Skip to content

Meant To Be

by on May 25, 2018

Meant To Be

by Marco M. Pardi

The great appeal of fatalism….is as a refuge

from the terror of responsibility.”

Arthur M. Schlesinger. “The Decline of

Greatness”

Comments are strongly encouraged and will each receive a response.

I’ve always viewed that phrase, meant to be, as a slightly more eloquent way of saying I dunno. It comes easily to mind as it has perhaps the broadest of potential applications from the cosmic to the mundane. It reminds me of the insipid response clerics often give to questions of doctrine: “It will all be revealed after you die.” Great. Looking forward to it.

In recent years we’ve heard much about the “Goldilocks Zone”, the place of the Earth in the solar system, not too hot and not too cold which allows life as we know it to exist on this watery rock. Predictably, there are those who tout this as proof of design, as if it were meant to be. First year logic students understand this thinking as regressive; citing supposed effect as proof of a presumed cause. Anyone even vaguely familiar with horse dentition knows of the large gap between the incisors and the 1st molars. Should we then conclude the gap was “designed” to, thousands of years in the future of horse evolution, accept the bit?

As is common among the design crowd, claimed effects are pre-loaded with anthropocentric bias and even Earth centered bias. The universe contains billions of solar systems. The probability of widely spread and numerous “Goldilocks zones” approaches certainty. Especially as we come to understand the long discredited and now accepted concept of panspermia we come to accept the probability that life elsewhere includes the development of human like forms among many others. In fact, our concepts of “life” have changed dramatically as our improving technology enables us to find it.

Chemosynthetic bacteria and Archaea thrive in the superheated water and crushing pressure around Earth’s hydrothermic vents. Hydrothermic vents are thought to exist on Jupiter’s moon, Europa and Saturn’s moon, Enceladus. A virtual blanket of bacteria lives happily in Earth’s ionosphere, in the highest and coldest reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. Archaea is now recognized as a third form of life: Animal Kingdom; Plant Kingdom; and Archaea Domain. The most common forms of microbial Archaea live happily in mud, eating free electrons. That’s right. They eat electricity. So as we increasingly come to know certain things we increasingly come to understand that what we don’t know is probably expanding at an even greater rate. And this is not even mentioning the weird quantum world. In perfect vacuums particles appear, zip around, and annihilate each other on contact. Where from? Where to? Something out of nothing? Design, causality, and “meant to be” retreat further into the embarrassing background of “Well, that’s what people used to think.”

But wait, there’s more! Most people are aware of the conclusion that the dinosaurs were wiped out by the aftereffects of an asteroid strike. What some seem to be missing is that, Goldilocks Zone or not, we are really not much closer to preventing a recurrence of an asteroid strike than the dinosaurs initially were. We do track N.E.O.s, Near Earth Objects, but we are limited in our ability to detect objects below a certain size. And, we would have little time to muster even an experimental response should one clearly have Earth in its sights. Scary, but at least we would likely have time to say our good-byes. Also up for consideration is the probability of a Supernova sending a blast of Earth sterilizing radiation at us so quickly we would not have time to say, But this was not meant to be. Stargazing on a peaceful night makes it difficult for some to understand that the universe is a chaotic and violent place. Fair Play is a local concept.

Well, I’m still sitting here typing this. Whether you and I will still be here and there by the time I post this is another matter. So let’s put our blinkers on and think about ourselves. I’m betting that most, if not all of us, have had some question answered with, “It was meant to be.” One is expected to respond with a weighed and considered “Yup. I guess so.” Sometimes the issue in question deserves little more than that. At other times, it is ominous. We Gilmour boys were expected to establish relationships with the Beaumont girls. All chaperoned and supervised, of course. Enrollment in either prep school signaled one’s worthiness financially, socially, intellectually, and – presumably, religiously. No need for background checks. They are so crass, after all. One lovely young lady with whom I paired up on our contrived social occasions, this one being an afternoon dance in the gymnasium, assured me quietly we were “Meant to be”. My first thought was, I’m too young to die. But that was just emotional. Almost as quickly my intellect kicked in and I wondered, Meant by whom? Or what?

In any event, we never did “be”, whatever that meant. My family moved out of state, taking me with them. And she, presumably, went on to graduate and take the Grand Tour, becoming familiarized to all things European. Well, most things European. But 60 years later I remember her. Why?

