147 – Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? V …

Update on my quest to answer the profound questions posed by Paul Gauguin on the title of one of his most beautiful and enigmatic paintings. The main change from previous updates* is the substitution of Source by Substance, which I believe better reflects the processes of unfolding and interacting and bonding and adapting  and transforming, not only in us, but in every physical system in Nature.

Where do we come from?

We emerge out of a living, self-determined, primordial Substance; a self-creative, self-organizing, self-generating, self-perpetuating, self-transforming phenomenon whose onward movement we call Evolution. But Evolution is just the transformation of the Substance … amid trial and error, creation and destruction … towards higher and higher orders of complexity and order. And because the transformation of the Substance is measurable, its creativity evident, its self-determination discernible, some of us call it God, but we tend to call God what we cannot understand. And because its movement can be manipulated and it can manipulate us, some of us call it Nature, but Nature is just the manifestation of the Substance into myriad supple forms. And because we can only imagine its beginning as an ‘explosion out of nowhere’, some of us call it the Big Bang, but that ‘explosion’ was merely the birth of one of many universes.

And although the Substance thrives in us and in everything around us … in the flow of primal blood in our veins, in our innate need to bond, in our urge to re-generate, in the compelling instinct to adapt and survive, in the boundless creativity and ingenuity of Life, in the self-organization of molecules into a double helix, in the congregation of stars into galaxies, in the constant creation of solar and atomic systems out of recycled forms of energy and mass, in the self-reflective contemplation of Self-reflection … what the Substance is, how it might have been engendered, what its purpose might be, we cannot comprehend. Not yet – perhaps we never will.

What are we?

Infinitesimally small from the dimension of the stars and enormously immense from the dimension of the atoms, we are manifestations of the living Substance; heirs to its universal mandate to Become, to Self-organize, to Bond, to Re-generate, to Adapt, to Survive, to Transform, ensuring thus our participation in the renewal and perpetuation of its onward movement.

And although our actions and reactions are mostly driven by primal instincts, and although limited by internal and external environments, we are, as far as we know, the only manifestation of the Substance that has evolved the conscious awareness of self-awareness; the self-awareness of our degree of freedom to choose, to see beyond immediacy, to voluntarily transform ourselves and our world. And so, like the Substance itself, we are sources of Transformation.

Where are we going?

Limited by our internal and external environments yet pregnant with the possibilities of a degree of freedom to transform ourselves and our world, we forge ahead until we no longer can, at which point we begin an inexorable transformation, back into the Substance from which we initially emerged, and onward onto Transcendence as impartially measured by

what we have imagined,

what we have created,

what we have destroyed,

what we have taken,

what we have given to our world.

And so, we transcend in equal measure to the significance of our lives.

Think of Einstein – opening still new visions and challenging our understanding of Reality; think of Mandela or Gandhi – inspiring still pacifist rebellion against the tyranny of unaccountable power; think of Socrates – stimulating still critical thinking and fueling the generation of new ideas; think of Gauguin – living still in his beautiful paintings, especially the one that keeps asking these profound questions. These individuals … to name a few … live on in us and among us in higher orders of our collective humanity; their place among us, their transcendence, a measure of the significance of their lives.

WHERE DO WE COME FROM? We emerge out of a living, self-creative, self-determined Substance.

WHAT ARE WE? We are self-conscious sources of Transformation.

WHERE ARE WE GOING? At this point in the evolution of our collective humanity we truly do not know where we are going … we have no vision other than material gain … but as individuals we may transcend as measured by the significance of our lives.


“All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,/And to die is different from what anyone supposed, and luckier.”

From Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

*Post 78, 95, 118 and 134.

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