Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Spirituality at the Speed of Light

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Spirituality at the Speed of Light

Article excerpt

This essay is dedicated to the memory of Allen Flagg. In addition to be a Trustee of the Institute of General Semantics and a Past President of the New York Society for General Semantics, Allen Flagg also served as the Vice-President of the Friends of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, which was consistent with his interest in consciousness and human potential. He invited me to give the keynote address at the Annual Meeting of FIONS on March 31, 2011, which was held at St. Catherine of Siena Church in New York City, and the actual speech, along with Allen's introduction and the question and answer session that followed was videotaped and uploaded on YouTube at https://youtu.be/rXLTMNxh9wo. This article represents an expanded and revised version of that address.

I thought I might begin by revealing to you the secret, that is, the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. But of course, if I were to do so, you would have no way of knowing whether my answer was the right answer. And even if it was, chances are you wouldn't believe me. Or you might say that the answer is different for every individual or at least that we all have to find the answer on our own, that it is the journey that counts, and not the destination. And anyway, if I just told you the secret, my talk would be over before it started, and you'd be wondering why you bothered to invite me to speak to you in the first place, when I could have just given you the answer through a text message, or a status update on Facebook or Twitter.

Of course, all that is, assuming I do have the answer in the first place, and that I would be willing and able to share it with you if I did. So it is perhaps for the best that I forgo talking about answers tonight and instead focus on questions. After all, answers may come and go as our knowledge expands and errors are eliminated, but good questions remain with us for all time. Everyone comes into this world asking basic questions such as, who am I? Where did I come from? What am I doing here? And what is the meaning of it all? Throughout our lives, we are engaged in the attempt to answer these and other riddles of our existence. Our questions become our quest, our hero's journey; the great adventure that is our lives. Questions are the answer, but of course that is often hard for us to see.

So, in addressing the topic of spirituality, I would like to begin by suggesting that spirituality is not about something that we have, something that we obtain, possess, and control. It is about what is missing; about something that we sense is missing from our lives, from the lives of others, from our surroundings, from our own awareness and understanding. It is about what we are searching for, what we are longing for, what we do not have but need to find. It is the sense that we have that there is more, more to life, the universe, and everything, than we know, more than we can ever know. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy," said the Bard, and somewhat less poetically, Alfred Korzybski (1993) spoke of non-allness, by which he meant that we cannot know all there is to know, we cannot say all there is to say, and at some point, words fail us, at some point words are not adequate to the task and can be downright misleading, or as Korzybski was known to remark, "whatever you might say something 'is', it is not" (p. 409). Words cannot capture all of what is out there in the world, prompting Ludwig Wittgenstein (1961) to remark, "whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must remain silent" (p. 189). And he is quite right in that we must remain speechless, or at least we ought to, because silence opens the doors of perception. Silence allows us to use our senses fully, without having language short circuit our perceptions. But our senses have their limitations as well. We cannot perceive all that is out there in the world, we are limited by the biology of our sensory organs, by our position in time and space, and by a multitude of other factors. …

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