Especially during or after unpleasant relationships I’ve heard people say, That person was put in your life for a reason. I suppose comments like that are presumed to be consoling. But the acceptance of such a statement seems to me the height of hubris; another fully valid, autonomous, and vibrant human being was “put in my life for a reason”? Just who am I that people should be made to appear and disappear to serve some purpose for me? How utterly narcissist!

Yet, I can readily recount episodes in which, had a particular person or persons not been “in my life” at the time I am certain I would not be sitting here typing this now. Those would have been bad episodes. Or, had I extended my last military/government tour as I very nearly did I would not have met the woman I did and subsequently had the amazing daughter and grandchildren I now have. Those are the best episodes. My daughter has said she would have “found” me even had I married someone else. Was she “meant to be” my daughter?

So, looking back at a long life – as us old folks tend to do, I see patterns which cannot be denied; things did not just fall into place. In one case a very serious problem which I had no way to foresee was averted by the entry, weeks before the problem arose, of a person into my life whom I would likely never have chosen to associate with but did, for reasons which were unclear to me at the time. And patterns like that have appeared frequently in my life.

Maybe that pin ball machine model I envisioned for so long is not really appropriate. Or maybe I should study more closely how the ball interacts with the elements on the board. Maybe I should have paid more attention to fluid dynamics, or Chaos Theory. Maybe I should have been a Buddhist monk after all.

There have been many people in my life. And, the more I look at patterns the less able I am to say this one was good or this one was bad. They were. That’s all. And, the more I look at patterns the more I discover and realize what meaning I may have had in the lives of others. Yes, over the years several people have told me of the beneficial effects my presence in their life brought them. I always get very, very uncomfortable with that. I like to know good things came of it but I do not want to hear that directly from the person. I really don’t.

On the other hand, it would be nice to be able to provide that same information to all the people who have had meaning in my life. Not likely possible. Many have died and many would probably not remember me anyway.

All this pattern stuff, even in the midst of cosmic chaos (or maybe I see chaos because I’m not seeing the patterns), has drawn me to the conclusion that the universe – Allness in its timeless and shapeless reality – is conscious. I’m aware that an increasing number of scientists are also concluding this, but I’m not trying to join anyone. Decades ago I was enthralled with the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, particularly his work The Hymn of the Universe. It spoke to me of pantheism, a divine oneness out of which the emergence of a singular god would be illogical. In fact, to me that concept of a singular god never made any sense and still doesn’t. My very early question in response to the glib statement, It was meant to be, was, by whom? But once free of the whom we are open to the what, as captured in the Sanskrit phrase Tat Tvam Asi – That Thou Art. The phrase is used to direct one’s attention to Allness, to awaken the mind to patterns of relationship, to expose our “if only-s” as wisps, to portray Meaning without the knee jerk search for a reason, an agenda behind the meaning. Meant to be implies temporality, a then and a now. Meaning simply is. A sand mandala. Which can be blown away in an instant.

Advertisements

From → Uncategorized

17 Comments
  1. Mark Dohle permalink

    Perspective is everything, my friend. It is our starting point that will dictate how we look at life or interrupt it. I would think that none of us has the ‘answer’ if you mean some sort of understanding of the Universe or the mystery of consciousness that will bring closure to our questions. Perhaps we get too heady… I know I do. Our minds, as deep and powerful as they are can only ‘get’ so much.

    God? I think our ideas about God are either false or very limited. How can the Infinite communicate to the finite mind? As a Christian, I would say ‘It’ revealed himself, as much as ‘It’ could through Jesus. Yet, how much do we understand. Very little I believe.

    The finite mind is in a very big prison, the Universe. We are still not at the end of our knowledge, probably never will be, yet, there are limitations that we don’t know about yet.

    I do think that our deepest longings, apart from our philosophies and theology, point the way. So ‘
    Agape’ could be an actual revelation about the nature of reality. Of course, love can be harder and stronger than death, so there is not always much comfort in that.

    For me the Universe points to a ‘Mind’, unencumbered thinking, way beyond anything I can understand, I believe.

    Transcendence and immanence have to go together, one without the others makes things absurd, at least for me.

    Good post my friend, as usual.

    Peace
    Mark

  2. Thank you, Mark. Your points about consciousness are powerful, especially as we still cannot scientifically define it or point to its origins.

    I like your use of “it”. A God defined as one or the other sex makes half a God – or less, as we seem to be discovering new sexes or genders these days.

