or reliable sources . Yet, the Gospels tell us that the first people to see the resurrected Jesus were women. He also had women among his followers and he freely talked to them (John 4:4-42), and even forgave the sins of prostitutes in public (John 8:3). Is this compatible to that historical culture? If this story of the resurrection was fabricated , would it have mentioned women as the first witnesses? Would any of these “fabricated” stories mention women in this matter?

Early Christians persistence. Christians were persecuted until death . Yet they continued to gather and grow in number. And they spread throughout the world . Does the fact that this faith grew globally serve as evidence of its authenticity? Some speculate that Paul was the main influencer of today’s Christian faith (his epistles were the earliest after Jesus’ time) and that his writings shaped today’s teaching of salvation by grace alone. He was beheaded because of his teachings, giving his life for a cause. I wonder if people were willing to give up their lives for a false doctrine that lasts up to today.

Like Paul wrote,

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. (1 Corinthians 15:12-15)

However , the Progressive Christianity website states : When Christians talk about the resurrection of Christ, they may be proclaiming that death did not have the last word in the Jesus story because his followers were raised up to be his new body. 

Was it a physical resurrection, or a symbolic resurrection that represented the resurrection of the “body of Christ ?” That is still a debatable topic.

But, Did Jesus even exist? Can we trust the story of Jesus from Bible ? If not, are there any non biblical literature that talks about the existence of Jesus? There’s actually some Non biblical literature of Jesus.

Josephus:

“There was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works—a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day” (Antiquities 18:3:3)

Pliny the Younger:

“They (Christians) were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food, but of an ordinary and innocent kind.” (Epistles 10.96).

Joseph Klausner, a Jewish researcher, sums up some of the conclusions which can be drawn from the Talmudic theories about Jesus:

“There are some reliable theories regarding the fact that his name was Yeshua (Yeshu) of Nazareth; that he practised sorcery (that is to say that he performed miracles, as was common in those days) and seduction and led Israel astray; that he mocked the words of the wise and discussed Scripture in the same way as the Pharisees; that he had five disciples; that he said he had not come to revoke the Law, nor to add anything to it; that he was hung upon a piece of wood (crucified) as a false authority and seducer on the eve of the Passover (which fell on a Saturday); and that his disciples cured disease in his name” (J.Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth, p.44)

Tacitus :

“Nero fastened the guilt … on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of … Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome….[5]

Phlegon

Another secular authority, Phlegon, wrote a book entitled Chronicles, which was quoted by Julius Africanus.  Phiegon acknowledges that a darkness fell upon the land about the time of  Christ’s death, and he attributes this to a solar eclipse:

“During the time of Tiberius Caesar an eclipse of the sun   occurred during the full moon.” (Africanus, Chronography, 18.1)

So these example show that Jesus was at least a real person with controversial views. He was crucified and there was darkness during this day and his disciples continued to gather and grow in number in spite of the persecution. And his teachings , like CS Lewis wrote, made him an immoral man because of his pathological and delusional claims of being the”son of God” , or he was actually a moral man who stated the truth. And truth is usually not well received by people who follow the status quo.

Possible Evidence against Christianity

On the other side of this argument lies the fact that there are stories of spiritual teachers who died and resurrected, similar to Jesus’s story .

Mithras (Persian god).

“.Persian legends of Mithras says that He was born of the Sun God and a virgin mother, called “the Mother of God”, on December 25th. They saw him as a symbol of justice, truth, and loyalty. He was considered the saviour of humankind, and stories abound of His healing the sick, raising the dead, and performing miracles (making the blind see and the lame walk). Throughout His lifetime, He was seen as a protector of human souls, a mediator between “heaven” and “earth” and was even associated with a “holy trinity”. He remained celibate, until the ripe old age of 64, throughout his life and preached the virtues of ethics, moral behavior, and good will.”

Osiris (Egyptian god):

Osiris was regarded as the good shepherd” who was loved by his people and it was felt that paying homage and venerating him would help Egypt and Egyptians to be successful. He also resurrected and was crowned as a king. To the ancient Egyptians, Osiris’ resurrection after being slain by his evil brother Set represents the new beginning for good after it has defeated evil. To them, the tale was symbolized by the sun going into the world of the dead each night and being reborn with each new day.

