Monday, September 25, 2006

Where Do We Come From and Where Are We Headed?

Every now and again, usually when I’m stuck in a situation that I don’t want to be in, be it if I’m in a meeting and bored silly only wishing I could be somewhere else or I’m learning “common sense” information… like the other night, I drift off into a waking sleep and daydream about my own reality.

As part of my civic volunteering experience, I had to attend a radio/communications seminar at the police station here in town, where they filled us with common sense information about how, when and why to use a police radio during our patrols. At one point, I checked out, stared straight ahead and left my body for a minute. It happens every so often, as I transcend my own reality, my own present tense and step back to picture myself in whatever situation I’m in, in this case, sitting in a dark room watching a Power Point presentation about police radio etiquette. I see the back of my head, my shoulders, my arms and most of the rest of me before I “return” to reality. It isn’t though I’m mentally impaired for a few seconds; if someone said something that got my attention, I would respond, so I’m fully conscious, just zoned out. Picture a high school senior in economics two weeks before graduation and you’ll get the idea.

Part of “returning to reality” for me is an acute, finely tuned self-awareness. I become fully conscious that I am me and that I am sitting in that chair, living this life in this moment on this planet. I am me, the only me ever created and every time I make this revelation, no matter where I am, I wonder two questions: How? Why?

How did I get here and why am I here? These are two of the greatest questions man has ever asked, from the time cavemen peered up from the fire and at the strange lights in the sky to today. Where did we come from? And then that leads me to the ultimate question: What happens when we die?

The Bible would have you believe that man was created a few days after the universe, and my faith forces me to agree with this without question, but that doesn’t it make it true. It also tells us that Noah built his infamous Ark only 4000 years ago… and we know for a fact that isn’t true, so I wonder about the timeframe of Adam and Eve, if that’s how it happened.

Then again, biologists, anthropologists and those that follow the exploits of the HMS Beagle and Charles Darwin who suggested that mankind was developed from the theory of “survival of the fittest” would have us believe that Adam and Eve didn’t happen and that we have evolved from monkeys.

These two theories are completely opposite of each other. God made man, monkeys made man; which is it? Why is it so complicated? Let’s try out a few ideas, a couple of things I’ve been working on since I first began to think about life and death.

My great Adam and Eve theory is simple and it satisfies everybody from Charles Darwin, and Donald Johanson and Tom Gray (they discovered Lucy, that wonderful Australopithecus found in 1974 that is claimed to be 3.18 million years young) to Pope Benedict XVI. Here it is: Everyone is correct. God created multiple Adams and Eves and he created evolution, both at the same time.

Let that soak in for a minute. It isn’t sacrilegious, just my interpretations based on what I have read.

God was hedging his bets, and lucky thing he did because that Adam and Eve we know about didn’t work out so well, so he relied on other Adams and Eves nearby and evolution to populate the world. Genetically speaking, how did Adam and Eve do it? They had Cain and Abel. Cain killed Abel and then was banished…and it is said that Adam and Eve had more kids (Seth specifically), but they’re not 100 percent sure if there were others (Bible: “And begat sons and daughters.”—Genesis 5:4). In the same thread, it says Cain had a wife. “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad begot Mehujael, and Mehujael begot Methushael, and Methushael begot Lamech.”—Genesis 4:16-24)

Where did all of these wives come from if Adam and Eve were the first man and women on the planet? Well, let’s say that maybe they weren’t. Eden was just one place on the planet, yet people have been found everywhere. The Bible suggests that Adam lived for 930 years and died, according to the chronological system created by Archbishop Usher—who said, in 1664, that the world began on October 26, 4004 BC—that Adam died only 130 years before Noah was born. How is it that Adam was the first man alive, but he lived long enough to watch the world populate enough (and to become corrupt enough) to make God wipe everything away by the big flood… if you believe that happened, of course (but I’m not going to get into that right now)?

Well, let’s suggest that it is genetically impossible for two people to populate the six billion people currently inhabiting this planet. Consider this: Marry your sister, have two babies with her, have them have two babies together and have those two babies have babies together…I imagine the results would be something akin to the Hatfields and McCoys rather than a productive, intelligent society.

Though it is a moot point, as according to the Bible, the great flood killed every living soul on the planet with the exception of Noah, his three sons, Japheth, Shem and Ham and their four wives. When the water’s subsided, Jephath had seven kids, Shem five, and Ham only four. So, from the gene pool of these 16 men (did they have any girls?) came the world’s population… but again, where did the wives come from? Who knows!?!

But a better question is this: How did people end up on the southern most tip of South America long before most of these events were taking place? The answer has two parts: Either God created a host of Edens and filled it with the likes of many different Adams and Eves (all created in the same manner and likeness) and… this is where it gets tricky… and evolution filled in the gaps around the world.