    I think I’ve made progress in understanding the role people I thought were “bad” played in my unfolding, but I’m not at Agape yet. I suspect I won’t get there, at least not in this form.

    I would like to read more about your matrix of transcendence and immanence.

    • Mark Dohle permalink

      First of all, when I say ‘it’, I am not lessening what I believe is the nature of God, which is love but pointing to ‘something’ way beyond our comprehension.

      I do believe when people make the “G-D” “Immanent”, which would be pantheism. Or “transcendent” only, which is deism… the two concepts become time-bound, or part of creation, They become ‘somewhere’. Deism, makes the creator a part of creation ( a contradiction), sort of like a demiurge, an add-on etc. When thought of as ‘one’, then it goes way beyond what we would consider ‘creation’. In any case, words limit, but are necessary. Hmmm not sure this makes any sense all LOL.

      Quote from St. John of the Cross (doctor of the church)

      “What God communicates to the soul in this intimate union is totally beyond words. One can say nothing about it just as one can say nothing about God Himself that resembles Him. For in the transformation of the soul in God, it is God who communicates Himself with admirable glory. In this transformation, the two become one, as we would say of the window united with the ray of sunlight, or of the coal with the fire, or of the starlight with the light of the Sun. (1)

      … The soul thereby becomes divine, becomes God, through participation, insofar as is possible in this life. … The union wrought between the two natures, and the communication of the divine to the human in this state is such that even though neither changes their being, both appear to be God. (2)

      • This puts me in mind of the underlying principle of Buddhism: The discovery is participatory. When one realizes “the answer” is not outside the self one discovers the fullness of Self – the Absolute. People who sit all day waiting for enlightenment will never get there because, like the spastic with the beach ball they keep kicking it away as they reach for it.

        Nikos Kazantsakis captured this in his book Saint Francis of Assisi. “Who is there?” “It is thou, lord” I’ll have to explain that quote in full detail at some point.

      • Mark Dohle permalink

        There is a level where all seekers can speak and truly see each other. It is getting through the stereotypes and prejudices that can be difficult. Seeking is not a sport, nor is it based on convincing anyone, or winning, but sharing on a deep level.

        I was once talking to one of our retreatants and we were talking about how we dealt with our inner life. so we both shared. When we finished, she told me I sounded more like a Trantic Buddhist monk. Not sure what to make of that. I am not a Buddhist, but will often feel comfortable with their understanding of the mind, how it works etc.

        Peace
        Mark

      • Mark. I would have liked to have been there when your retreatant described you. The Tantric tradition is in two parts: Left Handed Tantra (fully engaged in life) and Right Handed Tantra (severely withdrawn from life). I suspect this person was referring to some aspects of Left, but one should be careful in citing this as it, too, can be extreme.

      • Mark Dohle permalink

        I see your point, Marco. However, I do not consider myself a Buddhist or tantric. I was talking with the woman, about how I use my emotions, my negative, painful ones, as a source of prayer, the energy like any other can be used in a way that breaks through fear and the endless fighting of self that leads away from the ‘self-love’ that I believe we are commanded to develop. That cannot be done without some depth of self-knowledge. In monastic practice this is important, but I believe important for everyone.

        Love, infinite love, I believe is the most powerful force, none other can compete. Yet it is based on paradox. I believe the sermon on the mount, and the 13th chapter of 1st Corinthians, as well as the parable/story of the adventures of the Prodigal point to this.

        Peace
        Mark

  3. As I am without doubt one of the persons whose words made you uncomfortable, I can only apologize for their writing. Some words, at the time of their utterance, seem necessary.

    My father always said that you don’t miss what you have never had; I find no reason to argue with his logic. Would the life lessons I have learned through knowing you have come to me in some other way without your presence? Possibly; there is no doubt that my life would have been different, but I wouldn’t be aware of that. I would only know what was, and not what could have been.

    This is another of those “destiny versus free will” sort of conundrums. The unusual string of events that lead up to me being exposed to you lets me believe that, to this point, destiny had a hand in our meeting. I’m positive you didn’t notice me sitting in that art history class, but you made quite the interesting impression. I chose to learn more from you, and the rest, as they say, is history.

    Other things and people in my life have felt “meant to be”, but I am more than aware that it was by my choices that what resulted came about. For good or ill, I choose now to have no regrets, for each moment in its fullness has lead me to be the person I am now. If I had somehow avoided the not-so-good, the pain and anger and sorrow of it all… but we’ll never know, will we?

