Like so many people, I have felt quite lost as of late. It has been very difficult to meet new people, find a date, discuss current events and generally have a good time in the company of like-minded people. This write-up is my attempt to reach anyone feeling the same way and to let you know that there is a welcoming group at the Secular Hub.
Golden Gate Canyon Hiking Trip
Starting off my journey, I became distressed, stuck behind a dump truck on the two lane highway that leads to the trailhead. Thus, I was 15 minutes late to the outing. After making a few frantic phone calls and purchasing a day pass, I embarked on my trip hoping to find my heathen friends somewhere along the trail. Once out on the trail I came across a bridge that stretched over a waterless creek. The water had recently dried up and evidence of its flow spread out from its now barely perceivable banks. I was struck by the beauty and variety of the flora present there and as I paused for a moment to snap a picture an interesting realization came to my mind. At that moment it occurred to me that all these colors and varieties are quite recent. A mere 530 million years ago the only vegetation on land resembled moss. This tiny fraction of time, 11.8% of the total age of the universe to be exact, in our Earth’s history represents the entirety of the flora diversity we see on land today. I once heard that the first flower to bloom on land was an orchid. I cannot be sure of this, I could look it up, but it doesn’t really matter; from those lowly beginnings all the beauty, diversity and grandeur we see here, a full mile plus above sea level has persevered. How amazing life was, is and likely will become. It’s hard to imagine that only 530 million years ago nothing like these flowers existed. So here I am walking on a single track path at 9:30 a.m. completely surrounded by flowers that somehow survived the ages and climbed the mountains to greet me today. As I look further down the path I reckon I’ll turn upward to climb the hillside, amongst the trees, to see if the heathens are in the Frazer meadow shown on the map.
As I mingle betwixt the tall, lanky trees I am reminded of my favorite ‘reason’ for god’s existence given to me as a child. I remember asking many adults why they thought there was a god; most of them would reply, “How else do you explain how every leaf of every tree is completely unique?” or something to that effect. This answer always perplexed me for many obvious reasons, but now as an adult it suggests something inhumane. It suggests that without god there is no way for us to justify our experience of wonder, awe or transcendence. Never mind that to invoke god as the justification of all that is wondrous says absolutely nothing about how we know that every leaf is unique (only observing the evidence provides such justification), it also completely misses the point. Our sense of wonder, awe and transcendence is completely dependent on evidence, not some gift from the celestial overlord. That transcendent feeling didn’t exist in human beings until we started comparing leaves to determine that they were all different. Thus the explanation of our feeling of transcendence, awe and wonder comes only after we evaluate the facts and evidence and are able to make an awe inspiring conclusion. Imagine being the first person to realize that every leaf was completely unique. Thinking of it now; I’m floored. Only after such a concept forms in our brains do some feel the need, and for no good reason whatsoever, to refer it upwards to the heavens and give god ‘his’ unjust due. But not all of us.
To those of you that worry about losing your sense of awe and wonder once the burden of faith is shed; you can all rest your minds. There is nothing that will stop you from feeling this way.
Especially with all the new discoveries we are making in the modern world. I dare you to look at a Hubble galaxy scape and not feel completely lost in your thoughts of amazement. Just imagining all the variety of life that could exist in any small section of M82, Andromeda or the Sombrero Galaxy could keep you awe struck for hours on end. Jesus’s assent into heaven like superman into the sky pales in comparison. As do the accounts of the different levels of heaven and hell and even the infinite ‘nature’ of the so called creator. This critique goes for all the other non-specific entities that humans have either been indoctrinated to believe or been convinced of under their own efforts. The answer to the question, “Do non-believers feel the same sense of wonder and transcendence?” is a resounding yes! All humans do no matter what their belief or lack thereof. The only difference is that the rational amongst us can often explain it, too. Much more so than the incoherent babble offered by conspiracy theorists, spiritualists, and some believers. After all, those of us that believe in the evidential, demonstrable, reproducible and verifiable have a more complete understanding of the wonder that surrounds us every day. We don’t say, “Isn’t it amazing what God has given us?” That says virtually nothing about the grandeur of these flowers or these trees I see here before me. We marvel at the deep-time understanding of how they came to live in these hills, we feel awe at their perseverance and clever cheating of the inevitable death that awaits all life on Earth. We feel kinship, gratitude and mourn the lost lives of the past and every species that didn’t make it; having succumbed to our inevitable extinction. To think that skeptics, secular humanists and atheists don’t feel awe and wonder, have a sense of the transcendence, or feel like they are a part of something vastly greater than themselves is to be dead wrong. Perhaps we feel it even more so and perhaps we see more acutely that there is a need to get up, off our knees and do something about it. Suddenly, out of breath from mulling over my thoughts and walking like a mad man, my train of thought is broken as I reach Frazer meadow.
In the distance ahead I see a large group of people conversing and resting amongst the flowers and trees. Victory! I recognize some of them from the Seth Andrew’s presentation just last weekend. Chauncey, the heathen best known to me, is nowhere to be found, but I know he is likely lounging somewhere. As I approach with a smile I’m reminded of one of the benefits of my gender through a smart ass comment flung my way shrouded in wit from one of the heathens. “Looks like you forgot your shirt!” She said with mild annoyance. Probably wishing she could take the same liberties. After putting my shirt back on bashfully, I retorted with my own personal nudity policy which allows for all to bare their chests. After all, there is nothing to hide of the human form as far as I can tell. Anyway, after some back and forth and a few smiles, we set off together, about 15 of us, to locate the rest of the group. I was both happy and sad in the next moment. As we turned a corner I saw my friend Chauncey standing next to a tree. Finally, I could shake his hand and let him know that I was sorry I had missed the meeting time. I did, we smiled and then he let me know that they were about to head back and that their cars were not in the same direction as mine. Bummed I shook his hand and then turned back down the trail; heading back to my car. From beginning to end this was a great day. I’m still not as active in their group as I’d like to be, but I’m starting to feel like I’m making progress.
To those looking for a sense of community such as myself, this is a great resource for you: if you can only be on time. As I find myself trekking through the woods, I wonder, how I will bridge this gap between where I am now and where I’d like to be in the near future. I see myself conversing with like-minded people about the intricacies of our daily experiences. I hope to add great value to the lives of these new friends and I hope to feel connected to them. I can tell that this won’t be easy. It seems that transitions like this, going from a known group of friends to a new group of friends, never is. First off there are time and money constraints. It’s very difficult for anyone to change their routines and take on new personalities and energies. It’s not like when we were younger and everyone was looking for their next best friend, ally, roommate or lover. These are people that live here, work here, raise their families here and already have networks of people to rely upon and confide in. To them I am just another interested party: potentially a fly-by-night and potentially a mainstay. Too early to tell. So it’s up to me to put in the work and effort and see if I can get somewhere. I encourage anyone reading this that is looking for new friends to keep trying. Don’t give up after the first few attempts fail to yield your new bestie. Keep showing up, on time, and keep offering your hand in friendship. I’ll shake it.
Hiking Prep List (for those that need such a thing):
- Water and snacks
- Check that I am wearing clothing that is appropriate for hiking:
- No cotton: polyester, wool or silk only
- Rain gear
- Good shoes or boots
- Map and Compass
Paul S. is a real estate investor in the Denver area. He also rehabilitates shelter dogs and places them into forever homes. Paul moved to Denver in 1999 and has lived all over the state.
Edited by Chauncey