My four grandparents, who were born 100 years ago, had five children among them. From those five children came 14 cousins (of which I am one)…and I can’t prove it but let’s guess that those 14 cousins produced 35 children. Of this lineage, since all of my cousins are still alive and so are their parents (with the exception of one) it is safe to say that after 100 years of genetic regeneration, there are only approximately 60 people as a result of those four grandparents. And that took 100 years.

Let’s start with Noah’s sons and, based on this real-life model, see how long it would take for them to populate a world of six billion people. We’ll have to assume a few things to stay within the model. If my four grandparents took part in producing 60 people, we can say that six people would produce 90 people in 100 years (50 percent more grandparents make 50 percent more offspring) and those 90 people would produce 1390 people in the next 100 years… you get the idea. Well, according to my rough calculations, it would have taken Japheth, Shem and Ham only about 600 years to completely cover the Earth with people. But we know that didn’t happen, because even though all of these biblical figures lived for at least 600 years, there’s no way that the geography of the area could support that many people. Plus, it is a proven fact that there were only three billion people in 1960 So, what happened then?

We’re actually getting slightly off track here, so to realign the topic, I will return to my original suggestion that God created the concept of evolution to fill in the gaps of the multiple Adam and Eve groups placed around the world.

Here’s one that will have many a priests and pastors shuddering in their cassocks: Adam and Eve were monkeys. How about that? It satisfies every body’s theory. Religious zealots get their creationism and Darwinists get their evolution. Win-win. It may be unlikely as we are still deriving current mankind from two sets of genetic codes which is impossible, however tantalizing to think about.

Earlier this year, I read in Scientific America that someone discovered some sort of microbial on a meteor that crashed in India and he suggested that is how the Earth was populated, from outer space by a meteor incrusted with the right combination of chemicals that hit the planet at the right speed with just the right amount of heat.

Whatever theory you might believe (or perhaps you’ve got your own), we’re here and we can’t argue that… of course, we can watch “The Matrix” and argue the very concept of reality. But, whatever form of reality you subscribe to or whatever universe or plane of focus you think you might be living in, we are here in some form or another, and we’re going to leave here at the end.

Frankly, we all started dying the minute we took our first breath, but what exactly does that mean? Why do we die and where do we go? Heaven, Hell, Purgatory… Des Moines? I don’t know. I don’t have that answer yet, but billions of people have done it. There are a host of things about death: white light, music, talking to God, fire, brimstone, River Styx, and I don’t want to argue the details of where you physically go, even if that is a concept possible after death.

According to popular spiritual belief, your body is a vessel containing your soul, an intangible ether of swirling persona similar to “the force” in Star Wars, and it goes somewhere and does something after the body ceases to properly function. But where? Let’s first assume that it is returned to Heaven for all eternity, as that is one of the most popular beliefs, but assuming our soul started out in some people factory in Heaven to begin with, why do we come down here to Earth for only 80 or 90 years only to return to Heaven again for all of time? It seems like a colossal waste of resources. Why don’t we just stay in Heaven and forget about all of this Earth business? I don’t know, but it gives me the impression that our time here is the big test, much like they impressed upon you in Sunday School. If you’re good, you go to Heaven, but if you’re bad, you go to Hell… unless you’re Catholic and you can be as bad as you want as long as you resolve your sins in confession moments before you die than you’ll still get your ticket to the Golden Gates.

But what really happens when you die? I say nothing. As a big part of my secretly morbid personality, I “what if” about death quite a bit, so I say that absolutely nothing happens to you when you die. Your body is stuffed in the ground and you’re there waiting. Remember a couple of days ago about what I said about sleeping the whole night long only to wake up in the morning with the feeling that you only feel asleep seconds before? Remember the talk about the relativity of time and how it is different for everyone? When you die, time stops and your soul has no perception of anything. What then?

One of the parts of Revelations is the Second Coming of Christ, and when this happens everyone on Earth is rounded up, separated into the Good Group and the Bad Group (I’m sure with the help of Santa’s list). The Good Group gets to come along with Jesus, while the Bad Group gets to toast marshmallows in Hell. To me, ever since I first heard of this story and saw a painting in a religious book of Jesus standing in a big grassy field surrounded by people, but the important part of the painting (and the part I found eerily fascinating) was that it showed the souls of the dead rising out of the ground. Creepy yes, but it first gave me the theory that everyone goes to Heaven at the same time. Sure, you may have died in 1863, but your soul will stay in limbo until that Second Coming of Christ, whatever and whenever that is.

Again, my morbid curiosity compels me to wonder about death and dying and “the other side” while my sense of self-preservation and responsibility compels me to stick around until my number comes up, but when it does, I’ll make sure to take a lot of notes and give you a full report.

Maybe in about 60 years. Until then, live your life like it is a gift that can be taken away at any moment, but view your death as something as simple as walking through a door into another room.

If you’ve had a good life, I’m sure it’ll be nicely furnished.

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