    • Thank you, Rose. I was afraid that would happen and it was all my doing for not clarifying much earlier. I guess that’s a singular quirk of mine; compliments were very rare in my growing up years. I’ve just never made that clear before.

      I also occasionally muse on what life might have been like had I (fill in the blank). And I realize even the most minute alteration, like that Ray Bradbury story about going back in time, would have had profound consequences which I would have thought of as normal. As you know, there is a strong hypothesis that we live in an infinity of parallel universes, each of which carrying a version of ourselves. Having an overview of that would be amazing probably beyond my ability to cope.

      • I understand. Like you, I have had so few compliments in my growing up years that I don’t know how to react to them in any positive way. I have sensed your withdrawal from those conversations in which I have spoken of your value to me, so while I can’t make any promises it won’t happen again, I will now be aware of your discomfort, and attempt to keep it to a minimum. Please don’t think I am upset other than with myself. Rose

  4. p.s.; I find it mildly amusing and deeply comforting that the three of us have come on separate paths to such similar conclusions. I have long believed in a universal (and therefore infinite) consciousness from which we come, and to which we will return. You call it Allness. Br. Mark calls it God’s Heaven. My friends, it seems we still have much to share, and to learn from each other.

    • One must wonder how many other minds are in synch and will never know it. One of my great joys has been meeting people in very different cultures and adaptations and, once we wiggle through the language issues, finding how deep and expansive are the thoughts of people many of us would not give a second glance.

      • Agreed; I love meeting people with whom I share an unexpectedly similar mind set.

  5. Kathy O. permalink

    Allness is correct for me.
    Since my youth, I have believed it is hubris to assume that we have certain knowledge.
    Chaos and M Theory are comforts to me. They are quite beautiful.
    This is very elementary, but my being feels more connected and at peace simply by actively trying to do not harm and treating others far better than I expect to be treated. I do not always succeed, but I try. It feels right. It’s also important for me to be a good steward of non-human entities, whether it is my right or not…I am compelled to do so.

    Please note…I am far from naive. And, all things sanctimonious are anathema to me.

    I dont think that the awareness of Allness ever arrives as an epiphany, but slowly creeps in on little cats feet.

  6. Thank you, Kathy. Your comments put me in mind of the times people have complimented some action or attitude which seemed only natural, leaving me wondering at how they found it worthy of comment. I’m betting you have had many such events. Of course, that can also lead to a certain degree of alienation, a realization that many people live in mini-universes quite different from your own. But your immersion in Allness understands and accepts that. And that is a peaceful life. .

  7. Kathy O. permalink

    I recently read a Pew report that estimated within 40 years there will be no racial or ethnic majority. I’m interest in your opinion whether this will be unifying or polarizing and how it could affect bipartisanship in the U.S.

    • Thanks, Kathy. Wow! What a question! I have not seen that particular report, but – if it applies to the U.S., it is in line with others predicting the same. As a person who came here when “Melting Pot” was in vogue, contrary to the contemporary “Salad Bowl”, I always wondered how people reconciled proudly ethnic neighborhoods (Little Italy, ChinaTown, Little Saigon, etc.) with the strong message of assimilation. I saw this in the military and on campuses as well; people self segregated yet declared themselves fully American, leaving one to wonder what an American was. One day I sat purposely sat in the “Black” section of the PCC student center. People gave me odd looks, but no one challenged me, perhaps because I was faculty. As a kid in a Cleveland suburb people asked me why we were not living in Little Italy.

      During a Diversity meeting I had with the Secretary of Health & Human Services I asked: “Since I spent two years in Africa, does that make me more African-American than a person born in Detroit who never left town?” No one answered.

      I think as long as we have immigration we will have self segregation as people gravitate to others who speak their language and share their values. It’s a basic survival mechanism. Of course, it can become insular. I was recently in Rhode Island’s Little Italy, a place where the center road lines are Green, White, and Red. There were some stores in which I had to translate for my wife.

      Obviously, a blurring of ethnicity or “race” (strictly a social term when applied to humans) can’t come from the top – down. But we certainly have many who will fight it from the bottom – up.

      To be fair, this is not just an American issue. Each time I’ve gone to Italy I’ve noticed the ethnic changes. Native Italians are having fewer children, if at all. And, until recently Italy has had one of the most permeable immigration policies. Resistance is now growing there, and I expect it will get worse here before it gets better.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: