What does it mean to live "between the points?" What are the points? Are they science and religion? Are they conservative and liberal? Are they men and women? Are they childhood and old age? Are they intellectual and physical? Are they quantum physics and cosmology? Are they Freud and Jung? Are they the sacred and the profane? Are they nature and nurture? Are they light beer and stout?
To live between the points is to understand the nature of the human mind-where it begins and where it ends. The very structure of time is inherent in the process of thought-the ticking away of the clock in the song "Time" on the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon is the sound of the mind in movement. See, the mind is a function of the universe-much like Kepler's laws of motion which keep planets swinging in elliptical orbits around a common center of gravitational mass.
The paired opposites described in the first paragraph are all addressed in the philosophy of living "Between the Points," but more importantly they are surpassed for the ultimate pair of opposites-life and death.
When I was nineteen years old, I was enrolled as a Pre-Pre Med student meaning that my grades weren't good enough to get me in Pre-Med and my patience for analytical science bounced me at about Chemistry 102. But in my study of the many fields of science, I developed a genuine respect for the scientific method and for the science of cosmology in general.
Cosmology is the study of the universe on a grand scale. Quantum physics is a study of the universe on a very small scale. I began studying the nature of the universe at a time when Cosmology and Quantum Physics were merging into a single vision of how the universe physically operates. That vision is still being defined to this day but there was something I learned in a book by Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, that changed my life forever.
I learned about the nature of quantum singularities in space. Quantum singularities are events in space/time where the structure of the universe completely breaks down and the physics that operate everywhere else no longer function. The structure of the universe is space and time so time itself breaks down in these actual places out in the universe.
Well, what struck me about this was not the existence of singularities in outer space but it was the existence of singularities in inner-space and how they both were related to one another. See, I realized that time breaks down in the mind as well-in the form of memory. I can recall events that happened when I was three down to the sight, smell, texture, and even the emotions of vivid memories.
So, there is a point in outer space where time breaks down and there is a point in inner space where time breaks down. Beyond these points is the great unknown-death, birth, heaven, hell, whatever words you choose to use to describe it-the fact is that there is no direct human knowledge that can be quantified and proven through the scientific methodology that determined the edge of physical and mental existence.
So what is one to do with this insight? Well, it's funny when I look back on these last ten years since I had this epiphany and it is almost as if some unseen hand were guiding me to the answers when I was able to ask the right questions. I'm sure it is the same for you if you were to examine it closely.
One day I found myself at a dead end fork in the road. There was no passion in my life. I had no interest in pursuing the college degree in my course of study. I quit school, got a job in a restaurant, and spent my days in the library chasing some kind of meaning for life. I came across a video series title Transformations of Myth through Time by Joseph Campbell. The answers to most of my questions lay within these twelve VHS tapes.
I came to understand that mankind had been dealing with this very same dilemma for thousands of years-ever since the first death was truly felt. One day, an ancient ancestor of man knew a friend, a wife, a child that was up and walking one day and then lay down and grew still, cold, and died. Something was gone that had just been there. It was at this point that the human spirit was born and it was at this point that art, philosophy, science, and even religion were born as well. These are all methodologies of attempting to discern the exact nature of what lies beyond the two points.
I also came to understand the nature of the metaphor. All words are symbols. The symbols T R E E are not great leafy carbon based life forms that take in Carbon Dioxide to produce oxygen. But we read the word TREE and immediately the letters conjure up an image in our minds. The problem with these symbols comes about when they are used to describe something that cannot be defined in terms of time and space, in other words when they are used to describe what is beyond the points.
Let us consider for a moment the supposed great conflict between science and religion.
Contrary to popular scholarly debate, there is no inherent conflict between science and religion. In fact, religion and science both have a warm history of expressing reality and invoking passion in the human mind. Religion is ultimately concerned with spirituality, with touching the center of man and transforming him or her from the crawling animal to the human being who strives to attain the unknowable, who mourns for dead relatives with established rituals and seeks to relieve the suffering of fellow human beings with compassionate acts.
It is the purpose of the institution of science to give humanity a vision of what the Universe actually is from moment to moment. Science as an institution is constantly in flux; there are no ultimate truths, only hypotheses that must be constantly tested.
Religion is a constellation of metaphors aimed at relating what is beyond the points to the human mind and it is the purpose of religion to penetrate the science of the day and allow the ultimate unknowable truth to shine through its metaphors. But this means that religion must also constantly be in flux and open to change.
The problem comes about when religions begin proposing to their constituents that the metaphors they use to describe the unknown are indeed the actual point of worship. This is the point where money becomes king. This is the point where murder becomes communication and when wars over words escalate so intensely that they threaten the existence of every human being on the planet. But this is also the point of ultimate redemption which can only take place in the mind of the individual for there is no such thing as freedom in a group.
Religious institutions are generally not concerned with spiritual breakthrough of the individual to a realization of the unknown but rather these institutions are supremely concerned with the social integration of their followers under specific teachings and morals. And let us not forget that all religious institutions are ultimately concerned with acquiring money and political power-often at the expense of the very ones they were established to protect and guide toward the sacred light.
