3 words, 8 letters, 1 meaning- feature article, Box Magazine

According to the Vatican (who have gone to the trouble of producing a hundred page dossier warning of the dangers of holistic experimentation), we live in “an industrial culture of unrestrained individualism, which teaches egoism and pays no attention to other people” Taking this to mean that in the opinion of the most powerful religious body of our time, modern society is living in worship to the church of the self, one has to ponder just what it is that makes us human? If it is our soul that makes us our individual self, then it is the ability to question things that makes us above and beyond the rest of the life on this planet.

And if our eyes are the windows to our soul, it is our eyebrows that raise the question. I bring this up because if organised religion represents the soul, then modern opinion represents the raised eyebrow.

At a time when several of my acquaintances are facing the loss of their liberty, due to their erring from the supposed path of righteousness I am forced to consider what it is that makes everything tick. Twenty seven years have passed since I was pulled yellow and screaming into this world, and although this is possibly only a third of the way through my life, there’s

a niggling doubt that I’m going to fritter my way through life with only some amusing anecdotes to mark my passing. Coincidently (or not, depending on your faith), number 27 in the I-Ching is Yi, or nourishing, and says that when things are accumulated in great amount, nourishment becomes available.

There is a feeling that mid-life crisis is hitting us all a decade too early. A feeling that the pressures and demand for success inherent in our modern consumer culture, are moving everything forward that little bit too quickly.

I had my astrological chart made up for me in preparation of writing this article. Whilst it told me things that I either knew or wanted to hear about myself; and although it was nice to hear that I’m ambitious and dedicated, there is also a danger that I could use the facts within to justify myself when I use people to get what I want or act with material gain as my motivation.

I personally have a problem with organised religion, because of this very reason, and it can be applied just as readily to each and every religion on the planet.

People use faith for many different legitimate reasons; because it helps them, because it provides another dimension of life after death, or because it forms a justification of one’s actions throughout life. And this is my major concern. A human being that is part of a culture, be it a family or society as a whole shouldn’t need a reason to qualify their good deeds. To operate outside of this system is not entrepreneurial, but selfish; and if your faith is purely a cosmic pat on the back, then the beliefs which are held up as this structure are running the risk of becoming irrelevant.

Over the years belief in the divine has been used as an excuse for some of the most horrific deeds of all times, as well as some of the most beautiful. Contrast the ceiling of the Sistene chapel with the horrors of the Inquisition. Compare the call to prayer across the ochre rooftops of Marrakech to the base facts of a man flying a plane full of innocents into a building in the name of his God, and you get an idea of the contradiction that is at the core of most religious constraints.

And so in the last moments of the passing millennium and the spluttering breath of the new, we are at a spiritual crossroads.

It is part of our very make up to believe in a higher power. A desire buried deep in our souls to pass the buck, to look at all around us in wonder and refuse to accept that it just HAPPENED. But it hard for us in the age of the micro chip and the phone that can fit into your palm to believe that somewhere there isn’t just a rational scientific answer.

The society in which we live is an artificial hierarchy around ourselves in order for us to have the ability to push aside the necessity to explain nature. In the beginning there was only nature, it is nature that provides us with the paradoxes that force us hold religious or spiritual beliefs. We live in a time now where science is God, is our defence against nature, and yet somehow that is not enough. How many times have you looked at yourself and thought “surely there has to be more than life to this” How many times when things have turned bad, have you looked up to the sky and prayed even though you don’t know where the questions are directed?

It is this feeling that older religious structures such as the Vatican are scared of. There is a desire amongst the young to question what has been accepted as fact for hundreds of years.

A desire to look into all the many religions and take out the parts which help them live a better life. A sort of divine pick and mix. And still it is impossible to not notice the smallness of our individual selves in a direct relationship to the vastness of the universe.

We each and every one of us live in a world far richer and more complex than our self. And maybe it is not too much to ask that all of us can pass our way through our short lifetime in a way that is beneficial to ourselves, and those around us. And whether you find something in the Koran, the Bible or a self-help book, who can question the validity of the method through which you came to your conclusions? As long as you reach a point at which you are at peace with yourself and can become a useful and constructive member of society.