Life, as we experience it, arises within a community and continues by means of a community. This community is family. To family, there can be nothing more important than life.
The purpose of family is to foster conditions that favor, protect, and propagate life. Members of a family are bound to one another by the life they receive, share, and pass on.
The arising of life is not inevitable, nor is the indefinite continuation of life. Both require great energy, care, and attention.
Any creature that comes into being in this world will eventually pass out of being from this world. This truth inspires urgent attention to life as we experience it in the present moment.
So far as we understand it, biological life is not, of itself, eternal or immortal; hence biological beings are bound together by their mortality. From the understanding of mortality arise both the basest and most noble qualities of human beings.
Beings from some distant place in the Universe, to my estimation, might likewise understand themselves as sharing our condition.
Human beings, grasping the inevitability of their own mortality, transform sadness, despair, and suffering by many different means: religion, spiritual endeavors, music, art, magic, dance, storytelling, the search for wisdom, love, etc.
The sybil, the prophet, the priest, and the astrophysicist all use the means at hand to endow their experience of the world with meaning, purpose, beauty, majesty, and hope.
Even today, when human beings leave this world and its atmosphere by technological means, they describe their experience in terms not unfamiliar to ancient shamans or medieval mystics.
Hope is the virtue of a community that values life and knows how precarious it truly is.
A mother would rather suffer harm herself than see her child harmed; a father willingly and without hesitation places himself in harm’s way in order to protect his children.
Children honor those who gave them life by valuing their own lives, by passing on the gift of life they receive, and by imitating the good and noble example of those who gave them life.
Members of a family do what they are able to do in the manner they judge best, each member possessing something valuable and useful in the family’s mission.
Should we encounter beings from some distant place in the Universe, it is entirely likely that they, too, will understand something of what we call family.
Somewhere I wrote about family born of blood and family born of spirit. Just as we embrace others and call them family even when we do not share blood with them, so might we embrace beings from elsewhere in the Universe.
In this way, a spiritual family arises and grows, expanding as in an ever-widening circle and binding together those who once were strangers.
March 15, 2017