Zombies and Easter: Part Two

(9 minutes)

(The following article is based on the insights of John Vervaeke in the YouTube video entitled “The Psychological Drivers of the Metacrisis” which presents a discussion between Vervaeke, Iain McGilchrist, and Daniel Schmachtenberger. The video is almost 3 ½ hours long but is worth every second of the time one will spend in watching it. I cannot overemphasize how important this video is in understanding and responding to the metacrisis Western Civilization faces today.  Watching the video in segments within a small group would be most fruitful for anyone who cares about the devolution of our culture and the discovery of some “answers” to our current existential, ecological, and cultural crises. I will attempt to present some of Vervaeke’s insights regarding the recovery of meaning in part two of this series. In part three, I will seek to relate his wisdom to the Christian faith in general and Easter in particular.)

In part one of this series, we looked at the current popularity of zombies within our cultural narratives. John Vervaeke suggests that this zombie myth reflects the loss of meaning, community, and connectedness within our society. He maintains that to find meaning in life, we need to rediscover and experience the following:

  1. Purpose: Vervaeke refers to a 2019 extensive survey in the UK in which 80% of people said their lives were meaningless. They experience no “narrative story” which gives them the purpose they need to lead a meaningful and fulfilling life.
  2. Coherence: Our lives need some degree of intelligibility. Existence must make sense. Our world cannot be absurd. We need authentic guidance for lives worth living.
  3. Significance: We need to be connected to a reality which transcends ourselves. An important part of what it means to be human is the ability to transcend oneself. We need a depth, height, and “beyondness” which correspond to our hunger for goodness, beauty, and truth as well as to our sense of an “Otherness” which is both the Source of our being and the Destiny of our becoming.
  4. Connectedness: Vervaeke sees connectedness as our most important need. Through connections we discover and experience our belonging. We need a community which “homes” us, legitimizes reality, and cultivates wisdom. 

Vervaeke laments the loss of wisdom in our culture. When he asks his students where they go to find scientific facts, knowledge about how things work, and general information, they provide answers. However, when he asks where they go to find wisdom, they are silent. We are a culture with extensive knowledge (knowhow) but very little wisdom (awareness of the why/the meaning of our existence). In fact, many philosophers and scientists maintain there is no meaning in life, no authentic consciousness, no free will, no truth—that life as we experience it is just an illusion created by chemical reactions in our brains. Such a perspective allows for no ultimate hope and no authentic grounding for our lives. So many of us today are adrift in absurdity or imprisoned in our delusions.

Vervaeke says that there are two questions we can ask to determine if we have meaning in life worthy of our humanity and sacred identities:

  1. What do I want to exist even if I don’t?
  2. How much of a difference do I make to it?

If we can answer those two questions with integrity, we have meaning in life. These questions reveal that meaning cannot be found in just subjective wellbeing. We need both meaning in life that transcends ourselves, and we need a sense of belonging to have a fulfilling and good life. A lack of either of these will be harmful to our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual lives. We find meaning through caring and committed connectedness. 

Authentic religion is all about this connectedness. The etymological root for the word religion is religio which refers to “re-ligamenting” or connecting. Religion helps humans connect with themselves, each other, the universe of which they are a part, and Transcendent Being which is the Source of all being. Life occurs in the “betweenness” of these connections. We experience every part of the universe, in Martin Buber’s words, as “I-Thou” relationships. Relationships are connections which define and enhance life. 

Religion at its best allows for deep caring and committed connectedness. Authentic religion leads to a sense of the sacred. When humans have access to such wisdom, they discover profound meaning and experience “an inexhaustible fount of intelligibility which comes from being connected.” Vervaeke refers to our need for a sacred canopy which includes an ecology of practices, rituals, stories, narratives, metaphors, and myths experienced within community.  How the Christian faith and Easter relate to this necessary connectedness will be the subject of part three of this series. 

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