By: Mark Anthony King
It is inevitable. And yet, is it not human nature to resist the very elements of life which perpetually persist? Is it our inherently defiant nature that moves us to take up both hypothetical and literal arms in a more often than not feeble attempt to radically change or influence universal elements that are absent from our control and far above our pay grade? That’s why the concept of death is a topic that utterly fascinates me. More so, the way in which humanity as a whole relates to this eternal inevitability. It is said that what separates human beings from animals really lies in two things. It isn’t farfetched for humanity to believe that we are inherently superior because of our ability to have a spoken language that only we understand, and yet we then realize that animals have the ability to understand hundreds of vocal commands in a multitude of languages.
Yes, you read that correctly; your fur-clad companion can learn commands in English, Spanish, French, and Tagalog. Well then surely our differences lie in our “unique” ability to form complex social groups and firmly established, dynamic, interdependent relationships with one another, right? Perhaps at first glance, that is until we observe the sweet subtleness of an elephant herd working together in order to rescue a calf which has tragically fallen into a ravine. Or the ways in which a pride of lions somehow has this powerfully intense, almost telepathic connection with one another while they are hunting. So, what is it exactly? Which skills, which innate abilities or virtues truly set us apart from Earth’s quadrupedal, aquatic, and winged inhabitants? It was late one night, many years ago, when I heard a gentleman say something that really resonated with me in a very deep way.
At the time, his words pierced my conscious mind and spoke to a much more profound and contemplative version of my psyche. This man had the pleasure, or some would say misfortune, of having been intimately familiar with every single aspect of humanity. More specifically, every beautiful aspect and terrible facet of what it means to be human. A connection to our virtues and our flaws. The ways in which our unhealed wounds bleed out into our actions and interactions with unchecked intensity – and a reckless, often times shameless abandon. This man was a character in a TV show you see. And the character he was playing was God. So this character, playing the creator of the cosmos and our heavenly father to whom we owe our very existence to, contemplated humanity since our creation and came to one profound conclusion. He said that our single most redeeming and differentiating quality is our ability to conceptualize, channel, and express our creativity in the form of art and music. At the time this made so much sense to me, because I thought back to every powerfully written and masterfully performed song which had moved my heart. I thought about the time when I had the privilege of standing in front of Michelangelo’s Pieta in Saint Peter’s Basilica; for over an hour, with tears streaming down my cheeks because I had no idea that a human being had the capacity to conceptualize something so wondrous and awe inspiring, let alone possess the skills in which to bring them into the physical world. I had no idea that an inanimate object could somehow convince me that it not only possessed a soul, but had a heart-wrenching story to tell as well. A story which it somehow silently recants in intimate detail. The hushed, strained, and pained whispers of a mother who just lost her only son. There is no voice, and yet paradoxically, the voice is somehow booming and resounding. It made perfect sense you see.
And yet I found myself equally moved when I had the privilege of befriending and ultimately being accepted by a pack of wolves, as they all broke out in song inches away from my very face. The passion, the vocal unison, and the fervor in which they – in their own way – sung a song, sent shivers down my spine. It was a hauntingly transcendent experience that I’ve since been graced with several dozen times. Yet I always find myself equally in awe, as if hearing their primal serenade for the very first time. Fast forward to last week, when I found myself fully engrossed in this program called Planet Earth. Having visited the Arctic Circle, braved the mosquito and other creepy crawly-filled Amazon, and braved the scorching and sweltering heat of our deserts and their endless sea of dunes. At this point I was in dire need of a reprieve from the desert heat, so I decided to take a trip to the beach. In other words, in the next episode, I saw the tiniest fish do the most peculiar thing I’ve ever seen an animal do. We tend to view fish as being less evolved than their fur-clad, above ground, “classically cute” counterparts. And yet this little fish did something that left me completely speechless. This diminutive little character proceeded to blow jets of water onto the sand while simultaneously flapping his little fins in a seemingly erratic fashion. I would learn shortly thereafter that what I had assumed was erratic was in fact, incredibly methodical and calculated.
You see, this little fish began creating these interestingly random series of mounds. For several minutes I just observed this little fish blowing jets of water, flapping his fins, and moving onto a new patch of sand, only to begin the process once more. I was so intrigued by what he was doing that I began guessing as to what his intentions were. Slowly, the camera began to pan further and further away from the little fish till he was nigh but a speck on the screen. At this point, something magnificent was revealed. This little fish had created this incredibly complex geometric pattern which spanned several yards around him. This tiny fish created something akin to a mandala or a fractal. Something that was equally as beautiful and complex as anything any artist has ever drawn on a piece of paper or painted on a canvas. So clearly, the tangible manifestations of our presumably unique ability to creatively express ourselves isn’t the answer. You’ll notice that we have far more in common with animals than once thought, yet this isn’t my attempt to convince you of this irrefutable fact.
