Existential Paganism

I recently experienced what philosopher and author Brendan Myers might call an Immensity; a shocking, overwhelming encounter with an event that’s completely beyond my ability to control or understand, with all the resulting sensations of despair, powerlessness, helplessness, humility and silence. I feel as if I’ve been shaken from an unreflective life, and my attention commanded and directed toward the profound metaphysical and moral properties of the human experience. For now, I feel the rich, harrowing textures of mortality, meaning and purpose brushing against me.

It makes me realize in a deeply existential way that I am on a journey, the same as you. And that we’ve been on it for…a very long time. You don’t remember it; and you won’t remember even having this conversation the next time around. But the journey is the whole point, and so it’s okay, this is how things are supposed to be.

I’ve seen some amazing things this time around, philosophically, and I’d like to share some of those with you. I hope you can take them in some way with you for your journey too.

Like you, I’m sure, some features of the world have stood out to me as more interesting or important than others in my reflections on the big questions of life. They strike me as uniquely captivating and informative, and so disproportionately shape my impression of what exists and how things work.

I’m not sure if you’ve seen this one yet, but have you considered the fact that we are even in the situation of having to figure things out in the first place? How strange that there should be facts of the matter about the big questions of life, but that they should not be apparent or even imagined.. Why should there be such profoundly relevant and personal facts at all unless they are meant to be known, or, at least, sought after? It’d be like moral duties really existing, but us having no way to even know that there is any such thing. What an absurd reality it would be if ontology were so aloof from epistemology.

This data point tells me that either we are meant to look, or we aren’t meant to be.

Since it seems there are facts of the matter about the big questions of life, I believe we are meant to look.

But that leads me in the next place to be gripped by the actual details of the world we are in: while we can scarcely comprehend it, ours is a world of immeasurable pain and suffering. Not only is it Nature’s design that some animals should survive only by feasting on the bodies of others, for example, but the eras of our species have been plagued by famine, disease, war, starvation, hatred, loss and grief. Our happiness is so delicate. Even the most meaningful, important people in our lives can be taken in a moment’s notice, and for no reason whatsoever, say, if a sheer, mindless accident occurs. Ours is a realm of incalculable horrors, rippling trauma across entire generations.

This data point tells me that things in this realm of being are, in some incredible way, left to their own devices.

I don’t mean that Gods or higher beings are absent from us (quite the opposite), but rather that part of what it is to be here is to be the principle actors of embodied life. We are the stars of the show, so to speak. How sobering.

My paganism continues to become more and more existential. It’s got soul, you might say.

I wonder what it will look like in 10 years?

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