We like to think of the hardcore “scene” as a place where one thinks for oneself, where one questions the workings of society, questions authority, and refuses to live blindly by the dictums of the mainstream. Yet, if one is content with answers like “I’m just here,” “I don’t need a purpose,” “I just eat, sleep, go to work, and have fun when I can,” “Fuck it, we’re all going to die anyway,” or “The world sucks, what does it matter?” then by all means, be satisfied with your feelings. But do any of us feel differently? Are explanations as to why we live the lives we do deeper and more significant than we realize? Responses like those just mentioned are not contrived. Utterances of the kind can be heard almost daily. And while we all may be guilty of succumbing to the strongarm of complacency and apathy every now and then, it is Undying’s hope that maybe, just maybe, life means a little more than meets the eye.
Existence And Purpose
I once asked a devout Christian “What is your purpose here on earth?” After a mere few seconds of thought he answered, “To live by the teachings of Jesus Christ and serve the Lord.” I then stated, “And that’s it, that’s your reason for living?” He exclaimed, “It’s the only reason.” That is a very powerful assertion. In fact, it is one of a rather normal tendency, living in the aptly-named “Bible Belt” that runs through America’s South. It’s an answer that shouldn’t surprise anyone, for we live in a world where over one billion people claim to worship Jesus Christ in one form or another and stake claim in him as their personal savior.
Take a look at your life and think about what you do from day to day. Can you answer the question “What is my purpose here on earth?” or “What are my reasons for living?” At the very least it should take a minuscule amount of thought and introspection. Pondering a question of such complicated character may even cause frustration, a sense of confusion, or feelings of inundation and anxiety. You should not be surprised if you think this question is too difficult to be answered completely. Any answer such as the one given by our loving Christian is bound to be backed by information and reasoning not easily delved from the mind. In fact, I would wager that most people have a reason or reasons for both living or dying, and a purpose/purposes for existing, but that we can never truly know to a full extent what those meanings in life are or what our reasons or purposes for living are? But one thing is certain. We can question ourselves. In turn, those questions may lead to more questions, and in the end guide us to a better understanding of why we think or act as we do.
What is our purpose as a species? What is our relationship with the universe? the world? God? the gods? Do not for a moment believe there are simple answers. These questions are simply posed as instruments for understanding firstly, who you as an individual are, so that maybe some of your personal desires, dreams, hopes, and feelings may come to light and help you grow - and secondly, to understand the drives, motives, desires, and feelings inherent in our society/culture. Who are we, as individuals and as people of a particular culture? What are we progressing towards and why is that so?
The Eyes Through Which We See The World
Each of us attempt to answer some of the aforementioned questions as we begin to grow up and age in this world. These questions help form, and eventually constitute, our worldview, or more aptly put, how we see the world. Our worldview is a philosophy or conception, both personal and cultural (being individuals comprising a culture), of the world and human life. While we may live out our worldview consciously, in the height of our waking hours, we process this very same worldview unconsciously as well. Our worldview is in turn influenced and molded by many factors, one of which is a story. Let’s discuss some of the shaping factors of our worldviews, then proceed to examine some of the stories we’ve incorporated into our current mindset and daily living routines.
From the minute we enter this world as babies we begin to assimilate and take in everything around us. We become a part of the lifestyle we are surrounded by. We begin to think as our parents and friends would have us think. We begin to think and act as the people on television would like us to think and act. The media, our parents (who were consumed by the same worldview we now possess), books, schools, friends - in effect, everything around us - shapes us. From the moment of birth, each individual’s life is affected by each and every stimuli around them. Early childhood is one in which a child first assimilates colors, sounds, objects of taste and touch. We are masses of sensorimotor flesh, machines of perception and sensation - needing input, craving knowledge, and storing information in our brains about our external worlds, to be accessed and utilized later in life.
As we age, our thoughts become more abstract, and we soon begin to turn our perceived worlds into complex ideas. The world is no longer a simple place explicable in a few short words. The world becomes both a more beautiful and horrifying place, because we soon learn about the many facets of life. We discover words that seem to describe new feelings, emotions, ambitions, and drives, all of which have been acquired through our experience and interaction with people and objects in the world - both animate and inanimate. Sounds simple enough, but let’s add in culture.