Attis (Phrygon-Roman god)

“Many professors of modern and past times cannot help but conclude that Jesus is based on mythical deities of old. Among these scholars number individuals such as Porphry (3rd Century), Max Muller, Ernest de Bunsen, Joseph Wheless, Albert Churchward (all of the 19th Century), and T.W. Doane (20th Century). Even Pope Leo X, privy to the truth because of his high rank, made this curious declaration, “It was well known how profitable this fable of Christ has been to us” (“The Diegesis” by Rev. Robert Taylor, footnote, p. 35.

At the time after Jesus’s death, the Romans began to suppress the Egyptian reigion and actively promoted Christianity. This sounds as if Egyptians customs were replaced by the new Christian rituals.

There is also evidence that Paul probably created today’s image of Jesus, to the point of worshiping him as a god. The title of “son of God” could have been added later to the Gospels.

There are also the gnostic gospels (Peter, Thomas, Phillip , Gospel of Truth) which have writings that do not support today’s image of the four traditional Gospels. For example , some of these writings talk about “the self and the divine as identical” and that “the ‘living Jesus’ of these texts speaks of illusion and enlightenment, not of sin and repentance, like the Jesus of the New Testament. Instead of coming to save us from sin, he comes as a guide who opens access to spiritual understanding.” (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/story/pagels.html).

The Gospel of Judas talks about “oneness of the self with God,” and Judas being the closest disciple to Jesus who helped Jesus die and “escape this world”. Many of these scriptures were considered heretics and, therefore, prohibited by the bishops and priests of the second and third century Orthodox Church. Only the four Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Lucas , and John were accepted as “Scriptures.” How can we then know if these four Gospels can be trusted since there are so many more that have been rejected by the church?

As we can see, there have been numerous myths and stories that resemble Jesus’s story . It’s hard to ignore the possibility that Christianity was copied or at least a product of all these other similar stories and myths. Does this take away the legitimacy of Christianity and what it is based on?

The Message

We could go on and on about the authenticity of what the church teaches and how it interprets the Gospels. But in my own personal journey, it mainly boils down to how I’m going to live my present life. And am I going to include the concept of a loving God or continue to live like an atheist?

Am I content with how my life is going right now or do I want something different? The simple answer is that I am not content .

What do all the stories about different myths (including Jesus) all have in common ? Instead of trying to figure out if Jesus’s story is legitimate and “truer” compared to the other numerous stories, would it be wiser to simply concentrate on the common and central message of all these stories , regardless of the “godly figure” that we choose to follow as its protagonist? Can we blame today’s Christians for focusing and using the image of Jesus to represent the central message? If the message is what we should be concentrating on, what is the message then?

The message could be summarized as such: Humanity has a reminder about what life is. There’s death and then there’s a resurrection . There’s the acknowledgment of “sin” and then there’s repentance. There’s also a return to our “selves” through self acceptance and wisdom. There’s the message of loving our neighbors , serving the poor, forgiving others, being meek and making peace. There’s always light after darkness. And Jesus beautifully described this at the Sermon on the Mount. (Mathew 5)

Grace

I think that it boils down to the idea of grace.

The teaching of eternal damnation in a place called “hell” is disturbing to say the least. It has been the church’s attempt to manipulate the masses to lure people into their doctrine . In contrast , I find it very inspiring the concept of grace. In the Christian tradition, God has forgiven our trespasses without us having to make sacrifices or doing anything in particular to please God. However, the only condition is to believe. I reject the idea that we would still end up tormented away from God for eternity if we don’t consciously “accept” God’s grace by reciting and “confessing Jesus as our savior.”

An all powerful, all loving God would not let a soul get “lost.” It just doesn’t compute. And I realize I’m not God , and my mind is limited. But God’s grace, by definition, is not limited.

God’s unlimited grace would surpass any amount of grace that any human being can even practice. It is almost impossible to forgive someone who murders our family or steals from my children. But God (somehow) could. So I think it was taught 2000 years ago that , through God, we can do many things, including the impossible “unconditional grace.”

