Christ has risen! Christos Aneste!
A visitor mentioned the story of “doubting Thomas” in a comment yesterday, which ties in neatly with the question, “Are you alive?” What really made me want to post this question was watching the Battlestar Galactica miniseries and first season over the last two weekends. Since I don’t have cable, I had to wait till the DVDs came out, and may I say I was impressed. It’s sci-fi and spi-fi (spiritual fiction) of the first order. Undoubtedly there is plenty of material for long posts and analyses (when I’m able to get caught up and see the second season.) It seems the meaning of being human and the nature of God are going to be key themes in the ongoing story. But for now, I just want to reflect on the first lines of the miniseries.
Number Six (a Cylon): Are you alive?
Number Six: Prove it!
Jesus was as dead as anyone can be. The body ceased to function. It was buried. Yet the Teacher’s spirit lived and according to Peter, “he went to preach to the spirits in prison” (2 Pet 3.19), as bodhisattvas do. When he appeared again in his body to his disciples, Thomas effectively asked him, “Are you alive?” And Jesus proved it.
But I think the real significance of Number Six’s question is that we don’t ask the question of ourselves. Are we alive? We assume we are. We take it on appearances. We don’t prove it to ourselves. Yet we go through the motions of life as if programmed, and when we see someone living deliberately, we remark on how alive they are.
When I was seven or eight, I had an experience which, at least for a short time, kept me from taking the world of appearances for granted. I saw a book in my older brother’s collection titled, Maybe I’m Dead. Just seeing that title disturbed me for days?it got under my skin. Of course I was alive! Obviously I was alive! But—what was life? What was the world? Did seeming to be alive in the world mean that it was real? That I was real? Was anything real? This wasn’t just a philosophical question for me at the time. It was something deep, important, and something which I knew I couldn’t discuss with anyone at the time. Maybe I’m dead was the only way I could mentally verbalize my brush with maya—the illusion of the world. After it faded, it wouldn’t be until early this year when I encountered it again.
Really coming face-to-face with the question can be a shock initially, but it opens up the freedom from conditioned, ego-bound plodding to see things anew, in other words, to really be alive. Another benefit is: how seriously can you take yourself when really asking “Am I alive?” 🙂
And yet, if you’re not, then there’s the question of who’s asking the question? There are paradoxes involved in the confusion of the world with spiritual reality, and like the koan, this spiritual practice, known as “Self-inquiry,” brings them to the fore. Am I alive? Is this the world? Who am I? This line of earnestness brings you to an awareness of your existence that is not dependent upon thought.
Thoughts do not answer the question. Feel your existence. Not your body, or your emotions, but your being. Prove it. Get out of The Matrix. Notice it as you go throughout the day, and your ego reacts with its identifications, fears, and quests for approval from others or superiority over them. Or whenever your conditioned, habitual mind runs in the same groove of needing and dependency, remember the question: Am I alive? Take the opportunity to prove it.