Culture - the ideas, customs, skills, arts, mythology, etc. of a people or group, that are transferred, communicated, or passed along to succeeding generations. It is virtually impossible to age and not be influenced by culture, unless you are raised in a plastic bubble somewhere, simply fed, bathed, provided a place to sleep, and then completely cut off to anything outside that environment. In other words, we are social beings. You and I are the products of a unique genetic makeup and our own respective environments - culture being the largest of environmental influences.
A Story To Set Things Straight
It seems to be apparent that every culture throughout history has developed a story that places itself in the scheme of things. These stories touch upon the questions mentioned earlier. “What is our relationship with God/the gods? What is our relationship with the Earth? What is our purpose here on Earth?” One of the most intriguing questions a child may ask is “How did I get here?” Let’s push the question a step further - “how did humans get here?” For while it is absolutely amazing how each one of us as individuals “came into being,” and subsequently how and why we are still “becoming,” we should also be concerned with how humans as a species “came into being,” and what we are “becoming.” Furthermore, “where we are headed?” Let’s now put forth a few dominating themes/stories that touch upon the topic of humanity’s birth and humankind’s place in the world. These stories are intertwined with and inseparable from our personal and cultural worldviews, and as we’ll soon see, are indeed a part of our cultural mythology.
Yes, we do have mythology, just as most cultures of the past used to have. Mythology is lived. It is a breathing ground; a reason for a peoples’ existence. Just as the Greeks had hundreds of gods who defined their lives, so too do we have gods and beliefs that justify our lives. We call their gods myth, as something dead and of no meaningful use to us now, and we are justified in saying so, but during their time on earth, those “gods of myth” were very real - very much alive and true. The same can be said of all other pre-modern cultures- African, American, European, Australian, Arctic, and Asian. It’s only a matter of studying and exploring what different cultures left behind for us to appreciate the value these different groups of people placed in their gods. But what of contemporary cultures? We’ll soon see the value we place in our gods and beliefs.
The first two stories we are about to examine appear to be a brief overview of the typical creationist/evolutionist argument, but we will soon see that they are one in the same as far as our cultural worldview and mythology (and consequently 99% of the world’s population) are concerned. The simple fact is that we live in a society where these two stories dominate our way of thinking. The debate continues unchecked today. Who are the creationists? Who are the evolutionists? Who’s right? Who’s wrong? And on and on - with knives to throat and pens to paper (sowing seemingly meaningless legislation). It’s as if we possess an adamant need to prove to one another who or what is right or wrong. But the lives we live, the things we do as a species - often unspeakable, incommunicable, undetectable - is what makes our mythology so real and this argument trivial.
The third story is a little less popular. In fact, it is a story that is no longer lived out except in a few places where tribal cultures still exist in this world. It is a story, as we will come to see, that works. It is a story that has been a part of tribal cultures since the inception of humankind. And in that respect, we should examine what remains of tribal lifestyles. Let’s investigate.
The World Was Created Several Thousand Years Ago... And So Was Humanity And Life (AKA - The Creationist’s Story)
Do you believe that this world was created a mere ten thousand years ago or less, and along with this creation was the introduction of all life, human and nonhuman? How can we prove that the world was created, let’s say, five or six thousand years ago? We can create a story, as do some organized religions. For example, many Christians believe a great ark spawned forth all life via God’s will. To believe this is to accept the writings of the Old Testament and furthermore, the Book of Genesis, one of the “oldest” books in the Bible, written roughly 2500-4000 years ago. Are these the words of men or the words of god? Who witnessed this event? To believe this story is to very much have faith in a “god” and faith in the writers and translators of the Bible. Nonetheless, we cannot prove or disprove this story. We must rely on blind faith, tradition, and the words of prophets and messiahs if this is the story we are to incorporate into our worldview. In a world largely dominated by Christocentric thinking, we can see why so many people may believe this story of creation. (**It should be noted that this story is losing it’s popularity among people of the world over, but so-called “Christian Scientists” are doing their best to make sure Christianity still has it’s proper place in the story of humankind and the earth. What is their reasoning? They are compromising some of the facts of the Bible with modern theories of evolution. They want to be empirical. They want to make their god “a living testament” - someone or something that can be seen and proven).
