Among recent events, you may have heard the suggestion that the end of days was near, and the rapture would begin/had begun. While it is useful to understand or try to define what these concepts (the end of times/rapture) mean, I feel hardly qualified to do so for the reader. I feel that the exact, precise understanding of these concepts is not for me to know, nor fear. The exact definition (religious and or non-religious) of these events, in the end, makes no difference for what I want to say here now, anyway.
I feel it is worth recognizing that the conceptual end of days/rapture can seem quite believable and possible, most especially at times when the spirit of humanity, and the spirit of the human good is diminished.
With all the recent challenges we have faced as humans, things that have threatened our very survival (weather, disasters, wars, emotional/physical stresses), it is no surprise that our spirit has been diminished.
You know, I don’t like to take a stance that one religion, or another, is the “right” one, and it is not my place to be able to state that others may be right or wrong in what they believe. I try to search, as I am sure you will hear me say many more times, for that which is clearly universal to us all.
It is with that sentiment that I put forth the following ideas (and they are most certainly not my own, but things I personally believe are true).
It is said, in many religions and beliefs, that we are all united by the fact that we share a common source. Some call this source a “creator”. Some belief systems will say that God created us in his image, or that God or “a god” lives on inside us, or that we are all governed by such an entity. Yet others may say that to compare ourselves to one or more “gods” is blasphemous.
Some of us believe that we all unified by being made of the same matter (atoms and molecules) that comprise the universe. You may have heard the saying, “from dust you were made, and to dust you shall return”. Truthfully, I would venture a guess that no human alive would deny the concept that, generally speaking, we’re all made of pretty much the same stuff: blood, flesh and bone.
While humans have a myriad of genetic differences, and my atoms and molecules might be mostly from one region of the Earth as contrasted with the reader, who might be made up of similar atoms and molecules but from totally different genetics, from a totally different place, let us make the following argument: we are, for most intents and purposes, the same kind of being – a human being.
It is not a leap of faith (pardon the pun), then, to think that our similarities can extend beyond the physical ones. There are very few people in the world, I believe, who do not “feel” what it is to be a living human. There may be cases where a human’s ability to “feel” is inhibited by a physical malfunction in their body – but most humans do. In the most basic sense of the word “feeling”, I think most would agree that they have felt “experiences” with the real world from one of their physical senses, if not other senses (including emotional, mental or spiritual ones).
This “feeling” of living, of being human – that is what I like to think of as the human spirit. And it’s that feeling, when fatally diminished, that leads us ever closer to the concept defined by the “end of days”.
Have you ever had a day where you personally felt like your world was ending? We often use that saying as an expression of frustration. Other times, for example, in the aftermath of a horrible disaster, emotional turmoil, or, say, returning from the horrors of war, we may very truly believe and feel like the end is right there – like we can’t go any further.
I believe that when humans have given up on, well, being human – then in a way, we have temporarily forgotten our basic design. In reality, in our basic design, we have been given the will to live, to succeed, to survive, to thrive, to grow, to learn, and to go on.
If you believe in evolution, look no further. Most religions have some concept of continuity, whether in human form, or some other. If you’re a physicist, time still only moves in one direction no matter how much you might try to figure out how it may move in other directions (and who knows, it might!).
In Christian beliefs, it is said God is in each and every one of us, Jesus was a man (a human man!) who died for our sins, and we are linked together through the Holy Spirit.
Howsoever you see what it is that makes you human, I choose to think of the human spirit (which is within all of us) something like an old song I learned growing up. Preferably, you would read its lyrics in a completely religion-agnostic manner and focus on the human value of the words. You can learn more about this song by clicking the excerpt from that song below:
Dear reader, it is not my place to tell you I have the answer, or even to think that I do. But, I will tell you that if nothing else, I have faith in humanity. For all that is wrong, for all the suffering we bear as people, and for all that is to come, humanity is our common thread. Being human/the human spirit is undoubtedly one of many possible links we share with each other. The decisions we make shape our world, our lives, and ourselves. Try as we might, we might not get it right.
We can always strive to live our lives as good humans, to the best of our abilities. We can, we are, and we will, remain as one humanity among all of our differences. Whether we are judged as a whole, or one by one, it will be as humans.
I pray that our collective human spirit is consistently replenished by the comfort and goodness you feel when you remember that that little light of yours (your own humanity), links you to everyone and everything else, and maybe even the great beyond. No matter what tomorrow brings, may peace be with you all, and always.
EDIT 5/25/2011: It was nice to see noted poet Maya Angelou interviewed on CNN.com, talking in a similar way about our shared humanity, and how the strength of our basic design/humanity comes through, especially in tough times.