Awakening to a conspiracy

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated October 23, 2011

We did not choose our parents, or relatives. We had no choice in choosing the sex we were born with. Consider the geography of where you were born, and I am pretty sure it was not your choosing.

A few other things were pretty much determined for us as well — our place and ranking, sequence–wise, in our families, left or right-handedness, social class, our DNA that pretty much determines the unfolding and the unraveling of how our physical bodies play out in terms of height, complexion, hair color, body type, eye color, general health, intelligence, etc.

If you were hardware, you were pretty much pre-configured when your parents had you, with a lot of software apps and bugs thrown in. With the proper food, nutrition and care, one can say that you will generally be expected to play out your life within some expected parameters. If you were born short or sickly, for example, you probably would avoid certain athletic activities, like basketball, as you grew up.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. There are many stories about people who broke with their past, went against their history and pulled off incredible surprises, and in the process, told marvelous stories of unlimited human potential.

But let me go back to where I started. I wish to explore the view of archetypal psychologist James Hillman who suggests that perhaps certain things were meant to be. In his book, The Soul’s Code, he wrote about the strangeness of certain human stories: a stranger comes to town, has a night of passion with a local girl who conceives a child after the brief encounter. Hillman suggests that, perhaps, the heavens conspired for these certain gene types to meet and result in humans with specific characteristics and talents to be born and carry out certain specific divine missions. In short, the meeting was pre-ordained to produce the “right stuff.” What a staggering thought!

Now walk with me on this and extend that idea further: that everyone you meet, and every place you are in, and every circumstance you find yourself enmeshed in is divinely meant to be. I know that the very concept of pre-determination goes against the grain of freedom, free will and the belief that one is the architect of one’s own life, concepts that are so ingrained in the modern mind.

But the very idea that everything that happens in life is part of a divine plan playing out has its many epiphanies. Sometimes, as I amble along my favorite walking paths in the Ateneo campus in Loyola, I spot new floral buds in a bunch of varied plants, or fallen leaves beautifully scattered about in artful randomness. I also detect the chirping of different birds, the growth of new grass, the cloud formations, other strangers traversing the same path, and a million other things happening. In those moments, I allow the idea of pre-determination to take hold and think that these are actually phenomena thrown along my life path for me to acknowledge and appreciate.

When I go with that thought and consider that their showing up at that exact moment in my life is a fulfillment of their divine mission and “appointment” with me, I reel in pure delight and enchantment.

The exquisiteness of the timing, the perfect divine staging is impeccable.

When I extend the idea to other activities like my meals, for example, I can’t help but have a holy appreciation for the rice, the fish and vegetables on the table, and the glass of water that is served me. I wax mystical at the particularity of the specific objects in front of me and I am left to wonder even more.

If I imagine that this particular fish on the table is here to keep his appointment with me for this specific meal held at this time and place, then I marvel even more at the elaborateness of the “conspiracy.”

This conspiracy is endlessly intricate and goes ever deeper involving countless people, events and things: from my maid who prepared and cooked it, to the market vendor who sold it, to the fisherman who caught it, to the ocean that nourished it. It goes on and on to the beginning of time itself. Could these be more than just random human activities at play here?

Einstein once said “God does not play dice,” implying that there is an intelligence unfolding in the universe, and the events that unfold are not as random and mindless as they seem to be. Perhaps it is true. I really don’t know.

But what I do know is that our intelligence is not evolved enough to figure out everything, including the simple question we often ask when things go wrong: “Why do these things happen to me?”

Sometimes, I am tempted to go along fully with the thought that everything does and will indeed happen as well and perfectly as they should, regardless of how we feel about it. We don’t know what they are, or when, much less why they happen. But having the frame of mind that events in the world are keeping their “appointments” awakens me to the genius who wrote the appointment book.

And being awake to this is the most holy way I can respond to such an eternal, elaborately divine effort. It awakens me to the notion that my own life is part of the big conspiracy, the cosmic plan. When I pay attention to any small thing — a scenery, a flower, a person, a conversation, a glance; when I notice the ordinary; when I have empathy, I may be consciously doing my part in the scheme of things. Paying attention is my way of fulfilling the “appointment” to the best of my ability.

I am not being self-absorbed here thinking that everything happens exclusively to a “me” that is experiencing everything. The universe does not revolve around me. I humbly submit to the reality that I am also a cog in someone’s wheel of life experiences. I play my part when I meet other people and probably play it very well when I am attentive, loving, joyful, compassionate and non-judgmental.

The implications of are mind-boggling. For one, it opens me up to the idea that every mundane thing, event, every person is special. But then, when everyone and everything is “special,” nothing is really special — a sure paradox.

In a paradox, words trip and talk in seeming contradiction to capture a reality too big to imagine, as in “One must lose his life to gain it.”

And I know for certain that, where there is paradox, there lies a beautiful, eternal truth.

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