That’s why I would be inclined to accept God’s unconditional grace. Not because the church tries to manipulate me through fear and intimidation with the idea of “hell”, like it has done in all its history. Believing that God punishes us with eternal damnation is rejecting the whole idea of God himself. It is putting limitations to God’s unlimited grace. And I am not creating a God out of convenience. I am clarifying what eternal grace from an eternal God would be.

If you have a child, or a brother, or any significant other, whom you love so much, but this beloved person decides he or she would not want to love you back anymore, what would you do? If this person, whom you love dearly, wants nothing to do with you, would you then decide to let him or her starve to death? Would you abandon this person until death simply because he or she does not love you back ?

If your answer is no, then you think like a any loving being would.

And if so, why would an eternally loving and all powerful being do so then ?

Are we more loving and forgiving than God?

God loves and accepts us even if we don’t love him back. How he decides to give us a chance after we die as unbelievers is up to Him. He doesn’t need us to invent the idea of hell to scare people and manipulate them into believing. We are guaranteed to live eternally and be one with God no matter what we do or say.

Now that’s what I would call “good news.”

We are owned

We think we are free entities.

We believe we have the freedom to choose what we want. We think we have free will and can make our own decisions.

But, we are wrong .

Think about this.

You believe you are an individual, unique person? In the United States (can’t speak for other countries) we are assigned a number when we are born. It is called the “social security number.”

You think you can independently identify yourself? We are also assigned to have a label, it is called “first and last name.”

You think you have freedom to choose your way of life ? Most families raise their children in a religious or cultural organized system and tell them what to believe. They are also taught how to view the world , and it becomes their reality.

You believe you can do whatever you want without restrictions in this society? In reality, we cannot do most things without the government’s permission.

We are not allowed to drive a car unless we have a government appointed license, which we physically have to carry with us every time we drive.

We cannot get an education unless we are assigned a school or a private certified teacher and a student number.

We obtain a job only if we have a government given identification card and ( you guessed it) a social security card.

We cannot get officially married unless the government gives us a marriage certificate. Or have and adopt children without the government forcing us to appoint them a birth certificate or permission ( and a fee) to adopt.

We cannot buy groceries unless we have a currency or food stamp card fabricated only by the government . Even if you go to a food bank, you have to present a government given identification.

We cannot even travel to other countries unless this government gives us the ok to do so through a passport .

Your fingerprints serve as further evidence that the government knows who you are.

We cannot vote for whoever runs in government without being registered by the government itself to vote.

We cannot fish, hunt, carry a weapon, own a farm , or climb a mountain without some sort of government intervention.

We have to dress up a certain way and refrain from being completely naked in public if we don’t want someone to report us to authorities .

We cannot even be homeless without worrying about a government official telling us where we cannot sleep or obtain food, which are basic needs.

Sounds extreme? I agree , but that’s the way it actually is in today’s society.

In summary , we are not free human beings after all.

We are basically owned by the government .

Think about your thoughts …

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Our minds control our lives.

We often say to other people  “Try not to think about it” , “Don’t be so negative” or “Try to be positive.”  What we are really saying is, “Change your thoughts and perceptions about the situation.”

We often reflect with our words the reality that most of our experiences are based on our thoughts and perceptions.  Our lives are basically dictated by the ideas and concepts we have in our minds.  The interesting thing is that most of the time we do not realize it.

Our minds are so powerful, and yet we don’t recognize that we can control it so that we can control our circumstances.  In other words, we are able to change the way we think if we choose to.

The challenge comes when we unconsciously identify with whatever it is that we have chosen to value in our lives.  And we identify with it simply because we do not want to accept the inevitable fact of our mortality.  And it becomes an automatic habit which we do not rethink about.  It is normal to perceive ourselves as white, black, Mr. and Mrs. Jones, a teacher, a construction worker, a mom, a dad,  a Cubs fan, an American, a soldier, etc.  It makes us who (we think) we are.

In previous blog posts, I have talked about how our thoughts and ideas can be used to feed our ego, which is the fabricated self that we keep nurturing in order to avoid thinking about our own mortality.

