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Image by Patrick Nerai

When you enter the world, you come to live on the threshold between the visible and the invisible. This tension infuses your life with longing. Now you belong fully neither to the visible nor to the invisible. This is precisely what kindles and rekindles your longing and your hunger to belong. You are both artist and pilgrim of the threshold. — John O’Donohue

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“As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such.

All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”

— World-renowned physicist Max Planck

Poets and scientists use different language to describe similar visions. The emphasis is different too. The poet is looking at the soul’s reasons for earthly existence and the scientist keeps looking at how it happens, stopping short of why we exist. I find the scientific perspective interesting but my mind is attracted to follow-on ideas of what it’s all about. I want to know why we live. What does it accomplish to live in a body on this planet and have “experiences.” Experiences of the heart affect us deeply and cause us to grow a certain way. Over a lifetime we have a chance to evolve into a wise human.

Most of us will develop a conditioned self that smothers our soul’s mission, and we get stuck. Some people say that’s why we have to keep coming back, so we can have another chance not to get lost in the weeds. I don’t have a firm belief in that but I think it’s possible. I know I personally need as many chances as I can get to be a successful human.

It’s also a fascinating idea that we only think we’re solid beings, that in fact we only look solid because our vision is weak. Something is holding us together until suddenly it doesn’t. What happens then? Do we just dissolve and start over in another manifestation?

We usually know when we’ve failed to live our true life. We can feel something wrong, that we took a wrong turn early on and things got confused. If it’s true that we are infinite beings and that it takes as long as it takes — to do what, evolve into angels? — then there’s no hurry. We just do the best we can with what we’re given.

So, what are the lessons? Finding the ability to love, in all its aspects, is probably first. Humans have a lot of impediments to really loving — social, personal and, who knows, cosmological. Living in a body and being charged with the task of protecting it and keeping it alive sets up a conflict or at least a tradeoff between ego and soul. Letting go of ego concerns is required in order to approach life with a caring intelligence. The planet can’t survive too many people who don’t care, who can’t love. Currently on our planet, the cruelty of humans exceeds the behavior of wild animals. It threatens the planet itself.

On the individual level, we’re all trying to find a good life even if we hardly know who and what we are. Our calculations can be expected to go awry now and again, sometimes for the duration of our sojourn here.

We are all half lost. We are just waking up to what existence is and why we’re part of it. Questions abound, but most of us just accept the theater we have appeared in at face value. Its magic is lost on us, unless of course we take it as our bailiwick, as in the case of poets or artists.

We want to know what’s actually going on here, what are the gods cooking. We’d especially like to know because we ourselves are part of the recipe. Something is being created and we have a role to play. I think, though, that if we’re going to contribute our human genius to the mix we’re going to have to care. We’re only going to help the world thrive if we can love it.

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