Quite the contrary, for this is an attempt to shed light on what makes humanity fundamentally different as a species. Now what are we left with? How is it that we can answer the question of what specifically and most completely differentiates us from animals? We might even go as far as to reference our ability to experience profundity. Depth of emotion does light the spark which creates the blaze that we experience as something called self-awareness, through which bursts forth the most ancient of questions: Who am I? Much like little Alice, inquiring minds are violently ripped from the comfort of their fluffy couches and dragged down the rabbit hole. Mind, body, and spirit assaulted and bombarded by an onslaught of unanswerable inquiries, all of which are too beautiful to ignore, while simultaneously being too complex to fully grasp, too frightening to answer, and too esoteric to even bother. It’s almost poetic really, the fact that this journey down the rabbit hole always leads to the very same destination for those brave or foolish enough to take the plunge. This oscillating, winding, twisting, and turning journey concerns itself not with an individual’s gender, race, orientation, religion, or socioeconomic status. Rather, it always ends with the adventurer being faced with the counterpart to the most ancient and primal of forces. The book of Genesis reads that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Whether one is a devout Christian, an atheist, agnostic, or of a different religion altogether, one can certainly ascertain that before “anythingness”, there was in fact nothingness. Some very clever design from an all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful being, followed by a few choice words and presto – nothingness gave way to “everythingness”. If the most ancient of primal forces is Creation, then its counterpart – which we all face at the end of that oftentimes terrifying rabbit hole – must surely be Destruction. Therein lies the answer. What truly makes us different than earth’s other denizens? Simply put, our incredibly complicated relationship with our own mortality. The very thought of non-being or nonexistence is a concept that most of us have trouble fully grasping.
Going deeper still, what if this isn’t a question of intellect? The deeper my understanding of this, the more I come to realize that this innate resistance to comprehending this concept actually has little to do with comprehension itself. It is merely a product of a deeply rooted and primal inability to accept the notion of our small little reality not being a part of the grand collective reality. The hypothetical alone causes throats to constrict and palms to sweat. Why though? Why is it we fear this to such an intellectually confounding degree? The answer? One tiny word that you are likely sick of hearing. One tiny word, which makes eyes roll with such disdain and aggression; that you might actually see the delicate and intricate innerworkings of your frontal lobe – if and when you hear this word spoken to you or even around you for that matter.
A famously overused, overly indulged in, practically borderline cult classic cliché term, both coined and incessantly utilized by spiritual teachers, gurus, and pseudo-spiritualists the world over. A term indiscriminately thrown into both serious and casual conversation with reckless impunity by the truly enlightened as well as the self-proclaimed alike. The word, if you haven’t already guessed, is EGO. The ego resists death with every fiber of its nonbeing. Have you ever thought to ask why though? Better yet, can the ego die while you stay alive? Allow me to share a secret with you. Come closer: the ego is fully aware that transcendence is a product of dying while you’re alive. This is why, since the beginning of time, death has been perceived as this terrible tragedy that must be avoided at all costs. Culturally perpetuated beliefs suggest that death is final. Well, quantum physics has stated that energy cannot be produced nor destroyed. Therefore, whatever animates your beautiful body simply cannot be destroyed. That is an irrefutable scientific fact that popular opinion and even culturally specific teachings simply cannot disprove. Your soul is eternal, yet your ego is temporary. Now how temporary it is exactly is entirely for you to decide.
You are a beautiful paradox, unconsciously guided by the most insecure and fearful aspect of what it means to be human. Transcendence means to exist or experience beyond the normally perceived or otherwise physical level. In other words, the complete separation between spirit and ego. The death, destruction, and KINGSCRIPT complete entropy of the way things used to be, so as to experience life beyond what’s physical and normally perceived. The famous Persian poet Mevlana Jalal ad Din Rumi is famous for saying “take your cleverness and purchase bewilderment.” Similarly, if you sit in quiet contemplation and allow your mind to effortlessly relax so much that you eliminate all internal noise, you will sink into your heart’s silenced truth. All the while, in separating yourself from the antiquated narrative of your ego, you will hear a voice. Now this voice has been quietly observing your life. It’s kept a barely perceptible distance, and yet there have been times when you’ve heard its hushed whispers, haven’t you? There are times when even the loudest of noises, soul wrenching memories, and any otherwise powerful distraction is unable to fully drown out this ageold voice resounding in the depths of your subconscious. I know because I’ve heard it too, and yet I deluded myself into believing that I couldn’t hear its quiet but sage advice. I didn’t realize that by feigning ignorance, I was choosing to deal with the pain, disappointment, and countless missed opportunities as a result of playing dumb. My question to you though is: Is this phenomenon unique to me, or do you know someone who’s experiencing the same things right at this very moment?