So we choose, or we are taught to identify with, a family name, a particular race, ethnicity, political party, profession, etc.  Simply because we want to maintain ourselves distracted and entertained with identities that help us feel alive and valued.   In other words, away from the reality of our death, the ultimate unknown.  So we keep deceiving ourselves.

Also, when we say “Good luck!” or “I’ll pray for you!”, we are basically saying that, because we cannot control or directly intervene with a difficult situation, we wish someone else a favorable outcome by thinking they may receive some assistance from an outside source beyond our control.  In other words, I cannot help you directly, but I am claiming that somehow you receive some help beyond my human capacity.

So, pay attention to what you think.   Review and contemplate on how each statement you  make can reflect the fear of the unknown.  Fear of your mortality.

Think about your thoughts.

 

 

Feeling Bad

I have been feeling bad lately.  Let me explain.

I work as a supervisor in a mental health program.   I manage other clinicians, nurses, and psychiatrist who serve people with severe mental illness.  It is a stressful job by itself and involves a lot of therapy, case management, medical follow up, consultation, traveling, etc.  It is a job that not anybody can withstand or even consider taking, because it is not a typical mental health facility.   The program is based on the PACT model (Programs of Assertive Community Treatment) and it involves intensive psychiatric and rehabilitation services , similar to what clients receive in psychiatric hospitals, but in the community.  So you can imagine the amount or work and tension that we often experience in trying to help individuals with paranoia, delusions, disorganized thinking, and poor social skills remain living in their homes.   Even though I may be describing it as a difficult job, it is very self rewarding.  We are actually helping people stay away from institutions and jails simply because of the severity of their illness.  We are helping them live normal lives like the rest of us.

But I recently started feeling really bad about my job because of the way the company sometimes treats our staff.   They are not usually paid the salary that other facilities and hospitals in the community pay their clinical staff, plus they started hiring more bachelor levels so that the  cost of hiring people would be less.  So the competition has been an uphill battle which results in a high turn over rate.

Since I started working for this PACT program in 2011, we have had two full time doctors, and recently two part times.  The two part time psychiatrists  shared the case load of a total of 101 clients.  The last two psychiatrists were working under a contract  instead of being regular employees.  But unfortunately , one of the two part time doctors decided to move out of the state for a better paying job (its usually  because of the money) and we found ourselves planning to have one part time doctor cover  while starting to recruit for another doctor to take over the other half of the caseload.   The situation became more complicated when the company advertised the position and found a candidate who was willing to work full time instead, as a regular employee.  Having a full time practitioner is what the PACT model is based on primarily and it facilitates the overall function of the program.    So needless to say, the company had to make the difficult decision to “get rid of the part time psychiatrist” so that we can officially hire the new full time practitioner (who happens to be an ARNP who can do the same type of job as a psychiatrist).   Of course, letting the remaining part time psychiatrist know was the hard pill to swallow.  Not to mention informing the clients (once again) that their psychiatrist was resigning and they were going to be seen by a different practitioner.   Our clients who all suffer from a severe and persistent mental illness, are already marked by difficult times in their lives, and change is one of the most difficult experience which can exacerbate their symptoms.

The CEO of the company is the one who negotiates with psychiatrists and makes the final decisions about which psychiatrist to hire.  My supervisor and I interviewed the new candidate and we liked her, but the CEO was the one making the decision about moving  forward with her, meaning that the part time psychiatrist who was still working with us had to go.   Part of me said we were doing the wrong thing… that we should’ve looked for a another part time psychiatrist so that we wouldn’t have to lose the one we already had.  I was informed that the CEO would then speak with the part time psychiatrist about our plans, which I was glad I did not have to do, although I wished we could have done something different so that we can keep the part time psychiatrist.  But that was not my decision to make.

To make matters worse, last week, the part time psychiatrist approached me and asked me about what the company was planning to do with her if they find a full time practitioner.  I was dumbfounded and caught off guard, not knowing what to say at the moment.  I thought that the CEO had spoken with her about his decision already,  but it turned out he had not informed her yet.  So I had to tell her the truth at that moment, I don’t believe in lying or hiding things from people, especially staff people who work with me.   But I also told her that the CEO should be speaking with her about the matter in more details soon.  So, understandably, the part time psychiatrist seemed upset and said she will just resign.