Furthermore, if we choose NOT to see the world any other way, or falsely believe that this is the ONE RIGHT story as to how humans got here, then we are left to surrender ourselves to the ranks of bigotry and ignorance. Many people fill those ranks today. How many religious wars have been fought over the mere convictions of faith and the laws of gods? How many humans have condemned other human beings to eternal lives in a hell, backed solely by their faith and reason and the power of their gods? This story is not unique to Christians alone. Check out theories proposed by certain sects of Islam and Buddhism. They more or less espouse the same notion - that the earth and humankind were born several thousand years ago, and that salvation (be it a higher state of mind, escape from the cycle of misery here on earth, or a simple saving of the soul) lie in our utilizing the proper means, modes, or methods necessary to attain that salvation. The only difference is they simply mix and match, create different characters, appoint someone as more divine or spiritual than the average human being, and tell us that the keys to salvation and happiness lie in our living by their laws, worshipping their gods, and submitting to their saviors.
The World Is Very Old And Everything Evolved (AKA - The Evolutionist’s View)
Do you believe that the earth and life have been around for millions of years, and that humanity was introduced (or appeared) only a few thousand years ago? That somehow the processes of evolution were working from the time when single-celled organisms moved about, and that humans are the most recent step in this process? This story asserts that the earth, and coincidentally life, be it plants, minerals, chemicals, etc., have been around for a very long time, maybe even billions of years. We cannot conceive of this amount of time because our lives are so incredibly short, but we may accept it, and we may say “Yeah, I don’t know what was going on during that time, but something was happening.”
This view has been propounded with the help of recent technology and modern fields of academic study, such as archaeology and paleontology. People working in these fields have uncovered undeniable evidence that verifies the fact that humans and other species and life forms have been around for a very long time. With the aid of carbon-dating, we can dig up and examine fossils, draw hypotheses about certain species (where did they come from? how long did they live on the earth?), and ultimately put together a mosaic as to how life on earth transformed over its billion-year plus existence. This story has become our theory of evolution.
Again, we cannot prove or disprove this story, but it gains a great deal of merit through it’s empirical validity. What’s important about this theory is that we now jump from the belief that the world was created several thousand years ago and make the acknowledgment “The world is very old.” The exact beginning of “life” is unknowable, and unprovable. It’s not a very significant step, but a change nonetheless. We will get to the third story very shortly, but now onto mythology!
The World Was Made For Man
While many people may argue over the so-called “facts” of creation/ evolution, there is a certain story inherent in both of them that constitute the framework of our cultural mythology. So whether you’re atheist or Christian, agnostic or Moslem, pagan or Buddhist - you may come to see that you have more in common than previously thought. For while everyone may disagree as to how old the earth is and how old humanity is, it is generally agreed upon that things really started rolling around five to ten thousand years ago. And so our cultural mythology states, “What really matters is that humans came along and made the world what it is now.”
For creationist theories, mythology is simple. We are the rulers of the world, and our dominion is sanctioned by an omnipotent, omniscient, divine being and “His” magistrates in heaven (or some other unearthly place). The laws they follow were written by men, but ordained and inspired by “God.” Creationists, particularly Bible-bearing Christians, use religious delusion to propagate their story, and they can back it up by saying “God said this or God said that.” Thus, they justify our exploitation of the earth’s resources, because after all, those resources were put here by God for us to use at will. The world is a stage, and we are the actors. Everything else - the animals, plants, etc. - those are stage props for a human drama. The book of genesis says something to the effect - “God gave Man dominion over every plant and animal on the earth, so that He may use it as He sees fit.” A very dangerous story indeed, if you consider the destruction and carelessness we are involved in today.
For those privy to the theory of evolution, life began for us about ten thousand years ago in the Near East Mesopotamia region. This is where humanity got its start. This is where all scientists and historians agree that civilization was born (**coincidentally, Christianity marks the Fall of Man as beginning about ten thousand years ago in the Garden Of Eden.) This is where the inception of territorial expansion, at an alarming rate, can be traced. This is where one lifestyle began to flourish and spread it’s way across the continents and seas, where it now nearly engulfs the entire world, except where a few thousand tribal peoples still remain relatively untouched.
