Carl Sagan once wrote, “We were wanderers from the beginning”. As far as we know, this is true: our ancestors were nomads, crossing savannahs and jungles and forests, ever restless, in search of the next meal or friendlier climes. From the beginning, we were never entirely satisfied with our lot. The relentless push to civilization seems motivated by a single-minded desire for an ever-better life; one where at last we have beaten back the caprice of life to know happiness, satiation, and safety.
It is more than this: beyond the callings of our basic animal appetites, a deeper yearning seizes our hearts and minds. We want to know the world and our place within it. We want to understand this mysterious life, an inchoate hunger far more difficult to feed than an empty stomach. Perhaps it is in part borne of our social nature: a basic instinct to feel safe and certain through connection with something larger than ourselves. Perhaps it lies even deeper; with the arising of the human mind, the cosmos is expressing a need to behold and understand itself — a brilliant flash of sentience that illumines Indra’s Net, bearing witness to its glory.
Whatever the origins, we long to belong, and to understand. The nomadic spirit runs deep within us, we are restlessly in search of a home that seems ever to recede over the horizon, an elsewhere whose very appeal is its unattainability, its mystery, its promise of salvation and peace. The irony for this restless, curious wanderer is that we have always been home, and we have always belonged. Throughout history, we have had moments of insight that this deepest hope is true: that we are profoundly at home in the universe. This truth has never changed, but our yearning imagination has wandered far and wide, leaving our hearts heavy with anxiety, a nameless dissatisfaction with life.
For centuries we have seen ourselves as separate from Nature and pitted against her in a titanic and desperate struggle to dominate and survive. We are struggling heroically to awaken from this nightmare.
Though it is true that life is tenuous, the world often dangerous, there is no adversary Out There, only an internal struggle to embrace this life just as it is — beauty and ugliness, miracle and horror. It would appear to be a basic truth of our human psychology that when we fully recognize our Oneness with the world, something in us lets go. It is somehow impossible for us to be at war with the world when we see that the world is us and that we are it. Peace fills our hearts and we come forth changed beings, manifesting the miracle without the distortions of struggle. Life may remain difficult, but it is enchanted with new meaning — it is, in the words of Sǿren Kierkegaard, no longer “a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived”.
Yet although a few of us in each age set down the struggle, most of us do not. It is a core purpose in my life to pursue an end to the delusion of separation and to convey what meager understanding I achieve to others in the hope, however vain, that this Great Peace can spread itself more broadly among us in the coming years. It is my belief that the science of today tells a powerful story about our kinship with the whole of the world, revealing quite clearly that this restless nomad has wandered far and may wander much farther still, but has never, not even for a moment, left home.
This article was written by Joshua Sandeman
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