Thursday, March 24, 2011

A sense of the divine?

Lots of thoughts scrambling about today.  At the forefront is a running theme: Neil Young and the divine.  As I've been reading The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, I've been floored by Haidt's synthesis of psychology, philosophy, religion, and evolution.  He suggests that we have a built in sensor for "divinity" as well as other framing devices, of course.  But consider it for a moment: just like we have a natural capacity for language (for lots of reasons), we might have a natural capacity to conjure the feeling of the divine, and then learn to value this "elevated" feeling--a feeling that most often comes out when we experience large open space, for instance, or human sacrifice.    He goes further, though, to understand our natural ability to sense the divine, or awe, as something we orient our thinking around, and hold as valuable, along with other major categories, like what is seen as common and, especially, our valuation of autonomy as a guiding principle.  

 That which is ineffably beautiful.  That which is so full it draws us down into ourselves in complete humility.  That which is somehow an evolved adaptation, and that--and here's the important part--contributes to individual happiness as well.  It may be purely semantic, sure, but I'd go out on a limb and say that it seems obvious to me that some people have more of a divinity streak, some more of an autonomy streak and others a communitarian streak.

In my life, I've had a lot of "divine" moments, and sure, some of them were drug induced.  That's valid.   Just as we (In the US) turned away from valuing religion in an explicit public way, we started doing lots of drugs.   Now, I'm not saying that we have to return to religion to get off of drugs--or to stop drinking--no; but what we have to do is understand that, along with short term cravings, and long term rational planning (given limited knowledge), we also have to take into account what creates that sense of "awe" in our lives, and give that some ability to breathe, too.  I don't know how yet.  I just know that I haven't been smart enough to see that it exists as an independent characteristic before this.

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