"If I'm shot by an arrow, I don't need to know where the arrow was made or what kind of bow it came from or even who it was who shot me. I just need to get it out of my chest."
- Angela Montenegro; from the TV show Bones
That analogy seemed to demonstrate to me how I can get too caught up in details and in asking why. I know that asking why is human nature but here I am asking why I ask why, see my point? Asking questions however, is what made humans come up with religion, philosophy and science to attempt to explain the universe. We wanted answers to the big “why’s.”
Then there are the alternative “Make it up as you go” new age religions that generally lean more towards the, “We don’t want answers we just want clarity about what it is we are supposed to be looking for” perspective. There are Pagans who say all religions are valid, but not Christianity and there are Christians who consider themselves Pagan. Clearly people are reaching out, reaching for answers, more questions, guidance, validity and who knows what else…this is a very exciting time to be alive. With all these perspectives though, it can be difficult to stay focused. As humans we are conditioned from birth to do various things and think in certain ways. This conditioning or its breakdown can cause us to lose focus on the original question and get caught up in too many whys.
What I’m getting at here is that if the arrow is the metaphorical “why,” for example, “Why am I here?” It is science, philosophy and religion, among other variables like socio-economic class, race, and environment...political affiliation and so on, that make up the parts of it. The part of the analogy regarding information like where the arrow was made and what kind of bow it was shot from are the little whys that can side-track us from focusing. Knowing about the arrow and who shot it, knowing any detail about it at all will indeed explain some of the why but it is possible to become obsessed with these details that ultimately are not vital to understanding. Our why’s might lead to more why’s we find our answers to until we come to feel we are becoming an expert in answering them. Unfortunately, what is true for one might not be true for another. Still, we learn about the best wood to craft the arrow from, maybe attend workshops to learn how to craft a bow and many more seminars and workshops about “Aiming High” or “Taking Aim” to get our bull’s-eye. We read all the books and buy all the tools and make like-minded friends who we can express our expertise to and share information with.
The bottom line is that in examining the arrow so closely, the original question is lost. One may become lost in their answers, and their answers may be very compelling but ultimately only lead to more questions. They may have spent years with their answers, picking them apart, crafting them with evidence from other experts. Their answers may have come from a great book and be thousands of years old. Their answers may have come from personal experimentation or practice, however, the biggest variable in the equation then, is them. The answers they found, that which has been "proven" to them may not be the same answers or be proof for anyone else. Some stop at the thousands of years old book, they get it right there, an answer, the answer that is told to them. Without question they accept the answer given and don’t think much about the arrow anymore. Some are insatiable, not just the wood the shaft was made of but what tree, precisely, and when was it harvested, by whom, with what tools? Who made the tools, where were they made? All questions that knowing the answers to ultimately won't make a bit of a difference whatsoever, the arrow is still sticking out of their chest
Information is a wonderful thing, I love learning about things and I dig asking questions and doing research. Still, I have gotten so caught up in details that I have lost sight of the point. It’s great to allow the questions to lead us in new directions of understanding but not to let them drive. Self-destiny is vital to spiritual growth and to being a whole person. The whys you let others decide for you are the ones like religion. They all make arrows the same just with different parts. They all shoot out the same questions and have convenient answers for you. They may phrase the question a little differently, they may steer you onto a side road for a time but it will inevitably lead back to the same answers, the ones that religion has provided for you. Religion can also bring up many things one isn't supposed to question. Some religions even tell you that you will suffer an eternity of damnation in the fiery pits of hell unless you believe their answers without question. They tell you all other arrows are not valid, that their arrow is the one true arrow. There shall be no arrows before it.
Thump...because we say so. Now, let’s talk about your soul.
The bottom line is that there are no answers, not to the original questions. Those answers are subjective, there are just too many variables for there to be one answer for everyone, this is why there is no way to unite religions, only people and why about every war that hasn’t been fought over greed has been fought over religion. There is no answer, just do your best. Is focusing on too many whys and breaking your bank roll buying books that all tell you the same thing just in different ways a good use of your time on this great spinning ball of crazy? Is spending hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars on workshops and guru quests really going to bring you any closer to anything other than debt? While I understand that much can be learned from workshops and seminars and the like I don’t understand the compulsion to attend them to the extent that I have seen many people attend. It makes me wonder, are those people there for actual insight or just to make sure that other people know they are seeking it? It’s like the person who rushes out and buys every book they can on a given esoteric subject and maybe even reads them but then never applies any of what they’ve read in their daily lives, unless, of course, they are at a workshop.
Most religions and many popular philosophies embrace the idea of living a full life, of seeing the sacred in all things. Time spent running around obsessing over details is time not spent actively incorporating the lessons one has learned. To be truly present in each moment of our lives. To express outwardly to the universe itself with every breath our respect and gratitude for what we have in our lives. To be of service to our planet and to others and to live with the earth rather than just on it. Becoming a “spiritual” being is not a competition, there are no points for who has attended the most workshops or met the guru the most times or taken the best drugs. Any guru worth his or her weight will tell you that the divine is within. So, do you go to a workshop and wait for instructions? Attend a church and wait to be told? Or do you take a deep breath and simply connect to that part of yourself, the part that is divine? Personally, I prefer connection, that is really what we are seeking, not an ultimate answer. If one ultimate answer is what we are seeking we will never find it. If connection to the divine is what we are seeking, it’s been there all along just waiting for us to find the time to connect. The more time spent on obsessing over fruitless answers that are variable at best, the less time we spend just being present and living what we have learned.