The Other I

October 5, 2010

Balloons, dandelions, and our gods

Walking in our local park this morning, I noticed that the dandelions are still flowering with abandon.  And I remembered that dandelions were one of my earliest introductions to the unyielding realities of life.

I used to pick bunches of dandelions on the farm where I grew up and bring them into my mother.  She always thanked me generously and put them in a vase of water.  But it didn’t take me long to notice that dandelions wilt very fast.  Within hours, they were drooping miserable specimens.  There was nothing that could be done to revive them nor could my mother even offer any advice from her vast store of wisdom about how to keep them alive in the future.

Dandelions simply don’t last.

I remember one of my brothers being crushed by a similar experience when he discovered that Dad could not mend a burst balloon.   It was that moment of truth when one discovers that ones Dad is not quite up to the standard of almighty perfection which we had taken for granted.  It wasn’t that he wouldn’t fix it.  He couldn’t.

Like dandelions, when balloons burst, they are dead forever.

I’ve been reading a book sent by a friend From the Center of the Universe that is discussing the great loss we have experienced with the loss of our creation stories which tells us how we got here and – more importantly – what we are doing here.  Every culture we know about has had a creation story, and it inevitably tells the people in that culture what life is about, what it means, and why they are especially and uniquely important.

Today, it isn’t just Christians who have lost their creation story.  The combination of  science and globalization has changed everybody’s story from one that forms the foundation of our very identities to one that is no longer valid in the same way.  It has moved from being a story of unquestioned truth accepted by everyone to being interesting anthropological data.

I think loosing our creation stories is for a culture a lot like learning that burst balloons can’t be mended or that dandelions don’t last.  But the loss is so much greater.  Which is why, I think, fundamentalism is on the rise throughout the world.

The Tea Party in America thinks it is threatened by the loss of what it means to be an American.  We have parallel fears throughout the Muslim and Jewish worlds.  It’s happening in India and China and South America.  The entire 20th century is marked by its appearance in Germany with the rise of Nazism.

Many individuals can live without a creation story and an accompanying cosmology that gives existence its meaning.

But I wonder if whole societies can endure for very long without them.   Will fundamentalism win out simply because we as a species cannot bear to accept that balloons break and dandelions wilt?

Or will we succeed in constructing a new cosmology based on the creation story science is now putting  before us?

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