I felt as big as an ant.

Here we are, literally getting rid of a part time person, a human being with a family to feed and a career to keep, so that we can replace her with a full time person who will take her place to “serve our clients.”  The company has a budget to keep, so having one full time psychiatrist was more financially convenient.   I understand the technicality and the business part of the reason why we need to make this decision.  But the human side of the matter sucks.

So I feel bad.  I feel we made a mistake.  I wish I could have done something different and prevent having to get rid of the part time psychiatrist.  I wish the CEO would have contacted the part time psychiatrist early and offer her to stay with maybe less hours, but still stay working with us along with the full time ARNP.

But it is too late now.  She decided to suddenly resign , sooner than what the contract mandates.  I can understand her anger and frustration. I also understand the need to have a full time practitioner who also has more flexibility with traveling and visiting our clients.

So I am split in half, feeling glad that we found a full time practitioner soon;  but still feeling bad that we lost a very good psychiatrist and made her upset in the process.

At the end of the day, the ones suffering the most are our clients, who will have to face another change of providers.  And most likely run the risk of  increasing their symptoms of mental illness because of this transition they are forced to face.

It’s hard being a supervisor sometimes.

 

Identifying with the Self: Part Two 

 I had a counseling session with one of my clients.  She is a cutter and was questioning whether or not she would be getting any better in her life.  She was comparing herself with others who also receive therapy and who seem to be getting better faster. My client thought she was not improving like she should and asked about the concept of PTSD and resistance to treatment.

I try to explain to her that PTSD involves living in the past after a traumatic experience… versus learning from the past without necessarily reliving the past.  When we experience PTSD , we tend get stuck in the past and not move forward.  When the pain is avoided then we continue to experience PTSD and continue to relive the past and experience an emotional cycle which is nourished by substance-abuse, self harming behavior, and depression.

On the other hand, when we learn about the past, we develop new skills and we develop new ways to cope with the upsetting memories.  One of the ways is to talk about it, process feelings, write about it, and accept the fact that the pain was done.   When we choose to develop new skills and process feelings by accepting the pain, then we begging to acknowledge that it was a difficult time in our life and be able to move forward with new skills.

And then there was the question of why she is still cutting when she’s in her 50s now, when most of the cutters are either teenagers or young adults.

Then a lightbulb turned on in my head. I asked my client who she would identify as and she could not answer the question.  She first said “I’m already in my 50s why am I asking this question now? ” Then I asked her to not think about her current age but to focus on the question itself : who am I?

The observation that most cutters are teenagers or young adults gave me the idea that, since she has always been dependent on others to tolerate her who she is and what to do with my life, that sounds almost like what teenagers and young adults do in the early lives.

Basically my client is experiencing what most teenagers and young adults experience : finding their identities in life, facing the unknown after depending on the parents.  My client said she always depended on her parents and she was taking care of and nourished as a child even during her adulthood.  This can explain why she has difficulty identifying who she is now in her 50s. I explained that most of us experience the same identity crisis in different times of our lives. Most of us identify with what we have been assigned to be, for example our names, our ethnicity, our gender, and our religion. But we ultimately face a time in life, usually during young adulthood, where we start questioning  our assigned entities and find our own identities. And maybe that’s what my client is experiencing at the present moment.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, we mostly live inside our heads. Inside our thoughts and perceptions. We rarely get out of our thoughts and face reality. We don’t usually live in the present moment.  But we rather stay living inside our heads.  Inside our minds. But we rarely step aside and start perceiving ourselves as we really are.

Have the rest of us done the same thing in our lives?  Have we taken the bold step of “peeling the onion” all the way until we find our true selves?

In my own experience , that “true self” remains a mystery.  It remains a great part of the unknown, which is why I tend to ignore it and replace it with all the entities I have been taught to identify with.

I have learned to identify with being a Hispanic middle age male, an American, a mental health professional, a  Florida resident, a parent, a husband, a son, and many other entities.  All of these I can question and deny if I choose to.  What I have not identified with as much is what can never question or deny.