The great religious texts that form the foundation of all major religions were composed millennia ago under different scientific laws. The Ancients, with the exception of the Egyptian astronomer Eratosthenes, believed that the Earth was flat. The Ancient Hebrews had never heard of or met the Chinese and if they did, it was never written about. Science changes and so must religious metaphors also change. The truths that all religions offer, however, those common human themes of justice, righteous living, and spiritual emancipation, are anthropic and therefore common to all human beings at all times.
Let us return to our points. So there is a point in outer space where time breaks down and there is a point in inner space where time breaks down; between these points is where the phenomenal world rests. This is the realm of linear motion, of birth and death, of social interaction, scientific investigation, and the worshipping of ideas and dates of historical significance. This is the phenomenal world, broken into pairs of opposites that can be neatly divided and classified under specific categories according to the laws of logic and structure of human existence itself. This is the realm of comparison in which science, religion, and art ultimately guide the human animal to becoming a human being. These institutions accomplish this by guiding the individual to these outer and inner points and ultimately laying the challenge down to go beyond while leaving the temporal and phenomenal world of the individual and collective ego behind.
To live between the points is to live in the realm of death. To understand that no thought or concept can go beyond those two points is the beginning of intelligence and not the intelligence brought about through time and study, but an eternal intelligence that is only present when the mind is quiet--silent. This intelligence is vast, all encompassing and all-powerful. When one has reached this precipice you have come to the realm of the sacred in the heart and mind of man and defining this moment as the boundary between Heaven and the phenomenonal world.
Intelligent human beings, the humble among us, understand that what lies beyond the two points is unknowable to the mind of man which has been composed by knowledge of the in-between. The intelligent understand this limitation, what thought is capable of and what it is not, and put thought aside in areas of life where it is not applicable. The in-between will never relate to what is beyond the points and the true mystic and quiet observer of this fact will come to understand that the two points are really the same point-the alpha and the omega-the beginning and the end. It is the still point upon which the Buddha sat and struck illumination.
The reference that religious metaphors refer to is the still point and to know the still point is to understand the nature of death in the moment. Once the understanding of the complete cessation of psychological movement is understood, not as a theory but as clearly as one looks up to the night sky and recognizes the Moon, a glorious palace of pure energy rises from the wasteland to replenish what was once a weary spirit. This is the shining city on a hill that is the beacon of liberty for all of mankind to take part in because they are human mortals who share this spinning globe adrift in an elliptical orbit around an average yellow star in one of many long arms of gas and dust that orbit a massive galactic core set adrift in a sea of other galaxies all moping around the greatest point of gravity known to the mind.
But there is only one mind of man and inside the mind of the individual is a point of infinity just as there is in the farthest reaches of space, past the 10-43 seconds after the Big Bang barrier that our senses and our science cannot see beyond. There is an alpha and omega of liberty and it begins in the mind of the individual and ends at the farthest point the mind can stretch toward and conceive. The distance traveled between these two points is that of time and history and we bring this experience into the present moment to create the world we each live in. Each human mind is the totality of the Universe and the Universe itself exists distinctly in the mind of each individual. E Pluribus Unum.
This world is a collective product of all minds active in the present moment, each bringing their own experience to shape reality which ultimately shapes the reality of human society. What would the world be like with ten, twenty, a hundred individuals who were capable of grasping the still point and losing themselves at any moment? The answer is that the entire world would eventually be composed of artists; every politician, auto mechanic, lawyer, check out clerk, writer, singer, actor and painter would be capable of shedding their ego and stepping outside of time to bask in eternity. The sun fire is hot on the sandy beaches outside the river of time. The solar rays of eternity shine deep and warm as the vicissitudes of time evaporate from one's skin and the sand of creative energy hugs and sustains the artistic vision that has inspired mankind to crawl from the muck as slugs to become rulers of this insignificant yet beautiful planet. The energy is eternal; it is the individual who falls into darkness without it. There is only one truth, yet the sages speak of it with many names.
Joshua Minton is a father and husband as well as a writer. He is co-developer, along with his wife, of the Video Scrapbook Diva DVD system (http://www.videoscrapbookdiva.com) which teaches mothers and fathers how to take their family films, transfer them to the PC and turn them into fantastic movies that can be shared with family and loved ones.
Josh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Bowling Green State University. He has won several awards for his poetry and fiction, including the BGSU Alumni Book Award and was included in the 1999 edition of Who's Who in College America.
Josh's professional background is in the health insurance industry where he has spent the last two years serving as Executive Business Analyst for the Executive Director of the nation's largest health insurer. He currently serves as President of Family Bliss Enterprise, Inc. (http://www.familyblissenterprises.com) and is webmaster of joshuaminton.com where you can view samples of his essays, poetry, fiction and much more.
You can contact Josh at firstname.lastname@example.org