It’s also where a style of agriculture, a lifestyle, was first implemented that accelerated population growth for the group of people inhabiting that region. And grow they did - across the Near East, Middle East, Europe, Asia, Africa, and eventually the Americas. For what does a growing population need but more room and more food? Along with this expansion came an increasingly complex world, and eventually tribes were replaced by towns, cities, and kingdoms. Communities and societies were born..... and now you see what we have today. The gifts of civilization and technology. It’s indeed much more complicated than this, but an overview is necessary in order to examine the issue in more depth later.
Evolutionists say that we are the end products of something that was destined to happen. It’s as if we are the final product of evolution. We are the pinnacle of creation. Everything was fine while it worked for millions of years, but it was not very meaningful. What is meaningful is that we are here now, and that we are creating this civilization and lives worth living because we are more intelligent than in the past. We now have more knowledge, and hence, better tools, and we can outsmart the forces of “Nature.” A hurricane will not destroy us because we can track it and prepare. We grasp for control, but can we ever really control everything around us? We act as if we can, and then we are surprised when the earth fights back. We call it “Nature’s Wrath,” or, “The Untamed Beast.” We really love glorified tales about Nature killing one of our own, as if this entity called Nature is a foe lying in wait. But who is the enemy of whom?
This story also leads us to believe that “the earth was destined to be like this and we were destined to rule it. It was our destiny to end up where we are now. This is what makes us a great species. What we were really meant for was all the gadgets and toys that make life so wonderful now. People may have been around millions of years ago, but they were bored and lived dull lives. They ate distasteful food and worked long, laborious days just to obtain that food (hmmm, isn’t that true today as well?). But history, our history, now that is important. Before the birth of this culture, well that is ‘prehistory,’ something not worth studying because one - it’s hard to study, and two - it doesn’t matter (**another interesting note is historians’ quickness to call everything before ten thousand years ago ‘prehistory.’ What is history if it is not OUR history? The plot thickens as the lies increase). What matters is the present, and the past is something that should be forgotten.” But in forgetting we may have lost something important - the knowledge that helped us live relatively nondestructive lives for millions of years.
The Community Of Life And Humanity’s Place In It (AKA The Forgotten Story)
This is the story of a billion year old earth where humans evolved from the community of life around them. This view asserts that humankind evolved from primates and then eventually lived as tribal peoples throughout the Old World and eventually the New World as well. Everything that the evolutionist’s story accounts for, but unlike story two, this view asserts that not only did humans live for millions of years before our time, but during those millions of years we lived very meaningful lives. We did not have technology or kingdoms three million years ago, but instead we hunted and gathered food, sporadically warred with other tribes, and in essence lived as a vital member in the community of life. We were created in the lap of our mother Earth, and it is from the cradle of this earth that human beings learned how to live. And so it goes that the several groups of humans lived on this planet millions of years ago and evolved like the wolves and snakes. Humanity was born of the earth.
Each individual group of human beings that inhabited the planet millions of years ago learned their own respective ways of living. They lived by the laws that had worked for thousands of years, like the laws followed by the birds and bees. These are the laws of nature and survival - unwritten but followed by every species on the planet. What worked for them continued to work, and what didn’t work, what didn’t allow the species to continue to flourish, was weeded out. This is known as social evolution. Birds learned to fly and migrate b/c it worked for them. Those who did not migrate died. Those who did not fly did not survive. What works is represented in years to come, and it takes a very long time, sometimes thousands of years, for an evolutionarily stable trend to take effect. In fact, a behavior or adaptation may become so necessary to a species’ survival that it becomes hardwired into their genetic makeup. A sudden change in the environment, as has been evidenced over the past ten thousand years, means a species must adapt or face extinction. And that’s the question we face today - is extinction imminent?
Is There Hope? Can We Control Our Fate?
Why is it so important that we question our worldview and cultural story? Well, the worldview we’ve internalized as a culture is one that sets us apart from the world, makes us enemies of that world, places mankind as ruler and conqueror of everything, and in essence, is forcing us down a brutal path of destruction. But this end, which so many of us have come to expect, does not have to be. We can change our fate. Anyone, and subsequently any group of people, can change their fate, and say “NO” to someone else’s (or the entire culture’s) false notions of destiny.