My true self.

But what is the true self?  Is it simply being human? Being a person? After all, isn’t that what we all have in common? Identifying with being Human beings ? Anything else could be used to separate and segregate us.  But being humans could only keep us united.

Identifying with the self

What makes us who we are? How do we determine our personalities ? Does the self even exist ?

Identifying with the “self” is what determines our feelings and perceptions. If I identify with the concept of being a “husband” , and my wife leaves me, then I would feel distraught..   If I identify with the concept of being a “professional” -and somehow I lose my professional license , I would feel ashamed and sad.  If I identify with the idea of being an “American citizen” and a terrorist attach occurs in my country, I would feel anger and rebellious.  But only if I choose to identify myself with these entities.  But do these entities really exist ?

It’s like living a comic strip where the bubbles above our heads are our thoughts and perceptions which we believe to be true … and which we choose to identify with.  

I read a quote the other day that said:

“As soon as we are born, we are assigned a name , a nationality, a religion, a race , a sports team. We will spend the rest of our lives defending a false identity.”

This is so true.  We are given several identities , simply because we feel that we need to belong to a certain organization or group so that we don’t feel vulnerable .  We need to think that we are part of a whole so that we are not alone. So that we can distract ourselves from the inevitable destiny we call “death.” We decide to continue to live an illusion that keeps us in a dream like state and prevents us from experiencing confusion and chaos.

But we can’t escape it forever. We will eventually realize and accept the fact that our various identities ; our numerous fictitious entities that we desperately try to defend and justify, are meaningless and useless when we are facing our final days.

It bothers us when things end because  we don’t like to admit our mortality.  We feel  sad  when a vacation ends … We feel disappointed  when our favorite sport team loses.  We often experience sadness when a loved one moves away or decides not to be our friend anymore.  We rather want  the pleasurable experience to go on.  It is like going to the theatre and enjoying a movie even if it’s fictitious, and we don’t want the movie to end because that would mean exiting  the theatre and facing reality again.  We rather stay inside and continue to enjoy the fictitious movie. We prefer  to pretend to be immortal and prevent having to face the reality of our existence.

We prefer to stay inside the “womb” which keeps us warm and comfortable.

But the closer we get to our inevitable death, the more meaningless all the fictitious fabricated identities become.  And the more we are forced to accept our true identities.

Going back to the “bubbles” above our heads, which represents our thoughts, can illustrate how we live our lives. We mostly live inside our heads.  Inside our thoughts and perceptions. We rarely get out of our thoughts and face reality.  We don’t usually live in the present moment.

But we need to, if we want to live this life more fully.

And the question remains : what is outside of our heads? What is this so called “reality”? What would we be facing when we live in the present moment ?

Peace.  Serenity.   Freedom.  Acceptance.

I will continue on this topic at a later post .

Rise of the Planet of the Ants

Have you looked at how ants operate? Have you stopped and observe the way that ants live and survive? They are complicated yet simple beings that work arduously to accomplish the task of surviving. They have a queen and workers. They carry leaves, pieces of food, and soil, heavier than themselves. They create monumental ant hills. Its almost as if they can create colonies and whole communities wherever they have the place and the opportunity. And if we happen to step on one of their ant hills and destroy it, they can rebuild it. How do ants compare to us, humans? Well, we also build colonies, we work to survive, we have a “queen” and the workers, and we can rebuild.  We also create systems that keep us alive such as governments and economy.  Wherever we can get a good spot, we build neighborhoods, cities, nations, and empires. We can do so much, but at the same time anything can simply destroy all of that, by an earthquake or tsunami, just like when we step on an ant hill.  Although we are great beings, we are also vulnerable. It might be a good idea to recognize that we are minute beings, just like our friends the ants.  We need to humble ourselves and be nicer to each other.   Looking at the big picture, we can realize that we are complicated beings, in the middle of an endless universe. Yet we fight over little things like the person who cut us off on the road, the noisy upstairs neighbor, the waiter who did not give us the right food, the boss who acts like a jerk, or the spouse that won’t lower the toilet seat.  Maybe we need to learn from the ants.