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Humans Having a Human Experience: On Finding Meaning & Beauty from a Remix of Chardin's Famous Quote
Humans Having a Human Experience: On Finding Meaning & Beauty from a Remix of Chardin's Famous Quote
By Tim Hjersted /

There's a popular quote by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin that says, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

But I think of myself as a human being having a human experience. It's true: We come from the everythingness of the universe and will one day return to the everythingness of the universe. 

But I think our spiritual thinking may be going astray to say that our 'true' identity is this ethereal spirit or soul encased in human form. 

Chardin's quote is based on the idea that we have some intangibly defined soul-consciousness which exists prior to and after our human life. But I do not think this is how it works. 

The notion of an eternal soul is a fairly common idea among many religions such as Christianity. So it is interesting to see this same idea appear in a non-religious, new age form, though the idea isn't new. 

Many Western religions share in common an adoration for the angelic and a less favorable view of the material. 

In Christianity, heaven is our true home, not the Earth. Our spirit/angel form is our true self, whereas our human form is born of sin and in need of salvation. 

In the new age version, our human beingness isn't sinful; it just isn't as 'real' or as 'true' as our spirit form.

That for me is the problem with both new age and old versions of this idea. They both place greater value in something which in my opinion isn't real, and devalues that which actually exists.

The kind of spirituality that I can vibe with is a spirituality that sees the sacredness and beauty of our existence as humans. We're human beings having a human experience. And that's enough! That's beautiful and sacred and meaningful just on its own.

It's true that we humans do long to feel a part of something more, be a part of something more, and I think that's why we have so many stories about eternal souls and other realms like heaven and gods to meet this need.

But wouldn't it be wonderful if we could meet this need with a narrative that was for sure, for sure, definitely real? 

The good news is, there is! 

The greater something that we feel like we are a part of is called The Universe. And that's scientifically true. To rephrase Chardin's quote one more time: "We are the universe having a human experience."

We are a part of the universe that is having a very uniquely human experience for a short time. Atoms from all over the world, recycled endlessly, coalesced into the food, water and air our mothers received before we were born, which turned into us. And when we die, our atoms will disperse once again into the infinite universe, become the life and non-life of countless other forms through the cycle of existence. 

Our human form may be a few decades old, but the stuff we're all made of is 13 billion years old. Our 'soul' *IS* ancient and eternal. It's the universe, and we are always it, in this human form and every form before and after.

That's amazing! That's beautiful! 

The suns and stars of distant galaxies are inside us, and have manifested into human consciousness for a short while. And on we go, into the everythingness of the universe forever.

I think that's a beautiful story to belong to. And no 'separate' souls are necessary. No other far away realms or unknown spiritual dimensions are needed. The Earth is our home. And our human beingness is as sacred a part of the universe as the whole. 

But the Earth isn't just our home. The Earth is also us. We are walking manifestations of the Earth. So in a wonderful sense, where ever we go, we're always home, because home is always within us and is us.

It's all connected. There really is no separation between our small self and our big self. Even during our existence as humans, we are constantly breathing in the outside universe, taking it in and breathing it out.

This is a scientific way of understanding the idea that 'we're all one.'

And I just really, really love that.


There's just one last thought I'd like to add to this midnight scrawl. 

It's true that 'everything is one,' but it's also true that everything has its own separate existence. And I think the big trick is to hold both of these truths equally in our mind.

When I was younger, I believed that this idea of the unity of all things, or oneness, was the 'more true' way of seeing reality. I was encouraged by many spiritual books to believe our separation was an illusion.

This fits with the new age dichotomy that our 'spiritual self' or universal self is somehow more real than our human, separate self.

Now, I think that one vantage point isn't more real than the other. Our physical reality isn't an illusion, but it is just one way of looking at our existence. It reminds me of those optical illusion images. Look once and you see a vase. Shift your eyes a bit and you see two faces looking at each other. It's the same image, seen in different ways.

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Humans Having a Human Experience: On Finding Meaning & Beauty from a Remix of Chardin's Famous Quote