To the few tribal lifestyles that remain today, there is little hope for survival. This civilization has crushed cultures under the weight of a burden too tremendous to bear. It’s not as if we should return to the way people lived thousands or even millions of years ago, but what we must know and understand is the survival value and lessons to be learned from those lifestyles. The earth thrives off cultural diversity, and it stayed in ecological balance and harmony for nearly three million years while hundreds of cultures roamed the continents. What we see today is one culture, one way of life, forcing everything into submission, and offering the dictums “this is the one right way to live. No other way of living is worthwhile. The earth was made for man and should be conquered and controlled by man. We were destined to rule the earth. Nature is a wrath we must tame. Chaos is dangerous. Order and stability is what we need in our lives.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
In some sense though, many of us don’t care about our story as a people or a race. These feelings are indicative of the indifference and frustration we may feel living in contemporary, technological society. We may be content with how we got here, or how our lives have been lived out, but I know many people who do not care at all. They do not like to think. They take life for what it is and are happy to accept the complacency of their routine. Should we walk hand in hand alongside apathy and never question our existence or purpose? Let’s not be the ones that turn our back on the world. Let’s pinpoint our purpose and desire and create lives worth living - a story worth living.
For if we are not afraid to examine our lives, then we will not live in fear, and that will be one step closer to true freedom. To a certain extent, all we really need to know is how to be to work on time, how to operate a vehicle, how to pay the bills, how to socialize with people in social situations - everything that helps us maintain a healthy status in modern day society. But did you understand any of the stories above? Were you familiar with any aspect of our cultural mythology? Now, is it possible that the way you live or the way you think is partially influenced by one of these stories, and subsequently your worldview is as well, and maybe, just maybe, you are influenced in ways you never thought possible.
So you see that the world is not as simple as we first thought. Our worldviews and stories are very important to us as individuals. I believe we all strive for happiness in the end, and sometimes it’s very hard to make sense of this world. Sometimes it’s as if we have no choice but to accept the devastation, to accept the ignorance, and continue our own personal journeys alone. But question yourself. Question your world. Are those around you living as you do? Are you slaving away at some menial job and life sometimes feels as if it isn’t worth living? Do you feel despondent, as if the world needs help and you are powerless to affect any change? Are you destined to what you’ve become? Our fate as a species does not lie in the actions of a few conspirators, and neither do our individual lives lie in the hands of a few. It lies in our own actions, as individuals who live on this planet and who create our own individual worlds inside and outside of ourselves. We must question EVERYTHING. Nothing should go unanswered. We should be in a neverending quest to seek out a truth for ourselves, to make decisions based on a well thought-out inquiry.
This Day All Gods Die
We’ve said it before, and we say it again now. Destroy the beliefs that make your life miserable. Destroy the falsehoods our culture insist are ultimate truths. Dispel the lies Mother Culture says we can’t live without. Then create and choose your own way of life, fulfill your own destiny, and live it so that others may see and learn from your example. It simply means that you may get something positive from one person, and something else positive or negative from another, and only after weighing the options thoroughly and thoughtfully are you well on your way to becoming YOURSELF. There are people doing what they deem necessary to change things - in effect, to make the world a better place. This world - our communities, our friends - need someone to step forward. A change must come, and it must come now.
One Last Thought
Many Indian tribes (the peoples who lived on the North and South American continents) believed that the Great Spirit delivered them to the earth a long, long time ago. They had myths and stories, folklore if you will, that told of their ancestors’ heroic adventures in this beautiful world of ours. They told stories of a beautiful Indian woman who was the first human being to ever walk the earth, and how she created all the creatures so that they may help one another and live together so that all may benefit. Some told of the four winds delivering them to and from this earth, and how the Great Spirit took care of their needs. Can we prove or disprove these stories? No. But what made them meaningful was the fact that they lived it. They sometimes were unaware that they even believed their story, because it was a part of them that they had learned from birth. Their parents taught it to them through their actions. Their friends learned it from their parents and in turn friends learned from friends. Campfires were filled with stories about how Indians came to be. And like those Indians of not so long ago, we, this version of humanity, now recklessly roaming the earth and building towers of concrete and steel - we have a story. We have learned it from birth. It has been whispered in our ears a millions times. We don’t consciously listen to it any longer, but it is there everyday. Do you know what your worldview is? Can you read the pages of the story you’re living?